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polly7

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Europe’s “Hot Spot” Refugee Registration Centers are “Concentration Camps”

By Yanis Varoufakis
Source: Democracy Now
April 29, 2016



Published on Apr 28, 2016

http://democracynow.org - We speak with former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis about the refugee crisis in Europe, and so-called "hot-spots" that are registration centers for refugees in his country. "George Orwell would be very proud of Europe and our capacity for doublespeak and creating new terms by which to hide the awful reality," Varoufakis says. "When you see the word ‘hot spots,’ just translate it to 'concentration camps.'" He says the Greek government has been pressured to intern the refugees fleeing war and famine, and notes the growth of right-wing parties in Europe, such as Golden Dawn.

Community Conversation on Poverty



In 2014, over 35 percent of the residents in McDowell lived in poverty, including nearly half of the children. The roads are crumbling and only 6 percent of adults have a college education. Less than two-thirds have graduated high school. It has the lowest life expectancy for men in the entire nation. Watch excerpts of Bernie’s speech on poverty and share it with friends and family on social media.

American Power Under Challenge

By Noam Chomsky
Source: TomDispatch.com
May 9, 2016

.........The neoliberal programs of the past generation have concentrated wealth and power in far fewer hands while undermining functioning democracy, but they have aroused opposition as well, most prominently in Latin America but also in the centers of global power. The European Union (EU), one of the more promising developments of the post-World War II period, has been tottering because of the harsh effect of the policies of austerity during recession, condemned even by the economists of the International Monetary Fund (if not the IMF’s political actors). Democracy has been undermined as decision making shifted to the Brussels bureaucracy, with the northern banks casting their shadow over their proceedings.

Mainstream parties have been rapidly losing members to left and to right. The executive director of the Paris-based research group EuropaNova attributes the general disenchantment to “a mood of angry impotence as the real power to shape events largely shifted from national political leaders to the market, the institutions of the European Union and corporations,” quite in accord with neoliberal doctrine. Very similar processes are under way in the United States, for somewhat similar reasons, a matter of significance and concern not just for the country but, because of U.S. power, for the world.


Western Power Under Pressure

There is far more to say, of course, about the factors in determining state policy that are put to the side when we adopt the standard convention that states are the actors in international affairs. But with such nontrivial caveats as these, let us nevertheless adopt the convention, at least as a first approximation to reality. Then the question of who rules the world leads at once to such concerns as China’s rise to power and its challenge to the United States and “world order,” the new cold war simmering in eastern Europe, the Global War on Terror, American hegemony and American decline, and a range of similar considerations.

The challenges faced by Western power at the outset of 2016 are usefully summarized within the conventional framework by Gideon Rachman, chief foreign-affairs columnist for the London Financial Times. He begins by reviewing the Western picture of world order: “Ever since the end of the Cold War, the overwhelming power of the U.S. military has been the central fact of international politics.” This is particularly crucial in three regions: East Asia, where “the U.S. Navy has become used to treating the Pacific as an ‘American lake’”; Europe, where NATO — meaning the United States, which “accounts for a staggering three-quarters of NATO’s military spending” — “guarantees the territorial integrity of its member states”; and the Middle East, where giant U.S. naval and air bases “exist to reassure friends and to intimidate rivals.”

The problem of world order today, Rachman continues, is that “these security orders are now under challenge in all three regions” because of Russian intervention in Ukraine and Syria, and because of China turning its nearby seas from an American lake to “clearly contested water.” The fundamental question of international relations, then, is whether the United States should “accept that other major powers should have some kind of zone of influence in their neighborhoods.” Rachman thinks it should, for reasons of “diffusion of economic power around the world — combined with simple common sense.”


