My Common Sense Politics
November 22, 2014
US vice president Joe Biden flew into Kiev this week to celebrate the anniversary of the Maidan protests that led to the overthrow of Ukraine’s government.
With arms waving and his wife in tow, as he stepped off Air Force One, the spectacle was tantamount to an unctuous victory lap for American regime change in the former Soviet republic.
The fact that Biden’s son, Hunter, was also appointed as a board member of Ukrainian gas company Burisma since the regime took over adds a certain personal dimension to the American celebrations of this coup.
The next US planes to follow Biden’s will be loaded with weapons and other non-lethal munitions, as earlier this week Washington announced for the first time that it is to start supplying the Kiev regime with military hardware. Those weapons are to include anti-tank and air defence systems, sniper rifles and machine-guns.
Up to now, the US has been maintaining the fiction that it is only sending «non-lethal aid» – although unofficially it is understood that military materiel and private American «security» contractors have already been flowing to prop up the ultra rightwing regime that the American CIA helped seize power earlier this year.
Russia this week condemned the dangerous escalation of US military involvement in Ukraine. Moscow’s foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said the arms announcement «broke all agreements» and that it would further destabilise the country and make a political resolution of the conflict less likely.
Biden’s celebratory arrival in Kiev could hardly be more provocative.
The Kiev regime, headed up by president Petro Poroshenko and his prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, is preparing to scale up its military offensive in the eastern regions of Ukraine. Last week it announced that it was cutting off vital public services, including hospitals and energy, to the breakaway self-declared republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. That move can be seen as a form of collective punishment paving the way for military attack.
The largely ethnic Russian people of the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions have refused to recognise the Western-backed junta in Kiev that came to power in an illegal coup last February. For the past seven months, the Kiev regime has been conducting a blitzkrieg in the dissident east, which has resulted in more than 4,300 deaths – mostly civilians – and up to one million people displaced from their homes.
Friday 21 November 2014
World Health Organisation is concerned about risk of disease spreading in the capital where two cases have been recorded
Madagascar's capital Antananarivo where two cases of the plague have been confirmed. Photograph: Thomas Mukoya/REUTERS
An outbreak of the plague has killed 40 people out of 119 confirmed cases in Madagascar since late August and there is a risk of the disease spreading rapidly in the capital, the World Health Organisation has said.
So far two cases and one death have been recorded in the capital Antananarivo but those figures could climb quickly due to “the city’s high population density and the weakness of the healthcare system,” WHO warned.
“The situation is further complicated by the high level of resistance to deltamethrin (an insecticide used to control fleas) that has been observed in the country,” it added.
Plague, a bacterial disease, is mainly spread from one rodent to another by fleas. Humans bitten by an infected flea usually develop a bubonic form of plague, which swells the lymph node and can be treated with antibiotics, WHO said.
If the bacteria reach the lungs, the patient develops pneumonia (pneumonic plague), which is transmissible from person to person through infected droplets spread by coughing. It is one of the most deadly infectious diseases and can kill people within 24 hours. Two percent of the cases reported in Madagascar so far have been pneumonic, it added.
The first known case of the plague was a man from Soamahatamana village in the district of Tsiroanomandidy, identified on 31 August. He died on 3 September and authorities notified WHO of the outbreak on 4 November, the agency said.
WHO said it did not recommend any trade or travel restrictions.
The last previously known outbreak of the plague was in Peru in August 2010.
By Institute For Public Accuracy
22 October, 2014 Accuracy.org
On Friday, the New York Times published the article “White House to Cut Funding for Risky Biological Study,” which states: “Prompted by controversy over dangerous research and recent laboratory accidents, the White House announced Friday that it would temporarily halt all new funding for experiments that seek to study certain infectious agents by making them more dangerous.” The piece quotes Richard H. Ebright, “a molecular biologist and bioweapons expert at Rutgers University, [who has] argued that the long history of accidental releases of infectious agents from research labs made such work extremely risky and unwise to perform in the first place. Dr. Ebright called Friday’s announcement ‘an important, albeit overdue, step.’” See USA Today from Aug. 17: “Hundreds of Bioterror Lab Mishaps Cloaked in Secrecy.”
MERYL NASS, M.D., merylnass at gmail.com, @NassMeryl
Nass writes at the Anthrax Vaccine blog. She has debunked government claims from early on in the Ebola crisis, including the slowness of the response in Africa and the notion that U.S. hospitals were prepared. Her most recent post is “Is This A New, More Virulent Ebola?” She also suggests “examining the possibility of converting the excess BL4 labs to treatment centers for Ebola.”
FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Professor at the University of Illinois College of Law, Boyle drafted the U.S. Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, which is the U.S. domestic implementing legislation for the Biological Weapons Convention. His books include Biowarfare and Terrorism.
He said today: “If, as some in the Liberian press are claiming, this outbreak of Ebola is from one of the labs in west Africa run by the CDC and Tulane University, it could be an unprecedented human disaster. That could mean it was GMOed into a ‘Fluebola.’ Recall that the 2001 weaponized anthrax attacks were traced to a U.S. government lab. It’s incredibly odd that this outbreak occurred 1,000 miles from past outbreaks and it is clearly more easily transmissible.
“Scientists like Yoshihiro Kawaoka at the University of Wisconsin have been ‘researching’ Ebola for years. Since the anthrax attacks, some $79 billion has been spent. But we still don’t have a vaccine ready to protect us. These labs have actually spent government money, including from the National Institutes of Health, to make viruses more deadly. The work done at these labs shouldn’t be curtailed or temporarily suspended as the administration seems to be talking about, but stopped. This work is criminal. It violates the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, which I wrote. It was passed unanimously by both Houses of Congress and states:
“‘Whoever knowingly develops, produces, stockpiles, transfers, acquires, retains, or possesses any biological agent, toxin, or delivery system for use as a weapon, or knowingly assists a foreign state or any organization to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for life or any term of years, or both. There is extraterritorial Federal jurisdiction over an offense under this section committed by or against a national of the United States.’
by Jake Bernstein ProPublica,
Nov. 17, 2014
Examiners are reportedly blocked from doing their job as “London Whale” trades blow up.
As the Federal Reserve Bank of New York moved to beef up its oversight of Wall Street two years ago, the team charged with supervising the nation's largest bank, JPMorgan Chase, was in turmoil.
New York Fed examiners embedded at JPMorgan complained about being blocked from doing their jobs. In frustration, some requested transfers. Top New York Fed managers knew about the problems, according to interviews and secret recordings of internal meetings obtained by ProPublica. Similar frustrations had surfaced among examiners at other banks as well.
Friday, 21 November 2014
Commentary on the Honduran coup of late June 2009. The installation is two wooden crosses, a style popularized in the movement to close the SOA (School of the Americans/Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation). (Photo: DC ProtestsC Protests; Edited: LW / TO)
In a long, 200-year history of US interventionism, covert action and troubling support for repressive regimes, the story of the US Army School of the Americas (SOA) at Ft. Benning, Georgia, stands out as a grotesque example of militarism run amok.
Since its inception in 1946, the SOA - or as critics often referred to it, "the School of Assassins" - has epitomized America's peculiar brand of "outsourced imperialism." The list of leaders dispatched by the SOA, the catalogue of criminal indictments and the not-insignificant death tolls tallied in SOA-linked civil wars and so-called "counter-insurgencies" is, for lack of a better word, impressive.
For the last 25 years, the school's critics - ranging from religious activists to members of Congress to indigenous rights' leaders - have regarded its programs, and the infamous training manuals made public in 1996, as uniquely responsible for the terrible consequences - unintended or otherwise - of America's long-standing policy of arming, training and dispatching generations of military leaders around Central and South America.
Simply put, the School of the Americas exemplifies everything wrong with US foreign policy after World War II. All too often, that policy favored vested interests in client states, assisted corporations coveting resources in so-called Banana Republics or simply allowed knee-jerk, anticommunism to trump the rights and democratic choices of those who invariably ended up on the receiving end of SOA training in places like Guatemala, El Salvador, Chile and Colombia.
According to a Congressional Research Service report from 2001, between 1946 (when the first iteration of the school was established in the Panama Canal Zone) and 2001 (when the Ft. Benning version was officially "closed"), the US Military instructed "over 60,000 officers, cadets, and noncommissioned officers from both Latin America and the United States."
With at least 1,000 "students" per year attending the School to learn the latest in counter-insurgency techniques, psychological warfare and US military doctrine, the SOA transformed two generations of Latin American soldiers into anticommunist "shock troops" manning the front lines of US "national interests" around Latin America. This growing cohort of graduates effectively became Washington's outsourced army deployed throughout the Western Hemisphere.
But it was the Cold War. That was then. And this is now.
Now the Cold War has given way to wars on both drugs and terror. Now the School of the Americas has been rebranded as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). And now the United States has shifted away from the centralized models of the Cold War and the SOA by, in essence, opening up a vast satellite campus system of military training and client state development around the world.
