Military Industrial Complex - The Hunger Games Economy

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Published by Administrator in Economy


The Hunger Games Economy
Jeff Faux: Dreams of Wall St. and Military Industrial Complex are not compatible with dreams of American middle class
Jeff Faux is the Founder and now Distinguished Fellow of the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, DC. He is an activist, economist and writer, He has written extensively on issues from globalization to neighborhood development. His latest book is “The Servant Economy; Where America¹s Elite is Sending the Middle Class.”
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore.
There's been some debate amongst the American governing elite about America's place in the world and its declining power. Barack Obama went to Australia not long ago and declared that America will continue to be an Asia-Pacific power. And the issue of the Brzezinskian grand chessboard is still very much on their mind. But what does this maintaining America's position in the world mean for ordinary Americans? Who's going to pay for all this? When it comes to competitiveness, it really means wages, although that word doesn't get talked about very much, not in the mainstream press or in the halls of Congress.
Well, it does get talked about in a piece written by Jeff Faux, and he's now joining us. Jeff is a founder and distinguished fellow of the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. He's an activist, economist, and writer. He's written extensively on issues from globalization to neighborhood development, and his latest book is The Servant Economy: Where America's Elite is Sending the Middle Class. Thanks very much for joining us, Jeff.
JEFF FAUX, AUTHOR: Oh, it's great to be here, Paul. Thank you.
JAY: So, I mean, clearly we are dealing with a different world. And it's not just that it's militarily different, in the sense that China's now somewhat of a power, so is Russia and—back somewhat of a power—I mean, nothing on the scale of the United States, but the geopolitics and chessboard has changed somewhat. But where it's changed a lot more is with this massive industrial capacity in areas of the world where 20, 30 years ago there was nothing like it—advanced technology, high-quality production, very low wages. And America wants to maintain its competitiveness in all of this. So talk a bit about that and what that might mean for ordinary Americans, and maybe what the word competitiveness means.
FAUX: Well, I think—start from what I think is the basic assumption, and that is the United States can no longer satisfy the three great dreams that have driven American politics over the last decades. The first dream is the dream of Wall Street and business for unregulated access to speculative profits. The second dream is the dream of the military and foreign-policy elite and the military-industrial complex for global hegemony. The third dream is the dream of ordinary Americans for a rising living standard.
Now, we can have one out of three, certainly. Two out of three, maybe. Three out of three? No way. So in effect the decision is being made right now—or has been made—by this country's elite.
There's a lot of talk in Washington, as you know, about the grand bargain between Republicans and Democrats over budgets and taxes. But the real deal has already been cut. The average American income in real wages is going to decline over the next 10 years, 15 years, as far into the future as we can see. Now, this has been coming for a long time. It's not just about the recession and it's not temporary. As you probably know, for the last 30 years we've had stagnant wages in America. After wages rise steadily since World War II, they flattened out after 1979 and essentially have been flat.
So the question is: if wages were flat, how come everything looked so good? That is, people went to shopping centers and bought cars and houses during those 30 years that ended in 2008. And the reason is two. One, family incomes kept up because we sent more members of the family to work, usually the wife. Now there are more women than men in the labor force so that that strategy for most people is exhausted. The second is debt. People weren't getting raises, but they were getting access to cheaper and accessible credit. That has evaporated with the collapse of the financial sector.
JAY: Jeff, before you continue, let me ask: so if this process more or less began in the '70s, why? What happened? Why? If you could—you know, to some extent one could say that third dream of ordinary Americans, you know, to own a house, send the kids to college, not to be terrified of losing their job, to some extent that's—dream was still possible, at least in the early '60s.
FAUX: Oh, yeah. And the reason—.
JAY: So what happens?
FAUX: Yeah. There are three things that happened since the end of the '70s. The data starts from 1979; the kink in the curve starts from 1979. One was globalization, and by that I mean, essentially, exposing American workers to a very brutal and competitive global labor market before they were prepared.
Second, the weakening of the bargaining position of the average American worker. A lot of that had to do with the decline of unions. But it affected union members and nonunion members. The second thing that happened was the weakening of the bargaining position of the average American worker. This was not just about weaker unions, but weaker unions played a key role, not just for union members, but for people who aren't union members. Because unions were strong—or certainly stronger than they are now—the threat of unionization kept the bosses and kept the employers from cutting wages too much, cutting pensions too much, even though they would have liked to. So weaker unions, weaker bargaining positions [crosstalk]
JAY: And is weaker unions and bargaining positions linked to number one, which is globalization and the threat of moving offshore?
FAUX: That's right, certainly linked to number one. And number three, later, was the shredding of the safety net, the real value of the minimum wage, and the kinds of New Deal protections for labor that have been frayed away over the last 10 or 15 years.
But on the first, on globalization, there's something very important here to remember, and that is it not only affected working people, but it changed the culture of the American elite. You know, if you go back to the early part of the 20th century, labor and capital were in fierce struggles. But both labor and capital knew that they needed each other and were stuck in the same country. So, you know, when Henry Ford raised the wages of his Ford employees to $5 a day, the Wall Street guys said, Henry, what are you doing here? I mean, you can't pay—you're spoiling these people, you're paying them too much. And Henry Ford, who was a SOB union buster, said, look, I've got to pay them enough to come in to make the cars, but I also need to pay them enough to buy the cars. So it was an economy in which, while there were labor and capital disputes, we were all in it together.
What happened—what's happened since the 1980s is that globalization, the deregulation of trade and investment, has allowed the American commercial and economic elite to roam the world in search of lower wages, in search of government subsidies by Third World countries, etc.
JAY: Yeah, so you now have a situation where they saved GM and Chrysler, but workers'—starting worker wages go from, what, $26 to $14 an hour, and you probably couldn't buy a new car at $14 an hour.
FAUX: Exactly. And unlike Henry Ford, the people who run the Ford Motor Company today, you know, have other people they can use to sell their cars to. And so high wages, which we sort of learned after the 1930s were good for the economy because it created consumer demand and consumers bought the goods that were being produced, high wages in America are no longer what they were. They're now a threat to multinational corporations who still produce and sell things. And that's been a critical change.
JAY: They also seem to no longer think they need an educated workforce. I used to—in the '50s and '60s, all this talk about, you know, America will compete because it's going to be the most educated working class and this and that, they don't seem to care anymore. The public school system can go to hell and they don't seem to care.
FAUX: They don't care. But that's sort of the last excuse of the political governing class. I mean, whether it's, you know, Barack Obama, George Bush, Bill Clinton, they're all the so-called education presidents, and their answer to this decline in living standards and wages is not to worry, just go get an education. Barack Obama was in Florida about a year ago touring the country, saying the way we're going to compete in the world is to out-educate everyone.
Well, first what's obvious: that we're shrinking the schools, we're laying off teachers, kids can't go to college because it costs too much. But second, which is really important, we are not creating jobs for educated young people. You go into Apple, in the Apple Store, there is the future. And it's not the technology. It's in all those smart college-educated kids working as retail clerks for $10, $12 an hour. The Bureau of Labour Statistics—government agency—projects that between 2010-2020, the largest, fastest-growing occupations in this country, of the ten largest and fastest-growing, only one requires a college education.
JAY: Well, Jeff, we're going to pick this up in part two, and what I'll be asking in part two is it seems to me while this may make sense for Apple and it may make sense for a lot of individual companies to drive wages down and have more and more service jobs, as an economy somebody's got to be making money to buy all this stuff, and that seems to be where the rub is. So join us for part two of our series of interviews with Jeff Faux on The Real News Network.

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دلایل اصلی سقوط نرخ نفت

دلایل اصلی سقوط نرخ نفت
نویسنده و گوینده : نیک پاکپور.

نگرش یا نگاهی کاونده یا کافنده به ترفند یا توطئه تبهکارانهٔ تزریق نفت ارزان به بازار جهانی غرب که به مثابهٔ متدی مکار و مهندسی شده، آلبنه با جنگ و جدل یا کلنجار کژین کهنه و کهن ژئو پولیتیک نفتی ایالات متحدهٔ امریکا، به همراه منتها ی مقابله و محاربه و مداخله با ابزار و آفزار متروک و مخرب مرگ و موت و منفعت مکینه، در منطقه انرژی خیز خاور میانه و کرانه های مدیترانه تا شمال آفریقا، با آجندای پیشروی پیروزمندانه در پهنا و پراگمای ژئو اکنومیک و ژئو استراتژیک، یعنی چیزی را که در ترم های sane سیاسی یا political science امروزی به آن پیروزی یا پیشدستی پنهان و پوشیده، اعیان و آشکار در Great Game می گویند.

گوینده: نیک پاکپور - بنیاد بریکس و بیم غرب Image


گوینده: نیک پاکپور - بنیاد بریکس و بیم غرب

بنیاد بریکس و بیم غرب
گوینده: نیک پاکپور
1-Putin and BRICS form Seed Crystal of a New International Monetary Pole
William Engdahl | July 25, 2014
2-BRICS establish $100bn bank and currency pool to cut out Western dominance
By RT: Published time: July 15, 2014 18:14
3-BRICS against Washington consensus
BY By Pepe Escobar “Asia Times: Jul 15, '14”
4-Dollar dying; multi-polar world in offing
By F.William engdahl
4-US Dollar Suffers Serious Setback
By By Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall
5-Throwing BRICS at Israel
By Johnny Punish

نیک پاکپور - دیو داعش و نقش غرب Image


نیک پاکپور - دیو داعش و نقش غرب

دیو داعش و نقش غرب

گوینده: نیک پاکپور

گوینده آنچه را که مربوط به ریشه سعودی،سلفی،سیاه ایی، زهش یا زایش، پیدایش یا پالایش تاول یا تکاثر،ترسناک،تروریسم تکفیری میشود را در یک ویدئویی،بتاریخ 24 فوریه 2014 میلادی،با نوضیح و نفسیر، و بر پایه پویش پروسه تیک پژوهشی،تکوینی،تاریخی،در جهت آژیرنده و آگاه کننده، مورد ارزیابی و آنالیز منطقی قرار داده ام

ولی بعد و بنیاد پحث امروز گوینده بطور اختصار و در حد اختیار،اختصاص دارد به حوادث دهشتناک و دردناکی که بطور فزاینده و فژاگن در کشور همسایگی،ما ایرانیان یعنی کشور عراق جریان دارد.




Russian Army, Airforce, Navy hold drills on border with Europe Image


Russian Army, Airforce, Navy hold drills on border with Europe

Russia's military has been carrying out rapid-deployment drills in the exclave of Kaliningrad - the country's most Western region. The exercises involved thousands of troops, marines, missile and artillery units. NATO has also held drills in Eastern Europe over the last three months, close to Russian borders.RT LIVE http://rt.com/on-airSubscribe to RT! http://www.youtube.com/subscription_center?add_user=RussiaTodayLike us on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/RTnewsFollow us on Twitter http://twitter.com/RT_comFollow us on Instagram http://instagram.com/rtFollow us on Google+ http://plus.google.com/+RTListen to us on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/rttvRT (Russia Today) is a global news network broadcasting from Moscow and Washington studios. RT is the first news channel to break the 1 billion YouTube views benchmark.

No passengers, no planes: ‘Ghost’ airports of Europe Image


No passengers, no planes: ‘Ghost’ airports of Europe

Across crisis-stricken Europe ‘ghost’ airports have freshly painted tarmac, shiny new doors and all the nuts and bolts in place - but no passengers and no airplanes, giving them an eerie aura.READ MORE: http://on.rt.com/afkemaRT LIVE http://rt.com/on-airSubscribe to RT! http://www.youtube.com/subscription_center?add_user=RussiaTodayLike us on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/RTnewsFollow us on Twitter http://twitter.com/RT_comFollow us on Instagram http://instagram.com/rtFollow us on Google+ http://plus.google.com/+RTListen to us on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/rttvRT (Russia Today) is a global news network broadcasting from Moscow and Washington studios. RT is the first news channel to break the 1 billion YouTube views benchmark.

CrossTalk: US vs Russia Image


CrossTalk: US vs Russia

Russia and the United States: Are these two countries destined to be enemies? Well if you ask the US Congress the answer appears to be yes. Why do so many in Washington want Russia to be an enemy? Is this all about Ukraine or does it go much deeper? CrossTalking with Brian Becker, Martin Sieff and Anthony Salvia. RT LIVE http://rt.com/on-airSubscribe to RT! http://www.youtube.com/subscription_center?add_user=RussiaTodayLike us on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/RTnewsFollow us on Twitter http://twitter.com/RT_comFollow us on Instagram http://instagram.com/rtFollow us on Google+ http://plus.google.com/+RTListen to us on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/rttvRT (Russia Today) is a global news network broadcasting from Moscow and Washington studios. RT is the first news channel to break the 1 billion YouTube views benchmark.

