The United Nation Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will attend the upcoming Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Iran despite pressures from the US and Israel, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky says.
Reuters reported earlier on Wednesday that according to several UN diplomats, Ban would attend the upcoming summit in Iran’s capital, Tehran.
“It’s a very important bloc of nations. Of course the SG [secretary-general] is going. He can’t not go,” Reuters quoted a diplomatic source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, as saying.
This is while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this month urged the UN secretary general not to attend the summit.
The US has also been trying to dissuade NAM member states, particularly the UN chief, from attending the summit.
The 16th summit of the NAM member states will be held in the Iranian capital August 26-31.
The Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei will address the Tehran NAM summit during which the Islamic Republic will assume the rotating presidency of the movement for three years.
NAM, an international organization with 120 member states and 21 observer countries, is considered as not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc.
NAM’s purpose, as stated in the Havana Declaration of 1979, is to ensure “the national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of non-aligned countries.”
- Egyptian president to attend NAM summit in Tehran (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Iran plans to establish international NAM news agency (alethonews.wordpress.com)
We know that photographers have been having problems all over the country with police harassment, and that demonstrators’ free speech rights have also been under assault. But with the Democratic and Republican political conventions coming up, we have all too much reason to expect that free speech rights will be swallowed up in the vortex of those events, which have become constitutional black holes in recent years.
Chris Hansen, our senior First Amendment attorney, has been litigating First Amendment cases for many years, including landmark cases such as Reno v. ACLU, and a number involving the free speech rights of protesters. I asked him to give me an overview of the situation, and he said that we’ve been seeing three big problems that come up increasingly at all these kinds of events:
1) “Free Speech Zones.” People wishing to express themselves are being sent to distant locations—euphemistically called “Free Speech Zones”—so they are inaccessible to the audience at the event. (There is one legitimate Free Speech Zone we don’t have a problem with, it’s called the United States of America.)
2) Arrests. People are simply being swept up and arrested, essentially for no reason at all, in order to clear the streets. Cities figure that they can just deal with the ensuing litigation later. They don’t much care that they don’t have grounds to arrest people, they just sweep the streets.
3) Surveillance. Unjustified surveillance is common, both prior to and during the event. Recent stories suggest that there is a lot more infiltration of protest organizers taking place than we had realized at first. But then there’s also the surveillance that takes place at the event, where often everything is filmed. Even worse are the new restrictions on what you can carry into the demonstrations, which give the police the authority to search you as you go in.
Consciously and intentionally violating the law and Constitution is apparently viewed as a legitimate tactic by the same police and officials who are supposed to be enforcing the law. Chris Hansen adds,
It’s an accelerating pattern, and a remarkably consistent pattern. In other words, there don’t seem to be significant city-by-city variations in police behavior; there seems to be a playbook for police departments that they’re all using.
Chris says that when attorneys for protesters try to seek legal protection in advance, the cities respond by using various tricks they have learned to get around legal oversight. For example, with respect to the free speech zones, he says:
We’ve tried. Part of the problem is the city often won’t tell you until the last minute where you’ll be allowed to demonstrate. So if you go into court six months before the event, the city says, “we haven’t made any decisions yet,” and the judge says “well, how can I decide this in the abstract?” But if you wait for the police to announce the location right before the event, the judge often says, “I don’t have time to second-guess the city, I’m just going to let it go.”
So the cities have learned that if they keep the location information secret up until the very last minute, for the most part judges aren’t going to second-guess their decision, so they end up sending you six miles away, under a bridge. That’s the classic example, in Boston, where they were literally under the highway.
It’s sad and ironic that the political conventions, which at some level are supposed to represent democracy and freedom, have become empty, stage-managed, institutionalized, Soviet-style show events, while simultaneously becoming the occasion to sell out real individuals’ actual, ground-level free speech rights as a “cost of doing business.”
- What Not to Bring to the 2012 Conventions (theatlanticcities.com)
- Federal Court Upholds The Herding Of Demonstrators Into ‘Free Speech Zones’ (dprogram.net)
This Expert Says No
Statins are medications which lower cholesterol by inhibiting an enzyme involved in its production by the liver and other organs. First approved by the FDA in 1987, statins are arguably the most widely prescribed medicine in the industrialized world today–and the most profitable, representing $26 billion a year in profits to the drug industry. In fact, Lipitor was the world’s best selling drug until its patent expired recently. Yet, most trials that prove statins’ effectiveness in preventing cardiac events and death have been funded by companies and principle investigators who stand to benefit from their wide use. In February, the FDA warned that statins can increase users’ risk of type 2 diabetes and memory loss, confusion and other cognition problems.
Barbara H. Roberts, M.D., is Director of the Women’s Cardiac Center at the Miriam Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island and Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University. She spent two years at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) where she was involved in the first clinical trial that demonstrated a beneficial effect of lowering cholesterol on the incidence of heart disease. In addition to The Truth about Statins: Risks and Alternatives to Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs, she is also author of How to Keep from Breaking Your Heart: What Every Woman Needs to Know about Cardiovascular Disease.
Martha Rosenberg: Statins have become so popular with adults middle-aged and older in industrialized countries, they are almost a pharmaceutical rite of passage. Yet you write in your new book there is little evidence they are effective in many groups and no evidence they are effective in one group, women without heart disease. Worse, you provide evidence, including stories from your own patients, that they are doing serious harm.
Barbara Roberts: Yes. Every week in my practice I see patients with serious side effects to statins and many did not need to be treated with statins in the first place. These side effects range from debilitating muscle and joint pain to transient global amnesia, neuropathy, cognitive dysfunction, fatigue and muscle weakness. Most of these symptoms subside or improve when they are taken off statins. There is even growing evidence of a statin link to Lou Gehrig’s disease.