Instead of training a hemispheric cohort of anticommunist armies and paramilitaries, the US increasingly trains a growing network of "counterterrorism" forces, drug warriors and security forces in pro-US regimes around the world: from the Philippines to the Horn of Africa, across the continent to West Africa and, of course, back in Central America. Ironically, troops on "training missions" have been rotating out of Ft. Benning to train forces inside Honduras - one of the deadliest nations on earth.
Although students still come to Ft. Benning in notable numbers - with 389 students from 19 countries attending WHINSEC during the first week of November 2014 - this "new" model of training relies on a heavy dose of "in country" training of local military and security forces. Not coincidentally, this takes the spotlight off of Ft. Benning's high-profile past and the political implications of fostering counter-insurgent forces deep in the heart of Dixie. As far as officials are concerned, the SOA was DOA over a decade ago. Now, insurgents are rebranded as "terrorists," drug traffickers and criminal gangs are rebranded as "narco-terrorists" and the catch-phrase du jour is "democracy building."
This full re-boot of the School of the Americas' model deploys troops globally on "training" missions and, increasingly, US Special Forces work in concert with the post-Clinton State Department and its Conflict Bureau to establish forward operating bases in a new system of pro-US client states under the rubric of the War on Terror, and, if approved, it will be partially paid for by President Obama's recently-proposed Counterterrorism Partnership Fund (CTPF).
The administration requested $4 billion for the CTPF in FY2015, which includes "Direct Partner Support," including "near-term training, equipping, advising, operational support, and long-term, capacity-building efforts in coordination with the Department of State." The CTPF notwithstanding, the State Department's budget for this type of "outreach" has grown every year since 9/11.
Thursday, November 13th, 2014
Posted by F. William Engdahl
Four Horseman Revelation
Princeton makes it official — US has become Oligarchy, Not a Democracy
[ Editor’s note: William Engdahl brings us an early Christmas present, not one that was on any of our lists, but a gift none the less from him and his alma mater Princeton.
It seems Princeton has put the academic kibosh on the notion that we have any real democracy left in this country, only what has not been taken from us yet, to keep us in the game.
I had not known that William had been to Princeton. I certainly never made Ivy League but was fortunate like he was to have a mother who wanted the best education possible for her kids.
Out of the blue, she pulled me out of high school and into a local Ivy League prep school with kids with names like Ford, Bordens, and European aristocrats that I can’t even remember now.
I was able to tough out the challenging Jr. high year of adjustment, which included six school days each week and three major sports. And yes, I continued working in a New England inn as a dish and pot washer three nights a week, something which no one had ever done before, as it was not considered possible to do both and keep up.
But fortune smiled and got a scholarship for my senior year and life was changed forever.
That was the peak of the Vietnam years, my brother pulling night ambush patrols in the Delta, and would end up in Arlington Cemetery when he was 54.
It was the time of lottery numbers, the Cambodian invasion, Kent State, and everyone sent home from college with B grades but me.
I had dropped out with a medical withdrawal from a bad car wreck a few weeks before. When I later tried to get retroactively included, they told me “tough doo doo”.
And so this Princeton study gives us the “tough doo” news, but sadly limited to the political realm of oligarch power. Left out was anything about the kleptocracy, the wars and the rise of the New World Odor. But I guess that grant was not that big, as that is a lot to cover… Jim W. Dean]
American media is fond of speaking about “Russian Oligarchs” as if Russia were the only nation that allowed accumulation of such unprecedented wealth.
The Yeltsin days of dis-order and collapse indeed saw the rapid rise of many fortunes and oligarchs — persons of very much wealth. Some of them have proven patriotic citizens, some like Khodokorvsky or the late unlamented Boris Berezhovsky proved to be loveless gangsters.
A new study, however by a Princeton University Professor of the influence of very wealthy or economically powerful persons on American political policies makes clear for the first time that a genuine American Oligarchy has staged a slow coup d’état over US foreign and domestic policy over the past three decades since the era of Ronald Reagan. This American oligarchy today is the major force for war and dis-order across the planet.
Fri, Nov 21st, 2014
by Finian Cunningham
It’s long overdue but better late than never that Europe might just be back-pedalling on America’s aggressive agenda towards Russia. The business-like visit to Moscow this week by Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier suggests that Europe can come to its senses to seek a diplomatic resolution of the escalating tensions over the Ukraine crisis – tensions that could spark a wider continental war, or worse.
Steinmeier met with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in which the pair stressed the need to find a political end to the violence in Ukraine. The German diplomat – the first high-level European envoy to Moscow in several months – also talked about normalising relations between his country and Russia and of finding a way to rescind the economic sanctions that Brussels has imposed on Moscow over recent months.
