Two US drone attacks on Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal region have killed at least 14 people and injured a number of others.
Eight people were killed when a drone fired five missiles at a vehicle in Mizar Madakhel village, Pakistani intelligence officials confirmed on Wednesday.
The second drone fired three missiles at villagers recovering bodies from the site of the first attack killing six others, Press TV correspondent reported. Several Pakistanis were also wounded in the strikes.
The US carried out numerous such attacks on Pakistan’s tribal areas last year killing hundreds of people – mostly civilians.
Washington claims the strikes target pro-Taliban militants. Islamabad has repeatedly condemned the attacks, saying they violate Pakistan’s sovereignty.
Earlier in March, a Washington-based think-tank reported that US drone attacks have killed over 1200 people in Pakistan over the past six years.
President Obama’s endorsement of the firing of the entire faculty and staff of a Rhode Island public school is reminiscent of Ronald Reagan’s crushing of the air traffic controllers union, nearly three decades ago. Back then, President Reagan made an example of a union that had supported his presidential candidacy, and ultimately decertifying the union when it went on strike. The move sent a signal to the bosses in all sectors of the U.S. economy: the president – the U.S. government – is on management’s side, and unions are a considered a threat to the general economic welfare.
Last week, President Obama sent the same kind of signal to teachers unions, when he cited the Central Falls, Rhode Island, school shutdown as an example of the “accountability” he is demanding of poorly performing schools – which invariably means poor, non-white schools. Teachers union leaders appeared to be shocked by Obama’s language and tone – but they shouldn’t have been. The Rhode Island mass firing was not substantively different than the wholesale sacking of teachers and abrogation of their union contracts elsewhere in the country. The fundamental logic of Obama’s so-called Race to the Top program – a multi-billion dollar competition to show which states are most willing to fire teachers, shut down classrooms and replace them with charter schools – is to break the teachers union. If the teachers want to save their union, their dignity, their contracts, and the institution of public education, they will have to break with Obama. Because he is going after them with a hatchet – just like Reagan went after the air traffic controllers, despite their having supported his 1980 candidacy.
Obama’s hatchet man and basketball buddy is Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who envisions waves of school closings, teacher firings and charter school openings for the next “five or six years.” That sounds like a kind of “final solution” for teachers unions – and for public education.
Obama’s plans for America’s classrooms are even more aggressive than George Bush’s policies. Obama takes Bush’s No Child Left Behind scheme to its logical, blood on the floor conclusion: corporate education without the encumbrances of organized teachers. Obama’s anti-union vision is more ambitious than that of the old arch-reactionary, Ronald Reagan, who destroyed a union of only 13,000 members. The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association have combined memberships of over 4 million. They have the capacity to fight back, to make this president back off. But, like so many others who drank the Obama Kool Aid, they are in denial, refusing to believe that they backed a union-buster who is making teachers the scapegoat for America’s historical failure to serve the educational needs of all its children.
Private teacher training outfits are turning out young and hungry replacements for todays teachers, anticipating a huge turnover in public schools as Obama swings his hatchet. Teachers need to revolt against this administration while they still have a union to fight for them.
Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com
“But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.”
– Nancy Pelosi
When Obama came to my neighborhood this week to press for public support for his health “reform” bill, he wasn’t just greeted by teaparty hecklers. Speaking to a large group of mostly supportive students and local residents at Arcadia University in Glenside, the president at one point mentioned that “people on the left” want “single-payer.” But before he could add that that approach wasn’t going to happen, he found himself drowned out by cheers calling for Medicare for all and single-payer.
That kind of says it all.
I’m with Marcia Angell, editor of the New England Journal of Medicine. The Obama plan for health care “reform”, as well as the two versions passed by the House and the Senate, are all devious disasters that do nothing to solve the nation’s burgeoning health care crisis, and in fact, will make it worse.
The only thing to do at this point is to take the whole stinking pile of paper and put it in the compost heap. Kill it.
This whole effort was never about reform from the day last March when the new president called on Congress to begin deliberations on health care reform. It was about catering to the wishes of the big players in the Medical Industrial Complex–the big pharmaceutical multinationals, the hospital companies, the physicians and, most of all, the insurance industry. People and their health care needs had little or nothing to do with this.
That’s why we’ve ended up with proposals that would do nothing to control costs, that would force healthy young people to buy unregulated, high-cost and high-profit plans that would be money in the bank for the insurance industry, and that would finance any subsidies for the poor by cutting back on benefits for the only group of Americans who currently have a form of single-payer insurance–the elderly with their Medicare.
