“It is quite common to hear high officials in Washington and elsewhere speak of changing the map of the Middle East, as if ancient societies and myriad peoples can be shaken up like so many peanuts in a jar.”

― Edward W. Said

"A developing country that wants to develop its economy must first of all keep natural resources in its own hands."
- Deng Xiaoping

Monday, September 30, 2013

Cancer-Stricken Angola 3 Prisoner Herman Wallace Given Just Days to Live After 42 Years in Solitary

DemocracyNow.org - September 30, 2013

Angola prisoner Herman Wallace is dying of liver cancer after 42 years in solitary confinement. A member of the so-called Angola Three, Wallace and two others were in jail for armed robbery, then accused in 1972 of murdering a prison guard at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, known as Angola prison. The men say they were framed because of their political activism as members one of the first prison chapters of the Black Panther Party. Wallace’s supporters say he has just days to live, but his requests for compassionate release has so far gone unanswered. We speak with Jackie Sumell, a New Orleans-based artist behind "Herman’s House," a collaboration with Wallace, which is the subject of a new documentary by the same name. "I’m not sure in the state of Louisiana if compassion is part of the vocabulary of those who are in power. I always felt that compassionate release, or asking for compassionate release, was important in terms of a multipronged effort to have Herman released," Sumell says. "But there’s been 42 years of the state continuing to deny Herman’s due process. It’s incredible. He’s the longest known serving in solitary confinement in the United States." We are also joined by Malik Rahim, one of the founders of the Louisiana chapter of the Black Panther Party and a co-founder of the Common Ground Collective, which helped bring thousands of people from all over the world to help rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re on the road in New Orleans, Louisiana. We’re broadcasting from New Orleans Public Television station WLAE. We turn now to look at the case of a man who’s spent more than 42 years in solitary confinement in Louisiana, believed to be one of the longest-serving prisoners who served on death row for that amount of time. He is dying now of liver cancer. His supporters are pleading for his compassionate release.

To read and watch more....

Obedience to Corporate-State Authority Makes Consumer Society Increasingly Dangerous

By Yosef Brody

Truthout | Op-Ed  Sunday, 29 September 2013

Fifty years ago this month, Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram published a groundbreaking article describing a unique human behavior experiment. The study and its many variations, while ethically controversial, gave us new insight into human tendencies to obey authority, surprising the experts and everyone else on just how susceptible we are to doing the bidding of others. The original experiment revealed that a majority of participants would dutifully administer increasingly severe electric shocks to strangers - up to and including potentially lethal doses - because an authority told them that pulling the levers was necessary and required (the "shocks," subjects found out later, were fake). People who obeyed all the way to the end did so even as they experienced tremendous moral conflict. Despite their distress, they never questioned the basic premise of the situation that was fed to them: the institution needed their compliance for the betterment of the common good.

To read more....

14 Caribbean nations sue European countries for slavery reparations

Lawsuits seek reparations from Britain, France, Netherlands for their roles in Atlantic slave trade
Fourteen Caribbean nations are suing the governments of the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands for reparations over what the plaintiffs say is the lingering legacy of the Atlantic slave trade.
In a speech Friday at United Nations General Assembly, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves said the European nations must pay for their deeds.
“The awful legacy of these crimes against humanity – a legacy which exists today in our Caribbean – ought to be repaired for the developmental benefit of our Caribbean societies and all our peoples,” Gonsalves said. “The European nations must partner in a focused, especial way with us to execute this repairing.”
The lawsuits – which are likely to amount to a lengthy battle – are being brought by The Caribbean Community, or Caricom, a regional organization that focuses mostly on issues such as economic integration. They will be brought to the U.N.'s International Court of Justice, based in The Hague in the Netherlands. It is not immediately clear when court proceedings will begin.
The countries will focus on Britain for its role in slavery in the English-speaking Caribbean, France for slavery in Haiti and the Netherlands for Suriname, a Caricom member and former Dutch colony on the northeastern edge of South America.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Seymour Hersh on Obama, NSA and the 'pathetic' American media

Pulitzer Prize winner explains how to fix journalism, saying press should 'fire 90% of editors and promote ones you can't control'

By  Lisa O'Carroll    

The Guardian - Friday 27 September 2013 

Seymour Hersh has got some extreme ideas on how to fix journalism – close down the news bureaus of NBC and ABC, sack 90% of editors in publishing and get back to the fundamental job of journalists which, he says, is to be an outsider.
It doesn't take much to fire up Hersh, the investigative journalist who has been the nemesis of US presidents since the 1960s and who was once described by the Republican party as "the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist".
He is angry about the timidity of journalists in America, their failure to challenge the White House and be an unpopular messenger of truth.
Don't even get him started on the New York Times which, he says, spends "so much more time carrying water for Obama than I ever thought they would" – or the death of Osama bin Laden. "Nothing's been done about that story, it's one big lie, not one word of it is true," he says of the dramatic US Navy Seals raid in 2011.
Hersh is writing a book about national security and has devoted a chapter to the bin Laden killing. He says a recent report put out by an "independent" Pakistani commission about life in the Abottabad compound in which Bin Laden was holed up would not stand up to scrutiny. "The Pakistanis put out a report, don't get me going on it. Let's put it this way, it was done with considerable American input. It's a bullshit report," he says hinting of revelations to come in his book.