MR: One patient you write about caused a fire in her home by forgetting that the stove was on. Another was a professor who experienced such memory loss on a statin he could no longer teach; others ended up in wheelchairs. The only thing more shocking than the side effects you write about is the apparent blindness of the medical establishment to them. Until half a year ago, there were practically no warnings at all.
BR: There is no question that many doctors have swallowed the Kool-Aid. Big Pharma has consistently exaggerated the benefits of statins and some physicians used scare tactics so that patients are afraid that if they go off the statins, they will have a heart attack immediately. Yet high cholesterol, which the statins address, is a relatively weak risk factor for developing atherosclerosis. For example, diabetes and smoking are far more potent when it comes to increasing risk.
MR: One group you say should not be given statins at all because there is no benefit and significant risk is women who have no heart disease.
BR: In three major studies of women without diagnosed heart disease, but who were at high risk (in one of these studies, each participant had to have high blood pressure and three other risk factors), 40 women out of 4,904 on statins had either a heart attack or cardiac death, compared to 44 women out of 4,836 on placebo. That is not a statistically significant difference. Since the likelihood of experiencing a statin side effect is about 20 to 25 percent, the risk of putting a healthy woman on a statin far outweighs the benefit. Still, statins are routinely given to this group because the guidelines are shaped by Big Pharma. The guidelines are not supported by the evidence and in the case of healthy women I don’t follow them.
MR: You give a story in your book about your 92-year-old patient who had a total cholesterol of 266, triglycerides of 169, HDL cholesterol of 66, and LDL cholesterol of 165. Her primary care doctor wanted her to take a statin, but you did not feel she needed to because she had no evidence of heart disease, had never smoked, did not have high blood pressure and was not diabetic.
BR: Yes, and today she is 103 and a half and doing fine, never having taken a statin.
MR: In The Truth About Statins you explain pretty clearly how studies have made statins look more effective and safer than they are. How has this been done?
BR: First of all, the studies are of short duration and some of them even have a “run in” phase during which people are given the drug to see if they tolerate it. If not, they are not enrolled in the study. Secondly, study subjects are cherry-picked to exclude the very elderly, people with liver or kidney disease or those with any chronic illness that might “muddy” the results–
MR: In other words, the very people who will be taking them?
BR: Yes, and, of course, patients will also be staying on the drugs for life unlike trial subjects. Then, the data from the studies are usually given in terms of relative rather than absolute risk. The absolute risk of a cardiac event is only reduced by a few percentage points by statins and in some patients, like the women without heart disease we just talked about, the reduction is not even statistically significant. In some studies surrogate endpoints like inflammation or artery thickness are used but a favorable change in surrogate markers does not always translate into clinical benefit. In addition, many studies use composite end points which include not only “hard” end points like heart attack or death (which are pretty hard to misdiagnose) but also “softer” end points like the “need” for revascularization or the occurrence of acute coronary syndromes. For example, studies may be performed in many countries with very different rates of revascularization procedures, making use of this as an end point very problematic.
MR: This brings to mind the JUPITER trial which enrolled people without heart disease, with normal levels (less than 130) of LDL or bad cholesterol, but evidence of increased inflammation as measured by the hsCRP test and treated them with placebo or rosuvastatin. JUPITER stood for “Justification for the Use of Statins in Prevention” and both the study and its principle investigator were funded by AstraZeneca, who makes the statin Crestor. The principal investigator also holds the patent for the hsCRP blood test. Why was JUPITER regarded as medical science and not marketing?
BR: Actually the JUPITER study was criticized to some extent. But you have to remember that medical journals depend upon Big Pharma for their ads and reprint orders just as medical centers and medical professionals rely on Big Pharma for funding. It is a Round Robin situation that probably won’t change until the patients, doctors and the public demand change. As for CRP, it can also rise if a patient has a cold, bronchitis or is taking post menopausal hormones.
MR: You are very outspoken about the problem of industry shaping and influencing medical practice yet you also admit that you accepted Big Pharma money yourself.
BR: In 2004, Pfizer asked me to become a speaker, specifically on Lipitor. I told the drug rep who invited me to be a speaker that I would be interested in giving talks on gender-specific aspects of cardiac disease, but not in just talking about their statin and I gave lectures in restaurants and hospitals. Despite the fact that Pfizer was sponsoring my talks, I never failed to point out that there was no evidence that Lipitor–or any statin–prevented cardiac events in women who did not have established cardiovascular disease. They tolerated this until one day a regional manager came to one of my talks and then I was disinvited. I was on the speaker’s bureau for another company, Abbott, but when they began to insist that I use their slides rather than my own, I gave up being on any Big Pharma speaker’s bureaus. I write in my book that even though my interactions with drug and device companies complied with ethical guidelines it does not mean I was not influenced.
MR: In journalism, when a reporter takes money from someone she is writing about, she is regarded as no longer a reporter but a publicist. Yet doctors who consult to Pharma are not judged as harshly and most contend they are not influenced by industry money….
BR: They are wrong. An article in the American Journal of Bioethics in 2003 found that gifts bestow a sense of indebtedness and influence behavior whether or not the recipient is directly conscious of it. More recently, research presented at a symposium at Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine called the Scientific Basis of Influence and Reciprocity mapped actual changes in the brain when gifts are received.
MR: I was surprised to find recipes in your book and even more surprised by some of your dietary recommendations such as avoiding a low-fat diet and eating a lot of olive oil. A lot of experts have recommended a low-fat diet.
