Politics and Legislation
Roberto Unger, a longtime professor at Harvard Law School said Obama does not deserve to win the 2012 Presidential election as “the Democratic Party proposes no new direction.”
“Give the bond markets what they want, bail out the reckless so long as they are also rich, use fiscal and monetary stimulus to make up for the absence of any consequential broadening of economic and educational opportunity, sweeten the pill of disempowerment with a touch of tax fairness, even though the effect of any such tax reform is sure to be modest,” he said.
“This is less a project than it is an abdication,” he added.
Obama’s former teacher then listed his reasons for turning on Obama, saying, “His policy is financial confidence and food stamps.”
“He has spent trillions of dollars to rescue the moneyed interests and left workers and homeowners to their own devices,” he said, adding that, “He has delivered the politics of democracy to the rule of money.”
“He has disguised his surrender with an empty appeal to tax justice.”
Unger said Obama “has reduced justice to charity,” and “has evoked a politics of handholding,” stressing that no one can change the world without a struggle.
Obama faces Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in November’s vote as he seeks to be re-elected.
Egypt’s presidential election turns toxic amid anger over ‘stolen revolution’
Egyptian dream of democracy fading, as presidential runoff sees a disillusioned electorate forced to choose between ‘Islamic rule’ or ‘the old regime’
A few young Egyptians are sitting innocently in a cafe when an ominous, English-speaking stranger appears at the door. Instinctively, they invite him to join them and waste no time bemoaning the state of the nation – complaining of high prices, petrol shortages, and a dastardly plot against the military that is being hatched on the underground network. Little do they realise the foreigner’s real intention: to text all of this information to his western spy handler.
This was the scene that played out on Egyptian state television this week, not as part of a James Bond rip-off, but as a government-sponsored advertisement, replete with doom-laden music, warning citizens not to talk to foreigners armed with tweet-ready smart phones.
The 30-second commercial has provoked a barrage of spoofs, but beyond the mockery it is also a window on to the increasingly toxic political mood that has engulfed Egypt since the toppling of dictator Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, and reached frightening levels as this weekend’s presidential runoff vote takes place. The choice is between Mubarak’s last premier and air-force commander Ahmed Shafiq, and the Muslim Brotherhood’s second choice pick Mohamed Morsi. For many disillusioned voters it is hardly a choice at all.
The reports say that the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) has already made necessary arrangements with the US to complete its planned coup by placing Shafiq ahead of Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi in the race.
Meanwhile, the SCAF has also warned the Egyptians against holding protests after the release of election results. The judiciary has reportedly authorized the junta to make arrests in case of unrest.
As another part of the plan to derail the revolution, on the second and final day of voting, the SCAF announced its decision to issue an amended constitutional declaration, allowing it to remain in control of the country’s legislation and state budget.
The army’s recent efforts to remain in power come while the it had vowed to hand over power to the country’s elected president on July 1. The military junta announced on Saturday its decision to dissolve the Egyptian parliament that was dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood.
The junta handed legislative power to the parliament in January.
On Saturday, Egyptian authorities detained several people for allegedly distributing “invisible ink” pens in polling stations.
According to Secretary General of the Supreme Presidential Elections Commission Hatem Bagato, the ink that had been distributed among the voters with the aim of damaging the election process fades hours after writing.
For weeks, many Egyptians have feared that Shafiq is the undeclared candidate of the junta and that the military-appointed election committee overseeing the election will rig the vote in favor of Shafiq.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which secured the biggest bloc of seats in two rounds of parliamentary elections in December 2011 and January 2012, issued a statement on Saturday saying “dangerous days” were ahead and the political gains of the revolution that toppled former dictator Hosni Mubarak on February 11, 2011 could be wiped out.
The parliament should only be dissolved by a popular referendum, and the order to dissolve the assembly “represents a coup against the whole democratic process,” the statement added.
The Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) — the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood — said in another statement that the decision showed the military council’s desire to “take possession of all powers despite the will of the people.”
Egypt’s ruling military council formally announced the dissolution of the parliament on Saturday following a Supreme Court ruling earlier in the week.
