Icelanders overwhelmingly rejected a bill that would saddle each citizen with $16,400 of debt in protest at U.K. and Dutch demands that they cover losses triggered by the failure of a private bank, first results show.
Ninety-three percent voted against the so-called Icesave bill, according to preliminary results on national broadcaster RUV. Final results may be published tomorrow morning.
The bill would have obliged the island to take on $5.3 billion, or 45 percent of last year’s economic output, in loans from the U.K. and the Netherlands to compensate the two countries for depositor losses stemming from the collapse of Landsbanki Islands hf more than a year ago.
“Ordinary people, farmers and fishermen, taxpayers, doctors, nurses, teachers, are being asked to shoulder through their taxes a burden that was created by irresponsible greedy bankers,” said President Olafur R. Grimsson, whose rejection of the bill resulted in the plebiscite, in a Bloomberg Television interview yesterday.
Failure to reach an agreement on the bill has left Iceland’s International Monetary Fund-led loan in limbo and prompted Fitch Ratings to cut its credit grade to junk. Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s have signaled they may follow suit if no settlement is reached.
Political leaders have already moved on and are trying to negotiate a new deal with the U.K. and the Dutch, making the bill in today’s vote “obsolete,” Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir said on March 4.
“This referendum is very peculiar and without any parallel in Iceland’s history,” said Gunnar Helgi Kristinsson, a professor of political science at the University of Iceland, in an interview.
The Icesave deal passed through parliament with a 33 to 30 vote majority. Grimsson blocked it after receiving a petition from a quarter of the population urging him to do so. The government has said it’s determined any new deal must have broader political backing to avoid meeting a similar fate.
Even so, signs of disunity across the political divide have emerged, prompting concerns that the government may be forging ahead without the backing of opposition parties.
“It’s extremely important that we try in full to complete the negotiations in harmony with the opposition,” Sigurdardottir said. “If that’s not possible, we will have to try to resolve this by ourselves.”
Icelanders used the referendum to express their outrage at being asked to take on the obligations of bankers who allowed the island’s financial system to create a debt burden more than 10 times the size of the economy.
The nation’s three biggest banks, which were placed under state control in October 2008, had enjoyed a decade of market freedoms following the government’s privatizations through the end of the 1990s and the beginning of this decade.
Protesters have gathered every week, with regular numbers swelling to about 2,000, according to police estimates. The last time the island saw demonstrations on a similar scale was before the government of former Prime Minister Geir Haarde was toppled.
Icelanders have thrown red paint over house facades and cars of key employees at the failed banks, Kaupthing Bank hf, Landsbanki and Glitnir Bank hf, to vent their anger. The government has appointed a special commission to investigate financial malpractice and has identified more than 20 cases that will result in prosecution.
The island’s economy shrank an annual 9.1 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, the statistics office said yesterday, and contracted 6.5 percent in 2009 as a whole.
Household debt with major credit institutions has doubled in the past five years and reached about 1.8 trillion kronur ($14 billion) in 2009, compared with the island’s $12 billion gross domestic product, according to the central bank.
Icelanders, the world’s fifth-richest per capita as recently as 2007, ended 2009 18 percent poorer and will see their disposable incomes decline a further 10 percent this year, the central bank estimates.
Grimsson, who has described his decision to put the depositor bill to a referendum as the “pinnacle of democracy,” says he’s not concerned about the economic fallout of his decision.
“The referendum has drawn back the curtain and people see on the stage the matter in a new perspective,” he said in an interview. “That has strengthened our position and our cause.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Omar Valdimarsson in London at email@example.com
Musa Abu Hashhash could not hold back his tears. We have worked with this devoted field worker from B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, for years. Never before had we seen him cry. But this week he broke down and wept after a visit to the widow of Fayez Faraj, his aged, broken-hearted mother, and his 10 distraught orphans, aged 2 to 18.
Fayez Faraj was the last person who might have been expected to attack Israel Defense Forces soldiers. He had a permit to enter and sleep over in Israel, which few Palestinians are given – and then only after a thorough security check. He had worked for 15 years for Kriza, a footwear company in Tel Aviv, crafting soles for the women’s shoes. Aged 41, he spoke Hebrew fluently, hung out in Tel Aviv, had Israeli friends, was well-off economically and lived in a relatively spacious stone home.