BR: The first thing I prescribe to my patients who have low levels of the “good” or HDL cholesterol is two to three tablespoons of olive oil a day and in every case the HDL increases. Olive oil is rich in polyphenols which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Several studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet reduces total mortality and especially death from cardiovascular disease yet it gets little media attention. The Mediterranean diet is a plant-based diet that includes colorful vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, cheese, nuts, olive oil, seafood, red wine with meals, and very little meat.
MR: You indict professional medical associations like the American Heart Association (AHA) for profiteering at the public’s expense by calling harmful foods healthful in exchange for corporate money.
BR: For years, the AHA preached the gospel of the low-fat diet, calling it the “corner- stone” of its dietary recommendations though there was, and is, no evidence of its benefit. The AHA rakes in millions from food corporations for the use of its “heart-check mark.” Some of the so called heart healthy foods it has endorsed include Boar’s Head All Natural Ham which contains 340 milligrams of sodium in a 2-ounce serving and Boar’s Head EverRoast Oven Roasted Chicken Breast which contains 440 milligrams of sodium in a 2-ounce serving. High sodium intake raises blood pressure which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition, studies have shown that eating processed meat increases the risk of diabetes and atherosclerosis.
MR: You are not afraid to express strong opinions. You say that the AHA has “sold its soul,” that medical centers conducting drug trials for Big Pharma have become “hired hands” and that one university medical center is Big Pharma’s “lapdog.” Are you afraid of retaliation from Big Pharma, medical centers or the colleagues you work with?
BR: I haven’t received any communiqués from Big Pharma. A few colleagues have expressed dismay, but I am thick-skinned and hard-headed and don’t care what they say. My main concern is the health and safety of my patients.
Martha Rosenberg is a columnist/cartoonist who writes about public health. Her first book, titled Born with a Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp the Public Health, has just been released by Prometheus Books. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Is there a cholesterol cover-up? (telegraph.co.uk)
- Cure-all? Statins have had no effect on Britain’s heart disease rate, study claims (engineeringevil.com)
- The saturated fat scam: What’s the real story? (Aletho News)
We are told that cholesterol is a major cause of heart disease. At least 40 million people are currently taking cholesterol-lowering medications, known as statins, and millions more people are avoiding foods that contain saturated fat and cholesterol.
The basic idea is that dietary saturated fat raises cholesterol levels, and these two substances somehow clog-up our arteries, causing a heart attack. This idea is often referred to as the diet-heart hypothesis.
However, a numbers of doctors and researchers have been challenging this hypothesis for decades, and the latest heart disease statistics reveal some alarming facts. Such as:
● People with high cholesterol tend to live longer
● People with heart disease tend to have low levels of cholesterol
● Cholesterol-lowering of a population does not reduce the rate of heart disease
In addition, despite their widespread use, and description as “wonder drugs” statin medications do not extend life for the majority of people who take them.
Cholesterol-lowering has become a huge global industry, generating at least $29 billion each year. Have the facts about heart disease, cholesterol and cholesterol medications been distorted by pharmaceutical companies and food manufacturers keen to increase their profits?
If the focus on cholesterol has been a mistake, then the greatest cost is associated with the lost opportunity to tackle heart disease.
Producer/Director: Justin Smith
Editor and Motion Graphics: Justin Keating
Director of Photography: Stephen Ellis
3D Animation: Tim Greenfield
Sound Design: Graham Donnelly
EFF has been fighting against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) intellectual property chapter for several years. This agreement poses a great risk to users’ freedoms and access to information on a global scale.
We have created this infographic to capture the most problematic aspects of TPP, and to help users, advocates and innovators from around the world spread the word about how this agreement will impact them and their societies. Right-click and save the image for the PNG file, or you can download the PDF version below.
We thank Lumin Consulting for working with us on this project.
- New Obama Scandal: The Trans-Pacific Partnership (constitutionclub.org)
- Australia, New Zealand an Canada Green parties concerned over Trans-Pacific Partnership (bikyamasr.com)
- Lori Wallach – Trans-Pacific Partnership: Under Cover of Darkness, a Corporate Coup Is Underway (prn.fm)
- Internet Users Again Shut Out of Secret TPP Negotiations (eff.org)
- NZ stands ground on Trans Pacific Partnership (computerworld.co.nz)
- Malaysia Rejecting TPP as Agreement Causes Political Turmoil in Australia (zeropaid.com)
There’s nothing quite like the demise of a U.S-allied dictator to get the Paper of Record talking about the “clash” between U.S. “ideals” and the actual policies the country carries out.
Today’s New York Times (8/22/12) carries the headline “Ethiopian Leader’s Death Highlights Gap Between U.S. Interests and Ideals,” under which Jeffrey Gettleman lays out the case that the United States kept Ethiopian leader Meles Zenawi, who died early this week, in the “good guy” column despite our normally idealistic approach to world affairs. Gettleman writes that Zenawi
extracted prized intelligence, serious diplomatic support and millions of dollars in aid from the United States in exchange for his cooperation against militants in the volatile Horn of Africa, an area of prime concern for Washington.
But he was notoriously repressive, undermining President Obama’s maxim that “Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.”
But, Gettlemen explains:
Despite being one of the United States’ closest allies on the continent, Mr. Meles repeatedly jailed dissidents and journalists, intimidated opponents and their supporters to win mind-bogglingly one-sided elections, and oversaw brutal campaigns in restive areas of the country where the Ethiopian military has raped and killed many civilians.
