Politics and Legislation
North Korea to boost nuclear deterrent after U.S. pressure
By Ju-min Park
(Reuters) – North Korea intensified its war of words against the United States on Tuesday, vowing to strengthen its nuclear deterrent after Washington warned Pyongyang of further sanctions if it did not abandon its atomic program.
Last week, world leaders meeting in the United States said North Korea needed to adhere to international norms on nuclear issues and that it would face deeper isolation if it “continues down the path of provocation”.
The North’s foreign ministry spokesman served notice via the official KCNA news agency on Tuesday that it would “bolster its nuclear deterrent as long as the United States was continuing with its hostile policies” and that it planned “countermeasures” following pressure from Washington.
Under new leader Kim Jong-un, Pyongyang tried but failed to launch a long range rocket called Unha in April, breaking an agreement with the United States that would have traded food aid for access to its nuclear facilities, among other things.
$675k for downloading 30 songs – justice to the record industry
Published on May 23, 2012 by RTAmerica
Illegally downloading songs off the Internet has become a common trend around the globe, but a student at Boston University was specifically targeted for the practice. Joel Tenenbaum was sued by the Recording Industry Association of America for sharing 30 songs and now has to cough up a total of $675k. He joins us with more on his ongoing case against the RIAA, which the US Supreme Court decided this week not to hear.
Egyptian vote counting begins
Published on May 24, 2012 by AlJazeeraEnglish
Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros reports on the day many Egyptians have been waiting their whole lives for.
New Jersey okay’s spying on Muslims
Published on May 24, 2012 by RTAmerica
In New Jersey, Muslim leaders demanded a formal investigation of the NYPD’s tactics after allegations arose of law enforcement targeting and spying on Muslim businesses and mosques. After a three month review by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s administration, it turns out the NYPD did nothing wrong. So what does this mean for America’s Muslim community? Sahar Aziz, law professor at Texas Wesleyan University, joins us with her take.
House Votes Down NDAA Amendment to End Indefinite Detention
Published on May 24, 2012 by TheRealNews
Federal judge calls for an injunction on NDAA’s indefinite detention provision
More news at http://therealnews.com
Van Rompuy to draft plan for deeper economic union
BRUSSELS – EU leaders have tasked council chief Herman Van Rompuy with drafting a plan on deepening the eurozone’s economic union, potentially via an inter-governmental treaty.
After more than five hours of talks on the need to strengthen growth policies while sticking to the already strengthened deficit rules, EU leaders on Wednesday night (23 May) agreed to come back to these issues at a formal summit on 28 June.
“Our discussion also demonstrated that we need to take the economic and monetary union to a new stage. There was a general consensus that we need to strengthen the economic union to make it commensurate with the monetary union,” Van Rompuy said during a press conference at the end of the meeting.
The former Belgian premier added he would work on a report for the June summit with the heads of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the chairman of eurozone finance ministers.
In recent weeks, European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi has called for a 10-year plan on how to achieve closer fiscal and political union in the eurozone. Economics commissioner Olli Rehn has also indicated he will table ideas in this direction.
Van Rompuy explained his report would not be the definitive plan on deeper economic union, but just an outline of the “main building blocs and the working method to achieve this objective.”
Back in 2010, when he co-ordinated a similar exercise on stronger sanctions for deficit sinners in the eurozone, Van Rompuy hit a wall when it came to German-led demands for an EU treaty change. With the UK vetoing a treaty change last year and the Czech Republic opting out, an inter-governmental treaty on fiscal discipline was signed in March among 25 member states.
U.N. Summit Will Push for a More Powerful Global Environmental Agency
(CNSNews.com) – Ahead of a mammoth United Nations sustainability conferencein Rio de Janeiro next month, the Brazilian government has signaled a new push to get the U.N.’s top environmental body upgraded – a push long opposed by the United States.
Brazil wants to breathe new life into an initiative — vigorously promoted since the 1990s by European leaders — to replace the 40 year-old U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) with a full-fledged “specialized agency,” dubbed the U.N. Environment Organization (UNEO).
Brazilian Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira told a press briefing last Friday that the issue was a priority for her government, but she acknowledged that “there is no consensus in international organizations on the proposal to create an environment agency” during the summit, known as Rio+20.
“We are working hard looking for the best way to achieve this,” she said.
In what the U.N.’s Division for Sustainable Development says will be the biggest conference ever organized by the U.N., around 50,000 people, including some 135 heads of state and government (or deputies) will take part in the June 20-22 event.
During an earlier briefing, Brazilian Rio+20 organizer Luiz Alberto Figueiredo said his government believed that “UNEP should be strengthened as an environmental pillar, because in its present condition it is incapable of adequately carrying out its task.”
House Passes Stealth Legislation
Go to Google and type in “H.R. 4133.” You will discover that, apart from a handful of blogs and alternative news sites, not a single mainstream medium has reported the story of a congressional bill that might well have major impact on the conduct of United States foreign policy. H.R. 4133, the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012, was introduced into the House of Representatives of the 112th Congress on March 5 “to express the sense of Congress regarding the United States-Israel strategic relationship, to direct the president to submit to Congress reports on United States actions to enhance this relationship and to assist in the defense of Israel, and for other purposes.” The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) reportedly helped draft the bill, and its co-sponsors include Republicans Eric Cantor and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Democrats Howard Berman and Steny Hoyer. Hoyer is the Democratic whip in the House of Representatives, where Cantor is majority leader. Ros-Lehtinen heads the Foreign Affairs Committee.
