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polly7

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Hometown: Saskatchewan
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Member since: Sat Jul 9, 2005, 11:46 PM
Number of posts: 19,857

Journal Archives

The IMF’s “Mistakes” On Greece Are Nothing New

By Jérôme Roos

Source: Roarmag.org

Friday, June 14, 2013

Three years since its first bailout, the IMF has finally gathered the courage to admit that it made major mistakes in its handling of the Greek debt crisis. In an official report released last week, the Fund states that, while its basic policy prescriptions were correct, it underestimated the negative effect of austerity on growth and therefore ended up making economic prognoses that were much too optimistic about Greece’s debt sustainability. Where the IMF predicted a contraction of 5.5% of economic output between 2009 and 2012, the Greek economy actually lost 17%, and where the IMF predicted 15% unemployment by 2012, the actual rate was 25%. So much for the supposed neoliberal “success story” of draconian austerity that European leaders have been raving about in their delirious collective debt delusion.

And yet, while these seemingly shocking admissions hit media headlines as if they were some kind of profound revelation, the sad truth is that they actually tell us nothing new. In fact, the Greek Labour Institute and the think tank IOVE made forecasts that were frighteningly close to the actual outcome. The IMF now argues that Greece should have had debt cancellation as early as 2010 or 2011, but claims that this policy response was politically unpalatable to those countries — i.e., Germany, France and the Netherlands — whose banks had a large exposure to Greek debt. Again, this is nothing new: the IMF is merely repeating the exact argument that hundreds of thousands of outraged Greeks made in 2011, when they occupied Syntagma Square to contest a parliamentary vote on the EU/IMF-imposed austerity memorandum. Back then, the protesters were dismissed as fringe extremists. Now even the IMF proves them right.

But there is another — more sinister — way in which the IMF’s belated mea culpa is nothing new. The fact of the matter is that these type of self-critical reports by the Fund have been a permanent feature of its management of international financial crises ever since the 1980s. For some reason, every time a debt crisis strikes, the IMF moves in to impose the same short-sighted bailouts, austerity measures and market reforms — and then, several years later, comes to the conclusion that it made major mistakes in its handling of the crisis. Yet it never changes tack: when the next crisis hits, it simply reproduces the same old script: stabilization, privatization, liberalization. Nothing else will do to satisfy the markets, and so the debtors simply have to bend over backwards to satisfy the orthodox neoliberal prescriptions of structural adjustment.

During the Latin American debt crisis of the 1980s, the Fund also made overly optimistic growth prognoses in a context of austerity. Back then, these predictions also served to legitimate a policy response that narrowly served the interests of the big banks by preventing early debt write-downs. Just as today, the IMF was also forced to admit — in hindsight — that it “failed to foresee” the depth and duration of the crisis. As official IMF historian James Boughton noted in his extensive study of thirty years of IMF crisis management, the Fund suffered from a “lack of foresight from optimism in assessing the growth prospects of Latin American countries.” Indeed, its austerity programs “were predicated on forecasts of a rapid resumption of economic growth” that failed to materialize. This led Karen Lissakers, a future IMF executive director, to conclude that “the Fund is acting as enforcer of the banks’ loan contracts.”


Full Article: http://www.zcommunications.org/the-imf-s-mistakes-on-greece-are-nothing-new-by-j-r-me-roos

Koch Brothers' Activism Protects Their 50 Years in Canadian Heavy Oils

By David Sassoon at InsideClimate
Thu May 10, 2012 4:30am EDT

Long involvement in Canada's tar sands has been central to Koch Industries' evolution and positions the billionaire brothers for a new oil boom.

By David Sassoon, InsideClimate News

Over the last decade, Charles and David Koch have emerged into public view as billionaire philanthropists pushing a libertarian brand of political activism that presses a large footprint on energy and climate issues. They have created and supported non-profit organizations, think tanks and political groups that work to undermine climate science, environmental regulation and clean energy. They are also top donors to politicians, most of them Republicans, who support the oil industry and deny any human role in global warming.

