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Index June 2008

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Russia: where are the petrodollars going

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Published on the russian edition of openDemocracy, by Dmitri Travin, June 25, 2008.

For the first time in years, inflation was oneveryone’s minds in the autumn of 2007. We thought it was a thing of the past.The 1990’s taught us hard lessons. The unwritten consensus among the elite was that creating money was a dangerous tool of macroeconomic regulation: the ‘printing machine’ had to be kept under strict control. No one would describe the head ofthe Finance Ministry Alexei Kudrin, or the head of the Central Bank Sergei Ignatiev, as populists, intent on flooding the market with rubles. But inflation rates, which had been going down ever since the end of the ‘90s, no longer are …

… Who is getting richer? However, today’s inflation is not the result of mistakes in the government’s economic policy. Nor can we blame the world market, although this is of course an important factor. Prices have risen in Russia because the country is getting richer. It becomes clearer all the time that we are paying with inflation for the large profits we are making from the sale of oiland gas. Since we developed a stable and promising Russian commodities market this has been exacerbated by the influx of foreign capital.

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Declare victory and get out

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Published on Online Journal, by Nicolas J S Davies, June 26, 2008.

As Americans cast their hopes and fears into the wishing-well of the U.S. presidential election, the United States is squandering the best chance it may ever get to withdraw its military and civilian occupation forces from Iraq on relatively favorable terms.

In 1991, President George Bush Senior avoided the trap of a land invasion of Iraq. One of his senior advisers told him that sooner or later the Iraqis would insist on holding elections, which “our guys will lose.” Twelve years later, Bush II and Cheney launched their desperate effort to reverse the nationalization of the global oil industry and to establish the aggressive and illegal use of U.S. military power as a dominant force in the 21st century. Whether you view this as a risky decision or a serious war crime depends on the relative value you attach to American wealth and human life …

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The politics of pressure, the world and Zimbabwe

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Published on openDemocracy, by Roger Southall, June 26, 2008.

The international reaction to Morgan Tsvangirai’s withdrawal from the presidential run-off election scheduled for 27 June 2008 may prove to be a key moment in the long-haul campaign to bring about political change and a return to democracy in Zimbabwe. Nelson Mandela’s pithy reference to the country’s “tragic failure of leadership” is only the most resonant of a range of critical judgments from African leaders; the latter enabled passage of an unprecedented and unanimous United Nations Security Council statement condemning violence against Zimbabwe’s opposition and saying that this has rendered a free and fair poll impossible …

… A new motion: Any credible answer to these and related questions depends on carrots and sticks. Much is made of the prospect of an “honourable” exit for Mugabe and amnesty for him and his politico-military cronies from domestic and international prosecution for multiple offences against domestic and international laws covering a myriad of crimes from corruption to genocide. Such concessions, distasteful though they may be, will have to be convincing (especially in the light of Charles Taylor’s arraignment before the special court for Sierra Leone in the premises of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, following the revocation of his immunity from prosecution in Nigeria). A massive infusion of international economic assistance and humanitarian relief, with particular material acknowledgment by Britain of its historic responsibility for the present mess, will also be called for.

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Americans Do Not Want Change

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Published on Countercurrents.org, by James Rothenberg, 25 June, 2008.

People simultaneously desire and fear change. This is not a contradiction. The human personality is complex enough to exhibit many complementary tendencies. Public opinion polls seem to reveal that change is desired over a broad range of domestic and foreign policies. That this is the case gives hint to an asymmetry in our political system.

There is an adversarial relationship between the general public and the politicians who represent it. The public thinks of itself, legitimately and rightly, as number one. For politicians number one is re-election. This is an inescapable conclusion in an electoral system that permits of greater than a single term. (Multiple and indefinite-term judges contribute to asymmetries in the judicial system. We don’t allow professional jurors)

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The IMF’s regressive secret

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Tax policy advice and its distributional impact

Published on bretton woods project.org, by Lauren Damme, Tiffany Misrahi and Stephanie Orel, June 17, 2008.

(A fully-formatted (but unreferenced) PDF version of this briefing is also available).

While tax policy and reform is an election battleground in developed countries, the IMF has increasingly turned it into a secret technocratic exercise in developing countries. This briefing examines the IMF’s involvement in providing advice on tax policy, particularly its recommendations for the imposition of value added taxes (VATs).

Taxation may not sound exciting, but it is central to the development of a nation. For this reason, the failure of numerous developing countries to collect taxes efficiently is a serious problem, as it renders them unable to provide basic social services

… Distributional effects ignored: Does the IMF look at the distributional consequences of its advice? The answer seems to be ‘not a lot’. The IMF mentions distributional consequences of their taxation advice in 25 per cent of the total sample. However, only one of these instances occurred in a low-income country, whilst the IMF acknowledges or addresses distributional consequences in 40 per cent of the lower-middle-income countries

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Robert McChesney’s

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The Political Economy Of Media (Part I).

