Category Archives: Egypt

internet freedom and the sovereigns of cyberspace

With two controversial internet ‘anti-piracy’ bills, SOPA and PIPA, now moving through Congress, Rebecca MacKinnon, author of the forthcoming book, “Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom” spoke on yesterday’s Democracy Now! about the clampdown on internet freedom, as well as the dangerous rise of internet surveillance:

[And so,] it’s very important that people who are exercising power, whether they’re corporate or whether they’re government, that are exercising power over what we can see, over what we can access, over what we can publish and transmit through these digital spaces, need to be held accountable, and we need to make sure that power is not being abused in these digital spaces and platforms that we depend on. And so, that’s why this SOPA and PIPA legislation and the fight over it is so important, is who are you empowering to decide what people can and cannot see and do on the internet, and how do you make sure that that power is not going to be abused in ways that could have political consequences.

MacKinnon cites examples from all over the world showing how the internet can be controlled or else used for control. Here is China:

And China, in many ways, is exhibit A for how an authoritarian state survives the internet. And how do they do that? They have not cut off their population from the internet. In fact, the internet is expanding rapidly in China. They now have over 500 million internet users. And the Chinese government recognizes that being connected to the global internet is really important for its economy, for its education, for its culture, for innovation. Yet, at the same time, they have worked out a way to filter and censor the content overseas that they feel their citizens should not be accessing.

And what’s even more insidious, actually, is the way in which the state uses the private sector to conduct most of its censorship and surveillance. So, actually, what we know as the Great Firewall of China that blocks Twitter and Facebook, that’s only one part of Chinese internet censorship. Actually, most Chinese internet users are using Chinese-language websites that are run by Chinese companies based in China, and those companies are all held responsible for everything their users are doing. And so, they have to hire entire departments of people to monitor their users at the police’s behest and also to not just block, but delete content that the Chinese government believes infringes Chinese law. And, of course, when—in a country where crime is defined very broadly to include political and religious dissent, that involves a great deal of censorship. And it’s being conducted, to a great degree, not by government agents, but by private corporations who are complying with these demands in order to make a profit in China.

This is Egypt:

Facebook has its own kind of type of governance, which is why I call private internet companies the “sovereigns of cyberspace.” And so, Facebook has a rule where it requires that its users need to use their real name, their real identity. And while some people violate that rule, that makes them vulnerable to having their account shut down if they are discovered. And so, the reason they do this is that they want people to be accountable for their speech and prevent bullying and so on. And that may make sense in the context of a Western democracy, assuming that you’re not vulnerable in your workplace or anything like that, which is even a question, but it means that you have to be—as an Egyptian activist or as an activist in Syria and so on, you’re more exposed, because you have to be on Facebook using your real name.

And actually, a group of prominent activists in Egypt who were using Facebook to organize an anti-torture movement were doing so, before the regime fell, under fake names, and actually, at a critical point where they were trying to organize a major protest, their Facebook group went down, because they were in violation of the terms of service. And they actually had to find somebody in the U.S. to take over their Facebook page so that they could continue to operate.

And this is America:

American political cartoonist, Mark Fiore, had an app in which he was making fun of a range of politicians, including President Obama, and Apple App Store nannies decided to censor that app, because they considered it to be too controversial, even though that speech was clearly protected under the First Amendment. So you have companies making these judgments that go well beyond sort of our judicial and constitutional process.

But much worse, here is America again (and I had no idea how much access the US government already has to investigate the private lives of citizens – the bold highlight is added):

And there’s also a real issue, I think, in the way in which our laws are evolving when it comes to government access to information stored on corporate servers, that is supposed to be private, that we are not intending to be seen in public, which is that, according to the PATRIOT Act and a range of other law that has been passed in recent years, it’s much easier for government agencies to access your email, to access information about your postings on Twitter, even if they’re anonymous, than it is for government agents to come into your home and search your personal effects. To do that, they need a warrant. There is very clear restriction on the government’s ability to read your mail. Yet, according to current law, if your email is older than 180 days old, the government can access your email, if it’s stored on Gmail or Yahoo! or Hotmail, without any kind of warrant or court order. So, there’s a real erosion of our Fourth Amendment rights, really, to protection from unreasonable search and seizure. And this is going on, I think, to a great degree without a lot people realizing the extent to which our privacy rights are being eroded.