Some critics have compared the move to the beginning of Algeria’s civil war in 1992, when the army cancelled an election an Islamic party was winning.
Egyptians are casting their ballots in a two-day presidential runoff election that began on Saturday and runs until Sunday which pits the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, Mohammed Morsi, against former Prime Minister Ahmad Shafiq.
More than 50 million people are eligible to vote.
Early results of expatriates’ votes show Morsi has won 78 percent.
The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has vowed to hand over power to the winner of the election by July 1.
Many Egyptians fear that Shafiq is the undeclared candidate of the junta and that the military-appointed election committee overseeing the election will rig the vote in favor of Shafiq.
Angry Egyptian protesters have held many demonstrations across the country in which they urged the authorities to ban all remnants of the Mubarak regime from running as candidates in elections.
Analysis by Credit Suisse estimates that up to 58% of the value of Europe’s banks could be wiped out by the departure of the ‘peripheral’ countries
Few large eurozone banks would be left standing and the banking sector could face a €370bn (£298bn) lossif the euro crisis results in the single currency bloc breaking apart, according to one of the first indepth analyses of what might happen if the eurozone disintegrates.
The analysis by Credit Suisse estimates that up to 58% of the value of Europe‘s banks could be wiped out by the departure of the “peripheral” countries – Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain – from the eurozone.
Even if the single currency remains intact some €1.3tn of credit could be sucked out of the system as banks retrench to their home markets, unwinding years of financial integration, the Credit Suisse analysis warns. his represents as much as 10% of the credit in the financial system.
“We find that a Greek exit could be manageable … but in a peripheral exit, few of the large listed eurozone banks would be left standing,” the Credit Suisse report said.
The banking sector could need capital injections of as much as €470bn if the three scenarios considered by the Credit Suisse analysts – a Greek exit, an exit of the periphery countries and a situation where banks retrench domestically – happen at once.
China must take precautions against a possible exit by debt-ridden Greece from the eurozone, as an exit could cause turbulence in global financial markets and hurt exports and growth, government economists and analysts have warned.
Measures they have suggested to counter the crisis include adjusting asset holdings in the eurozone, boosting domestic demand, promoting structural reforms and hedging exchange losses, as well as maintaining a stable currency.
The world’s second-largest economy might see its year-on-year growth dip below 7% if Greece leaves the eurozone under current circumstances, according to Ba Shusong, an economist with the Development Research Center of the State Council, China’s cabinet. “That scenario and its impact on employment would be undesirable for the Chinese government,” Ba said.
His comments come ahead of national election polls conducted in Greece on Sunday, with global investors fearing that a left-wing coalition government will emerge from the election and tear down the bailout deals that have kept Greece afloat since 2010, leading to default and an exit from the eurozone.
Financial turbulence in Europe was a major driver in China’s economic downshift early this year, as it reduced external demand markedly, Ba said, adding that a Greek exit from the eurozone will make the situation worse.
He urged authorities to follow developments in Europe closely and adjust economic policies in line with the changes. China should reduce its holdings of assets in the eurozone’s peripheral countries if Greece moves toward an exit, Ba suggested.
To offset external impact with domestic demand, the government must continue to maintain investment growth, carry out structural tax reduction and boost the role of private capital, he added. There is a strong possibility that Greece will drop out of the eurozone in the future if economic turmoil continues in the region, although it is unlikely that it will happen immediately, Ba estimated.
The economist noted that if Greece stays in the eurozone, China’s exports will pick up after bottoming in the second quarter of 2012 and there should not be any massive fiscal stimulus like the 4-trillion-yuan (US$634 billion) investment plan rolled out in late 2008 to counter the global financial crisis.
The Triple Crisis blog
The election in Greece this weekend, and the possible victory of Syriza, the left of center party that is against the austerity measures that are attached to the bail-out program negotiated with the troika of the European Union (EU), the European Central Bank (ECB), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but wants to remain within the euro, has prompted fears of a final collapse of the euro. Let me say that irrespective of whether Greece will be forced out of the euro, policies to reverse the austerity imposed so far will be needed. Latin America has extensive experience with external crises, and with defaults and devaluation, the Argentinean crisis of 2001-2 being the most recent and dramatic example. Here are some lessons and a short proposal based on these experiences.
