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Refugee crisis: EU report on Turkey's membership contains muted criticism as it seeks nation’s co-op

Publication was delayed so as not to influence the country's recent election, but it is hard to see why since its language was so restrained as to suggest that the main intent of its authors was not to give offence to the Turkish government

Patrick Cockburn

Tuesday 10 November 2015

The European Union has published its delayed annual report on Turkish membership of the bloc, urging Turkey to resume talks with the Kurds, limit restrictions on the media and respect human rights.

Its publication was delayed by the EU so as not to influence the Turkish elections, but it is hard to see why, since its language was so restrained as to suggest that the main intent of its authors was not to give offence to the Turkish government.

While negotiations for Turkey to enter the EU have been dead in the water for years, ensuring that the EU has little influence over its behaviour, the need for Turkish co-operation has grown this year because there are some 2.2 million Syrian refugees in the country, many of whom are now making their way to the EU via Greece and the Balkan states.

The EU wants Turkey to absorb more refugees itself, in return for making it easier for Turks to get EU visas, along with financial aid and speeded up talks on EU membership. German Chancellor Angela Merkel attracted criticism from the Turkish opposition just before election when she visited Istanbul and held talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during which she said there could be no solution to the migration crisis without Turkey.


Full text of email from UN Libya envoy Bernardino Leon to UAE foreign minister

Middle East Eye publishes the full text of an email sent by Bernardino Leon to UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed

MEE staff
Thursday 5 November 2015
Last update:
Friday 6 November 2015

This is the full email sent by UN Special Representative in Libya Bernardino Leon to UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan on 31 December 2014.

Middle East Eye has seen the email and reproduced it in full here, with email addresses removed.

From: Dr. Sultan Ahmed Aljaber

Sent: 12/31/2014 12:47PM

Subject: FW: The note (using a more secure address)

To: Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan

CC: Mohamed Mahmoud Al Khaja

From: Bernardino Leon Gross

Sent: 31 December 2014 02:50

To: Sultan Al Jaber (Mubadala)

Subject: The note (using a more secure address)

Your Highness, dear Abdala,

Libya is in my opinion entering in a new stage of the civil war, more generalised and aggressive. As I told you in Amman, Tripoli-Misrata attack against Ras Lanuf is the starting point of this escalation, and, unfortunately, Haftar response bombing Misrata is the other side of the coin. All combined may have the following effects:

- Going beyond the West-East line may provoke a tribal reaction all over Libya, although this probably will be a more qualitative than quantitative phenomenon, since will force the Misratans and their allies to fight all over Libya, although it is not clear to most analysts how alliances will unfold in the future. Haftar is probably relying on this tribal alliance against Misrata. This makes sense in a traditional Libyan perspective, but some analysts think that Misratans have also made strong alliances with some tribes, especially in the south, and that very probably these alliances will help them to have more military power on the ground. Their land forces are likely to be bigger than Zintan or Haftar’s land forces, at least in the short term.

- Haftar’s attack might be intended to deter Misratans, but I have the impression it will produce the opposite result, reinforcing the radicals who wish an all-out civil war under a radicalised leadership close to the most extreme elements of MB and other organisations.

- I have asked the parties to declare a unilateral ceasefire to allow international support to extinguish the fire and send experts to inspect the tanks and assess the danger of environmental damage. Tobruk has declared a kind of ceasefire giving three days to the other side to leave. Tripoli has asked me today that the request about Ras Lanuf ceasefire comes from the National Oil Company. Since it can very well be a way to procrastinate, I have sent an official letter asking them to do so, but I am not very optimistic.

in full: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/full-text-email-un-libya-envoy-bernardino-leon-uae-foreign-minister-1313023554

Like it or not, Turkey is now President Erdogan’s state

*Positive change once again elusive for the people of Turkey..sigh.

The resounding victory of the President’s party reflects the way he has shaped opinion

Patrick Cockburn

Monday 2 November 2015

Cars filled with militant supporters of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) celebrated its unexpectedly decisive victory in the Turkish parliamentary election by driving through the streets of Istanbul cheering and waving their party’s yellow and blue flags. They even penetrated the middle-class Bohemian district of Cihangir, where they beat drums and defiantly chanted the name of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Mr Erdogan himself was jubilant. “The national will manifested itself on 1 November in favour of stability,” he said after emerging from a mosque in Istanbul. “Let’s be as one, be brothers and all be Turkey together.”

