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Military Industrial Complex - The Hunger Games Economy

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The Hunger Games Economy
Jeff Faux: Dreams of Wall St. and Military Industrial Complex are not compatible with dreams of American middle class
io
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.”
Transcript
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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The Story Behind Keystone XL Pipeline Amendments

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Bio
Steve Horn is a journalist based in Madison, Wisconsin. His work has been featured in The Guardian, The Nation, and Truthout. He is also a Research Fellow at DeSmogBlog.
Transcript
The Story Behind Keystone XL Pipeline AmendmentsJESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.
On Thursday, the Senate passed a bill getting the Keystone XL pipeline closer to becoming a reality. During their three-week-long amendment marathon, there were some pipeline disasters, leaving many people questioning the safety and environmental impact of this cross-country pipeline.
Take a look at some of his footage captured on Monday in West Virginia, where an oil pipeline exploded.
Now joining us to discuss pipelines and politics are our two guests.
Joining us from Madison, Wisconsin, is Steve Horn. Steve is a research fellow for DeSmogBlog and a freelance investigative journalist.
Also joining us is Sam Schabacker. He is the Western region director for Food & Water Watch.
Thank you both for joining us.
So, Sam, let's start out with you. As I mentioned, there were two oil pipeline disasters, one in West Virginia. The other actually was in Montana. What was the impact of these types of oil pipeline disasters, and what is the rate of occurrence that these things actually happen?
SAM SCHABACKER, WESTERN REGION DIRECTOR, FOOD & WATER WATCH: These pipeline disasters are emblematic of the inherent dangers associated with fossil fuel and oil and gas development in the United States. Although the Keystone XL Pipeline is perhaps the most infamous of all the pipelines that come up in the news regularly, there are a myriad of pipelines crisscrossing the United States, a spider's web of dangerous industrial activity, that are really being pushed forward by the fracking industry and the fracking boom in the United States.
So, for example, there is a proposed pipeline that would go through sensitive ranching and farming community to take Bakken oil that's been fracked from North Dakota through Illinois to Iowa. There's a proposal to take fracked oil and gas through BLM land next to Chaco Canyon, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site in New Mexico. There are proposals to take pipelines to export oil and gas that has been fracked along the coast of Oregon.
And what we're seeing is that across the board, these pipelines, they fail, they leak, they contaminate drinking water, which is what happened to the community and Glendive. They imperil worker safety, they contaminate pristine waterways, and they really endanger so much of the important things in many of these communities across United States.
DESVARIEUX: Sam, do you have, like, a percentage? What rate of occurrence do these types of accidents occur?
SCHABACKER: I don't have a percentage offhand, but as we're seeing, they're more and more common as we are increasingly putting in hundreds if not thousands of miles of pipeline to transport this dirty and dangerous fracked oil and gas across the United States.
DESVARIEUX: Alright. Let's dig a little deeper and talk about the amendments that were proposed. There were 18 actually get voted on and 16--I'm sorry--and six passed. Steve, tell us about this petroleum, coke, or petcoke (as some people call it) amendment that was proposed by two Michigan senators. Why was it so significant?
STEVE HORN, RESEARCH FELLOW, DESMOGBLOG: Well, that amendment was significant because petroleum coke or petcoke is a byproduct of producing and refining the tar sands. And so one of--the original senator bringing this up to the floor was actually Dick Durbin in Illinois, and also the other one in Michigan was Gary Peters. Both of them have seen the impact of petroleum coke, Gary Peters in Detroit and Dick Durbin on the south side of Chicago, both in working-class areas that basically have become sacrifice zones for petcoke.
Petcoke is kind of like coal dust, except it's even more fine-grained. And if you breathe it in, there's all kinds of impacts that are still unknown, understudied, because tar sands is still pretty new, and petcoke is definitely something that health experts still need to study. But early indications show that it's definitely not safe to breathe in.
There's class-action lawsuits right now in Chicago over the fact that Koch Industries owns a huge pile there that they refuse to even cover. That's what the lawsuit is about. It's not even stopping petcoke from being stored there; it's just that when they store it, they refuse to even pay for something to cover up the petcoke.
And so what this amendment would have done is said, look, when you transport this petcoke around the country (you being the oil industry), it needs to be covered. And this amendment didn't pass.
Like in Chicago--it's kind of symbolic what's happening in Chicago right now. It's now taken a couple of years to move this along and still stalling in Chicago. And so a couple of years later, after it became an issue still in City Council--and it may be years until this stuff is even covered up. And it's already happened once in California.
And, one, I'll say if you look at the Senate level, Mary Landrieu is one of the people who took this--was instrumental in taking this off the floor, the head of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in the Senate. Well, one of her former chief of staffs until recently was the head lobbyist for Oxbow Carbon, which is owned by Bill Koch, the brother of David and Charles Koch. And they are one of the biggest marketers of petcoke in the world. So you see the revolving door in action, you see how important kis this petcoke is as a byproduct. They don't want to pay to cover it up, but after it's--it would be an expensive they don't want to pay for [incompr.] will be moved to market and shipped, predominantly to Asia and China.
DESVARIEUX: Alright. Let's move on and talk about another man amendment. Senator Ted Cruz, Senator from Texas, he also had an amendment about oil exports and the LNG amendment, so to speak. What did that actually entail? And did it pass, Sam?
SCHABACKER: So this was an amendment that was proposed to lift the long-standing historical ban on crude oil exports that the United States has maintained for several decades.
Steve, you should weigh in on to whether the amendment passed. But the impact of this will be pretty dire in a couple of ways. First and foremost, this would be a sweetheart giveaway to the oil and gas industry. A lot of people in the industry have been salivating over the prospect of getting to take the fracked oil that has been increasingly in abundance in the United States and ship it overseas to countries like China or India or continents like Europe. And we can be certain that if this bill goes forward to fast-track the export of oil, fracked oil, or even fracked natural gas, we're going to see thousands more fracking wells next to homes and schools, as we have seen in Texas, in New Mexico, in Pennsylvania, in my home state of Colorado.
The second concern is, of course, if you start exporting this resource overseas, there is a question of what that will do to the cost of getting that resource in the United States. For many consumers, folks that are working, that are just barely able to make ends meet, the prospect of seeing their home heating costs go up because of this export bill, that's not a satisfactory one, that's not one that they're looking and excited to have to add to the long list of costs that they're already trying to take and make ends meet with.
So we're really concerned about this. And I think, if anything, this shows that this push to export oil is not about energy independence; it's about trying to line the pockets of a few of the wealthiest oil and gas companies, and their friends in Congress and the U.S. Senate are only so happy to help them do that.
HORN: Yeah. And this bill, this amendment, did not pass. But there's two things to note. One, another bill, while the Keystone XL was being debated in the Senate, passed in the House to expedite permitting for liquefied natural gas exports. And this will be brought to the Senate later on this year. Mary Landrieu has already announced that she will be bringing it to the floor. So it's only a matter of months until the Senate begins debating whether or not to make this a reality.