Click here to read a full transcript of the interview

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Filed under analysis & opinion, China, Egypt, internet freedom, Iran, mass surveillance, Tunisia, Uncategorized, USA

how the markets make famine

The Food Crisis Strikes Again

Esther Vivas

The threat of a new food crisis is already a reality. The price of food began to rise to record levels again, according to the FAO Food Price Index of February, 2011, which does a monthly analysis of global prices of a basic food basket made up of grains, seed oils, dairy products, meat and sugar. The Index came to a new historic maximum, the highest since the FAO began to study food prices in 1990. In the past months, prices have leveled off but analysts predict more hikes in the coming months.

This increase in the cost of food, especially basic grains, has serious consequences for southern countries with low incomes and dependency on food imports, and for the millions of families in these countries that devote between 50 and 60 percent of their income to food—a figure that rises to 80 percent in the poorest countries. In these countries, the rise in the price of food products makes them inaccessible.

We are approaching a billion people—one out of every six on the planet—that today do not have access to adequate food. World Bank president, Robert Zoellick, affirmed that the current food crisis has increased the number of persons who suffer chronic hunger by 44 million. In 2009, this number was surpassed, reaching 1.023 billion people undernourished on the planet, a figure that went down slightly in 2010, but without returning to the levels before the food and economic crisis of 2008 and 2009.

The present crisis takes place in the context of an abundance of food. Food production has multiplied over the three decades since the sixties, while the world population has merely doubled since then. There’s plenty of food. Contrary to what international institutions like the FAO, World Bank and World Trade Organization say, it’s not a problem of production, but rather a problem of access to food. These organizations urge an increase in production through a new Green Revolution, which would only make the food, social and ecological crises worse.

Popular Rebellions

The popular rebellions in northern Africa and the Middle East had among the many catalysts the rise in food prices. In December of 2010, in Tunis, the poorest of the population occupied the frontline of the conflict, demanding, among other things, access to food.

In January of 2011, youth demonstrated in Algeria blocking highways, burning stores and attacking police stations to protest for the rise of prices in basic foods. Similar cases were seen in Jordan, Sudan and Yemen. Egypt is the largest importer of wheat in the world, and depends on food imports.

Evidently other factors came into play in the uprisings: high unemployment, lack of democratic freedoms, corruption, lack of housing and basic services, etc. In any case, the rise in food prices was one of the initial catalysts.

A Central Cause

What are the causes of the new spike in the cost of our meals? Although international institutions and experts have pointed to several elements such as meteorological phenomena that affect harvests in produce countries, the increase in the demand in emerging countries, financial speculation, the growing production of agrofuels, among others—various indices point to speculation with raw food materials as one of the main reasons for food price increases.

In 2007-2008 the world experienced a profound food crisis. Basic foods prices such as wheat, soy and rice rose by 130%, 87% and 74% respectively. Then, as now, several causes converged, but the most important were production of agrofuels and the growing speculative investment in the food futures markets. But this increase in the price of food leveled off in 2009, in part probably due to the economic crisis and a reduction in financial speculation.

By mid 2010, with international financial markets calmed down and huge sums of public money injected into the private banks, food speculating struck again and the price of foods began to rise. To “save the banks”, after the financial crisis of 2008-2009, it is estimated that the governments of rich countries gave a total of $20 trillion dollars to stabilize the banking system and lower interest rates.

With the influx of money, speculators saw incentives to acquire new loans and buy merchandise that predictably would rise rapidly in value. The same banks, high-risk funds, etc. that caused the subprime mortgage crisis are currently responsible for speculation in raw materials and the rise in the price of food, taking advantage of unregulated global commodity markets.

The food crisis is intimately linked to the economic crisis and the logic of a system that promotes, for example, plans to bail out Greece and Ireland while sacrificing their sovereignty to international institutions, just as it sacrifices food sovereignty of the peoples to the interests of the market.

A Grower’s Guarantee or a Speculator’s Bonanza?

There has always been some speculation in the price of foods and this is the logic behind futures markets. In their current form, futures markets date back to the mid-1900s when they began in the United States. These are legal standardized agreements to buy and sell physical merchandise in a previously established time period in the future and have been a mechanism to guarantee a minimum price to the producer faced with the oscillations of the market.