Published on Countercurrents.org, by Stephen Lendman, 25 June, 2008.

Robert McChesney is a leading media scholar, critic, activist, and the nation’s most prominent researcher and writer on US media history, its policy and practice. He’s also University of Illinois Research Professor in the Institute of Communications Research and the Graduate School of Library and Information Science. UI is lucky to have him, and he says there’s “no better university in the United States to do critical communication research.”

McChesney also co-founded the Illinois Initiative on Global Information and Communication Policy in 2002. He hosts a popular weekly radio program called Media Matters on WILL-AM radio (available online), and is the 2002 co-founder and president of the growing Free Press media reform advocacy group – freepress.net.

McChesney and Free Press want to democratize the media and increase public participation in it. Doing it involves challenging media concentration, protecting Net Neutrality, and supporting the kinds of reforms highlighted at the annual National Conference for Media Reform.

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Opium of the masses – part 2

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Linked with Eric Walberg – Canada.

Published on Al-Ahram weekly online, part 2, by Eric Walberg, 29 May – June 04, 2008.

Read also part 1.

… Russia and the CSTO continue to confront US indifference to this nightmare, and have initiated an aid and military assistance programme for Afghanistan, which includes training Afghan anti- narcotic police. At the SCO summit in Kyrgyzstan last August, a draft plan was unveiled to work with the CSTO to create an “anti-narcotics belt” around Afghanistan.

Is all this part of some conspiracy by the US? From the Russians’ point of view, it certainly looks that way. US refusal to address the Russians’ complaints seriously just might be because Afghanistan’s opium requires secure routes to markets in Europe. A few conversations with US troops and/or mercenaries there strongly suggest they are not there for altruistic reasons. Cui bono?

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Mother Earth’s Triple Whammy

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Linked with John Feffer – USA.

Published on TomDispatch.com, by John Feffer, June 17, 2008.

… In the 1990s, North Korea was the world’s canary. The famine that killed as much as 10% of the North Korean population in those years was, it turns out, a harbinger of the crisis that now grips the globe – though few saw it that way at the time.

That small Northeast Asian land, one of the last putatively communist countries on the planet, faced the same three converging factors as we do now – escalating energy prices, a reduction in food supplies, and impending environmental catastrophe. At the time, of course, all the knowing analysts and pundits dismissed what was happening in that country as the inevitable breakdown of an archaic economic system presided over by a crackpot dictator.

They were wrong. The collapse of North Korean agriculture in the 1990s was not the result of backwardness. In fact, North Korea boasted one of the most mechanized agricultures in Asia. Despite claims of self-sufficiency, the North Koreans were actually heavily dependent on cheap fuel imports. (Does that already ring a bell?) In their case, the heavily subsidized energy came from Russia and China, and it helped keep North Korea’s battalion of tractors operating. It also meant that North Korea was able to go through fertilizer, a petroleum product, at one of the world’s highest rates. When the Soviets and Chinese stopped subsidizing those energy imports in the late 1980s and international energy rates became the norm for them, too, the North Koreans had a rude awakening.

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Unfolding Financial Meltdown on Wall Street

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What’s The Difference Between Lehman Brothers & Bear Stearns? Lehman’s CEO Sits On the Board Of The NY Fed

Published on Global Research.ca, by Ellen Brown, June 15, 2008.

An earlier article by this author (The Secret Bailout of JP Morgan) summarized evidence presented by John Olagues, an expert in options trading, suggesting that JPMorgan, far from “rescuing” Bear Stearns, was actually its nemesis. The faltering investment bank was brought down, not by “rumors,” but by insider trading based on a plan drawn up much earlier. The deal was a lucrative one for JPM, handing the Wall Street megabank $55 billion in loans from the Federal Reserve (meaning ultimately the U.S. taxpayer). So how did JPM get away with it? Olagues notes the highly suspicious fact that JPM’s CEO James Dimon sits on the Board of the New York Federal Reserve …

… Needless to say, Bear CEO Schwartz was not invited to the luncheon. “Lehman Bros. is one of the original stock holders of the New York Federal Reserve Bank,” Olagues observes. “Bear Stears does not now have any ownership in the FED banks.”

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politics by cartoons

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Linked with the BLACK CoMMentator.

The Black Commentator gives you a possibility to smile … even about politics.

Click here for all the cartoons.

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Fear and strange arithmetics

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… when powerful states confront powerless immigrants

Linked with Saskia Sassen – USA and Netherlands.

Published on openDemocracy, by Saskia Sassen, June 19, 2008.

(It is surprising to see the high price in terms of ethical and economic costs that powerful ‘liberal democracies’ seem willing to pay in order to control extremely powerless people who only want a chance to work. Immigrants and refugees have to be understood as a historical vanguard that signals major ‘unsettlements’ in both sending and receiving countries).

