An 18-month-old girl has been taken off a JetBlue Airways plane in the United States because her name appeared on a no-fly security list.
The parents of the toddler, who were also taken off the plane, said on Friday that they were humiliated by the security officials’ action.
“We were put on display like a circus act because my wife wears a hijab,” Riyanna’s father told WPBF 25 News, ABC’s local affiliate in West Palm Beach, Florida.
He said the incident was motivated by prejudice because they are Muslims and of Middle Eastern descent.
A JetBlue spokeswoman called it a “computer glitch” and stated that the airline was investigating the May 8 incident, which occurred at Fort Lauderdale airport in Florida. JetBlue also issued an apology to the family, who live in New Jersey.
“We believe this was a computer glitch,” JetBlue said in a statement. “Our crewmembers followed the appropriate protocols, and we apologize to the family involved in this unfortunate circumstance.”
The family was eventually allowed to re-board the flight, but the family instead left the airport in protest.
The Transportation Security Agency said the little girl could not have been on the government watch list because she’d already been issued a boarding pass.
A poll by the Pew Research Center conducted last year showed that abuse of Muslims by US airport security, law enforcement officers, and others has increased considerably since American Muslims were first polled in 2007.
Almost 43 percent of American Muslims reported experiencing harassment in 2010, a three percent increase in the number reported in 2007.
New “POSt Plan” Is Not Good News for Rural Post Offices or Their Customers
Consumer watchdog, Ralph Nader, today said, “The Postmaster General’s Post Office Structure Plan (“POSt Plan”) is a bait and switch tactic, and is not good news for rural Post Offices.”
The Postmaster General claims that his new strategy, released on Wednesday, is designed to benefit rural Americans and keep open the 3,652 postal facilities it was considering for closure. Though it is unclear how many of these offices are included in the “POSt Plan”, it seems that many of them have been incorporated in the new plan as well. The new direction that the Postmaster General proposed is to cut hours at nearly 13,000 Post Offices and offer early retirement incentives for more than 21,000 non-executive postmasters.
“As more details about the plan emerge, the picture grows increasingly dire for rural customers of the U.S. Postal Service,” Nader observed. “I expressed deep concern about the preliminary details of the Postmaster General’s plan on Wednesday. Unfortunately, those fears were confirmed as we have analyzed the details of the Postmaster General’s new strategy.”
After examining 260 pages of the U.S. Postal Service’s proposal for Post Office hour reductions nationwide, we found that the new strategy eliminates 42,699 hours per day from retail window hours of nearly 13,000 Post Offices.
“This proposal is calling for a gargantuan cut in retail window hours nationwide – 42,699 total hours each day. To put this in perspective, 42,699 hours equates to nearly 5 years,” Nader explained.
The current average retail window hours of the nearly 13,000 Post Offices proposed for reduced hours are 7.67 hours per day. “The enormous cut in hours that the U.S. Postal Service has proposed is the equivalent of closing 5,567 of these Post Offices. The Postmaster General started with a list of 3,652 offices being considered for closure. Now we see that by reducing window hours he has proposed the equivalent of closing 2,000 more offices than he started with,” Nader continued.
Nader concluded by saying, “This is, plain and simple, a bait and switch. As I said on Wednesday, by further restricting Post Office hours the Postmaster General makes the corporate “alternatives” to the U.S. Postal Service more likely and sets the stage for future Post Office closings when the revenues and workload of reduced-hours offices inevitably suffer. The Postmaster General has effectively taken a list of 3,652 offices that were on the chopping block and added nearly 10,000 more offices to that list.”
- Ralph Nader Calls for the Postmaster General to Resign (alethonews.wordpress.com)
The US is planning to spend $4 billion to upgrade NATO’s Western European nuclear arsenal. The “unnecessary and expensive” initiative is likely to stir new animosity with Russia, a report says.
The alliance is preparing to replace “dumb” free-fall nuclear bombs with new generation of precision-guided nuclear gravity bombs, reveals a report by the European Leaders Network (ELN), a political think tank. The new bombs will also require new delivery aircraft, the Lockheed Martin F-35, each costing $100 million.
The report “Escalation by Default? The Future of NATO Nuclear Weapons in Europe” is authored by Ted Seay, a former arms control advisor to the US mission at the NATO headquarters in Brussels. It points to the fact that the upgrade will target such countries as Russia and Iran, who will be the most unlikely to be overjoyed with the prospect.
“This will increase NATO’s ability to reach targets in Russia with tactical nuclear weapons,” the paper reads. The initiative comes at a time when NATO and Russia are already “locked in a tense stand-off over missile defense.”
“This could alienate Russia in particular and worsen the prospects for further negotiations on non-strategic nuclear weapon reductions in Europe as a whole,” the report states.