To read more.....

Morales: Obama can invade any country for US energy needs

Russia Today - September 27, 2013

In his dramatic speech in New York, Bolivian President Evo Morales called for the UN to be moved out of the US and for Barack Obama to be tried for crimes against humanity. Speaking to RT, Morales explained his controversial proposals.
In his most controversial demand, Morales said that Obama should face an international trial with human rights watchdogs among the judges. The Bolivian president accused his US counterpart of instigating conflicts in the Middle East to make the region more volatile and to increase the US’s grip on the natural resources it abounds in. He gave Libya as an example of a country where “they arranged for the president to be killed, and they usurped Libya’s oil.”
“Now they are funding the rebels that fight against presidents who don’t support capitalism or imperialism,” Morales told Eva Golinger of RT’s Spanish sister channel, Actualidad. “And where a coup d’état is impossible, they seek to divide the people in order to weaken the nation – a provocation designed to trigger an intervention by peacekeeping forces, NATO, the UN Security Council. But the intervention itself is meant to get hold of oil resources and gain geopolitical control, rather than enforce respect for human rights.”
The US also operates in the same imperialist way outside the Middle East, Morales argued. At the General Assembly Obama said that the US “is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure these core interests” in the Middle East. Among the core interests, he mentioned “the free flow of energy from the region to the world.” Morales said that Obama’s statement should make any country possessing natural resources worried. 

To read more....

NGOs, an extension of US foreign policy

The secret history of democratic thought in the Middle East

Are constitutional ideals alien to the region? Not at all.

By Thanassis Cambanis

Boston Globe | August 18, 2013

Is democracy possible in the Middle East? When observers worry about the future of the region, it’s in part because of the dispiriting political narrative that has held sway for much of the last half century.
The conventional wisdom is that secular liberalism has been all but wiped out as a political idea in the Middle East. The strains of the 20th century—Western colonial interference, wars with Israel, windfall oil profits, impoverished populations—long ago extinguished any meaningful tradition of openness in its young nations. Totalitarian ideas won the day, whether in the form of repressive Islamic rule, capricious secular dictatorships, or hereditary oligarchs. As a result, the recent flowerings of democracy are planted in such thin soil they may be hopeless.
This understanding shapes policy not only in the West, but in the Middle East itself. The American government approaches “democracy promotion” in the Middle East as if it’s introducing some exotic foreign species. Reformists in the Arab world often repeat the canard that politicized Islam is incompatible with democracy to justify savage repression of religious activists. And even after the revolts that began in 2010, a majority of the power brokers in the wider Middle East govern as if popular forces were a nuisance to be placated rather than the source of sovereignty.

To read more.....

Pew Study Shows Women Leading Breadwinners in 40 Percent of Households

by CNBC May 29, 2013 

The phenomenon of women bringing home the bacon is nothing new. But a new study shows that women are now the leading – or only -- breadwinners in 40 percent of American households.

by Amy Langfield

Women earn more than men in almost a quarter of U.S. households, a huge leap from 50 years ago, when only a handful of women brought home more income, according to a study released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center.
Women are now the leading or solo breadwinners in 40 percent of households, compared with just 11 percent in 1960, according to Census Bureau data analyzed by Pew.

To read more.....

Leon Trotsky Exile in Turkey

Here are the top 10 American corporations profiting from Egypt's military

The US government gives Egypt $1.3 billion a year. Egypt then uses that money to buy weapons from US corporations.

By Kyle Kim

Global Post - August 16, 2013

The irony is thick: Obama calls on Egypt’s interim government to stop its bloody crackdown on protesters, but continues to give it $1.3 billion a year in military aid.

For decades, Egypt has been one of the largest recipients of US foreign military aid, receiving everything from F-16s to teargas grenades.
So who are the companies reaping the benefits?
The list below were the 10 biggest US Defense contracts involving direct military aid to Egypt from 2009 to 2011, according to The Institute for Southern Studies.

See the table at the bottom of the page for full details of the contracts.

1. Lockheed Martin
Amount: $259 million

To read more.....