Some may argue that Argentina is different, since the world economy started a healthy recovery in 2003, and Argentina exported commodities to fast growing Asian economies, i.e. soybeans to China, while Greece exports services to Europe, in other words, tourism to Germans. So Greece is not Argentina, the world economy, including Europe, the market for Greek exports, is stagnant, and, as a result, Greece is doomed. But one should take that scenario with a grain of salt. Argentina did not grow initially because of an export boom, but by using unutilized capacity. The external constraint was alleviated by the fall in imports, which had been caused by the recession (1998-02) and then by the depreciation. That is, depreciation worked by making imports expensive and allowing local production to surge using spare capacity. That is doable in Greece.
The payment of external obligations must be in euros, but for most transactions euros should be economized. That is what a Syriza, or any other government that wants to negotiate an alternative to the current austerity driven bail-outs, should do. The question that is paramount is how to cut down spending in euros, which will continue to be in limited supply. In Argentina, suspension of debt service payments (default) and rules for the conversion of banking deposits and other contracts to a local currency is what allowed for a reduction in the use of dollars, while expanding spending and reversing austerity in domestic currency. Dollars were only used for the essential imports to keep the economy going.
The banks are on high alert.
Hundreds of employees at big firms, some part of special teams, will be on standby this Sunday, awaiting the results of Greece’s pivotal election. They are preparing for the worst case. The fear is that the vote will heighten the chances of Greece exiting the euro and the global financial system will be shaken when the markets open on Monday.
After being largely unprepared for the extreme stress of the 2008 crisis, large banks in the United States are determined to be ready this time. They have been taking measures to deal with instability in Europe for over a year. In recent months, they have stepped up their contingency planning, especially after it became clear that Greece was struggling to comply with the terms of a March bailout that was intended to keep the country in the euro.
In New York and London, banks have set up dedicated crisis teams, and rehearsed elaborate responses. As clients get nervous, banks have been guiding clients on how to react to a range of situations, from just one country leaving the euro zone to the dissolution of the euro itself.
Ordinary investors, for example, are demanding more information on Europe from their brokers. David Darst, chief investment strategist at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, said the crisis had consumed his regular Monday morning call with the firm’s financial advisers, and has been the focus of the monthly video he does for clients and brokers. Mr. Darst says he hears two main questions: “What is your thought on Greece pulling out of the euro and it leading to contagion?” and “What impact will this have on my portfolio?”
Large banks that have substantial exposure to Europe have been doing tests to see if important functions like moving money for clients between nations could handle a country leaving the euro. This quarter, a substantial number of Citigroup [C 28.31 0.40 (+1.43%) ] employees carried out an extensive dry run that assumed a country left the euro and caused wider stress, according to a person familiar with the bank’s activities who was not authorized to discuss the tests publicly. One aspect of the drill looked at how different parts of the bank’s international payment systems performed.
Citigroup also has a London-based team that is focusing on crisis responses. The group reports to the bank’s risk officers who give a regular download to the firm’s chief executive, Vikram S. Pandit. And the bank’s board is being regularly briefed on measures that Citigroup is taking to deal with European turbulence.
Citigroup has $84 billion in loans, bonds and other types of exposure to troubled European countries, plus France. The bank’s filings indicate that all but $8 billion of that exposure is offset with collateral it has collected and hedges on the portfolio.
By David Böcking in Athens
Joanna Stavropoulos is not proud of what she has done. “I had a guilty conscience when I withdrew my money from Greece,” says the 43-year-old. Of course she knew what would happen if everybody does the same: Greece’s banks would be threatened with collapse. But she says she had to think of her two-month-old daughter, Josephina, who is currently asleep on Joanna’s shoulder.
Increasing numbers of Greeks are following Joanna Stavropoulos’ example and emptying their accounts. They are afraid that Greece may leave the euro zone and return to the drachma.Stavropoulos is one of the few people who know very well what this scenario would look like in concrete terms. As a journalist and NGO worker, she has traveled all over the world, most recently in Haiti and Iraq. “I have been to countries where banks closed,” she says. She was in Argentina, for example, when the government declared a national default. She has also lived in Zimbabwe, where three-digit inflation destroyed the currency. Joanna is sure that Greece could face the same thing if it returns to the drachma. “My country is going downhill,” she says.
