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polly7

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Hometown: Saskatchewan
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Member since: Sat Jul 9, 2005, 11:46 PM
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Ukraine crisis: Poroshenko bruised by army retreat

20 February 2015 Last updated at 08:48
By David Stern
BBC News, Kiev


Damage in Vihlehirsk, near Debaltseve, testifies to the intensity of the fighting

Tensions in the ranks
Already there are rumblings of public discontent.

"I have seen this with my own eyes, on the battlefield and in the army headquarters, how military action is planned and executed," Semyon Semenchenko, commander of the volunteer Donbass battalion, told the BBC.

"I can assure you that we lost Debaltseve not because of the Russian military advantage, but because our generals refuse to take responsibility," he said.

Mr Semenchenko has proposed a "parallel" co-ordinating structure for the volunteer battalions fighting in the east. So far 13 battalion leaders have signed up, including Dmytro Yarosh of the nationalist Right Sector.

Mr Semenchenko insists this is not to replace, but to help, the army's general command in "information exchange, planning, logistical assistance and facilitating mobilisation."

Still, his announcement raised concerns. Eight battalion commanders have refused to join the body, calling on Mr Semenchenko to "end his daily populist and PR statements".

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-31552773

The night is long

By Vijay Prashad
Source: Frontline
February 20, 2015

LARGE, CORRUGATED IRON FENCES BLOCK the road to Tahrir Square in Cairo. The fences are painted with the Egyptian flag. There are, of course, ways to get into the square, but these are few. On the eve of the fourth anniversary of the January 25 Revolution, the mood in Egypt was mixed. Many wanted to take to the streets, if not to protest against the current government then at least to celebrate their feat of four years ago. It required an act of supreme bravery to scale the fences. Nearby, black-clad security forces stood ready, their guns quick to fire.


El-Sisi claims that protests are not banned, only those that harm the economy. He has tried to cover himself with the flag—a patriotic military leader who is the bulwark against terrorism and stands for economic stability. This hearkens back to the days of Gamal Abdel Nasser, but with less credibility. There are no great ambitions for Arab nationalism, no great plans for the region, no ability to lift the hopes of the Egyptian people. Money from Saudi Arabia and the United States curtails the horizon. International pressure for real change in Egypt is not likely. What change will come must come from within.

Amongst the Workers

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission travelled to Cairo in November 2014 to report on the progress of the El-Sisi government. It gave the new regime full marks for its economic reforms: “The authorities have already begun to take the action needed to achieve their objectives. They have begun bold subsidy and tax reforms.”

The government cut back on subsidies across the board, including in the cotton sector. Low global prices for commodities such as cotton and the removal of the subsidy will ring the death knell for this sector. Twenty years ago, Egyptian cotton growers produced 400,000 tonnes of cotton lint. When they allowed cotton prices to be dictated by the world market, the farmers gave up growing cotton. Last year, the farmers produced only 127,000 tonnes. With the end to the, that number is likely to decline. Cotton, the fourth pyramid of Egypt, is likely to go to ruin as a result of IMF advice.


Full article: https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/the-night-is-long/

Greece: ‘third world’ aid and debt

By Michael Roberts
Source: Michael Roberts Blog
February 22, 2015

One of the cruel ironies of the last minute deal between the Eurogroup and the Greek government for a four month extension to the existing ‘aid’ programme monitored by the Troika is that in any sane meaning it is not aid at all.

In return for staying in the Troika programme for another four months to end-June and keeping to the still to be agreed conditions on fiscal targets, government spending and privatisations, the Eurogroup, the ECB and the IMF will disburse the outstanding tranches of loans under the existing programme. The FT might call this “aid” but it is nothing of the kind. It is not even bailout money for Greek banks. The €11bn funding for that has been returned by the Greeks to the Troika who are keeping it for ‘security’.


.....But most of that will be immediately recycled back to the Troika as repayments of debt and interest for previous loans and government bonds that are maturing. In the upcoming four months, the IMF must be paid back €5.3bn while the Greeks must also roll over short-term T-bills bought by the Greek banks worth about €11bn. So the Troika ‘aid’ will just disappear and the Greek people will see none of it to help with government spending.


