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Member since: Thu Oct 28, 2004, 11:18 PM
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The World Bank, Poverty Creation and the Banality of Evil

The World Bank, Poverty Creation and the Banality of Evil

Wednesday, 25 March 2015 00:00
By Alnoor Ladha, Truthout | News Analysis

This week, the World Bank is convening its 16th annual "Conference on Land and Poverty," which brings together corporations, governments and civil society groups to ostensibly discuss how to "improve land governance."

As this is happening, hundreds of civil society organizations are denouncing the World Bank's role in global land grabs. As the organization I am part of, The Rules, is a member of Our Land Our Business, the umbrella campaign of farmer organizations, indigenous groups, trade unions and grassroots organizers from around the world protesting against the Bank's policies, I often get asked the question, why do civil society and the World Bank have such differing views of the Bank's role? Reading the Bank's website, one would think that the World Bank was in the same line of work as the activists challenging their policy. In fact, they have recently adopted the earnest tagline of "Working for a world free of poverty."

In the Grips of Ideology

As always, the first place to start is ideology, as it is always a background condition. The World Bank is an unapologetic proponent of neoliberalism, a moral philosophy that pushes self-interest, corporate control and "free markets." These forces, they believe, will result in such a large amount of overall economic growth that enough will trickle-down to the "masses" to lift them out of poverty.

Many have pointed to deep flaws in this logic, including Thomas Piketty, who showed through exhaustive analysis of long-term trends how wealth actually congeals in this system. What's more, there is ample evidence to show how the self-interest the World Bank believes in, far from ensuring a fair system in which the well-being of all is addressed, actually results in a set of rules that are rigged in favor of a tiny elite. Research from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich has shown that a super entity of just 147 companies controls over 40 percent of corporate wealth. The corporations behind this potent web of power are largely Western corporations, mostly concentrated in the financial sector.

World Bank ideology is deeply linked to the belief that corporate interests and country interests are one in the same. The old US adage of "what's good for GM is good for America" has expanded through globalization into wholesale neocolonialism through multinational corporations. The recent cable leaks that show how the US State Department exerts influence and strong-arms countries around the world on behalf of the agricultural giant Monsanto is just one example of such egregious policy. ...........(more)


Republican presidential race begins (cartoon)


This Trade Deal Will Make You Sick

This Trade Deal Will Make You Sick

Wednesday, 25 March 2015 00:00
By Anna Meyer, OtherWords | Op-Ed

Food is more than just what we eat. It connects us to each other and our environment. And how we treat it is of tremendous importance to our democracy.

Right now, the future of our food is being decided behind closed doors.

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive trade and investment deal being negotiated by the United States and 11 Pacific Rim countries, treats food as just another global commodity to be traded and exchanged. This approach completely overlooks its vital importance to human life.

President Barack Obama is calling on Congress to give him “fast track” authority to move along the TPP quickly, as well as a similar pact with the European Union. This would empower him to hastily conclude the deals without giving Congress time to review or revise them.

Leaked documents show that the treaties, which together cover nearly three quarters of the global economy, raise several major red flags for food safety. .................(more)


Why more U.S. colleges will go under in the next few years

(MarketWatch) When officials at Sweet Briar College announced earlier this month that the Virginia women's’ school would close at the end of this year, the news drew the attention of countless national media outlets and panicked alumnae looking for ways to save the school.

After all, how often does a “rich girl’s school,” as one student described Sweet Briar in the New York Times, just suddenly shut down?

It’s pretty rare for a more than 100-year-old school with a national reputation for a beautiful campus, close-knit community and accessible professors to just up and close. In the 10 years leading up to 2013, five nonprofit colleges and universities closed a year on average, according to a study from higher education researchers at Vanderbilt University. But the trend is likely to accelerate in the coming years, as colleges cope with lower tuition revenue due in part to lackluster enrollment, student worries about employment prospects and being saddled with debt after graduation.

“We expect that there will be more college closures over the next three to four years,” Susan Fitzgerald, a senior vice president at Moody’s. “I don’t think it’s going to be a landslide of college closures, but we are coming through a very tough period of time.” .............(more)


China's Hydrogen-Powered Future Starts in Trams, Not Cars

(Bloomberg) The sleek, orange locomotive that made its debut this month in Qingdao, China, resembles a high-speed bullet train, at least until it moves. But this new vehicle—a tram, not a train—tops out at about 43 miles per hour, a fraction of the 200mph speeds of Japan's Shinkansen trains.