Second of all, although that amendment did not past, mostly because Ted Cruz--some Republicans decided, do not think that doing what Ted Cruz thought was politically smart is smart, because the industry doesn't want 100 percent all-out exports right now, mostly due to the concerns about the price of oil.
That said, the industry is quietly, through the Obama Department of Commerce, gotten permits to export condensate, oil condensate, and they're allowed to do something called self-classify, which is they have the say over whether or not this is actually condensate or not. And we really don't know how much oil is being exported as condensate, but there's been really influential rulings by the Department of Commerce that have happened since the middle of 2014 through today. Companies like Shell are now exporting condensate, enterprise products, and then several others. We don't know the extent of it. But this is something that the Obama administration announced on New Year's Eve going into the new year. So although that amendment did not pass in the Senate, it doesn't mean that exports of some sort of oil, meaning condensate right now, according to their self-classification, is not happening. It definitely is, and it is increasingly so.
DESVARIEUX: Speaking of amendments that didn't pass, there was also an amendment to close the so-called Halliburton loophole. Steve, can you just talk about that a little bit? What is that loophole, and why did it pass?
HORN: Well, Senator Gillibrand in New York, the Democrat, she brought this to the floor to close what is called the Halliburton loophole. That is a loophole that exempts the oil and gas industry when it does fracking from regulations under the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and other key things that would protect Americans' drinking water when fracking happens. This was a clause in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. And there's been something called the FRAC Act, which has been introduced several occasions, has never passed. And so what Gillibrand decided to do was try to get it through as an amendment in this Keystone XL bill. It did not pass. And, obviously, I don't think that the fracking industry could exist at all if these things were regulated, because it really proves that they can't do fracking without contaminating water or threatening people's drinking water.
And so it's just--I think the fact that this amendment lost is just more proof that fracking is dangerous and it's a tacit admission by the United States Senate and the politicians funded by the oil and gas industry that it cannot be done safely.
DESVARIEUX: Alright. Steve--. Oh. Jump in right quick, Sam.
SCHABACKER: Well, I was just going to say, I think that, just to pick up where Steve left off, the failure of this amendment demonstrates the power of the oil and gas industry and the influence they have on our elected officials at the highest level in the United States. I think it is really telling in a state like Colorado, where we have over 52,000 active fracking wells, many of which are located 500 feet from homes and schools and public reservoirs, the only reason that this is allowed to go forward in large part is because of this exemption, and yet there are still Democratic senators like Senator Bennett, who unfortunately decided it was more important to protect the interests of the oil and gas industry than his constituents. So I anticipate we're going to see a lot more of these conversations with the new Congress and the oil and gas industry attempting to flex their muscle to kill anything that they don't like and put forward many more proposals to penalize communities that are attempting to protect themselves from this dangerous industrial activity.
DESVARIEUX: Alright. Steve, final question. You recently wrote about another approval of a tar sands crude pipeline owned by Enbridge. It sort of went under the radar, 'cause it got approved on January 16 in the shadow of this Keystone XL Pipeline debate. Just quickly, give us an update on what actually happened.
HORN: So this was Enbridge Line 78. It runs from north-central Illinois in the Flanagan, Illinois, area eastward towards the Chicagoland area to Griffith, Indiana, which is very close to the BP Whiting Refinery--it's the same area around which that petcoke is piling up, in Chicago and on the South Side. And the long story short is that this was approved via something called the Nationwide Permit 12, through the United States Army Corps of Engineers. And it's not the first one that they've done. They've also permitted the Flanagan South Pipeline, which is owned by Enbridge, which runs from Flanagan, Illinois, to Cushing, Oklahoma. And they've also permitted the Keystone XL Southern Half, which is from Cushing, Oklahoma, down again to the Gulf. And so the three of these pipelines, first of all, if you look at Enbridge's system that's going southwards, it's created what I have called a Keystone XL clone--does the exact same thing is the Keystone pipeline system that brings that tar sands all the way down to the Gulf [incompr.] very same purpose: to feed into those Gulf refinery markets, also potentially for the global export market.
But why the Line 78 is important is not only because it has capacity of up to 800,000 barrels per day, but because it's a key piece of infrastructure that now I think is sort of a clone of what TransCanada is trying to create in Canada, something called the Energy East Pipeline.
Enbridge, again, like they've done with their southward pipelines, has created, piece by piece, something that will bring tar sands now eastward, although TransCanada has made a tactical--I would say an error, almost, in doing one grand pipeline project. So what Enbridge has done is done it piece by piece, pipelines that connect to one another. And this is just another example.
Why is this Nationwide Permit 12 important? Well, basically there was no public input in this at all. It usurps the National Environmental Policy Act process, the NEPA process. And so, unlike the Keystone XL, which has seen robust debate in the past several years, including now--two weeks of debate again in the Senate--this pipeline received no public hearings, no public debate at all. And the United States Army Corps of Engineers permitted it under the radar ten days into the opening of debate of the Senate bill wanting to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline.
DESVARIEUX: Alright. Steve Horn and Sam Schabacker, thank you both for joining us.
HORN: Thank you.
SCHABACKER: Thanks.
DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
End

CodePink Attempts to "Arrest" Henry Kissinger for War Crimes in Vietnam, Laos, Chile and East Timor Image

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CodePink Attempts to "Arrest" Henry Kissinger for War Crimes in Vietnam, Laos, Chile and East Timor

CodePink Attempts to "Arrest" Henry Kissinger for War Crimes in Vietnam, Laos, Chile and East Timor

Activists from the antiwar group CodePink attempted to perform a citizen’s arrest on former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger when he testified on global security challenges at a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting on Thursday. Kissinger served as secretary of state and national security adviser during the Vietnam War under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain lashed out at the protesters and called on the Capitol Hill Police to remove them.