The real trick is the first word: “Despite.” Readers are supposed to see these as unusual characteristics for a leader backed by the United States, which of course would much rather the world be governed by those who respect international law and human rights.
That supposed commitment is difficult to locate. After his death, Gettleman reports, Hillary Clinton
praised his “personal commitment” to lifting Ethiopia’s economy and “his role in promoting peace and security in the region.” But she made no mention of his rights record and gave only a veiled reference to supporting “democracy and human rights” in Ethiopia.
Gettleman deserves some sort of award for this passage:
Ethiopia is hardly alone in raising difficult questions on how the United States should balance interests and principles.
Saudi Arabia is an obvious example, a country where women are deprived of many rights and there is almost no religious freedom. Still, it remains one of America’s closest allies in the Middle East for a simple reason: oil.
In Africa, the United States cooperates with several governments that are essentially one-party states, dominated by a single man, despite a commitment to promoting democracy.
One could spend considerable time compiling a list of the tyrants, dictators and human rights abusers the United States has supported, from Suharto in Indonesia to Mubarak in Egypt. Or consider the Reagan-era policies of Latin America, which saw the United States supporting strongmen and fielding armies to overthrow governments we didn’t care for.
Elite institutions like the Times need to maintain the comfortable fiction that the United States has a unique and laudable commitment to spreading democracy and human rights. Most people with a passing knowledge of U.S. history would know that there are too many exceptions to this rule to make it a rule at all. Thus, every now and then, an article like this is written to demonstrate that there is in fact some awareness that the United States does not practice what it preaches. An effective propaganda system requires these small openings.
- Obama condoles Ethiopian PM’s death (thehindu.com)
- The Strongman Who May Be Missed: Meles Zenawi, 1955-2012 (world.time.com)
When thousands of miners went on strike at South Africa’s largest platinum mine, in Marikana, they were confronting not only the London-based owners, but the South African state, which since 1994 has been dominated by the African National Congress (ANC); COSATU, the Congress of South African Trade Unions; and the South African Communist Party. This week, the full weight of the state was brought down on the Black miners, 34 of whom were massacred by police gunfire. Many of the survivors face charges of murder in the earlier deaths of two policemen and eight other miners.
The National Union of Mineworkers, whose representation the strikers rejected, and the Communist Party head in the region claim the strikers are at fault, that they have committed the sin of choosing an alternative union to argue their case for higher wages and, therefore, deserve severe punishment. They are “anarchists,” say these two allies of the South African state, and guilty of fomenting “dual unionism” – which is now, apparently, a capital crime. With a straight face, the Communist Party had the gall to call on all South African workers to “remain united in the fight against exploitation under capitalism.”
That is precisely what the Marikana miners were doing – the struggle they gave their lives for. However, since the peaceful transition to state power to the ANC and its very junior partners, the COSATU unions and the Communist Party, in 1994, the South African state has had different priorities. The “revolution” was put on indefinite hold, so that a new Black capitalist class could be created, largely from the ranks of well-connected members of the ruling party and even union leaders. It is only logical that, if the priority of the state is to nurture Black capitalists, then it must maintain and defend capitalism. This is the central contradiction of the South African arrangement, and the massacre at Marikana is its inevitable result.
The 1994 agreement between Nelson Mandela’s ANC and the white South African regime was a pact with the devil, which could only be tolerated by the masses of the country’s poor because it was seen as averting a bloodbath, and because it was assumed to be temporary. But, 18 years later, the arrangement has calcified into a bizarre protectorate for foreign white capital and the small class of Blacks that have attached themselves to the global rich. Apologists for the African National Congress regime will prattle on about the “complexity” of the issue, but the central truth is that South Africa did not complete its revolution.
The fundamental contradictions of the rule of the many by the few, remain in place – only now, another layer of repression has been added: a Black aristocracy that has soaked itself in the blood of the miners of Marikana.
South Africa remains the continent’s best hope for a fundamental break with colonialism in its new forms. But, as in all anti-colonial struggles, the biggest casualties will occur in the clash between those who truly desire liberation, and those who are intent on an accommodation with the old master.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
- Echoes of the Past: Marikana, Cheap Labour and the 1946 Miners Strike (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- South African miners’ families back Julius Malema’s call for nationalisation (guardian.co.uk)
Mérida – Yesterday President Hugo Chavez met with over a thousand workers in the large hall of the Caruachi Hydroelectric Complex of the Guyana Venezuela Corporation (CVG) to sign an agreement to begin the organisation and construction of the Orinoco Axis of Development.
Representatives of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA and CVG signed the agreement to collaborate in the creation of this “axis of development” in the Orinoco area, one of several such axes in specific regions that Chavez has proposed in his plan for 2013-2019. CVG is a mostly worker co-managed entity that extracts and processes primary material such as iron, gold, and bauxite.
Chavez said the strategy was to unite the north and south of the Orinoco zone. That is, to unite the Orinoco Oil Belt to the north of the river, which holds the world’s largest oil reserves, with the Industrial Mining Belt to the south of it. However, Chavez said the area also includes 600,000 hectares where agricultural production can be fostered. The axis will have an area of around 100,000 square kilometres in total.
The union between PDVSA and CVG is the result of years of discussion, Chavez said, “and is related to large historical objectives which we have proposed for ourselves… and the need for planning… in the long and medium term”.
CVG president Rafael Gil Barrios explained to the press today that the PDVSA-CVG agreement is already being concretised, including the creation of mixed companies (smaller companies run by the two larger main ones) such as Petro San Feliz. CVG will own 10% of this company, of the 70% of stocks that PDVSA already owns.
