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Iceland Jailed Bankers and Rejected Austerity—and It’s Been a Success

from truthdig:

Iceland Jailed Bankers and Rejected Austerity—and It’s Been a Success

Posted on Jun 11, 2015
By Roisin Davis

When the global economic crisis hit in 2008, Iceland suffered terribly—perhaps more than any other country. The savings of 50,000 people were wiped out, plunging Icelanders into debt and placing 25 percent of its homeowners in mortgage default.

Now, less than a decade later, the nation’s economy is booming. And this year it will become the first culturally European country that faced collapse to beat its pre-crisis peak of economic output.

That’s because it took a different approach. Instead of imposing devastating austerity measures and bailing out its banks, Iceland let its banks go bust and focused on social welfare policies. In March, the International Monetary Fund announced that the country had achieved economic recovery “without compromising its welfare model” of universal health care and education.

Iceland allowed those responsible for the crisis—its bankers—to be prosecuted as criminals. Again, a sharp contrast to the United States and elsewhere in Europe, where CEOs escaped punishment. ............(more)


Chris Hedges with Tavis Smiley

Published on Jun 9, 2015
Last night, I was joined by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Chris Hedges. In his near two decades' worth of experience as a foreign correspondent for prominent news outlets like The New York Times and NPR, Hedges has covered critical issues from all around the world, including his groundbreaking reporting on global terrorism. The bestselling author's latest text is called "Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt."

In the clip below, Hedges describes how the media's inability to do its job has weakened our democracy, and why the public's loss of faith in traditional mechanisms of power has placed us on the brink of revolution.

Middle East: Dark Plots Afoot?

from CounterPunch:

"It Always Seems to Blow Back"
Middle East: Dark Plots Afoot?


A quiet meeting this past March in Saudi Arabia, and a recent anonymous leak from the Israeli military, set the stage for what may be a new and wider war in the Middle East.

Gathering in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh were Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, newly crowned Saudi King Salman, and the organizer of the get-together, the emir of Qatar. The meeting was an opportunity for Turkey and the Saudis to bury a hatchet over Ankara’s support — which Riyadh’s opposes — to the Muslim Brotherhood, and to agree to cooperate in overthrowing the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.

Taking Aim at Assad

The pact prioritized the defeat of the Damascus regime over the threat posed by the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, and aims to checkmate Iranian influence in the region. However, the Turks and the Saudis are not quite on the same page when it comes to Iran: Turkey sees future business opportunities when the sanctions against Teheran end, while Riyadh sees Iran as nothing but a major regional rival.

The Turkish-Saudi axis means that Turkish weapons, bomb making supplies, and intelligence, accompanied by lots of Saudi money, are openly flowing to extremist groups like the al-Qaeda associated Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham, both now united in the so-called “Army of Conquest.”

The new alliance has created a certain amount of friction with the United States, which would also like to overthrow Assad but for the time being is focused on attacking the Islamic State and on inking a nuclear agreement with Iran. This could change, however, because the Obama administration is divided on how deeply it wants to get entangled in Syria. If Washington decides to supply anti-aircraft weapons to the Army of Conquest, it will mean the United States as thrown in its lot with Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, and that the “war on terror” is taking a backseat to regime change in Syria. ...................(more)


They never learn........

NAPLES, Italy, June 11 (Reuters) - The United States is considering building more U.S. military bases in Iraq to drive back Islamic State militants in a move that may require a further increase in American forces, the top U.S. general said on Thursday.

A day after the White House announced the deployment of 450 more U.S. troops to Iraq and a new training hub in Anbar province, Army General Martin Dempsey said the Pentagon was considering more sites in strategic areas such as the corridor from Baghdad to Tikrit and further north toward Mosul.

Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged these might require sending more U.S. troops, which already numbered about 3,100 in Iraq before Wednesday's announcement. His spokesman said American forces could also be moved from within Iraq to avoid troop increases.