Most of the rich countries in the world have been bounced or scurried into fairly extreme state action aimed at controlling immigrants and refugees. But they have responded more to the idea of growing migrations than to the actual numbers.

Yes, worldwide migration flows have increased over the last two decades, but immigrants are about 3 percent of the global population. From an estimated 85 million international immigrants in the world, or 2.1 percent of the world population, in 1975, their numbers rose to 175 million by 2000, and to an estimated 185 to 192 million in 2005, or 2.9% of world population. Further, 60% of all immigrants are in the global south, leaving our global north countries with the remaining 40% of immigrants. The fact of the greater concentration of migrants in the developing world is often overlooked. Finally, also overlooked in much of the debate, is the extent of return migration. Thus, to mention just one example, a third of Polish immigrants in the UK have now gone back to Poland, after stays often as short as two years; they have learnt English, accumulated some savings and now want to return to the fuller lives they can have in their home countries …

… In conclusion:

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Switzerland – Security vs. Justice

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Linked with Ken Egli – Switzerland, with ISN Netwoork, and with Dick Marty – Switzerland.

Published on International Relations and Security Network ISN, by Ken Egli in Zurich for ISN Security Watch, Mai 28, 2008.

The destruction of sensitive files on two Swiss members of the Khan proliferation network raises questions for Bern and eyebrows over CIA involvement.

Commentary by Ken Egli in Zurich for ISN Security Watch (28/05/08)

On 23 May Pascal Couchepin, a member of the Swiss Federal Council informed the public about the shredding of sensitive materials regarding the involvement of three Swiss citizens in the nuclear proliferation network of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the “father” of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb.

Invoking a constitutional article that enables the federal government “to issue ordinances and orders to obviate existing or imminent great disturbances of the public order, the external or the inner security,” the Federal Council justified the destruction of the files by citing the existence therein of technological secrets that could be dangerous if they landed in the wrong hands.

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Gore Vidal’s Article of Impeachment

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Linked with Gore Vidal – USA.

Oublished on Truth dig, by Gore Vidal, June 11, 2008.

On June 9, 2008, a counterrevolution began on the floor of the House of Representatives against the gas and oil crooks who had seized control of the federal government. This counterrevolution began in the exact place which had slumbered during the all-out assault on our liberties and the Constitution itself.

I wish to draw the attention of the blog world to Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s articles of impeachment presented to the House in order that two faithless public servants be removed from office for crimes against the American people. As I listened to Rep. Kucinich invoke the great engine of impeachment—he listed some 35 crimes by these two faithless officials—we heard, like great bells tolling, the voice of the Constitution itself speak out ringingly against those who had tried to destroy it … (full text, June 11, 2008).

(Update: On Wednesday, the House voted by 251 to 166 to send Rep. Kucinich’s articles of impeachment to a committee which probably won’t get to the matter before Bush leaves office, a strategy that is “often used to kill legislation,” as the Associated Press noted later that day).

Scarcity in an Age of Plenty

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Published on CommonDreams (first on The Guardian/UK), by Joseph Stiglitz, June 16, 2008.

As food and fuel prices continue to increase the world must look to new patterns of consumption and production:

Around the world, protests against soaring food and fuel prices are mounting. The poor — and even the middle classes — are seeing their incomes squeezed as the global economy enters a slowdown. Politicians want to respond to their constituents’ legitimate concerns, but do not know what to do.

In the United States, both Hillary Clinton and John McCain took the easy way out, and supported a suspension of the gasoline tax, at least for the summer. Only Barack Obama stood his ground and rejected the proposal, which would have merely increased demand for gasoline — and thereby offset the effect of the tax cut.

But if Clinton and McCain were wrong, what should be done? One cannot simply ignore the pleas of those who are suffering. In the US, real middle-class incomes have not yet recovered to the levels attained before the last recession in 1991 …

… Rich countries must reduce, if not eliminate, distortional agriculture and energy policies, and help those in the poorest countries improve their capacity to produce food. But this is just a start: we have treated our most precious resources — clean water and air — as if they were free. Only new patterns of consumption and production — a new economic model — can address that most fundamental resource problem. (full text).

(Joseph Stiglitz is university professor at Columbia University. In 2001, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics. His latest book is Making Globalization Work).

Is The U.S A Genocidal Nation?

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Published on Countercurrents.org, by James A. Lucas, 15 June, 2008.

Presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton recently threatened to destroy Iran. On April 22nd of this year it was reported that she was asked what she would do as president if Iran were to launch a nuclear attack on Israel. She responded to ABC News that “we will attack Iran” and that “we would be able to totally obliterate them.”(1) Thus she expressed her willingness to erase 75 million Iranians from the face of the earth …

… Our nation’s opposition to mass killings also often extends to people in other nations. Our abhorrence of the Holocaust has convinced many Americans to endorse the existence of the state of Israel. Americans actively support anti-genocide campaigns such as in Darfur, and numerous U.S. public and private humanitarian agencies organize drives to send assistance to peoples suffering from natural disasters around the world such as in China and Myanmar. We consider ourselves to be a benevolent and generous people.
Despite this positive self-image a partial examination of U.S. foreign policy starting in 1945 reveals a disturbing proclivity for the U.S. to engage in a reckless disregard for the lives of people in other nations, similar to the attitude expressed by Senator Clinton. There is widespread acceptance of the killing of about 200,000 civilians at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, because it is believed by some that this action was necessary to save American lives. No one has tried to find out, as far as I know, if there was an upper limit to the number of Japanese that the U.S. would have been willing, if necessary, to sacrifice at that time. Japan’s population then was about 70 million. (2)

In 1965, a coup in Indonesia resulted in the deaths of between 500,000 to 3 million people (3,4,5)
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Is Fascism an Impeachable Offense?

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Published on AfterDowningStreet.org, by David Swanson, 2008-06-15.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers consistently lists among his reasons for not holding impeachment hearings, his fear of the corporate media. But last week the corporate media exhibited its fear of impeachment. Only those voices in support of Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s articles of impeachment spoke. Others kept quiet. The network news shows avoided the topic, but the cable news shows gave us Keith Olbermann promoting impeachment on MSNBC, and Jack Cafferty on CNN saying things like:

“Congress continues to refuse to exercise its Constitutional responsibility, which is oversight of the executive branch of our government. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi long ago said ‘Impeachment is off the table.’ This is a joke. We have a president who has abused the power of his office over and over and over again. It’s what got the Democrats elected to the majority in Congress in 2006. Now it’s election time again, and every member of the House is up for reelection in November. The Democrats are no doubt worried what it will look like to many voters if they spend their time on impeachment. To hell with what’s right or wrong. What will it look like? . . . What does it mean when Congress refuses to even consider 35 articles of impeachment against President Bush?”

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Abschlusserklärung der Kritischen Islamkonferenz

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(verabschiedet am 1.6.2008)

Oneline auf der Webseite der Kritischen Islamkonferenz veröffentlicht

Die Kritische Islamkonferenz geht vom Recht eines jeden Menschen aus, sein Leben individuell zu gestalten. Eine Gesellschaft, die sich „frei“ und „demokratisch“ nennt, muss dem Rechnung tragen, indem sie Rahmenbedingungen herstellt, die Emanzipation fördern. Folglich kritisieren wir die Initiativen von Bundesinnenminister Wolfgang Schäuble und anderer deutscher Politiker, die eine verbesserte Integration von Zuwanderern durch eine Stärkung der „religiösen Identität“ zu erreichen versuchen. Hierdurch wird Individuen eine Gruppenidentität zugeschrieben, was Emanzipation nicht fördert, sondern erschwert …

… Im Sinne der Verteidigung einer fortschrittlich-emanzipatorischen Zukunftsperspektive halten wir es für notwendig, die islamische Herrschaftskultur in aller Entschiedenheit zu kritisieren. Wir rufen die Öffentlichkeit dazu auf, folgende Forderungen und Vorschläge zu unterstützen:

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Share the World’s Resource STWR

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Linked with Share the World’s Resource STWR on our NGO blog.

Received by mail:

From: STWR Newsletter
Date: 13/06/2008

Our new website was going live this afternoon, please note that it has a new domain.

Newsletters: We will send out our first newsletter from the new site next week. Please could you add the new email address to your ‘not-spam’ or ‘allowed’ list.

If you encounter any problems or have any question, please contact us by e-mail.

1968: the global legacy

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Linked with Fred Halliday – Ireland.

(The romantic celebration of a year of protest misses its silences and failures – and thus its true, long-term global political significance, says Fred Halliday)

Published on openDemocracy, by Fred Halliday, June 11, 2008.

With the coming of the dawn, the promises of the night fade away”. In politics, as in love, the old Spanish saying sounds a pertinent warning; not least in regard to the memorialisation and assessment which the events of 1968 (and particularly the Paris uprising of May of that year) are receiving on their fortieth anniversary.

Anyone who lived through those exhilirating and formative times – as I did at the age of 22 – can testify to the hurricane force of that year. Like every such phenomenon it carried multiple elements: in this case a generation’s visceral rejection of the accumulated conformism of post-1945 Europe and north America; a heady encounter with new forms of music, art, thinking, and debate; and a many-centred solidarity with global movements of protest and revolt – be they in Vietnam and Latin America, in Czechoslovakia and Russia, or in the United States among African-Americans and anti-war protesters …

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Special weapons have a fallout on babies

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Published on Countercurrent.org, by Ali al-Fadhily & Dahr Jamail, 12 June, 2008.