Middle east



Obama's anti-ISIS plans backfire on boosting Baghdad

The US-led coalition has pledged to boost the number of forces fighting against Islamic State in Iraq. An extra 15 hundred troops will now be added to the over 3 thousand already there, to help train and advise local soldiers. Although the White House still insists they are not edging towards another ground war.RT LIVE http://rt.com/on-airSubscribe to RT! http://www.youtube.com/subscription_center?add_user=RussiaTodayLike us on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/RTnewsFollow us on Twitter http://twitter.com/RT_comFollow us on Instagram http://instagram.com/rtFollow us on Google+ http://plus.google.com/+RTListen to us on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/rttvRT (Russia Today) is a global news network broadcasting from Moscow and Washington studios. RT is the first news channel to break the 1 billion YouTube views benchmark.

Israeli airstrikes hit targets near Damascus International Airport Image


Israeli airstrikes hit targets near Damascus International Airport

The Syrian military has accused Israel of carrying out two airstrikes near Damascus International Airport and in the town of Dimas near the Lebanon border, Syrian state TV reports. RT's Paula Slier reports.RT LIVE http://rt.com/on-airSubscribe to RT! http://www.youtube.com/subscription_center?add_user=RussiaTodayLike us on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/RTnewsFollow us on Twitter http://twitter.com/RT_comFollow us on Instagram http://instagram.com/rtFollow us on Google+ http://plus.google.com/+RTListen to us on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/rttvRT (Russia Today) is a global news network broadcasting from Moscow and Washington studios. RT is the first news channel to break the 1 billion YouTube views benchmark.

UK reopens Bahrain navy base after 40 yrs – to fight ISIS Image


UK reopens Bahrain navy base after 40 yrs – to fight ISIS

The UK is returning to its naval base in Bahrain, a former British protectorate, after more than 40 years. The base will serve as the main British hub for operations in the Persian Gulf - READ MORE http://on.rt.com/z0cpjvRT LIVE http://rt.com/on-airSubscribe to RT! http://www.youtube.com/subscription_center?add_user=RussiaTodayLike us on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/RTnewsFollow us on Twitter http://twitter.com/RT_comFollow us on Instagram http://instagram.com/rtFollow us on Google+ http://plus.google.com/+RTListen to us on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/rttvRT (Russia Today) is a global news network broadcasting from Moscow and Washington studios. RT is the first news channel to break the 1 billion YouTube views benchmark.

United state

Three Remaining


Three Remaining 'Cuban 5’ Goes Home

In a historic move bypassing congress President Obama restores diplomatic relations with Cuba and in a simultaneous telecast President Raul Castro hails the decision but reminds us that the blockade is still in place, says Michael Ratner of the Centre for Constitutional Rights

Michael Ratner is President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York and Chair of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin. He is currently a legal adviser to Wikileaks and Julian Assange. He and CCR brought the first case challenging the Guantanamo detentions and continue in their efforts to close Guantanamo. He taught at Yale Law School, and Columbia Law School, and was President of the National Lawyers Guild. His current books include "Hell No: Your Right to Dissent in the Twenty-First Century America," and “ Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away With Murder.” NOTE: Mr. Ratner speaks on his own behalf and not for any organization with which he is affiliated.
The Three Remaining 'Cuban 5' Go HomeSHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Michael, thank you so much for joining us on such short notice.
MICHAEL RATNER, PRESIDENT EMERITUS, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS: I'm glad to be with you, Sharmini, and of course The Real News as well.
PERIES: And let me get your take on President Obama's announcement about Cuba and President Raúl's response.
RATNER: You know, I was thrilled with parts of what's going on right now. The first thing I got was a Twitter feed saying the Cuban Three are going to be freed. And of course that was very exciting to me. They were part of a group called the Cuban Five. They were Cubans who had been sent into the United States, really, to be able to try and stop activities that were being done by the right-wing Cuban community against Cuba, from bombings to everything else. They were trying to give intelligence to the Cubans about that. They got caught, and rather than what would happen normally, being sent back to Cuba, etc., exchange, they got convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage, although they didn't do anything like that, conspiracy to commit murder as well, because they were trying to stop flights from a group called Brothers to the Rescue, a right-wing Cuban group from Miami invading Cuban airspace, etc. They were serving a very long time. Three remained in jail, and one of them for life.
And good friends of mine, as well as my office, had been working on that case for years--Lenny Weinglass, who died recently, but while working on that case; Martin Garbus; and others.
And when I saw that news, that they had been freed, I thought, oh my gosh, what a great and important victory for those three people and for the Cuban people.
You saw at the same time a man named Alan Gross was let out of Cuban prison after serving five years. He'd been an American convicted for 15 years for basically working for AID, the Agency for International Development, and trying to subvert, really, the Cuban government by handing out, giving out communications systems so that people could communicate, really, in terms of fomenting, really, dissent--not dissent, but overthrow, perhaps, eventually of the Cuban government, or certainly giving them lots of trouble. There was no doubt he was a spy. At first they claimed he wasn't. The Cuban and the American governments claimed it wasn't an exchange. In fact, of course, it obviously was. But that just set up or was part of what a broader picture of really the beginning of the breaking down of the blockade, the embargo, and the isolation of Cuba. And that's very important.
Since I've been a kid, there's been a blockade, an embargo, and no diplomatic relations with Cuba, from 1960 on, the severe blockade of no financial transactions, etc. From 1962, my office and others have spent years to bring the Venceremos Brigade, to go into Cuba, to representing travelers to try and break that blockade.
And it looks like we're seeing at the beginning of that the first thing that's going to happen is there are going to be diplomatic relationships established. Right now they've been going through the Swiss Embassy. That means there'll be an ambassador to Cuba, an ambassador to the United States--a very, very big step.
Obama, in his talks, said he was going to lift some of the more severe financial controls, which have to do with remittances to the Cubans, broader categories for travel, things like that. Part of them, of course, from the U.S. point of view, are ways of undermining the Cuban progressive socialist communist system, trying to give independent money to be able to do that. Part of them, of course, are needed money because the blockade has really without question really damaged the economy of Cuba. So Obama did say this is a failed policy, it hasn't worked. And for us, the United States, us being him referring to the United States and for us to be--the U.S. be able to work with the rest of Latin America, we can't keep isolating Cuba. So after 64 years, the United States finally, finally begins to bend a bit.
Raúl Castro's speech was quite interesting itself. It talk about the diplomatic relations being eased and happening. It went after Obama again in the United States for continuing the blockade.
Now, the blockade has some issues, because the most severe part of the blockade was passed by our Congress, and the president doesn't have the authority alone to overrule that. It's called the Helms-Burton law. Lots of other laws involved.
But as Raúl Castro said, president of Cuba, there is a lot more Obama could do, even within that framework. And so he's pushing Obama really to modify and end that blockade in a more full way, which Obama does have the ability to do. I think that's a strong point and it should not be lost on people. This is only a very small step toward ending the economic isolation of Cuba, which has really hurt the people and citizens of Cuba.
The third thing Raúl said which is very important is our revolution continues. It's continued for this period of time. And this change in U.S. policy will not make us step back from the revolution. So you can't read Obama's speech without also having to read or listen to what Raúl said.
But look it, for all of us, the freeing of the Cuban Five, which a lot of us have worked on for years, and not just the humane situation [incompr.] but what it represents and the Cuban efforts to stop the terrorism that has been going on against that island for years, the thousands killed from the Bay of Pigs on, that we hope is now coming to an end, and the people who were trying to stop that are being released. That's important. Diplomatic relations are important.
And the fact that I think part of this--and I'm sure, Sharmini, that the people at The Real News, etc., are very aware of this, because of--I know you, your work in Latin America, and others'. Latin America is no longer the place it was at the time of the Cuban revolution or after. It doesn't have the military governments it had, the repressive states. In fact, it has a number of progressive governments in Bolivia, in Venezuela, in Brazil, arguably in Argentina, in Uruguay. And so Latin America is no longer really just a play toy or the back yard of the United States, and perhaps looking at not just the Cuban resistance to what the U.S. did and its survival, but looking at the changes of Latin America. And the U.S. can't any longer really function in this part of the hemisphere, in this hemisphere, as if it simply owns the whole sea, because we've had significant changes. And the changes in Cuba and the U.S. changes have to be seen in that light, that they've been forced on the United States.
PERIES: Right. Thank you so much for joining us, Michael.
RATNER: And thank you for having me, Sharmini, and my best of my friends on this historic day at The Real News.
PERIES: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

After Duo Created CIA Torture Methods Image


After Duo Created CIA Torture Methods

After Duo Created CIA Torture Methods, Did World’s Largest Group of Psychologists Enable Abuses?

As a psychologist identified as the "architect" of the CIA’s torture program admits he personally waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, we look at allegations that the American Psychological Association — the largest association of psychologists in the world — secretly colluded with U.S. abuses. Speaking to Vice News, retired Air Force psychologist James Mitchell confirmed for the first time he personally waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Mitchell was hired to help create the interrogation program along with his partner, Dr. Bruce Jessen. The Senate report says Mitchell and Jessen were paid $81 million to help design the CIA’s torture methods, including some of the most abusive tactics. The Senate’s findings come as the American Psychological Association has launched a review to determine whether its leadership also played a role in CIA torture. The APA’s probe was prompted by revelations from Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times investigative reporter James Risen. In his new book, "Pay Any Price," Risen reveals how after the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, the APA formed a task force that enabled the continued role of psychologists in the torture program. There has been a deep division within the APA’s policy on interrogations for years. Unlike the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association, the APA never prohibited its members from being involved in interrogations.
We are joined by two guests: Steven Reisner, a founding member of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology and psychological ethics adviser to Physicians for Human Rights; and Alfred McCoy, professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of "A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror," as well as "Torture and Impunity: The U.S. Doctrine of Coercive Interrogation."
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AARON MATÉ: A retired Air Force psychologist identified as the "architect" of the CIA’s torture program has confirmed for the first time he personally waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. James Mitchell told Vice News, quote, "Yes, I waterboarded KSM. I was part of a larger team that waterboarded a small number of detainees." Mitchell also reportedly waterboarded Abu Zubaydah at a secret CIA black site in Thailand. Mitchell was hired to help create the interrogation program along with his partner, Bruce Jessen, another psychologist. The Senate report says Mitchell and Jessen were paid $81 million to help design the CIA’s torture methods, including some of the most abusive tactics. The pair had no prior experience in interrogation.
AMY GOODMAN: Defending his role last week, James Mitchell said the abuse of prisoners is preferable to the Obama administration’s ongoing drone war that claims civilian lives. He was speaking to Vice News.
JAMES MITCHELL: To me, it seems completely insensible that slapping KSM is bad, but sending a Hellfire missile into a family’s picnic and killing all the children and, you know, killing Granny and killing everyone is OK, for a lot of reasons. One of the reasons is: What about that collateral loss of life? And the other is, is that if you kill them, you can’t question them.

How to Avoid the Next Obama - Larry Pinkney on The Eyeopener Image


How to Avoid the Next Obama - Larry Pinkney on The Eyeopener

Larry Pinkney of BlackActivistWG.org joins us today to discuss how and why so many well-meaning Americans were bamboozled by Obama's "hope and change" routine in 2008. We discuss the failed establishment left/right paradigm and how the misleaders of the left who rally their flock around the Democrat flag every election cycle, as well as how community activism can lift us out of the cycle of abuse inflicted on the people by the political machine.

