About two dozen people have been killed in attacks by the Yemeni army and US assassination drones in southern and eastern Yemen.
The Yemeni Defense Ministry said on Monday that the army shelled suspected militants in the southern province of Abyan.
The attack occurred near the city of Loder late on Sunday, killing 13 people.
At least three others were killed in an airstrike on several vehicles in a remote desert region in the eastern province of Marib, the Yemeni Defense Ministry said.
Also on Sunday, a strike by a US assassination drone killed three people in the southern province of Shabwa.
Local sources said that four more people lost their lives when a Yemeni jet attacked their vehicles in Loder.
About 275 people have been killed in fighting and airstrikes in southern Yemen over the past two weeks.
The government says the goal of the attacks is to foil potential threats by al-Qaeda — a claim that has not been independently confirmed.
Ali Abdullah Saleh, who ruled Yemen for 33 years, stepped down in February under a US-backed power transfer deal in return for immunity after nearly a year of mass street demonstrations demanding his ouster.
His vice president, UK-trained Field Marshal Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, replaced him on February 25 following a single-candidate presidential election backed by the United States and Saudi Arabia. Hadi will serve for an interim two-year period as stipulated by the power transfer deal.
On April 6, Hadi dismissed nearly 20 high-ranking officers, including the commander of the country’s air force, Saleh’s half-brother Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar, but did not replace Saleh’s son, nephew, and other allies, who head important military units.
So far, Al-Ahmar has refused to step down from his post.
Currently, Saleh’s eldest son Ahmed commands the elite Republican Guard, his nephew Yehya heads the central security services, and another nephew, Tariq, controls the Presidential Guard.
Yemenis have repeatedly staged demonstrations across the country to demand the political restructuring of the country and the dismissal of members of Saleh’s regime from their government posts.
Egypt has denied permission to eight US-based nonprofit groups to open offices and operate in the North African country.
An official of Egypt’s Insurance and Social Affairs Ministry said the ministry rejected the applications because the groups’ activities “breach the country’s sovereignty,” Egyptian state news agency MENA reported on Monday.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the Carter Center for Human Rights, the Coptic Orphans, Seeds of Peace, and various other groups had been denied permission to work in Egypt.
He also said that if any of the groups try to operate without permits, they will be punished in accordance with Egyptian law.
Last month, anger against the United States rose in Egypt after foreign non-governmental organization (NGO) workers left the country before standing for their trials.
A total of 43 foreign and Egyptian activists, including the son of the US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, were accused of receiving illegal funds and running unlicensed NGOs in Egypt.
A group of 15 NGO workers, including Americans, departed Cairo in a US government plane on March 1. The departure came despite the travel ban imposed on the accused.
Earlier, US authorities had threatened to cut a USD 1.5-billion annual aid package to Egypt if the issue was not resolved.
Many Egyptians suspect that the US is instigating unrest in the country, by the funding of certain civil society groups in Egypt.
The Fed Works for the Very Rich
Late last week Princeton University economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote a piece on his NY Times blog that history will view as the best evidence to appear in at least several decades of the utter irrelevance of mainstream economics. The piece purported to respond to a Wall Street Journal editorial by Mark Spitznagel in which Mr. Spitznagel argued broadly the Austrian economists’ line that all government spending favors one group over another and more specifically that the Fed’s Quantitative Easing (QE) programs of recent years favor banks and the rich.
Mr. Krugman could have argued his New Keynesian shtick that government investment can prevent deflationary spirals in economic downturns and all would be as it was. Instead, he chose to argue (Plutocrats and Printing Presses – NYTimes.com), an astonishing amount of evidence to the contrary, that Fed QE policies have not disproportionately benefited banks and the very rich and were in fact enacted against their wishes and interests.
The basis of his argument has two parts:
(1) conservative economists argue that QE is “printing money,” they also argue that printing money causes inflation, banks hate inflation (because loans get repaid in less valuable dollars), therefore banks opposed QE and
(2) that banks earn profits from the difference between long term interest rates and short term interest rates (NIM, or Net Interest Margin), QE has reduced this difference, therefore the banks have seen their profits fall from QE.