The House bill basically provides Israel with a blank check drawn on the U.S. taxpayer to maintain its “qualitative military edge” over all of its neighbors combined. It requires the White House to prepare an annual report on how that superiority is being maintained. The resolution passed on May 9 by a vote of 411–2 on a “suspension of the rules,” which is intended for non-controversial legislation requiring little debate and a quick vote.
A number of congressmen spoke on the bill, affirming their undying dedication to the cause of Israel. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas was the only one who spoke out against it, describing it as “one-sided and counterproductive foreign policy legislation. This bill’s real intent seems to be more saber-rattling against Iran and Syria.” Paul also observed that “this bill states that it is the policy of the United States to ‘reaffirm the enduring commitment of the United States to the security of the State of Israel as a Jewish state.’ However, according to our Constitution, the policy of the United States government should be to protect the security of the United States, not to guarantee the religious, ethnic, or cultural composition of a foreign country.” Paul voted “no” and was joined by only one other representative, John Dingell of Michigan, who represents a large Muslim constituency.
It is interesting to note what exactly the bill pledges the American people to do on behalf of Israel. It obligates the United States to veto resolutions critical of Israel, to provide such military support “as is necessary,” to pay for the building of an anti-missile system, to provide advanced “defense” equipment (including refueling tankers, which are offensive), to give Israel special munitions (i.e., bunker-busters, which are also offensive), to forward deploy more U.S. military equipment to Israel, to offer the Israeli air force more training and facilities in the U.S., to increase security- and advanced-technology-program cooperation, and to extend loan guarantees and expand intelligence-sharing (including highly sensitive satellite imagery). Actually, there’s even more included, and I may have missed the kitchen sink. But the objective is to provide Israel with the resources to attack Iran, if it chooses to do so, while tying the U.S. and Israel so closely together that whatever Benjamin Netanyahu does, the U.S. “will always be there,” as our president has so aptly put it.
Mr. Speaker: I rise in opposition to H.R. 4133, the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act, which unfortunately is another piece of one-sided and counterproductive foreign policy legislation. This bill’s real intent seems to be more saber-rattling against Iran and Syria, and it undermines U.S. diplomatic efforts by making clear that the U.S. is not an honest broker seeking peace for the Middle East.
The bill calls for the United States to significantly increase our provision of sophisticated weaponry to Israel, and states that it is to be U.S. policy to “help Israel preserve its qualitative military edge” in the region.
While I absolutely believe that Israel — and any other nation — should be free to determine for itself what is necessary for its national security, I do not believe that those decisions should be underwritten by U.S. taxpayers and backed up by the U.S. military.
This bill states that it is the policy of the United States to “reaffirm the enduring commitment of the United States to the security of the State of Israel as a Jewish state.” However, according to our Constitution, the policy of the United States government should be to protect the security of the United States, not to guarantee the religious, ethnic, or cultural composition of a foreign country. In fact, our own Constitution prohibits the establishment of any particular religion in the U.S.
More than 20 years after the reason for NATO’s existence — the Warsaw Pact — has disappeared, this legislation seeks to find a new mission for that anachronistic alliance: the defense of Israel. Calling for “an expanded role for Israel within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), including an enhanced presence at NATO headquarters and exercises,” it reads like a dream for interventionists and the military-industrial complex. As I have said many times, NATO should be disbanded, not expanded.
This bill will not help the United States, it will not help Israel, and it will not help the Middle East. It will implicitly authorize much more U.S. interventionism in the region at a time when we cannot afford the foreign commitments we already have. It more likely will lead to war against Syria, Iran, or both. I urge my colleagues to vote against this bill.
by Staff Writers
Strasbourg, France (UPI)
disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
The European Parliament this week adopted a report urging Turkey to follow up on its recent work toward securing gender equality and women’s rights.
The report, written by Socialists & Democrats Member of European Parliament Emine Bozkurt, lays out a series of goals for Ankara to accomplish by 2020 in raising the status of women to fully equal members of Turkish society as Brussels and Ankara seek to breathe life into the country’s stalled EU accession bid.
The Dutch lawmaker’s report was accepted unanimously by the legislative body’s Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Commission in March, and Tuesday was approved by the entire EP meeting in a plenary session, with 590 votes in favor, 28 against and 53 abstentions, the Italian news agency ANSAmed reported.
Bozkurt, the EP’s rapporteur on women’s rights in Turkey, said the passage of the report — “A 2020 Perspective for Women in Turkey” — is meant to ensure that the European Commission keeps the issue of women’s right and domestic violence in the forefront of its efforts to promote a “positive agenda” with Ankara.
The report “stresses that there can be no democracy without women and that women should be treated as individuals rather than just as family members or as mothers,” the S&D Party said in a statement. “[It] highlights the importance of placing women’s rights at the core of accession negotiations between Turkey and the EU.”
In the report, Bozkurt calls for “zero tolerance” on violence against women while also praising such positive steps such as a new law on violence against women and the appointment of special prosecutors to handle such cases.
It also notes progress been made in terms of providing education for girls and improving women’s participation in employment and politics.
Opposition by Turkish civil society has been intense and to a large extent has stymied the actual implementation of the reforms, but recent indications have been more encouraging as the government steps up its efforts, Bozkurt said.
“Each of the relevant ministries are busy with bringing projects to life which give effectiveness to the legislation on improving women’s standard of living,” she noted. “More importantly, these ministries are cooperating in the area of gender equality.”
