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[font color="black" size="20" face="face"]HAPPY BIRTHDAY NEOMA!!![/font]


[center]Hoping your hip isn't hurting too much and wishing you a FANTASTIC B-Day!!!![/center]

Anything’s Possible Now

By Serge Halimi

Source: Le Monde Diplomatique

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Everything was becoming impossible. It was impossible to increase taxes because that would discourage “entrepreneurs”. It was impossible to protect a country against commercial dumping by low wage countries, as that would contravene free trade agreements. It was impossible to impose even the tiniest tax on financial transactions; most states would need to support it in advance. It was impossible to reduce VAT, as Brussels would have to agree to that.

On 16 March, everything changed. Those orthodox institutions, the European Central Bank (ECB), the International Monetary Fund, the Eurogroup and the German government led by Angela Merkel forced the reluctant Cyprus authorities to take a step which, had it been taken by Hugo Chávez, would have been deemed dictatorial, tyrannical, a blow to liberty, and would have prompted angry editorials. The step? Automatic withdrawals from bank deposits. The rate of confiscation, initially set at 6.75% to 9.90%, was almost a thousand times as much as the Tobin tax that has been a hot topic for 15 years.

So in Europe, where there’s a will there’s a way. Provided of course that the right target is chosen: not shareholders, not creditors, but the holders of deposit accounts in debt-ridden banks. It is so much easier to rob a pensioner in Cyprus (on the pretext that the real target is a Russian mobster hiding in a tax haven) than it is to extract money from a German banker or a Greek armaments manufacturer or a multinational with dividends tucked away in Ireland, Switzerland or Luxembourg.

Angela Merkel, the IMF and the ECB are forever talking about the imperative need to restore creditors’ “confidence” and the impossibility of increasing public expenditure or renegotiating sovereign debts: the financial markets would come down on any deviation. But how much confidence is it possible to have in the single currency and the sacrosanct guarantee of bank deposits when customers of a European bank can wake up to find that part of their savings has disappeared overnight?

Full Article: http://www.zcommunications.org/anything-s-possible-now-by-serge-halimi

Living with No Future

Iraq, 10 Years Later
By Dahr Jamail

Source: TomDispatch.com

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Back then, everybody was writing about Iraq, but it’s surprising how few Americans, including reporters, paid much attention to the suffering of Iraqis. Today, Iraq is in the news again. The words, the memorials, the retrospectives are pouring out, and again the suffering of Iraqis isn’t what’s on anyone’s mind. This was why I returned to that country before the recent 10th anniversary of the Bush administration’s invasion and why I feel compelled to write a few grim words about Iraqis today.

He takes me to interview refugees in his neighborhood of al-Adhamiyah. Most of them fled their homes in mixed Sunni-Shia neighborhoods and towns during the sectarian violence of 2006 and 2007. Inside his cobbled-together brick house with a roof of tin sheeting held down with old tires, one refugee echoes Isam’s words: “There is no future for us Iraqis,” he told me. “Day by day our situation worsens, and now we expect a full sectarian war.”

“All Iraq has had these last 10 years is violence, chaos, and suffering. For 13 years before that we were starved and deprived by [U.N. and U.S.] sanctions. Before that, the Kuwait War, and before that, the Iran War. At least I experienced some of my childhood without knowing war. I’ve achieved a job and have my family, but for my daughters, what will they have here in this country? Will they ever get to live without war? I don’t think so.”

For so many Iraqis like Ali, a decade after Washington invaded their country, this is the anniversary of nothing at all.

Full Article: http://www.zcommunications.org/living-with-no-future-by-dahr-jamail

Hogwash: Big Ag's Ban on Caging Pregnant Pigs Is Just For Show (GRAPHIC Warning)

This is a very difficult article to read and to see the pictures contained in it.