No one in Hebron believes that Faraj attacked the soldiers. One of his Tel Aviv employers, who asked to remain anonymous, also refuses to believe it. A., the Israeli, spoke to Faraj by phone three hours before he was killed, an ordinary business conversation.
“I don’t believe he went to stab a soldier,” A. told Haaretz this week. “I have worked with him for 15 years. I know he was a good guy. Someone who loved life. He wasn’t embittered. I can’t understand how he got into a situation where soldiers killed him. It’s a kind of fate, a screwed-up fate. It’s true that he was slightly depressed lately, because he was in a financial crisis, but the whole story is puzzling, very puzzling.”
A. is not the only one who’s puzzled. It’s strange that the soldiers fired no fewer than seven bullets into Fayez from short range, three into his leg, three into his stomach and one into his left hand, in three volleys; that they went on shooting him after he lay on the ground, blood streaming from his leg, in which a major artery was hit; and that they pulled him – still alive – out of a Palestinian ambulance, and transferred him into an army Jeep and then into an Israeli Magen David Adom ambulance. And above all, there is the question of whether Faraj attacked the soldiers with a knife, as the IDF claims, or whether we should believe the testimony of a young woman who watched the incident from the roof of her house and says the soldiers took the knife from their Jeep in order to incriminate Faraj.
These are all serious, unsettling questions. A Military Police investigation is under way.
The Israeli media barely reported the killing of a Palestinian civilian by IDF soldiers in the heart of Hebron exactly three weeks ago today. A dead Palestinian is a non-story. This week we visited the meager home of his brother Samir, a policeman in the Palestinian Authority, a few dozen meters from the family workshop and from the site of the killing. There we heard about Fayez’s last day and about the circumstances of his death.
At about 12:30 P.M. that Friday, Fayez visited his brother and asked Samir to help out in the workshop. Samir said he was expecting guests and would come to work after they left. Fayez went on to their mother’s home, had lunch there and hurried to the workshop at the corner of the street below Samir’s house.
At about 4 P.M., Samir heard gunshots from the street and rushed down to see what had happened. He encountered a group of soldiers who threatened him with their rifles and ordered him to move off. He tried to approach from a different lane, but again soldiers stopped him. In the meantime, he heard that a wounded man was lying on the road, bleeding.
Samir phoned Tarek Watan, whose barbershop is opposite the scene of the incident, and learned that the wounded man was his brother Fayez. Watan told Samir that the soldiers were continuing to shoot Fayez every time he tried to lift his head. In the meantime, more IDF troops rushed to the scene in Jeeps and fired tear-gas and stun grenades to disperse the crowd that had gathered. Samir shouted to the soldiers that he wanted to see his brother, but to no avail.
A few minutes later, a Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance arrived and Samir saw Fayez being placed in it, still alive. As the ambulance started to pull away, soldiers ordered the driver to stop. The Palestinian paramedic Eid Abu Munshar stated in his testimony to two B’Tselem field workers who arrived on the scene, that the soldiers entered the ambulance and pulled the IV from Fayez’s arm. He said Fayez was suffering from a massive loss of blood and time was critical.
Aliya Hospital lies a few hundred meters from the scene of the incident, and the paramedic wanted to rush Fayez there. But an IDF officer who arrived at the scene ordered him taken out of the ambulance, the paramedic said. The dying Fayez, with seven bullets in his body, was transferred to an IDF jeep and then placed in an intensive care ambulance of Magen David Adom. According to Palestinian testimony, the ambulance waited there for half an hour. At 5:25 P.M., the Red Crescent received a call from the District Coordination and Liaison Office: Fayez had died in the ambulance; they should send a vehicle to pick up the body at the checkpoint at the northern entrance to Hebron.