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  • The Prison Crisis in the UK
    The Prison Crisis in the UK By PETER STÄUBER "Counter Punch" London.During his three years behind bars, Alex Cavendish learned many things. He learned, for example, that serving a cold sandwich instead of a cooked meal can be dangerous – food is one of the things that keep prisoners going, and disruption of that routine leads to frustration: ‘I’ve been in a prison where there was a riot as a consequence of a meal being cancelled’, says Cavendish, who has gone through six different penal institutions across England and Wales and worked as a mentor for other prisoners. He has learned about the problem of indebtedness in prisons (‘If you think payday loans are bad, go borrow off another inmate…’), about bullying, violence and sexual abuse. And he has seen how the state of prisons has gone from bad to critical.The public has seen glimpses of the crisis – in recent months, there have been reports of a dramatic rise in prison suicides, overcrowding, riots in HMP Ranby in Nottinghamshire and HMP Northumberland, and prisoners going for two days without water and elecricity in Doncaster. But for outsiders it is hard to grasp just how bad the state of our prisons really is.On one level, the crisis can be explained with a simple numerical fact: there are too many prisoners and too few staff. Today there are around 85’900 people in prison in England and Wales. In the past 20 years, the prison population has almost doubled, and the UK incarceration rate is now the highest in the whole of Western Europe. For justice secretary Chris Grayling, these figures do not seem to be a problem: ‘We do not have a prison overcrowding crisis’, he said in June; he reasons that as operational capacity of the whole prison estate stands at 86’421, there are a few hundred more prisoners who can be crammed in. But, as Robert Preece from the Howard League for Penal Reform explains, this is not how it works: While operational capacity refers to the number of people you can physically squeeze into the prison estate, the prison services have their own measure of how many people should be accommodated, the Certified Normal Accommodation, CNA. This is the figure that indicates how many people can be safely and decently held. The current CNA level is 76’619 people, 10’000 less than are accommodated now.But the problem is even worse than that, says Preece: ‘If you’ve got a prison cell that is designed for two people, but it holds three, then you don’t have one person living in overcrowded conditions, but three.’ According to this measure, there are 20’000 people living in overcrowded conditions – one in four.For Alex Cavendish, who left prison earlier this year and now lives with his family in the north of England, overcrowding was the most noticeable change he experienced: ‘When I first went into prison, most wings had a mix of double and single cells, with the singles usually going to older people, people with mental health problems or physical disabilities.’ But then, gradually, more and more single cells were converted into doubles – by removing the single bed and putting in a bunk. ‘They simply crammed two men into a space that had been designed for one person.“ In the worst-case scenario, double cells were converted into triples.While more and more prisoners are crammed into our penal institutions, there are fewer and fewer staff to oversee them. In the four years since the current government came into office, the number of prison officers has been cut by 41 percent, according to the Howard League (the government contests this figure, saying the cut amounts to ‘only’ 27 percent). In October, the outgoing president of the Prison Governors’ Association warned there is a race on to get sufficient staff into our prisons before we reach tipping point.The double whammy of overcrowding and lack of staff leads to numerous problems. Firstly, it causes friction between inmates. In order for people to share a cell, a series of risk assessments are done, but ‘because of overcrowding and lack of staff, this is now a tick-box exercise’, says Cavendish. ‘There are situations where somebody is put into a cell with somebody who has mental health problems or non-smokers are put together with heavy smokers.’ Another problem is that there is very little work to do. Cavendish gives the example of HM Lincoln prison, which is supposed to hold 400 people, but now accommodates around 700. ‘So you have jobs and education places for 400 people, and then you have another 300 prisoners you can’t do anything with – there are only so many wing-cleaners you need, only so many spaces in each class room’, says Cavendish. If a prisoner is not in education and does not have a job, chances are that they spend 23 hours in their cell.Overcrowding also contributes to sexual exploitation. Many institutions take prisoners from the age of 18, who would normally be in an offenders institution for young people – they are supposed to be separated from adult prisoners. ‘But increasingly, because of overcrowding, these kids – and literally some of them have just turned 18, they look like schoolkids – are thrown into an adult world, where there is debt, violence and drugs’, says Cavendish. In Lincoln, he saw a small number of young prisoners arriving in his wing, who were in prison for the first time. ‘Every single one of them was sexually assaulted by older prisoners. Every one of them. We have to ask ourselves: Why is it acceptable to put a vulnerable 18-year-old into what is basically a lion’s den? And then we’re surprised when they start cutting their wrists and hanging themselves.’When the Commission on Sex in Prison was set up to look into the problem of sexual assault in prison, Chris Grayling did not seem particularly interested. On the contrary: He tried to obstruct its work. Nonetheless, the commission released a briefing paper on coercive sex in prison earlier this year, according to which 10 percent of juvenile prisoners reported sexual abuse in prison in 2012, as opposed to 1 percent among adult prisoners. Sexual abuse in prison is now at its highest reported level since 2005.In the absence of a sufficient number of officers, the daily management of a penal institution starts breaking down – even without serious overcrowding. Everything a prisoner does on a daily basis requires staff: The initial screening interview, where issues like legal aid, illnesses and special needs are discussed; the provision of things like clothing, toothbrushes, and access to telephones; the organisation of visits from family members and legal representatives; exercise and visits to libraries, doctors and dentists – everything needs to be facilitated by staff.Lack of officers means that exercise is cancelled, visits to libraries are cancelled and education classes are cancelled, and prisoners spend more and more time in their overcrowded cells. ‘You can’t run a prison with skeleton staff – which is exactly what is happening now’, says Marek Kazmierski, who has worked in prisons for many years – among other things as a teacher of creative writing courses, as a charity worker, and for five years as a prison governor. Today he edits the prison magazine Not Shut Up. Kazmierski describes the cuts to prison staff as ‘disastrous': If staff don’t have the capacity to even manage the most basic daily needs of prisoners, they are going to be completely helpless if an inmate has any urgent issues that need to be dealt with – bullying, sexual exploitation, legal issues, or self-harm. ‘That prison is on the edge of disaster’, says Kazmierski.The situation is exacerbated by a number of deliberate policies initiated by the coalition government. In autumn 2013, Chris Grayling introduced changes to the so-called Incentives and Earned Privileges scheme (IEP). This scheme puts prisoners in different categories according to their behaviour – Basic, Standard and Enhanced – and rewards good behaviour with privileges such as more visits and higher wages; bad behaviour, by contrast, is punished by a downgrade and the accompanying restrictions. Last year, Grayling introduced a new level above Basic – Entry – where privileges are restricted and prisoners have to wear a uniform. On top of that, he banned prisoners from receiving books and other basic items, restricted the use of TVs, and introduced an automatic review of the IEP status after ‘bad behaviour’.According to a briefing paper by the Prison Reform Trust from April 2014, these changes have had a profoundly harmful effect on the wellbeing of prisoners: they increase the likelihood of inmates going down the scale to the Basic level, and evidence suggests ‘that the move to the basic regime can have a significant negative impact on mental wellbeing and lead to an increased risk of suicide and self-harm.’ Overall, the authors write, the new system compromises standards of safety, decency and rehabilitation.Alex Cavendish’s experience confirms this. ‘In effect, [the new regime] has made the prison situation worse, particularly when people first come in, which is the time when there is a lot of self-harm and suicide’, he says. ‘Prison is a pretty awful place. But Chris Grayling and his hard-line justice policies have thrown out of the window any attempt to try and cushion the experience, to make it more humane and bearable. He wants people to suffer.’ Cavendish considers the steep rise in the suicide rate to be a direct consequence of this: ‘If you humiliate people and dehumanise them, they will commit suicide.’ In early December, the High Court has also been critical of Grayling’s punitive measures: it ruled that the prison book ban was unlawful. Mr Justice Collins described the policy as ‘unneccessary, irrational and counter-productive to rehabilitation’.Indeed, rehabilitation is one of the major failings of the present system. Re-offending rates are abysmal: 46 percent of adults are reconviced within one year of release. For people serving a sentence of less than a year, the figure is even worse: 58 percent of them re-offend.In his time in prison, Alex Cavendish saw people leaving prison in exactly the same situation as they went in. Lots of male prisoners serve a sentence of less than a year for repeat offences, that is to say, things that would not attract a prison sentence if they happened just once – shoplifting, burglary, small-time drug dealing, fights in pubs. Repeat offenders going to prison for less than a year in effect serve a maximum of 6 months, which means that they don’t have a so-called sentence plan, says Cavendish: ‘You probably won’t get a job, you won’t get onto an education course because you haven’t got long enough to complete it – you’re just locked into a box.’ Private sector education providers like A4E are paid by completion, so they don’t want prisoners who won’t complete a course. ‘These people will have no intervention in prison. If they have a drug habit or an alcohol or a gambling problem, none of that is going to be addressed. They will leave prison with the same problem, and they will re-offend.’‘We’re seeing prisons in meltdown’, says Robert Preece. ‘The decline in the past 18 months has been particularly sharp and even surprised the Howard League.’ According to Preece, the situation hasn’t been this bad since the 1990 Strangeways Prison riot, in which one prisoner was killed and dozens of inmates and staff injured. One urgent question that needs answering is: why are we sending so many people to prison in the first place? ‘A large number of these people have not committed any violent offences and could almost certainly be dealt with by way of community sentence’, says Preece. These sentences have also proved more effective at reducing reoffending and are much cheaper to deliver. Instead of giving this question serious consideration, the government is planning to simply build more prisons and expand the capacity of existing institutions. While we will see a modest rise in prison spaces, the government ‘can’t build itself out of this problem’, says Preece. ‘It’s time we reduced the prison population and spend the money on more meaningful interventions that might help turn lives around.’Peter Stäuber is a freelance journalist based in London. He tweets @Pete_Stb.
  • Processing Distortion with Peter B. Collins: Reporter Attacked, Smeared for Tor Exposé
    Processing Distortion with Peter B. Collins: Reporter Attacked, Smeared for Tor Exposé By Peter B Collins | December 18, 2014 Peter B. Collins Presents Yasha LevineFollowing his July article in Pando and a related interview here, Yasha Levine was the target of slings and arrows, including some from online privacy advocates who work for the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Levine had reported on the origins and funding of the Tor encryption system—linked to the Navy and State Department—and none of his detractors disputed any part of his reporting. Some dismissed Levine as a “conspiracy theorist” while others engaged in childish, crude and mean tweets and online comments. Levine has catalogued the attacks, and responds to the smears.*Yasha Levine is an investigative reporter for Pando Daily. You can review the attacks and Levine’s replies here. And Wired reports the FBI has developed a hack for Tor through its “Operation Torpedo”.Listen to the Preview Clip Here
  • What Putin is not telling us
    What Putin is not telling us By Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT and TomDispatch, and a frequent contributor to websites and radio shows ranging from the US to East Asia. Even facing what under any circumstances is a perfect storm; President Putin delivered an extremely measured performance at his annual press conference and Q&A marathon.The perfect storm evolves in two fronts; an overt economic war – as in siege by sanctions - and a concerted, covert, shadow attack to the heart of the Russian economy. Washington’s endgame is clear: impoverish and defang the adversary and force him to meekly bow to the ‘Empire of Chaos’s’ whims. And bragging about it all the way to “victory.”The problem is Moscow happens to have impeccably deciphered the game – even before Putin, at the Valdai Club in October, pinned down the Obama doctrine as “our Western partners” working as practitioners of the “theory of controlled chaos.”So Putin neatly understood this week’s monster controlled chaos attack. The Empire has massive money power; a great deal of influence over the world’s GDP at $85 trillion, and the banking power behind that. So nothing easier than using that power through the private banking systems that actually controls central banks to create a run on the ruble. Think about the ‘Empire of Chaos’ dreaming of driving the ruble down by 99% or so – thus wrecking the Russian economy. What better way to impose imperial discipline on Russia?The “nuclear” option Russia sells oil in US dollars to the West. Lukoil, for instance, would have a deposit in US dollars in an American bank for the oil they sell. If Lukoil has to pay wages in rubles in Russia, then they will have to sell the US dollar deposits and buy in Russia a ruble deposit for their bank account. This in effect supports the ruble. The question is whether Lukoil, Rosneft and Gazprom are hoarding US dollars overseas - and holding back. The answer is no. And the same applies to other Russian businesses.Russia is not “losing their savings”, as Western corporate media gloats. Russia can always require foreign companies to relocate to Russia. Apple, for instance, may open a manufacturing plant in Russia. The recent Russia-China deals include the Chinese building factories in Russia. With a depreciated ruble, Russia is able to force manufacturing that might have been located in the EU to be located in Russia; otherwise these companies lose the market. Putin somewhat admitted that Russia should have been demanding this much earlier. The – positive – process is now inevitable.And then there’s a “nuclear” option – which Putin didn’t even have to mention. If Russia decides to impose capital controls and/or imposes a “holiday” on repayment of larger debt tranches coming due in early 2015, the European financial system will be bombed – Shock and Awe-style; after all, much of the Russian bank and corporate funding was underwritten in Europe.Exposure to Russia per se is not the issue; what matters is the linkage to European banks. As an American investment banker told me, Lehman Brothers, for instance, brought down Europe just as much as New York City - based on inter-linkages. And yet Lehman was based in New York. It’s the domino effect that counts.Were Russia to deploy this “nuclear” financial option, the Western financial system would not be able to absorb a shock of default. And that would demonstrate – once and for all - that Wall Street speculators have built a ‘House of Cards’ so fragile and corrupt that the first real storm turns it to dust. It's just a shot awayAnd what if Russia defaults - creating a holy mess out of the country’s $600 billion debt? This scenario reads as the Masters of the Universe telling Janet Yellen and Mario Draghi to create credits in the banking systems to prevent “undue damage” - as in 2008.But then Russia decides to cut off natural gas and oil from the West (while keeping the flow to the East). Russian intel may wreak non-stop havoc in pumping stations from the Maghreb to the Middle East. Russia may block all the oil and natural gas pumped in the Central Asian ‘stans’. The result: the greatest financial collapse in history. And the end of the ‘Empire of Chaos’s’ exceptionalist panacea.Of course this is a doomsday scenario. But don’t provoke the bear, because the bear could pull that off in a flash.Putin was so cool, calm, collected – and eager to delve into details - at his press conference because he knows Moscow is able to move in total autonomy. This is – of course – an asymmetrical war – against a crumbling, dangerous empire. What those intellectual midgets swarming the lame duck Obama administration are thinking? That they can sell American – and world – public opinion the notion Washington (European poodles, actually) will brave nuclear war, in the European theater, in the name of failed state Ukraine?This is a chess game. The raid on the ruble was supposed to be a checkmate. It’s not. Not when deployed by amateur scrabble players. And don’t forget the Russia-China strategic partnership. The storm may be abating, but the match continues.
