Politics and Legislation
“Merchant of Death” Viktor Bout Sentenced to 25 Years; Trial Ignored His Ties to U.S., Dick Cheney
Judge Napolitano: I Think the President Is Dangerously Close to Totalitarianism
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) last week forced the closure of two non-governmental organizations that promote democracy, mirroring the actions last year of the military-led government in Egypt against the same NGOs.
The first NGO shut down was the U.S.-funded National Democratic Institute (NDI), followed by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, based in Germany. The UAE did not provide any explanation for the closings.
Both pro-democracy groups had their offices raided and closed in Egypt during 2011. The NDI was created in 1983 and funded through the National Endowment for Democracy.
An official with NDI said the move was disappointing and “arbitrary.” It was pointed out that the NGO had no programs at this time in the UAE, so the closure would have “no serious ramifications for our work.”
On Thursday, the UAE government detained overnight two NDI employees, an American, Patricia David, and a Serb, Slobodan Milic.
On Christmas Day the Obama administration approved $3.5 billion in weapons sales to the UAE royal government, with almost $2 billion going to Lockheed Martin for two Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) batteries, and. $582.5 million going to Raytheon for radar and services.
Scott Walker Wages War on Women
Scott Walker Quietly Repeals Wisconsin Equal Pay Law
WASHINGTON — A Wisconsin law that made it easier for victims of wage discrimination to have their day in court was repealed on Thursday, after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) quietly signed the bill.
The 2009 Equal Pay Enforcement Act was meant to deter employers from discriminating against certain groups by giving workers more avenues via which to press charges. Among other provisions, it allows individuals to plead their cases in the less costly, more accessible state circuit court system, rather than just in federal court.
In November, the state Senate approved SB 202, which rolled back this provision. On February, the Assembly did the same. Both were party-line votes in Republican-controlled chambers.
SB 202 was sent to Walker on March 29. He had, according to the state constitution, six days to act on the bill. The deadline was 5:00 p.m. on Thursday. The governor quietly signed the bill into law on Thursday, according to the Legislative Reference Bureau, and it is now called Act 219.
Walker’s office did not return repeated requests for comment.
State Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) and Rep. Christine Sinicki (D-Milwaukee), the authors of the Equal Pay Enforcement Act, criticized Walker on Thursday for not informing the public of his actions on SB 202.
“We are finally starting to see progress here in Wisconsin, yet like their counterparts across the country, Legislative Republicans want to turn back the clock on women’s rights in the workplace,” said Hansen….
European stock markets rocked by panic selling as debt crisis reignites
Investors demanding high premiums for holding Italian and Spanish bonds as fears of double-dip recession grow
Europe‘s sovereign debt crisis exploded back into life on Tuesday, with markets across the continent rocked by a wave of panic selling amid renewed fears about the impact of savage austerity measures in Spain and Italy.
The mood of uneasy calm seen across Europe since the Greek bailout in February was shattered as financial markets took fright at evidence of a double-dip recession and growing popular opposition to welfare cuts and tax increases.
Italy and Spain, the euro-zone’s third and fourth biggest economies, were at the centre of the market turmoil, with investors demanding an increasingly high premium for holding their bonds.
“Spain is right in the center of a European storm,” admitted finance minister Luis de Guindos, who declined to rule out an eventual bailout but insisted it could be avoided.
In Italy, Mario Monti’s coalition government is facing growing hostility to reforms of its labor market, while the sheer size of the country’s public debt made it an obvious target for nervous traders. The prospect of Greek voters rejecting austerity and the French electorate denying Nicolas Sarkozy a second term as president was also weighing on the markets.
Wars and Rumors of War
U.S. Defines Its Demands for New Round of Talks With Iran
By DAVID E. SANGER and STEVEN ERLANGER
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration and its European allies plan to open new negotiations with Iran by demanding the immediate closing and ultimate dismantling of a recently completed nuclear facility deep under a mountain, according to American and European diplomats.
They are also calling for a halt in the production of uranium fuel that is considered just a few steps from bomb grade, and the shipment of existing stockpiles of that fuel out of the country, the diplomats said.
That negotiating position will be the opening move in what President Obama has called Iran’s “last chance” to resolve its nuclear confrontation with the United Nations and the West diplomatically. The hard-line approach would require the country’s military leadership to give up the Fordo enrichment plant outside the holy city of Qum, and with it a huge investment in the one facility that is most hardened against airstrikes.
The US War on Drug Cartels in Mexico Is a Deadly Failure
Mark Karlin, Truthout:
“There is no end game here. The United States is using all its vast powers to do what urban police do in American cities: chase the corner drug dealers out of one area and into another, through the use of temporary intensive ‘enforcement’ – and then chase them back again at a later date…. Meanwhile, in the United States, controlling the demand side appears to be interpreted as throwing people – particularly minority men – in jail for drug offenses, leading to the highest incarceration rate in the world.”
Deal Reached on Contested Afghan Night Raids
Alissa J. Rubin, The New York Times News Service:
“Afghanistan and the United States signed an agreement on Sunday on night military raids that would hand responsibility for carrying out the operations to Afghan forces but allow continued American involvement. The agreement clears the way for the two countries to move ahead with a more comprehensive long-term partnership agreement, say Afghan and American officials.”