It works like this: Farmers sell their production to traders before harvest to protect themselves from uncertainties in the weather, for example, and to guarantee a future price. The trader also benefits. When the harvest is bad, the farmer still gets a good income and when the harvest is optimal, the trader benefits even more.

This same mechanism is used by speculators to make money off the deregulation of the raw materials markets that was spurred in the mid-nineties in the United States and Great Britain by banks, free-market politicians and high-risk funds in the context of the process of deregulation of the world economy. The contracts to buy and sell food became “derivatives” that could be traded independently of the real agricultural transactions. A new business was born—food speculation.

Speculators today have more weight in the futures markets, even though these transactions have nothing to do with real supply and demand. Mike Masters, manager of Masters Capital Management, points out that in 1998 speculative financial investment in the agricultural sectors was around 25% and today it is close to 75%. These transactions are carried out in the markets, the most important of which on the world level is the commodities market in Chicago, while in Europe food and raw materials are traded in the futures markets of London, Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt.

A “100% Natural Deposit”

In 2006/2007, following the fall in the high-risk mortgage loan market in the United States, institutional investors like banks, insurance companies and investment funds sought safer and higher yield places to invest their money. Food and raw materials became a popular alternative. As the price of food soared, investments in the food futures markets rose, pushing the price of grains up and worsening inflation in food prices.

In Germany, the Deutsche Bank announced easy earnings if invested in rising agricultural products. And similar business deals were promoted by the major European bank BNP Paribas. Catalunya Caixa urged its clients in January 2011 to invest in raw materials under the slogan a “100% natural deposit”.

What did they offer? A guarantee of 100% of capital with the possibility of obtaining profits of up to 7% annually. How? According to the ads, based on “the evolution of yields in three food products: sugar, coffee and corn”. To assure such high yields, the ads pointed out that prices of these three products had increased at 61%, 34% and 38% respectively over the past months due to “growing demand that is increasing above the rate of production”, because of the increase in world population, and agrofuels production.

Catalunya Caixa left out important information, however: food speculation that provided such handsome profits increases the price of food, makes it inaccessible to large parts of the population in the global South and condemns thousands of people to hunger, poverty and death in these countries.

Oil Dependency

Another element that exacerbated the food crisis is the heavy dependency on oil of the current model of food production and distribution. The rise in the price of oil had a direct impact on the similar rise in the cost of basic foods. In 2007 and 2008 the price of oil and the price of foods reached record levels. Between July of 2007 and June of 2008, crude oil went from 75 dollars a barrel to 140 dollars, while the price of basic foods went from 160 dollars to 225, according to the FAO Food Index.

Food and agriculture have become heavily dependent on oil. Following the Second World War and with the Green Revolution in the sixties and seventies, and with the supposed increase in production, an intensive and industrial model of agriculture was adopted. In the current system, our food travels thousands of kilometers before it arrives on our tables; production requires the intensive use of farm machinery, chemicals pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. This model could not exist without oil.

The rise in the price of oil and the strategy of governments to combat climate change has led to a growing investment in the production of alternative fuels, agrofuels, such as biodiesel and bioethanol, made from sugar, corn and other crops. But this production has entered into direct competition with food production for consumption and is now another cause of the rise in food prices.

The World Bank recognizes that when the price of oil goes over fifty dollars a barrel, a 1% increase causes a 0.9% increase in the price of corn, since “for every dollar that the price of oil rises the profitability of ethanol rises and consequently the demand for corn grows.”

Since 2004, two-thirds of the rise in world production of corn was destined to satisfy the North American demand for agrofuels. In 2010, 35% of the corn harvest in the United States, which is 14% of world production, was used to produce ethanol. And the tendency is on the rise.

But beyond the causes such as food speculation and the rise in oil prices that has an impact on the growing investment in agrofuels, leading to competition among grain production for consumption and for transportation, the food and agriculture system is profoundly vulnerable and in the hands of the market. The growing liberalization of the sector in the last decades, the privatization of natural resources (water, land, seed), the imposition of a international model of trade at the service of private interests, etc., has led to the current crisis.

As long as agriculture and food continue to be considered merchandise in the hands of the highest bidder, and business interests prevail over food needs and the limits of the planet, our food security and the welfare of the earth are far from assured.