3 excerpts: FALLUJAH, Jun 12 (IPS) – Babies born in Fallujah are showing illnesses and deformities on a scale never seen before, doctors and residents say.

The new cases, and the number of deaths among children, have risen after “special weaponry” was used in the two massive bombing campaigns in Fallujah in 2004. After denying it at first, the Pentagon admitted in November 2005 that white phosphorous, a restricted incendiary weapon, was used a year earlier in Fallujah.

In addition, depleted uranium (DU) munitions, which contain low-level radioactive waste, were used heavily in Fallujah. The Pentagon admits to having used 1,200 tonnes of DU in Iraq thus far …

… “These cases need intensive international efforts that provide the highest and most recent technologies that we will not have here in a hundred years,” he added. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) expressed concern Mar. 31 about the lack of medical supplies in hospitals in Baghdad and Basra.
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Potential Future Hyperinflation

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Linked with Walter Jon Williams – USA.

Published on Countercurrents.org, by Stephen Lendman, 10 June, 2008.

Some excerpts of a long text: Walter Jon Williams thinks out of the box. He makes disquieting reading, but you won’t find him in the mainstream. At least not often. He runs a “Shadow Government Statistics” site with an electronic by-subscription newsletter. Anyone can access some of his data and occasional special reports. They can also assess his reasoning. In his judgment, government data are manipulated, corrupted and unreliable. He’s not alone thinking that …

… Another example is how federal deficits are calculated. Beginning with Nixon in 1969, a “unified budget” was adopted to artificially lower them by offsetting expenditures with “off-budget” Social Security revenues. The idea was to hide government’s true cost at a time wartime and Great Society spending was high and would later factor into the 1970s and 1980s inflation. If deficits were calculated then and now by GAAP methodology (required of all publicly-traded corporations), they’d be much higher than annually reported – since the 1970s, in multiple trillions of dollars; fiscal alchemy sweeps them under the rug …

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Rome’s food summit

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Linked with Jean Ziegler – Switzerland, son web en français: and in english: his reports on UN.org: with Crise alimentaire, with Suffering Hunger, and with Genocide by design.

“How can we explain that it was not possible to find US$30bil (RM97.8bil) a year to enable 862 million hungry people to enjoy the right to food?” he asked … (full text, June 9, 2008).

… There is one exception to the lack of additionality, which is the funding promised by non-traditional donors. Saudi Arabia, for example, gave $500 million to the WFP in May 2008, helping that agency to exceed its appeal target for emergency aid. That’s a generous, one-off gift. But, at the same time, Saudi Arabia is reaping huge profits from the rise in the price of oil. When the price of oil goes up by, say, $30 per barrel, then Saudi Arabia is gifted nearly $300 million a day in extra revenue – so the gift to WFP represents the windfall profit from one weekend.

Saudi Arabia is not alone, of course. The top ten oil exporters include Russia, Iran, the UAE, Venezuela, Kuwait, and Algeria, none of which are mainstream aid donors.

Some have suggested a windfall tax on oil producers. A better suggestion might be to sign up large and rich oil exporters to the club of aid donors. One-off gifts are very welcome; even better would be long-term commitments, predictable and accountable, delivered bilaterally or through the United Nations, the World Bank and the regional development banks. The richer oil producers should commit themselves to the UN target of providing 0.7% of GNP as aid, and sign up to donor best practice in areas where they can make a real difference. (full text).

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stop-finance

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Linked with Dominique Plihon – France, with the Community Exchange System CES, and with the Canterbury Community Dollar CCD. Linked also with ATTAC France.

reçu par mail:

Sujet: [stop-finance] Spéculation et crises : ça suf fit ! Premier séminaire européen à Paris, le 21 juin 2008;
De: “Equipe stop-finance.org” (e-mail) ;
Date: 07/06/2008 .

(We will send an english version soon).

Cher(es) signataires,

La pétition européenne “Spéculation et crises : ça suffit !” a atteint 36 000 signatures en ligne et sa version papier a été signée par 2 500 personnes.

Pour poursuivre sur cette lancée, le collectif initiateur vous invite à un premier séminaire européen qui se tiendra à l’Université de Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, de 9h30 à 17h le 21 juin 2008 (Présentation ci-dessous).

Des informations plus détaillées sur le programme et les intervenants vous seront envoyées en début de semaine prochaine.

Pour vous inscrire, il suffit d’envoyer un mail à Caroline Robert /ATTAC, avant le mardi 17 juin en indiquant vos nom, prénom ainsi que votre pays.

Pour le collectif initiateur “Stop-finance”:

——————————————-

Présentation du séminaire européen “Spéculation et crises : ça suffit !”

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Destroying African Agriculture

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Linked with Walden Bello – Philippines, and with Foreign Policy in Focus FPIF.

Published on Foreign Policy In Focus, by Walden Bello, 07 June, 2008.