A Point of View: Democracy and Islamic law

BBC - August 23, 2013
Should a nation be defined by language and territory, by ruling party or by faith, asks Roger Scruton.
To understand what is happening in the Middle East today we must look back to the end of World War I. The Austro-Hungarian Empire had been destroyed, and from the ruins emerged a collection of nation states.
These nation states - including Austria, Hungary, Romania and Czechoslovakia - were not arbitrary creations. Their boundaries reflected long-standing divisions of language, religion, culture and ethnicity. And although the whole arrangement collapsed within two decades, this was in part because of the rise of Nazism and communism, both ideologies of conquest.
Today we take the nation states of central Europe for granted. They are settled political entities, each with a government elected by the citizens who live on its soil.
When the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed, so too did the Ottoman Empire, whose territories embraced the whole of the Middle East and North Africa.

To read more....

Why a medieval peasant got more vacation time than you By Lynn Parramore

Reuters - August 29, 2013

Life for the medieval peasant was certainly no picnic. His life was shadowed by fear of famine, disease and bursts of warfare. His diet and personal hygiene left much to be desired. But despite his reputation as a miserable wretch, you might envy him one thing: his vacations.
Plowing and harvesting were backbreaking toil, but the peasant enjoyed anywhere from eight weeks to half the year off. The Church, mindful of how to keep a population from rebelling, enforced frequent mandatory holidays. Weddings, wakes and births might mean a week off quaffing ale to celebrate, and when wandering jugglers or sporting events came to town, the peasant expected time off for entertainment. There were labor-free Sundays, and when the plowing and harvesting seasons were over, the peasant got time to rest, too. In fact, economist Juliet Shor found that during periods of particularly high wages, such as 14th-century England, peasants might put in no more than 150 days a year.
As for the modern American worker? After a year on the job, she gets an average of eight vacation days annually.
It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way: John Maynard Keynes, one of the founders of modern economics, made a famous prediction that by 2030, advanced societies would be wealthy enough that leisure time, rather than work, would characterize national lifestyles. So far, that forecast is not looking good.

To read more....

America’s Jobless Generation By Jeff Madrick

The New York Review of Books - September 3, 2013

In his speech commemorating the Martin Luther King March on Washington last week, President Obama got it partly right. It’s not only about civil rights. It’s also, crucially, about jobs. Of the marchers back in 1963, Obama said, “They were there seeking jobs as well as justice—not just the absence of oppression but the presence of economic opportunity. For what does it profit a man, Dr. King would ask, to sit at an integrated lunch counter if he can’t afford the meal?”
The need for gainful work is desperately important now, with overall unemployment, even after recent improvements, still stubbornly high, and blacks, as has long been the case, around twice as likely to be unemployed as whites. Indeed, Obama’s speech heralded the arrival of a bleak Labor Day, at a time when so many young Americans cannot find work.
But then Obama got it wrong. “The twin forces of technology and global competition,” he said, “have subtracted those jobs that once provided a foothold into the middle class, reduced the bargaining power of American workers.” This is the centrist economist in Obama talking, who buys into current economic orthodoxy: technological advances in many industries, so the explanation goes, have in many cases replaced a human labor force with an automated one; and thanks to global markets, what human labor is needed is moving to countries where wages are low.
What about government policy? Many aspects of our current employment crisis have less to do with technology or globalization than with the administration’s failure to adopt policies to strengthen the labor force, and more precisely, those parts of the labor force that are most crucial to the nation’s long-term social and economic health.

To read more.....

US Military Contractors Celebrate Record High Profits and Stock Prices

The business of war is more profitable than ever.

The Real News - September 5, 13

JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.  When Congress passed the budget cuts in 2011 known as the sequester, the CEOs of defense companies repeatedly warned of widespread job and wage losses resulting from the proposed cuts. But six months after the sequester officially kicked in, the seven major military contractors are celebrating record profits, and their stocks are near all-time highs. In addition, the future looks just as bright as their backlog of orders is nearly as large as the total $37 billion in defense cuts.  Now joining us to discuss this is Dina Rasor. She's an investigator, journalist, author of several books. She writes the Solutions: Making Government Work column for truth out, but this year is Truthout's acting director executive director. Rasor been fighting waste while working for transparency and accountability in government for three decades. 
Thank you so much for joining us.  DINA RASOR, ACTING EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, TRUTHOUT: Glad to be here.  NOOR: So, Dina, Congress sold the sequester to the American people as a shared sacrifice. Where is the burden of the sacrifice lain right now?

To read more....

Is the US a force for good in the world?

Mehdi Hasan goes head to head with Thomas Friedman on the morality of America's global role.