?w=450&h=319

This is just like ‘Third World’ aid that used to be distributed by the World Bank and other international agencies back in the 1980s and 1990s. Most of this ‘aid’ ended up in corrupt dictators’ pockets or in repaying previous debt. The people never saw it. And the debt levels stayed where they were, as they do for Greece now.

Back then, eventually the international agencies agreed what was called a Brady debt swap that wrote off a portion of the debt that could never be repaid. No such plan is available to Greece, although Syriza asked for it in their negotiations with the Eurogroup.


https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/greece-third-world-aid-and-debt/

Germany owes Greece money for the war – but morality needn’t come into it
Hagen Fleischer

Instead of focusing on the emotionally charged issue of reparations for the second world war, Berlin and Athens should set up a future fund for the joint rehabilitation of a ‘shared’ history

Nazi Germany’s 3.5-year occupation of Greece was bloody and destructive. The Paris reparations conference in 1945 accepted calculations that estimated damage to Greece to amount to 7bn pre-war US dollars. It should be made clear that this wasn’t automatically the suggested reparation payment, as often has been maintained by Greek politicians and journalists: the purpose of the conference was not to come up with absolute sums but to work out percentages of a then still unspecified reparations pool.


Yet it’s important in this case to make a distinction between reparation payments for war crimes and repayments of so-called Besatzungsanleihe: monthly loans demanded from the Greek government in 1942-44 to pay for the maintenance costs of the German army in Greece and further military activity in the Mediterranean, even delivering food from starving Greece to Rommel’s “Afrika-Korps”. In early 1945, in the final days of the Third Reich, a group of high-ranking German economists calculated this “German debt (Reichsschuld) to the Greek state” to amount to 476m Reichsmarks, which would be roughly €10bn today.


This would however require a major change of attitude on Germany’s behalf. Only Berlin has the power to open talks about a historic consolidation with Greece. Until then, we continue to exist with an absurd situation where democratically elected German postwar governments of all colours continue to be in denial about the existence of this debt, which was officially recognised even by the Nazi regime.


http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/feb/10/germany-greece-second-world-war-reparations

Get the rest of your money, Greece.



BBC Breakfast - The horror of Dresden

#t=79

Published on Feb 14, 2015
A harrowing eye witness account of the firebombing of Dresden by former POW Victor Gregg.

Those words by Victor Gregg describing the Allied terror bombing of Dresden in 1945

Trapped and dying in Qatar

Emma Ruby-Sachs - Avaaz <avaaz@avaaz.org>
1:10 AM (9 hours ago)

Dear friends,

Thousands in Qatar are trapped working in horrific conditions, and barred from escaping home by abusive bosses. An American company could help free them and we can make their CEO act by bringing the slave horror right to her hometown. Join the call:

Forced to work under the desert’s scorching sun, denied food, drinking water, and barred from escaping home, thousands of men in Qatar are modern day slaves. And we can help free them.

Last year, one person died every other day building a billion dollar mega-project for Qatar's 2022 World Cup. A major part of the project is managed by an American company with a CEO who lives in a quiet part of Colorado. If more than 1 million of us stand together for freedom, we can confront her with our voices every time she leaves her house to go to work, or to ski, until she takes action.

This same tactic pushed Hilton Hotels to protect women against sex trafficking in days -- join the urgent call to help free Qatar's modern slaves:

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/bloodiest_world_cup_loc/?bXOraab&v=54097

Qatar’s "guest worker" program is at the root of the problem. It lures people from Nepal and Sri Lanka with promises of good jobs, but when they arrive their employers confiscate their passports and force them to work long hours in 50 degree heat with no chance of escape.

The US company, CH2M Hill, say the local contractors and government laws are to blame, but CH2M Hill is the public face of World Cup construction. Their CEO can and must take a lead role in ensuring we don’t see seven more years of worker deaths. She could even threaten to take their business elsewhere unless this system is changed.