A nuclear escalation “by default” would only harm security and safety prospects throughout Europe, and should be avoided, the paper concludes.
Commenting on the research, ELN chief Ian Kearns stressed to The Guardian that Washington’s plans for the upgrade are exorbitant.
“The planned upgrade of NATO’s tactical nuclear forces in Europe will be expensive and is unnecessary,” said Kearns. “NATO states are fully secure without this additional capability and should be focused on removing all tactical nuclear weapons from Europe, not on modernizing them.”
NATO currently possesses around 180 B61 free-fall tactical nuclear bombs stored at bases in Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and Turkey. The report states that they are increasingly regarded as obsolete.
In the meantime, a US interceptor successfully downed a ballistic missile as part of a military test in Hawaii, the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency stated.
The Raytheon Co-Built Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Interceptor is a key component in the anti-missile defense (AMD) shields the United States is due to build in Poland, Romania and Turkey. The SM-3 Interceptor is to be deployed to Romania by 2015 and will also be used aboard ships equipped with Lockheed Martin’s Aegis anti-missile combat system.
Russia has been calling for NATO to give legally-binding guarantees that its AMD system would not target Russia, thereby upsetting the global balance of power. NATO and the United States have so far refused to give such guarantees.
- Nato plans to upgrade nuclear weapons ‘expensive and unnecessary’ (guardian.co.uk)
- US nuclear arms in Europe should now be removed: Senior expert (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- When NATO/US European ABM becomes a threat, it will be dealt with (alethonews.wordpress.com)
A senior US military official has been forced to condemn a class taught at a military college that advocated a “total war” against Muslims.
The course at the Joint Forces Staff College in Virginia also suggested possible nuclear attacks on holy Islamic cities such as Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
The story, originally published on Wired.com’s danger room blog, risks damaging America’s already tarnished image in the Islamic world, where it maintains a heavy military presence.
The head of the course Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Dooley laid out a possible four-phase plan to carry out a forced transformation of Islam, with the aim of reducing it to “cult status.”
He added that it was possible to apply “the historical precedents of Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki” to Islam’s holiest cities, and bring about “Mecca and Medina['s] destruction.”
“We have now come to understand that there is no such thing as ‘moderate Islam,’” Dooley noted in a July 2011 presentation, which concluded with a suggested manifesto to America’s enemies.
“It is therefore time for the United States to make our true intentions clear. This barbaric ideology will no longer be tolerated. Islam must change or we will facilitate its self-destruction.”
The Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, said the course was “against our values.”
“It was just totally objectionable, against our values, and it wasn’t academically sound,” General Dempsey said.
He said he had ordered a full investigation when the course was suspended in April after one of the students objected to the material.
However Dempsey’s argument appeared to be undermined after it emerged that Dooley has not been fired from his job.
US forces continue to occupy Afghanistan, as well as maintaining bases inside friendly regimes in the Middle East.
There was widespread fury earlier this year when dozens of Afghans were killed in protests following the burning of Qurans at a US-run military prison in southern Afghanistan.
On May 1, President Evo Morales seized control of Bolivia’s electric grid from a subsidiary of the Spanish-owned Red Eléctrica de España. In a dramatic ritual now familiar to Bolivians as a hallmark of the Morales government on International Workers’ Day, Bolivian soldiers peacefully occupied the company’s Cochabamba offices and draped the Bolivian flag across its entrance.
Coming on the heels of Argentina’s recent move to expropriate Spanish energy company Repsol’s majority stake in its national gas and oil company, the event has generated more than the usual volume of outrage and dire predictions of capital flight from U.S. business interests.
“It’s crazy to invest in Bolivia, and this is a perfect example why,” says Eric Farnsworth, vice-president of the DC-based Council of the Americas. “He’s taking actions that guarantee that investment will dry up further.”
“The left-wing populist strategy of demonizing the investor class has one big drawback: the law of diminishing (investor) returns,” warns Mary Anastasia O’Grady in the Wall Street Journal. In reality, far from abandoning Bolivia, foreign companies have remained actively engaged in its post- nationalization energy sector. This is due in no small part to Morales’s increasingly investor-friendly policies, including his willingness to boost private incentives to meet domestic energy needs.
The takeover of the electric grid, which was privatized in 1997, is part of Bolivia’s overall strategy to re-nationalize companies that were divested by past neoliberal governments, increasing state control over strategic sectors such as natural resources and basic services. Since 2006, Morales has nationalized the country’s gas fields, oil refineries, pension funds, telecommunications, and main hydroelectric power plants.
According to Morales, Red Eléctrica has invested only $81 million in Bolivia’s electric grid since acquiring it in 2002, while drawing around $100 million in cumulative profits. Three of Bolivia’s nine departments remain isolated from the national network. “The government invested $220 million in electricity generation while others profited, so we’re recovering what was ours,” Morales said.