There is still little sign of panic in Greece, and there has not been a stampede to the banks. Nevertheless, people are withdrawing hundreds of millions of euros from the banks every day. In May alone, outflows totaled €5 billion. According to official figures, €80 billion has been withdrawn since the start of the crisis.
High Demand for Safe Deposit Boxes
Christiana (not her real name) can see the capital flight every day with her own eyes. The 46-year-old, who wishes to remain anonymous, works as an asset manager at a large Greek bank. “It’s not just that it is increasing,” she says of the withdrawals. It’s not only major customers who have been taking out money in recent months, she explains, but all kinds of clients, from account holders with a few hundred euros to the bank’s most important private customers. “Naturally, the wealthy ask particularly often what they should do with their money,” she says.
Rich Greeks have long been moving billions to countries such as Italy or Switzerland, or buying luxury properties in London. But overall, according to estimates by the Greek central bank, only about one-fifth of the total money withdrawn has gone abroad. Many customers have left their money in the bank itself, Christiana says — but in a safe deposit box rather than in their accounts. “It’s currently impossible to find a free safe deposit box in a Greek bank,” she says.
Those customers clearly don’t want to be surprised by a currency reform. There has long been speculation over how that could work. The banks could close over a weekend, take stock of the euro holdings in their accounts and prevent further transfers to foreign accounts. Euro bills which are already in circulation would be marked with stamps. The export of unmarked bills would be prevented at the borders. Within a short time, the drachma could be reintroduced.
If it gets that far, Marianna’s clients want to be prepared. Like Christiana, she also works as an asset consultant at a Greek bank, And like Christiana, she does not want her real name to be used. Her clients are lawyers, doctors or top managers. “On average, they have between €200,000 and €300,000, which they can withdraw at any time,” Marianna says.
She has noticed the increasing capital flight during the last three months. Last year, her clients mainly moved their money to London or Cyprus. But now the latter country is also at risk of collapse itself because of its bloated banking sector. “Now they prefer Germany and Switzerland,” she says.
Quite a few wealthy clients also tell Marianna that they are keeping their money at home. Many people are apparently doing the same thing. Greeks now have around €50 billion stashed at home, reports the Greek newspaper Ta Nea, citing the Greek Finance Ministry. Burglaries are increasing as a result. In Crete, they have gone up by 700 percent within two years. Burglars recently stole €50,000 in cash from a house of an old couple in Athens.
The crisis may now increase the social divide in Greece, just as it has done many times in recent years. While members of the upper class have long managed to stash their money in safe places, a possible currency reform and the subsequent devaluation would probably hit many low-income earners unprepared.
Even a cosmopolitan woman like Joanna Stavropoulous has been overwhelmed in her attempts to come up with the right strategy. In 2010, as the signs of Greece’s economic crash intensified, she moved her savings to a Spanish bank. Then Spain’s economy got into trouble. She moved her money back to Greece — until the next bout of bad news. She has paid more than €100 ($125) in bank fees alone, she says, due to the constant movement of her money.When her daughter was born, Stavropoulos paid €12,000 for the birth, a sum that is not considered unusual in private Greek clinics. Now, she has barely any money left. She has now invested the last of her savings in foreign currency, hoping that they will hold their value if Greece returns to the drachma.
Stavropoulos and her friends have a new strategy to deal with their daily expenses. “We charge everything to our credit cards,” she says. If the Greek banks fail, they won’t be able to collect the outstanding debts, she argues. “If they want to mess me around, I will do the same to them.”
Greece Steps Back From the Brink
(Updates with analysts’ comments.)
Greece isn’t ready to call Europe’s bluff. If early indications from the polls are correct, the top vote getter in Sunday’s parliamentary elections was the pro-euro New Democracy Party—not the leftist Syriza coalition, which campaigned on a platform of rejecting Europe’s conditions for bailout assistance.
That’s good news for the rest of Europe—and indeed the rest of the world, which would be harmed by a chaotic exit of Greece from the 17-nation euro currency region.