The report cites Turkey’s newly established Ministry of Family and Social Policies — now a fully-fledged ministry with its own budget.
But many problems remain, it noted.
For instance, Turkey’s new law against domestic violence “lacks a mechanism which immediately removes [alleged perpetrators] from the vicinity of the woman who has been subjected to violence” and the report urges “uniform interpretation and application” of the measure by police and prosecutors.
The EP’s adoption of the report comes at a time when the European Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Fule has sought to ease the acrimony that has arisen in EU-Turkish relations, partly due to disagreements over the status of the divided island of Cyprus.
Last week in Ankara, Fule said restarting formal accession talks should begin by opening “Chapter 23″ of the process, which addresses reforms on fundamental rights, the judiciary and corruption in Turkey.
“On women’s rights, every step needs to be taken to implement the recent law on violence against women, also, to improve the situation on the ground of women in Turkey as regards education, employment and political representation,” he said.
Democracy in the 21st century at TerraDaily.com
Senate rejects rival bills extending low-interest federal student loans
The Senate on Thursday rejected two competing bills that would prevent interest rates on federal student loans from doubling starting in July.
The failure of the two measures — one backed by Democrats and one backed by Republicans — guarantees both parties will continue to battle over how to keep the loan rate low over the coming weeks, right through spring graduations that have helped call attention to the issue.
The Democratic bill failed in a 51-43 vote — attaining a majority, but short of the 60 required for passage. Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) was the only Democrat to vote against the bill. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) voted present.
Just before that vote, the GOP bill, which was offered as a substitute amendment and also needed 60 votes, failed 34-62. Snowe voted present again, and nine Republicans voted against the amendment.
Both sides agree the low interest rates should be extended, but the two parties disagree over how to cover the nearly $6 billion cost.
Democrats would pay for it by closing a business tax break, while Republicans would close a fund in the healthcare law.
The result was expected, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) predicted before the votes that both bills would fail.
“I’m certainly aware of how things work around here. Neither one of these things are going to pass, sorry to say,” Reid said. “These two proposals were not created equal, but I hope a few reasonable Republicans will join with us to not put Americans’ health at risk.”
Republicans said Reid set up the vote to fail to help give Democrats a political talking point over the next few weeks.
Report rips DOJ attorneys in botched Stevens’s case
Two Department of Justice prosecutors have been suspended without pay and a Senate Democrat has scheduled a committee hearing following the release Thursday of a DOJ report that detailed the government’s misconduct in its botched case against the late Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska).
The DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) released its 672-page report on the Stevens case to top ranking lawmakers after more than two years of investigating the alleged wrongdoing of the federal prosecutors waging a criminal lawsuit against the veteran senator.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, has scheduled a hearing to review the report.
The DOJ, also on Thursday, announced it was suspending Joseph Bottini and James Goeke without pay. The report found the attorneys “acted in reckless disregard” for their legal obligations by not disclosing exculpatory evidence to Stevens’s defense lawyers. The two attorneys had already been transferred out of the public integrity division of DOJ in response to their involvement in the botched case.
A powerhouse of a senator, Stevens was convicted in 2008 on charges that he accepted improper gifts from an oil executive in the form of renovations to his cabin. About one week later, Stevens lost his bid for reelection. In August 2010, Stevens died in a plane crash in Alaska.
Obama taps George Mason professor to head nuclear agency
President Obama nominated George Mason University Professor Allison Macfarlane Thursday to serve as chairwoman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
Macfarlane has been a professor of environmental science at the university since 2006 and served on a federal panel tasked with determining a long-term solution for the country’s nuclear waste.
She has been critical of the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada, a long-delayed project that the Obama administration abandoned in 2009. Macfarlane wrote a 2006 book titled, Uncertainty Underground: Yucca Mountain and the Nation’s High-Level Nuclear Waste. The book, according to the GMU website, “explores the unresolved technical issues” with Yucca Mountain.
Current NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko, who has come under fire from his colleagues and Republicans for his leadership style, announced earlier this week that he intends to step down once the Senate confirms his replacement.
Obama nominated Macfarlane as one of five NRC commissioners and said he intended to appoint her as chairwoman of the panel once she is confirmed by the Senate.
The nomination sets up what could be a politically thorny confirmation process. Republicans are certain to take aim at Macfarlane over her stance on Yucca Mountain, a project that they say Obama abandoned for political reasons.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) applauded the nomination Thursday.
“I am confident that like her predecessor, Dr. Allison Macfarlane will make preserving the safety and security of American citizens her top priority as Chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission,” he said in a statement. “Dr. Macfarlane’s education and experience, in particular her service on the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, make her eminently qualified to lead the NRC for the foreseeable future.”
Reid said he hopes to move Macfarlane’s nomination in tandem with the nomination of Republican Commissioner Kristine Svinicki to a second term on the panel. By tying them together, Republicans are less likely to block Macfarlane’s nomination; they want Svinicki’s nomination to move forward before her term expires June 30.
“I continue to have grave concerns about Kristine Svinicki’s record on the Commission,” said Reid, who has been a vocal critic of Svinicki.
“But I believe the best interests of the public would be served by moving the nominations of Dr. Macfarlane and Ms. Svinicki together before Ms. Svinicki’s term expires at the end of June, to ensure that we have a fully functioning NRC. Republicans claim to share that goal, and I hope they will work with us to make it a reality.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a critic of nuclear power, said in a statement he believes Macfarlane “can be a strong chair for the NRC,” while Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said Macfarlane’s “background and experience demonstrate that she has the strong commitment to safety that is so needed in this post-Fukushima era.”