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  • Thousands gather in London to protest against lack of affordable housing
    Part of the March for Homes demonstration in south London. Photograph: Observer By Mark Townsend and Liam Kelly (theguardian.com/)Saturday 31 January 2015 17.43 GMT The March for Homes brings together campaigners, tenants and trade unionists to demand building of council homes and curbing of private rents Thousands of people gathered outside City Hall on Saturday to demand Boris Johnson urgently tackle the lack of affordable housing in the capital and curb the spiralling rents that they warn are “ripping the heart” out of London.An estimated 2,000 encircled the building and urged the mayor to tackle the burgeoning housing crisis by building more council homes, control private rents and called off the proposed demolition of properties on up to 70 London estates.The crowd marched in boisterous spirits, confident that they can make the increasingly divisive issue of housing a genuine general election battleground.Leading the march as it crossed Tower Bridge in driving rain was Jasmin Stone, from Newham in east London, who chanted “social housing not social cleansing” with her friends.The 20-year-old single mother said skyrocketing rents and unscrupulous landlords had already forced a number of her peers from a capital they can no longer afford.She said: “I’ve already lost quite a few of them, it’s extremely unfair that young people cannot afford to stay in the city they love and grew up in.”Behind her, protesters warned Johnson that the march was just the start of their campaign by holding aloft a huge banner that read: “This is the beginning of the end of the housing crisis.”Many marchers argued that if social housing continued to disappear while rents increased then the capital would be transformed into a “boring” playground for a wealthy elite, its vitality and diversity lost to the super-rich.Among the horde assembled outside City Hall was teacher Lydia Harris, 27, who urged Boris to start “putting people before profits.”Harris, a member of the anti-capitalist collective Feminist Fightback added: “Boris has got to start helping others but then he’s lied before about rape crisis centres when he promised us money that never came.”Nearby stood Derry Daly, 66, who described himself as one of the fortunate few because he lived in accommodation belonging to a London housing co-operative. “Hopefully this is the start of a powerful movement that will deliver rent control and a public policy to restate social housing.”Organisers hope that the March for Homes, the first of its type to unify campaigners, tenants and trade unionists on the inequality caused by housing policies, will lead to a wholesale rethink.Campaigners also hope the demonstration will draw attention to the developers increasingly targeting wealthy foreign investors with luxury apartments.The march itself was split into two legs, one starting at Elephant and Castle, south London, and the other in Shoreditch, east London. The latter involved the pressure group New Era, named after the estate that six weeks ago was the scene of a famous victory when residents forced a US investor to abandon plans to evict families and triple rents.One of those residents, Lindsey Garrett, was among the marchers, stating the message that their triumph could be replicated in dozens of estates facing destruction. “We’ve got to keep fighting. Boris needs to know that we won’t backdown until there’s more affordable, fairer housing for everyone,” said Garrett.Jan Nielsen, a teacher from Wandsworth, south London, told the crowd at Elephant: “London needs teachers but teachers can’t afford homes in London. There are newly qualified teachers in every school in London who have to travel an hour and a half to teach or are sharing bedrooms in flats with two or three other teachers. This is a disgrace.”Gerlinde Gniewosz of the Save Cressingham Gardens campaign spoke of the fight to stop Lambeth council from demolishing the south London housing estate.“When you look at it, it makes no financial sense. It’s rotten for the community.“They’re going to replace council homes but the homeowners, who are often marginalised, have to leave and they’ll put private sale on top which no one can actually afford. if you look at what people can currently afford and what’s going to be there later, there will be a loss of affordable housing.“It’s mirrored all across London. It’s a similar plight. There’s a lot of similarities. It’s a disgrace.”Earlier, Yasmin Shelton, 22, from Grimsby, was among the first marchers to arrive at the east London point of Shoreditch church. “It’s disgusting. Rents are going up ridiculously. Tax the rich!”Beside her Haringey lecturer David Downes, 48, said two-thirds of his salary was spent on rent, a situation that stopped him living a full life. “It used to take half my salary which was bad enough. It could go up any time. We desperately need rent control,” he added, waving a placard urging the government to evict the rich.Architect Rob Connor, 34, said he was concerned that the plethora of wealthy developments aimed at foreign investors was damaging the multicultural aesthetic of the city. “London is about diversity. Housing policies that break apart communities are ripping the heart out of communities.”Much of the early conversation among demonstrators focused on the latest bleak update on the housing crisis, specifically news that social housing across the south-east of England would become unaffordable for large families on benefits almost immediately after a Conservative election victory.Some say the demonstration holds parallels with the “people’s march for jobs” in 1981 where hundreds of marchers walked from Liverpool to London to highlight the plight of the unemployed.Johnson has admitted that London is suffering a “desperate shortage of homes”, suggesting that London homes aren’t just “blocks of bullion in the sky.”However evidence suggests that wealthy international investors are increasingly targeting the capital’s housing stock, with foreign purchasers buying 80% of properties in a series of major Thameside housing developments. About 54,000 homes are either planned or under construction in the most expensive areas of the capital, analysts saying that most will be prices at close to or above £1m. Meanwhile just one new affordable home is being built for more than every five sold in the social housing sector under the government’s revitalised right-to-buy scheme.Tom Chance, the Green party’s national housing spokesperson, said: “We’re here because we need a radical change of direction in housing policy.“We want rent controls and more secure tenancies. This is a big change in policy but none of the other parties are willing to go for so we’re today with other people to call for it through direct action.”
  • Spaniards hold mass rally for leftist Podemos ahead of elections
    People fill Madrid's landmark Puerta del Sol as they gather at a rally called by Spain's anti-austerity party Podemos (We Can) January 31, 2015. (Reuters/Sergio Perez) By RT January 31, 2015 17:31 Tens of thousands of Spaniards have taken to the streets of central Madrid in support of Podemos, a leftist political party campaigning on an anti-austerity platform. The party’s popularity has soared in the wake of the Syriza victory in Greece.Tens of thousands of Spaniards have taken to the streets of central Madrid in support of Podemos, a leftist political party campaigning on an anti-austerity platform. The party’s popularity has soared in the wake of the Syriza victory in Greece.Podemos, which means “We can,” is currently leading in opinion polls, ahead of both of Spain’s mainstream parties as the regional, municipal and national elections approach. The party was formed only a year ago, but shocked the political establishment when members won five seats in the European Parliament.Many in the crowd waved Greek and Republican flags and banners which read “the change is now, as demonstrators chanted “yes we can” and “tic tac, tic tac,” Reuters reports.Podemos leader, Pablo Iglesias told the cheering crowd that democracy will prevail.“We’re sending a message to Europe to Spain. Today is a day for change. It’s a battle between democracy and austerity, and democracy will win. We’re not here to protest. We’re here for change,” he said.“People are fed up with the political class," Antonia Fernandez, a 69-year-old pensioner who came to the rally with her family told Reuters.Other protesters echoed discontent with the two mainstream parties.“This our future. This is what we want. I can’t stand the ruling People’s Party or the Socialists. I want them to go,” a protestor told RT. Pablo Iglesias (C), leader of Spain's party "Podemos" (We Can), raises his fist as he stands with his party members on the stage during a rally called by Podemos, at Madrid's Puerta del Sol landmark January 31, 2015. (Reuters/Sergio Perez)On Friday, Podemos said that 260 buses were to bring thousands of supporters from across Spain to the capital for the rally. Hundreds of locals had signed on to host the arrivals.When Iglesias, announced the march last month, he said: “This is not about asking for anything from the government or protesting. It’s to say that in 2015 there will be a government of the people.”“We want a historic mobilization. We want people to be able to tell their children and grandchildren: ‘I was at the march on 31 January that launched a new era of political change in Spain.’” Pablo Iglesias (L), leader of Spain's party "Podemos" (We Can) waves as he attends a rally called by Podemos in Madrid January 31, 2015. (Reuters/Sergio Perez)Spain has officially come out of its six-year recession, though unemployment remains at a staggering 23.7 percent. However, the Spanish economy appears to be on an upward trajectory, expanding at its fastest pace since 2007 in the fourth quarter.Gross domestic product jumped 0.7 percent from the last quarter, and 2 percent from the previous year.“If 2014 was the year of recovery, 2015 will be the year that the Spanish economy takes off,” Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said last month.Podemos however is banking on the support of a population ravaged from years of austerity and hope to ride the coattails of left-wing Syriza’s recent sweeping victory in Greece. And many in Spain have not seen the signs of these improvements. A man holds up a banner as people gather during a rally called by Spain's anti-austerity party Podemos, at Madrid's Puerta del Sol landmark January 31, 2015. (Reuters/Sergio Perez)Disillusion with the predominantly two-party system and tangible economic woes have created a political and social landscape for anti-establishment Podemos to thrive.In the first six months of 2014 courts approved more than 21,000 home evictions, as the summer of low-paid and short-term contracts has soared. Meanwhile, several high profile corruption scandals have tainted the reputations of many of those in power.In October, dozens of public officials and bureaucrats were arrested throughout Spain in a massive graft investigation. Some of those implicated were high-ranking members of Rajoy’s ruling People’s Party.