EU ministers in Brussels balked at imposing a fourth round of sanctions earlier this week, showing a growing division over the policy among European governments.
Interestingly, Steinmeier said his visit to the Russian capital was following up on positive discussions held last weekend with President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Australia. The German foreign minister said the task now was to prevent a new spiral of violence in Ukraine.
Given that Germany is the European Union’s largest economy, we can fairly say that Berlin’s political attitude is going to hold sway for the rest of the bloc.
Meanwhile, the contrast with the European attitude, as seen this week through Steinmeier, could not be sharper in Washington.
This week, the Republican-controlled Congress was pushing through a bill that will significantly increase military support to the Kiev regime. The ultra rightwing cabal, despite a fig leaf of elections last month, has clearly shown no interest in implementing the ceasefire brokered on September 5 in the Belarus capital, Minsk. Civilian casualties are mounting among the ethnic Russian population in Donetsk and Luhansk as the Kiev’s military forces continue their practice of indiscriminate shelling of cities and villages with the use of banned weapons, including cluster bombs and unguided ballistic missiles.
Never mind violations of the Minsk Protocol, the murderous offensive by Kiev consists of multiple war crimes.
Nonetheless, the US Congress is unabashed and is in fact preparing to legalise massive overt military aid to this regime whose leaders, including its nominal President Petro Poroshenko, are becoming more and more unhinged, warning earlier this week of “not being afraid of total war with Russia”.
Fri, Nov 21st, 2014
by Natalia Zamarayeva
President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai made his first official foreign visit less than a month after his inauguration in late September 2014. According to official Afghani statements, “his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping was mutually beneficial”.
The successful completion of elections in Afghanistan in September 2014, creation of a national unity government and the first peaceful transition of power from one elected president to another give some hope for possible political, military and economic stabilization in the country.
The withdrawal of US/NATO international coalition forces from Afghanistan pushed regional actors (first of all, Afghanistan, China and Pakistan) to work out a new formula for existence. It comprises three components. These are the strengthening of economic ties, creation of a secure environment, and interchange of human resources. China, as one of the leaders of Asia, is forming a strategy and improving relationships with its closest partners to guarantee future growth of its economic potential in the region.
Afghanistan, in turn, realizes that the lasting stability of its economy can only be ensured by “enhanced regional integration”. Thus, the visit to China defined the direction of the new Afghan authority’s foreign policy – strengthening Kabul’s position in Asia.
At this stage, Afghanistan, China and Pakistan characterize their relationship as “special”, as a “triangle of stability”. They state that their aim is to establish a comprehensive and lasting partnership. As far as Afghanistan is concerned, Pakistani and Chinese interests are quite similar. These are the further strengthening of economic integration, fighting against terrorism in the region, confinement of separatist unrest, access to Central Asian markets, etc.
The prerequisites for the implementation of the above-mentioned agenda are peace and stability in the region and a higher standard of living of the people. As strategic partners, China and Pakistan are interested in establishing stability in the region.
Before the visit of President Ashraf Ghani, Beijing stated that the issue of internal security remains unresolved for Kabul. At the same time, China does not seek to replace the Western troops withdrawn from Afghanistan. Beijing’s key priority is to provide financial and technical assistance for rebuilding the country’s infrastructure. Its large-scale investments in the Aynak copper mine project, the construction of the Jomhuri Hospital, ZTE, Huawei and Sinohydro, etc., are well-known. This is a medium-term plan.
There also are long-term plans. The three countries are focused on Central Asia that is rich in water, energy resources and undeveloped commodity markets. Very beneficial deals can be arranged within the political, economic and logistical spheres of the three countries. For example, the Amu Darya Basin oil project, with technical and financial assistance from Beijing, can help Afghanistan’s economy to recover.
Fri, Nov 21st, 2014
While 49 state treasuries were submerged in red ink after the 2008 financial crash, one state’s bank outperformed all others and actually launched an economy-shifting new industry. So reports the Wall Street Journal this week, discussing the Bank of North Dakota (BND) and its striking success in the midst of a national financial collapse led by the major banks. Chester Dawson begins his November 16th article:
It is more profitable than Goldman Sachs Group Inc., has a better credit rating than J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and hasn’t seen profit growth drop since 2003. Meet Bank of North Dakota, the U.S.’s lone state-owned bank, which has one branch, no automated teller machines and not a single investment banker.
