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unhappycamper

unhappycamper's Journal
unhappycamper's Journal
December 24, 2013

US Government Spends Over $1 Billion a Year on Sweatshop Buying Spree

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/12/23-1



New York Times report cites international trade agreements as catalyst behind poor federal procurement practices

US Government Spends Over $1 Billion a Year on Sweatshop Buying Spree
- Lauren McCauley, staff writer
Published on Monday, December 23, 2013 by Common Dreams

Despite pledging zero tolerance against overseas factories that scorn fair labor and safety practices, according to a New York Times investigation published Sunday, the United States federal government, "one of the world's biggest clothing buyers," spends over $1.5 billion a year purchasing items from reported sweatshops.

According to a series of interviews and audits obtained by the Times, American government suppliers frequently purchase military apparel, federal employee uniforms and other supplies from companies with reported safety violations and harsh working conditions including padlocked fire exits, buildings at risk of collapse, falsified wage records, underage workers, worker intimidation and, in some cases, torture.

&quot Federal agencies) exert less oversight of foreign suppliers than many retailers do," writes Times reporter Ian Urbina. "And there is no law prohibiting the federal government from buying clothes produced overseas under unsafe or abusive conditions."

Speaking to a number of federal procurement officials, Gordon notes that supposed "free-trade" agreements and low-cost-above-all-else mandates have incentivized the federal government away from pushing for fair labor reform or buying practices.
December 24, 2013

World from Berlin: Clemency 'A Master Stroke of Secret Diplomacy'

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/german-press-review-on-putin-and-politics-of-khodorkovsky-release-a-940661.html



By releasing Mikhail Khodorkovsky from prison, Russian President Vladimir Putin has eliminated a political burden that has dogged relations between Moscow and the West for years. German editorialists say it is a highly symbolic move ahead of the Olympics.

World from Berlin: Clemency 'A Master Stroke of Secret Diplomacy'
December 23, 2013 – 01:38 PM

With his arrival in the German capital on Friday, former oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was granted clemency by Russian President Vladimir Putin and released from prison in a dramatic turn of events, has become one of the biggest political stories of the year in Berlin.

Dozens of reporters from around the world turned out on Sunday for the first press conference to be given by the newly free man. Khodorkovsky spent a decade in prison after being convicted in two politically driven trials that created tremendous international pressure for Putin, who has been accused by governments from Washington to Berlin of violating human rights.

There was much about the events of the past weekend that evoked the Cold War -- from the mere fact that a Russian political prisoner had traveled to Berlin, to the even more explicit symbolism of him giving apress conference at the site that was once the main crossing between East and West Germany. Former German foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, who worked for the past two-and-a-half years to secure Khodorkovsky's release, is also a political veteran of that era.

In Berlin, the former oligarch said he has no immediate plans to return to Russia, that he will not fight to regain his shares in the oil firm Yukos, which the government stripped from him, and that he will not become politically active.
December 24, 2013

No ‘sorry’ in diplomacy

http://www.khaleejtimes.com/kt-article-display-1.asp?xfile=/data/opinion/2013/December/opinion_December41.xml&section=opinion

Indo-US row is not just one between two foolhardy egocentrics

No ‘sorry’ in diplomacy
Dr N Janardhan (Perspective) / 22 December 2013

It’s just one word, made up of just five letters, easy to pronounce, quick to write and takes a nanosecond to utter. It’s something that all of us —as individuals — use at the drop of a hat; one that we also yearn for and expect others to offer, with or without little excuse, and with or without forgiveness.

Why then is “sorry” such a difficult word in the interplay among nations?

The handcuffing, arrest and strip-search of an Indian diplomat accused of visa fraud in the United States and the retaliatory measures effected by New Delhi on American consular staff again raises questions about diplomatic complexities.