  • Junior jihadis: Hamas camp for frustrated teens
    Cadet camps aren't new. But this winter, Hamas is stepping its training up By William Booth "The Independent | News | UK" Friday 30 January 2015 Judging by the hundreds of young men lined up in crisp military fashion at their graduation ceremony, the armed wing of the Islamist movement Hamas will have plenty of eager recruits this year.More than 17,000 fresh-faced teenagers and young men, aged 15 to 21, mustered at a dozen camps over the past week in the Gaza Strip to climb ropes, practise close-order drills and fire Kalashnikov rifles, all of them pledging to defend the coastal enclave and ready to fight the next war against their Zionist enemies.They also learned first aid and how to throw a grenade. They watched – but did not touch – as instructors demonstrated the basics of improvised explosive devices.For the first time, the Hamas military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, hosted the Gaza recruits for a week of training in the martial arts at previously off-limits Qassam bases.In the past, the military-style camps have been run by Hamas’s political wing, and during the summer sessions, the camps included sports, religion and playtime on the beach. These winter camps were, however, different – more serious, more martial. The attendees were older and the trainers were Qassam commanders dressed in khaki camouflage who barked orders like drill sergeants, answered by shouts of “Allahu akbar”.Military commanders for Hamas, which has been branded a terrorist organisation by the United States and Israel, said the camps were designed to boost the resistance and to give Gaza’s frustrated and unemployed youths a way to blow off steam – and shoot some guns.A Qassam officer who goes by the nom de guerre Abu Mujahed said the camps were not organised to recruit new cadres to the militia, although he conceded that candidates were chosen from the ranks. “We have more than enough recruits. Too many,” he said. “The camps are designed to answer the demands of the youth – to do something.”Critics of Hamas said the camps were designed to bolster the group’s popularity and distract residents from the grim conditions of Gaza: the unpaid salaries, the lack of reconstruction, the closures of the strip to trade and travel.According to initial estimates by Israeli and Palestinian groups, about 1,000 Gaza combatants may have died in the 50-day summer war between Hamas and Israel, which has the best-equipped army in the Middle East. Analysts estimate that al-Qassam, the largest and best-equipped of the half-dozen militias in Gaza, has 20,000 or 25,000 fighters in its ranks. Recruits say they are ready to fight the Jewish state again (Heidi Levine/Washington Post)The heavy losses of the summer do not appear to have dimmed the zeal of Gaza’s young men, who said they were ready to fight the Jewish state again. Hamas and Israel have fought three wars in the past six years, and the Hamas movement remains in control in the Gaza Strip.Ahmad Ismail, 16, dressed in a black Qassam T-shirt, said after his graduation: “I have received training on using weapons, especially rifles, and climbing on ropes, marching, shooting, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars. We also had practical training and got to shoot the Kalashnikovs.”He said: “I wish I could join Qassam Brigades now. I want to fight Israel. I want to kick them out of our land. I am ready now.”Israeli military intelligence officers say the Hamas military wing will easily recruit more troops. “There is no shortage of manpower in Gaza,” said one Israeli officer selected to speak to the foreign media. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because of Israeli military protocol.The Israeli officer said Hamas was “assembling new rockets as fast as they can”. He said it didn’t matter if longer-range rockets and their propellants might not be available because the military-led government in Egypt has closed down most of the smuggling tunnels into Gaza.“Hamas is making plenty of rockets,” he said. Hundreds a week, thousands a month, he added, and the militias in the strip would be fully armed and staffed in a few months.“The decision to go to war is a political one for Hamas,” he said. “On the military side, they’re ready to go today.”Ibrahim Shinbari, 15, said: “I joined the camp because I want to know how to confront the Jews when they invade our land. We have to learn how to use the gun. I want to retaliate for my friends and neighbours who were killed by Jews.” Achmed, who said he was 10 years old (Heidi Levine/Washington Post)One of his friends at the camp said: “Every day we have someone from Hamas giving us a lesson on jihad and the importance of it. We have videos on the military operations that were done by Hamas in the last war.”He said he was ready to join as soon as the brigades would have him. “They are the most powerful army in Palestine,” he said. “They taught the Jews a hard lesson not to come back to Gaza.”The teenagers were formed into squads and companies. They learned to march in close order, to count off their steps. Some squads were ordered to take a knee and watch a Qassam officer break down and reassemble a Kalashnikov rifle. Other groups were doing push-ups. The camp was hidden from the street by high sand berms but open to the skies.A Qassam fighter in camouflage and a cap said: “We don’t care what the Israeli satellites can see,” and pointed in the air.“We’re trying to teach the basics,” said a trainer named Abu Hamza. “One week, nothing more, not too hard.”He said that on the first day, the camps sent home hundreds of boys who were 12 or 13 years old. “They were standing on their tiptoes trying to get in. We told them come back next year. They went home crying.”The trainer said that with more than 2,100 Palestinians killed in the summer war with Israel. “We have plenty who want to join. They want to retaliate. They want revenge. Especially those who lost a family member.”The graduation ceremony in Gaza City was attended by the top Hamas official in the enclave, Ismail Haniyeh. A senior Qassam commander, Khalil Haiyah, told the audience that even though his militia “is busy getting ready for the next battle and restoring its power”, the officers thought it important to train the “next generation as we prepare for Jerusalem, the West Bank and Palestine”.