President Obama began this whole obscene nightmare with a lie, when he said that even though single-payer systems clearly work to open access to all and keep costs down while providing better overall health results in places like Canada and some European countries, they cannot be applied in America “because that would mean starting over from scratch.” He knew when he said it that this was a lie. America already has a well-run and successful single-payer healthcare program in place that is bigger than the entire Canadian health care system, and that’s Medicare, which was established in 1965, and which currently finances the care of 45 million Americans. You just have to be 65 or disabled to be eligible for it.
As Dr. Angell pointed out on a recent Bill Moyers Journal segment, the simplest way to solve America’s health care crisis would be to just start a gradual expansion of Medicare, say by lowering the age of coverage to 55, and then 45, and then 35, until everyone was covered and the insurance industry was pushed out of the health sector. The right-wing couldn’t use their scare tactics about a “government takeover of your medical care,” because the elderly love Medicare, and besides, far from “inserting a government bureaucrat between you and your doctor,” Medicare gives the elderly a freer choice of physician and treatment than any but the most gold-plated private insurance executive health care plan.
Obama continued this lie when he claimed, in his last mention of the issue during his State of the Union address to Congress, that he and Congress had considered every idea. In fact, he and Congress have for the last year, carefully prevented any consideration of the idea of single-payer, or of expanding Medicare to cover every American. Bills that would do that, authored by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) in the House and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in the Senate, were in fact blocked from hearings or votes in both Houses by Democratic leaders, at the White House’s urging, while the White House itself barred single-payer advocates from any of its discussions.
Instead the president met behind closed doors with the lobbyists of the various health care industries, to cut deals with each sector in order to gain their support for his “reform” plan. It was as if the Department of Justice had called meetings with the various crime families of the Cosa Nostra in order to cut deals before developing a plan to “tackle” the Mafia.
The plan being proposed to “reform” health care–actually they long ago stopped calling it health care reform, acknowledging that this was never even contemplated, and started instead referring to what is being contemplated as health insurance reform–is, we are told, going to cost about $100 billion a year. That wouldn’t be bad if what we got in return was universal health care, but we don’t even get that. Instead we have a measure that will reduce access to health care for the middle class by taxing benefits and encouraging higher deductibles, that will force the poor, the young and the self-employed to buy terrible, over-priced plans offering minimal coverage, that will chip away at the coverage provided to the elderly, and that will ultimately lead to higher costs for everyone, and that will still leave nearly 20 million people with no coverage. The US currently devotes 17.5 percent of Gross Domestic Product to health care, and if this “reform” in any of its guises is passed, that share of the economy devoted to health care will quickly rise past 20 percent, with no end in sight.
This is madness. Expanding Medicare to cover everyone, as I have written earlier, would actually save everyone money immediately, and the country as a whole. Consider that the most expensive consumers of health care–the elderly–are already in the system. Adding younger, healthier people to Medicare would cost incrementally much less. That’s why the Canadians spend about 9 percent of their GDP on healthcare, while covering every Canadian, while we spend nearly twice as much and leave 47 million of our citizens uninsured and unable to visit a doctor. How could it be cheaper to add everyone to Medicare? Expanding Medicare to cover everyone would probably cost somewhere between $800 billion and $1 trillion a year. That sounds like a lot of money, until you consider that we already spend $100 billion a year to care for veterans through the Veterans Administration, and $400 billion a year to care for the poor through Medicaid. We also spend $300 billion a year subsidizing hospitals that have to provide “free” charity care to the poor who don’t qualify for Medicaid, too. Since all those people would be covered by Medicare under Medicare-for-All, that’s $800 billion a year in current expenditures saved right there.
So even if my higher figure of $1 trillion for adding everyone to Medicare were correct, we’d only be talking about an extra $200 billion annual expense. And that could be covered by increasing the Medicare tax paid as a payroll deduction. You don’t want to pay more taxes? Well wait. If you were covered by Medicare, you and your employer would no longer have to pay for private insurance, which would mean a savings to workers of thousands of dollars a year, and even more to employers who currently pay the majority of health insurance premiums for employees. The net savings would be enormous.
Nobody has talked about this.
Universal Medicare would make American companies more competitive in the global marketplace, where other companies are not responsible for health care costs of their workers. It would make Americans wealthier, because they would no longer be paying for health care out of their own pockets. It would make everyone more secure, because they would no longer have to fear losing access to health care if they lost their job, and would eliminate most bankruptcies, which are reportedly caused by medical bills.
