Press TV – January 15, 2010
Berlusconi’s lawyer, Niccolo Ghedini
The trial of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi who is charged with corruption and bribery has been postponed until February 27.
Prime Minister Berlusconi is accused of bribing British tax lawyer and offshore consultant, David Mills, with $600,000.
Mills lied about Berlusconi’s offshore companies during the trials that took place in 1997 and 1998. He was indicted on corruption charges and sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison and has appealed the verdict.
Italy’s constitutional court overturned a law last year that granted Berlusconi legal immunity while serving as the prime minister.
The three presiding judges for the trail have postponed it until after Mill’s appeal case is concluded.
Berlusconi has had an extensive record of criminal allegations including mafia involvement, false accounting, tax fraud, corruption and bribery of police officers, lawyers, and judges.
Asks For Data On “Targeted Killings” Of Suspected Terrorists And Civilian Casualties
January 13, 2010
NEW YORK – In a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed today, the American Civil Liberties Union asked the government to disclose the legal basis for its use of predator drones to conduct “targeted killings” overseas. In particular, the ACLU seeks to find out when, where and against whom drone strikes can be authorized, and how the United States ensures compliance with international laws relating to extrajudicial killings.
“The American public has a right to know whether the drone program is consistent with international law, and that all efforts are made to minimize the loss of innocent lives,” said Jonathan Manes, a legal fellow with the ACLU National Security Project. “The Obama administration has reportedly expanded the drone program, but it has not explained publicly what the legal basis for the program is, what limitations it recognizes on the use of drones outside active theaters of war and what the civilian casualty toll has been thus far. We’re hopeful that the request we’ve filed today will encourage the Obama administration to disclose information about the basis, scope and implementation of the program.”
The administration has used unmanned drones to target and kill individuals not only in Afghanistan and Iraq but also in Pakistan and Yemen. The technology allows U.S. personnel to observe targeted individuals and launch missiles intended to kill them from control centers located thousands of miles away.
Today’s FOIA request was filed with the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice (including the Office of Legal Counsel), the Department of State and the CIA.
“The use of drones to conduct targeted killings raises complicated questions – not just legal questions but policy and moral questions as well,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. “These are not questions that should be decided behind closed doors. They are questions that should be debated openly, and the public should have access to information that would allow it to participate meaningfully in the debate.”
The ACLU’s request seeks, in addition to information about the legal basis for the drone program, data regarding the number of civilians and non-civilians killed in the strikes. Estimates of civilian casualties from the government and human rights organizations differ dramatically, from the dozens to the hundreds, giving an incomplete and inconsistent picture of the human cost of the program.
The Big Lies Just Keep Coming
By Alan Nasser | January 15, 2010
When president Obama was awarded Advertising Age’s 2009 Marketer of the Year award, we were alerted to expect carefully crafted public relations posturing in defense of the reputation of Brand Obama. We have not been disappointed. The president has regularly taken verbal pot shots at the financial oligarchy in a cynical effort to convey the impression that he shares the public’s outrage at the behavior of the plutocrats. But he has thrown no sticks and stones at the banksters, who know as well as you and I that mere words can never hurt them.
None of Obama’s faux outrage has been as disingenuous as his Wednesday announcement that he will finally respond sympathetically to the public’s deep resentment of the administration’s tolerance -and therefore encouragement- of the bad guys’ looting of the public treasury.
Obama assured his constituents that he would “recoup every last penny for American taxpayers” by taking back, in the form of taxes on the banks, the wealth that households have been forced to transfer to the coffers of the instigators of the financial crisis.
The announcement was timed to offset what will surely be another surge of public anger at the expected announcement this week of the banks’ year-end bonus payments.
The proposed taxes would apply to financial institutions with more than $50 billion in assets and would extract about $90 billion from them over ten years. Obama’s central claim is that this would cover all losses incurred by the government under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). We are supposed to be relieved that households will in the end be repaid all that has been transferred from them by TARP. “We want our money back, and we’re going to get it,” said Obama.
Obama is perpetrating a massive ruse. The tax-the-banks proposal rests on conspicuously false empirical assumptions and appalling math.