—By Tom Philpott| Tue Mar. 26, 2013 3:00 AM PDT

Among all the various dodgy aspects of factory-style meat production, the use of tight cages to confine pregnant female pigs surely ranks among the most awful. The hog industry isn't keen on displaying this practice to the public, but in 2010, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) planted a camera-toting undercover investigator in a hog facility run by Smithfield Foods, the globe's largest hog producer and pork processor. You can read the report here, but you can't beat the video for sheer visceral effect:

Now check out this column by Rick Berman, a notorious PR hired gun whose past clients include Big Tobacco, in the industry trade journal Pork Network. If the piece is any indication of the pork industry's commitment to banning sow crates, then the practice seems pretty entrenched for the long haul. Berman is a battle-scarred veteran of pork-industry battles. During its nasty and ultimately failed fight to stave off unionization at its vast Tar Heel pork-processing facility, Smithfield hired Berman to roll out TV commercials trashing union leaders, Bloomberg reported last year. And Berman's Center for Consumer Freedom even runs a website dedicated to "Keeping a watchful eye on the Humane Society of the US."

But the column gets interesting when Berman quite correctly points out that when giant players like Smithfield and Hormel promise to phase out crates, the pledge only applies to the hog operations that they directly run. But they raise only a fraction of the hogs they slaughter and process. The rest come from independent producers. According to Berman, pledges from companies like Smithfield and Hormel, even if they are kept, apply to only 20 percent of the hogs raised in the US. "The vast majority of the remaining 80% of the U.S. swine industry, very few of which are large or publicly traded, has no plans to stop using standard sow housing," Berman writes. Now, something like two-thirds of US hog production comes from producers working under contract with mega-processors like Smithfield and Cargill, and presumably, these companies could push for a transition away from crates among their contract suppliers. But Berman's right—they haven't done that.

He flatly states that "consumers don’t care about the gestation stall issue" without citing any public-opinion data.
That's really the only cogent bit in Berman's piece. The rest is assertion unbacked by evidence—mainly, an effort to reassure producers that they can and should continue using tight cages for sows. For example, he flatly states that "consumers don’t care about the gestation stall issue" without citing any public-opinion data. The Humane Society, however, points to two separate nationwide polls—one from the agribusiness-tied American Farm Bureau—finding that a majority of people do favor banning gestation stalls.


I am a hypocrite, I eat meat. I'm down to twice a week now and hope to eventually give it up, but I still eat it. Meat that I purchase from our small town butcher, who buys from local small farmers - who I don't believe use these kind of factory-farm crates ... but I don't know that for sure and it makes me no less a hypocrite. I do things that probably aren't at all effective, like signing petitions and I have written our MLA about many things over the years including conditions at these factory farms up here that I absolutely despise, but you feel helpless. These poor animals living and dying in torturous conditions every day of their lives ... it hurts.

Not Just the Bees: Bayer's Pesticide May Harm Birds, Too

—By Tom Philpott| Wed Mar. 27, 2013 3:00 AM PDT

Once again this spring, farmers will begin planting at least 140 million acres—a land mass roughly equal to the combined footprints of California and Washington state—with seeds (mainly corn and soy) treated with a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids. Commercial landscapers and home gardeners will get into the act, too—neonics are common in lawn and garden products. If you're a regular reader of my blog, you know all of that is probably bad news for honeybees and other pollinators, as a growing body of research shows—including three studies released just ahead of last year's planting season.

But bees aren't the only iconic springtime creature threatened by the ubiquitous pesticide, whose biggest makers are the European giants Bayer and Syngenta. It turns out that birds are too, according to an alarming analysis co-authored by Pierre Mineau, a retired senior research scientist at Environment Canada (Canada's EPA), published by the American Bird Conservancy. And not just birds themselves, but also the water-borne insect species that serve as a major food source for birds, fish, and amphibians.

The article isn't peer-reviewed, but Mineau is a formidable scientist. In February, he published a peer-reviewed paper in PLoS One concluding that pesticides, and not habitat loss, have likely been driving bird-population declines in the United States.