What actually happened on the street corner between Tarek’s barbershop and Fayez’s footwear workshop? According to the testimonies compiled by Samir and B’Tselem field workers, the following sequence of events emerges: While Fayez was walking from his mother’s house to the workshop, he ran into a group of men celebrating the engagement ceremony of a neighborhood girl. He stopped to congratulate them just as a group of six soldiers walked by. (The IDF sometimes enters the neighborhood, even though it is in area H1, which is supposedly under Palestinian control.) About half an hour earlier, some people had thrown stones at these soldiers in a different neighborhood, and local residents testified that they seemed tense. The soldiers were coming up one of the lanes and people warned Fayez about them. But Fayez, who was considered a proud man who also spoke Hebrew and interacted with Israelis, replied, “So what if there are soldiers?”
One witness reported that shouts were suddenly heard from up the lane. He saw one of the soldiers slip and fall, apparently because of the steepness of the street. Immediately afterward he saw the soldier get up and shoot Fayez in the leg. Maybe Fayez attacked him, or maybe the soldier thought Fayez had attacked him. He heard Fayez curse the soldiers after being wounded and saw him get up. The soldiers then shot him again. People who had gathered on the street shouted to Fayez not to move, because the soldiers might shoot him again – and they indeed shot him a third time, according to the testimonies.
After Fayez was taken away, Samir asked an officer what had happened. The officer, known as “Captain Moshe,” said his brother had tried to stab one of the soldiers, and showed him a knife. Samir told the officer that this made no sense – if Fayez had wanted to stab an Israeli he could have done so in Tel Aviv. Moreover, he had not taken a knife from the house. The officer told Samir that Fayez was in serious condition and had been taken to Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem.
Shortly afterward, an officer who identified himself as “Captain Rafi,” possibly from the Military Police investigations unit, arrived, and asked Samir about his brother’s mental state. Samir told him that “Fayez’s intelligence is bigger than both of ours” and that he had never had mental problems. Together, they questioned the eyewitnesses at the site, all of whom said they had seen no knife in Fayez’s hand. A young woman of 19, Bian Julani, who was on the roof of her home when the incident occurred, told Samir – and, he says, also Captain Rafi – that she saw the soldiers shoot Fayez three times. She also claimed that she saw a soldier wearing gloves take a knife out of the army jeep.
In the meantime, the soldiers confiscated the camera of Abu Hashhash, who arrived on the scene, and returned it to him with all the photos deleted. “As a police officer,” says Samir, “I can tell you that in any event, six soldiers could have subdued Fayez without killing him. It was murder in cold blood.”
Soldiers tore down the posters hung in Fayez’s memory on walls at the scene of the incident. At the entrance to his home, located in another part of the city, a large parrot whistles – Fayez bought it in Tel Aviv. Ten children wander about the house, and their grandmother, Maisar, bursts into tears. “Will someone with 10 children go with a knife?” she asks, and the question echoes through the room. Ibtisam, the widow, is due to give birth any day now. She is carrying a boy. His name will be Fayez, of course.
No comment from the IDF Spokesman was received by press time.
A Western proposal for fresh UN sanctions on Iran includes a call for restricting new Iranian banks abroad and urges “vigilance” against the Islamic Republic’s central bank, diplomats told Reuters on Friday.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, Western diplomats familiar with negotiations on the draft proposal – which Washington worked on with Britain, France and Germany – said they were no longer pushing for an official UN blacklisting of the central bank. The draft also calls for restrictions on new Iranian banks abroad.
“We will be looking for a tightening of restrictions of new Iranian bank activity overseas,” Reuters quoted one diplomat as saying.
The UN Security Council has imposed three rounds of sanctions on Iran. Tehran rejects Western charges that its nuclear program is aimed at developing bombs and says it will only be used to generate electricity.
Another diplomat said urging vigilance about Iran’s central bank in the U.S.-drafted proposal should be more acceptable to Russia and China than blacklisting it, which would have made it difficult for anyone to invest in Iran.
“The idea is to call for strengthened vigilance regarding transactions linked to the Iranian central bank, which the European Union and United States and others can then use as the basis for implementing their own tougher restrictions on (such) transactions,” a second diplomat said.
Only one Iranian bank — Bank Sepah — is blacklisted under an array of UN sanctions spelled out in three resolutions adopted by the Security Council in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
The council has issued warnings about two others — Bank Melli and Bank Saderat — but has not blacklisted them.
The new draft also targets Iranian shipping firms and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and firms linked to it. The measures would restrict insurance and reinsurance coverage of cargo shipments in and out of Iran, diplomats said.