A key premise of the tax proposal is that TARP is the government’s sole gift to the financial elite. This is of course false: TARP is in fact a relatively small fraction of the State’s total rescue effort. Financial institutions have also been treated to no-cost and virtually unlimited access to credit, broad guarantees against losses and lax regulation, to mention only the most conspicuous gifts. Even if TARP did represent the administration’s total commitment to financial institutions, Obama’s claim would still be nonsense. TARP handed $700 billion to the banks. How does $90 billion “recoup every last penny” of $700 billion? The president thinks, with good reason so far, that he can get away with anything. Anything. Hence the screamingly counterfactual premise and the slapstick math.
That’s not the worst of it. Neil Barofsky, the Special Inspector General charged with overseeing the bailout plan, reports that the bailout could end up costing $23.7 trillion. Critics of Barofsky accuse him of exaggeration. Let’s suppose they are right. Say Barofsky doubled the true cost of the government’s commitment. So what? Bloomberg reports, with no challengers, that the cumulative commitment to financial rescue initiatives amount so far to more than $8.5 trillion. $90 billion is a small drop in a big bucket.
How do these figures compare to what working people have lost? Households have so far lost $12 trillion in wealth in the wake of the crisis. By the end of the third quarter of 2008, shortly after the announcement of an impending collapse of the entire financial system, households had already lost $647 billion in real estate, $922 billion in stocks, $523 billion in mutual funds and $653 billion in life insurance and pension funds reserves. Total destruction of household wealth in Q3 2008 came to $2.8 trillion, the worst decline on record. That comes to four times TARP’s $700 billion. If “[w]e want our money back,” we’re dead out of luck. Obama knows this, but the man is an instrument of his financial masters, and the ad campaign functioning to obscure this reality requires big lies. The president has these coming out of his ears.
Alan Nasser is professor emeritus of Political Economy at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. He can be reached at email@example.com
Martha Coakley’s Corporate Connections
By Russel Mokhiber | January 15, 2010
Martha Coakley is going down in flames.
So is the Democratic Party.
We found the answer earlier this week at – of all places – The Cato Institute in Washington, D.C.
Timothy Carney was giving a powerpoint presentation about his new book: Obamanomics: How Barack Obama Is Bankrupting You and Enriching His Wall Street Friends, Corporate Lobbyists, and Union Bosses.
Here’s the book in a nutshell:
“Both parties are the parties of big business,” Carney said. “They both promote corporate socialism.”
I sat there in the front row at Cato, in wonder.
Listening to the talk – as Carney outlined how Obama had cut deals with Billy Tauzin and the pharmaceutical industry.
Thinking to myself – is this why Martha Coakley is having such a hard time in Massachusetts?
She’s just another corporate Dem — just like Obama?
Then, lo and behold, as if I was channeling Carney, he calls up a slide on his powerpoint.
On the big screen at Cato is an invitation to a corporate fundraiser – that night at the Sonoma Restaurant on Capitol Hill – for Coakley.
And I say to myself – wait a second.
Coakley is in the middle of a tight race and she’s flying to DC one week before the election to be with a group of corporate lobbyists?
And then Carney went down the list of 22 members of the host committees – meaning they each raised $10,000 or more for Coakley.
“Seventeen are federally registered lobbyists, 15 of whom have health-care clients,” Carney said.
“You see the names – Gerald Cassidy, David Castagnetti,, Tommy Boggs – those are all lobbyists I’ve highlighted there who have clients who are drug companies, health insurers, hospitals or all three,” Carney said. “AHIP, Phrma, Pfizer, Blue Cross – everybody is covered there. Aetna somehow isn’t. I don’t know how they got left out.”
“These are the special interests,” Carney said. “These are the people trying to elect Martha Coakley to be vote number 60 for health insurance.”
Carney then puts up a slide showing how the Phrma cash went from supporting Republican candidates for President in the past – to supporting Barack Obama in 2008.
“Barack Obama raised $2.1 million from drug companies in 2008,” Carney said. “That’s about equal to what John McCain raised plus what George Bush raised in both of his elections. It’s the most by far any candidate has raised from the drug industry.”
The people of Massachusetts already have tried a corporate reform that forces them to buy junk insurance.