Were these arguments used when writing about a (1) solvent banking system whose (2) profits still came from making prudent loans to creditworthy borrowers and (3) whose shadow banking system was immaterial (couldn’t destroy the global financial system), then Mr. Krugman might have had a point. The facts, however, suggest that if bank loans and other bank assets were fairly valued the big banks would be conspicuously insolvent, that the entire impetus of banking consolidation and deregulation (as explained by bankers) was to reduce the impact of NIM on bank profits, and that building out the shadow banking system was the way that banks intended to accomplish this.
The housing crisis that began in 2006 is well known to most people, but it was part of a much larger build-up of debt by households and corporations at the behest of bankers. Among the “innovative” home mortgage types that put people who couldn’t afford regular loans into houses were “adjustable-rate mortgages” (ARMs). What set off the initial stages of the financial crisis was the realization that (1) a large percentage of people who had taken out mortgages couldn’t repay them under any circumstances and (2) if rising interest rates caused the mortgage payments on ARMs to rise then a much larger group of people would also default on their home mortgages. In 2007 – 2008 both of these realizations caused the value of the mortgage loans held by banks either directly or through securitizations (the banks’ own creations) to fall precipitously.
The same principle that rising interest rates cause the market value of loans and loan-type instruments to fall applied to an unprecedented quantity of assets held by banks in 2008, and still does today. However, the opposite is also true, when interest rates fall the market value of loans on bank books and in financial markets rises. As too much un-repayable private debt in the economy was what made the banks insolvent, lowering both short and long term interest rates has had far more impact on restoring the banks to faux health by raising asset values than profits from interest margin (NIM) possibly could have. The banks killed their ready supply of credit-worthy borrowers along with the economy in the 2000s— the only game they could play was to restore the market values of the garbage assets that they held. The Fed willingly accommodated this strategy.
The Fed wasn’t alone in its efforts to save the banks at all costs– the utterly corrupt actions by ex-New York Fed Chair, now Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, and current Fed Chair Ben Bernanke to move bad loans made by the banks to other government agencies including FHA, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and an astonishing array of seemingly unrelated others, was tied to Fed asset purchases through QE. Readers may remember the low interest, non-recourse government loans that were used to induce hedge funds to buy garbage assets at no risk to themselves (non-recourse) to (1) get the assets off of bank books and (2) to create faux market prices for garbage assets based on contrived economics to thereby induce less sophisticated buyers to pay higher prices for the assets. The Fed itself bought assets at higher prices that it had driven higher.
The way that the Fed’s QE directly benefited the very richest Americans, in addition to the most recent vintage of richest Americans being bankers, is by running up the value of all financial assets. Fed Chair Bernanke gave a veiled explanation of how this works in his Jackson Hole speech from 2010 that can be found online. Mr. Bernanke calls his method the “portfolio balance channel,” and it is premised on two basic economic concepts, supply and demand and substitution. When the Fed buys assets it takes those interest-paying assets out of circulation and replaces them with cash. This reduces the supply of interest bearing assets in financial markets and replaces them with cash with which to buy other assets. It also reduces market interest rates thereby making stocks and other assets (substitution) more attractive.
But we need not rely on theory to see if this works the way that Mr. Bernanke theorized that it would. There are a significant number of rigorous analyses that were done demonstrating that when the Fed (or the ECB) is buying assets through QE financial markets rise and when the Fed stops buying they fall. The evidence is both unambiguous and voluminous. And in an anecdotal sense, there was some skepticism from Wall Street in 2009 when QE began but few if any doubters remain—it is absolutely the perceived wisdom on Wall Street that the reason that financial asset prices have been rising when they have is because the Fed is causing them to. The only question still out there for Wall Street is whether or not the Fed will continue to run prices up further?
How does running up the prices of financial assets directly benefit the richest Americans? Ironically, every three years the Fed also produces a survey of income and wealth distribution in the U.S. that is available on the Fed’s website. The data is broken out by income and wealth deciles. The quick answer to who benefits from rising financial asset prices is that the rich do because they own all the financial assets. See for yourself on the Fed’s website.