  • Alternative to Visa and MasterCard Reportedly to Work in Crimea by May 1
    By Sputnik  "02:02 31.01.2015" An alternative to Visa and MasterCard international payment systems will start working in Crimea by May 1, Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov reportedly said.MOSCOW, January 31 (Sputnik) — Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov said that an alternative to Visa and MasterCard international payment systems will start working in Crimea by May 1, Kommersant FM radio station reported Friday. US Treasury Allows Personal Remittances to and From Crimea “A replacement for operation with plastic cards has already been found, alternative schemes have been found… Banks will launch everything before the holiday season, everything will function by May 1. The mechanism already exists, has already been tested in this case,” the radio station quoted Aksyonov as saying.In December 2014, US payment giants MasterCard and Visa suspended services to banks in Crimea.Such US companies as PayPal, Apple and Google have also ceased business activities in the peninsula in the wake of an order issued by US President Barack Obama on December 19, 2014. The order said that US companies must stop supplying products to Crimea by February 1, 2015.The restrictions specifically targeting Crimea were imposed by Western countries after Crimea's reunification with Russia in March 2014.
  • STD's and strategy in Iran
    By Spengler "Asia Times"Jan 30, '15In the 5th Century BC, the "Persian disease" noted by Hippocrates probably was bubonic plague; in 8th-century Japan, it meant the measles. Today it well might mean chlamydia. Standout levels of infertility among Iranian couples, a major cause of the country's falling birth rate, coincide with epidemic levels of sexually transmitted disease. Both reflect deep-seated social pathologies. Iran has become a country radically different from the vision of its theocratic rulers, with prevailing social pathologies quite at odds with the self-image of radical Islam.Iran's fertility decline from about seven children per female in 1979 to just 1.6 in 2012 remains a conundrum to demographers. Never before in recorded history has the birth rate of a big country fallen so fast and so far. Iran's population is aging faster than that of any other country in the world. In 2050, 30% of its people will be over 60, the same ratio as in the United States but with a tenth of America's per capita GDP. I see no way to avoid a social catastrophe unique in human experience. Since I first drew attention to Iran's demographic implosion a decade ago, I have heard not one suggestion as to how Iran might avert this disaster, despite some belated efforts to raise the birth rate. Iran was the first Muslim country to achieve mass literacy, thanks in large part to the Shah's Literacy Corps of the 1970s. Muslim total fertility rates correlate closely with female literacy rates: As soon as Muslim women have the means to make their own decisions, they reject traditional society and the fertility behavior associated with it.But another factor is at work. Iran has the highest incidence of lifetime infertility of any country in the world, estimated at between 22% and 25% in separate Iranian government surveys. Roughly a quarter of Iranian couples, that is, are unable to bear children.By comparison, lifetime infertility ranges from 11% in Europe and 15% in India. The Iranian data are more extensive than in most other countries because Iran's government has devoted enormous resources to finding explanations and remedies for its uniquely high infertility rate.The lifetime infertility in selected countries: Iran (year of survey 2004-2005) 24.9%; Australia(1991-1993) 18.4%; Denmark (1995) 15.7%; Indian Kashmir (1997) 15.1%; UK (1988) 14.1%; France (1988) 12.2%; Europe (1991-1993) 11.3%; Norway (1985-1995) 6.6%.One explanation for Iran's strikingly infertility rate is the high level of consanguineous (cousin) marriages, that is, inbreeding. Azadeh Noaveniwrote on the Foreign Policy website January 17, 2014:Iran, like other Middle Eastern countries, has an extremely high infertility rate. More than 20 percent of Iranian couples cannot conceive, according to a study conducted by one of the country's leading fertility clinics, compared with the global rate of between 8 and 12 percent. Experts believe this is due to the prevalence of consanguineous marriages, or those between cousins. Male infertility is "the hidden story of the Middle East," says Marcia Inhorn, a Yale University medical anthropologist and a specialist on assisted reproduction in the region. Dr. Einhorn's surmise probably is wrong. Iran's rate of cousin marriage is about 25%, lower than most of the Middle East. We do not have permanent infertility data for most Middle Eastern countries, but the fertility rate in neighboring Iraq (at four children per female) is more than double that of Iran. In fact, the proportion of cousin marriages is inversely correlated with fertility, because women in the sort of traditional society that fosters cousin marriage tend to bear more children.A more probable cause of Iran's extremely high rate of infertility is sexually transmitted disease, particularly chlamydia, the most common bacterial STD and one likely to go undetected in countries with poor public health systems. This may seem incongruous, for the Islamic Republic of Iran represents itself as the guardian of social standards against Western decadence. Nonetheless, the government's own data strongly support this inference.A 2013 paper by a team of Iranian researchers, "Effects of Chlamydia trachomatis Infection on Fertility: A Case Control Study," observe that "the molecular prevalence of C. trachomatis was 12.6% in woman in Tehran, the capital of Iran, and in another study it was 21.25% in women attending Shahid Beheshti Hospital in Isfahan, Iran. Considering the different prevalence rates of C. trachomatis infection in Iran, it is vitally essential to assess the impact of C. trachomatis on the reproductive health of women."By contrast, the US Center for Disease Control reports a rate of 643 cases per 100,000 American women, or an infection rate of only 0.6%. Among sexually active females aged 14-19 years, the American population segment most at risk, the infection rate was 6.8%. Globally, the chlamydia infection rate was 4.3% in 2008, according to the World Health Organization.Iran appears to have the world's highest rate of lifetime infertility because it also has the world's highest rate of STD infections. This is a tentative conclusion, to be sure, because Iran's fairly primitive public health system has produced only fragmentary evidence about STD infection rates. It is nonetheless convincing.Iranian authorities have made dire warnings about epidemic rates of STD infection. As Muftah.org reported in late 2013:On World AIDS Day (December 1st), Iran's Health Minister Hassan Hashemi, announced that Iran is facing a dramatic increase in HIV diagnoses. Speaking at an AIDS-awareness conference at the Ministry of Health, Hashemi noted that over the past eleven years, AIDS cases have increased nine-fold. He further warned that the lack of sexual education and persistent social taboos surrounding sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in Iranian society were factors in this alarming trend.Just weeks later on December 18th, news about increases in Iran's STD infection rates again made national headlines. Mostafa Aqlyma, the President of the Association of Social Workers told the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) that the country was experiencing an outbreak of genital warts and that "nearly one million