The diplomats said Russia’s initial reaction was negative. “Russia says the draft does not correspond to their idea of what the sanctions should be and they reject many of the measures in the latest draft,” a diplomat said.
China has not reacted and has so far refused to engage in “substantive negotiations” on a fourth round of UN sanctions against Tehran. The four Western powers hope to organize a conference call with officials from all six countries to discuss the draft but have been unable to do so due to China’s refusal.
Russia and China, like the United States, Britain and France, have veto powers on the UN Security Council. Western diplomats hope to present a formal draft resolution to the full 15-nation Security Council in the coming weeks so it can be adopted sometime next month at the latest.
This list of Active Patriot groups is an appendix to the SPLC and ADLs list of active Hate groups. Patriot and constitutionalist groups (Constitution party, John Birch Society, InfoWars, GCNLive, AmericanFreePress, Militias etc and now WeAreChange) are being listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League as non racist “hate” groups, along side the Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazis!
It is not so surprising that WeAreChange has been added to the updated list of Active Patriot Groups in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s special issue of their magazine “Intelligence Report”. I say this because last year’s list of active patriot groups, which was an appendix to the list of active “hate groups,” included WeAreChange allies and affiliates like InfoWars, GCN Live, John Birch Society, Constitution Party, AFP, militias, and other patriot-constitutionalist organizations. The special report also contains a “hate group” map, where patriot groups are shown alongside the KKK and neo-Nazis.
All of this makes up a sophisticated smear campaign of propaganda, which influences the minds of the ordinary public to associate anti-New World Order and 9/11 Truth organizations with racist groups. It is extremely unjust to equate patriotic activists with racism, especially WeAreChange, because our charter explicitly states:
We Are Change is a pacifist organization and is tolerant of all regardless of racial, religious, ethnic or sexual orientation.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has been rumored to have been implicated in the OKC bombing and as an intelligence arm, gathering information for the FBI, CIA and other law enforcement agencies on socalled “extremist” groups. The SPLC and ADL are the authors of the MIAC report and the older federal law enforcement manuals about domestic terrorist groups. That claim citing the constitution is a sign of a potential domestic terrorism.
Southern Poverty Law Center’s special issue of their magazine “Intelligence Report”– both 2009 and 2010 — claims that although the patriot movement is not racist, its beliefs are still “Hate”. This has everything to do with the classification of certain types of speech as “Hate” speech, under the new “hate crime” laws certain elites want passed.
Therefore, this defamation is not just an issue for WeAreChange – it sets the pretext for violating every American’s first amendment rights.
When Najibullah Zazi pled “guilty” to “plotting a suicide bomb attack on New York City subways with al Qaeda training” last week, the Feds assured us yet again they’d thwarted “one of the most serious terrorist threats to our nation since September 11, 2001,” as Attorney General Eric Holder put it. No wonder anyone with even a shred of decency cries for an end to the War-on-Liberty-Disguised-as-a-War-on-Terror: the case against Mr. Zazi is about as substantive as a politician’s promise.
Which explains why the man has steadfastly asserted his innocence since his arrest last September – until the goons railroading him threatened his parents: “The U.S Attorney in the Eastern District did a very good job exerting pressure,” crowed New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. “[Zazi’s] mother stood the chance of being arrested [on immigration charges] … he realized if he didn’t cooperate his family would be significantly impacted.”
Twenty-four-year-old Najibullah Zazi is one of those cunning terrorists whom only our rulers would suspect of being more than a nice guy. After his arrest last September, one friend said, “I never saw any wrong acts.” Said another, “He was a very normal, very life-loving guy.” A third remembered how typically American Najib seemed after emigrating from Afghanistan with his family to Queens, New York ten years ago: “he and Zazi used to play pool and computer games and … Zazi was interested in brand names – ‘nice clothes, nice shoes, everything.’” That dovetails with his ambition to earn money rather than blow people up: “He said he didn’t want to go to college,” one employer reported of the high-school drop-out. “He wanted to make money.” A step-uncle called the wannabe tycoon “a dumb kid, believe me,” but a devoted son, “basically a left shoulder for his father.” Everyone professed shock at his arrest, period, let alone for terrorism. “He was not such a person,” an imam who knew the teen-aged Najib recalled. “He was busy with his work.”