Nigeria: Fertile Ground for Balkanization
By Nile Bowie
While the Sahel security crisis continues to deteriorate following Tuareg rebels’ declaration of an independent state in Mali’s troubled northern territory , recent events in Nigeria indicate a potential for increased regional instability. Boko Haram, a Salafist organization seeking to overthrow the secular administration of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, has recently killed 38 civilians in a suicide car bomb targeting nearby churches holding Easter services in the northern city of Kaduna . As part of an ongoing campaign of sectarian violence, the group has strived to implement sharia law through the establishment of an Islamic State in northern Nigeria . The group’s belligerent acts of violence claimed more than 500 lives during 2011 , prompting President Jonathan to call the current security crisis more dire than that experienced during 1967’s Biafran civil war, adding that jihadi sympathizers have successfully infiltrated his government and security agencies .
The group has claimed responsibility for the August 2011 bombing of the United Nations headquarters in the Nigerian capital, Abuja , and its adoption of sophisticated tactics indicate that Boko Haram is receiving arms and training from abroad. Mainstream outlets can now be seen readying public opinion for an increased presence in Africa under the Right to Protect Doctrine (R2P) by warning of increased terrorist attacks in Europe, following shifts in Islamist activity away from Iraq and Afghanistan, to the “ungoverned spaces” of the Sahel . While the ongoing War on Terror provides the needed justification for the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) to expand its base of operations throughout the Sahel and the troubled regions of east and central Africa, the modus operandi of Boko Haram indicates foreign nurturing in numerous mediums.
Articles of Interest
Overall violence in Iraq has gone down since the last U.S. troops finally withdrew in December, but Washington’s avid support for the emerging dictator in Baghdad has troubling implications for Iraqis.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has demonstrated an increasingly authoritarian rule as he consolidates power over the country’s institutions and security forces. He has marginalized his political opponents through force and coercion, which has stoked sectarian tensions and even threatened a break-up of the nation. And Obama is supporting all of it.
Maliki, a Shiite, ordered the arrest of his Sunni Vice President Hashemi just as the last U.S. troops left Iraq. The U.S. ambassador to Iraq expressed approval in January of this quest to detain Iraq’s vice president on trumped up terrorism charges, despite a virtual consensus that it was a blatant attempt to eliminate a political rival.
Maliki also betrayed an agreement that would have limited his ability to marginalize the Sunnis and turn the military into a sectarian force and ended up arresting hundreds of former Baath Party members on charges that they were involved in a coup plot. Because of the turmoil, Sunni and Kurdish blocs in the Iraqi parliament committed themselves to a boycott, and later threatened secession.
Alaa Mekki, a senior lawmaker with the mostly Sunni Iraqiya bloc, said of the U.S., “Their goal of a united, democratic Iraq is now under threat because of what we describe as the dictatorship attitude.” Angered Kurds and Sunnis say their disenfranchisement has never been greater.
NAFTA Partners Take Steps to Boost Trilateral Relationship
By Dana Gabriel
While bilateral initiatives have dominated North American issues over the last couple of years, the trilateral relationship has suffered. With a series of high-level meetings, the U.S., Canada and Mexico are taking steps to boost the NAFTA partnership. First, the defense ministers met to discuss shared continental security threats. This was followed by a leaders summit which pledged to deepen trade, regulatory, energy and security cooperation. The recent meetings have caused some to once again take notice of the incremental efforts to merge all three countries into a North American Union.
In what was hailed as an historic event, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay, Mexican Secretary of National Defense Guillermo Galvan, and Mexican Secretary of the Navy Mariano Mendoza recently held the Inaugural Meeting of North American Defense Ministers. As part of a framework they agreed to, “ Develop a joint trilateral defense threat assessment for North America to deepen our common understanding of the threats and challenges we face. Explore ways to improve our support to the efforts of civilian public security agencies in countering illicit activities in our respective countries and the hemisphere, such as narcotics trafficking. Explore how we can collaborate to increase the speed and efficiency with which our armed forces support civilian-led responses to disasters. Continue to work together to strengthen hemispheric defense forums.” The ministers also committed to enhancing cooperation in the fight against transnational criminal organizations. The trilateral defense meeting is part of the ongoing efforts to establish a fully integrated North American security perimeter.
Posted by Alexander Higgins
In another example of the two tiered justice system for the globe’s financial elite, Goldman gets a measly £25,000 fine after getting caught manipulating oil prices.
If a Muslim were caught doing this it would be condemned as an act of Financial Terrorism and be responded to with the swift deployment of predator drones and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
But when the people in the good old boys network get caught they get a fine that was most likely much less than they made off the illegal trades.
But don’t you dare pick up a protest sign and demand accountability for these kind of acts or you just may find yourself beaten and arrested.
You, me and everyone else pay for this kind of crap directly at the gas pump.
Via The ICE Futures Investment Exchange, here is the full text of the sanctions letter.
First Man Arrested With Drone Evidence Vows to Fight Case
Court must decide if police are allowed to use drones to help make arrests
The tiny town of Lakota, N.D., is quickly becoming a key testing ground for the legality of the use of unmanned drones by law enforcement after one of its residents became the first American citizen to be arrested with the help of a Predator surveillance drone.
The bizarre case started when six cows wandered onto Rodney Brossart’s 3,000 acre farm. Brossart, an alleged anti-government “sovereignist,” believed he should have been able to keep the cows, so he and two family members chased police off his land with high powered rifles.
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