  • News Conference of Vladimir Putin: Enhanced Capabilities of Armed Forces
    News Conference of Vladimir Putin: Enhanced Capabilities of Armed Forces. Careful Management of Gold and Currency Reserves By President Vladimir Putin The President’s news conference was broadcast live by Channel One, Rossiya-1 and Rossiya-24 TV channels, and by the Radio Rossii, Mayak and Vesti FM radio stations. 1259 Russian and foreign journalists have been accredited to cover the news conference.PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA VLADIMIR PUTIN: Good afternoon, colleagues.I am very happy to see you in high spirits. As we did last time, I will begin by briefing you on the work done during the year and then I will try to answer your questions.First the most important thing: the economic performance. In the first 10 months of this year, the gross domestic product grew by 0.7 percent, and the final figure may be around 0.6 percent. My colleagues and I met yesterday to finalise the figures. The trade surplus grew by $13.3 billion to reach $148.4 billion.Industrial production picked up some speed after last year’s lull. In the first 10 months of the year, it went up by 1.7 percent. Unemployment is also low: at times, it dropped to below 5 percent, and now it is around 5 percent, possibly 5.1 percent.News conference of Vladimir Putin.The agroindustrial complex is developing. I believe that by the end of the year growth there will amount to 3.3 percent. As you may know, this year we had a record crop of 104 million tonnes.Despite the turbulent situation on the financial market, the federal budget this year will show a surplus. In other words, revenue will exceed expenses by 1.2 trillion rubles [over $20 billion], which is about 1.9 percent of the GDP. The Finance Ministry is still working on the final calculations, but the surplus is definite.The main achievement of the year in the social sphere is of course the positive demographics.Natural population growth in the first 10 months of the year was 37,100 people. The death rate is going down in this country, while the birth rate is increasing. This is a very good trend and we must make every effort to maintain it. As promised, we continued adjusting the maternity capital. In 2014 it amounted to 429,408.5 rubles.We have met and exceeded the targets set for this year for salary rates for ten workforce categories. I am sure you know what I am talking about. First of all, these are teachers at schools and institutions providing supplementary education, counsellors, university faculty members, medical doctors, paramedics and nurses, and employees of cultural institutions. In 2014, we adjusted pensions to inflation twice: by 6.5 percent on February 1 and by an additional 1.7 percent on April 1.We gave significant attention this year to enhancing the combat capability and efficiency of the Armed Forces. I will not go into detail here. I would only like to mention the social sphere. In 2014, 11,700 Defence Ministry servicemen received permanent housing and 15,300 received service housing. This is 100 percent of the year’s target figures.These are the numbers I wanted to begin with. Now a few words regarding the current situation. I believe we all know that the main issue of concern to this country’s citizens is the state of the economy, the national currency and how all this could influence developments in the social sphere. I will try to briefly describe this situation and say how I expect it to develop. Basically, that is where we could end this news conference. (Laughter) However, if you have any further questions I will try to answer them.The current situation was obviously provoked primarily by external factors. However, we proceed from the view that we have failed to achieve many of the things that were planned and that needed to be done to diversify the economy over the past 20 years. This was not easy, if at all possible, given the foreign economic situation, which was favourable in the sense that businesses were investing into areas that guaranteed maximum and fast profits. This mechanism is not easy to change.Now, as you may know, the situation has changed under the influence of certain foreign economic factors, primarily the price of energy resources, of oil and consequently of gas as well. I believe the Government and the Central Bank are taking appropriate measures in this situation. We could question the timeliness or the quality of the measures taken by the Government and the Central Bank, but generally, they are acting adequately and moving in the right direction.I [think] that yesterday’s and today’s drop in the foreign currency exchange rate and growth of our national currency, the ruble, will continue. Is this possible? It is. Could oil prices continue falling and would this influence our national currency and consequently all the other economic indexes, including inflation? Yes, this is possible.What do we intend to do about this? We intend to use the measures we applied, and rather successfully, back in 2008. In this case, we will need to focus on assistance to those people who really need it and on retaining – this is something I would like to highlight – retaining all our social targets and plans. This primarily concerns pensions and public sector salaries, and so forth.Clearly, we would have to adjust our plans in case of any unfavourable developments. We would certainly be forced to make some cuts. However, it is equally certain – and I would like to stress this – that there will be what experts call a positive rebound. Further growth and a resolution of this situation are inevitable for at least two reasons. One is that the global economy will continue to grow, the rates may be lower, but the positive trend is sure to continue. The economy will grow, and our economy will come out of this situation.How long will this take? In a worst-case scenario, I believe it would take a couple of years. I repeat: after that, growth is inevitable, due to a changing foreign economic situation among other things. A growing world economy will require additional energy resources. However, by that time I have no doubt that we will be able to do a great deal to diversify our economy, because life itself will force us to do it. There is no other way we could function.Therefore, overall, I repeat, we will undoubtedly comply with all our social commitments using the existing reserves. Fortunately, this year they have even grown.I would like to remind you that Central Bank reserves amount to $419 billion. The Central Bank does not intend to ‘burn’ them all senselessly, which is right. The Government reserve, the National Wealth Fund, the Reserve Fund have grown this year by about 2.4-2.5 trillion rubles to a total 8.4 trillion rubles. With these reserves I am certain we can work calmly to resolve our main social issues and to diversify the economy; and I will repeat that inevitably the situation will return to normal.I would like to end my introductory remarks here. As I have said, we could end the whole news conference here, but if you do have any questions, I am ready to answer them.PRESIDENTIAL PRESS-SECRETARY DMITRY PESKOV: This year I would like to begin with those who have been working with the President throughout the year – the Kremlin press pool. First I would like to give the floor to the dean of the Kremlin press pool Vyacheslav Terekhov, who has been working with Mr Putin for many years and who travels to all the remote parts of the world and all the cities and towns of this country. Mr Terekhov, please.VLADIMIR PUTIN: This is what they call nepotism.VYACHESLAV TEREKHOV, INTERFAX: But I’ve got an interesting job.There is something I would like to clarify, Mr President. Judging by the situation in the country, we are in the midst of a deep currency crisis, one that even Central Bank employees say they could not have foreseen in their worst nightmares.Do you believe that things will get better in two years, as you mentioned, and we will recover from this financial and economic crisis? Criticism was piled on the Government and the Central Bank for the ruble’s Black Monday and Tuesday. Do you agree with this criticism?Thank you.VLADIMIR PUTIN: I said that given the most unfavourable foreign economic situation this could last (approximately, because no one can say for certain) for about two years. However, it may not last that long and the situation could take a turn for the better sooner. It could improve in the first or second quarter of next year, by the middle of next year, or by its end.Nobody can tell. There are many uncertain factors. Therefore, you could call it a crisis or something else, you can decide which word to use. However, I believe I made it quite clear that the Central Bank and the Government are generally taking appropriate measures in this situation. I believe some things could have been done sooner, and this is actually what the expert community are criticising them for.What does the job involve, in my view? And what are the Central Bank and the Government actually doing? First, as you may know, they raised the key interest rate. I hope the rate will remain for the duration of these complicated developments connected with the foreign economic situation, and the economy will adjust one way or another.What is the basis for my optimism? The idea that the economy is bound to adjust to life and work in conditions of low prices on energy resources. This will become a fact of life.How soon will the economy adapt if the prices remain at the current level or even go below 60 [USD/barrel], 40, or whatever? For us it could be any figure, the economy would simply have to get structured. How fast will this happen? This is hard to say. But it is inevitable. I would like to highlight this. This will be a fact of life.What is the Central Bank doing? They have raised the key interest rate. What else do they need to do? And what are they already doing? To stabilise the national currency they need to somewhat limit ruble liquidity and give economic entities access to foreign currency liquidity. This is exactly what the Bank is doing. Their foreign currency interest rate is quite low – 0.5.Overall, I think it is up to the Central Bank to decide whether to reduce the interest rate or not, they should see and react accordingly. They should not hand out our gold and foreign currency reserves or burn them on the market, but provide lending resources. And they are doing this as well.The so-called repo is a well-known instrument here. They can be offered for a day, a week, 28 days, almost a month, or for a year. This is money that is returned, but it gives economic entities the opportunity to make use of the foreign currency. Everything is being done right.They should probably move at least half a pace faster. Of course, I see the criticism levelled at the Central Bank and its Governor. Some of it is justified, some is not. The Government should also bear responsibility. They should work with exporters who have sufficiently high foreign currency revenues.The Prime Minister met with heads of our major companies and we can see some results. Many of them have to return their loans and think of the condition their companies are in.Every company, just like every individual, tries to save ‘for a rainy day’. Is such behaviour economically justified? In terms of economic logic, it is not. Nevertheless, companies do it, and we now see a certain result, the ‘rebound’ is happening.The Government should be taking other measures as well. What do I mean? For instance, combatting inflation is of course the Central Bank’s job. However, there are things that we have mentioned already, things I spoke of in public during our meetings with the Government.For instance, the prices of petrol and food are something they should work on. Moreover, the current situation, whatever anyone says, requires a ‘hands on’ approach. They have to meet with producers, those who are on the market, with retailers and with the oil companies that have significantly monopolised the market. The Federal Antimonopoly Service should function properly.These actions have to be joint and reasonable, though without any violation of the individual competence of, say, the Central Bank or the Government. Nevertheless, they should coordinate their actions, and do so in a timely fashion.Therefore, they can criticise Nabiullina [Central Bank Governor] all they like, but one should bear in mind that overall their policy is right. The Central Bank is not the only one responsible for the economic situation in the country.DMITRY PESKOV: Another presidential press pool old-timer, Alexander Gamov of the Komsomolskaya Pravda. Is there anything you would like to ask?ALEXANDER GAMOV, KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA NEWSPAPER: First, I have something to say. Mr President, I believe many people were looking forward to seeing you here at this news conference. Many were trying to predict your mood, because this would largely set the mood for the entire country. You are here, and you already smiled several times, so thank you for your optimism. We hope everything will happen just the way you said it would.Over to my questions. Since 2008, we have been talking about the need to get rid of our oil addiction and restructure our economy to make it more efficient. However, the developments of the past few days have shown that we did not manage to achieve this.We are still addicted, and nobody knows how long this will last. Could you say openly what you personally think: will we be able to use this crisis for to our advantage, lose our addiction and rebuild the economy? I realise that this would take time.And my second point. In your Address to the Federal Assembly, you named, to the welcoming applause of the country and the business community, a whole list of concessions that have long been suggesting themselves. However, there is the danger in Russia, as you well know, that all important and useful resolutions, including presidential ones, get lost in the excessive red tape and general slack.Are you confident that this time you statements, your resolutions will be implemented and your optimism will be supported with real action?VLADIMIR PUTIN: As we all know, only an insurance policy can give you confidence. The main insurance for us here is the right macroeconomic policy and reserve funds for resolving social issues. This is the kind of insurance policy that would give us confidence.As for excessive red tape, I can say this: there must be some people from the European Union here. If you ask them about red tape in Brussels, they will tell you all about it. Our bureaucracy is child’s play compared to theirs.The problem does exist, however, and it is not about red tape. Do you know what it is? I said at the very start that I would say a few things and we might as well end the news conference. It looks like that was no joke.This is not about decisions getting bogged down in red tape. It is about the foreign economic situation forcing economic entities to invest, say, in energy resources, the chemical industry or metals. So regardless of all the Government’s attempts to fine-tune the instruments of taxation and benefits for businesses that are not involved with raw materials, this is a very complicated process, because the budget does not usually have the required funds.We have been using all these instruments for several years already. We are trying to create more favourable conditions for the development of production, but it is moving forward with difficulty. Especially when one can make large profits by investing in energy resources. As you may know, at least 80 percent of all applications to the Government (believe me, this is true) have to do with getting access to some field rather than investing in some high technology area. Why is this? Because the returns there are fast and big.I am coming to your question. If the situation changes, then life itself will force us to invest in other industries. And this gives me optimism, strange as it might seem. True, in some ways it would be more difficult. True, we would have to resolve social issues at any cost and meet the targets set in the social section of the 2012 Presidential Executive Orders.Can we do it? Yes, we can. However, at the same time we need to make use of the current situation to create additional conditions for developing production and economic diversification. I hope that the current state of affairs will make this possible.ANDREI KOLESNIKOV, KOMMERSANT NEWSPAPER: Mr President, in early 2012 in one of your pre-election articles that were later documented as Executive Orders of May 2012, as we all know, while describing the situation at the time