CH2M Hill has a responsibility to help stop this modern day slavery. Our call now could persuade CH2M Hill to speak out and then lead other companies to weigh in until every single worker has the freedom to return home. Click below to join the call -- when we reach 1 million, our voices will be delivered directly to CH2M Hill CEO Jacqueline Hinman again, and again and again:

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/bloodiest_world_cup_loc/?bXOraab&v=54097

One big global outcry at the right time can save thousands of lives. When Hilton Hotels wasn't doing enough to protect women and girls from sex trafficking at their hotels, Avaaz staff brought our call to the CEO's front door and the policy was changed in days. Let's do it again

With hope,

Emma, Nell, Mais, Ricken, Alice and the whole Avaaz team

Sources:

Death toll among Qatar’s 2022 World Cup workers revealed (The Guardian)
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/23/qatar-nepal-workers-world-cup-2022-death-toll-doha

Building a Better World Cup (Human Rights Watch)
http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/qatar0612webwcover_0.pdf

At a Qatar Project Overseen by Americans, Workers Die Almost Daily (Bloomberg)
http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2013-09-26/at-a-qatar-project-overseen-by-americans-workers-die-almost-daily

Qatar accused of dragging its feet over treatment of migrant workers
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/12/qatar-accused-dragging-feet-migrant-workers-world-cup-amnesty

Qatar risks losing World Cup without job reform (Reuters)
http://sports.yahoo.com/news/qatar-risks-losing-world-cup-without-job-reform-124324042--sow.html

(from an email)

Endless War Is Alive and... Bleeding

Published on Thursday, February 19, 2015
by Common Dreams

byRobert C. Koehler

?itok=YqyQspKv
An armed motorcade belonging to members of Derna's Islamic Youth Council, consisting of former members of militias from the town of Derna, drive along a road in Derna, eastern Libya. (Photo: Reuters)

Good and evil leap from the headlines: “Egyptian planes pound ISIS in Libya in revenge for mass beheadings of Christians.”


We’re in a state of perpetual war and have no intention of escaping it. Certainly we have no intention of critiquing our own actions or — don’t be silly — questioning the effectiveness of war, occupation or high-tech terror (think: “shock and awe”) as a means to create a stable, secure world. The interests of war have dug in for the long haul, fortified by the cynicism of the media they own. The voices of reason cry from the margins. When a trickle of sanity finds its way into the mainstream, it’s mocked until it goes away.


“We cannot kill our way out of this war. We need . . . to go after the root causes that lead people to join these groups . . .”

Tepid and tentative as Harf’s words were, the fact that they were either instantly mocked and dismissed as “politically correct,” or ignored completely, indicates the extent to which a war mentality has supplanted thought in the mainstream realm of the American empire. Root causes? Come on. Only one side of any war, our own, ever has root causes.


http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/02/19/endless-war-alive-and-bleeding

http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/neocon-recipe-iraq-how-completely-ruin-country-13-years?akid=12815.44541.v99LNN&rd=1&src=newsletter1032210&t=25

Venezuelan Opposition Mayor, Alias “The Vampire,” Arrested for Role in Blue Coup Plot

Last week, Ledezma, who is current Mayor of the Metropolitan Capital District of Caracas, signed a statement calling for a “National Transition Agreement” alongside opposition politicians, Maria Corina Machado and currently detained leader of the Popular Will party, Leopoldo Lopez.

The document calls on Venezuelans to unite behind a plan to remove elected President Nicolas Maduro and sets out an action programme for the would be provisional government. This includes facilitating the return of “exiled” Venezuelans, prosecuting current members of government and reaching out to international financial lending agencies such as the International Monetary Fund.

Circulated on February 11th, the statement was disclosed just a day before the attempted coup was set to unfold and was reportedly the signal to set the plan in motion.

“It has no base in any juridic text, it is a putschist act of conspiracy that is unfortunately to the liking of thousands of opposition militants who have been indoctrinated to attack democracy,” Constitutional Lawyer, Jesus Silva, told Venezuelanalysis.