Al-Jazeera - 15 Jun 2013

The US appears to have taken a back seat role in international relations. Is the US in decline? Or is it just taking stock as it accommodates to the new emerging world order?
In this episode of Head to Head at the Oxford Union, Mehdi Hasan challenges one of the world’s most influential columnists and authors, Thomas L Friedman.
Advisor to presidents and kings, Tom Friedman of the New York Times has won the Pulitzer Prize not once or twice, but three times.
He is the best-selling author, among many others, of The World is Flat and he argues in his latest book, That Used to Be US, that the US must rebuild itself to remain a global power.
Critics say American self-interest has trumped democracy and human rights time and again, and that Obama’s America is no different. So is the US foreign policy counter-productive? Or is America a force for good in the world?
The US “is not an NGO”, admits Friedman, explaining that America “is a country like any country with its interests, it pursues them, and sometimes pursues them very narrowly.”

To read more....

How Putin Turned Moscow Back Into a Middle East Powerhouse

It took a mix of religion, guile, and a stumbling Obama to pull it off.


Foreign Policy | SEPTEMBER 13, 2013

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The Arab Spring, from the viewpoint of the Kremlin, has been one prolonged headache. Russia has sustained a battering across the Middle East: It was unable to stop the 2011 NATO intervention that toppled Muammar al-Qaddafi, and it has been excoriated by its former friends in the Arab world for its continuing military support of President Bashar al-Assad, even after more than 120,000 people have lost their lives in Syria.
But today, President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov can celebrate the end of their best week in the Middle East in the past two and a half years. Rather than being dismissed as irrelevant or supporters of the region's most brutal dictators, they're being described with a different sobriquet -- statesmen.
The proximate reasons for this change, of course, lie with a Russian-brokered proposal that would see Assad relinquish his chemical weapons. But Moscow has been quietly building support from Cairo to Beirut to Damascus -- putting Putin in a position to pounce.

To read more....

The Origins of Our Police State

By Chris Hedges

TruthDig | Report  | Monday, 16 September 2013 

Elizabeth, New Jersey - JaQuan LaPierre, 22, was riding a bicycle down a sidewalk Sept. 5 when he noticed a squad car pulling up beside him. It was 8:30 on a hot Thursday night at the intersection of Bond Street and Jackson Avenue here in Elizabeth, N.J. LaPierre had 10 glass vials of crack cocaine—probably what the cops were hoping to find—and he hastily swallowed them. He halted and faced the two officers who emerged from the cruiser.
“We are tired of you niggers,” he remembers one of the officers saying. “We’re tired of all this shooting and robberies and violence. And we are going to make you an example.”
He was thrown spread-eagle onto the patrol car.
“What I bein’ arrested for?” LaPierre asked.
A small crowd gathered.
“Why you harassin’ him?” someone asked the cops. “He ain’t resisting. Why you doin’ this?”

To read more....

Native American Tribes Seek Help from UN, World Court

By Bethania Palma Markus,

Truthout | News - Tuesday, 10 September 2013 

After setting out from their homes in Manitoba and upstate New York, respectively, teams from the Dakota and Onondaga nations in full traditional dress marched through Lower Manhattan on their way to the United Nations building on August 9, 2013. The Dakota had traversed thousands of miles and an international border on a horseback "Unity Ride" to plead with the international governing body for help.
The march signified what the Dakota and Onondaga consider a state of emergency: desecration of their way of life, ongoing environmental destruction and their home governments' inability or unwillingness to do anything about it.
"We're doing this for all mankind, not just our own people," said Dakota Chief Gus High Eagle. "In the next 10 years, what's going to happen? Are we going to have any clean water?"

To read more.....

Muslim beauty pageant challenges Miss World contest

Muslim women from six countries defy western beauty ideals, emphasize spirituality

Al-Jazeera - September 18, 2013

Muslim women from six countries wore headscarves and elaborately embroidered dresses as they took to the stage Wednesday for the finale of an Islamic beauty pageant in Jakarta, Indonesia, a riposte to the Miss World contest that has sparked hardline anger.

Twenty contestants showed off the latest Islamic fashion trends in the Muslimah World pageant and will also take part in other activities, such as reciting the Koran.

"We're just trying to show the world that Islam is beautiful," said Obabiyi Aishah Ajibola, a 21-year-old contestant from Nigeria told Agence France Presse. "We are free and the hijab is our pride." On Wednesday, Ajibola was crowned the winner of the pageant.

Organizers of the event said they wanted to show Muslim women there is an alternative to the idea of beauty put forward by the British-run Miss World pageant. They also stress that opposition to the pageant can be expressed non-violently.