What is less well documented are the many Koch businesses that benefit from the brothers' efforts to push the center of American political discourse rightward, closer to their own convictions. At the top of the list are the Koch family's long and deep investments in Canada's heavy oil industry, which have been central to the company's initial growth and subsequent diversification since 1959.


http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/10/idUS427145980520120510

The Globalization of Hypocrisy

By Paul Buchheit

Source: Common Dreams

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Excerpts:
In this dream world of global capitalism, young people are going from zero income on the farm to a few dollars a day on a 12-hour factory shift, and as a result, based on the World Bank's poverty threshold of $1.25 per day, they're no longer "in poverty." So the media piles on praise for free markets. The Economist proclaimed that "poverty is declining everywhere." The Washington Post gushed that "a billion people have been lifted from poverty through free-market competition."

But the reality is very different. Inequality continues to grow, both between and within countries. Poverty levels haven't changed much in 30 years, with almost half of humanity, up to three billion people, living on less than $2.50 a day. A quarter of the world's children - over 170 million kids under age five - are growing up stunted because of malnutrition.


It may be time to update the company's quote: "We don't have an obligation to solve the world's problems."

Even if there were no obligation to help solve the world's problems, there IS an obligation to pay for global energy consumption and infrastructure usage and industrial pollution. Yet a review of 25 multinational companies shows clear negligence in meeting that responsibility. The 25 companies, with almost a half-trillion dollars in 2011-12 income, paid just 8% in taxes to the U.S. and 9% to foreign countries. A 35% tax -- paid to ANY country or countries -- would have generated another $90 billion over two years, four times the amount needed to battle malnutrition.


Full Article: http://www.zcommunications.org/the-globalization-of-hypocrisy-by-paul-buchheit

Why Europe Can’t Just “Fix” Youth Unemployment

By Jérôme E. Roos

Source: Roarmag.org

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

In recent weeks, European leaders somewhat belatedly seem to have become mightily interested in the issue. Italy’s new Prime Minister Enrico Letta called youth unemployment the most serious problem facing his country and called for an EU plan to “combat” it. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, flag-bearer of the European austerity movement, similarly considers youth unemployment to be “Europe’s biggest challenge.” Meanwhile, a new campaign by Big Think somewhat naively asks “what’s causing youth unemployment and what can fix it?”


The real reason European leaders are suddenly so concerned about youth unemployment — while they remain unmoved by the plight of Greek AIDS patients, for instance, who now can’t get their anti-retroviral drugs — is simply that they are terrified by the prospect of social unrest. As the New York Times reported today, “it is clear that policy makers are seriously worried that millions of frustrated young job seekers pose as much of a threat to the euro zone as excessive government debt or weak banks.” German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble literally admitted that “We will have to speed up in fighting youth unemployment, because otherwise we will lose the support, in a democratic way, in some populations of the European Union.” What they fear, in other words, is a continent-wide youth uprising. At its worst, their plans to “fix” youth unemployment serve to distract us from the obvious class dimension at play, promoting the illusion that the social crisis we face is just a series of economic problems that can be fixed without radical changes to the political status quo.

The inconvenient truth is that unemployment is an integral element of the neoliberal policy response to the crisis pursued by the European Union and the IMF. This, in itself, is nothing new. IMF austerity programs in the developing world have long involved dramatic reductions in wages and rises in unemployment. Careful quantitative analysis of the Latin American debt crisis of the 1980s has shown that “the most consistent and statistically significant impact of Fund programs in Latin America … was the reduction in labor share of income.” Even official IMF studies recognize that its austerity programs “boost unemployment and lower paychecks.” Most importantly, the authors of a 2011 IMF report, Painful Medicine, conclude that austerity causes not just short-term but “particularly long-term unemployment.”

In other words, asking for austerity measures without youth unemployment is like insisting on the medieval practice of blood-letting without the blood-loss. It is not only brutal, but also practically impossible. Austerity and unemployment are like Siamese twins, conjoined at the hip, designed to strengthen and reinforce one another. As long as the EU and IMF keep imposing these highly destructive adjustment measures, unemployment will keep on rising. The only genuine “solution” to unemployment, therefore, would be to break free from the shackles of austerity and to default on the foreign debt. This is the reformist vision pursued by SYRIZA in Greece, and despite the lack of revolutionary imagination of this quasi-Keynesian approach, there is certainly something to be said for it from a humanitarian point of view.


Full Article: http://www.zcommunications.org/why-europe-can-t-just-fix-youth-unemployment-by-j-r-me-e-roos

Their Instruments May Be Garbage, but the Music Will Bring Tears to Your Eyes

In a Paraguay slum, a children's orchestra makes do with what it's got—with inspiring results.