*Esther Vivas is a member of the Center for the Study of Social movements (Centro de Estudios sobre Movimientos Sociales) in the Universidad Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona). She is the author of “En pie contra la deuda externa” (El Viejo Topo, 2008) among other publictions, and a contributor to the CIP Americas Program www.cipamericas.org.

I would like to thank Esther Vivas for allowing me to reproduce this article.

+info: http://esthervivas.wordpress.com/english

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Filed under Egypt, Esther Vivas, financial derivatives, Middle East, neo-liberalism, Sub-Saharan Africa, Tunisia, Uncategorized

Occupy Wall Street: where is it leading and what comes next?

As the Occupy Wall Street movement now enters its fourth week, there are many asking if the protests are being hijacked, and given what has happened in the case of some other recent uprisings, these are certainly valid concerns.

Undoubtedly the most egregious example of how the Arab Spring has been derailed is the developing situation in Egypt. The old Mubarak regime having been ousted, but only to be replaced by a “military committee” that now shows no more interest in stepping aside than Mubarak did:

Egypt’s ruling military generals have unveiled plans that could see them retain power for another 18 months, increasing fears that the country’s democratic transition process is under threat.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) took control of Egypt after the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak in February, and initially promised to return to their barracks within six months. But since then the “roadmap” to an elected, civilian government has been beset by delays and controversies, fuelling speculation that the army could be buying time in an attempt to shoehorn one of their own senior commanders into the presidency.1

Of course, in Egypt, Mubarak himself sent in the cavalry, which is the final act of many a despot, and such overt repression is unlikely to be deployed to stem the tide of protests in either Europe or America. Instead, perhaps the most immediate threat facing the protest movements within our western democracies is that they will be steered off-course or else completely usurped by the very interest groups they are seeking to overthrow.

A wonderful example of how effective this tactic can be is the so-called Tea Party. And contrary to what many, and especially those of the left, have come to believe, the Tea Party certainly began as a genuine grassroots movement, and with genuinely ambitious demands to restore the constitution and “End the Fed”. Unfortunately, however, the Tea Party movement quickly fell under the influence of the billionaire Koch Brothers, with their ultra-“free market” agenda and with ties to such groups as the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute. The rest as they say is history –

So what about the people now gathering in New York and in many other cities across America – how can they avoid being duped in a similar fashion? Here is some analysis offered by independent researcher and writer Andrew Gavin Marshall:

For the Occupy Movement to build up and become a true force for change, it must avoid and reject the organizational and financial ‘contributions’ of institutions: be they political parties, non-profits, or philanthropic foundations. The efforts are subtle, but effective: they seek to organize, professionalize, and institutionalize a movement, push forward the issues they desire, which render the movement useless for true liberation, as these are among the very institutions the movement should be geared against.

This [movement] is not simply about “Wall Street,” this is about POWER. Those who have power, and those who don’t. When those who have power offer a hand in your struggle, their other hand holds a dagger. Remain grassroots, remain decentralized, remain outside and away from party politics, remain away from financial dependence. Freedom is not merely in the aim, it’s in the action.2

Marshall also made similar points on Russia Today:

The danger that any movement faces becoming professionalised and institutionalised is real enough, and has clearly happened in the case of countless NGOs. Basically, it’s always wise to assume that he who pays the piper calls the tune:

In order to survive as a movement, money will become a necessity. Do not turn to the non-profits and philanthropic foundations for support. The philanthropies, which fund and created the non-profits and NGOs, were themselves created to engage in ‘social engineering’: to ‘manufacture consent’ among the governed, and create consensus among the governors. The philanthropies (particularly those of Carnegie, Ford, and Rockefeller) fund social movements and protest organizations so as to steer them into directions which are safe for the elites. The philanthropies are themselves run by the elite, founded by bankers and industrialists striving to preserve their place at the top of the social structure in the midst of potentially revolutionary upheaval. As the president of the Ford Foundation once said, “Everything the foundation does is to make the world safe for capitalism.”

Click here to read Andrew Marshall’s original article.

Such under-the-counter assaults are more or less inevitable, and almost certainly happening. The Soros funded MoveOn.org (see my earlier post), for instance, have officially joined in the OWS protest on Wednesday [Oct 5th], although it seems that they are also trying to steal a piece of the action with their own “Rebuild the Dream” campaign. Given their staunch support for Obama’s first presidential campaign, we must suspect that such involvement is intended to simply reignite support for his re-election. And if that happens, of course, then the moment will have passed; a moment that may never come again.