The sledgehammer was also wielded elsewhere, notably in Libya, where the three traditional imperial powers (Britain, France, and the United States) procured Security Council resolution 1973 and instantly violated it, becoming the air force of the rebels. The effect was to undercut the possibility of a peaceful, negotiated settlement; sharply increase casualties (by at least a factor of 10, according to political scientist Alan Kuperman); leave Libya in ruins, in the hands of warring militias; and, more recently, to provide the Islamic State with a base that it can use to spread terror beyond. Quite sensible diplomatic proposals by the African Union, accepted in principle by Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, were ignored by the imperial triumvirate, as Africa specialist Alex de Waal reviews. A huge flow of weapons and jihadis has spread terror and violence from West Africa (now the champion for terrorist murders) to the Levant, while the NATO attack also sent a flood of refugees from Africa to Europe.

Yet another triumph of “humanitarian intervention,” and, as the long and often ghastly record reveals, not an unusual one, going back to its modern origins four centuries ago.


Full article: https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/american-power-under-challenge/

Gimme Shelter (From the Tax Man)

By Nomi Prins
Source: TomDispatch.com
May 6, 2016

As Oxfam reports, “the biggest burden” of tax havens “falls on the poorest people.” In the process, they only increase already oppressive levels of inequality globally.


Missing Money Costs

As of 2014, according to Gabriel Zucman, University of California economist and author of The Hidden Wealth of Nations, at least $7.6 trillion, or approximately 8% of global financial wealth, was “missing” somewhere offshore. His analysis demonstrates that the sorts of tax-dodging practices we’ve been discussing put governments across the planet in the red by approximately $200 billion annually. Tax avoidance by major U.S. companies costs governments an additional $130 billion per year since nearly a third of their profits are hidden offshore.

The U.N. estimates that tax dodging by multinational companies costs developing countries $100 billion a year, an amount “equivalent to what it would cost to provide basic life-saving health services or safe water and sanitation to more than 2.2 billion people.”

There are, in other words, harrowing costs to tax dodging. When the wealthy and powerful hide money from governments or speculate with it in sneaky ways, it destabilizes economies and enables the commission of crimes that place a further burden on ordinary people. When money flows from the economic necessities needed by the less privileged to the top fraction of a percent of the world’s population and is then hidden offshore, essentially “disappeared,” it’s a net drain on and a blow to the world economy. This impacts jobs and the quality of our future. Unfortunately, the leading candidates in this election year aren’t championing a major change for the better.



Nomi Prins, a TomDispatch regular, is the author of six books, a speaker, and a distinguished senior fellow at the non-partisan public policy institute Demos. Her most recent book is All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances That Drive American Power (Nation Books). She is a former Wall Street executive. Special thanks go to researcher Craig Wilson for his superb work on this piece.


(bbm)

https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/gimme-shelter-from-the-tax-man/

Monsanto Set To Fight Argentina Over “Royalties” Owed By Farmers

By Brandon Turbeville
Mint Press News
Thursday, May 5, 2016


A demonstrator wearing as Guy Fawkes mask holds a sign that reads in Spanish “Get out Monsanto from Argentina” near the offices of the U.S.-based company Monsanto in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Saturday, May 25, 2013.

"Monsanto has been demanding that exporters inspect cargo to determine whether or not farmers had paid the requisite royalties to produce the company’s genetically modified soybeans.

While the Argentine government has recently shown signs that it may take the side of farmers over Monsanto, the international agricultural corporation is not willing to simply accept defeat. Nor is it even willing to accept a minor obstacle in its attempt to dominate the food supply.

Shortly after the government of President Mauricio Macri passed a resolution officially giving control of the analysis of seeds, Monsanto is now set to challenge the Argentine government’s decision.While the Argentine government has agreed to collect monies owed by small farmers in royalties on genetically modified soybean seeds, the government requested additional time to do so. Even this, however, was unacceptable to Monsanto as the corporation rejected the government’s request according to two unnamed Monsanto staff members cited by Bloomberg News.

As a result, Ricardo Buryaile, the Agricultural Minister and members of his staff have met with representatives of Monsanto and Chief Operation Officer Brett Begemann to request a waiver on the owed royalties.

Monsanto rejected that waiver request but did agree to slash the royalties being demanded from fifteen dollars per hectare to nine dollars per hectare for growers who use Monsanto technology but who do not actually purchase the seeds directly from Monsanto itself.