"Our campaign is built upon establishing these 'lily pads,' if you will, that allow us to continue to encourage the Iraqi security forces forward," Dempsey told reporters before landing in Naples, Italy. ................(more)


Man Breaks Leg While Trying To Have Sex With Horse, police say

(HuffPost) It was a Texas man's third arrest for having sex with a horse, and this time, he paid for it in pain.

Cirilo Castillo Jr., 45, was arraigned last week after a February incident in which he allegedly broke his leg while trying to have sex with a horse.

It was his third arrest related to the sexual abuse of a horse since 2012, ValleyCentral.com reports.

Hidalgo County Sheriff’s deputies said a barn owner called at about 7 a.m. on Feb. 17 to report an injured man in her barn.

When officers arrived, the woman identified the injured man as Castillo, and said he had been previously arrested for having sex with her horses. In those cases, Castillo was ordered to stay away from her barn. ...................(more)


How A Right-Wing Political Machine Is Dismantling Higher Education in North Carolina

from The Nation:

How A Right-Wing Political Machine Is Dismantling Higher Education in North Carolina
What began as isolated ideological attacks is looking more and more like a wholesale gutting of the state’s public colleges.

Zoë Carpenter June 8, 2015

On a Monday afternoon in April, a few dozen people gathered in a windowless room in Raleigh, North Carolina, to discuss the crisis in higher education. As they dug into plates of Tex-Mex, the featured speaker, Jay Schalin, ascended the podium and adjusted his notes. The crisis isn’t cost or access, he informed the room. “The main problem has to do with the ideas that are being discussed and promoted,” Schalin explained, those being “multiculturalism, collectivism, left-wing post-modernism.”

Schalin is the director of policy analysis at the John William Pope Center for Higher Education, a right-wing think tank funded by discount-store magnate Art Pope, the conservative kingmaker who helped flip the state legislature to the Republicans in 2010 and bankrolled the 2012 election of Republican Governor Pat McCrory. The organization that hosted Schalin’s lecture, the John Locke Foundation, is also funded by Pope’s family foundation. As I walked into the building, I passed the local office of Americans for Prosperity, the Tea Party group founded by Charles and David Koch; Pope once chaired its national board. Two blocks away is the John W. Pope Civitas Institute and Civitas Action, another Pope-funded think tank and dark-money group, respectively.

Though Pope’s tentacles reach into many state institutions now, his empire of conservative idea-factories was originally established to counter what he and his associates perceived as liberal bias in the North Carolina’s university system, as Jane Mayer reported in a 2011 profile in The New Yorker. Pope’s interest in UNC goes back to his father, a trustee at UNC–Chapel Hill, who believed that the university, as Mayer reported, had been “taken over by radical scholars.” Pope himself made a bid for a seat on UNC’s Board of Governors in 1995. He was rebuffed. So he turned his attention upstream, to the North Carolina state legislature, which appoints the 32-member board. When Republicans took control of the General Assembly in 2010—for the first time since 1870—Pope’s network looked less like a counterweight to campus liberalism than a conservative wrecking ball aimed at the entire state.

Up at the podium, Schalin laid out part of the Pope Center’s vision for “renewal at the university,” which, he argued, could be achieved through the propagation of privately funded academic centers. In a related report Schalin described how these centers would balance “academia’s gradual purging” of courses dedicated to “liberty, capitalism, and traditional perspectives,” more specifically by supplanting the “French communist” Derrida, Bourdieu, and Foucault with Ayn Rand. Schalin assured his audience that these centers wouldn’t be political—though, he said, “when you study capitalism on an objective basis, you are going to notice this very strong correlation between prosperity and capitalism—and that’s okay to bring up.” ..................(more)


Feds Favor Private Over Public Housing Investment, Leaving Millions Out in Cold

Feds Favor Private Over Public Housing Investment, Leaving Millions Out in Cold

Thursday, 11 June 2015 11:01
By Eleanor J. Bader, Truthout | News Analysis

For a huge swath of the US population, the American Dream - the idea that if you put your nose to the grindstone, you'll eventually be able to buy a small house for yourself and your family - is little more than a fantasy. According to the Center for Housing Policy, since the start of the most recent recession in 2007, the percentage of people paying more than 50 percent of their income for shelter has risen for both renters and owners. The Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development puts the number of "rent-poor" households at 12 million and notes that there is not a single place in the country where a family with one minimum-wage earner can afford the market rent for a two-bedroom home. Nowhere.