Secular Turks opposed to the Islamic populist AKP were depressed in equal measure. Some were distributing by Facebook the names of countries like Uruguay and Antigua where Turks, appalled by the AKP’s success, could easily take refuge. In most cases, the thought of flight was not entirely serious, but the fact that some people are thinking about it is a measure of the degree to which Turkish society is divided between secular and Islamic, Kurd and Turk, Sunni and Alevi.

Watching voters enter a polling station at the Firuzaga Elementary School in Istanbul, it was easy to identify their political allegiance by their dress alone, the most obvious indication being whether not women were wearing headscarves.

remainder: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/like-it-or-not-turkey-is-now-president-erdogan-s-state-a6718651.html

Looking Back at the Repeal of Glass-Steagall, or, How the Banks Caught Casino Fever

** Taking a look back, here are links to how the votes went down

Senate Vote: http://www.govtrack.us/...
House Vote: http://www.govtrack.us/...

If you’ve been reading ND20, you know that the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act has been a key issue in both understanding the causes of the financial crisis and thinking about how to move forward. Glass-Steagall Act was introduced during the Great Depression, and was repealed in 1999, paving the way for banks to invest in nasty things like mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations.

As part of our ‘New Agenda for America’ series on the 80th anniversary of the Great Crash, TARP watchdog Elizabeth Warren weighed in on how President Roosevelt and the New Dealers brought innovative ideas to prevent another economic disaster, including Glass-Steagall, which separated banking from high-risk financial speculation (see “The Great Lesson”). Way back in the spring, Rob Johnson, Director of Financial Reform at the Roosevelt Institute, appeared on Al Jazeera to talk about the disastrous impact of doing away with the Glass-Steagall Act (Braintruster Rob Johnson Talks Bailouts to Fault Lines). More recently, Roosevelt Institute Braintruster Bruce Judson argued on this blog that we need an updated “Glass-Steagall 2.0″ that categorizes financial institutions and restricts their activities according (see Glass-Steagall 2.0: The American People Deserve An Explanation).

As our colleagues at Common Dreams point out, today is the 10-year anniversary of Glass-Steagall’s repeal. Robert Weissman writes: “It is an anniversary worth noting for what it teaches us about forestalling financial crises, the consequences of maniacal deregulation, and the out-of-control political power of the megafinancial institutions.”

Weissman notes that Glass-Steagall remained law until 1998, when Citicorp and Travelers Group announced they were merging:

Such a combination of banking and insurance companies was illegal under the Bank Holding Company Act, but was excused due to a loophole that provided a two-year review period of proposed mergers. The merger was premised on the expectation that Glass-Steagall would be repealed. Citigroup’s co-chairs Sandy Weill and John Reed led a swarm of industry executives and lobbyists who trammeled the halls of Congress to make sure a deal was cut. But as the deal-making on the bill moved into its final phase in Fall 1999, fears ran high that the entire exercise would collapse. (Reed now says repeal of Glass-Steagall was a mistake.)

Robert Rubin stepped into the breach. Having recently stepped aside as Treasury Secretary, Rubin was at the time negotiating the terms of his next job as an executive without portfolio at Citigroup. But this was not public knowledge at the time. Deploying the credibility built up as part of what the media had labeled “The Committee to Save the World” (Rubin, Fed Chair Alan Greenspan and then-Deputy Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, so named for their interventions in addressing the Asian financial crisis in 1997), Rubin helped broker the final deal.

The Financial Services Modernization Act, also known as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999, formally repealed Glass-Steagall. Among a long list of deregulatory moves large and small over the last two decades, Gramm-Leach-Bliley was the signal piece of financial deregulation.

The result? Casino fever took over commercial banking industry. Weissman quotes Roosevelt Institute Braintruster and Nobel Prize-winner Joseph Stiglitz:

in full: http://rooseveltinstitute.org/new-roosevelt/looking-back-repeal-glass-steagall-or-how-banks-caught-casino-fever

Dispatches: Restoring Justice to the US Justice System ( Human Rights Watch )

July 15, 2015

Yesterday, two days before his visit to the El Reno federal prison in Oklahoma – the first visit to a prison by a sitting United States president – President Barack Obama made a long-overdue and compelling call for the reform of the US criminal justice system.