Both Monsanto and the government did agree that large soybean producers must pay royalties. Interestingly enough, Monsanto’s stock rose three percent on the heels of this announcement. The stock had declined seven percent this year.

The issue surrounds the fact that Monsanto has been demanding that exporters inspect cargo to determine whether or not farmers had paid the requisite royalties to produce the company’s genetically modified soybeans. Monsanto is claiming that Argentine farmers have benefited immensely from the Intacta technology and is demanding that everyone pay to use it."

Full article: http://axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/Article_73915.shtml

Disaster Capitalism in Ecuador

By Staff Writers, teleSUR
teleSUR
Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Ecuador Forced to Pay US Oil Giant $180M


People receive donations from volunteers as rescue efforts continue in Pedernales, after an earthquake struck off Ecuador's Pacific coast, April 20, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

The Ecuadorean government is being ordered to pay US$180 million payment on Friday to the multinational oil corporation Occidental, just two weeks after a major earthquake struck the country, killing hundreds and causing billions of dollars in damage. The government is being forced to use money that could go toward relief efforts to instead pay off a multinational oil company.

"Urgently needed public resources are being channelled to an oil multinational during an emergency because of a decision by for-profit arbitrators at a secretive international tribunal,” said Cecilia Olivet, a researcher with the Transnational Institute, a center-left think tank based in Amsterdam.

The final payment is part of a total settlement of US$980 million imposed on the Ecuadorean government by the World Bank-affiliated International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

The settlement came after the Ecuador terminated an oil concession due a breach of contract and national law on the part of Occidental. The U.S. oil giant then sued the government at an international investment arbitration tribunal, the product of the U.S.-Ecuador Bilateral Investment Treaty. The massive reward came despite the tribunal acknowleding that Occidental broke the law.


Full article: http://axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/Article_73907.shtml

Baiting The Bear: NATO and Russia

By Conn Hallinan
Source: Dispatches from the Edge
May 5, 2016

Is Russia really a danger to the U.S. and its neighbors? NATO points to Russia’s 2008 war with Georgia and its 2014 intervention in eastern Ukraine as examples of “Russian aggression.”

But from Moscow, the view is very different.

In 1990, U.S. Secretary of State James Baker and German Chancellor Helmet Kohl pledged to then Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not move eastward, nor recruit former members of the East bloc military alliance, the Warsaw Pact. By 1995 NATO had enlisted Pact members Romania, Hungry, Poland, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Bulgaria, Slovakia, and signed on Montenegro this year. Georgia is currently being considered, and there is a push to bring Ukraine aboard. From Moscow’s perspective NATO is not only moving east, but encircling Russia.

“I don’t think many people understand the visceral way Russia views NATO and the European Union as an existential threat,” says U.S. Admiral Mark Ferguson, commander of U.S. naval forces in Europe.

Most NATO members have no interest in starting a fight with Russia, but others sound like they think it wouldn’t be a bad idea. On April 15, Witold Waszczykowski, the foreign minister of Poland’s rightwing government, told reporters that Russia is “more dangerous than the Islamic State,” because Moscow is an “existential threat to Europe.” The minister made his comments at a NATO conference discussing the deployment of a U.S. armored brigade on Poland’s eastern border.

Is Russia reneging on arms control agreements? The charge springs from the fact that Moscow has refused to consider cutting more of its nuclear weapons, is boycotting nuclear talks, deploying intermediate range nuclear missiles, and backing off a conventional weapons agreement. But again, Moscow sees all that very differently.

From Moscow’s point of view, the U.S. is continuing to spread its network of anti-missile systems in Europe and Asia, which the Russians see as a threat to their nuclear force (as does China). And as far as “reneging” goes, it was the U.S. that dumped the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, not Russia,

The U.S. is also pouring billions of dollars into “modernizing” its nuclear weapons. It also proposes using ICBMs to carry conventional warheads (if you see one coming, how do you know it’s not a nuke?), and is planning to deploy high velocity glide vehicles that will allow the U.S. to strike targets worldwide with devastating accuracy. And since NATO is beefing up its forces and marching east, why should the Russians tie themselves to a conventional weapons treaty?