—By Zaineb Mohammed | Mon May. 13, 2013 2:30 AM PDT

Close your eyes and listen to Juan Manuel Chavez launch into the Prelude of Bach's Cello Suite No. 1, and you would never guess that, instead of spruce and maple, his instrument is crafted from an old oil can, a beef tenderizing tool, and a discarded pasta making device—all of it scavenged from the landfill that surrounds his home in Paraguay.

Chavez is a cellist in the Landfill Harmonic Orchestra in Cateura, an Asunción slum where bottle caps, door keys, and paint cans have been given new purpose. Under the supervision of local musician Favio Chávez, these utterly impoverished kids make beautiful music on instruments constructed almost entirely out of materials reclaimed from the dump.

Filmmaker and Asunción native Alejandra Nash first heard about the phenomenon back in 2009, and decided to produce a documentary about the kids—she and her co-producers are aiming for a 2014 release. She'll have plenty of support. The teaser she posted online last November quickly went viral, with 2 million views on Vimeo, and nearly 1 million on Youtube. It's inspiring. Check it out...


Now her project's Facebook page has more than 125,000 likes. And a Kickstarter campaign Nash launched in April to help fund the film's completion has raised almost $200,000, well over the $175,000 she'd asked for. Beyond funding post-production work, the additional money will help finance a world tour for the orchestra, and an expansion of what has come to be known as the Landfill Harmonic Movement.




http://www.motherjones.com/media/2013/05/landfill-harmonic-trash-orchestra-documentary

Nakba Day 2013: The Importance Of Commemorating "The Catastrophe"

May 15 marks the commemoration of Nakba Day. The Nakba, which means "the catastrophe" in Arabic, refers to the forcible expulsion of 700,000-800,000 Palestinians from their land in the time leading up to and following the creation the state of Israel in 1948. Contrary to claims that the Palestinians decided to leave, author and journalist Ben White points out that "those who left did not do so of their own volition." The cleansing of Palestinians from Palestine was part of deliberate strategy on the part of Zionist leaders. According to University of Exeter Professor Ilan Pappe, "Zionist leaders decided that the best means of making the vision of a Jewish Palestine possible was by forcefully dispossessing the Palestinians from their homeland."



http://www.policymic.com/articles/41761/nakba-day-2013-the-importance-of-commemorating-the-catastrophe


The Israeli army prevented a march to mark the 65th anniversary of Nakba, May 14, 2013.Palestinians will mark "Nakba" (Catastrophe) on May 15 to commemorate the expulsion or fleeing of hundreds of thousands of their brethren from their homes in the war that led to the founding of Israel in 1948.

http://www.demotix.com/news/2052265/65th-anniversary-nakba-rally-ends-clashes#media-2052172

THIS IS WHAT WINNING LOOKS LIKE - MY AFGHANISTAN WAR DIARY

By Ben Anderson

When he had finished, the elders raged about the bombings, saying that the Taliban were often far away by the time the bombs were dropped, that security was getting worse, and that more civilians would soon start joining the Taliban if things didn’t change. “Life has no meaning for me anymore,” said one man. “I have lost 27 members of my family. My house has been destroyed. Everything I’ve built for 70 years is gone.”

Metal containers were brought in, placed on tables in front of the group, and opened. The elders were given bricks of 500-afghani notes, signing for them by dipping their right thumbs in ink and making prints. They received roughly $2,000 for each family member killed.

“I lost 20 people, and I was given 2 million afghanis ,” said one man. “It was before 12:30 at night, when your forces came to our area. They were involved in a fight, but the Taliban retreated. Later, a jet came and dropped bombs on our house. Two rooms were destroyed. In one of the rooms, my two nephews and my son were there. My son survived. I rescued him from the debris. Six of my uncle’s family were in the other room. All became martyrs. They were buried under the soil. I moved the children away and came back to rescue those under the debris. While we were trying to do that, the children were so frightened they started running away. The plane shot them one by one.

“All we want is security, whether you bring it or the Taliban. We are not supporting war. We support peace and security. If you bring peace and security, you are my king. If they bring security, they are our kings.”