In a speech before the civil rights organization the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People(NAACP) in Philadelphia, Obama referred to the US criminal justice system as “one aspect of American life that remains particularly skewed by race and by wealth, a source of inequity that has ripple effects on families and on communities and ultimately on our nation.”

It was a strong assertion. Obama’s speech encapsulated many of the concerns Human Rights Watch has raised in more than 20 years of research into the US criminal justice system: from the scourge of prison rape to the harms of solitary confinement; from racial disparities in drug enforcement to unfair sentences.

Obama specifically pointed to the damage caused by excessively long, disproportionate sentences, particularly for drug offenders: “In far too many cases, the punishment simply does not fit the crime. If you’re a low-level drug dealer, or you violate your parole, you owe some debt to society. You have to be held accountable and make amends. But you don’t owe 20 years. You don’t owe a life sentence. That's disproportionate to the price that should be paid.” To that end, Obama called for mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug crimes to be reduced, and in some cases eliminated.

in full: https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/07/15/dispatches-restoring-justice-us-justice-system

Israel's fall from grace

*In other words, Bibi's meme has been shot to hell

Meron Rapoport
Tuesday 14 July 2015 21:04 UTC

The deal with Iran takes the steam out of Netanyahu's political and military strategy. But that may prove to be Israel's lesser problem

Just four months ago, in March 2015, one month before election day, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu travelled to Washington to deliver what was described as the "speech of his life". The goal was to convince the American Congress not to allow a nuclear deal with Iran, which poses "a grave threat, not only to Israel, but also the peace of the entire world", as did the Nazi regime at its time.

The news coming Tuesday morning from Vienna, announcing a deal between Iran and the P 5 + 1 group (United States, Russia, Britian, France, China and Germany), may therefore mean that Netanyahu failed in what he himself portrayed as his historic mission: to prevent this deal with Islamic regime in Teheran which, according to him, will pave the way for a nuclear Iran in the very near future.

If Netanyahu believes in what he said in Congress earlier this year, he may feel that Israel now is dangerously closer to its doomsday end, that nuclear Iran will be able to fulfill its dream of wiping Israel off the map. It must be a very chilling feeling. If, on the other hand, he used – or abused – the Iranian threat as a pretext to garner votes among the already frightened Israeli electorate, the Iran deal may mark one of his most bitter political defeats.

True or false, the Iranian threat was one of the main flags, at times it has been the only one, which Netanyahu carried since he was reelected in 2009. He did not invest in this issue only his political and oratorical (some would add demagogical) skills. According to ex-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Netanyahu's governments spent 11bn NIS ($2.9bn) on military preparations for a possible attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.

- See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/israels-fall-grace-2034426860#sthash.lwZ4OSZM.dpuf

Pistachios, iPhones and flights: How will Iranians benefit from nuclear deal?

Talk is focusing on energy reform and big business investment, but initial change in Iran likely to be much more day-to-day

Simona Sikimic
Tuesday 14 July 2015 19:13 UTC
Last update:
Tuesday 14 July 2015 23:23 UTC

An Iranian grocer displays pistachios to a customer at his shop in Tehran (AFP)

After years of negotiations and much speculation, the Iranian nuclear deal has finally been penned.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that a “new chapter of hope” had been opened while US President Barack Obama said that the deal offered “an opportunity to move in a new direction”.

If all goes according to plan, Iran will scale back its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief, with the current agreement dictating nuclear development for the next 25 years.

Rosamund de Sybel, a director at the investigative and integrity consulting firm, K2 Intelligence , told MEE that she expects the lifting of “sanctions on oil exports and the banking sector to probably double Iran’s economic growth over the next few years”.

Economic growth estimates vary vastly from a 2 percent increase to a stellar 8 percent boost in the next few years although de Sybel says that a middle ground scenario - where growth would likely climb from around 3 percent today to 6 percent by 2017 - is most likely.

- See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/pistachios-iphones-and-flights-how-ordinary-iranians-will-benefit-deal-1788282382#sthash.wI4SxJoY.dpuf

Readers React Bernie Sanders: So you're saying there's a chance?

In his column on Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders this week, The Times’ Doyle McManus asked, “How far can Sanders go?”

Although he answered his own question (“A Sanders presidency? Sorry liberals. It’s not going to happen”), a dozen Times readers cheerfully, pointedly and specifically begged to differ.