Instead, an April 20 meeting between NATO ministers and Russia ended in “profound disagreements” according to alliance head Jens Stoltenberg. Russian ambassador to NATO, Alexander Grushko said that the continued deployment of armed forces on its borders makes it impossible to have a “meaningful dialogue.”

We are baiting the bear, not a sport that ever ends well.


Full article: https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/baiting-the-bear-nato-and-russia/

Another goodbye to democracy if Transatlantic Partnership is passed

By Pete Dolack
Source: Systemic Disorder
May 5, 2016

Corporate control on both sides of the Atlantic will be solidified should the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership be passed. Any doubt about that was removed when Greenpeace Netherlands released 13 chapters of the TTIP text, although the secrecy of the text and that only corporate representatives have regular access to negotiators had already made intentions clear.

Health, safety, environmental and food laws will all be at risk, with United States negotiators continuing to seek the elimination of European safeguards against genetically modified organisms. But European Union negotiators, although as yet unable to find sufficient common ground with their U.S. counterparts on some issues, are offering plenty of dubious language at the behest of European multi-national corporations.


The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is very much similar to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and although negotiations over it are apparently far from complete it is firmly in the TPP’s anti-democratic spirit. The Transatlantic Partnership, just like other “free trade” agreements, has little to do with trade and much to do with granting the wish lists of corporate executives and financiers, complete with secret tribunals that can overturn legislation without appeal.

Under existing “free trade” agreements, the countries with stronger regulations, such as Canada under the North American Free Trade Agreement, are routinely ordered to overturn them as “barriers” to trade. Smaller countries are routinely sued by multi-national corporations for attempting to safeguard sensitive environments or regulate tobacco, such as El Salvador’s attempt to protect its largest remaining water source from a gold mine. These suits are not heard in ordinary courts, but rather in secret tribunals in which corporate lawyers who specialize in representing multi-national capital in international disputes switch hats and sit in judgment of similar cases as judges.


Corporations would get last word on regulation

Despite the European Commission’s attempts to paint itself as heroically standing against U.S. insistence on forcing GMOs on European consumers, this EU language could be interpreted to overturn bans on GMOs. That is especially so in the wake of the already agreed-upon language of Article 5, where we read:

“When issuing or submitting any final administrative decision for an SPS regulation, the Party shall make publicly available on the Internet an explanation of: … any alternative identified through public comments, including by a Party, as significantly less restrictive to trade.”


Under this clause, governments must make the case on behalf of complaining corporations that want to eliminate a protective regulation! There is further language demanding that any new regulation be justified, including a requirement that a government explain why it did not adopt any alternatives that would be “less restrictive to trade.” There is precedent here under the North American Free Trade Agreement, in which a tribunal, in ordering that Canada reverse a ban against PCBs, a carcinogen banned under two Canadian treaties, ruled that, when formulating an environmental rule, a government “is obliged to adopt the alternative that is most consistent with open trade.” So much for democracy!

There is also an agriculture chapter, which contains this sentence: “The Parties shall work together to facilitate the successful conclusion of agriculture negotiations in the WTO that substantially improves market access for agricultural goods.” All the activist work that prevented the conclusion of World Trade Organization talks over the past decade would be undone, and provide an additional opening for GMOs and the elimination of other safety rules.......


Full article: https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/another-goodbye-to-democracy-if-transatlantic-partnership-is-passed/



The TTIP’s most blatant transgressions into Europe’s sovereignty, environmental and social regulations include:

• Opening of flood gates for privatization of public services such as water supply and sanitation, health services and education – for profit;

• Jeopardy of public health – as practices which are legal in the US would also be legalized in Europe, such as genetically modified food production, and hormone treatments of livestock and poultry;

• Endangering small-scale agriculture, as it would favor large agro-corporations over family farming;

• Making fracking legal in Europe;

• The universal right of foreign corporations to sue countries for compensation in secret arbitrary courts for foregone profits in case governments pass laws that could reduce profits – case in point: the Swedish energy company Vattenfall is seeking $6 billion in compensation for Germany’s nuclear phase-out – and chances are that Vattenfall may win its case;

• Opening ways for increased internet monitoring and surveillance; and

• Opening of flood gates for privatization of public services such as water supply and sanitation, health services and education – for profit;

• Excessive copyright regulations (pharmaceuticals and other monopoly prone industries), restricting free access to culture, education, and science.