Senate panel moves $631B Defense bill
The Senate Armed Services Committee passed its version of the Defense Authorization bill Thursday, setting Pentagon spending in line with President Obama’s desired level and setting up a showdown with the Republican-led House.
The Senate panel passed the $631.4 billion bill unanimously out of committee, committee chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said Thursday. It is about $4 billion below the funding-level set in the legislation that passed the House.
The differences between the two bills will have to be resolved in conference committee, although both bills are above the spending caps set by last year’s Budget Control Act.
The Senate bill reverses several cuts the Pentagon had requested in its plans to cut $487 billion over the next decade, pushing back on reductions in the Air National Guard and proposed increases to TRICARE fees.
Levin said that the committee made about 150 changes from the president’s request.
The panel also took aim at aid to Pakistan, as ranking member John McCain (R-Ariz.) expressed outrage at the sentencing of Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi for his role helping the United States kill Osama bin Laden.
McCain said the bill fenced in funds to aid Pakistan’s military until Islamabad opens its supply routes, is not supporting extremist groups and is not detaining citizens — a reference to Afridi, who was sentenced to 33 years in prison for treason.
“That has frankly outraged all of us,” McCain said. “It is our goal to make sure this doctor is not sentenced to death — which is basically what he got — for helping us apprehend Osama bin Laden.”
Levin and McCain held a joint press conference to announce the details of the bill on Thursday, which was marked up behind closed doors in committee Wednesday and Thursday. The bill now moves to the floor, where Levin said it’s on a list of bills to be considered in June by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
The bill did not directly tackle the $500 billion in automatic cuts through sequestration that the Defense Department potentially faces next year, which both Levin and McCain have said must be reversed. But the bill does instruct the Pentagon to explain the effects of sequestration — something it has yet to do — on the Defense Department to help “understand the huge impact” sequestration would have, Levin said.
Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) withdrew his amendment to change the language in last year’s authorization bill, saving it instead for debate before the full Senate on the floor.
Udall and opponents of indefinite detention want to change the law to stop military detention on U.S. soil, while supporters say it’s a necessary tool for the government to stop terrorism.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), one of the most vocal detention supporters, said she will also bring amendments to the floor on the issue.
Many of the major changes that the Armed Services panel made involved pushing back against the Pentagon’s proposed cuts.
‘Greeks forced into corner, made to chose Euro’
Published on May 23, 2012 by RussiaToday
EU leaders gather for an informal dinner in Brussels, but the main course will undoubtedly be the Eurozone’s crippling debt crisis. There’s a growing belief that the austerity driver heralded by France and Germany has backfired, sending weaker countries into a spiral of decline.
Reports say single currency member nations are preparing back up plans for the consequences of a Greek exit. France’s President Hollande wants the strategy to shift to growth – something Germany’s reluctant to agree with. Both sides have to search for a compromise ahead of what could be a decisive 2nd Greek election in June.
John Laughland, the Director of Studies in the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation, believes the EU tries to control Greece by giving it no other choise but austerity.
Yemen promised large Saudi donation
Published on May 23, 2012 by AlJazeeraEnglish
Saudi Arabia has pledged more than three billion dollars in aid to its neighbour Yemen.
The announcement was made at a Friends of Yemen donors conference in Riyadh.
It comes amid growing concern over the presence of al-Qaeda in the troubled state, while there’s a desperate food shortage.
A group of seven aid organisations says nearly half the population is facing starvation, as Jane Ferguson reports.
Summit on eurozone crisis ends in failure
Published on May 24, 2012 by AlJazeeraEnglish
The euro has fallen to its lowest level against the dollar in almost two years, following Wednesday’s late night meeting in Brussels.
The talks in Belgium were meant to come up with an agreement on how to tackle the eurozone crisis.
But no deal has been reached, as Andrew Simmons reports.
Thailand: sun, sea and a booming business economy
Published on May 24, 2012 by Euronews
http://www.euronews.com/ Thailand evokes images of endless, sandy beaches but there is a lot more to this South East Asian country. In the first edition of our four part series ‘Thai Life’, we take a look at the kingdom’s business spirit. To find out why Thailand is such a popular investment market, euronews headed to its capital, Bangkok.
With a population of around 10 million, it can sometimes feel like all the city’s inhabitants are on the streets at once. Bangkok is at the heart of the Thai economy with 90% of the country’s export trade taking place in the capital. The Asian Kingdom is also becoming an evermore attractive production location for foreign businesses, which are attracted by its stable infrastructure and tax incentives.
Stiebel Eltron, a housing technology manufacturer is one of the 500 German companies to start up operations in Thailand.
It learned early on that doing business ‘Thai style’ requires a great deal of cultural awareness and tact; something the company’s Export Manager, Holger Palla knows all too well:
“In Germany you can raise your voice (literally bang your fist on the table) and speak more openly and direct. Maybe even a little too loud and direct. In Thailand you can’t do that at all. You have to be careful not to embarrass other people — they shouldn’t lose face so you have to show respect and proceed more subtly.”
Yupa Tassri, General Manager at Siebel Eltron takes care of the staff’s needs, bridging any cultural divides:
“In Thai most people respect Buddha, so the Germans will never understand how we respect him.