They don’t like it.
They’re waiting for a candidate that will deliver a message they’ve been waiting to hear.
Put the private insurance companies out of business.
Drive down the cost of drugs to the levels of say Canada or the UK.
But Obama, Coakley and the Democrats are awash in corporate cash.
They have made their choice.
And they deserve to lose.
Onward to single payer.
Russell Mokhiber is editor of Single Payer Action.
Bethlehem – Ma’an – As Israeli authorities prepared to expel Ma’an News Agency’s chief English editor later this week, media rights groups have blasted his ongoing detention as an assault on freedom of the press.
Jared Malsin was originally scheduled to be deported without a hearing on Thursday morning. Protests by US authorities in Tel Aviv resulted in a temporary reversal, and an injunction filed by Ma’an delayed the expulsion until at least Sunday.
Reporters Without Borders “condemns the detention and imminent expulsion of US journalist Jared Malsin, who has worked for the past two years as an editor with Ma’an, an independent Palestinian news agency,” the group said on Wednesday in a statement, the first of many that it and others would issue on behalf of the top journalist at Ma’an’s English Desk.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, which monitors freedom of the press worldwide, urged Israel to refrain from taking punitive action against reporters over specific content in their work. “Israel cannot hide behind the pretext of security to sideline journalists who have done nothing more than maintain an editorial line that the authorities dislike,” the organization said.
Indeed, court documents indicated that Malsin’s detention was directly related to his work at the news agency, quoting airport officials as noting that he authored articles “inside the territories,” among them some which “criticized the State of Israel.”
“We are alarmed by the Israeli government’s efforts to deport Jared Malsin on vague security charges,” stated CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem. “We call on the Israeli authorities to ensure that our colleague be allowed to carry out his work without further harassment.”
By Wayne Madsen | Online Journal | January 15, 2010
There is a reason why the corporate media focused on White House state dinner crashers Tareq and Michaele Salahi at last year’s gala honoring Indian Prime Minister Monmohan Singh. The media, which acts in lockstep with major corporate owners like Microsoft and General Electric in pushing for the import of low-wage Indian information technology and other high-technology workers into the United States on H1-B visas, did not want anyone focused on the deal worked out between President Obama and Singh.
Obama was cementing a deal on further Indian workers coming to the United States, a “deal” Obama announced during the height of the primary battle in early 2008 as he was raking in campaign contributions from wealthy Indians — citizens and non-citizens alike.
Obama stated, “I will support a temporary increase in the H-1B visa program as a stopgap measure until we can reform our immigration system comprehensively. I support comprehensive immigration reform that includes improvement in our visa programs, including our legal permanent resident visa programs and temporary programs, including the H-1B program, to attract some of the world’s most talented people to America. We should allow immigrants who earn their degrees in the U.S. to stay, work, and become Americans over time. As part of our comprehensive reform, we should examine our ability to replace a stopgap increase in the number of H1B visas with an increase in the number of permanent visas we issue to foreign skilled workers.”
However, Obama never intended to reform the H-1B system that robs educated and talented Americans of their jobs in the American economy and wage earning potential.
WMR has learned from a reliable Indian source that a majority of the Indian workers arriving in the United States graduated from 40,000 engineering colleges that opened in India between 1990 and 2000. Many of these Indian engineering colleges were never properly licensed or received their dubious accreditation courtesy of Indian politicians anxious to export Indian workers to the United States and, in return, see wage remittances pour into their constituencies from America, thus boosting India’s foreign reserve strength. Many of the engineering colleges that grant degrees to Indian engineers lack sufficient infrastructures and employ faculty with questionable credentials, according to WMR’s source.
In Chennai, for example, almost every street has an engineering college. There is also a direct pipeline between the dubious engineering schools’ job placement offices and the U.S. Embassy visa office in New Delhi.
The exodus of Indian graduates to the United States also involves an Indian Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) program to glean sensitive and classified technology from U.S. companies that employ the engineers and technicians. The mass migration of Indian labor has been linked directly to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other top officials in the Democratic Party. Mrs. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have substantial financial interests in India.