Political trajectory

Popularly known as “the vampire”, Ledezma began his political career in 1973 as a member of the “Democratic Action” Party. In 1989, he infamously became Governor of the Federal District of Caracas, when he oversaw one of the most violent periods in the history of the Caracas Metropolitan Police.

The police body, which was since disbanded in 2010 due to its human rights violations, regularly opened fire on unarmed student protests, systematically repressed street vendors, pensioners and the unemployed, as well as regularly disappeared political activists.

During this period he also oversaw the “Caracazo,” when up to 3000 people were killed and disappeared by security forces in the wake of violent protests against a government imposed austerity programme.

This particular period of Ledezma’s career earnt him the reputation of “student killer” amongst working class Venezuelans. He is founder and current leader of the rightwing party known as the “Brave People’s Alliance”.


https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/venezuelan-opposition-mayor-alias-the-vampire-arrested-for-role-in-blue-coup-plot/

* these right-wing freaks and their attempts to ruin yet another democratic country.



http://www.democraticunderground.com/?com=view_post&forum=1014&pid=1018663

http://www.democraticunderground.com/?com=view_post&forum=1014&pid=1018984

http://www.democraticunderground.com/?com=view_post&forum=1014&pid=1019489

http://www.democraticunderground.com/?com=view_post&forum=1014&pid=1019654

**********************************************************************************

By John Pilger Interviewed by Michael Albert

February 16, 2015

1. Why would the U.S. want venezuela’s government overthrown?

There are straightforward principles and dynamics at work here. Washington wants to get rid of the Venezuelan government because it is independent of US designs for the region and because Venezuela has the greatest proven oil reserves in the world and uses its oil revenue to improve the quality of ordinary lives. Venezuela remains a source of inspiration for social reform in a continent ravaged by an historically rapacious U.S. An Oxfam report once famously described the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua as ‘the threat of a good example’. That has been true in Venezuela since Hugo Chavez won his first election. The ‘threat’ of Venezuela is greater, of course, because it is not tiny and weak; it is rich and influential and regarded as such by China. The remarkable change in fortunes for millions of people in Latin America is at the heart of U.S. hostility. The U.S. has been the undeclared enemy of social progress in Latin America for two centuries. It doesn’t matter who has been in the White House: Barack Obama or Teddy Roosevelt; the US will not tolerate countries with governments and cultures that put the needs of their own people first and refuse to promote or succumb to U.S. demands and pressures. A reformist social democracy with a capitalist base – such as Venezuela – is not excused by the rulers of the world. What is inexcusable is Venezuela’s political independence; only complete deference is acceptable. The ‘survival’ of Chavista Venezuela is a testament to the support of ordinary Venezuelans for their elected government – that was clear to me when I was last there. Venezuela’s weakness is that the political ‘opposition’ — those I would call the ‘East Caracas Mob’ – represent powerful interests who have been allowed to retain critical economic power. Only when that power is diminished will Venezuela shake off the constant menace of foreign-backed, often criminal subversion. No society should have to deal with that, year in, year out.

2. What methods has the U.S. already used and would you anticipate their using to unseat the Bolivarians?

There are the usual crop of quislings and spies; they come and go with their media theatre of fake revelations, but the principal enemy is the media. You may recall the Venezuelan admiral who was one of the coup-plotters against Chavez in 2002, boasting during his brief tenure in power, ‘Our secret weapon was the media’. The Venezuelan media, especially television, were active participants in that coup, lying that supporters of the government were firing into a crowd of protestors from a bridge. False images and headlines went around the world. The New York Times joined in, welcoming the overthrow of a democratic ‘anti-American’ government; it usually does. Something similar happened in Caracas last year when vicious right-wing mobs were lauded as ‘peaceful protestors’ who were being ‘repressed’. This was undoubtedly the start of a Washington-backed ‘colour revolution’ openly backed by the likes of the National Endowment for Democracy – a user-friendly CIA clone. It was uncannily like the coup that Washington successfully staged in Ukraine last year. As in Kiev, in Venezuela the ‘peaceful protestors’ set fire to government buildings and deployed snipers and were lauded by western politicians and the western media. The strategy is almost certainly to push the Maduro government to the right and so alienate its popular base. Depicting the government as dictatorial and incompetent has long been an article of bad faith among journalists and broadcasters in Venezuela and in the US, the UK and Europe. One recent US ‘story’ was that of a ‘US scientist jailed for trying to help Venezuela build bombs’. The implication was that Venezuela was harbouring ‘nuclear terrorists’. In fact, the disgruntled nuclear physicist had no connection whatsoever with Venezuela.