Full Article: http://www.vice.com/vice-news/this-is-what-winning-looks-like-part-1

For more misery and hopelessness from Afghanistan, watch Ben Anderson’s new film, This Is What Winning Looks Like, airing this Wednesday on VICE.com.

Nuclear Terror in the Middle East

Lethality Beyond the Pale

By Nick Turse

Source: TomDispatch.com

Monday, May 13, 2013

In those first minutes, they’ll be stunned. Eyes fixed in a thousand-yard stare, nerve endings numbed. They’ll just stand there. Soon, you’ll notice that they are holding their arms out at a 45-degree angle. Your eyes will be drawn to their hands and you’ll think you mind is playing tricks. But it won’t be. Their fingers will start to resemble stalactites, seeming to melt toward the ground. And it won’t be long until the screaming begins. Shrieking. Moaning. Tens of thousands of victims at once. They’ll be standing amid a sea of shattered concrete and glass, a wasteland punctuated by the shells of buildings, orphaned walls, stairways leading nowhere.

This could be Tehran, or what’s left of it, just after an Israeli nuclear strike.

Iranian cities -- owing to geography, climate, building construction, and population densities -- are particularly vulnerable to nuclear attack, according to a new study, “Nuclear War Between Israel and Iran: Lethality Beyond the Pale,” published in the journal Conflict & Health by researchers from the University of Georgia and Harvard University. It is the first publicly released scientific assessment of what a nuclear attack in the Middle East might actually mean for people in the region.

Its scenarios are staggering. An Israeli attack on the Iranian capital of Tehran using five 500-kiloton weapons would, the study estimates, kill seven million people -- 86% of the population -- and leave close to 800,000 wounded. A strike with five 250-kiloton weapons would kill an estimated 5.6 million and injure 1.6 million, according to predictions made using an advanced software package designed to calculate mass casualties from a nuclear detonation.


Full Article: http://www.zcommunications.org/nuclear-terror-in-the-middle-east-by-nick-turse

The Pain of Bangladesh: T-shirts Made with Blood and Tears

By Ramzy Baroud

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Considering the rampant corruption and Bangladeshi's dire need for foreign funds which are partly secured through the $20 billion (£13bn) per year industry, expectations are low that the government will do much to right this ongoing injustice.

Attempts at unionizing garment factory workers have not been successful. Respected workers' rights activist Aminul Islam was reportedly harassed by the police, had his phone tapped and "domestic intelligence agents once abducted and beat him," reported the New York Times last September.

When he disappeared for few days on April 4 last year there was a general understanding of who might have been the culprit.

Days later his body was discovered. He had been tortured to death. His small office once stood amid towering buildings - some surely constructed without permit.


Full Article - http://www.zcommunications.org/the-pain-of-bangladesh-t-shirts-made-with-blood-and-tears-by-ramzy-baroud

7 Dodgy Food Practices Banned in Europe But Just Fine Here

—By Tom Philpott

Wed May. 8, 2013

Last week, the European Commission voted to place a two-year moratorium in most uses of neonicotinoid pesticides, on the suspicion that they're contributing to the global crisis in honeybee health (a topic I've touched on here, here, here, and here). Since then, several people have asked me whether the Europe's move might inspire the US Environmental Protection Agency to make a similar move—currently, neonics are widely used in several of our most prevalent crops, including corn, soy, cotton, and wheat.

The answer is no. As I reported recently, an agency press officer told me the EU move will have no bearing on the EPA's own review of the pesticides, which aren't scheduled for release until 2016 at the earliest.

All of which got me thinking about other food-related substances and practices that are banned in Europe but greenlighted here. Turns out there are lots. Aren't you glad you don't live under the Old World regulatory jackboot, where the authorities deny people's freedom to quaff to atrazine-laced drinking water, etc., etc.? Let me know in comments if I'm missing any.

1) Atrazine
Why it's a problem: A "potent endocrine disruptor," Syngenta's popular corn herbicide has been linked to range of reproductive problems at extremely low doses in both amphibians and humans; and it commonly leaches out of farm fields and into people's drinking water.
What Europe did: Banned it in 2003.
US status: EPA: "Atrazine will begin registration review, EPA’s periodic re-evaluation program for existing pesticides, in mid-2013."


Full Article: http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2013/05/7-dodgy-foodag-practices-banned-europe-just-fine-here
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