Part of the funding for Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, WMR has learned, came from money scammed by Indian stockbroker Harshad Mehta who gamed the Bombay Stock Exchange into seeing a sharp rise in stock. Mehta raked off the profits from his “Ponzi scheme” but when banks called in their investments, the Bombay Stock Exchange collapsed. The Clintons continue to maintain a close financial arrangement with the multi-billionaire Tata family of India through the clan’s sizable donations to the Clinton Foundation.
In 2008, the Indian stock market saw a 50 percent decrease in value. WMR has learned that the earlier “bubble” in the market saw large amounts of money from Indian financial interests pour into the presidential campaign coffers of Barack Obama.
The program to introduce low-paid Indian engineers into the United States began in 1960 with a test population of graduates from the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT). After the first engineers were placed in U.S. high-technology positions, the RAW and the Indian government built up the program. The Indians had noticed that Israel’s Mossad had successfully penetrated a number of American research and development centers using Jewish engineering graduates from Israel who were obtaining the technical know-how for Israel to build its nuclear arsenal.
Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.
Copyright © 2010 WayneMadenReport.com
By Sachiko Sakamaki and Takashi Hirokawa
Jan. 15 (Bloomberg) — Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said Japan today will end its refueling of ships in the Indian Ocean to aid U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan.
Hatoyama thanks navy personnel who provided fuel and water to ships from Pakistan, the U.S. and other countries, and said Japan will continue to participate in the international efforts against terrorism, according to a statement. Japan in November said it will provide as much as $5 billion over five years to help in the reconstruction of war-torn Afghanistan.
“I think more direct, civilian assistance is important for Afghanistan to secure economic stability and peace,” Hatoyama told reporters today in Tokyo.
Japan’s navy had refueled warships in the Indian Ocean since 2001. Hatoyama’s Democratic Party of Japan ousted the Liberal Democratic Party from 50 years of almost unbroken rule and vowed to end the operations.
To contact the reporter on this story: Sachiko Sakamaki in Tokyo at firstname.lastname@example.orgTakashi Hirokawa in Tokyo at email@example.com
Press TV - January 15, 2010
The acclaimed British director and winner of Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, Ken Loach, has called for the boycott of Israeli movies at the international film festivals and cultural events.
“The massacres and state terrorism in Gaza make the showcasing of Israeli films in various sections of international film festivals unacceptable,” Loach was quoted as saying at a ceremony commemorating Israeli offensive on the besieged Gaza Strip by IRNA.
“Tel Aviv sponsors various international film festivals with the intention to open the way for Israeli films.”
He added the call for a boycott of Israeli cultural products comes from many writers, artists, journalists, lawyers, academics, trades unionists and teachers. They see it as “a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid.”
Last July, Loach withdrew his film ”Looking for Eric” from the Melbourne International Film Festival in protest against the Israel’s sponsorship of another filmmaker. Tel Aviv provided airfare for Tatia Rosenthal, whose film ”9.99” is an Israeli-Australian co-production.
In May 2009, Loach as director of the Edinburgh International film festival returned a £300 gift from the Israeli embassy as a sign of his cultural boycott of Israel and in protest of Tel Aviv’s policies towards the Palestinian people.
The Toronto international film festival (TIFF) came under fire in September for selecting Tel Aviv as the subject of its inaugural City-to-City Spotlight strand. Renowned movie makers including Loach, Jane Fonda and David Byrne were among those who signed a statement supporting Canadian film-maker John Greyson, who withdrew his short film “Covered” from TIFF after learning of the program.
In a letter to the festival, Greyson cited Israeli action in Gaza and the expansion of illegal settlements as reasons for his withdrawal.
A United Nations inquiry led by former South African Judge Richard Goldstone details what investigators call Israeli actions “amounting to war crimes, possibly crimes against humanity” during Israel’s offensive against Gaza.
Tel Aviv is worried that charges could be lodged against politicians and army officers for war crimes committed during Israel’s 22-day offensive against blockaded Gaza Strip. Top officials who would be in the judicial cross-hairs could include former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni as well as current Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
More than 1,400 Palestinians were killed during three weeks of Israel’s land, sea and air assault in the impoverished coastal sliver. The offensive also inflicted $ 1.6 billion damage to Gaza economy.