All this is reminiscent of the unrelenting attacks on Chávez, each with that peculiar malice reserved for dissenters from the west’s ‘one true way’. In 2006, Britain’s Channel 4 News effectively accused the Venezuelan president of plotting to make nuclear weapons with Iran, an absurd fantasy. The Washington correspondent, Jonathan Rugman, sneered at policies to eradicate poverty and presented Chávez as a sinister buffoon, while allowing Donald Rumsfeld, a war criminal, to liken Chavez to Hitler, unchallenged. The BBC is no different. Researchers at the University of the West of England in the UK studied the BBC’s systematic bias in reporting Venezuela over a ten-year period. They looked at 304 BBC reports and found that only three of these referred to any of the positive policies of the government. For the BBC, Venezuela’s democratic initiatives, human rights legislation, food programmes, healthcare initiatives and poverty reduction programmes did not exist. Mission Robinson, the greatest literacy programme in human history, received barely a passing mention. This virulent censorship by omission complements outright fabrications such as accusations that the Venezuelan government are a bunch of drug-dealers. None of this is new; look at the way Cuba has been misrepresented – and assaulted – over the years. Reporters Without Borders has just issued its worldwide ranking of nations based on their claims to a free press. The U.S. is ranked 49th, behind Malta, Niger, Burkino Faso and El Salvador.

3. Why might now be a prime time, internationally, for pushing toward a coup? If the primary problem is Venezuela being an example that could spread, is the emergence of a receptive audience for that example in Europe adding to the U.S. response?


Full article: https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/john-pilger-interviewed-by-michael-albert-2/

Kicking Away the Ladder in Haiti

By Joe Emersberger
Source: teleSUR English
February 21, 2015

An overtly bigoted writer was recently given space in the New York Times op-ed pages to advocate his version of what the U.S. government has been imposing on Haitians for several decades – basically a sweatshop model of development.

Haitians are told to use extremely low wages to attract foreign investors to make as many products for export as they can. It has been done already and anybody who is interested can check the results. By 1985, under the U.S.-backed dictator Jean Claude Duvalier, Haiti became the ninth largest assembler of goods for the U.S. market. Figure 1 shows that Haiti’s real GDP per capita declined throughout the 1980s. The golden age of the Haitian sweatshop model was a miserable failure – at least for the vast majority of Haitians.




Source: IMF



In addition to U.S.-led coups and economic sanctions, the destruction of local agriculture (points 1,2 and 5) is a huge part of the story of Haiti’s economic disaster since 1980. In 1980, 79 percent of Haitians lived in rural areas. About 43 percent still do today. Ruined farmers poured into the cities and exerted downward pressure on wages. The mass exodus also created huge urban shantytowns where people are vulnerable to earthquakes and floods.

Anyone interested in economic development should study Ha-Joon Chang’s concise and very readable “Kicking Away the Ladder: Development Strategy in Historical Perspective.” Chang shows that when the USA was a developing country during the 19th century it used tariffs that averaged 40 percent to protect against rivals who were only 30 percent more productive. U.S. agriculture must be at least ten times (or 900 percent) more productive than Haiti’s which exposes the malevolence of forcing Haiti’s tariffs down from triple digit levels in the 1980s to single digit levels by the 1990s. The World Bank doesn’t list agricultural productivity values for Haiti but does for neighboring states that are not as poor as Haiti. See Table 3 below.


Full article: https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/kicking-away-the-ladder-in-haiti/

The Coercion of Greece

By Mark Weisbrot
Source: Counterpunch
February 20, 2015

The Economist’s February 6 cover displayed the Venus de Milo statue pointing a revolver, with the headline “Go ahead, Angela, make my day.” In the editors’ upside-down world, Greece is threatening Europe, or at least Germany. Really?