“My main challenge is to mix and match between Thai and German mindsets, to make sure that they understand each other and work together in harmony.”
Teamwork plays a vital role, ensuring the working day runs smoothly, as Roland Hoehn, Asian Pacific Director at Siebel Eltron explains:
“Thai’s like to work in groups. They want to have Sanuuk once in a while. Sanuuk is probably best translated as fun and is simply a part of the Thai culture. If they aren’t having fun, they leave the company. So harmony and fun are important.”
For foreign companies, the benefits of working in Thailand, seem to outweigh concerns voiced by some businesses over bureaucracy and a lack of qualified labour.
John Svengren, the Executive Director of the European Asean Business Centre believes the key to doing business successfully in Thailand is taking the time to build bonds with colleagues:
“Relationships mean a lot more for one thing. You don’t come to an Asian country and do business on the first day. You need to have relationships, particularly if you’re in joint venture operations with Thai partnerships. It can take years to develop confidence and trust.”
This is not only true for the industrial sector but also for tourism, another important area for foreign investors, especially European.
This year alone, more than 20 million visitors are expected, making up around 6% of the nation’s total economy.
The tourism industry has been trying to attract new target groups and green tourism is becoming increasingly popular. At Karon beach in Phuket, a Swiss run hotel was the first on the island to receive the Green Globe certificate for sustainability.
The hotel’s General Manager at the Mövenpick resort, Hansreudi Frutiger talks to euronews about his accomplishment:
“We began with the Green Globe one year ago. We wanted to explain to our Thai employees what this means to us; that we want to help the world stay as it was and is. We’ve a small garden where we grow tomatoes and cucumbers alongside various Thai herbs and spices which our chefs use in our kitchen’s dishes.”
Thailand is a country of contrast. While it is finding success putting itself on the world business map – tradition and heritage remain an integral part of life.
Turn Out The Lights – The Largest U.S. Cities Are Becoming Cesspools Of Filth, Decay And Wretchedness
Once upon a time, the largest U.S. cities were the envy of the entire world. Sadly, that is no longer the case. Sure, there are areas of New York City, Boston, Washington and Los Angeles that are still absolutely beautiful but for the most part our major cities are rapidly rotting and decaying. Cities such as Detroit, Cleveland, Baltimore, Memphis, New Orleans, St. Louis and Oakland were all once places where middle class American workers thrived and raised their families. Today, all of those cities are rapidly being transformed into cesspools of filth, decay and wretchedness. Millions of good jobs have left our major cities in recent decades and poverty has absolutely exploded. Basically, you can turn out the lights because the party is over. In fact, some major U.S. cities are literally turning out the lights. In Detroit, about 40 percent of the streetlights are already broken and the city cannot afford to repair them. So Mayor Bing has come up with a plan to cut the number of operating streetlights almost in half and leave vast sections of the city totally in the dark at night. I wonder what that will do to the crime rate in the city. But don’t look down on Detroit too much, because what is happening in Detroit will be happening where you live soon enough.
A recent Bloomberg article described Mayor Bing’s plan to eliminate nearly half of Detroit’s streetlights….
Detroit, whose 139 square miles contain 60 percent fewer residents than in 1950, will try to nudge them into a smaller living space by eliminating almost half its streetlights.
As it is, 40 percent of the 88,000 streetlights are broken and the city, whose finances are to be overseen by an appointed board, can’t afford to fix them. Mayor Dave Bing’s plan would create an authority to borrow $160 million to upgrade and reduce the number of streetlights to 46,000. Maintenance would be contracted out, saving the city $10 million a year.
What this means is that there are going to be a lot of neighborhoods that will have the lights turned off permanently.
So which neighborhoods will those be?
According to one top Detroit official, “distressed areas” are going to be on the low end of the totem pole….
“You have to identify those neighborhoods where you want to concentrate your population,” said Chris Brown, Detroit’s chief operating officer. “We’re not going to light distressed areas like we light other areas.”
City officials know that they cannot force people to move from “distressed areas”, so they are going to encourage them to leave by cutting off services.
But turning off the lights is not the only way that Detroit is trying to save money.
Recently, officials in Detroit announced that all police stations in the city will be closed to the public for 16 hours a day.
It is so sad to see what is happening to what was once such a great city.
Back in the old days, Detroit had a teeming middle class population.
Today, 53.6% of all children in the city of Detroit are living in poverty.
Back in the old days, Detroit was a shining example of what America was doing right.
Today, 47 percent of all people living in the city of Detroit are functionally illiterate.
Back in the old days, middle class neighborhoods sprouted like mushrooms all over Detroit.
Today, the median price of a home in Detroit is just $6000.
Needless to say, crime is exploding in Detroit and many families live in constant fear.
Many have taken justice into their own hands. Justifiable homicide in Detroit rose by a staggering 79 percent during 2011.
But Detroit is only one example of a national trend.
For example, a recent article by Jim Quinn entitled “More Than 30 Blocks Of Grey And Decay” described the filth, decay and wretchedness in West Philadelphia. Quinn refers to the drive through this area as “the 30 Blocks of Squalor”….
Former J.P. Morgan Lobbyist Manages The Banking Committee Expected To Investigate J.P. Morgan’s Trading Loss
By Lee Fang
The Senate Banking Committee is responding to outrage over the news that J.P. Morgan lost some $3 billion in customer money because of a risky trading strategy. The committee is preparing for two hearings with regulators, and Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD), chair of the committee, is hoping that Jamie Dimon will testify in the near future. “Our due diligence has made it clear that the Banking Committee should hear directly from JPMorgan Chase’s CEO Jamie Dimon,” Johnson said in a statement last week.