you quoted Alexander Gorchakov [19th century Russian diplomat]. You said, “Russia is concentrating.”Can you say what is happening to the country now? What is it doing? Is it still concentrating, or maybe the time has come to de-concentrate, to finally relax?VLADIMIR PUTIN: We must work. Little has changed in this sense. Moreover, the current conditions are pushing us to move forward. I keep tackling it from different perspectives, and I see you and your colleagues keep raising the same issue. We must work, and the external conditions are forcing us to become more efficient and to shift to innovative development.What does the future of our economy require? We have to create favourable conditions for business, to ensure freedom of entrepreneurship, we need to guarantee ownership rights, to stop using law enforcement agencies to chase those we do not like and use those instruments for competition. We need more benefits for production facilities; we need to develop those regions of the Russian Federation that require special attention, like the Far East.Are we doing this? We are. However, in my Address I spoke of an entire programme of action. I am referring here to 4-year tax holidays, to 3-year inspection holidays for those companies that have no record of any serious violations, to benefits for small businesses. We must carry on with the concentration and support it with real efforts.VLADIMIR KONDRATYEV, NTV TELEVISION COMPANY: Mr President, we recently marked the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. You witnessed the event when you were still working in the German Democratic Republic. A lot has been achieved, perhaps not exactly what we hoped for, and we had great hopes, but there have been certain achievements. It was thanks to your persistence that Russia was once close to a visa-free travel agreement with Europe.In this anniversary year, a new wall appeared within a matter of weeks. It is not made of concrete, but it is no less obvious, a wall of alienation, suspicion, mutual mistrust and mutual reproaches. Where can this cooling lead us? Some go as far as speaking of the beginning of a new Cold War. Will we be living in a divided world or is there any possibility to resume dialogue and cooperation?VLADIMIR PUTIN: You just said the Berlin Wall fell, but some new walls are being put up now. I will respond, and I hope you will agree with me.It is not now that this happened. You are an expert on Germany and on Europe. Didn’t they tell us after the fall of the Berlin Wall that NATO would not expand eastwards? However, the expansion started immediately. There were two waves of expansion. Is that not a wall? True, it is a virtual wall, but it was coming up. What about the anti-missile defence system next to our borders? Is that not a wall?You see, nobody has ever stopped. This is the main issue of current international relations. Our partners never stopped. They decided they were the winners, they were an empire, while all the others were their vassals, and they needed to put the squeeze on them. I said the same in my Address [to the Federal Assembly]. This is the problem. They never stopped building walls, despite all our attempts at working together without any dividing lines in Europe and the world at large.I believe that our tough stand on certain critical situations, including that in the Ukraine, should send a message to our partners that the best thing to do is to stop building walls and to start building a common humanitarian space of security and economic freedom.Since I have mentioned Ukraine, I have to give the floor to our colleagues from Ukraine. Go ahead, please.ROMAN TSYMBALYUK, UKRAINIAN NEWS AGENCY UNIAN: I have two short questions, if I may.VLADIMIR PUTIN: Go ahead, please.ROMAN TSYMBALYUK: My first question concerns the punitive operation you have launched in eastern Ukraine, which is mostly spearheaded against Russian speakers. It’s an open secret that it is Russian servicemen and Russian militants who are fighting there. Question: How many Russian servicemen and units of equipment have you sent there, and how many of them have been killed in Ukraine? What would you as the Commander-in-Chief say to the families of the Russian servicemen and officers killed there?And my second short question, if I may. We had a president called Viktor, who is now hiding in Russia. He had imprisoned the number one on the Batkivshchyna list, Yulia Tymoshenko. She has been released, but now the current number one on the party list is in prison, this time in Russia…VLADIMIR PUTIN: What? Say it again please?ROMAN TSYMBALYUK: The number one on the list of Yulia Tymoshenko’s party, Batkivshchyna, is currently in a Russian prison. I have a question: On what conditions will you release Ukrainian pilot Savchenko, Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov and at least 30 Ukrainian prisoners of war whom you are keeping in various prisons in Russia? Thank you.VLADIMIR PUTIN: Let’s begin with the second question, and then I will certainly answer your first question.The question about Ukrainian citizen Savchenko and the conditions for her release. I have an open and, as far as I can see, a clear position on this issue. You can see in this audience the colleagues of our journalists – they are also your colleagues – who have died in the line of duty in southeast Ukraine. I want to stress that they did not take part in fighting for any of the sides, and they were unarmed. It is the duty of all state agencies, including the military ones, to protect their lives and health and to give them an opportunity to do their professional duty which is to provide objective and full information, at least as they see it. It is a fact that has been recognised in the civilised world. They have been killed. According to our law enforcement agencies, Ms Savchenko called in artillery fire via radio. If it is reliably established during the pretrial investigation and the subsequent trial that she was not involved and is not guilty, she will be released immediately. But if they prove that she was indeed involved in the journalists’ murder, a Russian court will issue a proper ruling, as I see it, and she will serve her sentence in accordance with the verdict. However, no one has the right to hold anyone guilty of a crime on account. I mean that Russian legislation includes the presumption of innocence. So we’ll see how the pretrial investigation proceeds, and what conclusions the Russian court will make.As for the other servicemen you have mentioned, we don’t consider them prisoners of war. They are in detainment in Russia, and they are being investigated on suspicion of involvement in terrorist activity. This is all I can say on your second question.Now to the first question, about responsibility. In Russia, like in any other presidential republic, it is the president who is responsible for everything. And responsibility for military personnel rests with the Commander-in-Chief. Let me remind you that in Russia this is one and the same person.All those who are following their heart and are fulfilling their duty by voluntarily taking part in hostilities, including in southeast Ukraine, are not mercenaries, since they are not paid for what they do.Russian public opinion holds that what is now happening in southeast Ukraine is actually a punitive operation, but it is conducted by the Kiev authorities and not the other way around. The self-defence fighters of the southeast were not the ones who sent troops to Kiev. On the contrary, the Kiev authorities amassed their military forces in the southeast of Ukraine, and are using multiple rocket launchers, artillery and fighter jets.What is the problem here and how it can be solved? I’ll try to answer this question as well. The problem is that after the government coup (and no matter how others call it and what is being said in this respect, a government coup was carried out in Kiev by military means) part of the country did not agree with these developments.Instead of at least trying to engage in dialogue with them, Kiev started by sending law enforcers, the police force, but when that didn’t work out, they sent in the army, and since that didn’t work out either, they are now trying to settle the issue by using other forceful methods, the economic blockade.I believe that this path has absolutely no future whatsoever and is detrimental to Ukraine’s statehood and its people. I hope that by engaging in dialogue – and we are ready to assume the role of intermediaries in this respect – we will succeed in establishing a direct, political dialogue, and by employing such methods and political instruments we will reach a settlement and restore a single political space.ANTON VERNITSKY, CHANNEL ONE RUSSIA: Mr President, are the current economic developments the price we have to pay for Crimea? Maybe the time has come to acknowledge it?VLADIMIR PUTIN: No. This is not the price we have to pay for Crimea… This is actually the price we have to pay for our natural aspiration to preserve ourselves as a nation, as a civilisation, as a state. And here is why.As I’ve already mentioned when answering a question from your NTV colleague, and as I’ve said during my Address to the Federal Assembly, after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia opened itself to our partners. What did we see? A direct and fully-fledges support of terrorism in North Caucasus. They directly supported terrorism, you understand? Is that what partners usually do? I won’t go into details on that, but this is an established fact. And everyone knows it.On any issue, no matter what we do, we always run into challenges, objections and opposition. Let me remind you about the preparations for the 2014 Olympics, our inspiration and enthusiasm to organise a festive event not only for Russian sports fans, but for sports fans all over the world. However, and this is an evident truth, unprecedented and clearly orchestrated attempts were made to discredit our efforts to organise and host the Olympics. This is an undeniable fact! Who needs to do so and for what reason? And so on and so forth.You know, at the Valdai [International Discussion] Club I gave an example of our most recognisable symbol. It is a bear protecting his taiga. You see, if we continue the analogy, sometimes I think that maybe it would be best if our bear just sat still. Maybe he should stop chasing pigs and boars around the taiga but start picking berries and eating honey. Maybe then he will be left alone. But no, he won’t be! Because someone will always try to chain him up. As soon as he’s chained they will tear out his teeth and claws. In this analogy, I am referring to the power of nuclear deterrence. As soon as – God forbid – it happens and they no longer need the bear, the taiga will be taken over.We have heard it even from high-level officials that it is unfair that the whole of Siberia with its immense resources belongs to Russia in its entirety. Why exactly is it unfair? So it is fair to snatch Texas from Mexico but it is unfair that we are working on our own land – no, we have to share.And then, when all the teeth and claws are torn out, the bear will be of no use at all. Perhaps they’ll stuff it and that’s all.So, it is not about Crimea but about us protecting our independence, our sovereignty and our right to exist. That is what we should all realise.If we believe that one of the current problems – including in the economy as a result of the sanctions – is crucial… And it is so because out of all the problems the sanctions take up about 25 to 30 percent. But we must decide whether we want to keep going and fight, change our economy – for the better, by the way, because we can use the current situation to our own advantage – and be more independent, go through all this or we want our skin to hang on the wall. This is the choice we need to make and it has nothing to do with Crimea at all.YEVGENY ROZHKOV, VESTI ROSSIYA-1 CHANNEL: Good afternoon, Mr President.First of all, the Crimea issue is more or less clear. The only question perhaps is how much we will have to eventually invest in its development after the difficult Ukrainian past. The most urgent question for me is about eastern Ukraine, which is now calling itself Novorossiya. How do you see the future of that part of Ukraine? Do you believe in the success of the Minsk agreements? Do you think they will help reconciliation? And how are we going to further help Donbass? Will it be humanitarian aid, as it is now, or something else?VLADIMIR PUTIN: I think I answered a part of your question in my response to your Ukrainian colleague. We assume that the crisis will be resolved sooner or later. The sooner the better, of course. This is the first point.Second, it should be addressed and settled by political means, and not through pressure, no matter what type of pressure, whether an economic blockade or the use of armed force. And, of course, we will help the people, as we are doing now (as you may know, a tenth humanitarian convoy has been sent). After all, we should proceed from the fundamental principles of international law and from people’s right to decide their fate on their own.It was not by chance that I… It’s not just a casual phrase, when I said that peace should be restored and problems should be resolved by political means. We proceed from the assumption that a common political space will be restored. It’s hard to say at this point what it would look like, but I think we should strive for this. The problem is, however, that both sides need to strive for this. Both! And people living in Ukraine’s southeast should be respected. Economic ties should be restored.It is a fact that much of Ukraine’s power industry burns Donbass coal, but up until now they aren’t buying this coal. We were asked to influence Ukraine’s southeast, Donbass, to make the miners agree to supply coal. We did that, but they are not buying it. Why? Because they’ve closed all the banks and are unable to make payments. Our colleagues told me yesterday: We are ready to pay and have transferred a prepayment. I’ve made inquiries and found that there is no prepayment. They allegedly wired the money to the miners’ bank cards, but the cards are not working! And this is how it is with each issue. Nevertheless, there is no other way but a peace settlement.As far as the Minsk agreements are concerned, it’s a very important part of this, and we want them to be complied with because, first, the initiative for the Minsk meeting came from me and from Petro Poroshenko. I have no doubt that he is striving for this. But he is not the only one over there. We have been hearing statements from other officials, who advocate basically a war to the end. The implication is that all of this is likely to lead to a continental crisis. We hear many bellicose statements. I still think that President Poroshenko is oriented towards settlement. But concrete actions and steps are needed.Should the Minsk agreements be implemented or shouldn’t they? Yes they should! Let me repeat: I was one of those who initiated them and we… I’ll say an important thing. Look, I’d like everyone to hear this. Our representatives in Minsk signed a memorandum in September and there were protocols to it that defined the disengagement line. The representatives of Donetsk didn’t sign those protocols. That’s the problem. They said at the very start: We can’t.When we tried to insist – I’ll be frank with you about this, since the public needs to know these things ­– they told us that they can’t leave these villages (there were three or four disputed villages), because their families live there, and they can’t risk their children, wives and sisters being killed or raped. This is the most important thing. However, the Ukrainian officials did not withdraw their troops from the areas that they were supposed to leave, such as the Donetsk Airport, either. They’re staying there.Are you aware of the latest developments? The self-defence forces allowed them to rotate their troops at the airport. They took them to a bathhouse and sent them some food. This may well put a smile on your faces, but, on the other hand, this is a positive development. Perhaps, in the end, people will be able to agree on things among themselves. Everyone is insisting on exchanging prisoners of war. I believe that they should all be exchanged unconditionally. But life is more complicated than that. When these lists became available, it turned out (in any case, that’s what the Donbass self-defence fighters told us), that the lists from Ukraine include people who have been detained not in connection with the hostilities in southeastern Ukraine, but somewhere in Kherson or Odessa. These lists must be checked. Nonetheless, we insist and I believe that we need to get these people back home to their families for the New Year or Christmas, regardless of all other circumstances.Yesterday, they agreed to exchange 30 people. Representatives of the self-defence forces went to the exchange location, and a representative of the Kiev authorities said, “No, we are not going to proceed with the exchange until the next meeting in Minsk.” Well, you can do that, of course, but it would be nice if they could let go at least 30 people … But these are details. Anyway, it would be a positive move, including in terms of implementing the Minsk agreements, which is an important and necessary process.An agreement was reached to hold a video conference today or tomorrow. First, there will be a dialogue during this videoconference, but the next step should be made at a meeting in Minsk. There’s another important