Organizer Eka Shanti, who founded the pageant three years ago after losing her job as TV news anchor for refusing to remove her headscarf, bills the contest as "Islam's answer to Miss World."

To read more....

Elections in Iraqi Kurdistan

BBC - September 20, 2013

Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region goes to the polls on Saturday to elect a new parliament.
This is the fourth parliamentary polls since Iraqi Kurds established the region in Irbil, Sulaimaniya and Dahuk provinces in 1991.
Many believe that this election could change the region's political landscape, partly because for the first time since 1992 the main contenders are taking part individually in the race.
This raises the question of whether the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) can retain their control over the Kurdistan Region for a third successive decade.
While the five main regional parties are expected to dominate the 111-seat parliament, it is hard to say which will come out on top.

To read more....

Speedy Trains Transform China

The New York Times - September 23, 2013

CHANGSHA, China — The cavernous rail station here for China’s new high-speed trains was nearly deserted when it opened less than four years ago.

Not anymore. Practically every train is sold out, although they leave for cities all over the country every several minutes. Long lines snake back from ticket windows under the 50-foot ceiling of white, gently undulating steel that floats cloudlike over the departure hall. An ambitious construction program will soon nearly double the size of the 16-platform station. 

Just five years after China’s high-speed rail system opened, it is carrying nearly twice as many passengers each month as the country’s domestic airline industry. With traffic growing 28 percent a year for the last several years, China’s high-speed rail network will handle more passengers by early next year than the 54 million people a month who board domestic flights in the United States. 

From Reagan to Obama: Secrecy and Covert Operations in the Fight against “Terrorism”

by Rémi Brulin

Jadaliyya - September 23, 2013

Ronald Reagan was the first American president to put “terrorism” at the heart of his foreign policy discourse. During his first term, Reagan did so mostly in reference to conflicts in Central America. In El Salvador, his administration presented US military aid as necessary to help the Salvadoran armed forces fight the “terrorist threat” posed by the FMLN (Frente Farabundo Marti para la Liberacion Nacional, an umbrella group of leftist guerilla organizations). In neighboring Nicaragua, Reagan repeatedly accused the Sandinistas of supporting the “terrorist” FMLN and belonging to a Moscow-led “international terrorist network” bent on exporting “subversion” and “terrorism” throughout the region.
In Nicaragua, US policy followed the covert route, namely the provision of military aid to various anti-Sandinista groups collectively known as the Contras. Revelations in the press rapidly pulled Reagan’s “secret war” from the shadows and led many in Congress to question the program’s morality and legality. The Executive branch systematically met such inquiries with claims to secrecy.
These debates highlight the difficulties involved in defining “terrorism” not in the abstract, but as applied to a specific conflict, especially one about which, as was the case with Nicaragua,  Democrats and Republicans were deeply divided. They also bear striking similarities to contemporary debates on the Obama administration’s policies of “targeted killings” or the provision of aid to the Syrian rebels. These debates were for the most never covered in the US press at the time. Consequently, this article is based on a study of the Congressional Record itself (A much more comprehensive version of this research can be found in my dissertation). This “hidden history” of Congressional debates over US covert policies in the first “war on terrorism” suggests historical parallels that may shed light on the present situation.

To read more.....

China reportedly just bought 5% of Ukraine (but the Ukrainian partner denies it)

By Lily Kuo   

Quartz - September 23, 2013   

Ukraine’s KSG Agro released a statement today, Sept. 24, denying reports that it had reached an agreement to sell 3 million hectares to a Chinese firm. Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post had reported a deal between KSG Agro and China’s Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, (XPCC) in which China would be able to farm the area for up to 50 years. The paper cited a statement from XPCC as the source of its report. Quartz and other media also reported on the story.
In its statement, the Warsaw-listed agricultural firm said that it is only working with its Chinese partners on a project to install drip-irrigation systems over an area of 3,000 hectares in Ukraine next year. “KSG Agro does not intend or have any right to sell land to foreigners, including the Chinese,” the statement posted on their website said. China’s XPCC could not be immediately reached for comment.
Original (September 23): China has inked a deal to farm three million hectares (paywall), or about 11, 583 square miles of Ukrainian land over the span of half a century—which means the eastern European country will give up about 5% of its total land, or 9% of its arable farmland to feed China’s burgeoning population.

To read more.....

China to audit military officials in move to fight graft - Xinhua

BEIJING | Tue Sep 24, 2013 

(Reuters) - Chinese military officials will have to undergo an audit before they can retire or be promoted, state media reported on Tuesday, in the latest measure in the leadership's campaign against corruption.
The audit will encompass officials' "real estate property, their use of power, official cars and service personnel", the Xinhua news agency reported, citing a guideline issued by the Central Military Commission.
The guideline aims to improve the "work style" of military officials and fight against graft, the report said.