Biofuel production is certainly one of the culprits in the current global food crisis. But while the diversion of corn from food to biofuel feedstock has been a factor in food prices shooting up, the more primordial problem has been the conversion of economies that are largely food-self-sufficient into chronic food importers. Here the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Trade Organization (WTO) figure as much more important villains.

Whether in Latin America, Asia, or Africa, the story has been the same: the destabilization of peasant producers by a one-two punch of IMF-World Bank structural adjustment programs that gutted government investment in the countryside followed by the massive influx of subsidized U.S. and European Union agricultural imports after the WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture pried open markets.

African agriculture is a case study of how doctrinaire economics serving corporate interests can destroy a whole continent’s productive base.

From Exporter to Importer: … (full text).

Crise alimentaire

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Publié dans le Monde, par Laura Marzouk, 6 juin 2008.

Jean Ziegler est l’ancien rapporteur de l’ONU sur le droit à l’alimentation. Il est aujourd’hui membre du comité consultatif du conseil des droits de l’homme des Nations unies et auteur du livre L’Empire de la honte (édition Le Livre de poche).

Le sommet de la FAO, à Rome, sur la crise alimentaire mondiale s’est clôturé, jeudi 5 juin. Que faut-il retenir de ce congrès ?

Jean Ziegler : C’est un échec total, c’est extraordinairement décevant, et très inquiétant pour l’avenir des Nations unies. Le sommet est assez unique dans l’histoire de cette organisation : plus de 50 chefs d’Etat et de gouvernement se sont réunis pour discuter de solutions concrètes à apporter à l’effroyable massacre quotidien de la faim, qui s’aggrave encore avec l’explosion des prix mondiaux des matières premières agricoles depuis cinq ou six mois. Mais le résultat de cette conférence est totalement scandaleux : l’intérêt privé s’est imposé, au lieu de l’intérêt collectif. Les décisions prises à Rome risquent d’aggraver la faim dans le monde, au lieu de la combattre.

Quels engagements des membres de la FAO auriez-vous souhaité ?

Je souhaitais trois décisions. Tout d’abord, l’interdiction totale de brûler de la nourriture pour en faire des biocarburants. Ensuite, retirer de la Bourse la fixation des prix des aliments de base, et instaurer un système où le pays producteur négocie directement avec le pays consommateur pour exclure le gain spéculatif. Troisièmement, que les institutions de Bretton Woods, notamment le Fonds monétaire international, donnent la priorité absolue dans les pays les plus pauvres aux investissements dans l’agriculture vivrière, familiale et de subsistance … (texte entier).

 

 

Is the economy grinding to a halt?

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Published on The Sunday Times, by David Smith, June 8, 2008.

ALL the news fit to print about the economy is very gloomy. In a matter of weeks the credit crunch’s bite has got harder and evidence of a sharp slowdown tangible.

Add in blunt warnings from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, roughly suggesting Britain has been transformed from model economy into basket case, and it looks like the last rites …

… Economists at UBS, in a presentation last week, argued strongly that in advanced economies the downward risks to growth from the credit crunch far outweighed the upward dangers for inflation from rising food and commodity prices.

That is not the view of the European Central Bank, whose president, Jean-Claude Trichet, warned on Thursday that the ECB could be raising interest rates by a quarter-point to 4.25% next month. If that seems strange, perhaps we should be grateful for the fact that the Bank is merely content to keep its rate on hold at 5%, as it did last week.

Normally I would argue for a cut, but these are not normal times. A rate cut now would be wasted ammunition, costing credibility for little gain, particularly when set against the ECB’s hawkishness. Until the usual transmission mechanism for monetary policy is restored there is no point in the Bank doing anything.

P.S.: … (full text).

Obama and Economy

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McCain, Obama Remain Mysteries on Economy: published on USnews.com, by Bonnie Erbe, June 06, 2008 – This week’s unexpectedly high unemployment figures emphasize the importance of the economy in the upcoming presidential race. Sen. John McCain’s toughest hurdle is convincing voters he can steer the economy toward recovery. Voters trust Democrats to right the economy to a much greater extent at this point than they trust Republicans. And with good reason: No president in recent history as done as much economic damage as President Bush, with wanton spending, huge tax cuts, and little regard for record deficits … (full text).

Can’t do anything at home with $12 billion a month on Iraq: published on On The Issues – The fact that we’re spending $12 billion every month in Iraq means that we can’t engage in the kind of infrastructure improvements that are going to make us more competitive, we can’t deliver on the kinds of health care reforms that Clinton and I are looking for. McCain is willing to have these troops over there for 100 years. The notion that we would sustain that kind of effort and neglect not only making us more secure here at home, more competitive here at home, allow our economy to sink. Source: Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin, Feb 21, 2008.