So far the Fed has tried to save the banks by keeping interest rates low and through various programs to dump toxic assets on the rest of us and it has revived the fortunes of the kind folks who looted the banks and stole our wealth (the very rich) by running-up stock prices. The Fed did this with QE1, QE1.5, QE2, QE2.5, “Operation Twist” and various less publicized programs with similar intent. The banks and bankers have absolutely loved these programs—read their research and you will see. On his very own blog Mr. Krugman referenced UC Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez’s recent report stating that since the recession theoretically ended in 2009, the top one percent of income earners has received 93% of income gains. Mr. Saez’s research illustrates that it is the revival of capital gains from rising financial asset prices (including stock options granted to corrupt executives) that is behind the gains.
Finally, Mr. Krugman claims that the only way that banks could have benefited from the Fed buying assets was if the Fed overpaid for the assets. Fed Chair Bernanke publicly stated at the time Fed purchases commenced in 2009 that the Fed was going to overpay for the MBS (Mortgage-Backed Securities) it purchased in order to induce banks to sell them to the Fed. This was widely reported in the financial press at the time. It was also widely viewed as part of the ongoing (never ending) bank bailouts. Readers may recall the news reports from all of the Wall Street banks of perfect trading records (banks earned profits from trading financial assets every day) for several quarters in 2009. If the banks are winning then someone else is losing—thank you Federal Reserve. If Mr. Krugman can’t find credible contemporaneous reports of this then he should try a little harder.
Last, there is no ax to grind here with Paul Krugman. Mr. Krugman has put a human face on his politics for which he should be thanked. But legitimate criticism of his economics includes the absence of the class struggle that Wall Street and the Federal Reserve clearly understand as evidenced by their actions—they are fighting for America’s rich and their policies are intended to benefit them alone. The sleight of hand that sustains mainstream economics is the claim that we all benefit if the system benefits. Take a look around and you’ll see that no, we don’t all benefit. In fact, were it not for the ideological drivel disguised as mainstream academic research, this would be evident to even the least interested among us. When in doubt, look a little harder.
Rob Urie is an artist and political economist in New York.
- Krugman Rebutts (sic) Spitznagel, Says Bankers Are “The True Victims Of QE”, Princeton-Grade Hilarity Ensues (zerohedge.com)
- Krugman – the Stand Up Comic (theburningplatform.com)
NAZARETH — Hebrew media sources reported, on Monday, that the US stores military equipment worth U.S. $800 million in Israel, noting that this quantity will increase soon reaching $1.2 billion.
Citing a report issued by the U.S. Department of Defense, the Hebrew TV Channel2 said the US ordnance, including missiles, armored vehicles and artillery ammunition, is allowed to be used by Israel in the event of a military emergency.
The storage of military equipment came within the strategic partnership between the two countries which began in the early nineties. The report revealed that during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, the US allowed Israel to access its military emergency stores.
It is noted that the US began stockpiling $100 million in military equipment in Israel in 1990, then it increased to $800 in 2010, and it is predicted to reach $1.2 billion in the coming years.
- The US Is Stockpiling A Huge Cache Of Weapons In Israel (businessinsider.com)
That is why he did not find it unusual when he heard a loud banging at his front door at 10:30pm on Wednesday night. However, this time it was not the Israeli army but an Israeli settler from the nearby illegal settlement of Givat Ha’avot. As soon as Marwan opened the door he was violently punched and kicked by the settler, who then dragged him out the door.
Outside the beating continued, causing Marwan to fall down a flight of stairs as other settlers, the settlement security guard, and Marwan’s shocked children looked on.
Finally, two police cars arrived and with the help of Marwan’s brothers, detained the attacker.
At this point, Marwan’s father arrived to find that Marwan had lost consciousness. He called an ambulance and was forced to wait forty-five minutes as the ambulance was detained at the metal gate restricting Palestinian vehicular access to their own street.