Steel projects, Workers and Mercosur
Workers from CVG, from the Sidor steel plant, and from PDVSA attended the meeting with Chavez, during which he also approved US$ 324 million for Sidor, to go towards increasing its production. That includes $18.5 million to update rust removal technology and $250 million for a project to install machinery for round billet mould assembly. The steel tubes produced from this machinery will benefit the petroleum industry in the Orinoco oil belt. The financing comes from agreements with China.
Chavez asked workers to audit the projects and to protest when work is taking too long or is halted. His comment comes as some cement workers have voted to go on national strike “against the policy of the Chavez government of freezing collective contracts in order to please the capitalists”, as stated by the Revolutionary Socialist Current two days ago.
“Just like when you all protest, and rightly so, when for example, the dividends don’t arrive… so I approved Bs 600 million recently for such loans,” Chavez said, adding that, “Workers have the right to protest in a thousand ways, but not damaging the production of … the [state owned] companies of Guayana… there are mafias who buy off the workers…and their managers… they have to be denounced.”
The president also emphasised the importance of the axis and its region in Venezuela’s incorporation into the trade bloc, Mercosur, formalised in July.
“We have to start to construct the railroad from the Caribbean (Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela) to Manaos (in the Brazilian Amazon)… this is vital and Guayana’s role in that is vital,” Chavez said and also announced that he was forming a new presidential commission to deal with Venezuela’s integration into Mercosur. The commission will consist of mostly selected members of his cabinet and is presided by Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro and Mercosur executive secretary Isabel Delgado.
Nicolas Maduro, added, “This large economic force, this mining, industrial, petroleum, agricultural force is our country’s direct relationship with Mercosur… the Mercosur commission starts today (Monday) and they have oriented us towards forming a Business Council and a Worker Council of Mercosur”.
“There’s a lot of motivation to increase the productive and exporting potential Venezuela has in the large market of South America, which is Mercosur,” Maduro concluded.
The government re-nationalised the Sidor steel plant in 2008, and CVG workers in July 2009 proposed a model of production and workers control which Chavez supported, called Plan Socialist Guayana 2009-2019. The plan involved transforming the state owned CVG and its companies into socialist companies, and in 2010 CVG workers elected the directors of the respective companies that make up the corporation for the first time.
Ramirez confirmed as president of PDVSA and increased oil production
Today Chavez also announced that the president of PDVSA, as well as the minister of petroleum and mining, Rafael Ramirez, will remain president of PDVSA for the upcoming management period of 2013-2019.
Chavez made the announcement during a meeting in Monagas state with the workers of the Orinoco Oil Belt there. He also outlined plans to increase petroleum production in Venezuela generally to 6 million barrels a day by 2019, said that the government is currently “investing around 5 billion dollars in the belt” and that over the next 6 years the government aims to invest $100 billion.
Ramirez informed that the Venezuelan state has received US$ 383,223 million through petroleum taxes over the last thirteen years. This income was a result of fiscal reforms the government implemented from 2002 in the petroleum sectors. Before those reforms, transnationals in the petroleum sector only payed taxes of 1%, a figure the government increased to 33% in 2002.
Chavez said this money has been invested in education, health, agriculture, and housing.
- China soon to be Venezuela’s No. 1 trade partner due to strategic alliance (thesantosrepublic.com)
- Chavez after an energy alliance with Argentina and Brazil in the framework of Mercosur (en.mercopress.com)
- With Venezuela Mercosur has become “a new pole of world power” (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Venezuela’s entry enhances Mercosur (english.pravda.ru)
- Chavez says Venezuela’s incorporation into Mercosur will generate over 240,000 jobs (english.pravda.ru)
- Venezuela formally joins Mercosur trading bloc (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Bill Fletcher and Carl Davidson are two Left opportunists with a problem. Unlike four years ago, when Fletcher co-founded Progressives for Obama, their guy now has a record – and it is indefensible. Solution: nullify the issues right up front in the title to their reworked rationale for backing the Bill of Rights-destroying, Wall Street-protecting, Africa-bombing, regime-changing corporate Democrat. Their August 9th Alternet article, “The 2012 Elections Have Little To Do With Obama’s Record … Which Is Why We Are Voting For Him” frames the campaign as a contest between “revenge-seeking” white supremacists and – well…those of us who are not revenge-seeking white supremacists. The facts of the Obama presidency – his actual behavior on war, austerity, and civil liberties – are deemed irrelevant, and the president himself becomes a mere stage prop in the battle against “Caligula,” the Republicans.
Fletcher and Davidson want Blacks and progressives to respond with hysteria to GOP “irrationalism,” to keep the traditional Democratic base in the Obama camp through raw fear.They claim the current campaign “will be unlike anything that any of us can remember.” In truth, the abject Black failure to make a single demand of Obama, and the vapid excuses and rationalizations for the Left’s political collapse in his presence, then and now, makes 2012 very much resemble 2008. Back then, Fletcher & Co. wrote:
“Barack Obama’s very biography reflects the positive potential of the globalization process that also contains such grave threats to our democracy when shaped only by the narrow interests of private corporations in an unregulated global marketplace. We should instead be globalizing the values of equality, a living wage and environmental sustainability in the new world order, not hoping our deepest concerns will be protected by trickle-down economics or charitable billionaires. By its very existence, the Obama campaign will stimulate a vision of globalization from below.”
Four years later, we are admonished to forget the facts as they actually transpired – and as we at BAR predicted – and pretend the current campaign is a crusade against the Tea Party, with Obama as the incidental beneficiary.