But let's step back and not look at wages just yet. Instead, let's look at fixed incomes. The Social Security Administration website reports that the average monthly retirement check in April 2015 came to $1,287.19; the average survivor's benefit to $1,108.05; and the average disability compensation to $1,016.88. The maximum monthly Supplemental Security Income (SSI) check - this is the program that provides income to disabled, indigent children and disabled adults who have not worked the required 40 quarters to qualify for disability benefits - is $733 per month for an individual and $1,100 a month for a couple, in which both parties are too physically or mentally ill to be employed. Meanwhile, a minimum wage worker, working 40 hours a week at $7.25 an hour, earns a gross salary of $1,247 a month.

Finding a place to live on incomes like these is quite the challenge.

In fact, the National Low Income Housing Coalition reports that workers throughout the country need to work full time and earn at least $19.35 an hour to afford a decent two-bedroom place at current rent levels. RentVine.com breaks it down city-by-city and offers the average monthly rents by locale. Here's a random sample of costs for a typical two bedroom: Birmingham, Alabama, $761; Boston, Massachusetts, $2,144; Flagstaff, Arizona, $953; Greensboro, North Carolina, $673; Honolulu, Hawaii, $1,577; Los Angeles, California, $1,832; Paterson, New Jersey, $1,622; New York, NY, $2,512; Memphis, Tennessee, $811; Savannah, Georgia, $795; and Vancouver, Washington, $852. ...................(more)


Get ready for a 4,000-point Dow drop

(MarketWatch) The stock market has an empirical rule: interest rates lead stocks. And the current interest rate environment is pointing to a massive decline for the U.S. market.

Consider: The Federal Reserve has taken rates to the lowest level in more than a generation. This has energized stock prices. The Fed has persisted in its directive to “stay the course,” having made no raises in the discount rate for more than seven years. Such monetary policy has no precedent; this is the longest stretch of accommodation by the Fed in the post-World War II era.

But there’s Fed-induced rates, and “actual” rates. The most widely followed Treasury markets are the longer-term 10-year TMUBMUSD10Y, -1.88% and 30-year TMUBMUSD30Y, -1.75% markets. These two markets are highly sensitive to longer-term actual interest-rate pressures. For example, banks use longer-term Treasurys to make decisions on pegging personal loan rates to clients for mortgages, businesses, and other uses. The commercial and industrial areas of the economy also are susceptible to the actual cost of money.

Are there parallels to this current market environment? Yes — 1987.

The summer that year began with a slow, methodical rise in actual rates. Yet the Fed did not raise the discount rate, even though actual rates suggested otherwise. The fall of 1987 arrived with the stock market having hit an all-time high in late August, unfazed by this unsettled condition. ..................(more)


Professor Richard Wolff: Global Capitalism June 2015 Monthly Update

These programs begin with 30 minutes of short updates on important economic events of the last month. Then Wolff analyzes several major economic issues. For this June 10, these will include:

1. Completing last month's discussion of socialism: Marxism's role past and present
2. Socialism in Seattle today: lessons of Sawant's re-election campaign
3. Winning against austerity in Europe: Greece, now Spain, more coming

In These Times: Who Do You Protect, Who Do You Surveil?

Published on Jun 10, 2015
Joel Handley says the Chicago Police Department has been using “stingray” spying equipment to track activists and their movements in Chicago, but the trend is spreading

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