people have been affected" by the virus. Aqlyma described the epidemic as "more dangerous than HIV," and noted that he had treated almost ten times the number of male patients this year as compared to last.That is at odds with the Islamic Republic's image in the West, but it is quite consistent with the complaints of Iranian officials about the widespread increase in casual sexual relationships. Premarital sex is illegal in Iran, but the peculiar Shi'ite institution of Sigha, or temporary marriage, allows Iranians to engage casual sex with official as well as clerical sanction. Iran's Sharzad news service reported in 2014:Figures released by the Iranian National Statistics Office indicate that Sigha - temporary partnership - is on the rise, while fewer and fewer people are marrying in the conventional way. According to the deputy justice minister, Sigha rose by 28% in 2012 and by a further 10% in the first half of this year. Sociologist Mustafa Aghlima told the ISNA news agency: "The increase in Sigha at the cost of fewer proper marriages means the collapse of family life and its cultural values."I have been unable to find statistics on the total number of Sigha liaisons in Iran, but anecdotal evidence suggests that they are very common. The Azerbaijani website Trend reports, "Some 84.5 percent of Iranians aged 18 to 29 years are in favor of temporary marriage, Iranian Shargh newspaper reported citing Iran's Youth Affairs and Sports Ministry's study. According to the study which has conducted tests among 3,000 young people of Iran's 14 cities, about 62.9 percent of Iranian youth avoid temporary marriage due to fear of bad reputation. During the last several years, number of websites which offer temporary marriage services to Iranians has increased."The survey seems to conclude that the vast majority of young Iranians the support the idea of temporary marriage and can arrange one online, while 63% decline to do so - which suggests that 37% do.Prostitution also is quite common in Iran, although I have been unable to find an official estimate later than a 1994 International Labor Organization estimate of 300,000 working prostitutes. Estimates vary widely, but the Iranian authorities acknowledge that it is a serious social problem.Iran's leaders are well aware of the consequences of the sudden aging of its population; former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Iranian women who decline to bear children were guilty of "genocide" against their country: "'Two children' is a formula for the extinction of a nation, not the survival of a nation … The most recent data showing that there are only 18 children for every 10 Iranian couples should raise an alarm among the present generation … This is what is wrong with the West. Negative population growth will cause the extinction of our identity and culture. The fact that we have accepted this places us on the wrong path. To want to consume more rather than having children is an act of genocide."Iran promotes In-Vitrio Fertilization as a solution to infertility, as Ms Moaveni reported at Foreign Policy:Women chat openly about IVF on state television, couples recommend specialists and trade stories on Internet message boards, and practitioners have begun pushing insurance companies to cover treatment. And the state runs subsidized clinics, so the cost for treatment is lower than almost anywhere else in the world: A full course of IVF, including drugs, runs the equivalent of just $1,500.IVF is a godsend for couples who wish to have children but cannot conceive otherwise, but it is unlikely to have much of an impact on Iran's overall numbers. Directly or indirectly, Iran's childlessness stems from a deep an intractable national anomie, a loss of personal sense of purpose in a country whose theocratic elite has no more support at the grass roots than did the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in the 1980s.We know how this will end: Iran's economy will be crushed under an avalanche of elderly dependents a generation from now. What we do not know is what will happen en route to the end. The sad task of Iran's neighbors is to manage its inevitable decline and prevent its own sense of national tragedy from turning into tragedies for other peoples as well. Iran's position is without precedent among the nations of the world. It knows as a matter of arithmetic that it has no future. Its leadership feels that it has nothing to lose in strategic adventures, which means that the rest of the world should take no chances with Iran.Spengler is channeled by David P Goldman. He is Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and Associate Fellow at the Middle East ForumHis book How Civilizations Die (and why Islam is Dying, Too) was published by Regnery Press in September 2011. A volume of his essays on culture, religion and economics, It's Not the End of the World - It's Just the End of You, also appeared that fall, from Van Praag Press.
  • Processing Distortion with Peter B. Collins: Former Sex Slave Accuses Alan Dershowitz, Prince Andrew
    By Peter B Collins | January 29, 2015 Peter B. Collins Presents Journalist Nick Bryant In a federal civil suit, Virginia Roberts states she was recruited as a sex slave at age 15 by billionaire and convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein; Roberts says Epstein forced her to have sex with former Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz and Britain’s Prince Andrew—both deny the allegations. Based on Epstein’s “black book” and his pilot’s logs, Nick Bryant reports that Dershowitz’s strenuous denials are contradicted by these records, and indicate that former president Bill Clinton shared more than a dozen flights on Epstein’s jets with a woman federal prosecutors believe procured underage girls to sexually service Epstein and his friends; and that Clinton flew to Africa in 2002 on an anti-AIDS mission with a group that included porn actress Chauntae Davis.*Nick Bryant is a journalist who exposed a pedophile network involving powerful Americans in the 2009 book, The Franklin Scandal. You can read his report on Epstein for Gawker, here.
  • 10 statistics that reveal the true scale of torture, corruption and terrorism around the world
    GRAPHIC Human Rights Watch’s 25th annual report says many governments have reacted to the threat from Islamist militants and terrorists by downplaying or abandoning human rights By Fernande van Tets "The Independent | News | UK" Thursday 29 January 2015 Human rights abuses are fuelling the rise of extremist groups such as Isis in Syria and Iraq and Nigeria’s Boko Haram, campaigners have warned.Human Rights Watch’s 25th annual report says that many governments around the world have reacted to the threat from Islamist militants and terrorists by downplaying or abandoning human rights.Below is a snapshot of the scale of human rights abuses around the world. The group’s executive director, Kenneth Roth, said some political leaders “appear to have concluded that today’s serious security threats must take precedence over human rights. Human rights violations played a major role in spawning or aggravating many of today’s crises,” he said. “Protecting human rights and ensuring democratic accountability are key to resolving them.”The report points to military crackdowns in Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt and China – but also to the US, where the use of torture has been well documented, but nobody has been prosecuted.Britain, too, risked trampling on human rights, Mr Roth added. “British intelligence, GCHQ, immediately seized on Charlie Hebdo [the shootings in Paris] to justify its request for more surveillance powers,” he said.