Marwan’s father demanded that the Israeli army commander arrest the settler who had attacked his son, only to have soldiers threateningly point their guns at his head and tell him to ‘shut up’. At a point during the night, the army released the settler who was responsible for the attack. They later claimed they did not arrest him because they could not find him.
While awaiting the ambulance’s arrival, the Israeli army evacuated the entire building where Marwan lived. Forty-five people, including many children,were forced to wait on the street while the army searched the victim’s house.
An Israeli police jeep then arrived carrying a settler who claimed rocks were thrown at her by a Palestinian earlier that day. The girl scanned the families lined up on the street and admitted that none of them had thrown rocks at her.
After Marwan was taken to the hospital, settlers attempted to occupy his apartment but were later escorted from the building by the Israeli army.
Commonly, following an accusation by a settler, all Palestinians are perceived as guilty by both the illegal settler communities and the Israeli army. Revenge may have been the reason behind the Israeli army raiding a house or the savage beating of a Palestinian by an Israeli settler.
Nonetheless, raids and attacks also take place in lieu of any accusations. Above all, the violence is arbitrary and systematic. The reason is always the same: to make life for Palestinians so difficult that they will be forced to leave. Those who refuse will continue to pay the price.
For Marwan Borqan the price for him and his family has been very high. He suffers from a concussion, and many bodily injuries, and was forced to wait while Israeli soldiers detained the ambulance attempting to reach him.
Marwan explained that he was “shocked” by the beating. His family regularly suffers from settler and soldier harassment, but it was “the first time the settlers actually tried to enter the house.”
His children were up late watching a football match with him when the attacker arrived, and to their horror witnessed his brutal beating. Marwan’s eight year old daughter, Afnan, is still traumatized by what she saw. Marwan explains that she shakes and has difficulty eating. He intends to find psychological help for her.
The Borqan house lies near to the illegal Israeli settlements of Qiryat Arba and Givat Ha’avot in Western Hebron, an area which experiences repeated torment from extremist settlers. Qiryat Arba was one of the first settlements established in the West Bank by members of the far right Kach party and Givat Ha’vot began as a police station which was occupied by settlers in 1990. Both settlements are in violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva convention, prohibiting the transfer of the occupying power’s civilians into the occupied territory. The illegality has been repeatedly confirmed by the International Court of Justice, the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention and the United Nations Security Council.
- Israeli Soldiers Invade Homes In Hebron, Jewish Settlers Attack Young Man (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli settlers injure three Palestinians, uproot dozens of olive trees in two separate incidents (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli settlers storm into Palestinian home, occupy residence (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Knesset to discuss bill authorising settlers’ seizure of Palestinian land (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Hebron teen ‘shot by Israeli settler’ (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Kufr ad-Dik and Burqin march against boars, pollution, and violence by Israelis (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Caracas – Venezuelan citizens took to the streets of Caracas yesterday as part of the government’s “Caracas Free Wheeling” campaign, a plan aimed at reducing the unnecessary use of cars and promoting a healthier lifestyle for residents of the nation’s capital.
With a slogan of “the car is turned off and you get active”, the campaign began on the 25th of March and involves the closing of roads across the city from 7 am to 3 pm every Sunday so that cyclists, runners and skaters can have free rein over the capital – without worrying about Caracas’ infamously hectic traffic.
So far the Venezuelan government has spent over 30 million bolivars ($US 6.976 million) as part of an initiative to take back areas of the capital city for its citizens, with “Caracas Free Wheeling” being the latest project launched. Open air gyms and children’s parks have also been built across sectors of Caracas.
Jorge Rodriguez, the Mayor of Caracas, said the project’s goal is to create spaces of “enjoyment and recreation” in the capital, and to “re-create a different city to that rushed metropolis which is full of cars”.
“Caracas is different if you travel it by bicycle, walking in the city is wonderful. There are spaces which have been recovered by the revolution for the enjoyment of all Caracas residents and visitors,” he added.
Venezuelan families turned out in droves yesterday to take advantage of the closed roads, either bringing their own bicycles or borrowing one of the 200 government bicycles made available through a joint manufacturing project with Iran.