Steve Binder in Oxnard, with an almost audible sigh, wrote:

I guess McManus stopped believing in Santa Claus at too early an age. I’m sure he doesn’t remember the “miracle on ice,” when a group of young American amateur hockey players defeated the Russians and win the gold medal in the 1980 Olympics. I’m sure he thought that Hillary Rodham Clinton was a slam dunk when a relatively unknown black man entered the 2008 presidential race. I think McManus doesn’t realize how angry the American public is with both parties, and that people are looking for someone who tells it like it is and has a track record to prove it. Someone like Bernie Sanders.

Domenico Maceri in San Luis Obispo says the question is outdated:

Sanders has already gone far. He may not make it to the White House, but he has already made valuable contributions in shifting the campaign toward serious ideas. The media should pay serious attention to what he is saying instead of focusing their attention on the racist comments we hear from Donald Trump.

June Stephenson Bailey in Palm Desert pointedly observed:

I am a 95-year-old Democrat, feminist, author — and previous supporter of Hillary Clinton. I am today switching support to Sanders because he is more effectively telling what Republicans have done to our country, changing it from a democracy — government run by the people — to a plutocracy — government run by the people with the most money.

While I feel the discomfort of disloyalty to Clinton, I have weighed what I believe to be in the better interest of our country. Clinton has the support of the establishment, but Sanders is awakening the previously disenchanted nonvoters, and the first-time hopeful young voters, to the destructive force of inequality that holds 99% of us in wage stagnation.


LIBOR: History’s Largest Financial Crime that the WSJ and NYT Would Like You to Forget

By William K. Black
Quito: July 8, 2015

I read a BBC story about the LIBOR criminal trial in the UK and was going to write to criticize its woeful analytics. In preparation I checked the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal to see how they reported the devastating testimony in the trial. I could not, however, find any coverage in my electronic searches and viewing their web pages.

To review the bidding, the LIBOR bid rigging cartel was the largest cartel in history, manipulating the prices of an estimated $300+ trillion in assets. That is a figure considerably larger than the world’s combined GDP. Here are typical statements by the Department of Justice (DOJ) about the LIBOR cartel.

“For years, employees at Deutsche Bank illegally manipulated interest rates around the globe – including LIBORs for U.S. Dollar, Yen, Swiss Franc and Pound Sterling, as well as EURIBOR – in the hopes of fraudulently moving the market to generate profits for their traders at the expense of the bank’s counterparties,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell. “Deutsche Bank is the sixth major financial institution that has admitted its misconduct in this wide-ranging criminal investigation, and today’s criminal resolution represents the largest penalty to date in the LIBOR investigation.”

snip* Until recently, I called the LIBOR cartels the largest in history by at least three orders of magnitude. The rigging of foreign exchange (FX) “markets,” however, is so large that that I now have to say that they represent the two largest cartels in history by roughly three orders of magnitude. Both cartels consisted of most of the world’s largest and most elite banks. Indeed, UBS has admitted that after it signed its anti-prosecution agreement with DOJ for its massive LIBOR frauds it violated that deal by continuing to rig the FX “markets” as a member of a group that called itself “the Cartel.” Contrary to theoclassical ideology, both cartels persisted for many years and were ended only by (desultory) government action.

remainder in full: http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2015/07/libor-historys-largest-financial-crime-that-the-wsj-and-nyt-would-like-you-to-forget.html

Joseph Stiglitz calls for US to intervene over Greece

By Damien Sharkov 7/9/15 at 6:57 PM

Nobel prize-winning economist and former chief economist of the World Bank Joseph Stiglitz has predicted "depression without end" if the austerity programme in Greece continues and called on the US to be "generous with our friends in Greece" as it once was generous with Germany after the Second World War.

Writing in Time magazine Stiglitz calls on Germany and the US to remember the past and claims that Germany has engaged in "propaganda" by portraying Greece not sympathetically but as "a long-failed state that refuses to go along with the minimal conditions demanded in return for generous aid."

snip* "Greece needs unconditional humanitarian aid; it needs Americans to buy its products, take its vacations, and show a solidarity with Greece and a humanity that its European partners were not able to display," Stiglitz writes.

Stiglitz claims that should Greece lose the euro it "may not be easy" but it would not be "the end of the world" for Greece, citing the example of Argentina's decision to unpeg their peso from the US dollar's hard currency instead of introducing more cuts to pay off debt.

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