Luckily for Dimon, the professional staff in charge of managing the banking committee will be quite familiar to him and his team of lobbyists. That’s because the staff director for the Senate Banking Committee is none other than a former J.P. Morgan lobbyist, Dwight Fettig.
In 2009, Fettig was a registered lobbyist for J.P. Morgan. His disclosures show that he was hired to work on “financial services regulatory reform” and the “Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2009″ on behalf of the investment bank. Now, as staff director for the Senate Banking Committee, he will be overseeing the hearings on J.P. Morgan’s risky proprietary trading.
On the House side of Congress, J.P. Morgan may see even less of a risk in upcoming hearings. Chairman Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL), who would presumably manage any investigation into the bank, has already offered comments to the press defending the investment bank’s trading decisions.
Morning business round-up: Spain’s Bankia shares suspended
What made the business news in Asia and Europe this morning? Here’s our daily business round-up:
It asked for them to be suspended ahead of a board meeting later on Friday to reformulate its accounts for 2011 and submit a plan to shore up its finances.
The bank is reported to be due to ask the government for a bailout of more than 15bn euros ($19bn; £12bn).
Bankia, which is Spain’s fourth-largest bank, was part-nationalised two weeks ago because of its problems with bad property debt.
In China, the telecoms equipment maker Huawei filed a competition complaint against US firm InterDigital with European Union regulators.
Huawei accuses InterDigital of “abusing” its position and demanding “exploitative” fees to use its patented technology, said to be essential to 3G in mobile devices.
It added that such moves were against the EU rules which require holders to licence their patents fairly.
InterDigital said it was “committed” to those rules.
International banking giant HSBC will be the latest UK firm to face a shareholder vote on executive pay later, amid growing concern about high rewards for bosses not reflecting company performance.
The bank is holding its annual general meeting (AGM) at which shareholders get to express their views about how the company is being run.
Chief executive Stuart Gulliver is in line for a pay package worth £7.2m.
But shareholder advisory body, Pirc, is advising shareholders to vote no.
A 60-year-old man and his 90-year-old mother jumped off the roof of their apartment block in Vathy Square, near central Athens, early on Thursday in a double suicide that appeared to have been prompted by financial woes.
No suicide note was found but a short despair-filled text was uploaded onto a poem-sharing website late on Wednesday by a man called Antonis Perris. “I don’t see any way out. I have property but no cash at all, so what am I going to do about food?” he wrote, adding that his mother had Alzheimer’s while he had a terminal illness. “I don’t have many days left, I am very sick,” he wrote. The note is followed by a string of comments posted afterward by readers wishing him well and then notes of sorrow as of Thursday morning.
Police would not comment on the incident but sources said the man was an unemployed musician.
He and his mother are the latest in a series of Greeks to take their own lives in recent months as the repercussions of the debt crisis push many into despair over their finances.
Wars and Rumors of War
‘Iranians won’t give up nuke program, it’s matter of national pride’
Published on May 23, 2012 by RussiaToday
Iran is hoping to convince world powers its nuclear programme serves a peaceful purpose and isn’t about making bombs. A new round of talks has begun in Baghdad – with further pressure on Tehran to stop higher-grade uranium enrichment which it’s feared could be put to military use. Iran has already tried to ease worsening relations, by tentatively agreeing to new UN inspections of sites which are suspected of involvement in atomic weapons development.
But, Washington says there’ll be no let-up in the heat on Tehran. Fresh sanctions are expected to hit in just over a month, targeting the country’s oil and nuclear sectors, as well as international trade links. Political analyst Chris Bambery says Iran’s nuclear programme has become a matter of national pride for its people – which they’ll not give up.
NEW DELHI: India and the US on Monday discussed ways to further strengthen their already expansive bilateral defense, in the backdrop of their Malabar naval combat exercise being successfully held in the Bay of Bengal earlier this month.
Visiting US chief of naval operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert held talks with Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne and Army vice-chief Lt-Gen S K Singh, apart from calling on defense minister A K Antony and national security adviser Shiv Shankar Menon.
Admiral Greenert will also be visiting key naval establishments, including Western Naval Command at Mumbai, the INS Hansa base at Goa, the new Karwar naval base and the training establishment at Kochi, during his five-day visit.
India, however, still remains reluctant to ink bilateral pacts like the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum Agreement (CISMOA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA) that are being pushed by the US for the last several years.
But there have been no full-stops in either the flurry of joint military exercises between the two countries as well as armament deals, with US notching up sales worth over $8 billion to India over the last decade and many more contracts in the pipeline. In just the military aviation sector, the US is going to notch up sales worth well over $11 billion, ranging from over $2.2 billion for 12 C-130J `Super Hercules’ aircraft to $3.1 billion for 12 P-8I Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.
Taliban Poisons 120 School Girls in Latest Attack Against Education
Published on May 23, 2012 by IBTimesTV
More than Afghan 120 schoolgirls and three teachers have been poisoned in the second attack in many months blamed on conservative radicals in the country’s north, Afghan police and education officials said on Wednesday (May 23)
Victims of the poisoning were being treated in hospital after the attack on a school in Taliqan inTakhar Province.
One of the poisoned schoolgirls who gave her name as Samera gave details of the ordeal.