New York University economist Nicholas Economides, who was in Greece for the elections, said in a telephone interview that “if things go the way it looks like now, the Europeans should breathe a sigh of relief.”
Bloomberg News reported that according to final exit polls, center-right New Democracy had narrowly edged out Syriza, with Pasok, the center-left party, which is also pro-euro, coming in third. It appeared New Democracy and Pasok would have enough seats to win an outright majority in parliament if they formed a coalition government.
“I don’t see a collapse now. There’s going to be a lot of noise, a lot of worry, but I think at some point we will have a government. When, I don’t know,” says Tufts University economist Yannis Ioanides. “I don’t predict that the financial markets are going to say, ‘Oh, my God. This is the end.’ ”
Leaders of all three parties said they favored staying in the euro region, and all three also said the conditions imposed on Greece to receive bailout funds are unacceptably draconian. The difference is that only Syriza was prepared to reject the conditions unilaterally. The more centrist parties favor renegotiation.
Wars and Rumors of War
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with personnel at a Russian air base
KORENOVSK (Krasnodar Territory) (RIA Novosti)
Russia has every possibility to provide a proper response to the projected deployment of a U.S. missile shield in Europe, though Moscow would like to see the U.S. plans revised, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.
“We should look forward and give response [to these plans] in a timely manner,” Putin told servicemen at a Russian air base.
“Of course, our partners should better not do this [implement their missile shield plans] as this move would drive our response,” he added.
The president stressed that regardless to the rhetoric western politicians use to describe the shield deployment plans, “this remains a part of the arms race.”
“We have every possibility to provide a proper response,” he said.
In liaison with this, Putin stressed the importance of timely implementation of state defense orders. “We must implement state defense orders strictly on time, with the necessary quality and at reasonable prices. If we do it, there will be no particular threat to us.”
DHS claims terrorists want to attack theaters and similar venues based on “no specific or credible information”
By Madison Ruppert
Editor of End the Lie
Another day, another fear mongering report from the megalithic Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and this time it is almost more absurd than the previous laughable reports, if you can believe it.
While this isn’t as insane as the bulletins which actually stated that many common bodily movements and behaviors are indicators of terrorism, it is close.
The report, which is designated “UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY” (U//FOUO), originally published on May 17, 2012, cites a suicide bombing in Somalia in early April 2012 which targeted a theater as an indicator that the United States could experience similar attacks.
Note that U//FOUO means that some information “may be exempt from public release under the Freedom of Information Act” and is “to be controlled, stored, handled, transmitted, distributed, and disposed of in accordance with DHS policy relating to FOUO information and is not to be released to the public, the media, or other personnel who do not have a valid need to know without prior approval of an authorized DHS official.”
Thankfully, the document was leaked through Public Intelligence and can be read here. Once again I must commend Public Intelligence for their admirable and invaluable work in bringing these types of documents to light.
The report cites an alleged “violent extremist communication advocating attacks on US theaters” which supposedly indicates “terrorists’ continued interest in attacking such venues.”
Of course, no such incident has ever occurred in the United States and personally I find it highly unlikely that it will ever occur since every recent alleged terrorist plot has been wholly manufactured by none other than the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or similar agencies.
Be sure to watch the below video report on manufactured terrorism courtesy of the FBI:
The mea culpa came in the White House’s semiannual report to Congress on the state of US combat operations abroad, which was delivered on Friday, The Associated Press reported.
The report highlights “direct action,” a military term referring to a range of lethal attacks, against al-Qaeda operatives in the two countries. “In all cases we are focused on those al-Qaeda members and affiliates who pose a direct threat to the United States and to our national interests,” Pentagon press secretary George Little said after the report was released.
The report, however, does not detail any specific military operations in either Yemen or Somalia. It only acknowledges they have occurred.
“In a limited number of cases, the US military has taken direct action in Somalia against members of al-Qaeda, including those who are also members of al-Shabab, who are engaged in efforts to carry out terrorist attacks against the United States and our interests,” the report said.
On June 13, a US assassination drone attack on a house and a car in the southeastern Yemeni province of Shabwa claimed the lives of at least nine people.