More links:

Plan to Strengthen the Economy, September 17, 2007;

Obama Presents Economic Plan Today, Sept. 17, 2007;

Obama’s Economic Brain Trust Breaks With `Status Quo’ (Update1), by Rich Miller and Matthew Benjamin, May 10, 2008;

More results for ‘Obama Economy’ on Google news-search, on Google video-search, on Google blog-search, on Google scholar-search, and on Google book-search;

Remember: Confessions of an Economic Hit Man; and Video-debates about Economy and Society.

Abu Dhabi unveil plans for sustainable city

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Linked with posts on my privat photos blog, like Abu Dhabi – in and arround the big Marina Mall, with Abu Dhabi – Fountain near the Sea-Sheraton, with Abu Dhabi – fountains in the city, with Abu Dhabi – sea shore park fountains, and many more on the mentionned blog.

Published on ENN, from WWF, January 14, 2008.

WWF and the government of Abu Dhabi today launched a Sustainability tStrategy to deliver the world’s greenest city.

Masdar City will be the world’s first zero-carbon, zero-waste, car-free city, meeting or exceeding a set of stringent sustainability goals established under the “One Planet Livingâ„¢” programme established by WWF and environmental consultancy BioRegional.

In a first for a city scale project, Masdar City’s delivery on these targets is to be the subject of independent and public assessment. Another key undertaking differentiating Masdar City is the commitment to minimise any ec will be the world’s first zero-carbon, zero-waste, car-free city. Through the “One Planet Livingâ„¢” programme, a global initiative launched by WWF and environmental consultancy BioRegional, WWF will work with Masdar to ensure the city meets standards of sustainability which include specific targets for the city’s ecological footprint.

Masdar City plans to exceed the criteria of the programme, making it a global benchmark for sustainable urban development. Masdar’s delivery on these targets will be independently and publicly verified, a point of distinction with developments outside the One Planet Living framework … (full text).

En français sur maxcitations.blogspot.

Open borders, global future

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Published on open Democracy, by Brian K Murphy, June 4, 2008.

At least 200 million of the world’s people – between 3% and 5% of its total population – are currently on the move outside their country of origin. Many of these would have preferred to stay where they were if they could. Another untold number would move if they could, but can’t. Many simply are looking for better opportunities, as human beings have done for millennia. The realities of globalisation – economic, environmental, familial – mean that these numbers are bound to increase. Migration is perhaps the major issue of our times. It is an issue that dominates the daily lives of people around the world – those who are in transit, and those they leave behind – and preoccupies governments everywhere …

… At the same time, this dialogue will need to be rooted in a frank analysis of the economic benefits that migrants bring to host countries, along with the costs incurred, both by the receiving country and the country of emigration. But there can no longer be any doubt that in general migrants are an economic and social boon, and that the exception is largely in those places where – and to the extent which – movement is forced or restricted, and rights curtailed.

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Tell Congress to listen to McClellan

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… White House claims on Iran are suspect

Published on CNN/politics.com, Ed Hornick, Rebecca Sinderbrand and Alexander Mooney contributed, May 31, 2008, (Click there on video to watch him for 19.41 min – runs automatically to next videos about, you listen while you work).

Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, whose tell-all book blasts the Bush administration on issues including Hurricane Katrina, the election and the Iraq war, didn’t say Friday whether he still considers himself a Republican.

But he did say he supports parts of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama’s agenda …

… McClellan told CNN that reports the publisher of his book doesn’t pay higher than six-figure advances to its authors is “an accurate account of things” but wouldn’t say exactly how much of an advance he was paid.

“When people say, ‘He’s out there to make a profit,’ one, they don’t know me or my upbringing and my reasoning. They haven’t had a chance to read the book,” he said. “Two, they don’t know ["What Happened" publisher] Public Affairs and the kind of publisher that they are”. (full text).

Links:

e-mail Just Foreign Policy, their Newsletter of Just Foreign Policy, and their homepage;

Ex-Press Aide Writes That Bush Misled U.S. on Iraq, May 28, 2008;

Campaign for a new policy on Iran;

Countdown with Keith Olbermann‘ for Thursday, May 29, Read the transcript to the Thursday show.

China’s food security guaranteed

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China’s agriculture minister says food security guaranteed after quake

Published on xinhuanet.com/english, (first) by China View, 2008-06-05.

Food security in China is guaranteed despite the recent major earthquake and heavy snowfalls earlier this year, China’s Agriculture Minister Sun Zhengcai said in an interview with Xinhua.

“The earthquake will not change the nation-wide situation of agricultural production this year since local output of the affected area is quite small compared to that of the whole country,” Sun said, who was attending a world summit here on soaring food prices, hosted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) …

… If there are no more major disasters, China is expected to have a big summer harvest this year, with grain output set to rise for the fifth consecutive year. Even in southern China, oilseeds, which had been feared to drop due to the snowfalls, would reverse the declining trend in the previous three years.

Sun said as a huge, developing country with 1.3 billion people, China has always paid great attention to food and agricultural development.