On Monday, February 16, European officials “handed Athens an ultimatum: Agree by Friday to continue with a bailout program or risk the funding that the country needs to avoid a default,” the New York Times reported.

Then there is Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany’s finance minister and die-hard supporter of the failed austerity policies that brought Greece six years of depression. On February 11, according to the Financial Times, he “hinted darkly that a Greek plan to leave the bailout at the end of the month could draw a harsh reaction from financial markets.”


Many observers don’t seem to get it, but this is all about the European authorities using coercion to accomplish political as well as economic goals. That’s why these people have not been content to just rely on their enormous bargaining power and the threat of economic dislocation that would ensue if Greece is forced out of the euro. Instead, they have been pro-active: on February 4 the ECB announced that it would no longer accept Greek government bonds as collateral. This was a deliberate effort to crash Greek financial markets and increase capital flight so as to force Syriza to capitulate as soon as possible.


Full article: https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/the-coercion-of-greece/


(Borrowed from DU'er DeSwiss)

He doesn't look like he'd be all that intimidated by their threats, either.

From ‘Demos’ to ‘Podemos’: Popular Uprisings in Greece and Spain

Published on
Thursday, February 19, 2015
by TruthDig

byAmy Goodman

?itok=PBPoxzp6
Greek opposition leader and head of radical leftist Syriza party, Alexis Tsipras (L) and Spanish Podemos party Secretary General Pablo Iglesias wave to supporters following a campaign rally in central Athens January 22, 2015. Photo: Reuters/Yannis Behrakis)

In ancient Greece, the birthplace of democracy, power derived from “demos,” the people. Well, the people of contemporary Greece have been reeling under austerity for five years, and have voted to put an end to it. In January, the anti-austerity Syriza Party was swept to power in national elections. Greece is a member of the so-called eurozone, the nations that joined together with a common currency back in 1999. Following the economic crash of 2009, the Greek economy was in shambles. In 2012, I interviewed economist and Syriza member Yanis Varoufakis, who is now Greece’s minister of finance, and is at the center of the current crisis in the eurozone.

“Greece is going through its Great Depression, something akin to what the United States went through in the 1930s,” he told me. “This is not just a change of government. It’s a social economy that has entered into a deep coma. It’s a country that is effectively verging to the status of a failed state.” In order to stabilize the Greek economy, a bailout package was proposed, delivered by three institutions reviled in Greece as “The Troika”: the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. In exchange for the bailout of more than $100 billion euros, Greece would have to impose strict austerity measures, including mass layoffs of public-sector workers and the sale of public resources, like government-owned port facilities.


Paul Mason, economics editor at Channel 4 News in the United Kingdom, has been doing some of the best reporting in English on the Greek crisis. On the “Democracy Now!” news hour, I asked him to explain austerity: “Austerity in Greece means something like a 50 percent measurable increase in male suicides. It means real wages fell by 25 percent in five years ... you’ve got the 300,000 families who can’t afford electricity.” Interviewed in Der Spiegel, Varoufakis called austerity “fiscal waterboarding.” Greeks, as well, have not forgotten that Germany, under the Nazis, brutally occupied their nation for four years during World War II. Syriza’s representative in the European Parliament, 92-year-old Manolis Glezos, was imprisoned by the Nazis after he tore a swastika flag off of the Acropolis. “The German political class just can’t get their head around the idea,” Mason explained, “that a party has been elected that wants to do something so radically different, that they can’t do it without breaking the rules that the eurozone has been formed around. So it’s becoming cultural.”


The future of Europe is in flux, as popular movements in Greece and Spain gain power and challenge traditional economic and political systems. The global economic crisis created enormous suffering for billions around the world. But it also created an opening, allowing people to reassess the rules under which they live and work, to challenge those in power, and to demonstrate that another world is possible.


Full article: http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/02/19/demos-podemos-popular-uprisings-greece-and-spain
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