So we know what needs to be done.
And we know that the current “reforms” on offer don’t do it.
So Dr. Angell is right. Obamacare needs to die.
There is reason to hope that it will die. Republicans oppose it, though not for any decent reason. They want unregulated private insurance and unlimited profits for health care industries. Ditto some conservative Democrats, who are also anti-government ideologues whose wallets are stuffed with health industry swag. But their reasons for opposing the health bill don’t matter. All that is needed is for a few progressive members of the House and Senate to admit that the health bills being considered are not reform, but the antithesis of reform, and to also vote against it, and Obamacare will be dead.
At that point we can start seriously demanding that the Congress and the President act to bring us real health reform in the way that really works: expanding Medicare to cover everyone.
WASHINGTON – Powerful pro-Israel US lobby group AIPAC, in a rare letter to every member of the US Congress, called Tuesday for “crippling new sanctions on Iran” over Tehran’s suspect nuclear program.
“Iran has pursued a nuclear weapons capability… the United States must take action now,” it said.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee also pressed Congress to look into why companies that do business with Iran’s energy sector have never been punished under a 1996 US law aimed at discouraging such investments.
In the letter, signed by executive director Howard Kohr and president David Victor, AIPAC expressed “outrage” over a recent New York Times report charging that Washington gave billions of dollars to firms that do business in Iran.
They called on lawmakers to enact “without delay” legislation that would punish firms engaged in Tehran’s energy sector or that provide technology to Tehran by denying them US government contracts.
AIPAC urged the Congress to “demand” that President Barack Obama’s administration “enforce existing sanctions law and impose crippling new sanctions on Iran.”
“In addition to these actions, we hope you will join with us in urging the administration to impose tough new multilateral sanctions with like-minded states without delay while continuing to pursue the widest possible sanctions through the UN Security Council,” it said.
The letter came as US lawmakers stepped up calls for new sanctions on Iran ahead of November US mid-term elections.
But the US faces an uphill battle in its bid to forge consensus in the UN Security Council for new, tougher sanctions on Iran, diplomats say.
Israeli, US military leaders discuss using ‘force’
Israel’s UN Ambassador Gabriela Shalev said Tuesday that prospects were poor for adoption by the 15-member council of “crippling” punitive measures against Iran.
“The chances now seem grim regarding sanctions that will be crippling,” Shalev told reporters, in large part because veto-wielding council members Russia and China, appear reluctant to back a new round of tough sanctions proposed by Washington.
“The Chinese and the Russians still hope that diplomacy will work. They do not want to inflict any harm on the Iranian people,” she added.
Adoption of a resolution requires at least nine votes from the council and no veto from its five permanent members: Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.
As with previous resolutions, they fully expect to tone down their sanctions to make them more palatable to China, Russia and other council members concerned about the impact tough penalties might have on the Iranian people.
Diplomats here say a new sanctions resolution was still being negotiated in capitals by the six powers — the five permanent council members plus Germany — engaged in the nuclear bargaining with Tehran.
Shalev said that if the council was unable to agree on strong sanctions, then Israel “will look to the countries themselves” to slap additional bilateral sanctions. She was referring to the United States and members of the European Union.
On Monday, Israeli Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom said that it was time for the Security Council to impose “crippling” sanctions on Iran..
Shalev said the world was edging closer to “two bad options”: Iran continuing to race towards nuclear capacity or Tehran being stopped only “by force.”
She said the second possibility was currently being discussed by senior US and Israeli political and military leaders, but declined to provide further details.
Diplomats said Brazil, Turkey and Lebanon, three non-permanent members of the Council, also have misgivings about new sanctions and may abstain in a vote.
Iran insists it has the right to develop nuclear technology, which it says is aimed at generating energy for its growing population which is already dependant on importing 40% of its gasoline needs.
Iran also cites the need to develop nuclear technology for medical purposes to treat its cancer patients.
Israel is the only country in the Middle East that actually has nuclear weapons.
Japanese people have been protesting against US military bases in Japan for years
Japan has verified the existence of a secret nuclear pact with the United States that allows US forces to bring nuclear weapons into the country.
Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said on Tuesday that a panel of experts confirmed the existence of the pact after examining thousands of documents over a period of months.