To read more....

India’s Women: The Mixed Truth By Amartya Sen

The New York Review of Books - October 10, 2013 

“I am not a boy, I am a girl,” wrote a twenty-one-year-old woman in Delhi, called Jyoti, who was studying at a medical college to be a physiotherapist. This was in a text message sent in December 2010 to a twenty-six-year-old man who worked in information technology and who had initially taken Jyoti to be a man. They met, and what began as a casual communication became a close friendship.
Two years later, on December 16, 2012, after they had seen a film, The Life of Pi, Jyoti was gang-raped with extreme brutality, and the man was severely beaten as he tried to protect her. They had been tricked into boarding a bus that seemed to be going their way and that had offered them a ride. It was a closed bus with darkened windows in which five determined rapists were waiting for their prey, with their impatience heightened, it is alleged, by the drugs they had taken. The battered bodies of the abused pair were dropped off on a lonely street, and by the time Jyoti received medical attention, she was on her way to death from the injuries, despite specialized medical care in Delhi, and later in Singapore.

To read more.....

China's Next Great Challenge: Scarcity

China will soon surpass the United States as the world's largest economy, but this is the least interesting thing about it.

Damien Ma and William Adams

The Atlantic - Sep 24 2013

The following is excerpted from the book In Line Behind a Billion People: How Scarcity Will Define China's Ascent in the Next Decade.
One Beijing morning in early November 2012, seven men in dark suits strode onto the stage of the Great Hall of the People. China’s newly elected Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Chairman Xi Jinping stood at the center of the ensemble, flanked on each side by three members of the CCP Politburo Standing Committee. It was the outside world’s first chance to take stock of the committee that will run China for the next decade—one that will mark many milestones. Under Xi’s watch, which is scheduled to last until 2022, China is expected to overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy. That moment when it arrives will likely lead many in the West to pontificate about the reshuffling of the global pecking order. Inevitably, they will breathlessly proclaim that having held the world’s “gold medal” for largest GDP since around the turn of the 20th century, the United States, will have to yield to China, the new “number one.”
That Chinese economic growth has been a success is beyond dispute. Since 2005, China has sprinted past Germany and Japan to become the world’s second-largest economy. By the end of 2012, with a GDP preliminarily estimated at $8.3 trillion, the gap between China and number-three Japan in terms of economic output is as large as the entire French economy. Little wonder that “an American 20th century yielding to a Chinese 21st century” has become a popular refrain, as a flurry of commentators and authors argue that the world should prepare for the possibility that it will once again be centered on the Middle Kingdom.

To read more....

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Emerging Markets Are Stuck on Fed’s Elevator Ride

By Jim O’Neill

Bloomberg News - July 10, 2013

Back in the 1960s, a French finance minister called the U.S.’s ability to borrow in its own currency -- thanks to the dollar’s pre-eminence and reserve-currency status -- an “exorbitant privilege.” It’s an advantage that the rest of the world has to pay for, one way or another. This has lately given many emerging-market governments cause for complaint.
If they had the will, one or two of them could do something about it. Maybe it’s time they did.
The issue has been highlighted in recent weeks as the Federal Reserve (FDTR) unsettled global markets by signaling its intent to start tightening monetary policy -- at least, that’s what investors thought it said. There was a sell-off in global fixed-income markets, and many emerging economies saw the value of their bonds, equities and currencies drop.
Not long ago, emerging-market governments complained about the Fed’s stimulus policy. They pointed to destabilizing inflows of hot money and called it a “currency war,” an attempt to export unemployment and price emerging-economy exports out of the U.S. market. Now they’re alarmed because the policy is ending. Such is life on the receiving end of the exorbitant privilege.
New York Federal Reserve President Bill Dudley, a former colleague of mine at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., once warned me, “Be careful what you wish for.” The context wasn’t quite the same -- we were discussing the dangers of shrinking the U.S. current-account deficit too quickly while global demand was still weak -- but it’s still good advice.

To read more.....

China’s great economic leap forward hits the wall

This was supposed to be the Asian century, but the Eastern boom is dying of exhaustion 

So here’s how it looks. Years of unsustainable, credit-fuelled growth are brought to a halt by a crushing financial crisis which exposes deep structural flaws at the heart of the economy. Rarely has the assumption of ever-rising living standards looked so vulnerable, with younger generations forced to pay not just for the crippling legacy of debt their parents leave behind, but for the mounting costs of an ageing population and the consequences of decades-long environmental degradation. Economic decline, austerity and inter-generational recrimination seem to beckon as populations adjust to the true mediocrity of their circumstances.
I’m referring to the tired old “developed” economies of the West, right? Actually, no: it’s China where these observations seem more appropriate, and perhaps other emerging market economies said to be about to eclipse the hegemony of the old world, with its lazy ways and sense of entitlement.
Western “declinism” of the sort described by Dambisa Moyo in her book How the West was Lost, and more recently by Stephen King, chief economist at HSBC, in When the Money Runs Out, is still the narrative of our times. But sometimes a sense of perspective is demanded; compared with the challenges faced by China and the rest of the developing world, the relatively minor adjustment to expectations that needs to be made in the West is a stroll in the park. 