The TTIP is practically irreversible. Once agreed and signed by Brussels and Washington, the treaty would be enforced by all EU members and could only be amended or revoked by agreement of all 28 EU members and the US. This would almost be impossible. An individual (no longer) ‘sovereign’ EU member government could no longer decide to drop out of the agreement if and when it realizes that the TTIP works against its public interest, since it is not the individual country that signs the TTIP, but the EU.

The only way out would be exiting or dissolving the EU.


http://axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/Article_73896.shtml

Fort McMurray exodus widens as fires rage: A lot of people are ‘working to get you out’

CARRIE TAIT AND JUSTIN GIOVANNETTI
CONKLIN, Alta. — The Globe and Mail
Published Thursday, May 05, 2016 5:30AM EDT
Last updated Thursday, May 05, 2016 10:57AM EDT

• Evacuation order widened

• More oil sands projects cut production

• Emergency operations centre moved 300 km south

The growing wildfires consuming Fort McMurray have forced officials to vastly widen a mandatory evacuation order to neighbouring communities and move the city’s emergency operations centre for the second time in one day.

An aerial look at the Fort McMurray wildfire (CP Video)

The fires have also forced a handful of oil sands companies to halt bitumen production and shutter facilities.

The Fort McMurray fire: Here’s how you can help, and receive help

Officials ordered people to leave Anzac, Gregoire Lake Estates, and Fort McMurray First Nation late Wednesday. Anzac’s recreational centre, which is nearly 50 kilometres southeast of Fort Mac, was housing hundreds of evacuees from the embattled city prior to the most recent evacuation order.

Buses were expected to begin ferrying away residents covered by the widening evacuation order at midnight on Wednesday – only two hours after the mandatory evacuation orders were published.

Municipality moves emergency centre

The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, which encompasses the region, said late Wednesday it was moving its emergency operations centre to Lac La Biche, Alta., nearly 300 kilometres south of Fort McMurray.

Officials were previously stationed in Fort McMurray, but packed up the command centre when the fire made it unsafe. The operations centre was moved out of Fort McMurray Wednesday afternoon – a shift that was short-lived.

“Take comfort tonight knowing that your friends and family are safe,” the municipality said via Twitter early Thursday.

Lac La Biche is only 220 kilometres north of Edmonton. The original Fort McMurray evacuation order covered about 90,000 people.



Full article: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/fort-mcmurray-exodus-swells-as-fires-rage-a-lot-of-people-are-working-to-get-you-out/article29883034/

More Than 1,000 Detained in Shocking Conditions at Counterterrorism Centers in Anbar in Iraq

Amnesty International
For Immediate Release
Tuesday, May 3, 2016 - 11:45am

Ameriyat al-Fallujah - More than 1,000 detainees, including some as young as 15, are being held without charge in horrendous conditions at makeshift holding centers in Anbar governorate, west of Baghdad, said Amnesty International today.

A delegation led by the organization’s Secretary General, Salil Shetty, gained access on April 30 to a center run by Anbar’s counterterrorism agency (Mukafahat al-Irhab) in Ameriyat al-Fallujah, where 683 male detainees are held without charge.

The detainees are cramped into several rooms within a complex of disused warehouses being used as a detention and interrogation facility.

“The detainees are squeezed into a space of less than one square meter each, sitting in a crouching position day and night, unable to stretch or lie down to sleep and are rarely allowed outside for fresh air,” said Shetty.

“It was a truly shocking sight – hundreds of human beings packed together like sardines in a tin and held in inhumane and degrading conditions for months on end.”

Full article: http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2016/05/03/more-1000-detained-shocking-conditions-counterterrorism-centers-anbar-iraq

What a horrible, sad mess.
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