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Trial Begins: Did New Orleans Media Contribute to Police Violence After Hurricane Katrina?

By Jordan Flaherty | Truthout | 24 June 2011

Jury selection began June 22 in what observers have called the most important trial New Orleans has seen in a generation. It concerns a shocking case of police brutality that has already redefined this city’s relationship to its police department, and radically rewritten the official narrative of what happened in the chaotic days after Hurricane Katrina. Five police officers are facing charges of shooting unarmed African-Americans in cold blood, killing two and wounding four, and then conspiring to hide evidence. Five officers who participated in the conspiracy have already pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against their fellow officers.

The shootings occurred on September 4, 2005, as two families were fleeing Katrina’s floodwaters, crossing New Orleans’ Danziger Bridge to get to dry land. Officers, who apparently heard a radio report about shootings in the area, drove up, leapt out of their vehicle and began firing. Ronald Madison, a mentally challenged man, was shot in the back at least six times, then reportedly stomped and kicked by an officer until he was dead. His brother Lance Madison was arrested on false charges. James Brissette, a high school student, was shot seven times and died at the scene. Susan Bartholomew, 38, was wounded so badly her arm was shot off of her body. Jose Holmes Jr. was shot several times, then, as he lay bleeding, an officer stood over him and fired point blank at his stomach. Two other relatives of Bartholomew were also badly wounded.

Danziger is one of at least nine recent incidents involving the New Orleans Police Department being investigated by the US Justice Department, several of which took place in the days after the city was flooded. Officers have recently been convicted by federal prosecutors in two other high-profile trials. In April, two officers were found guilty in the beating of death of Raymond Robair, a handyman from the Treme neighborhood. In December, a jury convicted three officers and acquitted two in killing Henry Glover, a 31-year-old from New Orleans’ West Bank neighborhood, and burning his body.

From Survivors to Looters

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, people around the world felt sympathy for New Orleans. They saw images of residents trapped on rooftops by floodwaters, needing rescue by boat and helicopter. But then stories began to come out about looters and gangs among the survivors and the official response shifted from humanitarian aid to military operation. Then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco sent in National Guard troops, announcing. “They have M-16s and are locked and loaded. These troops know how to shoot and kill and I expect they will.” Warren Riley – at that time the second in charge of the police department – reportedly ordered officers to “take the city back and shoot looters.”

In the following days, several civilians – almost all of them African-American – were killed under suspicious circumstances in incidents involving police and white vigilantes. For years, family members and advocates called for official investigations and were rebuffed. “Right after the hurricane there were individuals and organizations trying to talk about what happened on Danziger,” says Dana Kaplan, executive director of Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana (JJPL), a legal and advocacy organization based in New Orleans. “But their voices were marginalized.”

There is evidence that local media could have done a better job. Alex Brandon, a photographer for New Orleans’ Times-Picayune newspaper, who later went on to work for Associated Press, testified in the Glover trial that he knew details about the police killings that he didn’t reveal. “He saw things and heard things that proved to be useful in a criminal investigation. He didn’t report them as news,” wrote Picayune columnist Jarvis DeBerry after the Glover trial concluded.

Former Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan, who led an initial investigation of the Danziger officers, believes an indifferent local media bears partial responsibility for the years of cover-up. “They were looking for heroes,” he says. “They had a cozy relationship with the police. They got tips from the police; they were in bed with the police. It was an atmosphere of tolerance for atrocities from the police. They abdicated their responsibility to be critical in their reporting. If a few people got killed that was a small price to pay.”

Family members and advocates tried to get the stories of police violence out through protests, press conferences, and other means. Peoples Hurricane Relief Fund, an organization dedicated to justice in reconstruction, held a tribunal in 2006 where they presented accusations of police violence – among other charges – to a panel of international judges, including members of Parliament from seven countries. Activists even brought charges to the United Nations, filing a shadow report in February 2008 with the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva. But it was not until late 2008 that a journalist named AC Thompson did what the local media failed to do and investigated these stories in detail. “It’s unfortunate that it took a national publication to really dig to the root,” says Kaplan, referring to Thompson’s work. “In New Orleans, the criminal justice system has been so corrupt for so long, that things that should be shocking didn’t seem to be raising the kind of broad community outrage that they should have.”

In 2009, after years of pressure from activists and the national attention brought on by Thompson’s reporting, the US Justice Department decided to look into the accusations of police violence. This has led to one of the most wide-ranging investigations of a police department in recent US history. Dozens of officers are facing lengthy prison terms and corruption charges have reached to the very top of the department.

The Danziger trial is expected to last two months. Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Anthony Villavaso and Robert Faulcon, the officers involved in the shooting, could receive life sentences if convicted. Sgt. Arthur Kaufman, who was not on the bridge, is charged only in the conspiracy and could receive a maximum of 120 years. Justice Department investigations of other incidents are continuing and it is likely that some form of federal oversight of the department will be announced in the coming months.

June 27, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | 2 Comments

Poll: Most French oppose free trade

Press TV – June 27, 2011

A majority of the French blame unemployment and low wages on free trade and open market, arguing that cheap Indian and Chinese goods have lowered demand for European products.

According to an IFOP poll commissioned by a group of economists, 84 percent of the French think international trade has killed jobs in France and 78 percent say it has reduced domestic salaries.

The survey also showed that 57 percent believe imports have led to higher prices for consumer goods while 65 percent want higher import duties.