The Chinese government will continue to adhere to the food security policy of basic self-sufficiency, complemented by imports and exports to readjust surplus and shortfalls, he said. (full text).

Early Child Development ECD

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Published on Brookings.edu, 2008 The Brookings Institution.

Early Child Development ECD refers to a combination of programs and policies aimed at improving the nutrition, health, cognitive and psycho-social development, education and in some situations, social protection, of young children.

Young children are particularly vulnerable to adversities during the first five years of life. Impoverished environments take a far greater toll on young children, for the effects are lifelong and costly to remediate. Children born into poverty are less likely to receive adequate cognitive stimulation, nurturing or nutrition and are more likely to suffer from chronic health problems, perform poorly in school and drop out of school at high rates. As future adult participants in the labor market, they are able to perform only unskilled jobs and earn the lowest wages. When they have children, the cycle of inherited poverty is repeated. Children who participate in ECD programs are healthier, attain higher rates of education, are less likely to become involved in crime, and have greater employment opportunities in later life. ECD is a mechanism by which the cycle of inherited poverty can be broken … (full text).

Links:

Grant to Help Viet Nam Improve Disadvantaged Children’s Development;

CRCW, the Center for Research on Child Wellbeeing, Princeton.edu;

The Political Economy of Palestinian Children: An Examination of the Linkages between Economic Policy and Child Welfare;

Linking Economic Development and Child Care; and quantitative database (downloade); and qualitative database;

Sex differences in a simulated classroom economy, Children’s beliefs about entrepreneurship;

Google book-result for children development.

The Corporations – Killers of Democracy

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Linked with Siv O’Neall – Sweden.

Published on Axis of Logic, by Siv O’Neall, Jun 1, 2008.

It’s way too late at this moment to ask the question: Are we going to lose our democracy? We may not all have noticed it yet, but the Big Corporations stole our democracy a long time ago …

… So the real rulers of the world, the Big Corporations, are condemning us to a life of increased poverty and hunger in third-world countries, a general increase in insecurity and joblessness for middle class people in the western world and increased pollution in the emerging economies in Asia, where the standard of living is actually rising – for the rich. And of course, alongside all these disasters, we are seeing the lives of steadily increasing luxury for the people who are reaping the profits of the plunder. The Corporations see to it that the so-called governments, their obedient front men, cut back the taxes on the top levels of income, on capital gains and on inheritance …

… There are several ways of producing renewable energy, but who cares? There is no money in it. There is, above all, solar and wind energy waiting to be developed, but no big-scale efforts have been made so far to save the planet using these fabulous non-polluting sources of energy. On a small scale, yes, enough to prove that it works. Even the tidal movements of ocean water can very efficiently be used to make energy. But it wouldn’t make any big bucks for the Corporations. And the Corporation is King. So what happens? We have opted for the destruction of the planet.

In short, the world has been taken over by the Big Corporations hand-in-hand with the Main Stream Media and they are all busy shredding our human rights and making our planet into a sterile desert. As long as wildfire capitalism is ruling the world, we are doomed. (full text).

Annual Report and Accounts 2007

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Also interesting for Human Rights and Economic activists: once a year at least to have a look on what is happening in the worldwide business, for exemple find on AVIVA.com, this report on June 1, 2008:

Download:

AVIVA plc – Annual Report and Accounts 2007, 278 pages;

or its review of 32 pages;

or its Financial Statements in Excel.

U.N. Security Council Seat: China Outsmarts India

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Published on Worldpress.org, by Sreeram Chaulia, May 30, 2008.

The symphony of South-South cooperation at the recent conclave of foreign ministers of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) at Yekaterinburg, Russia, was jarred by China’s refusal to endorse India’s bid for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council …

… These contradictory logics in the India-China relationship are fueled by the disentanglement of the private sector from the state in both countries. The enormous corporate interests of India and China view their counterparts across the McMahon Line as compatriots with whom business can be done for mutual benefit. Economic liberalization and private sector booms in both countries have unleashed an appetite for economic interaction that does not have to wait for resolution of military and strategic conflicts. Whether or not China is sympathetic to India becoming a permanent member of the Security Council is immaterial to exporters and importers of the two countries, as long as their profits flow.
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Scientists puzzled by absence of foreshocks

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… and other typical precursors prior to China Earthquake

Published on Global Research.ca, May 31, 2008.

BEIJING, May 20 (Xinhua) — Some scientists were puzzled by the unusual quiet period of quakes before the 8.0-magnitude earthquake struck southwest China. But others believe there had been precursors, which stood as warnings for a major quake.

“There were no foreshocks and the activity level of minor quakes around the epicenter was low for quite a long time before the earthquake,” said Xiu Jigang, deputy director of the China Seismological Bureau (CSB).

He said there were no short-term anomaly of animals, underground water and other typical precursors, which can lead to a prediction of a major earthquake.
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