thing. It’s essential for the Kiev authorities to keep their end of the bargain. There was an agreement on adopting an amnesty law. It is nowhere to be seen. They keep telling us that a law on special status was passed, but it couldn’t be implemented, this law, do you understand that? Because the law could come into force and actually become effective only after the other law had been adopted – about the disengagement line. It has not been adopted so far. This compilation has to stop. If Ukraine wants to restore peace, tranquillity and its territorial integrity, the people who live in certain regions of the country must be respected and a straight, open, and honest political dialogue must be maintained with them. It must be a political dialogue without any pressure. I hope that in the end everyone will go down that path.VERONIKA ROMANENKOVA, TASS: Thank you. This year, it became clear that energy diplomacy has become a key factor in geopolitics. How justified is Russia’s turning to the East and the gas contracts it has signed with China and Turkey?Have all the pitfalls of these projects been considered? Many still doubt that the Chinese contract will be profitable, while the potential Turkish Stream will leave Russia dependent on Turkey. Do you have anything to say here?VLADIMIR PUTIN: No, I don’t. These things are so obvious that it would be impossible to argue. I often hear comments about Russia’s turn towards the East. Now, if you read American analysts, they also write about the United States’ turn towards the East. Is this true? Partly, yes. Why? Is this political? No. This stems from the global economic processes, because the East – that is, the Asia-Pacific Region – shows faster growth than the rest of the world. New opportunities open up. As for energy, the demand for resources is racing in leaps and bounds in China, India, as well as in Japan and South Korea. Everything is developing faster there than in other places. So should we turn down our chance? The projects we are working on were planned long ago, even before the most recent problems occurred in the global or Russian economy. We are simply implementing our long-time plans.About the Chinese contract – it is not a loss-making project. It enjoys privileges on both sides – on both sides, I must stress. This is true. China offered some benefits as well. I will not go into details right now – these benefits aren’t extraordinary or anything; the Chinese government simply decided to provide some support to the project participants. We, in turn, agreed to do the same. So the project definitely became profitable. Definitely.Moreover, we have agreed on a pricing formula, which is not much different – if at all – from the one applied to our European contracts, except for the specific regional market coefficients. This is regular practice. In addition, it will help Russia, which will receive and accumulate gigantic resources at the project’s initial stage, to begin connecting our Far Eastern regions to the gas distribution grids, not just to export gas through the pipeline. This will allow us to make the next – a very important – step. We will be able to link together the western and eastern gas pipeline systems and promptly rechannel resources back and forth when needed, depending on the international market. This is very important. Without it, we would never be able to connect Eastern Siberia and the Far East to the gas distribution system. So this project holds many potential benefits. Not to mention that it is a huge construction site that will create jobs and generate tax income at every level, and revive Russia’s Far East and the entire region.About Turkey. The Turkish economy is also growing and requires additional energy resources as much as the APR. We built the so-called Blue Stream pipeline many years ago, and now our Turkish partners are considering increasing the supplies to the Turkish market. Should we refuse?We have reached all the key agreements with them, which cover the pricing formula, supply schedule and other aspects. We more or less understand their requirements, and we will certainly sell them what we have and what they need. Of course, we will do this.Will a so-called European hub be built on the border of Turkey and Greece? This is not for us to decide. The decision largely depends on our European partners: Do they want stable, guaranteed and absolutely transparent energy supply from Russia, which they badly need, without any transit risks? Great! Then we’ll start working, and the pipeline would reach Macedonia via Greece, go on to Serbia and to Baumgarter in Austria. If they don’t want this, we won’t do it. The thing is that there is no cheaper and more reliable supplier than Russia, and there won’t be any in the near future.GRIGORY DUBOVITSKY, RIA NOVOSTI: Mr President, I’d like to go back to the situation on the currency market, which changes from one day to another and is a great concern for millions of Russians. Many experts, including you, Mr President, have said the current situation could be blamed also on currency profiteers. Concrete companies and individuals have been named. Can you give us those names? Are they Russians or foreigners? And why can’t they be stopped? Are they too strong? Or are we too weak?I have a second question on the same subject, if I may. Do the Central Bank and the Government plan to peg or devalue the ruble?VLADIMIR PUTIN: This is what our Ukrainian partners did, quite unsuccessfully. Are you asking if we plan to force our companies, our main exporters, who receive revenues in foreign currency, to sell it? They would just buy it back the next day, as it happened in Kiev and as it happens in other countries.The next step in this case should be to set a limit on the purchase of foreign currency on the domestic market. We won’t go this far, and so the Central Bank and the Government are not planning, quite correctly as far as I see it, to limit our exporters in this field.This doesn’t mean, though, that the Government should not act through its representatives on company boards. After all, these are our largest energy companies. They are partly state-owned, which means that we can influence their policies, but without issuing any directives or restrictions. This we won’t do.As for the so-called profiteers, it is not a crime to play on the currency market. These market players can be foreigners or various funds, which are present on the Russian market and have been operating quite actively there. Or they can be Russian companies. Overall, as I said at the beginning of this meeting, this is an accepted practice in a market economy. Profiteers always appear when there is a chance to make some money.
  • Rafael Correa – Hugo Chavez’s Political Successor
    Rafael Correa – Hugo Chavez’s Political Successor By Nil NIKANDROV | 18.12.2014 | 00:00 "Strategic Culture Foundation" The untimely death of the prominent Latin American leader, Venezuelan Hugo Chavez, could not but have had an impact on the dynamics of the continent’s integration processes. This was referred to by many of those attending the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) summit that took place in Ecuador on 4-5 December. Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa made a huge contribution to the preparation of this forum. He makes no secret of the difficulties being faced by UNASUR – the changes in global economic conditions, the fall in oil prices, and the emergence of financial problems in oil-producing Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador. Yet Correa’s prognosis for the Union of South American Nations sounds inspiring: the region has an abundance of natural resources, as well as significant industrial, agrarian and human potential, and the cohesive actions of the 12 UNASUR countries gives hope that the fourth largest economy will make its appearance in the world in the next few years.Ecuador has done much to coordinate efforts for the creation of such integration mechanisms as the South American Bank, the South American School of Defence, a criminal court, and an electoral monitoring group. A South American Arbitration Centre is also going to be established, which will allow the region to free itself from the influence of transnational capital. «Together, we will be able to dictate the terms of international capital», said Rafael Correa. The concept of South American citizenship, which will give people the right to move around the region and get a job and an education anywhere on the continent, is an important achievement of the summit in Ecuador. Five hundred million people will receive such a ‘South American passport’!Correa’s leadership qualities, as well as his perseverance in defending his position and the fact that he is a world-class economist, command deep respect. He began his political career in 2005, serving as the Minister of Economics and Finance, but was quickly removed from government for criticising the IMF and the World Bank. During his first term as president, Correa decided to repudiate external debt repayments. He sent Ecuadorian experts to international financial institutions to explain that an audit of all the country’s debt obligations proved their illegality. Correa also revised contracts with major foreign companies and managed to obtain fair royalties for oil production from them, allowing his government to significantly increase its social expenditure. There has been no particular backlash regarding Ecuador’s refusal to pay its external debt and revise privatisation contracts. After all, who would want to draw attention to their shady deals?Supported by oil revenue, high tax collection and stable economic growth, Correa’s government has significantly improved the country’s public health service, increased state spending on education, and modernised the road and transport infrastructure. Ecuador’s new constitution, which has reinforced the country’s commitment to building «socialism with an Ecuadorian face», was adopted by a national referendum. Sixty per cent of Ecuadorians voted in favour and 20 per cent voted against. President Correa calls his reforms a «Civil Revolution» and stresses that it is of an independent nature, which is to say that it is not an imitation of the socialist models in other countries. A Russian tourist in Quito, not without surprise, wrote on an internet forum: «This once backward country is progressing in leaps and bounds. Decentralisation is at the heart of its policy; all oil revenue is spent on infrastructure and education; and the national bank gives cheap loans. That’s it!»In official figures, Ecuador’s social and economic progress looks like this: according to the UN, the country has climbed ten places in the Human Development Index; economic growth rates have exceeded the average for Latin America; unemployment has fallen to 4.3 per cent and the proportion of the population that is middle class grew from 14 per cent to 35 per cent; and hundreds and thousands of new jobs have been created, with a million workers receiving social insurance. According to the findings of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the country is successfully combating poverty and social inequality.A new law on the media is another of Correa’s important achievements. The president fended off attacks from Ecuador’s media groups that reflected the position of pro-American elements, and every media owner in Ecuador now knows they will be sued for defamation and any involvement in subversive campaigns. Ecuador’s opposition has tried to present this law as an attack on free speech, but the law is now recognised by the Inter-American Press Association (SIP).Many in Latin America believe that after Hugo Chavez, Rafael Correa became America’s main target. Correa’s decision to close the US air base at Manta was taken particularly badly by Washington. The agreement on its use expired in 2009, and Correa announced that the contract would not be extended. Washington was asked to open an Ecuadorian base in the US on a reciprocal basis. «That’s not how we do things», replied the US State Department. Ecuador’s response came immediately: «In which case, there will not be a US military base in Ecuador either».Following a number of US intelligence operations against Ecuador, Correa began to keep a close eye on CIA and Pentagon interference in the country’s internal affairs. Without hesitation, he is expelling any employees of these organisations caught carrying out subversive activities from Ecuador. In April, dozens of US servicemen operating under the roof of the US Embassy in Quito, left Ecuador. Correa considered their number «unjustified and disproportionate». Even earlier, in December 2013, the president announced that the US Agency for International Development (USAID), which he accused of financing the opposition, would cease its operations in the country. The organisation’s office in Quito was closed on 30 September. Employees of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) have also been removed from the country. DEA agents had repeatedly been caught red-handed taking part in operations designed to compromise Ecuador’s efforts in this area.In 2014, the president has warned Ecuadorians more than once about the preparation of a coup in the country. In October, he accused certain media outlets of involvement in a conspiracy to destabilise the government. Moreover, Correa has stressed that the destabilisation methods being used are exactly the same as those currently being resorted to in Venezuela to overthrow Nicolás Maduro. «Make no mistake about it, the civil revolution is under siege», said Correa. «The right are using a tried-and-tested technique – the ‘soft coup’». However, the president is well aware that other harsher techniques are possible. He himself miraculously survived when, with the help of US intelligence agencies, an assassination attempt was made on his life in 2010. For nine hours, a small number of Correa’s guards resisted fierce attacks by conspirators. Speaking at a rally dedicated to these events, therefore, Correa was completely justified in pointing out that the enemy never sleeps: «Right-wing forces have overcome their stupor and have a strategy to come to power. They are concentrated at the national and international level for what one could call conservative revenge».In November, US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson visited Ecuador. Rafael Correa described her appearance in Quito as a «good sign», but that was just standard politeness. After the American had departed without achieving any concrete results, Correa announced that Ecuador’s international policy was at variance with that of America. There are disagreements and, according to Correa, there is also tension and a mutual distrust, because there are manifestations of neo-colonialism in US policy.Rafael Correa has no intention of changing his country’s foreign policy, which is geared towards Latin American integration, the development of a multipolar world, and the maintenance of close relations with countries like China and Russia. For these reasons, John Kerry’s visit to Ecuador, which has been rumoured in the media all year, will not take place.    
  • Sanctions, Low Oil Prices Make ‘Toxic Cocktail’ for Russia: Nuland
    Sanctions, Low Oil Prices Make ‘Toxic Cocktail’ for Russia: Nuland By Sputnik US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland stated that the Russian economy is suffering from a really toxic cocktail of the falling fuel prices and oil dependency with the effect of sanctions. Russia, Cuba Sanctions Different: US State Department WASHINGTON, December 18 (Sputnik) — The Russian economy is suffering from a lethal mix of US-imposed sanctions, falling fuel prices and oil dependency, US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland said.“But now we have a really toxic cocktail with the effect of sanctions, with low oil prices, with the impact finally being felt inside Russia of the economic mismanagement of the last ten to fifteen years, where the economy is so heavily hydro-carbon dependent,” Nuland said Wednesday during a discussion at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Tightening Sanctions Against Russia Possible in 2015: Minister Market indicators, according to Nuland, have shown that the combination of external pressure and Moscow’s policies have had a deleterious effect on the country’s financial situation.“With regard to the effect of sanctions, the market information that we are seeing from Russia today is a clear indication that the isolation that the Kremlin has brought, the pressure that the US and Europe and others have brought to bear on the Russian economy is having an effect,” she added.Through the use of political and economic tools, the US and its allies hope to change Russia’s choices and force it back into compliance with international law, she added Russia Will Not Only Survive, But Become Stronger: Russian Foreign Minister on Sanctions “It is a point of decision-making for the Russian leadership, but also the Russian people, whether this aggressive policy vis-a-vis neighbors is worth it. And whether this choice to prioritize imperial ambition over the needs of your own citizens, over their well-being, is really in the best interests of the Russian Federation,” Nuland said.Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Wednesday that the United States has deliberately taken part in efforts to undermine Russia’s economy. US officials, Ryabkov added, have lately been commenting with satisfaction on negative trends in various segments of the Russian market.The European Union and the United States have implemented several rounds of economic sanctions against Russia over alleged interference in the Ukrainian conflict. Russia has repeatedly denied the allegations.