“We saw one of the students was unconscious and in bad condition we were told not to drink water but we had already drunk the water and we became unconscious too,” she said.
The attack occurred in Takhar province where police said that radicals opposed to education of women and girls had used an unidentified toxic powder to contaminate the air in classrooms. Scores of students were left unconscious.
“There was a certain smell that our students noticed, unfortunately as a result some of our students were poisoned and the recent report showed that 80 of our students were poisoned,”Abdul Wahab Zafari head of Takhar education departmentAfghanistan’s intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), says the Taliban appear intent on closing schools ahead of a 2014 withdrawal by foreign combat troops.
Afghanistan’s Ministry of Education said last week that 550 schools in 11 provinces where the Taliban have strong support had been closed down by insurgents.
Last month, 150 schoolgirls were poisoned in Takhar province after they drank contaminated water.
Since 2001 when the Taliban were toppled from power by U.S.-backed Afghan forces, females have returned to schools, especially in the capital Kabul. They were previously banned from work and education.
But there are still periodic attacks against students, teachers and school buildings, usually in the more conservative south and east of the country, from where the Taliban insurgency draws most of its support.
‘US backed off Libya-style regime change in Syria’
Published on May 24, 2012 by RussiaToday
The Syrian regime has come under fire from a new UN report claiming both the government and opposition are committing gross human rights violations. It claims Damascus is responsible for the largest share of the violence, while rebels are accused of kidnapping civilians and torturing captured soldiers. Meanwhile, Amnesty International has slammed the UN Security Council as ‘increasingly unfit for purpose’ and too slow to act on Syria. The world body dispatched an observer mission to the country, where it’s estimated around ten thousand people have been killed since March last year.
Author William Engdahl says however that Syria must be left alone to determine its own future.
Winds from Syria unrest blow into Lebanon: Clashes spark fears of another war
Experts say Lebanon has fallen hostage to conflict in neighbouring Syria, following deadly sectarian clashes between pro-, anti-Damascus camps.
|Middle East Online|
By Rita Daou – BEIRUT
Fed by the 14-month crisis in neighbouring Syria and rumours of renewed civil unrest, turbulence across Lebanon is stoking fears the situation in the country may take a turn for the worse.
On Wednesday night, a gunbattle broke out in the Caracas district of west Beirut, followed by a clash that lasted several hours and left two dead, according to security officials.
The spark for the clash, during which gunmen used hand grenades against the Lebanese security forces, was a “personal dispute” between at least one of the men and a woman in her early 20s, the officials added.
Though the shootout was an “isolated incident,” a security official at the scene said, “the timing of the incident is very bad, because people in Lebanon are nervous about the overall situation.”
Uncertainty turned news of a crime into a new cause for alarm. That some of those involved in the clash were Syrian nationals sparked rumours on the streets the next morning.
Some wondered where the gunmen got the weapons from, others said their real target was the Lebanese army, and still others raised questions about whether the gunfight had a political backdrop.
The developments have proven right experts who say Lebanon has fallen hostage to the conflict in neighbouring Syria, following deadly sectarian clashes between the country’s pro- and anti-Damascus camps.
Though the violence has on the whole been short-lived and focused on small areas of the country, individual citizens’ lives have already been transformed.
“My husband is travelling and due to return soon,” Mirella Qazzi, 40, said. A mother of four, Qazzi lives in Jounieh, 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the capital Beirut.
“I am very worried that when he flies back, he won’t be able to get home, because the roads might be blocked,” Qazzi added.
She said was angry because she felt the spectre of war looming, “even if no Lebanese wants war, regardless of our sectarian differences.”
Though relatively contained, the speed with which the waves of violence have unfolded from specific security incidents has left many feeling shaken.
On May 12, Shadi al-Mawlawi, a young Islamist from the northern port city of Tripoli was arrested on charges of belonging to a terrorist organisation. The arrest was followed by clashes that left 10 people dead.
Then on May 20, troops shot dead two Sunni clerics when their convoy failed to stop at a checkpoint in the north, prompting a round of fighting in Beirut that left two dead.
Residents protested the clerics’ killing by setting fire to tyres and cutting off several roads in northern Lebanon.
Youths also cut off roads when a group of Shiite Lebanese pilgrims were kidnapped in Syria this week.
By Steve Gutterman
(Reuters) – Russia tested a new long-range missile on Wednesday that should improve its ability to penetrate missile defense systems, the military said, in Moscow’s latest warning to Washington over deployment of a missile shield in Europe.
The Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) was successfully launched from the Plesetsk facility in northwestern Russia and its dummy warhead landed on target on the Kamchatka peninsula on the Pacific coast, the Defense Ministry said.
The new missile is expected to improve Russia’s offensive arsenal, “including by increasing the capability to overcome missile defense systems that are being created”, the ministry said in a statement.
Russia opposes a missile shield the United States and NATO are deploying in Europe, saying it will be able to intercept Russian warheads by about 2018, weakening Moscow’s nuclear arsenal and upsetting the post-Cold War balance of power.
The United States says the system is intended to counter a potential threat from Iran and poses no risk to Russia, but the Kremlin has rejected those assurances and stepped up criticism of the system, to be deployed in four phases by about 2020.
Last autumn, then-President Dmitry Medvedev outlined steps Russia was taking to neutralize the perceived threat, including upgrades to Russia’s offensive nuclear arsenal.
Russia and the United States are still in talks to agree cooperation on missile defense, but Moscow has warned of further measures if no such deal is reached and Washington refuses to provide binding guarantees its system will not threaten Russia.