While a judgment on this incident would be subjective, the focus is on the US’s damage-saving response. US Secretary of State John Kerry’s “regret” is, for example, a repeat of how Washington dealt with China in the 2001 stand-off after a mid-air collision rendered a Chinese pilot “lost” and an American spy plane with a 24-member crew stranded in Chinese territory.
December 24, 2013

Societal Polarization in the US and Turkey

http://watchingamerica.com/News/228535/societal-polarization-in-the-us-and-turkey/

Societal Polarization in the US and Turkey
Sabah, Turkey
By Ömer Taşpınar
Translated By Matthew Vallo
9 December 2013
Edited by Kyrstie Lane

When compared to the United States, the continuous societal tension which Turkey experiences as a result of lifestyle differences and social engineering is much more sensational. However, American politics is experiencing a period of extreme polarization. In fact there are some very striking similarities between American and Turkish politics. In the past few years both countries have been experiencing a large-scale rupture on both a political and societal level. In both countries there is a bitter struggle between the party in power and the opposition. The most important areas in this ideological battle are the print and visual media.

As I've mentioned before in my writing, in the United States if you watch a little Fox News you will be given the impression that Obama is a Muslim socialist dictator. On the other hand, MSNBC, the choice of the Democrats, doesn't shy away from showing the Republicans as a fascist party. Another similarity between the United States and Turkey is the constant feeling of being in an election. Local, national, presidential and midterm elections mean that as soon as one election ends, another one begins.

In my opinion the societal and political dynamics don't tell the entire story. To understand the increasing tension in both nations it is important to look at the economy. Obama, who despite the poor economy won the 2012 election with unexpected ease, is experiencing the most difficult days of his political career. Despite the fact that the economy is showing small signs of recovery, the unemployment rate refuses to drop. Obama's Social Security and health care reforms in this polarized atmosphere are being portrayed by the minority Republicans in an exaggerated manner as the "creeping steps of socialism." On the other hand, the relative recovery of the U.S. economy is being threatened by budget cuts and the Federal Reserve’s indication that it will pursue a tighter monetary policy.

When we look at Turkey, there is a similar situation. Behind the political tension there is a struggling economy. The Turkish economy, as a result of its high trade deficit, is on fragile ground. The trade deficit, which is related to energy and raw material imports, has not yet reached dangerous levels thanks to an inflow of hot money.
December 24, 2013

Corruption investigation bombards US-Iran-Turkey triangle

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/corruption-investigation-bombards-us-iran-turkey-triangle-.aspx?pageID=449&nID=60030&NewsCatID=466

Corruption investigation bombards US-Iran-Turkey triangle
VERDA ÖZER

The ongoing bribery investigation in Turkey has revealed the fact that the unknowns about the “Iran-Halkbank-gold” triangle outnumber the knowns. Since the United States and European Union countries imposed sanctions on Iran in 2010, financial operations and transactions with Iran have been exposed to severe restrictions. As of March 2012, Iran has also been banned from using the international money-transfer system SWIFT. Hence it had become impossible to transfer money to and from Iran.

Since Turkey was unable to pay for the natural gas and oil it has been buying from Iran through routine channels, it opened a bank account for Iran at Halkbank to hold the amount equivalent to its purchase. And Iran converted the deposits in these accounts to gold, later transferring it back to the country.

The U.S. has been grouching about this complicated system for a long time. Last April, 47 representatives in the U.S. Congress signed a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew calling for sanctions against Halkbank for its operations. They claimed that Halkbank has been used as a conduit to evade sanctions by Turkey and Iran. Last week David Cohen, the U.S. Treasury’s Undersecretary of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, visited Turkey right after the operation and said the latest rapprochement between the U.S. and Iran does not mean that sanctions have been relaxed. He reportedly urged Turkey to show the required sensitivity on the issue and reiterated the warnings made to Turkey many times before. The U.S. also banned gold exports to Iran in July 2013. So was it right for Turkey to continue the gold exchange? Jonathan Schanzer from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies says that even if not directly against the sanctions, this system is against the spirit of the sanctions. Halkbank, on the other hand, has always been denying the claims that it has been evading the sanctions on Iran.