  • Fascism and War: Elite Tools to Crush and Kill Dissent
    Fascism and War: Elite Tools to Crush and Kill Dissent By By Julie Lévesque The Duke and Duchess of Windsor in 1937 with Adolf Hitler.Dr. Jacques Pauwels is not the kind of historian you often hear about in the mainstream media. He’s obviously not the kind of “expert” they refer to for historical facts. Actually, one crucial propaganda method consists in excluding current events from their historical context.Listening to Pauwels makes one realize the scope of the lies we’ve been fed about the Second World War, fascism and democracy, and how myths related to previous wars need to be upheld in the mainstream discourse to satisfy never ending war propaganda needs.In a speech held December 15 in Montreal, he explained that World Wars I and II were all about crushing mass revolutionary movements.The myth of the Good War Every time Westerners’ approval for war is required, the myth of the good war surfaces: the Second World War was a good war, a necessity to quench Hitler’s blood thirst. Pauwels tears this myth apart, uncovering the vicious nature of the western elite.The reasons for the US involvement in World War II lie in the social-economic conditions of the time, not in an outpouring of compassion destined to save humanity from fascism. The US elite was actually in favor of fascism, a very convenient tool to crush the mass revolutionary movement embodied by the Russian Revolution and the USSR.WWII was in fact a continuity of WWI. “We are always told that WWI started with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, but it’s not true”, Pauwels says. It is indeed a well established myth carried on by various sources, whether history is written by “thousands of eminent experts, scholars, and leaders” like in Encyclopedia Britannica, or by just about anybody, like in Wikipedia:    The outbreak of war With Serbia already much aggrandized by the two Balkan Wars (1912–13, 1913), Serbian nationalists turned their attention back to the idea of “liberating” the South Slavs of Austria-Hungary. Colonel Dragutin Dimitrijević, head of Serbia’s military intelligence, was also, under the alias “Apis,” head of the secret society Union or Death, pledged to the pursuit of this pan-Serbian ambition. Believing that the Serbs’ cause would be served by the death of the Austrian archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir presumptive to the Austrian emperor Francis Joseph, and learning that the Archduke was about to visit Bosnia on a tour of military inspection, Apis plotted his assassination. (World War I, Encyclopedia Britannica)The immediate trigger for war was the 28 June 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, by Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo. This set off a diplomatic crisis when Austria-Hungary delivered an ultimatum to the Kingdom of Serbia,[10][11] and international alliances formed over the previous decades were invoked. Within weeks, the major powers were at war and the conflict soon spread around the world. (World War I, Wikipedia) Both WWI and WWII had two dimensions: the vertical dimension, namely the rivalry between empires, and the horizontal one, class warfare, Pauwels explains.These wars were actually the best way for the western elite to cope with the ever growing revolutionary and democratic movements fueled by dire economic conditions and which threatened the established order.In Nietzsche’s view for example, Pauwels says “war was the solution against revolution, since in a war, there are no discussions, like there is in a democracy. In a war, the minority, the elite, decides and the majority, the proletarians, obey.”For members of the elite like Malthus, “the system could not be the cause of poverty since they were profiting from it. The cause of poverty was the poor: there were too many of them. Therefore the solution to poverty and threatening revolutionary movements was simply to eliminate poor people and what better solution than war to kill poor people?”After WWI though, “revolution was no longer a simple idea but rather something concrete: the Soviet Union.” That’s when fascism came to the rescue. “Fascism was the instrument used by the elite to further the objectives of 1914, namely put an end to revolutions and communism.”Communism and socialism were gaining worldwide momentum after WWI. “The German industrial and financial elite wished to crush the revolutionary movement and destroy the Soviet Union. Adolf Hitler was their instrument.”According to popular belief Western leaders were defending democracy, engaged in a war against Germany to save humanity from fascism and the US involvement in the war led to the downfall of Hitler’s war machine. Nothing is further from the truth. “Hitler was supported by other European countries and the US because they wanted him to destroy the USSR, the cradle of the revolution.” The exact opposite occurred: it was the USSR that defeated Nazi Germany, losing over 20 million souls in the battle.The US even recruited the best Nazi scientists, technicians and engineers to work for them after the war. That piece of history called Operation Paperclip (picture below) has yet to find its way in Encyclopedia Britannica. WWII was the victory of American Imperialism, a term which is rarely used today even if it best describes the reality the world has been living in ever since.But even more surprising is the surviving myth that we are going to war to save the world from evil dictators or terrorists and that the western world fights for freedom and democracy. Thanks to the “stenographers of power”, the tactic is still reliable and used several decades later.Visit Jacques Pauwels web site at http://www.jacquespauwels.net/about/. His articles and books are available in several languages. See also Jacques Pauwels’ articles on Global Research.
  • Obama announces US will establish embassy in Cuba, lift sanctions
    Obama announces US will establish embassy in Cuba, lift sanctions US President Barack Obama (AFP Photo / Saul Loeb) By RT United States President Barack Obama said Wednesday that the US is initiating plans to rebuild its relationship with Cuba following decades of disputes between the two nations.Speaking from the White House in Washington, DC, Pres. Obama said Wednesday that the US is seeking to establish diplomatic relations with Cuba and soon plans to open an embassy in Havana, authorize sales and exports between nations and make changes to current travel laws that for decades have restricted traffic between the two countries.“Today, the United States of America is changing its relationship with the people of Cuba,” Obama said as he offered to “extend a hand of friendship” while unveiling what he called “the most significant changes in our policy in more than 50 years.”“We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interest,” Obama said.Raúl Castro, the president of Cuba, announced in a statement televised concurrently with Obama’s that his nation will “reestablish diplomatic relations” with the US.Since the administration of Pres. John F. Kennedy in the 1960s, restrictions and sanctions have kept the American and Cuban ways of life from all but converging policies put in place at the dawn of the Cold War in an attempt to curb the spread of Communism.Yet Obama said Wednesday that, while rooted in the best of intentions, this “rigid policy” has “had little effect” a half-century later. Indeed, Obama acknowledged, a Castro still sits atop the Cuban government as during the Kennedy administration, and that similar restraints concerning how the US dealt with China and Vietnam, “once controversial,” have long been lifted following decades of disagreements.“This is fundamentally about freedom and openness, and also expresses my belied in the power of people-to-people engagement,” Obama said of the policy change, adding that he intends such “contact will ultimately do more to empower the Cuban people.”John Kerry, the US secretary of state, will soon begin discussions with Cuban representatives, the White House said; in April an official from Havana will be welcomed to attend the annual Summit of Americas.The announcements on Wednesday occurred only hours after it was revealed that Alan Gross, an American citizen imprisoned in Cuba for the last five years, had been released on humanitarian grounds, along with a US intelligence official who has similarly been detained for 20 years. On its part, the US has released three individuals from the so-called “Cuban Five” who had until now been imprisoned.Announcements from the Obama and Castro offices came only hours after the head of the US Agency for International Development, or USAID, announced plans to resign following a five-year term marred in recent months by scandals surrounding American efforts to influence Cuban youths.READ MORE: USAID head resigns as US & Cuba plan 'normalizing' relations
  • Go west, young Han
    Go west, young Han By Pepe Escobar "Asia Times"November 18, 2014: it's a day that should live forever in history. On that day, in the city of Yiwu in China's Zhejiang province, 300 kilometers south of Shanghai, the first train carrying 82 containers of export goods weighing more than 1,000 tons left a massive warehouse complex heading for Madrid. It arrived on December 9.Welcome to the new trans-Eurasia choo-choo train. At over 13,000 kilometers, it will regularly traverse the longest freight train route in the world, 40% farther than the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway. Its cargo will cross China from East to West, then Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, France, and finally Spain.You may not have the faintest idea where Yiwu is, but businessmen plying their trades across Eurasia, especially from the Arab world, are already hooked on the city "where amazing happens!" We're talking about the largest wholesale center for small-sized consumer goods - from clothes to toys - possibly anywhere on Earth.The Yiwu-Madrid route across Eurasia represents the beginning of a set of game-changing developments. It will be an efficient logistics channel of incredible length. It will represent geopolitics with a human touch, knitting together small traders and huge markets across a vast landmass. It's already a graphic example of Eurasian integration on the go. And most of all, it's the first building block on China's "New Silk Road", conceivably the project of the new century and undoubtedly the greatest trade story in the world for the next decade.Go west, young Han. One day, if everything happens according to plan (and according to the dreams of China's leaders), all this will be yours - via high-speed rail, no less. The trip from China to Europe will be a two-day affair, not the 21 days of the present moment. In fact, as that freight train left Yiwu, the D8602 bullet train was leaving Urumqi in Xinjiang Province, heading for Hami in China's far west. That's the first high-speed railway built in Xinjiang, and more like it will be coming soon across China at what is likely to prove dizzying speed.Today, 90% of the global container trade still travels by ocean, and that's what Beijing plans to change. Its embryonic, still relatively slow New Silk Road represents its first breakthrough in what is bound to be an overland trans-continental container trade revolution.And with it will go a basket of future "win-win" deals, including lower transportation costs, the expansion of Chinese construction companies ever further into the Central Asian "stans", as well as into Europe, an easier and faster way to move uranium and rare metals from Central Asia elsewhere, and the opening of myriad new markets harboring hundreds of millions of people.So if Washington is intent on "pivoting to Asia," China has its own plan in mind. Think of it as a pirouette to Europe across Eurasia.Defecting to the East?The speed with which all of this is happening is staggering. Chinese President Xi Jinping launched the New Silk Road Economic Belt in Astana, Kazakhstan, in September 2013. One month later, while in Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, he announced a 21st-century Maritime Silk Road. Beijing defines the overall concept behind its planning as "one road and one belt", when what it's actually thinking about is a boggling maze of prospective roads, rail lines, sea lanes, and belts.We're talking about a national strategy that aims to draw on the historical aura of the ancient Silk Road, which bridged and connected civilizations, east and west, while creating the basis for a vast set of interlocked pan-Eurasian economic cooperation zones. Already the Chinese leadership has green-lighted a $40 billion infrastructure fund, overseen by the China Development Bank, to build roads, high-speed rail lines, and energy pipelines in assorted Chinese provinces. The fund will sooner or later expand to cover projects in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and parts of Europe. But Central Asia is the key immediate target.Chinese companies will be investing in, and bidding for contracts in, dozens of countries along those planned silk roads. After three decades of development while sucking up foreign investment at breakneck speed, China's strategy is now to let its own capital flow to its neighbors. It's already clinched $30 billion in contracts with Kazakhstan and $15 billion with Uzbekistan. It has provided Turkmenistan with $8 billion in loans and a billion more has gone to Tajikistan.In 2013, relations with Kyrgyzstan were upgraded to what the Chinese term "strategic level." China is already the largest trading partner for all of them except Uzbekistan and, though the former Central Asian socialist republics of the Soviet Union are still tied to Russia's network of energy pipelines, China is at work there, too, creating its own version of Pipelineistan, including a new gas pipeline to Turkmenistan, with more to come.The competition among Chinese provinces for much of this business and the infrastructure that goes with it will be fierce. Xinjiang is already being reconfigured by Beijing as a key hub in its new Eurasian network. In early November 2014, Guangdong - the "factory of the world" - hosted the first international expo for the country's Maritime Silk Road and representatives of no less than 42 countries attended the party.President Xi himself is now enthusiastically selling his home province, Shaanxi, which once harbored the start of the historic Silk Road in Xian, as a twenty-first-century transportation hub. He's made his New Silk Road pitch for it to, among others, Tajikistan, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, India, and Afghanistan.Just like the historic Silk Road, the new one has to be thought of in the plural. Imagine it as a future branching maze of roads, rail lines, and pipelines. A key stretch is going to run through Central Asia, Iran, and Turkey, with Istanbul as a crossroads site. Iran and Central Asia are already actively promoting their own connections to it.Another key stretch will follow the Trans-Siberian Railway with Moscow as a key node. Once that trans-Siberian high-speed rail remix is completed, travel time between Beijing and Moscow will plunge from the current six and a half days to only 33 hours. In the end, Rotterdam, Duisburg, and Berlin could all be nodes on this future "highway" and German business execs are enthusiastic about the prospect.The Maritime Silk Road will start in Guangdong province en route to the Malacca Strait, the Indian Ocean, the Horn of Africa, the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, ending essentially in Venice, which would be poetic justice indeed. Think of it as Marco Polo in reverse.All of this is slated to be completed by 2025, providing China with the kind of future "soft power" that it now sorely lacks. When President Xi hails the push to "break the connectivity bottleneck" across Asia, he's also promising Chinese credit to a wide range of countries.Now, mix the Silk Road strategy with heightened cooperation among the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), with accelerated cooperation among the members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), with a more influential Chinese role over the 120-member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) - no wonder there's the perception across the Global South that, while the US remains embroiled in its endless wars, the world is defecting to the East.New banks and new dreamsThe recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing was certainly a Chinese success story, but the bigger APEC story went virtually unreported in the United States. Twenty-two Asian countries approved the creation of an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) only one year after Xi initially proposed it. This is to be yet another bank, like the BRICS Development Bank, that will help finance projects in energy, telecommunications, and transportation. Its initial capital will be $50 billion and China and India will be its main shareholders.Consider its establishment a Sino-Indian response to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), founded in 1966 under the aegis of the World Bank and considered by most of the world as a stalking horse for the Washington consensus. When China and India insist that the new