Right-wing populism is the bogey man, in opposition to which we must re-embrace Obama. The GOP isn’t just racist, it is “irrational,” crying for “a return to the past.” They write:
“Obama represents an irrational symbol for the political right, and a potent symbol that goes way beyond what Obama actually stands for and practices. The right, while taking aim at Obama, also seeks, quite methodically and rationally, to use him to turn back the clock.”
Of course, the meaning of the term reactionary is to “turn back the clock,” a promise Republicans have been making for 50 years. And racism is fundamentally irrational, causing white supremacists to see that which is not there, be blinded to facts that are right in front of their noses, and to invent whole narratives of history. But, this time is different, Fletcher and Davidson insist, because the Right is so intensely focused on the symbolism of Obama, the Black man – and so “irrational” about it that they make up ridiculous things about him, like his non-citizenship.
Therefore, our response, as progressives, must be to forge a “common front based on resisting white revanchism… on political misogynism, on anti-‘freeloader’ themes aimed at youth, people of color and immigrants, and a partial defense of the so-called 1%.” The fact that Obama is demonstrably not a part of that common front must not dissuade us from joining his campaign. If the Right has made Obama its symbolic focus, we must, in response, make him the focus of our “common front.” If the Right hates Obama with an irrational passion, we must hug him to our breasts.
Just in case the logic of such reasoning escapes you, Fletcher and Davidson remind us that the Republicans are not merely irrational – they are crazy like Caligula.
“November 2012 becomes not a statement about the Obama presidency, but a defensive move by progressive forces to hold back the ‘Caligulas’ on the political right. It is about creating space and using mass campaigning to build new grassroots organization of our own. It is not about endorsing the Obama presidency or defending the official Democratic platform. But it is about resisting white revanchism and political misogynism by defeating Republicans and pressing Democrats with a grassroots insurgency, while advancing a platform of our own, one based on the ‘People’s Budget’ and antiwar measures of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. In short, we need to do a little ‘triangulating’ of our own.”
So, it’s not about “endorsing the Obama presidency” – but about voting for Obama while claiming that the facts of what he did as president don’t matter. It is about the nonsense of “creating space” so that the Left can do what it ought to do anyway, but which it didn’t do in the two years leading up to the 2008 election, or in the first two and a half years of the Obama presidency, until the Occupy Wall Street activists came out of left field in disgust with both parties’ subservience to finance capital. The anti-war movement seems largely to oppose only Republican wars.
The great fallacy, here, is that Democratic presidents in general, and Obama in particular, somehow create “space” for progressive activism. Movements create space for themselves, by acting. Only charlatans preach that progressive movements must install preferred personalities from the menus of the ruling circles before they can find space to move.
The great tragedy of the Obama era, is that his presence has had the effect of shutting down progressive – and, most dramatically, Black – opposition to the prevailing order. This does not happen by the magic of charisma. Political operatives identified with the Left work diligently to maintain such silence – people like Fletcher and Davidson, who are once again guarding the left flank for Obama, whose great legacy has been to create vast political space for Wall Street and the Pentagon, with a minimum of resistance from white progressives, Blacks and the rest of the Democratic base.
That’s why we at BAR call Obama the more effective evil.
Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
- Tired Old So-Called Leftists Give Same Old Excuses For Supporting Obama in 2012 (Black Agenda Report)
An Israeli military court approved, Tuesday, an order issued by the Israeli military demanding a Palestinian farmer from Al-Khader town, near Bethlehem, to demolish an irrigation well under the pretext that it is “close to the Annexation Wall”.
Ahmad Salah, coordinator of the National Committee Against the Wall and Settlements in Al-Khader, stated that the Beit El military court, near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, rejected an appeal filed by the well’s owner, Mahmoud Sbeih.
The well was dug by the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee, and was financed by Holland as part of a project to support Palestinian farmers in the area.
The Israeli court granted Sbeih two weeks to demolish his well; otherwise, the army will demolish it and send the hyped bill to the farmer.
Israel’s illegal Annexation Wall was built in a manner that allows easy settlement construction and expansion at the expense of privately-owned Palestinian lands and orchards.
In July 2004, 14 of the 15 Hague judges of the International Court ruled that the construction of the Annexation Wall in the West Bank violated international law and “constituted illegal annexation.”
The court said Israel should stop the construction immediately, dismantle existing sections and compensate Palestinians harmed by its construction.
Israel ignored the ruling, considered it “irrelevant”, and went on to issue a 170-page response to the ruling protesting it, and claiming that “the court was looking at the wrong, outdated route”.
The Annexation Wall extends on more than 810 kilometers leading to the illegal annexation of thousands of Dunams of Palestinian lands, and isolates thousands of Dunams.
The route of the Wall is planned and implemented in a way that totally isolates several Palestinian villages, and enables the expansion of Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank, and in occupied East Jerusalem.
- Settlers Seize More Land owned by 67 year old Khader Issa Near Bethlehem (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
- A Primer on Settler Colonialism (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Eirene and Penthesilea Talk War and Empire
A gentle summer day finds two women sitting near the reflecting pool in the shadow of the Washington monument, bright sunshine striking off the rippling water. One is reading something on her iPad, and to make conversation, the other asks what she is reading.
Eirene: You seem very intent on your read. Must be fascinating. May I ask what it is?
Penthesilea (better known as “Penny”): Another very profound opinion piece by Phyllis Bennis, widely circulated on progressive outlets.
Eirene: I know Bennis’s work. She is a leading figure at the Institute for Policy Studies not far from here, right in the heart of Washington. She writes about war and peace.