In smog-choked China, however, speed's not as important as what the new tram leaves behind it: Its only emission is water. The tram, the first of its kind in the world, runs on hydrogen power via onboard fuel cells. Refueling takes just three minutes, after which a three-car tram capable of carrying as many as 380 passengers can run for about 62 miles.

There's an obvious problem facing the future of hydrogen-powered transit. Across China's vast expanse are only about 83 miles of tram tracks, laid out in just seven cities. Still, for the state-owned manufacturer behind the tram, Qingdao Sifang Co., there's reason for optimism. Chinese officials intend to bet big on the tram technology. Plans call for spending 200 billion yuan ($32 billion) over the next five years to increase tram tracks more than tenfold, to more than 1,200 miles, and to buy more trams, according to the Xinhua state news agency. Sifang also makes more traditional trams that connect to overhead cables or carry batteries.

One early adopter is Foshan, a city of 8 million in southern China's Guangdong province, where officials say construction of new tram lines could start later this year. Foshan is getting heavily into hydrogen transit. Last year the city invested $72 million in a plan with Sifang to manufacture the trams locally for nationwide distribution. The two sides also have agreed to create a national hydrogen-power research center. .................(more)


Amy Goodman: The Costs of War, the Price of Peace

from truthdig:

By Amy Goodman

What price would you pay not to kill another human being? At what point would you commit the offenses allegedly perpetrated by Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was charged Wednesday with desertion and “misbehavior before an enemy?”

Bowe Bergdahl was a private when he left his post in Afghanistan, under circumstances that are still unknown to the public, and was captured by the Taliban. They imprisoned him for five years, until he was released in a controversial prisoner swap negotiated by the Obama administration. Five Taliban members who were held for years at Guantanamo Bay were released to house arrest in Qatar in exchange for Bergdahl. He now faces a court-martial and potentially life in prison. Meanwhile, the architects of the disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan remain untried, while a new report asserts that up to 1.3 million people have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan in the first 10 years of the so-called war on terror.

The report is called “Body Count” and is published in the U.S. by Physicians for Social Responsibility. “It has been politically important to downplay Allied forces’ responsibility for the massive carnage and destruction in the region,” writes San Francisco doctor Robert M. Gould in the report’s foreword. He told me: “We need to take full responsibility for the true cost of war as we are preparing to continue our involvement in Afghanistan and deepen our involvement in Syria and Iraq. There’s great anger throughout the region about our involvement and the underplaying here of what the true costs are in terms of death and destruction.”

This report was released just as Afghanistan’s new president, Ashraf Ghani, was welcomed at the White House by President Barack Obama. Obama announced that he is slowing the planned departure of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, leaving 9,800 soldiers at least through the end of 2015. “It is my judgment, it’s the judgment of General [John] Campbell and others who are on the ground, that providing this additional time frame during this fighting season for us to be able to help the Afghan security forces succeed is well worth it,” Obama said. America’s longest war continues, with no end in sight. Ghani visited the Pentagon during his time in Washington, as well as Arlington National Cemetery, where he laid a wreath of flowers to honor the fallen U.S. soldiers.

“Body Count” provides a startling update to the previously widely accepted estimate of casualties from the war on terror in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. “The figure is approximately 10 times greater than that which the public, experts and decision makers are aware. ... And this is only a conservative estimate,” the report stated. “The total number of deaths in the three countries ... could also be in excess of two million, whereas a figure below one million is extremely unlikely.” The report, writes former U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Hans von Sponeck in its introduction, “must be seen as a significant contribution to narrowing the gap between reliable estimates of victims of war, especially civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and tendentious, manipulated or even fraudulent accounts. These have in the past blurred the picture of the magnitude of death and destitution in these three countries.” Von Sponeck—who, in 1957, was one of West Germany’s first conscientious objectors—also served as the U.N.‘s Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq at the time when crushing sanctions were killing thousands of people in that country. He resigned in protest of the sanctions. ................(more)


“To this mayor, black and brown lives do not matter”: 3 Arrested at Die-In at Rahm Emanuel’s Office

from In These Times:

“To this mayor, black and brown lives do not matter”: 3 Arrested at Die-In at Rahm Emanuel’s Office
Protesters demand reforms to alleged abuses in Chicago’s criminal justice system, including a discriminatory “stop-and-frisk” program and secret interrogation site.