Whatever the results of the investigation, it is already certain that it will affect the Turkey-Iran energy trade very badly. First and foremost, from now on Turkey will most probably be exposed to the same conditions as other countries. The timing of the operation couldn’t be worse since it coincides with the discussions on softening, even the lifting of sanctions on Iran. Iran has recently engaged in constructive interaction not only with the U.S., but with the whole world. And it is not only the nuclear deal which is at stake. Iran is likely to play a significant behind-the-scenes role to end the Syrian war.
December 24, 2013

Its Education System Terminally Ill, Argentina Has No Future

http://watchingamerica.com/News/228568/its-education-system-terminally-ill-argentina-has-no-future/

Its Education System Terminally Ill, Argentina Has No Future
Analítica.com, Argentina
By Alcira Argumedo
Translated By Patricia O'Connor
11 December 2013
Edited by Chris J. deGrazia

Henry Kissinger can die happy: His project is coming to fruition. In 1938, pursued by the Nazis as a 15-year-old German-Jewish adolescent, he fled with his parents to the United States. There he became the architect of some of the most aberrant strategies the U.S. has pursued in Latin America. Between 1969 and 1977, he served as secretary of state under [former U.S. Presidents] Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. The foreign policies he imposed in his “backyard” are manifestations of his imperial ideas and the diabolical clarity with which he used to impose his plans of subjugation over the medium term, with no concern for the methods used or their human and material costs.

When Kissinger assumed office, the Latin American continent seemed like enemy territory, home to dangerous aspirations of sovereignty and justice. Torrijos in Panama, Velasco Alvarado in Peru, Torres in Bolivia, Allende in Chile, laborers who supported Peron joining with young students to form a resistance movement in Argentina, popular movements in Uruguay — displaying various degrees of radicalism, all of these rebel movements questioned the political-cultural hegemony of economic elites. At the same time, protectionist policies and tariff barriers stymied the expansion of multinational corporations and banks that had begun seeking economies of scale through hemisphere-wide markets in the 1960s.

In this context, at the beginning of the 1970s, the United States began to promote Kissinger’s strategy to restore the conservative agenda. Its objective was to reestablish U.S. hegemony: The aspirations of the military dictatorships that state terrorism bolstered under the Condor Plan were to be annihilated. Military coups followed: in Bolivia in 1971, Uruguay in 1972, Chile in 1973, Peru in 1975 and Argentina in 1976. Our country, Argentina, received special treatment. In July 1976 — just a few months after the military coup — the U.S. secretary of state traveled to Brazil and signed a protocol agreement with the dictatorship that had been in power there since 1964. Basically, the agreement anointed Brazil as the imperial representative in South American and the South Atlantic. And so began the policy of privileged satellite states. As part of the protocol, the U.S. and Brazil planned to hold bilateral meetings every six months to decide on the policies they considered appropriate within their spheres of influence. They hoped their approach would neutralize the ongoing global and regional rebelliousness within the United Nations, the OAS [Organization of American States] and the Inter-American Defense Board. Lacking unconditional majorities in these entities, the U.S. and its interests were facing serious challenges.

In addition to its political duties, a privileged satellite state was supposed to focus on industrial production by transnational corporations in support of developing markets across the hemisphere — after reducing trade barriers and imposing free market principles.
December 24, 2013

The Iraqization of Egypt: Two Large Bombs Rock Security Bldg in Mansoura, kill 14, wound 130

http://www.juancole.com/2013/12/iraqization-security-mansoura.html

The Iraqization of Egypt: Two Large Bombs Rock Security Bldg in Mansoura, kill 14, wound 130
By Juan Cole | Dec. 24, 2013

Two large explosions at the state security building in downtown Mansoura, Dahqaliya Province, killed at least 14 persons and wounded 130 on Monday, reducing some of the edifice to rubble and damaging its facade. The head of the directorate of security was among the wounded.



Crowds immediately gathered to blame the Muslim Brotherhood and to demand that they be executed.



State Security police have been involved in arresting and cracking down on thousands of members of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose leader, Muhammad Morsi, had been the elected president 2012-2013 before being overthrown by a combination popular movement and military coup on July 3, 2013. In the aftermath of Morsi’s detention, some 2000 other Brotherhood leaders have been arrested and held without charge, and hundreds have been killed in military actions aimed at clearing out sit-ins in Cairo and Giza. The military junta led by Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has branded the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, and seems determined to push the group to take up just that role.