There is also the risk of infiltration of another kind. From anarchists, other radicals or agent provocateurs. Any use of violence by the protesters will inevitably discredit the cause of a movement, making it appear to outsiders as no more than the gathering of a bunch of troublemakers. Peaceful dissent and disobedience is the only certain way ahead, as the powers-that-be know only too well.

Importantly, Wednesday also saw the OWS movement boosted by the arrival of a number of key trade unions including the Transport Workers Union (TWU Local 100), the United Federation of Teachers and United Auto Workers. This is hugely significant, bringing structure and sheer numbers to an already rapidly expanding mass movement. But the arrival of such comparatively powerful institutions brings dangers too, with the leadership of those unions potentially able to co-opt the movement in another way. As union activist and journalist Mike Elk said on Russia Today, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens:

One of the many banners at the Wall Street occupation read “The People are TOO BIG TO FAIL”, but unfortunately history refutes that opinion. And without agreed strategies and a programme for reforms, it’s not easy to see how the people are yet in any position to win at all. There is, therefore, an urgent need for concrete demands from OWS – preferably ones that fall under the popular umbrella: that Wall Street must pay for the crisis it created, with the bailouts stopped and an end to austerity; that the Federal Reserve should be audited and the credit rating agencies subjected to criminal investigation; that the wars must end; and that the anti-constitutional Patriot and Homeland Security Acts be repealed. It’s not difficult to decide on these broader issues, but there also needs to be some flesh on the bones. What are the finer details of the programme? Then, and so long as the movement can remain true and vigilant to its popular cause, it will undoubtedly continue to grow, until, sooner or later, it must indeed prevail.

But who the hell am I to tell the Americans what they need to do. So far I’m just delighted that so many are suddenly standing up for themselves, whilst also wondering when the folks back home in Blighty will join in the fight to save our own sorry skins.

1 From an article entitled, “Egypt’s ruling generals accused of buying time to stay in power” written by Jack Shenker, published in the Guardian on October 6, 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/oct/06/egypt-military-accused-buying-time

2 Taken from “Against the Institution: A warning for Occupy Wall Street” written by Andrew Gavin Marshall, posted on October 3, 2011. http://andrewgavinmarshall.com/2011/10/03/against-the-institution-a-warning-for-occupy-wall-street/

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occupy Wall Street on September 17th

A campaign to pitch up tents, kitchens, and peaceful barricades with the intention of occupying Wall Street starts tomorrow.

The group behind the initiative #occupywallstreet are adbusters, however, the campaign is also backed by LaRouchePAC and more recently again by the hacker group Anonymous.

Adbusters have a blog dedicated to the campaign, which is calling for 20,000 “redeemers, rebels and radicals” to set up camp making the demand for “ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington. It’s time for DEMOCRACY NOT CORPORATOCRACY. More specific demands are also being made for restoring the Glass-Steagall Act, imposing higher taxes on the rich, and bringing the troops home.

The campaign draws inspiration from the protests in Egypt, as well as the rise of los indignados in Spain and similar groups in Greece:

A worldwide shift in revolutionary tactics is underway right now that bodes well for the future. The spirit of this fresh tactic, a fusion of Tahrir with the acampadas of Spain, is captured in this quote:

“The antiglobalization movement was the first step on the road. Back then our model was to attack the system like a pack of wolves. There was an alpha male, a wolf who led the pack, and those who followed behind. Now the model has evolved. Today we are one big swarm of people.”

— Raimundo Viejo, Pompeu Fabra University
Barcelona, Spain

The beauty of this new formula, and what makes this novel tactic exciting, is its pragmatic simplicity: we talk to each other in various physical gatherings and virtual people’s assemblies … we zero in on what our one demand will be, a demand that awakens the imagination and, if achieved, would propel us toward the radical democracy of the future … and then we go out and seize a square of singular symbolic significance and put our asses on the line to make it happen.

Click here to read more.

Click here to find out what actions are already planned and what to expect if you decide to join in.

Stacy Herbert discussed the #occupywallstreet protest with Max Keiser on Russia Today‘s ‘Keiser Report’. They might be better served to surround the Federal Reserve, suggested Keiser, and just demand the head of Ben Bernanke:

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the story from Israel we’re not hearing

“Last Saturday, hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets of a Middle Eastern city.