  • West Africa: The Approbation of a New World Order
    By Alexander MEZYAEV | 30.01.2015 | 10:37 "Strategic Culture Foundation" The number of conflicts in Africa continues to grow, with more and more new countries getting drawn into them. The situation in West Africa is particularly grave; this part of the continent is being threatened with total destabilisation.The armed conflict in Mali is still going on, where, at the start of 2015, the number of attacks on national and international security force personnel, most notably those working with Mali’s armed forces and the UN peacekeeping mission, rose sharply. The start of the new year was also marked by new attacks on towns and villages, as well as on local leaders who support the peace process, by terrorist groups. The Malian army, the local population and UN peacekeepers are all suffering serious losses. All in all, the UN Mission in Mali has, over the last six months, become the bloodiest UN mission currently in operation. On the eve of the new year, UN bases were even subjected to rocket attacks (1). Several days ago, UN armed forces took part in an offensive involving air strikes on certain settlements for the first time. The operation drastically altered the attitudes of those living in the north, who are now demanding the immediately withdrawal of UN troops from the country (2).Towards the end of 2014, an uprising took place in the Republic of Burkina Faso resulting in the resignation of President Blaise Compaoré. The UN Secretary General, however, formally recognised the revolt as a “popular uprising”, and no sanctions were imposed on the new authorities. Officially, the popular uprising was triggered by the attempts of Compaoré (3), who had ruled the country for 27 years, to change the constitution so that he could run for office for a third term. Mass protests began on 28 October and lasted for four days, during which time 30 people were killed and more than 600 were injured. On 31 October, Compaoré stepped down and fled the country.It is interesting that the internal political instability in a number of countries in West Africa is specifically linked to heads of state seeking third terms. Following the overthrow of Burkina Faso’s president, the political situation escalated in Benin, where President Yayi Boni also submitted an amendment to parliament in order to be able to run for president for a third term. In November, there were mass demonstrations in Togo, where President Faure Gnassingbé put himself forward for the elections taking place in March 2015 for a third time. Although the constitution of Togo does not prohibit such a nomination, it should be borne in mind that the current president is the son of General Gnassingbé Eyadéma, who ruled the country for 38 years (4). Mass demonstrations also took place in the Democratic Republic of Congo in mid-January, during which dozens of people were killed. These demonstrations were also caused by the desire of the current president of the DRC, Joseph Kabila, to run for a third term.A political crisis arose in Niger after the country’s head of parliament, Hama Amadou, was accused of child trafficking. Although a warrant for his arrest was issued immediately after parliament lifted his immunity, the arrest did not take place since the suspect had by then already fled the country.There is also still an ongoing crisis in Nigeria. Terrorist attacks by Boko Haram (BH), as well as violence and shelling, have become more frequent of late, especially in north-eastern Nigeria (5), and BH is also attacking military and security facilities with increasing frequency. The victims of these terrorist attacks are not just ‘infidels’, but also Muslims, BH militants are not just setting fire to Christian churches, but also mosques, and Muslim theologians are also being attacked. It seems that the increased terrorist activity in Nigeria is also being motivated by the upcoming elections (the country’s general elections are set to take place in February). Presidential candidates, including Muslims, are being attacked (former president Muhammadu Buhari, for example, who ruled the country from 1983 to 1985). The authorities are trying to fight Boko Haram, but their hands are tied by the constant hints resounding from the UN and, most importantly, the International Criminal Court, as well as warnings against the violation of human rights during anti-terrorist operations (6).In recent months, BH militants have noticeably increased the size of the territory under their control. Recently captured towns include Buni Yadi (in Yobe State), Gamboru Ngala, Dikwa, Bama, Malam Fatori (in Borno State), and Maiha (in Adamawa State). A new system of government is being developed in the areas under BH control, and Sharia law is being established. In November 2014, the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, announced the creation of an Islamic caliphate. Its borders extend far beyond the boundaries of Nigeria into both Cameroon and Niger. The biggest terrorist attack in the whole bloody history of BH took place on 3 January 2015, when more than 200 people were slaughtered in the town of Baga.The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has resulted in the virtual isolation of entire countries. Land and sea borders have been closed, and flights to and from these countries have been stopped. This area of total isolation includes Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Moreover, the victims of Ebola are not just those infected with the virus. Several dozen people have died as a result of clashes between police and demonstrators in various cities in both Liberia (including the capital Monrovia) and Sierra Leone. There is a state of emergency in place in all three of these countries, and elections in both Guinea and Liberia have been cancelled. At the same time, the Liberian parliament has refused to grant the country’s president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, additional emergency powers to help fight Ebola.All the old problems still remain, including transnational crime. The amount of drugs being seized by police is increasing, but this says more about the rise in their illegal transit than about the country’s success in combating drug trafficking. Attempts to save Guinea Bissau from the fate of becoming a channel for drug trafficking have not yet met with success. Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is also flourishing...The West Africa of today has become a major testing ground where a new model of global governance is being developed. A number of zones stand out that could later be extended into other territories. These include a zone for the West’s direct control over natural resources, which the jurisdiction of national governments does not cover; a zone for the safe transit of drugs; a zone for sea piracy (international racketeering as part of international trade); a zone for large-scale medical experiments; and a zone for all-out terror (for the purposes of intimidation, for example). As an alternative, there is the zone of new and relatively peaceful neo-colonialism, where direct foreign control will be offered in exchange for the protection of a territory from all of the above... It goes without saying that this system is not only being developed for Africa.______________(1) According to a report by the Foreign Minister of Mali, Abdoulaye Diop, on the night of 29-30 December 2014, terrorists attacked a ship belonging to the Mali Shipping Company travelling from Bambu to Timbuktu. On 3 January 2015, Tuareg politician Aroudeyni Ag Hamatou, the mayor of Anderaboucane and a former stalwart of the peace process, was killed as the result of an ambush in Menaka. On 4 January, several Nigerian soldiers were injured following a car bomb attack on peacekeepers in the town of Gao. On 5 January, several people died as the result of a terrorist attack in the town of Nampala, just 500 km away from the country’s capital, Bamako.(2) Malians protest over UN airstrike, a report by the TV company eNews Africa(3) Compaoré himself came to power in 1987 following a bloody uprising, when he overthrew the government of President Thomas Sankara.(4) His son gained power at the age of 38.(5) In July 2014, 82 people were killed during a terrorist attack in Kaduna State. In November, an explosion in Bauchi State claimed the lives of 10 people. In the same month, 46 college students were killed and more than 80 injured in an explosion in Yobi State. On 12 November, dozens of people were injured in an explosion in Niger State. On 25 November, more than 45 people were killed by two child suicide bombers at a market in Maiduguri. On 27 November, 40 people died after a bomb exploded in Adamawa State. On 28 November, 120 people died and more than 270 were injured following an attack on Kano’s Central Mosque. On 11 December, at least 40 people were killed at a market in Jos after two bombs exploded simultaneously. (Information taken from a report by the UN Secretary General “On the activities of the UN Office for West Africa”, dated 24 December 2014).(6) See the latest report (2014) by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on preliminary examination activities in various countries.