That paper didn't delve into specific pesticides. For his American Bird Conservancy paper, Mineau and his co-author, Cynthia Palmer, looked at a range of research on the effects of neonics on birds and water-borne insects, from papers by independent researchers to industry-funded studies used in the EPA's deregulation process and obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Full Article: http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2013/03/not-just-bees-bayers-pesticide-may-harm-birds-too

Look at This Visualization of Drone Strike Deaths

A California data design company has just put out a controversial new drone data project.
—By Erika Eichelberger

Pitch Interactive, a California-based data visualization shop, has created a beautiful, if somewhat controversial, visualization of every attack by the US and coalition forces in Pakistan since 2004.

The data is legit; it comes from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, but as Emma Roller at Slate notes, the designers present it weirdly, claiming at the beginning of the interactive that fewer than 2 percent of drone deaths have been "high profile targets," and "the rest are civilians, children and alleged combatants." At the end of the visualization, you find out that a majority of the deaths fall into the "legal gray zone created by the uncertainties of war," as Brian Fung put it at National Journal.

But the "legal gray zone" itself is alarming enough—highlighting the lack of transparency surrounding the administration's drone program—as are the discrepancies in total numbers killed. It's between 2,537 and 3,581 (including 411 to 884 civilians) killed since 2004, if you want to go with the BIJ. Or it's between 1,965 and 3,295 people since 2004 (and 261 to 305 civilians), if you want to believe the Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative at the New America Foundation. Or perhaps it's 2,651 since 2006 (including 153 civilians), according to Long War Journal. (The NAF and Long War Journal base estimates on press reports. BIJ also includes deaths reported to the US or Pakistani governments, military and intelligence officials, and other academic sources.)

So, here is Pitch's take on what killing people in Pakistan with flying robots has looked like over the past nine years:


Are African Land Grabs Really Water Grabs?

By Jennifer C Franco and Lyla Mehta

and Gert Jan Veldwisch

Source: CNN Wednesday, March 27, 2013

(CNN) -- Millions of hectares of land have been acquired in the past few years across Africa by investors who are moving into large-scale agriculture to take advantage of potential windfall gains. Popularly these deals have become known as "land grabbing," but they could just as well have been framed as "water grabs."

All around the world powerful actors (transnational as well as national) are pointing out that the lands in which they invest are "marginal" and "unproductive" lands. This has been shown to be untrue for many cases; either the land is already used by small-scale food producers, or is of prime quality and associated with good (potential) access to water.

Full Article: http://www.zcommunications.org/are-african-land-grabs-really-water-grabs-by-jennifer-c-franco


From Bangui To BRICS: If You Carve Africa, Africa May Carve You Too

By Patrick Bond and Khadija Sharife

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

DURBAN - The reach of the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) leaders far up the African continent was palpable this week, not just here in Durban where they are gathering to plan investments and infrastructure, but everywhere up continent where extraction does extreme damage.

One site is the Central African Republic, where Saturday’s combat deaths of 13 SA National Defense Force troops - in a fight of 200 South Africans against more than a thousand Seleka rebels – were in vain: not in support of African democracy, for François Bozizé was such an embarrassing tyrant that not even France made an attempt to prop him up. Tragically, over the past ten weeks, our SA troops have been defending counterproductive, repressive military investments and potential mining deals, as deputy foreign minister Ebrahim Ebrahim let on in a recent interview explaining their deployment in the Central African Republic.

It all reeks of the crony capitalism that we fear when BRICS heads of state and corporate interests crowd into the same Durban International Convention Centre hallways. Pretoria’s foreign ministry bureaucrats have explicitly excluded anyone from civil society from attending, and SA’s most accomplished environmentalist, Bobby Peek, was even prohibited from entering for a debate on national radio yesterday morning.