A chaotic scene played out on the fifth floor of Chicago's City Hall Tuesday morning. In one corner, clergy members argued fervently with police officers amid a scrum of journalists to be allowed in to Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office to present their demands on police accountability.

Behind them, dozens of protesters looked on as 30-some activists lay on the floor in a die-in—a protest action that’s become a mainstay of the Black Lives Matter movement—belting out “We Shall Overcome.” And behind the rope separating Emanuel’s office from the protest, a slowly growing number of police officers trickled in to stand between the clergy and their eventual target: the door leading to the mayor’s office.

“We just want to talk to the mayor,” came the entreaty from the negotiating clergy.

In the end, it took three arrests and nearly an hour of testimonials and consultations before four clergy members were allowed past the rope barrier to present their demands to a member of Emanuel’s staff. The protest—led by the Community Renewal Society, a religious-based social justice organization—was the latest in a series of actions aimed at pressuring Emanuel to address alleged police abuses that have come to dog his campaign for reelection ahead of the April 7 run-off.

The day before the protest, the American Civil Liberties Union released a report showing that Chicago police stopped more than 250,000 people last summer for questioning without making any arrests—a policy that closely mirrors the “stop and frisk” program in New York City that came under heavy scrutiny before being scaled back by Mayor Bill de Blasio. And allegations that the Chicago Police Department ran an interrogation center where suspects were held without being officially booked—essentially keeping them “off the books”—have made international headlines. ...............(more)


For Clintons, a Hedge Fund in the Family

(New York Times) Since marrying Chelsea Clinton five years ago, Marc Mezvinsky, a money manager, appears to have settled into his life as Bill and Hillary Clinton’s son-in-law. He has regularly appeared at charitable events, once introducing the former president at the Clinton Foundation’s celebrity poker tournament by dryly saying, “You may have heard of my father-in-law.” And at the recent N.B.A. All-Star Game, Mr. Mezvinsky took a seat next to Mr. Clinton and his partner in charitable endeavors, Dikembe Mutombo, the former basketball star.

Beyond the glamour, being part of the Clinton family has provided Mr. Mezvinsky with another perk: access to wealthy investors with ties to the Clintons.

When Mr. Mezvinsky and his partners began raising money in 2011 for a new hedge fund firm, Eaglevale Partners, a number of investors in the firm were longtime supporters of the Clintons, according to interviews and financial documents reviewed by The New York Times. Tens of millions of dollars raised by Eaglevale can be attributed to investors with some relationship or link to the Clintons.

The investors include hedge fund managers like Marc Lasry and James Leitner; an overseas money management firm connected to the Rothschild family; and people from Goldman Sachs, including the chief executive, Lloyd C. Blankfein. Some of the investors in Eaglevale have contributed campaign money to the former president and Mrs. Clinton, who is widely expected to run for president again in 2016. Some have also contributed to the family’s foundation. ...............(more)


Noam Chomsky: Nuclear Weapons and Unchecked Climate Change Are Leading Us Toward Doomsday


“It’s now 70 years since the end of the most horrific war in history,” the renowned intellectual said in a disquieting recent talk for the Lannan Foundation’s “In Pursuit of Cultural Freedom” lecture series. The war “ended with the use of an ultimate weapon which can bring human history to an end.” Soberingly, Chomsky added: “We’ve been living under that shadow ever since.”


Island States Shouldn't Have to Pay for Australian Prime Minister's High-Carbon "Lifestyle Choice"

(Truthout) As Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott surveys the wreckage of Vanuatu in the wake of Cyclone Pam, he would do well to think hard about how his high-carbon "lifestyle choice" for Australia contributes to the tragedy - a situation in which most of the island nations' population have been left homeless.

Having stoked outrage last week when he suggested the Australian government should not "endlessly subsidize the lifestyle choices" of Aboriginal people, Vanuatu now demonstrates why Abbott would have done us all a favor by instead applying this misplaced logic to his dangerous stance on climate change.

For in his conclusion about paying your way for costly "preferences," he could just as easily be driving home the case for why neither Australians nor vulnerable small island nations like Vanuatu (and The Bahamas, where I am from) should be put on the hook financially for the policy decisions of the Abbott government.

Taxpayers in developing countries like mine, already facing a myriad of complex challenges, cannot easily afford to respond to the disastrous and well-documented externalities created by the high-carbon growth strategy that Abbott irrationally clings to. ..........................(more)


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