“We want to promote the use of bicycles and skates, to encourage people to walk freely in the streets,” said Manuel Valera from the Urban Guerrilla Cycling collective, who praised the initiative.
“You get to know Caracas in a totally different way and you fall in love with it,” he added.
The government hopes to keep progressively increasing the amount of “car-free areas” throughout the city, eventually bringing the total amount of routes to 17.5 kilometres. Another cycle path was opened yesterday, giving Caracas residents the option of three different routes spanning a distance of 8km.
US law enforcement agencies have received the approval of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to use unmanned aircraft known as drones for mass surveillance.
More than 50 non-military organizations within the United States have received approval to fly drones, according to documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act requests by the advocacy group, Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Major agencies like the FBI, the US Department of Homeland Security and the US Department of Justice had been cleared to launch drones, US President Barack Obama administration’s favorite weapon of war which is being used in countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation civil liberty group warned that the use of drones poses a serious threat to personal privacy.
The documents revealed that individual city police forces are also drawing up plans to use the reconnaissance aircraft.
In February, the US Congress passed a bill which approved the government’s deployment of up to 30,000 spy drones in American airspace by 2020.
The Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act, which President Obama is expected to sign, also ordered the FAA to develop regulations for the testing and licensing of drones by 2015.
According to some estimates, the commercial drone market in the United States will be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Currently almost 50 companies are developing some 150 different drone systems.
The US has been using the unmanned vehicles for its spy operations and assassination missions worldwide and the strikes have intensified since Obama took office three years ago.
A New Record is Set for Military Spending
On April 17, 2012, as millions of Americans were filing their income tax returns, the highly-respected Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released its latest study of world military spending. In case Americans were wondering where most of their tax money — and the tax money of other nations — went in the previous year, the answer from SIPRI was clear: to war and preparations for war.
World military spending reached a record $1,738 billion in 2011 — an increase of $138 billion over the previous year. The United States accounted for 41 percent of that, or $711 billion.
Some news reports have emphasized that, from the standpoint of reducing reliance on armed might, this actually represents progress. After all, the increase in “real” global military spending — that is, expenditures after corrections for inflation and exchange rates — was only 0.3 percent. And this contrasts with substantially larger increases in the preceding thirteen years.
But why are military expenditures continuing to increase — indeed, why aren’t they substantially decreasing — given the governmental austerity measures of recent years?
Amid the economic crisis that began in late 2008 (and which continues to the present day), most governments have been cutting back their spending dramatically on education, health care, housing, parks, and other vital social services. However, there have not been corresponding cuts in their military budgets.
Americans, particularly, might seek to understand why in this context U.S. military spending has not been significantly decreased, instead of being raised by $13 billion — admittedly a “real dollar” decrease of 1.2 percent, but hardly one commensurate with Washington’s wholesale slashing of social spending. Yes, military expenditures by China and Russia increased in 2011. And in “real” terms, too. But, even so, their military strength hardly rivals that of the United States. Indeed, the United States spent about five times as much as China (the world’s #2 military power) and ten times as much as Russia (the world’s #3 military power) on its military forces during 2011. Furthermore, when U.S. allies like Britain, France, Germany, and Japan are factored in, it is clear that the vast bulk of world military expenditures are made by the United States and its military allies.
This might account for the fact that the government of China, which accounts for only 8.2 percent of world military spending, believes that increasing its outlay on armaments is reasonable and desirable. Apparently, officials of many nations share that competitive feeling.
Unfortunately, the military rivalry among nations — one that has endured for centuries — results in a great squandering of national resources. Many nations, in fact, devote most of their available income to funding their armed forces and their weaponry. In the United States, an estimated 58 percent of the U.S. government’s discretionary tax dollars go to war and preparations for war. “Almost every country with a military is on an insane path, spending more and more on missiles, aircraft, and guns,” remarked John Feffer, co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus.