Apart from these ideological and economic considerations, domestic politics also played a role in the May 1 event. Nationalizations have been highly popular in Bolivia, and this one may help Morales shore up support from disaffected constituencies at a time of heightened civic unrest. Still, the increase in power blackouts since the government took over electricity generation in 2010 serves as a reminder that the move could also backfire politically if the level of service does not meet public expectations.
In any case, despite the theatrics of the May 1 announcement, Bolivia’s most recent nationalization has been relatively non-confrontational, especially when compared to Argentina’s move with Repsol. For one thing, the targeted electric company subsidiary generated just 3% of its parent company’s profits, while Argentina’s YPF accounted for 21% of Repsol’s. In an effort to minimize negative fallout, Morales gave Spain 3 days notice of the takeover, whereas Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández refused to meet with Repsol in advance.
After its initial criticism, Spain has acknowledged the legitimacy of Bolivia’s nationalization decision, which includes a promise of fair compensation. Red Eléctrica expects to reach a friendly agreement with Bolivia on the value of its investment, and the parties have agreed to retain a joint appraiser.
On the same day as the electricity grid takeover, Morales inaugurated a $600 million natural gas processing plant in eastern Bolivia with Repsol that represents the single biggest foreign investment under his government. The plant will triple the amount of gas sold to Argentina. Repsol is one of ten gas and oil multinationals that were forced to renegotiate their contracts with Bolivia in 2006, giving the state majority ownership and vastly increasing taxes and royalties under a relatively modest form of nationalization.
“We have a relation of great trust with Repsol,” said Morales, contrasting Bolivia’s situation with Argentina’s. “Repsol respects all Bolivian rules, and its promised investments are going ahead in a good manner.” At the same time, Morales noted, Bolivia’s experience with Repsol shows that nationalization (Bolivian style) can be a success, providing an instructive example for Argentina.
As Carlos Arze of Bolivia’s Center for Research on Labor and Agrarian Development (CEDLA) points out, six years after Bolivia nationalized its hydrocarbons reserves, not a single foreign oil and gas company has pulled out of Bolivia. Despite the major shift in revenue splits, the firms’ annual profits have remained about the same in dollar terms ($824 million), due to the vast increase in revenues generated by high commodity prices and natural gas exports. Annual hydrocarbons revenues collected by the state have increased from an average of $332 million prior to nationalization to more than $2 billion today.
Still, there have been major setbacks with oil and gas nationalization. While natural gas production has increased, crude oil production has fallen by more than 20% since 2005. With crude oil prices that the state can pay frozen at $27 per barrel (less than a quarter of today’s world price), companies are unwilling to invest in exploration of new reserves. As a result, Bolivia has become increasingly dependent on fuel imports for domestic consumption, with an escalating annual price tag estimated at $755 million in 2012, to subsidize the cost of imported gasoline and diesel to consumers.
In an effort to reduce this dependency and stimulate energy sovereignty, the government instituted a new policy on April 19, boosting incentives for crude oil production from $10 to $40 per barrel (through a $30 tax credit).
The new policy effectively repositions the ill-fated December 2010 Gasolinazo, when the government tried to accomplish the same goals on the backs of consumers by abruptly cancelling the fuel subsidy and dramatically increasing gasoline prices. That policy was revoked after massive protests, sending shock waves through Bolivia’s social and political sectors that continue to reverberate to this day.
Critics of the new incentive, including Arze, believe that it’s just another form of giveaway to the oil companies which far exceeds their production costs, and will still be paid by the public through taxes foregone from the national treasury. They question where the funds will come from, since the government claims it can’t afford higher salaries for striking health care workers and other disaffected sectors. According to the government, savings from reduced gasoline and diesel imports will more than offset the tax incentive cost (estimated at $358 million over five years).
In any case, it’s clear that Bolivian-style nationalization is far from incompatible with continued private investment, and that the Morales government is willing to underwrite the incentives it believes are necessary to accommodate foreign capital. Whether this investor-friendly approach is the best policy for Bolivia remains to be seen, but it’s a far cry from “demonizing” the private sector.
KHARTOUM – The government of South Sudan has managed to secure a total of $600 million in loans amid growing fears about how long the new nation’s economy can survive following its decision to halt its entire oil production this year.
Juba retaliated to Khartoum’s move of seizing part of its oil to make up for unpaid oil transportation fees. The two countries have negotiated at length without agreeing on how much landlocked South Sudan should pay for using the north’s oil infrastructure.
Sudan lost three-quarters of its roughly 500,000 bpd of crude oil output when South Sudan gained independence in July 2011 under a 2005 settlement that ended two decades of civil war.
This week the Sudanese finance minister said that Khartoum stands to lose $2.4 billion in revenues this year as a result of the oil dispute. Khartoum’s budget for this year had assumed it would receive around $36 per barrel in oil transit fees from South Sudan. However, Juba refuses to pay more than $1 a barrel.