Never mind: the government claims Najib is a terrorist, and the media dutifully lynches him while readers shriek for his blood. And what did this “dumb-kid”-cum-mastermind plot? According to an indictment from the United States Eastern District Court, he “together with others, did knowingly, intentionally, and without lawful authority conspire to use one or more weapons of mass destruction [and of course, we want only lawful authority conspiring to use WMD’s so we wind up with Hiroshima and Nagasaki rather than Oklahoma City], to wit: explosive bombs and other similar explosive devices, against persons and property within the United States…” Translation: Najib supposedly hoped to bomb New York City’s subways a la the explosions that killed 52 people in London’s Tube during the summer of 2005. Adding insult to injury, he scheduled his mayhem for the new federal holiday of 9/11.
Much of the “proof” for this is what prosecutors used to dignify as “circumstantial evidence” and the rest of us call “gossip” – but the Amerikan Homeland now considers a sufficient basis for arresting a man and holding him without bond. For starters, Najib has travelled to his native Afghanistan “at least four times since” 1999, the year he and his family moved to the U.S., likely because he had agreed to an arranged marriage with a cousin still living there. The couple has two children, which probably made his visits all the more important. Alas, Najib’s wife resides in his home-town of Peshawar. Aficionados of the War on Terror will recognize that region as one renowned for its terrorists’ training camps. And, indeed, the FBI extracted a confession from Najib that he attended Al Qaeda’s tutorials. Recall that the Bush Administration proudly tortured “terrorists” for confessions, a.k.a. “intelligence,” while Obama’s prefers to “look ahead,” i.e., it refuses to indict officials for war crimes.
After his marriage, Najib grew a beard – a “bushy black” one, no less. He also “gave up American fashion for tunics and more modest traditional clothing.” We civilians might suppose he was trying to please his new wife or perhaps even preparing to move to Afghanistan to join her and the kids, but Warriors on Terror know better. Najib was radicalizing.
Hence his move to Colorado. I know, I know: shouldn’t a terrorist serious about jihad have remained in densely populated New York? Not diabolical Najib. He not only “passed a criminal background check,” throwing us even further off guard, he also began working as a driver for ABC Airport Shuttle. Airport: get it? And he continued his act as a good American. “Dispatcher Tony Gonzales described Zazi as a ‘hardworking guy. No trouble, no problem whatsoever,’ Gonzales said. ‘Very quiet guy. He’s always on time. When we give him a pickup, he always does it.’”
The government does allege a couple of actual problems – if we can believe lying Leviathan and ignore its totalitarian methods of collecting evidence. First, the State claims that Najib’s laptop contained nine pages of handwritten notes on making bombs. And how does it know that? By approaching him openly with a warrant? No. By searching his car after pretty much stealing it: AP reported that “Zazi’s rental car [was] towed for a parking violation, according to Zazi’s attorney, Arthur Folsom. FBI agents search[ed] the car and [found] a laptop…” Yet thieves and liars who pull such dirty tricks expect us to believe them when they tell us what they found.
A real war needs no such gimmicks. But the fake wars the Feds now fight, whether on terror or drugs, require suborning poor or otherwise vulnerable people, preying on disillusioned teens, inciting folks who would otherwise mind their own mundane business to embroil themselves in what may seem the thrilling demimonde of illegal drugs or fatwa against the U.S.
Najib and some of his friends were also caught on a surveillance tape purchasing more hair dye than our rulers assume anyone needs (some commentators pooh-pooh the quantity’s being “unusual”). Najib also surfed the net for information on buying other questionable products, such as muriatic acid. He may have a reasonable explanation – a form of hydrochloric acid, muriatic acid cleans “really filthy bathrooms” – but should he have to divulge it? The Constitution never empowers the Feds to spy on citizens; anything unconstitutional remains so even if Congress legalizes it. Domestic spying under the USA Patriot Act and FISA unearthed these details about Najib; that same spying could selectively assemble minutiae from my life or yours to “prove” us terrorists, too. But even if every one of the government’s charges is true, even if Najib were planning the worst attack since 9/11, the damage he might have inflicted doesn’t begin to compare with Leviathan’s destruction of our liberty while allegedly pursuing “terrorists.”