Of course, defenders of military expenditures reply that military force actually protects people from war. But does it? If so, how does one explain the fact that the major military powers of the past century — the United States, Russia, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, and China — have been almost constantly at war during that time? What is the explanation for the fact that the United States — today’s military giant — is currently engaged in at least two wars (in Iraq and Afghanistan) and appears to be on the verge of a third (with Iran)? Perhaps the maintenance of a vast military machine does not prevent war but, instead, encourages it.
In short, huge military establishments can be quite counterproductive. Little wonder that they have been condemned repeatedly by great religious and ethical leaders. Even many government officials have decried war and preparations for war — although usually by nations other than their own.
Thus, the release of the new study by SIPRI should not be a cause for celebration. Rather, it provides an appropriate occasion to contemplate the fact that, this past year, nations spent more money on the military than at any time in human history. Although this situation might still inspire joy in the hearts of government officials, top military officers, and defense contractors, people farther from the levers of military power might well conclude that it’s a hell of a way to run a world.
Lawrence S. Wittner is professor of history emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is “Working for Peace and Justice: Memoirs of an Activist Intellectual” (University of Tennessee Press).
A US Department of Justice (DoJ) task force charged with studying the performance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) laboratories in the 1990s is suspected of having sought to cover up scandalous FBI behavior.
The DoJ set up a task force in the 1990s to investigate reports of data manipulation by the FBI crime laboratories.
The findings of the investigation revealed that the laboratories of the FBI manipulated DNA test results under pressure from superior authorities and presented flawed results for years in order to tilt the case in favor of the claimants and against the defendants.
The issue was first revealed in 1995 when Fredric Whitehurst, a chemist and lawyer who worked at the FBI’s crime lab, testified that he was told by his superiors to perjure in order to facilitate the prosecution of two men accused of involvement in the World Trade Center bombing in February 26, 1993.
“There was a great deal of pressure put upon me to bias my interpretation,” the FBI whistleblower said at the US District Court in New York in 1995.
Whitehurst had written or passed along scores of memos over the years warning about the lack of impartiality and scientific standards in FBI’s forensic research on the World Trade Center attack and in other cases.
After the Justice Department’s inspector general began a review of Whitehurst’s claims, Attorney General Janet Reno and FBI Director Louis J. Freeh decided to launch a task force to dig through thousands of cases involving discredited agents, to ensure that “no defendant’s right to a fair trial was jeopardized.”
It took the task force nine years to complete the mission. However, it never publicly released the results of its case reviews of suspicious lab work, the names of the defendants who were convicted as a result and the nature or scope of the forensic problems it found.
Tens of thousands are probably in jails on account of the flawed and criminal lab work conducted by the FBI, Whitehurst noted.
A recent review by the US daily Washington Post on more than 10,000 pages of the task force documents revealed that “the panel operated in secret and with close oversight by FBI and Justice Department brass – including Reno and Freeh’s top deputy – who took steps to control the information uncovered by the group.”
Innocent prisoners who were probably jailed mistakenly never got the chance to have their cases reviewed, because neither their advocates nor their relatives were informed of the flawed nature of the FBI laboratory results.
The Justice Department continues to decline to release the names of the affected defendants.
Israeli navy has intercepted on Sunday a cargo ship in the Mediterranean off the Lebanese coast in the International waters.israel piracy
The ship was intercepted “on suspicion” it was carrying arms destined for countries in the region, “apparently to either Lebanon or Gaza”, Israeli daily, Haaretz reported.
Israeli occupation forces spokesman said in a statement that the Hs Beethovan, bearing a Liberian flag, was intercepted 160 sea miles of the coast of the occupied territories, and that the inspection of the ship was carried out with the permission of the ship’s captain.
An Israeli military source said that occupation troops were conducting a “very thorough search of its cargo.”
The official said so far “nothing outstanding has been found” on the ship, and declined to provide details, describing the interception as “routine protection of our territorial waters.”
Israeli navies repeatedly intercept cargo ships in the Mediterranean. Last year in March, the Zionist entity seized a cargo ship, the Victoria, on suspicion that it held arms intended for the Gaza Strip.