Radical thinkers: Ludwig Feuerbach on religion

64,019 Searches: A Dark Journey Into My Google History

Tom Gara

The Wall Street Journal - July 31, 2013

Imagine there’s a list somewhere that contains every single webpage you have visited in the last five years. It also has everything you have ever searched for, every address you looked up on GoogleGOOG -1.08% Maps, every email you sent, every chat message, every YouTube video you watched. Each entry is time-stamped, so it’s clear exactly, down to the minute, when all of this was done.
Now imagine that list is all searchable. And imagine it’s on a clean, easy-to-use website. With all that imagined, can you think of a way a hacker, with access to this, could use it against you?
And once you’ve imagined all that, go over to google.com/dashboard, and see it all become reality.
For a piece complementing today’s story on Google and privacy by the WSJ’s Amir Efrati, I took a deep dive into Google Dashboard, a kind of Grand Central Terminus for all the information the company has stored on you. It’s a truly amazing amount, especially if, like me, you have been a heavy Gmail user since its launch in 2004. As long as you are logged into Gmail, or any other Google account, the company isn’t just keeping track of how you use its own service — it’s noting every site you visit on the web.

To read more....

Black Mirror | The Entire History of You

Turkey's Rising Middle Class Drives Demand for Islamic Fashion

By: Riada Ašimović Akyol 

Al-Monitor - August 23, 2013

Two things one might notice shortly after landing in Istanbul are traffic congestion and countless billboards on the side of the road. Advertisement displays by companies from various industries is not unusual. Yet, when it comes to apparel, what is peculiar to Istanbul is the broad palette of fashion styles, and hence the market. Thus, a gigantic billboard with a model wearing a headscarf may be placed right next to a billboard promoting bikinis. Turkish society is very diverse, so accommodating different needs in all aspects — fashion included — is a sine qua non for advancing Turkish democracy.

U.S. Selling Cluster Bombs Worth 641 Million to Saudi Arabia

By Carey L. Biron

Inter Press Service - August 23, 2013

Arms control advocates are decrying a new U.S. Department of Defence announcement that it will be building and selling 1,300 cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia, worth some 641 million dollars.
The munitions at the heart of the sale are technically legal under recently strengthened U.S. regulations aimed at reducing impact on civilian safety, but activists contend that battlefield evidence suggests the weapons actually exceed those regulations.

Opponents say the move runs counter to a strengthening push to outlaw the use of cluster bombs around the world while also contradicting recent votes by both the U.S. and Saudi governments critical of the use of these munitions.
“Both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have recently condemned the use of cluster munitions by the government of Syria – that’s ironic given this new sale, because a cluster munition is a cluster munition, no matter what kind it is,” Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, a watchdog group here in Washington, told IPS.

To

So, What Is Economics Good For?

By Justin Wolfers

Bloomberg News - August 27, 2013

Aristotle was a swell philosopher, but could he have run the Fed? Photographer: Stefen Chow/Bloomberg News.
An English professor and a philosopher have made a bit of a splash with a recent New York Times opinion article asking, “What is Economics Good For?” Their central claim is “the fact that the discipline of economics hasn’t helped us improve our predictive abilities suggests it is still far from being a science.”
For now, forget about their rather odd definition of a science, which is that it must be a field whose predictive abilities are improving. Rather, focus on the central claim, which is that economics hasn’t helped us improve our predictive abilities.
Notice that this is an empirical claim. Empirical claims are usually based on facts. We present them, and we argue about what they mean. (Or at least that’s how we economists prefer to proceed.) Yet the anti-economics screed includes no actual facts.
So I asked Professor Alex Rosenberg, the philosopher, for some evidence for his claim.
Here’s his emailed response:
"Nothing seems more evident to me than the lack of a sustained increase in predictive success--either range or precision, in macro and micro. The burden of proof in this case is entirely on the shoulders of those who claim otherwise ... and I have been following this issue closely since I wrote my thesis on the subject 40 years ago."

To read more....