Washington has been using assassination drones in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia and claims that it is targeting terrorists in the operations, but civilians have often been killed in the strikes.
How Drones Help Al Qaeda
By IBRAHIM MOTHANA
“DEAR OBAMA, when a U.S. drone missile kills a child in Yemen, the father will go to war with you, guaranteed. Nothing to do with Al Qaeda,” a Yemeni lawyer warned on Twitter last month. President Obama should keep this message in mind before ordering more drone strikes like Wednesday’s, which local officials say killed 27 people, or the May 15 strike that killed at least eight Yemeni civilians.
Drone strikes are causing more and more Yemenis to hate America and join radical militants; they are not driven by ideology but rather by a sense of revenge and despair. Robert Grenier, the former head of the C.I.A.’s counterterrorism center, has warned that the American drone program in Yemen risks turning the country into a safe haven for Al Qaeda like the tribal areas of Pakistan — “the Arabian equivalent of Waziristan.”
Anti-Americanism is far less prevalent in Yemen than in Pakistan. But rather than winning the hearts and minds of Yemeni civilians, America is alienating them by killing their relatives and friends. Indeed, the drone program is leading to the Talibanization of vast tribal areas and the radicalization of people who could otherwise be America’s allies in the fight against terrorism in Yemen.
Out of curiosity, Akili did an Internet search on the cellphone number he’d received from Mohammed. Much to his surprise, he discovered that the man was, in fact, an FBI informant named Shahed Hussain, who had played a pivotal role in at least two major terrorism-related sting operations in recent years. In a lengthy posting on his Facebook page recounting these events, Akili wrote, “I would like to pursue a legal action against the FBI due to their continuous harassment.” He also set up a press conference in Washington with Muslim civil liberties groups to publicize his fear that he was being entrapped. But it was too late. In mid-March, Akili was arrested and charged with being in possession of a .22-caliber rifle at a shooting range several years earlier, an act deemed illegal because of a decade-old drug conviction. Though his arrest was on nonterrorism-related charges, at his bond hearing FBI agents and US Attorneys told the judge they’d seen unspecified “jihadist literature” at his apartment and also alleged that he’d told one of the informants of his desire to go to Pakistan and join the Taliban. The judge ordered Akili held without bail.
“The government is basically saying [the charges have] nothing to do with the informant,” Akili’s attorney, Markéta Sims, told me. “But I’ve been doing this a long time, and I’ve never heard of someone being charged with felony possession for handling a gun at a shooting range.”
The FBI has employed informants ever since its inception as the Bureau of Investigation in 1908. In 1961 director J. Edgar Hoover established the Top Echelon Criminal Informant Program, in which FBI field offices were instructed to develop live sources in the “organized hoodlum element.” By 1975 the Church Committee found that the bureau was employing more than 1,500 domestic informants. But while the FBI has long used undercover informants to infiltrate criminal networks and build cases against potential suspects, in the domestic front of the “war on terror,” informants have come to play a far more proactive role in surveilling communities deemed suspect by the bureau.
According to the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School, there have been 138 terrorism or national security prosecutions involving informants since 2001, and more than a third of those have occurred in the past three years. Nearly every major post-9/11 terrorism-related prosecution has involved a sting operation, at the center of which is a government informant. In these cases, the informants—who work for money or are seeking leniency on criminal charges of their own—have crossed the line from merely observing potential criminal behavior to encouraging and assisting people to participate in plots that are largely scripted by the FBI itself. Under the FBI’s guiding hand, the informants provide the weapons, suggest the targets and even initiate the inflammatory political rhetoric that later elevates the charges to the level of terrorism.
Before he approached Akili, Hussain was pivotal in securing convictions in 2006 against two Muslim men in Albany, New York—an imam and a local pizza shop owner. He had lured the two into a loan transaction that prosecutors later alleged was a deal to launder the proceeds of an illegal missile sale, though neither man had any prior criminal record or history of violence. In a separate case in 2008, Hussain was dispatched to Newburgh, New York, where he spent nearly a year enticing a group of indigent African-American and Haitian men, some of whom converted to Islam in prison, with offers of as much as $250,000 to participate in a plot to bomb a Bronx synagogue and Jewish community center. After the men were convicted at trial, the judge in the case, Colleen McMahon, said it was “beyond question that the government created the crime here” and criticized the FBI for sending informants “trolling among the citizens of a troubled community, offering very poor people money if they will play some role—any role—in criminal activity.” The men were sentenced to twenty-five years in prison.