Penthesilea: Yes, and she is a beacon for the progressive movement.
Eirene: A beacon and perhaps a mirror as well. What does she say these days?
Penny: In this piece she quite correctly opposes military intervention in Syria. Here, I will read you a key excerpt: “Of course the normal human reaction is ‘we’ve got to do something!’ But however dire the situation facing Syrian civilians, the likelihood that any outside military attacks would actually help the situation is very remote.” She then proceeds to show that military intervention will not work. It won’t work; it’s as simple as that. She is brilliant.
Eirene: The “normal human reaction” is “we’ve got to do something,” says Bennis? I am not so sure. Many “normal” people might say that Syria is none of our business. Or they might say, first do no harm.
But more important, you say Bennis claims that Western military intervention will not work. Not work to do what?
Penny: Good question, but Bennis is far too smart to neglect that point. The goal is all. She says in the very next paragraph that the purpose of military intervention would be to bring “democracy, security and stability” to Syria. But, of course, it won’t work.
Eirene: But what if military intervention would work, would it then be OK? The logic of Bennis implies that U.S. military action would then deserve support.
Penny: What you say is confusing.
Eirene: All right. Let’s do a thought experiment. Let’s drop Bennis through a wormhole in space-time to Pol Pot’s Cambodia, plopping her down as a Pot adviser. Pol Pot is at the moment complaining that his people’s paradise, which will bring people’s “democracy, security and stability,” to Cambodia is in jeopardy. He is quite certain he can remedy this by a military action that would kill off another 100,000 Cambodians. Alarmed, Bennis chimes in, “Do not do that, Comrade Pot. It won’t work.”
Penny: I don’t get the point. Pol Pot is very different from Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Pol Pot would have been lying about his aims or at the least deluding himself. So these are very different cases.
Eirene: Perhaps you should think about that.
But let’s turn from that hypothetical for a moment and return to the present. Let’s ask how Bennis would respond if U.S. military action would work, that the U.S. could install a “democratic” regime that would suit the U.S. Like Pol Pot’s plan of action, it is a bloody one; but it would work. Would that make it OK? Usually progressives speak about non-violence, a path of non-violence. Would it be OK to bomb Syria “to save it”?
Penny: Again I find what you say very confusing. It seems wrong to use violence in that way, but I have to admit it follows from the argument that Bennis makes.
But we need a principle of some sort to guide us. Is there no principle on which we can rely?
Eirene: I suggest that the principle is a simple one. An Empire, most especially a global one, seeks worldwide military hegemony and therefore economic hegemony, which alone makes military domination possible. Superiority in arms is, in fact, the official policy of the U.S. Such an Empire is incapable of intervening in a humane or progressive way. It simply is not possible. Why not? The objective of an Empire, above and beyond all else, is to control others. All other goals will be subservient to that one; human rights will be a smoke screen, nothing more. That means that no country will be permitted to take a course not approved by the Empire. An Empire’s very goal is to deny peoples the right to self-determination, to put in place regimes that will obey the dictates of the Empire.
The Empire will seek to rid the world of all regimes opposed to it – no matter their form of government. As an example, the democracies of Mossadegh and Allende had to be overthrown, because they dared defy the U.S. Even a little island like Cuba is under constant political and economic pressure, after the failure of invasion many years ago. To deprive a people or a nation of self-determination is to deny them the most fundamental of freedoms, the right to decide their future for themselves. To accomplish that is a tall order on a global scale, but such is the policy of the U.S. Bennis does not consider this or even mention it. The word Empire never crosses her pen. Her advice is more that of an imperial counselor.
Penny: You make a good point. But is that all there is? Are there other principles that might guide us?
Eirene: Do you know the libertarian argument against intervention?
Penny: Such things are not covered much in The New Yorker or The Nation, which I read faithfully.
Eirene: Well, the libertarian basically takes the stand that violence against another who has not initiated violence is wrong. Similarly a nation may not strike at another except in self-defense. That means no pre-emptive wars, no interventions for “democracy” or “human rights.” Another way to look at it is that the libertarian respects sovereignty. Sovereignty became part of international law to prevent the powerful empires, for example, from preying on the weak. It is crystal clear after the wars of the last decade that the U.S. no longer respects the sovereignty of nations.
Penny: I can relate to the libertarian view. It seems like a powerful principle.
Eirene: Similarly the so-called “paleconservatives,” perhaps better termed genuine conservatives, are well served by their principle that an Empire is not compatible with a Republic, a lesson that the Founders understood from their study of the Classics. Hence, military adventures abroad are to be avoided at all costs. In addition, the idea of a large standing army or military apparatus, which the Founders feared, is essential to an Empire, but a threat to democracy and anathema to the genuine conservative.
I might add to this list the non-philosophical conservative whose principle is simply, “I do not want to pay for all these do-good missions that our elite secular missionaries are bent upon.” Selfishness has its uses and sometimes is the best guide to action.
Penny: Well, I have to go back to work now, but I hope we run into one another again.
Eirene: Likewise. And I will continue to walk. It helps me think.
John V. Walsh can be reached at email@example.com.
I wrote yesterday for Asia Times that in Muslim politics such as the event of the summit meeting of the Organization of Islamic Conference that was held in Jeddah last week over the Syrian crisis, it is invariably the case that the sub-texts turn out to be more important than the narrative.
The narrative in the present case is well-known; it is well-propagated by the Western (especially American) media and it inevitably trickles down to Indian discourses, namely, that the OIC summit in Jeddah was going to be all about the Saudi-Iranian ‘cold war’.