Why a medieval peasant got more vacation time than you

By Lynn Parramore

Reuters - August 29, 2013

Life for the medieval peasant was certainly no picnic. His life was shadowed by fear of famine, disease and bursts of warfare. His diet and personal hygiene left much to be desired. But despite his reputation as a miserable wretch, you might envy him one thing: his vacations.
Plowing and harvesting were backbreaking toil, but the peasant enjoyed anywhere from eight weeks to half the year off. The Church, mindful of how to keep a population from rebelling, enforced frequent mandatory holidays. Weddings, wakes and births might mean a week off quaffing ale to celebrate, and when wandering jugglers or sporting events came to town, the peasant expected time off for entertainment. There were labor-free Sundays, and when the plowing and harvesting seasons were over, the peasant got time to rest, too. In fact, economist Juliet Shor found that during periods of particularly high wages, such as 14th-century England, peasants might put in no more than 150 days a year.
As for the modern American worker? After a year on the job, she gets an average of eight vacation days annually.
It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way: John Maynard Keynes, one of the founders of modern economics, made a famous prediction that by 2030, advanced societies would be wealthy enough that leisure time, rather than work, would characterize national lifestyles. So far, that forecast is not looking good.
What happened? Some cite the victory of the modern eight-hour a day, 40-hour workweek over the punishing 70 or 80 hours a 19th century worker spent toiling as proof that we’re moving in the right direction. But Americans have long since kissed the 40-hour workweek goodbye, and Shor’s examination of work patterns reveals that the 19th century was an aberration in the history of human labor. When workers fought for the eight-hour workday, they weren’t trying to get something radical and new, but rather to restore what their ancestors had enjoyed before industrial capitalists and the electric lightbulb came on the scene. Go back 200, 300 or 400 years and you find that most people did not work very long hours at all. In addition to relaxing during long holidays, the medieval peasant took his sweet time eating meals, and the day often included time for an afternoon snooze. “The tempo of life was slow, even leisurely; the pace of work relaxed,” notes Shor. “Our ancestors may not have been rich, but they had an abundance of leisure.”

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The map that shows where America came from:

Fascinating illustration shows the ancestry of EVERY county in the US      

Census data shows heritage of 317 million modern Americans     
Clusters show where immigrants from different nations chose to settle     
Largest ancestry grouping in the nation are of German descent with almost 50 million people     African American or Black is the second largest grouping with just over 40 million people     
Almost 20 million people claim to have 'American' ancestry for political reasons and because they are unsure of their family's genealogy  

By Jessica Jerreat  

Mail Online - September 2, 2013

A truly captivating map that shows the ancestry of everyone of the 317 million people who call the melting pot of America home can now be seen on a U.S. Census Bureau map.
For decades, the United States opened its doors and welcomed with open arms millions of immigrants who all arrived through New York's Ellis Island in the hope of a better life in America.
Indeed, the inscription on the Statue of Liberty in New York's harbor reads 'Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free' and the fascinating map identifies the truly diverse nature of the United States in the 21st century.
Although the 2010 census left out questions about ethnicity, this map shows how it looked in 2000, according to Upworthy

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2408591/American-ethnicity-map-shows-melting-pot-ethnicities-make-USA-today.html 

NSA surveillance: A guide to staying secure

The NSA has huge capabilities – and if it wants in to your computer, it's in. With that in mind, here are five ways to stay safe

Bruce Schneier        

Theguardian.com, Friday 6 September 2013

Now that we have enough details about how the NSA eavesdrops on the internet, including today's disclosures of the NSA's deliberate weakening of cryptographic systems, we can finally start to figure out how to protect ourselves.
For the past two weeks, I have been working with the Guardian on NSA stories, and have read hundreds of top-secret NSA documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden. I wasn't part of today's story – it was in process well before I showed up – but everything I read confirms what the Guardian is reporting.
At this point, I feel I can provide some advice for keeping secure against such an adversary.

To read more.....

Pakistani Folk Art and US Drones Collide in These Ornate Paintings

Pakistani-American artist Mahwish Chishty was originally trained in painting miniatures in her native Lahore. But these days, Chishty is also emerging as a notable conceptual artist abroad, treading the potent line between Pakistani and American culture. Yesterday, in an interview with Mother Jones, Chishty discussed her paintings of American drones—which she covers in traditional Pakistani ornamentation.
More than 2,000 people have been killed in drone strikes in Pakistan since the early 2000s, mostly in the rugged northwest. The proxy war, Chishty says, “triggered her imagination,” and she began a series of paintings that feature the familiar shapes of the MQ-9 Reaper and other UAVs covered in ornate decoration. The patterns are borrowed from a tradition amongst truck drivers in Pakistan, who cover their vehicles in rich ornamentation and color as a means of pure self-expression. Chishty explained the practice to Mother Jones’ Josh Harkinson:

A New Movie: Stalingrad 2013