At a conference in Moscow this month, senior General Nikolai Makarov said Russia could carry out pre-emptive strikes on future NATO missile defense installations to protect its security.
The European system is to include interceptor missile installations in Poland and Romania and a radar in Turkey as well as interceptors and radars on ships based in the Mediterranean Sea.
Russia usually names its weapons, but the Defense Ministry made no mention of a name for the new missile. It said it could be fired from a mobile launcher.
Missile defense has troubled ties between Russia and the United States since the Cold War.
The dispute over the current project has developed despite President Barack Obama’s decision in 2009 to scrap the previous administration’s plans for longer-range interceptors, which helped improve relations after a period of growing tension.
Western officials say improvements to Russia’s ICBM arsenal undermine Moscow’s argument that the system will present a threat and suggest the Kremlin wants to use the issue as a bargaining chip in broader talks on nuclear arms cuts.
During his 2000-2008 Kremlin term, President Vladimir Putin repeatedly said Russia would improve its offensive nuclear capability in response to U.S. missile defense plans.
In 2007, First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, now Putin’s chief of staff, was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying Russia already had weapons that could overcome any current or future missile defense system.
(Writing by Steve Gutterman; editing by Andrew Roche)
Articles of Interest
Israeli public opinion turns against Sudanese migrants
Published on May 24, 2012 by AlJazeeraEnglish
Hundreds of Israelis took to the streets in south Tel Aviv on Thursday to protest against the mass migration from Sudan as a result of the strife in the African nation.
Some Israelis now want the government to tighten the rules on immigration, and to even send the migrants back home.
Tensions have been building for months as migrants are blamed for an increase in burglary and crime.
The protesters shouted “Sudanese go home” – a reference to the thousands of Sudanese who have travelled through Egypt to Israel. Many were smuggled into the country via the Sinai Peninsula.
Israeli politicians are now responding to this fear and anger, with the interior minister trying to push a mass-expulsion order through the courts.
Al Jazeera’s Sue Turton reports from Tel Aviv.
The Questionable Past of the Man Who Decides Who U.S. Drones Will Kill
By Conor Friedersdorf
As I figure it, there are two death panels in the United States. One is within the C.I.A., where high-ranking intelligence professionals decide, via some opaque protocol, who they want to kill with armed drones. I used to assume that they put all the names on a list. But it was subsequently reported that sometimes the C.I.A. kills people whose identities it doesn’t even know.
Then there’s the other death panel. It determines whose death will be sought by drones that the Department of Defense controls. These human targets used to be determined in a meeting that involved the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, various unnamed national security officials, and Obama Administration counterterrorism adviser John Brennan. They’d talk things over and debate names.
Now the protocol is changing for both programs.
“White House counterterror chief John Brennan has seized the lead in choosing which terrorists will be targeted for drone attacks or raids, establishing a new procedure for both military and CIA targets,” Kimberly Dozier of the Associated Press reports. “The effort concentrates power over the use of lethal U.S. force outside war zones within one small team at the White House … Under the new plan, Brennan’s staff compiles the potential target list and runs the names past agencies such as the State Department at a weekly White House meeting.”
So who is the man with this extraordinarily powerful influence over who lives and dies in the due-process-free world of international assassinations? An experienced intelligence officer with 25 years experience, fluent Arabic skills … and a more controversial recent history in government.
Combat ‘Burn Pits’ Ruin Immune Systems, Study Shows
Thousands of soldiers have come home with symptoms and illnesses they suspect are linked to open-air “burn pits.” Now, a new study has confirmed that particulate matter from the pits causes lung damage and immune system impairment. Photo: U.S. Air Force
Since returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, an untold number of soldiers have come down with puzzling health problems. Chronic bronchitis. Neurological defects. Even cancer. Many of them are pointing the finger at a single culprit: The open-air “burn pits” that incinerated trash — from human waste to computer parts — on military bases overseas.
Pentagon officials have consistently reassured personnel that there was no “specific evidence” connecting the two. But now, only days after Danger Room uncovered a memo suggesting that Army officials knew how dangerous the pits were, an animal study is offering up new scientific evidence that links burn pits to depleted immune systems.
“The dust doesn’t only appear to cause lung inflammation,” says Dr. Anthony Szema, an assistant professor at Stony Brook School of Medicine who specializes in pulmonology and allergies, and the researcher who led this latest study. “It also destroys the body’s own T-cells.” Those cells are at the core of the body’s immune system, “like a bulletproof vest against illnesses,” Szema tells Danger Room. When they’re depleted, an individual is much more prone to myriad conditions.
For scientists, trying to establish a definitive connection between those diffuse health problems and the pits has been exceedingly difficult to do. Most notably because the Department of Defense, as a report issued by the Institutes of Medicine noted last year, didn’t collect adequate evidence — like what the pits burned and which soldiers were exposed — for researchers to draw any meaningful conclusions about the impact of the open-air incinerators. Szema’s study is only on 15 mice, so it’s by no means definitive. But it is an important first step.
Regardless, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Pentagon officials were aware of the risk posed by the pits. Another memo (.pdf), written by Lt. Col. Darrin Curtis in 2006 and obtained by Danger Room, warned of “an acute health hazard” to personnel stationed at Iraq’s Balad air base. “It is amazing,” he noted, “that the burn pit has been able to operate … without significant engineering controls being put in place.”
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