From the 1960s, Japan has allowed the United States to deploy nuclear weapons on the southern island of Okinawa, the panel said. Japan’s previous governments had always denied the existence of such secret agreements.
However, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s government, which came to power six months ago, has adopted less US-friendly policies.
Yet Hatoyama says he believes the nuclear deterrence is necessary to maintain regional security.
In its calls for total nuclear disarmament, Japan has always emphasized its status as the only country to have been attacked with nuclear weapons.
The New York Times‘ Tom Friedman, who did as much as any single individual to persuade large numbers of Democrats and “moderates” to support the invasion of Iraq, today writes:
Former President George W. Bush’s gut instinct that this region craved and needed democracy was always right. It should have and could have been pursued with much better planning and execution. This war has been extraordinarily painful and costly. But democracy was never going to have a virgin birth in a place like Iraq, which has never known any such thing.
Some argue that nothing that happens in Iraq will ever justify the costs. Historians will sort that out. Personally, at this stage, I only care about one thing: that the outcome in Iraq be positive enough and forward-looking enough that those who have actually paid the price — in lost loved ones or injured bodies, in broken homes or broken lives, be they Iraqis or Americans or Brits — see Iraq evolve into something that will enable them to say that whatever the cost, it has given freedom and decent government to people who had none.
[To paraphrase] – Sure, the war that I helped sell and cheered on led to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings (at least), the long-term displacement of millions more, and the complete destruction of another country that had done nothing to us. But I’m not interested in clouding my mind with any of that. I don’t care about that. That can be talked about once I’m dead. After all, as the great humanitarian Joseph Stalin taught us, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, and as the great scholar and torturer Condoleezza Rice explained, we should just gently shut our eyes and think about the massive slaughter and destruction we caused in that country as mere “birth pangs” on the road to something beautiful.
Back in 2003, I said — with bloodthirsty sadism rabidly drooling from my mouth — that the real purpose of the war, what made it the Right Thing to do, was that we needed to make large numbers of Muslims “suck. on. this” in order to show them we mean business, and we randomly picked Iraq because . . . . we could. But now — to justify the enormous amounts of blood I helped spill and the incalculable amounts of human suffering I helped spawn — I’m going to pretend that I was motivated by a magnanimous, noble desire to Spread Freedom.
It was only a matter of time before American elites abandoned their faux regret over Iraq. For tribalists and nationalists, America can err in its execution but never in its motives. There’s no question — as this glorifying, propagandistic Newsweek cover story reflects — that it’s now official dogma that this was the right thing to do, or at least that we produced something great and wonderful for that country, as was our intent all along (leaving aside the what is actually happening in Iraq). It’s nothing short of nauseating to watch those responsible glorify what they did without weighing — or, in Friedman’s case, affirmatively dismissing as irrelevant — the extreme amounts of death and suffering that they caused, all based on false pretenses. But this is why Tom Friedman is the favorite propagandist of “Washington insiders”– because he feeds them the justifications they need to feel good about themselves. Forget all those innocent dead people and destruction you caused; it all worked out in the end.
Iran’s president says the US must explain what its troops are doing in Afghanistan, as catching terrorists only requires intelligence work not military deployments.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made the comment in a joint press conference with his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai in Kabul on Wednesday morning.
The Iranian president was responding to a question about the recent arrest of Jundallah leader Abdolmalek Rigi.
“Rigi is supported by the same people [and] governments, who have ill intentions for the government of Afghanistan and the Iranian nation. Rigi was a terrorist, who along with his associates killed more than 140 people,” said Ahmadinejad.
“Was Iran able to stop him? Yes, we arrested Rigi. Of course that was achieved with the cooperation of the Afghan and Pakistani intelligence services… but [in that process] Iran killed no innocent people,” he added.
“Is this not an example of the right way to fight terrorism? Why those who claim to be eager to fight terrorism are unsuccessful? Well the answer is that they themselves started terrorism and they want to fight it now. But they can’t.”
Ahmadinejad said that fighting terrorism is not possible with military surge, adding that terrorism can only be fought with intelligence cooperation.
Ahmadinejad was also asked about the significance of the simultaneous visit of US Defense Secretary Robert Gates to Afghanistan, to which he responded by asking the American official about the objectives of his trip.
“My question to Mr. Gates is what is he doing here? Your country is 12,000 kilometers (7,500 miles) away from the Middle East…Are you here to capture terrorists? Well if so it is clear what you must do, but if you are here to do something else, admit to it.”