After buying too much hair-dye, Najib drove to his old stomping grounds of New York City last September. The FBI’s time-line has him “conduct[ing] the attack on Manhattan subway lines on Sept. 14, Sept. 15, or Sept. 16, 2009,” but what the heck – that’s close enough to September 11 for government work. Cops tossed his car at the George Washington Bridge after using a subterfuge similar to the “parking violation” with which they later swiped it: they “stopped” him to conduct “a random search of his vehicle for drugs.” They also pestered his friends during his time in the City; in one of the apartments they searched, this time with a warrant, “agents found, among several other items, an electronic weight scale in the closet. The scale and batteries both contained Zazi’s fingerprints.” Also setting the Warriors on Terror atwitter was a cache of backpacks – yes, I kid you not, that common tote among New Yorkers who, sans cars, must carry their bottles of water, books, and snacks around town with them somehow. Even more menacing: the backpacks were “new.” I don’t know about you, but items cluttering almost any American home hardly spell “terrorist” to me. If touching a scale and batteries or buying backpacks has become a criminal act, we’d all better hunt a good lawyer. Or perhaps they’re only criminal acts for Moslems.
One piece of evidence authorities didn’t uncover in all this searching is the bomb Najib was supposedly concocting. There were no explosives in his home, those of his family and friends, or in his car. The Feds claim they did find traces of acetone in the kitchenette of a hotel room Najib rented: that supposedly proves he was cooking up explosives from the ingredients he’d bought. But acetone is a common solvent.
This embarrassing lack has cops resorting to “the-dog-ate-my-homework” sort of excuses the rest of us abandoned after grade school: “One possibility being considered by counter-terrorism agents is that whatever device or devices were built in the hotel room, they were detonated at some isolated location in Colorado as a test run of the bomb recipe. In recent weeks, agents in that area have been searching for a possible location of such a test explosion, the two officials said.” We all know how fiendishly clever terrorists are, but come on: Najib managed to shake his heavy surveillance so he could set off loud BOOMS raising very noticeable plumes of smoke and debris? Why am I reminded of Lt. Dunbar and his fire that alerts his Indian neighbors in Dances With Wolves? Alas, and not surprisingly, the “search for a possible location” has yielded zip.
When Najib flew from New York back to Colorado, “authorities” interrogated him for three days before arresting him. “Why would I have an issue with America?” their bewildered victim asked the media covering this circus. “Nobody wants to leave America. People die to come here.” He told another reporter, “’This is one of the best countries in the world. … It gives you every single right.’” Except when its regime needs a foil to justify its tyranny.
Najib withstood the Federal thumbscrews until the government dragged his mother into things. Since then he’s been “cooperating,” to America’s vast shame. Meanwhile, the Feds distract us from their brutality, their persecution of a taxpayer without many resources who’s desperately sacrificing himself for his family, by turning the case into a debate over trying “terrorists” in civilian versus military courts. Beneath such unconstitutional heartlessness lie the ruins of a young man’s life, his hopes and dreams and blasted future.
It’s difficult to assess the government’s allegations when it withholds so much. Despite its lies, its trumped-up “evidence,” and its spurning of Constitutional search warrants for the fishing expeditions FISA and the Patriot Act allow, Najib may be guilty. Perhaps he really was about to bomb New York’s subways. But we’re unlikely ever to know: in the best tradition of the Star Chamber and in violation of the Sixth Amendment, the Feds throw the cloak of “national security” around cases like this and operate largely in secret. Maybe they really are concerned about the country’s safety. But secrecy also hides ginned-up accusations, sloppy investigations, arbitrary whims, and tyranny. Meanwhile, officials insist we trust them, that we accept their judgment rather than weigh the evidence for ourselves: “Holder offered no new details of the investigation, but said the case has shown counter-terrorism agencies succeeded in disrupting the plot.”
“There are people both in this country and also abroad who are committed to harming the American people and they’re actively plotting to do so,” Holder intoned last October. Yep. And like the Attorney General, they work for the U.S. government.
Becky Akers, an expert on the American Revolution, writes frequently about issues related to security and privacy.