He backs this up with comparative data on the BND’s performance:
[I]ts total assets have more than doubled, to $6.9 billion last year from $2.8 billion in 2007. By contrast, assets of the much bigger Bank of America Corp. have grown much more slowly, to $2.1 trillion from $1.7 trillion in that period.
Return on equity, a measure of profitability, is 18.56%, about 70% higher than those at Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan.
Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services last month reaffirmed its double-A-minus rating of the bank, whose deposits are guaranteed by the state of North Dakota. That is above the rating for both Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan and among U.S. financial institutions, second only to the Federal Home Loan Banks, rated double-A-plus.
Dawson goes on, however, to credit the BND’s remarkable performance to the Bakken oil boom. Giving his article the controversial title, “Shale Boom Helps North Dakota Bank Earn Returns Goldman Would Envy: U.S.’s Lone State-Owned Bank Is Beneficiary of Fracking,” he contends:
The reason for its success? As the sole repository of the state of North Dakota’s revenue, the bank has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the boom in Bakken shale-oil production from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. In fact, the bank played a crucial part in kick-starting the oil frenzy in the state in 2008 amid the financial crisis.
That is how the Wall Street-owned media routinely write off the exceptional record of this lone publicly-owned bank, crediting it to the success of the private oil industry. But the boom did not make the fortunes of the bank. It would be more accurate to say that the bank made the boom.
Excess Deposits Do Not Explain the BND’s Record Profits
Dawson confirms that the BND played a crucial role in kickstarting the boom and the economy, at a time when other states were languishing in recession. It did this by lending for critical infrastructure (roads, housing, hospitals, hotels) when other states’ banks were curtailing local lending.
But while the state itself may have reaped increased taxes and fees from the oil boom, the BND got no more out of the deal than an increase in deposits, as Dawson also confirms. The BND is the sole repository of state revenues by law.
Thursday, November 20th, 2014
Ukraine is the most serious post-WW II geopolitical crisis. At risk is escalated East/West confrontation. Possible global war.
Obama bears full responsibility. Complicit EU partners share it. America goes all-out to advance its imperium.
Millions of corpses attest to its barbarity. Replacing independent governments with subservient pro-Western stooge ones is longstanding US policy.
Washington-supported Kiev putschists staged the most brazen coup d’etat since Mussolini’s 1922 march on Rome.
Ukraine is the epicenter of European fascist reemergence. Hardline rule masquerades as democracy. Elections are farcical when held. Illegitimate by any standard.
Donbas freedom fighters reject fascist rule. For good reason. For democratic rights everyone deserves. Ones Kiev rejects.
Naked aggression launched last April continues. Violating core international law. Geneva and Minsk ceasefire terms.
Heading toward escalated confrontation. Oligarch president Petro Poroshenko vows “full-scale war. (B)etter prepared than five months ago,” he said.
At the same time, ludicrously claiming he wants peace. While waging genocidal war. Murdering his own citizens in cold blood. Non-combatant civilians.
Governing illegitimately. Extrajudicially. Established by force. Run by ultranationalist neo-Nazis. Banning opposing views.
Substituting fascist dictatorship for democracy. Obama’s new friends are thugs. He and Putin met in Brisbane. On the G20 sidelines.
Calling his interaction “businesslike and blunt.” Shamelessly telling Putin “to take a different path…(T)o resolve the issue of Ukraine in a way that respects (its) sovereignty and is consistent with international law.”
Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland admitted Washington spent around $5 billion sabotaging Ukrainian democracy over the past 20 years.
Lying. Calling it “democracy promotion…We stand with the people of Ukraine,” she claimed.
Caught red-handed on tape. Months earlier. Urging regime change. Discussing it with US Ukraine ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt.
Circulated widely on You Tube earlier. Damning evidence of Washington’s dark side.
Its quest for global dominance. No matter the human cost. Regional instability. Greater conflict. Possible war with Russia. Potentially catastrophic if happens.
US-led NATO risks the unthinkable. On Thursday, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg visited Estonia’s Amari airbase.
Stressing Alliance solidarity. “NATO’s greatest responsibility is to protect and defend our Allies,” he said. “And NATO is here to protect and defend Estonia.”
From nonexistent threats. Lying about “a growing number of Russian flights near our airspace. Including here in the Baltics.”
Calling them “dangerous and provocative.” Saying NATO is “resolve(d) to defend all Allies against any threat.”
Separately lying about Russian troops massed on Ukraine’s border. Including “troops, material, artillery and very modern air defense systems.”
Saying what doesn’t exist is “a serious military buildup…(Calling on) Russia to withdraw its troops.”
Earlier accusing Moscow of invading Ukraine. Citing no corroborating evidence. None exists.