bank's loans will be made on the basis of "justice, equity, and transparency", they mean that to be in stark contrast to the ADB (which remains a US-Japan affair with those two countries contributing 31% of its capital and holding 25% of its voting power) - and a sign of a coming new order in Asia. In addition, at a purely practical level, the ADB won't finance the real needs of the Asian infrastructure push that the Chinese leadership is dreaming about, which is why the AIIB is going to come in so handy.Keep in mind that China is already the top trading partner for India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. It's in second place when it comes to Sri Lanka and Nepal. It's number one again when it comes to virtually all the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), despite China's recent well-publicized conflicts over who controls waters rich in energy deposits in the region. We're talking here about the compelling dream of a convergence of 600 million people in Southeast Asia, 1.3 billion in China, and 1.5 billion on the Indian subcontinent.Only three APEC members - apart from the US - did not vote to approve the new bank: Japan, South Korea, and Australia, all under immense pressure from the Obama administration. (Indonesia signed on a few days late.) And Australia is finding it increasingly difficult to resist the lure of what, these days, is being called "yuan diplomacy".In fact, whatever the overwhelming majority of Asian nations may think about China's self-described "peaceful rise", most are already shying away from or turning their backs on a Washington-and-NATO-dominated trade and commercial world and the set of pacts - from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) for Europe to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) for Asia - that would go with it.When dragon embraces bearRussian President Vladimir Putin had a fabulous APEC. After his country and China clinched a massive $400 billion natural gas deal in May - around the Power of Siberia pipeline, whose construction began this year - they added a second agreement worth $325 billion around the Altai pipeline originating in western Siberia.These two mega-energy deals don't mean that Beijing will become Moscow-dependent when it comes to energy, though it's estimated that they will provide 17% of China's natural gas needs by 2020. (Gas, however, makes up only 10% per cent of China's energy mix at present.) But these deals signal where the wind is blowing in the heart of Eurasia. Though Chinese banks can't replace those affected by Washington and EU sanctions against Russia, they are offering a Moscow battered by recent plummeting oil prices some relief in the form of access to Chinese credit.On the military front, Russia and China are now committed to large-scale joint military exercises, while Russia's advanced S-400 air defense missile system will soon enough be heading for Beijing. In addition, for the first time in the post-Cold War era, Putin recently raised the old Soviet-era doctrine of "collective security" in Asia as a possible pillar for a new Sino-Russian strategic partnership.Chinese President Xi has taken to calling all this the "evergreen tree of Chinese-Russian friendship" - or you could think of it as Putin's strategic "pivot" to China. In either case, Washington is not exactly thrilled to see Russia and China beginning to mesh their strengths: Russian excellence in aerospace, defense technology, and heavy equipment manufacturing matching Chinese excellence in agriculture, light industry, and information technology.It's also been clear for years that, across Eurasia, Russian, not Western, pipelines are likely to prevail. The latest spectacular Pipelineistan opera - Gazprom's cancellation of the prospective South Stream pipeline that was to bring yet more Russian natural gas to Europe - will, in the end, only guarantee an even greater energy integration of both Turkey and Russia into the new Eurasia.So long to the unipolar momentAll these interlocked developments suggest a geopolitical tectonic shift in Eurasia that the American media simply hasn't begun to grasp. Which doesn't mean that no one notices anything. You can smell the incipient panic in the air in the Washington establishment. The Council on Foreign Relations is already publishing laments about the possibility that the former sole superpower's exceptionalist moment is "unraveling". The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission can only blame the Chinese leadership for being "disloyal", adverse to "reform", and an enemy of the "liberalization" of their own economy.The usual suspects carp that upstart China is upsetting the "international order", will doom "peace and prosperity" in Asia for all eternity, and may be creating a "new kind of Cold War" in the region. From Washington's perspective, a rising China, of course, remains the major "threat" in Asia, if not the world, even as the Pentagon spends gigantic sums to keep its sprawling global empire of bases intact. Those Washington-based stories about the new China threat in the Pacific and Southeast Asia, however, never mention that China remains encircled by US bases, while lacking a base of its own outside its territory.Of course, China does face titanic problems, including the pressures being applied by the globe's "sole superpower". Among other things, Beijing fears threats to the security of its sea-borne energy supply from abroad, which helps explain its massive investment in helping create a welcoming Eurasian Pipelineistan from Central Asia to Siberia. Fears for its energy future also explain its urge to "escape from Malacca" by reaching for energy supplies in Africa and South America, and its much-discussed offensive to claim energy-rich areas of the East and South China seas, which Beijing is betting could become a "second Persian Gulf", ultimately yielding 130 billion barrels of oil.On the internal front, President Xi has outlined in detail his vision of a "results-oriented" path for his country over the next decade. As road maps go, China's "must-do" list of reforms is nothing short of impressive. And worrying about keeping China's economy, already the world's number one by size, rolling along at a feverish pitch, Xi is also turbo-charging the fight against corruption, graft, and waste, especially within the Communist Party itself.Economic efficiency is another crucial problem. Chinese state-owned enterprises are now investing a staggering $2.3 trillion a year - 43% of the country's total investment - in infrastructure. Yet studies at Tsinghua University's School of Management have shown that an array of investments in facilities ranging from steel mills to cement factories have only added to overcapacity and so actually undercut China's productivity.Xiaolu Wang and Yixiao Zhou, authors of the academic paper "Deepening Reform for China's Long-term Growth and Development", contend that it will be difficult for China to jump from middle-income to high-income status - a key requirement for a truly global power. For this, an avalanche of extra government funds would have to go into areas like social security/unemployment benefits and healthcare, which take up at present 9.8% and 15.1% of the 2014 budget - high for some Western countries but not high enough for China's needs.Still, anyone who has closely followed what China has accomplished over these past three decades knows that, whatever its problems, whatever the threats, it won't fall apart. As a measure of the country's ambitions for economically reconfiguring the commercial and power maps of the world, China's leaders are also thinking about how, in the near future, relations with Europe, too, could be reshaped in ways that would be historic.What about that "harmonious community"?At the same moment that China is proposing a new Eurasian integration, Washington has opted for an "empire of chaos", a dysfunctional global system now breeding mayhem and blowback across the Greater Middle East into Africa and even to the peripheries of Europe.In this context, a "new Cold War" paranoia is on the rise in the US, Europe, and Russia. Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who knows a thing or two about Cold Wars (having ended one), couldn't be more alarmed. Washington's agenda of "isolating" and arguably crippling Russia is ultimately dangerous, even if in the long run it may also be doomed to failure.At the moment, whatever its weaknesses, Moscow remains the only power capable of negotiating a global strategic balance with Washington and putting some limits on its empire of chaos. NATO nations still follow meekly in Washington's wake and China as yet lacks the strategic clout.Russia, like China, is betting on Eurasian integration. No one, of course, knows how all this will end. Only four years ago, Vladimir Putin was proposing "a harmonious economic community stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok", involving a trans-Eurasian free trade agreement. Yet today, with the US, NATO, and Russia locked in a Cold War-like battle in the shadows over Ukraine, and with the European Union incapable of disentangling itself from NATO, the most immediate new paradigm seems to be less total integration than war hysteria and fear of future chaos spreading to other parts of Eurasia.Don't rule out a change in the dynamics of the situation, however. In the long run, it seems to be in the cards. One day, Germany may lead parts of Europe away from NATO's "logic", since German business leaders and industrialists have an eye on their potentially lucrative commercial future in a new Eurasia. Strange as it might seem amid today's war of words over Ukraine, the endgame could still prove to involve a Berlin-Moscow-Beijing alliance.At present, the choice between the two available models on the planet seems stark indeed: Eurasian integration or a spreading empire of chaos. China and Russia know what they want, and so, it seems, does Washington. The question is: What will the other moving parts of Eurasia choose to do?Pepe Escobar's latest book is Empire of Chaos (Nimble Books). Follow him on Facebook.Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit's Men Explain Things to Me, and Tom Engelhardt's latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.
  • What Makes US Reluctant to Solve Iran’s Nuclear Problem?
    What Makes US Reluctant to Solve Iran’s Nuclear Problem? By Nikolai BOBKIN | 17.12.2014 | 09:33 "Strategic Culture Foundation" Another meeting of the «big six» with Iran is drawing near. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araqchi announced that the next round of talks on the country's nuclear program would be held in Geneva on December 17 to include direct contacts with the US delegation. True, the negotiation process boils down to the stand-off relationship between the United States and Iran. The format of «5+1» or «big six» is used for sorting out the bilateral problems.The US-Iran contradictions constitute the main hindrance on the way to finding a solution to Iranian nuclear program. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a statement saying that Israel played a crucial role in torpedoing the peaceful settlement. This is just one of the reasons why the United States is not ready for productive result of the talks. There are other reasons as well. Israel and another opponent of the agreement – Saudi Arabia – act behind the scenes as they are not part of the international mediators’ team. Washington could ignore the opinion of its allies if it wanted but it’s not the case. The US has other reasons to stick to these tactics and they have no relation to Tehran.The pressure exerted on Iran should be considered as part of broader strategy. To some extent the uncompromising stand of Iran had met the US interests until recently. The emergence of Iranian nuclear problem evoked concern among many other states. It gave the United States a pretext for increasing the pressure on Iran in accordance with its interests. One of the goals was a regime change. Besides, the hostile attitude of Iran was of advantage because it strengthened the Washington’s position in the relationship with Israel and the monarchies of the Persian Gulf reluctant to see Iran getting stronger. The Iranian nuclear problem was used by the United States to disguise the plans to deploy the elements of global missile defense system along the Russia’s borders. Now there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Iran may stop being a nuclear threat to undermine the whole US strategy in the Middle East.The stand-off between the United States and Iran has been lasting since 1979. But today it’s not the only factor to determine the bilateral relationship. The Middle East is going through important changes. Washington realizes that it cannot shoulder the whole responsibility for what is happening there alone. The US administration has to acknowledge that the absence of relationship with Iran is a big strategic flaw. In any case, the enmity does not help to maintain the balance of forces created some time ago by the United States itself.Egypt tends to distance itself from America. After many years it has started to develop military cooperation with Russia. The Washington’s plans to shortly topple the ruling regime of Bashar Assad in Syria have been frustrated. The joint actions of Moscow and Tehran prevented a military operation against Damascus in 2013.Turkey did not support the oil embargo against Iran. In 2010 it voted against the introduction of anti-Iran sanctions in 2010 (the resolution N1929). Contrary to the US expectations, Ankara wants no confrontation with its eastern neighbor. The Turkey’s membership in NATO does not guarantee it will stick to the principle of Trans-Atlantic Solidarity in its relationship with the United States. The war in Iraq cost billions of dollars and the death toll is estimated in thousands of American lives. The overthrow of Saddam Hussein only strengthened the position of Tehran. It is impossible to find a peaceful solution in Afghanistan without the participation of Iran.It’s not an occasion that the Obama administration has started to be interested in finding a way out of the vicious circle of its enmity relations with Iran. Washington considers the «5+1» format talks on the Iranian nuclear problem as a good platform for launching a negotiation process with Tehran. There seems to be no alternative to the process, besides, the contacts don’t evoke strong rejection neither on the part of Obama’s opponents nor on the part of Iranian President Rouhani. But US negotiators try to add a lot of other issues to the agenda of nuclear talks. Iran believes that it complicates the process. Iranians say the US-imposed «excessive conditions» that have no direct relation to the nuclear program constitute the main hindrance of the way to reaching an agreement.Washington keeps on insisting that the would-be agreement should encompass the Iran’s missile program as well. US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman makes reference to the United Nations Security Council resolution N 1929. It was adopted on June 9, 2010 when Iran refused to stop the activities aimed at uranium enrichment. Now the situation is changed. The agreement under discussion presupposes only peaceful use of nuclear power. Iran considers the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as the main United Nations body to monitor nuclear activities and closely cooperates with it.The Tehran’s stance is supported by Moscow. Russia has many times underscored the fact that Iran has a right to the peacefully use of nuclear energy. A new Russia-Iran nuclear cooperation agreement has been recently signed to include the construction of the second and third units at the Bushehr nuclear power plant. These projects demonstrate that Russia trusts Iran and its promises to guarantee the peaceful use of nuclear power.Russia stands for normalization of US-Iran relationship. It has no intent to build the strategic cooperation with Iran on the anti-US basis. «In our opinion, a full-scale political dialogue between Tehran and Washington, including on issues of regional security, is long overdue,» said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. «We are convinced that the improvement of relations between the two countries would benefit stability in the Middle East and beyond the region, while helping to resolve the situation around the Iranian nuclear program as well as increasing the effectiveness of the fight against global terrorism and drug threat,» the Minister said.There was some concern voiced in relation to the possibility of Iran sacrificing its good neighborly relations with Moscow in case Russia helps it to normalize the relations with Washington. We believe that there is no ground for such apprehensions. The Islamic Republic will never agree to be an American vassal. There is no possibility of equal partnership between Washington and Tehran – it is excluded by the very rules that America plays by. At that putting an end to international isolation will make Iran an influential regional power. It meets the interests of Russia taking into consideration the existing balance of power in the Middle East. Moscow and Tehran are mutually interested in close interaction. This relationship of lasting nature is on the rise. The economic ventures of large dimensions have been added to the process of extending trade and economic cooperation. Tehran and Moscow have recently signed projects worth of seventy billion euros to develop their trade and economic ties.