“Demanding change, they were fed up with the ruling elite and said their government was no longer listening to its people.

“But this was not Egypt, Tunisia or Libya. This was Israel.”

wrote BBC correspondent Wyre Davies last Friday (August 12th).

The street protests, which began about a month ago, have since gathered momentum and look set to continue. Davies makes a direct comparison to the uprising five months ago in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, and there are also obvious parallels with the street protests in Athens, and the Spanish los indignados movement:

“People here have many different grievances. Each part of the protesters’ tented city, along Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard, is home to a particular group with an axe to grind. […]

“They say their “movement” is deliberately non-political. It is not about Israel and the Palestinians but normal Israelis concerned that their country is losing all sense of moral and collective responsibility.”1

Click here to read the full article on BBC News.

So why is this story not more headlined?

On August 2nd, Russia Today asked why other news services have paid so little attention to these protests:

“Perhaps it is not that interesting to their editors back in the studios. OK, there is a protest, what exactly is a protest? A social protest? A revolution? It is not the same kind of story, as big and dramatic as some of the bigger revolutions happening around the Middle East,” says Amir Mizroch, English editor for Yisrael Hayom daily.

Amir Mizroch is not surprised by the worldwide lack of media interest. He has worked in the Israeli press for a decade reporting for media both foreign and local.

“There is a box that the international media has put Israel in, and it is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Also the Israeli-Lebanese and Syrian conflict. And anything that is not directly linked to that is not the immediate type of news item, which is unfortunate,” he says.

Blogger and journalist Danny Schechter agrees, saying foreign media tend to depict Israel as some monolithic country, which in reality it is not.

“When you look at the Middle East, they talk only about the Arab countries. Only they have internal discord. You never hear about Israel’s internal discord. And the fact that this uprising is taking place in Israel while at the same time there is one going on in Syria and there is one going on in Egypt shows that the same pressures are being experienced by the Israeli people as well,” he said.

Click here to read full report on Russia Today website.

1  Israel’s ‘social protests’ rattle Netanyahu government”, by Wyre Davies, published on Friday 12th August. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-14494523

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the IMF and its part in our downfall

For a refreshingly frank and insightful examination of the reasons for the current global economic crisis, and, more specifically, of the IMF’s part in our accelerating downfall, I recommend the following programme:

Empire: The IMF on trial

broadcast on Al Jazeera on Thursday 11th August at 9:00pm–10:00pm

Presenter Marwan Bishara leads a searching debate into the historic failures of the IMF, with reflections on the legacy of its intervention in Latin America — most especially in Argentina — as well as in East Asia and Africa. There is also speculation about what is likely to happen to Egypt, after calls for IMF intervention were declined, and to Greece, where the imposition of “austerity measures” is already in full swing.

The guests are:
Professor Alex Callinicos, director of European Studies, King’s College London and author of “Bonfire Of Illusions”.

Ann Pettifor, fellow, at the New Economics Foundation and author of “The Coming First World Debt Crisis”

Georges Corm, former Lebanese finance minister and former special consultant, World Bank

Dr Mario Blejer, former governor, Argentine Central Bank and former advisor, Bank Of England

Also included are interviews with:
Christine Lagarde, managing director, International Monetary Fund

Professor Alan Cibils, chair, Political Economy, Universidad Nacional Sarmiento

The programme is still available on Al Jazeera at the following times next week:

Sunday: 7:00 am; Monday: 9:00 pm; Tuesday: 1:00 pm; Wednesday: 2:00 pm; and Thursday: 7:00 am.

Click here to watch on the Al Jazeera website.