But the devil lies in the details. One point of immense curiosity was about the stance taken by Egypt’s president Mohammad Morsi (who belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood) at the OIC summit. Three reasons could be cited for this. One, this was Morsi’s first appearance on the world stage and it became a poignant moment that an elected Islamist leader in a Middle Eastern democracy was taking to the OIC podium.
Two, Egypt had so far shied away from taking a stance on the Syrian situation and Egypt’s formal stance on the Syrian situation holds a lot of significance for the downstream developments, given the unmistakeable longing of that country to reclaim the leadership of the Arab world — in sum, Egypt could be an ally or a competitor for Saudi Arabia.
Third, Egypt’s Brothers are on the horns of a dilemma. They came to power riding the wave of a ‘regime change’ but they also would be conscious that the MB in Syria has certain unique characteristics, as its secretive dealings with the Western powers and Turkey (and some say, with even israeli intelligence) for creating a militia and resorting to the path of violence to force a ‘regime change’ in Damascus would testify. Egypt’s Brothers had, on the contrary, kept to the strait non-violent path in their march to power through the decades in the political wilderness.
Obviously, there is a keen struggle to sway the Brothers of Egypt. Thus, the stunning decision by Qatar to lend a handsome amount of 2 billion dollars to Egypt to help Morsi tide over the economic crisis was not because Doha has a bleeding heart.
Not a few observers could see that Qatar is creating leverage in Cairo at a juncture when the Saudi and American influence is facing uncertainties. Curiously, the Qatari lovefest with Egypt coincided with the OIC summit in Jeddah.
In the event, Morsi rose to the occasion. The narrative is that he called for a transition in Egypt. “it is time for the Syrian regime to leave”, he said. So far so good. The Western media lapped it up. But then came the sub-texts. Morsi called for a non-violent path. In immediate terms, he sought a ceasefire through Ramadan. Besides, he wanted an Islamic solution.
Then came the bombshell. Morsi proposed that a contact group should be formed to resolve the Syrian crisis through peaceful means, discussion and reconciliation. And, pray, who would form this group? Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and Iran — he outlined.
In a nutshell, Morsi has rejected the strategm for ‘regime change’ in Syria by the United States in alliance with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar (with Israel standing in the shade for undertaking covert operations). Most important, Morsi’s package is almost exactly what Iran espouses, too.
No wonder, Tehran feels greatly elated. In contrast with the deafening silence in Ankara, Riyadh and Doha, Tehran has scrambled to welcome Morsi’s proposal. Saudis will feel perturbed that Cairo is careering away into the trajectory of an independent foreign policy that may have more commonality with Tehran than the course adopted by the GCC states. Turkey will feel downcast that the new Egypt is not exactly in a mood to adopt the so-called islamist leadership of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as its role model.
Indeed, we could anticipate that interesting times lie ahead as Egypt’s Brothers carry forward the impulses of their revolution. We are slowly, steadily getting near to an answer to the question raised in great angst by several quarters (Washington, Tel Aviv, Riyadh) : Will the new Egypt orient toward Saudi Arabia or Tehran?
The answer is crystallizing: Morsi intends to follow the middle path. Actually, that is also what his latest decision to attend the NAM summit in Tehran underscores.
So, it is about time we move on to the follow-up question: Whom does Morsi’s (and Egypt’s Brothers’) middle path suit better — Saudi Arabia or Iran? I won’t wager for an answer. It’s Iran, Stupid! All that Tehran ever expected in its regional (Arab) milieu all through these past 34 years since the Islamic Revolution was a level playing field. And Egypt is willing to recognize, finally, that it is a legitimate aspiration to have.
Egypt has formally requested a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, a spokesman for its president said on Wednesday during a visit to Cairo by IMF chief Christine Lagarde to discuss support for the country’s ailing economy.
Egypt’s finance minister said last week Cairo would discuss the possibility of the bigger-than-expected loan from the fund. Egypt’s previous government had requested a $3.2 billion package but the deal was not finalized.
Lagarde’s presence was requested by Egypt and could signal a fresh determination on both sides to iron out a loan after President Mohammed Mursi, who took office on June 30, appointed his first government last month.
“We have officially requested a $4.8 billion loan from the IMF and talks are currently going on inside about the request,” spokesman Yasser Ali told Reuters as Lagarde held discussions with Mursi. He said any details would be announced later.
An IMF official also confirmed the request had been made.
During 18 months of political turmoil since the overthrow of autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak, successive Egyptian governments negotiated with the IMF to secure emergency funding.
The Muslim Brotherhood was originally skeptical of the IMF loan, which it feared would undermine Egypt’s sovereignty by keeping it indebted to the IMF.
The IMF has a track record of failed policies in a number of developing countries, including Argentina and a number of African countries.
Sections of Egypt’s political and economic elite fear IMF involvement in resuscitating Egypt’s economy might in fact worsen the situation even further, as previously seen throughout Africa.
But Egypt’s fiscal and balance of payment problems have worsened, prompting the Muslim Brotherhood to surrender its opposition to the deal.
An exodus of foreign investors in the wake of the turmoil left local banks shouldering much of the short-term and other lending to the state. The government has also borrowed directly from the central bank.
Foreign reserves have fallen to well under half levels seen before last year’s popular uprising against Mubarak and investors’ reluctance to return is born partly of fears that a sharp currency devaluation could wipe out any returns.
- IMF chief in Egypt for loan talks (oddonion.com)
- Egypt seeks up to $4.8bln IMF loan (rt.com)
- Qatar loans Egypt $2 billion for struggling economy (bikyamasr.com)