  • At least 26 killed in Egypt as militants attack army and police targets in Sinai
    An Egyptian army tank is seen behind barbed wire. Wide-ranging attacks by militants struck several targets in the Sinai peninsula. Photograph: Nasser Nasser/AP By Patrick Kingsley and Manu Abdo in Cairo  "The Guardian UK " Thursday 29 January 2015 20.58 GMT Attacks including car bombs and mortar rounds hit area where government has struggled to contain Isis-linked insurgency over past 18 months Egyptian security forces suffered one of the bloodiest days in their peacetime history on Thursday, with at least 26 people reported to have been killed in a series of attacks on soldiers and police in north-east Sinai, where the government has struggled to contain an 18-month insurgency by militants linked to Islamic State (Isis).Isis’s affiliate in the region, Province of Sinai, claimed responsibility for the killings, after issuing warnings on jihadist forums earlier in the day that an attack was in the offing. The affiliate, known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis until its declaration of allegiance to Isis in November, recently released pictures of its masked gunmen training in the desert.The Egyptian army said militants had attacked army and police bases in Arish, the region’s capital, with car bombs and mortar attacks, and that hostilities were ongoing as midnight approached.According to private Egyptian media, the attacks centred on an army barracks, an army-owned hotel, and a police headquarters, though the army did not confirm the details. Earlier in the day, the army allegedly suffered casualties after being caught between two militant lines.News agencies said that at least 26 people had died, most of them soldiers, but the health ministry’s spokesman told the Guardian that the death toll was still being counted.The military presented the attacks as the by-product of a successful counter-insurgency campaign, claiming that they were “a result of successful strikes from armed forces and police on the terrorists in the last period”.But Thursday’s attack showed that in reality the army is struggling to contain an insurgency in the region, despite a series of anti-terror measures, including placing the region under a state of emergency, establishing a curfew, restricting traffic in and out, and demolishing hundreds of homes in the border town of Rafah.The assault follows another heavy attack on an army checkpoint last November, when a similar number of soldiers died. That raid was considered almost unprecedented in the context of peacetime assaults on the Egyptian military.The insurgency has not spread to the tourist hubs of south Sinai, but in pockets of north-east Sinai the army has been powerless to stop militants from frequently establishing their own checkpoints, through which the jihadis have kidnapped and assassinated policemen.The destruction of parts of Rafah, which straddles the border with Gaza, began after the military claimed that smugglers’ tunnels to the Palestinian enclave were allowing militants to take refuge across the border. Soldiers are in the process of destroying all homes within one kilometre of Gaza.Critics of the project say the policy has failed to stop the insurgency and risks making neutral locals more likely to support or join the insurgents. “Any country has the right to secure its borders,” one local told the Guardian at the time. “[But] if I just take security measures, it will come back to haunt me.”Many Egyptians are unsympathetic to such concerns: fears of instability and terrorism have led many to support the government’s heavy-handed approach, both in Rafah and in the rest of country.North-east Sinai has been the site of extremist attacks for several years, but the violence rose markedly following the ousting of Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. His Islamist administration had persuaded militants to adopt a quietist approach.Not all the insurgents are believed to be from the region, but they have sought to appeal to local anger in the north of the peninsula, where the mainly Bedouin population has complained of neglect by Cairo authorities and where few have benefited from the famed tourist resorts in the more peaceful south.
  • Go ahead, Angela, make my day
    Syriza’s win could lead to Grexit, but it should lead to a better future for the euro By The Economist "Jan 31st 2015" IT WAS in Greece that the infernal euro crisis began just over five years ago. So it is classically fitting that Greece should now be where the denouement may be played out—thanks to the big election win on January 25th for the far-left populist Syriza party led by Alexis Tsipras (see article). By demanding a big cut in Greece’s debt and promising a public-spending spree, Mr Tsipras has thrown down the greatest challenge so far to Europe’s single currency—and thus to Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, who has set the austere path for the continent.The stakes are high. Although everybody, including Mr Tsipras, insists they want Greece to stay in the euro, there is now a clear threat of Grexit. In 2011-12 Mrs Merkel wavered, but then decided to support the Greeks to keep them in the single currency. She did not want Germany to be blamed for another European disaster, and both northern creditors and southern debtors were nervous about the consequences of a chaotic Greek exit for Europe’s banks and their economies.This time the odds have changed. Grexit would look more like the Greeks’ fault, Europe’s economy is stronger and 80% of Greece’s debt is in the hands of other governments or official bodies. Above all the politics are different. The Finns and the Dutch, like the Germans, want Greece to stick to promises it made when they twice bailed it out. And in southern Europe centrist governments fear that a successful Greek blackmail would push voters towards their own populist opposition parties, like Spain’s Podemos (see article).A good answer to a bad questionIt could all get very messy. But there are broadly three possible outcomes: the good, the disastrous, and a compromise to kick the can down the road. The history of the euro has always been to defer the pain, but now the battle is about politics not economics—and compromise may be much harder.Tantalisingly, there is a good solution to be grabbed for both Greece and Europe. Mr Tsipras has got two big things right, and one completely wrong. He is right that Europe’s austerity has been excessive. Mrs Merkel’s policies have been throttling the continent’s economy and have ushered in deflation. The belated launch of quantitative easing (QE) by the European Central Bank admits as much. Mr Tsipras is also right that Greece’s debt, which has risen from 109% to a colossal 175% of GDP over the past six years despite tax rises and spending cuts, is unpayable. Greece should be put into a forgiveness programme just like a bankrupt African country. But Mr Tsipras is wrong to abandon reform at home. His plans to rehire 12,000 public-sector workers, abandon privatisation and introduce a big rise in the minimum wage would all undo Greece’s hard-won gains in competitiveness.Hence this newspaper’s solution: get Mr Tsipras to junk his crazy socialism and to stick to structural reforms in exchange for debt forgiveness—either by pushing the maturity of Greek debt out even further or, better still, by reducing its face value. Mr Tspiras could vent his leftist urges by breaking up Greece’s cosy protected oligopolies and tackling corruption. The combination of macroeconomic easing with microeconomic structural reform might even provide a model for other countries, like Italy and even France.A very logical dream—until you wake up and remember that Mr Tsipras probably is a crazy leftwinger and Mrs Merkel can barely accept the existing plans for QE. Hence the second, disastrous outcome: Grexit. Optimists are right that it would now be less painful than in 2012, but it would still hurt.In Greece it would lead to bust banks, onerous capital controls, more loss of income, unemployment even higher than today’s 25% rate—and the country’s likely exit from the European Union. The knock-on effects of Grexit on the rest of Europe would also be tough. It would immediately trigger doubts over whether Portugal, Spain and even Italy should or could stay in the euro. The euro’s new protections, the banking union and a bail-out fund, are, to put it mildly, untested.So the most likely answer is a temporary fudge—but it is one that is unlikely to last long. If Mr Tsipras gets no debt relief, then he will lose all credibility with Greek voters. But even if he wins only marginal improvements in Greece’s position, other countries are bound to resist. Any changes in the bail-out terms will have to be voted on in some national parliaments, including Finland’s. If they passed, voters in countries like Spain and Portugal would demand an end to their own austerity. Worse still, populists from the right and left in France and Italy, who are not just against austerity but against their countries’ membership of the euro, would be strengthened.And there are technical problems with any fudge. The ECB is adamant that it cannot provide emergency liquidity to Greece’s banks or buy up its bonds unless Mr Tsipras’s government is in an agreed programme with creditors, so any impasse is likely to trigger a run on Greek banks. By stretching out maturities, some of this could be avoided—but that may be too little for Mr Tsipras and too much for Mrs Merkel.Hello to BerlinSo in the end, Greece will probably force Europe to make some hard choices. With luck it will be towards the good outcome outlined above. Greek voters may be living in a fool’s paradise if they think Mr Tsipras can deliver what he says, but the Germans too have to look at the consequences of their obstinacy. Five years after the onset of the euro crisis, southern euro-zone countries remain stuck with near-zero growth and blisteringly high unemployment. Deflation is setting in, so debt burdens rise despite fiscal austerity. When policies are delivering such bad outcomes, a revolt by Greek voters was both predictable and understandable.If Mrs Merkel continues to oppose all efforts to kick-start growth and banish deflation in the euro zone, she will condemn Europe to a lost decade even more debilitating than Japan’s in the 1990s. That would surely trigger a bigger populist backlash than Greece’s, right across Europe. It is hard to see how the single currency could survive in such circumstances. And the biggest loser if it did not would be Germany itself