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Filed under Argentina, did you see?, Egypt, Europe, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latin America, Spain, Tunisia, Uncategorized, USA

Seymour Hersh says worry about Iraq, not Iran

In his latest article for The New Yorker magazine, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh says the United States might attack Iran based on distorted estimates of Iran’s nuclear and military threat—just like it did with Saddam Hussein’s government in Iraq. He spoke to Democracy Now! on Friday 3rd June:

 “Well, very simply, it’s—you know, you could argue it’s 2003 all over again. Remember WMD, mushroom clouds. There’s just no serious evidence inside that Iran is actually doing anything to make a nuclear weapon. You know, making a weapon is a big deal. You have to have fabrication facilities. You have to convert a very toxic gas into a metal and then mold it into a core. It’s big stuff, and there’s no sign of any of it.” […]

“The Iranians are enriching to about 3.7 or so percent to run civilian power plants. There’s one small pilot project for medical research that gets up to 20 percent. But everything that’s being enriched is under camera, under watch, by the IAEA. There’s just no sign of any diversion. There’s just no evidence. This doesn’t mean we can go to intent. It doesn’t mean that there’s a lot of concern in the United States and appropriate concern about the Iranian intent. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t watch what they do. But it does mean that we’re sort of beating a dead horse here.” […]

“And so, here we have this very bright guy [Obama] continuing insane policies that are counterproductive, do nothing for the United States, and meanwhile the real crisis is going to be about Iraq, because, whatever you’re hearing, Iraq is going bad. Sunnis are killing Shia. It’s sectarian war. And the big question is going to be whether we pull out or not.”

He also gave his assessment of the uprisings in the Arab world, highlighting the Saudi involvement in the brutal oppression of protests in Bahrain and the US government’s tacit approval:

 “[And] what you have now is a very, very—it’s sort of unremarked upon by the press here in America—you have a counterrevolution going on, fueled largely by the Saudis and their panic. You see the implication of that in Bahrain, where the unbelievable things are happening to the Shiites, the minority Shiites there. They may be a majority in terms of population, but certainly a minority in terms of power. And you have that regime brutalizing its people in a way that’s beyond, I would argue, anything going on elsewhere, including in Syria. As bad as it is in Syria, it’s much worse in Bahrain. And the United States, of course, for a lot of reasons, is ignoring that. You have the Gulf states in a state of sort of controlled panic now.” […]

“What’s going on in Bahrain is, I’m telling you, it’s a sensationally underreported story. The brutality there is beyond—it’s shocking. And again, the Saudis are directly involved, sort of with our OK.”

The interview ended with Amy Goodman asking Hersh this final question:

“You made headlines a few years ago when you said President Bush operated an executive assassination ring. Has that policy continued under President Obama?”

In response, Hersh said:

“What I said was that in the early days under Cheney, in the first days after—you know, ’03, ’04, ’05, yes, there was a direct connection between the vice president’s office and individuals getting hit. That got institutionalized later in a more sophisticated way. There’s no question that—look, there’s an enormous military apparatus out there that isn’t seen. That’s what I’m writing about. We’re not seeing it. We don’t know it exists. Cheney built up a world that still exists. And it’s a very ugly, frightening world that has not much to do with what the Constitution calls for.”

Full transcripts of the interview are available on the Democracy Now! website.

Hersh also gave a very candid interview to Russia Today in which he reiterated his concerns that the Obama regime wishes “to punish” Iran in a similar way to how the Bush regime punished Iraq:

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Filed under Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Seymour Hersh, Syria, USA, Yemen

clampdown by Egypt’s new leaders

We have been led to believe by the mainstream media that the revolution in Egypt is over. The sad truth is, however, that the struggle for freedom continues, and that the new government is no less resistant to progressive change than the old regime it has supplanted.

Last week, the new Egyptian cabinet passed a decree making illegal any demonstrations or strikes that “lead to hindering of private or public authorities.” The text runs:

The cabinet reasserted the necessity of immediate stoppage of all demonstrations and strikes witnessed nationwide especially that the cabinet has received huge amount of legal demands and responded to them, and other demands are studied especially that the government is working to prepare a complete frame to deal with policies of employment and incomes. In this concern, the cabinet approved the draft law criminalizing some strikes, demonstrations and mob included the following;

a- Who make or participate in any demonstration or strike that lead to hindering of private or public authorities.
b- Who incite, call or promote to the mentioned crimes.
c- Taking the mentioned crimes while running of emergency case.
d- Penalties includes; imprisonment [a maximum of one year] and fines either both or one of them, and fines may reach EGP 500,000.

“This law would only be implemented during times of emergency law and those draft laws would be presented to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to issue a decree,” Magdy Rady, spokesman for the cabinet told Ahram Online.

However there has been a state of emergency since the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981.

Based on an article posted by the Egyptian Worker Solidarity movement. For link to original article posted on Wednesday 23rd March click here.

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