But as Pretoria’s commitment to Bangui shows, when these elites carve up Africa, the backlash can be brutal. A different way is needed: with more respect for societies and nature than for the profits of BRICS corporates. There are countless forms of resistance being shared by brics-from-below activists from each of the countries and their hinterlands – and growing linkages that mean coordinated critique and campaigning can be a logical next step in bottom-up internationalism.

Full Article: http://www.zcommunications.org/from-bangui-to-brics-if-you-carve-africa-africa-may-carve-you-too-by-patrick-bond

In Zurich, and Across Europe, Squatter Communities are Strengthening

By Ed Sutton

Source: Occupy.com

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Seen as a threat, and threatened with extinction

Autonomous communities and the buildings they occupy are a particularly pressing topic in Europe at the moment. As austerity sweeps the continent, squats—among the last remaining scraps of common space (Freiraum) and therefore burrs in the saddle of neo-liberalism’s charging horse, privatization—are being systematically cleared out.

In Greece, the wave of squat evictions has been largely driven by the need to eliminate real centers of active opposition that threaten the status quo (see my January portrait of Athens’ antagonist movements, http://www.occupy.com/article/dispatch-greece-meeting-antagonist-movements andhttp://www.occupy.com/article/thank-god-fascists-dispatch-weimar-greece).

Stories are surfacing about pensioners in Germany squatting a senior center under threat of closure due to lack of funds; of Spanish indignados breaking into sealed, vacant apartment buildings not to squat themselves but to provide living space for recent evictees of all stripes; of Minnesotans fighting the banks and refusing to leave their homes; even of anarchist movements being forged in the current tumults of the Middle East.

The time appears ripe to begin introducing squatter philosophies such as self-organization and the struggle for Freiraum and community preservation into the broader public discourse.

Full Article: http://www.zcommunications.org/in-zurich-and-across-europe-squatter-communities-are-strengthening-by-ed-sutton

Of Hope and Pain: Rachel Corrie’s Rafah Legacy

By Ramzy Baroud

Saturday, March 23, 2013

“Hi Papa. Don’t worry about me too much, right now I am most concerned that we are not being effective. I still don’t feel particularly at risk. Rafah has seemed calmer lately,” Rachel Corrie wrote to her father, Craig, from Rafah, a town located at the southern end of the Gaza Strip.

‘Rachel’s last email’ was not dated on the Rachel Corrie Foundation website. It must have been written soon after her last email to her mother, Cindy, on Feb 28. She was killed by an Israeli bulldozer on March 16, 2003.

Immediately after her painful death, crushed beneath an Israeli army bulldozer, Rafah embraced her legacy as another ‘martyr’ for Palestine. It was a befitting tribute to Rachel, who was born to a progressive family in the town of Olympia, itself a hub for anti-war and social justice activism. But Olympia is also the capital of Washington State. Politicians here can be as callous, morally flexible and pro-Israel as any other seats of government in the US, where sharply dressed men and women jockey for power and influence. Ten years after Rachel’s death, the US government is yet to hold Israel to account. Neither is justice expected anytime soon.

Bordering Egyptian and Israeli fences, and ringed by some of the poorest refugee camps anywhere, Rafah has never ceased being a news topic in years. The town’s gallantry of the First Palestinian Uprising (Intifada) in 1987 was the stuff of legends among other resisting towns, villages and refugee camps in Gaza and the rest of Palestine. The Israeli army used Rafah as a testing ground for a lesson to be taught to the rest of Palestinians. Thus, its list of ‘martyrs’ is one of the longest, and it is unlikely to stop growing anytime soon. Many of Rafah’s finest perished digging tunnels into Egypt to break the Israeli economic blockade that followed Palestine’s democratic elections in 2006. Buried under heaps of mud, drowning in Egyptian sewage water, or pulverized by Israeli missiles, some of Rafah’s men are yet to be located for proper burial.

Full Article: http://www.zcommunications.org/of-hope-and-pain-rachel-corrie-s-rafah-legacy-by-ramzy-baroud
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