Last week Morsi was charged with, among other things, giving state secrets to the Palestinian party-militia, Hamas and implicitly with aiding and abetting Muslim terrorists.
December 24, 2013

Climate Denialists Spending Billions in untraceable Dark Money to fool the Public

http://www.juancole.com/2013/12/denialists-billions-untraceable.html

Climate Denialists Spending Billions in untraceable Dark Money to fool the Public
By Juan Cole | Dec. 24, 2013
(By Lauren McCauley)

The expansive misinformation campaign behind climate change denial is increasingly being funded in the dark, reveals a new report published Friday in the journal Climatic Change

According to the study titled "Institutionalizing Delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations," while the largest and most consistent funders of climate change denial are a number of well-known conservative foundations and industry groups, the majority of donations come from "dark money," or concealed funding.

~snip~

"Like a play on Broadway, the countermovement has stars in the spotlight—often prominent contrarian scientists or conservative politicians—but behind the stars is an organizational structure of directors, script writers and producers, in the form of conservative foundations," he says. "If you want to understand what's driving this movement, you have to look at what's going on behind the scenes."

What Brulle found is that since 2008, many of the big name funders of climate denial including ExxonMobil Foundation and Koch Affiliated Foundations have noticeably pulled back from making publicly traceable contributions. And coinciding with this decline in traceable funding, "the amount of funding given to countermovement organizations through third party pass-through foundations like Donors Trust and Donors Capital, whose funders cannot be traced, has risen dramatically."
December 24, 2013

Chief Rabbi of Yazd, Iran, 1903 (Photo of the Day)

http://www.juancole.com/2013/12/chief-rabbi-photo.html

Chief Rabbi of Yazd, Iran, 1903 (Photo of the Day)
By Juan Cole | Dec. 24, 2013



The Chief Rabbi of Yazd, Iran, in the center

Iran’s population in 1900 was around 10 million. There were roughly 100,000 Jews in Iran at that time.

Lord Curzon wrote in the late nineteenth century of different treatment of Jews in different parts of the country:

“In Isfahan, where they are said to be 3,700 and where they occupy a relatively better status than elsewhere in Persia, they are not permitted to wear kolah or Persian headdress, to have shops in the bazaar, to build the walls of their houses as high as a Moslem neighbour’s, or to ride in the street. In Teheran and Kashan they are also to be found in large numbers and enjoying a fair position. In Shiraz they are very badly off. In Bushire they are prosperous and free from persecution.”


From M. E. Hume-Griffith and A. Hume, Behind the Veil in Persia and Turkish Arabia: An Account of an Englishwoman’s Eight Years’ Residence Amongst the Women of the East (1909).
December 23, 2013

The US Is Totally Tapped

http://watchingamerica.com/News/228411/the-us-is-totally-tapped/

It’s no longer only powerful electronic intelligence, but also the U.S. local police that monitor American citizens using methods of which philosophers have never dreamed.

The US Is Totally Tapped
Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland
By Mariusz Zawadzki
Translated By Natalia Suta
12 December 2013
Edited by Kyrstie Lane

Results of an investigation carried out by the national daily newspaper USA Today are — in a certain sense — more shocking than everything we have discovered about the American Big Brother so far. At least for Americans. It turns out that the local police are using surveillance methods similar to the ones adopted globally by the National Security Agency. What is more, their cost is surprisingly low.

A tracking device called a StingRay could be bought with only $400,000. It’s the size of a suitcase and imitates a mobile phone transmitter tower. It intercepts data from all phones within a mile such as text messages and conversations. Policemen spying on a suspect or a group of suspects can — in real time — listen to and read everything that goes through their mobiles. Due to its small size, the StingRay can be hidden in a police car.

In many states policemen have easy access to data from mobile phone towers, and they can spy on suspects in a literal sense, meaning they can observe live where they are staying, going, etc. It is possible even when a phone is not being used but just kept in a pocket.

~snip~

This greatly “dehumanized” surveillance is relatively easy to accept. Yet it makes a difference when you are monitored by a policeman from a local police station that you pass every day on your way to work. Here come the questions: Where is the limit? Is it acceptable to electronically spy on every person who was in the vicinity of a sheriff's car when someone broke one of its windows and stole a gun, just as happened in South Carolina? Or was it acceptable to use a StingRay to follow people who were going to protest against the International Trade Conference? This is what happened in Miami.

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