A confidential document obtained by Sudan Tribune this week showed a senior World Bank official warning that South Sudan’s economy could go bankrupt as early as July due to the depletion of its foreign currency reserves.
But an official in Juba dismissed the fears and said that help is on the way.
South Sudan Deputy Finance Minister Marial Awou Yol told Bloomberg news that his country secured a $100 million line of credit from Qatar National Bank (QNB) and will receive a $500-million loan within a month from an unidentified provider. Loans are also being sought from countries including China.
“We have oil in the ground, we can mortgage this oil for money,” Yol said. Lines of credit will be used to give importers access to foreign currency to buy goods including fuel, and future loans will allow the government to release dollars into the economy to fight inflation, he said.
The official said the value of South Sudan’s pound is being affected by uncertainty about where the government will acquire foreign exchange after losing revenue from oil production.
“The system is being driven by speculation” and adjusting the official exchange rate to bring it in line with the black market would only create more uncertainty, he said. Instead, the government plans to stabilize the currency by injecting foreign exchange into the economy obtained from the loans it’s negotiating.
- Sudan says Juba owes over $1 billion, says Heglig oil production to be boosted (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- South Sudan orders Sudanese oil workers to leave (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- South Darfur town falls to rebel group as Sudan army claims recapture of new area (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- South Sudan president in China seeking diplomatic support in conflict with Khartoum (alethonews.wordpress.com)
At the opening of his May 2011 speech to a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress, Benjamin Netanyahu observed that he saw a lot of old and new friends present, laying particular stress on the fact that these “friends of Israel” were comprised of “Democrats and Republicans alike.” No doubt few, if any, members of Congress who rose to applaud the Israeli Prime Minister’s banal remark on their fealty to a foreign state would have been aware of the “surprising and little-known role in American political history” played by Netanyahu’s father in creating what one leading American Jewish activist has not surprisingly called “a welcome tradition of bipartisan support for our friend and ally Israel.”
According to a new book by Rafael Medoff and Sonja Schoepf Wentling, Herbert Hoover and the Jews: The Origins of the “Jewish Vote” and Bipartisan Support for Israel, Benzion Netanyahu was instrumental in forging that “tradition of bipartisan support” that prevails today in Washington. As Medoff and Wentling explain, the Israeli Prime Minister’s father was sent to the United States in the early 1940s by Vladimir Ze’ev Jabotinsky to represent the militant Revisionist Zionism movement there:
Netanyahu divided his time between Revisionist headquarters in New York City and Capitol Hill, where he sought to mobilize congressional backing for the Zionist cause. At the time, mainstream Jewish leaders such as Rabbi Stephen S. Wise were strong supporters of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and stayed away from the Republicans. Netanyahu, by contrast, actively cultivated ties to prominent Republicans such as former President Herbert Hoover, as well as dissident Democrats such as Sen. Elbert Thomas of Utah, a Mormon.
As Lee Smith notes in a Tablet Magazine review of Herbert Hoover and the Jews:
He became such an important figure on Capitol Hill that in helping to draft the Republican political platform in the 1944 presidential campaign, he forced the other party—the one led by FDR—to match it and thereby created a bipartisan consensus on what was at the time called the “Palestine issue.”
In a recent JTA essay, co-author Rafael Medoff explains:
In the months leading up to that year’s Republican national convention, the Revisionists undertook what they called “a systematic campaign of enlightenment” about Palestine among GOP leaders such as Hoover, Sen. Robert Taft, who chaired the convention’s resolutions committee, and Rep. Clare Booth Luce, wife of the publisher of Time and Life magazines.
The GOP adopted an unprecedented plank demanding “refuge for millions of distressed Jewish men, women, and children driven from their homes by tyranny” and the establishment of a “free and democratic” Jewish state. The Republicans’ move compelled the Democrats to compete for Jewish support and treat the Jewish vote as if it were up for grabs. The Democratic National Convention, which was held the following month in Chicago, for the first time endorsed “unrestricted Jewish immigration and colonization” of Palestine and the establishment of “a free and democratic Jewish commonwealth.”
These events helped ensure that support for Zionism and later Israel would become a permanent part of American political culture. Every subsequent Republican and Democratic convention has adopted a similar plank. To do less became politically inconceivable.
As Thomas Friedman reminded Benjamin Netanyahu, the 29 standing ovations he received from Congress last year were “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.” But the Israeli leader also had someone else to thank for preparing the ground for that bipartisan lovefest — his father, whom Lee Smith fondly remembers as “a practical man of political action who helped pioneer Washington’s Jewish lobby.”
- Netanyahu’s Role in Crafting the “Strategic Asset” Myth (alethonews.wordpress.com)