Articles of Interest
by Marion Nestle
While Congress is fussing over the farm bill, Michele Simon’s new report, Food Stamps: Follow the Money, identifies the businesses that most stand to gain from the $72 billion spent last year on SNAP. This program, formerly known as food stamps, gave 46 million Americans an average of $134 per month to spend on food in late 2011.
Just as health and anti-obesity advocates are working to bring agricultural policy in line with health policy by getting the farm bill to promote production of healthier foods, they also are looking at ways to encourage SNAP recipients to make healthier food choices. At present, SNAP recipients have few restrictions on what they can buy with their benefit cards.
In contrast, participants in the Women, Infants, and Children program (WIC), which is not a farm bill program, can only use their benefits to buy foods of high nutritional value. The idea of requiring SNAP recipients to do the same has split the advocacy community.
Anti-hunger advocates fear that any move to restrict benefits to healthier foods, or even to evaluate the current food choices of SNAP recipients, will make the program vulnerable to attacks and budget cuts. They strongly oppose such suggestions.
Follow the Money explains some of the politics behind efforts to maintain the status quo:
- Food industry groups such as the American Beverage Association and the Snack Food Association teamed up with anti-hunger groups to oppose health-oriented improvements to SNAP.
- Companies such as Cargill, PepsiCo, and Kroger lobbied Congress on SNAP, while also donating money to America’s top anti- hunger organizations.
The debate on Salafists, members of a fundamentalist strain of Islam who are suspected of having close ties to Islamist extremists, has been raging in Germany for months. Following a number of recent violent incidents, including the stabbing of police officers in Bonn, there have been growing calls for the government to act.
On Thursday, it did just that. In an operationinvolving 1,000 officers, authorities raided Salafist facilities in seven German states. They also banned one of the most important Salafist groups in the country, the Millatu Ibrahim.”The organization acts in opposition to the idea of constitutional order and multicultural understanding,” German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said on Thursday. He added that the group promotes violence in its “fight against the existing constitutional order.”
The German government considers Salafists to be particularly dangerous and prone to violence, primarily because of their single-minded goal of establishing Sharia in Germany and their rejection of Western values. They have been in the headlines all spring, initially because of their drive to attract new members by handing out free copies of the Koran in major German cities. But it was their violent response to a campaign in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia that landed them in the spotlight of justice officials.
In early May, the Islamophobic mini-party Pro-NRW launched a campaign to display anti-Islam caricatures in front of mosques and other Muslim facilities in North Rhine-Westphalia ahead of elections in the state. Counter-demonstrations in both Solingen and Bonn turned violent, with Salafists attacking police with rocks, sticks and even knives. In Bonn, 29 police were injured, two of them landing in the hospital with stab wounds.
On Friday, German commentators welcome the action but warn that more needs to be done.
The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:
“The interior minister called the raid of the Salafists ‘extremely successful.’ But it’s a bit early to be drawing such conclusions. You can ban groups but not opinions. Merely attempting to do that would be incompatible with our free democratic order, which also grants freedom to those who oppose the state, as far as is reasonable. Bans on associations, symbols and statements can only be a last resort.”
“The operation is a symbol that is not aimed so much at the hard core of diehards (…) but is instead designed to deter hangers-on and give reassurance to those who abide by the law. Such drastic actions are, of course, also a sign that politicians are doing something, which is why they are always accompanied by newspaper images and television footage.”
“When (politicians) feel — for good reason — helpless to act and cannot come up with a solution, they cannot admit that openly. Instead, they need to do something — it doesn’t matter what. That doesn’t mean that banning parties or associations is totally ineffective, but those measures don’t solve social problems.”
– David Gordon Smith
- [In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit, for research and/or educational purposes. This constitutes 'FAIR USE' of any such copyrighted material.]