IFOP, which conducted the poll, interviewed 1,012 people by telephone from May 17-19. No margin of error was given.

The survey comes amid growing discontent among the French people over rising unemployment levels and corruption.

Massive demonstrations were held in various French cities in late May, inspired by similar protests in Spain.

June 27, 2011 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | 1 Comment

Challenging Racism by Israelis on Every Front

By Gulamhusein A. Abba / Dissident Voice / June 27, 2011

The pressure on Israel is building. Non violent protests by the Palestinians are increasing in numbers and size. As predicted by me in an earlier article, they will soon escalate and go one notch further, adopting Gandhi’s concept of not mere passive protest but active non-violent civil disobedience. It will not be long before thousands of Palestinians and their Israeli supporters will march to checkpoints and attempt to break through without waiting for “clearance” from young, arrogant Israeli soldiers manning them. Tunisian and type mass protests that are taking place all over the Middle East are bound to take place in Palestine also. No one need be surprised to see many Israelis joining them.

It is encouraging to see that while the international community represented in the UN seems paralyzed, the common, peace and justice loving people from around the world are ready to lend their support to the brave people of Palestine. They are beginning to say “enough is enough”. They are demanding that Israel comply with International law and human rights.

On July 8 hundreds of activists – about 500 estimated so far — from all over the world will converge on Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport, and this time they will not lie about their reason for being there. They will openly and truthfully declare to the Israeli security that they are there to go to the West Bank to help the people there and participate in nonviolent solidarity actions.

These solidarity actions are scheduled to take place from July 8-16 in coordination with 15 Palestinian civil resistance organizations in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The purpose of these actions is to show that not only are the actions of Israel in Gaza reprehensible but that Israeli repression in the West Bank and Jerusalem is no less condemnable and is part of an attempt by Israel at ethnic cleansing and colonization.

I long to join them. Unfortunately, I do not have the money to go there. Also, my holding an Indian passport and living in the US makes getting the necessary paperwork done difficult – not to mention my 83 years and poor health.

Why are hundreds of internationals giving up the comforts of their homes to go to Ben Gurion Airport and subject themselves to the certain humiliations and invasive interrogations by the Israel security — and deportation that seems certain to follow?

Why are other internationals sailing in boasts to go to Gaza and risk being bombed by the Israelis?

Why do I long to go there?

Basically because having come to know of the injustice, hardships, trials and tribulations, deaths and tragedy on a vast scale being suffered by the Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli government, being quiet, saying nothing, doing nothing, is no longer an option. Silence, in such situations, is complicity.

For long we have agonized over our helplessness to help. For long we have wondered what we could do.

Michael Riordon in his book Our Way to Fight writes: “Yet in the face of overwhelming harm, the question arises: “What can I do?” The victims ask, our conscience asks. So does a shared interest in a livable world. What can I do?

“During Athens street protests in 2008, a Greek blogger answered, beautifully: “We have a duty to move here, there, anywhere except back to our couches as mere viewers of history, back home to the warmth that freezes our conscience.”

The convergence at the Ben Gurion Airport on July 8, the solidarity actions in Palestine from July 8 to 16, sailing on Flotilla II provide some opportunities to do something.

Israeli apartheid days are numbered, and now is the moment to challenge it on every front.

Action is the best antidote to despair. Besides, it bears repeating, silence is complicity.

June 27, 2011 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | 1 Comment

Neoconservatism and American Foreign Policy: A Critical Analysis

By Stephen Sniegoski /  My Catbird Seat / June 27, 2011

A number of books  have come out recently dealing with the neoconservatives, which have been published by mainstream presses.  It is significant that these works acknowledge some obvious truths that were denied and even largely taboo some time ago.

They admit, for example, that  neoconservatives not only exist (something that was denied a few years ago, most especially by the neocons themselves), but that they have been influential in shaping American policy in the Middle East, a view  that continues to be rejected even by many critics of American foreign policy—e.g., Noam Chomsky and his acolytes, who see American foreign policy shaped only by all-powerful corporate interests. What these books still conceal, however, is the fact that the neocons are motivated by their Jewish ethnicity and the interests of the state of Israel.  Instead the neocons are made to appear as an ideological group loyal solely on what they believe is good for the US.  Consequently, this approach, despite allowing for some elements of truth, distorts the overall picture in a serious way.

Neoconservatism:  The Biography of a Movement (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2010),  by Justin Vaïsse,  which I have reviewed last August,  reflects this partial truth approach.   The current essay will focus on another recent work of this genre,  Neoconservatism and American Foreign Policy:  A Critical Analysis (New York: Routledge, 2011), authored by Danny Cooper, who is a lecturer at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia.  [A subsequent review will be of Neoconservatism and the New American Century by Maria Ryan (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2010)]

THE TRANSPARENT CABAL

Of the recent books on this subject, Cooper’s is one of the more revealing in that it actually acknowledges the authors who have presented these taboo views and  quotes them—allowing them to speak for themselves.  And I must express my delight that Cooper even refers to The Transparent Cabal. It  is this segment to which I will devote most of my attention in this essay.  I do this largely because I have not been able to get hold of Cooper’s book but have had to read it on Google Books where only a small section of it is available.  The book’s cost, exceeding one-hundred dollars from Amazon,  is beyond my limited means,  and the work  is not available in the public and university libraries to which I have access.  While I could only look at a small portion of the book, however, the part that I could see does seem to present the work’s fundamental thesis.

In discussing claims of the neocons’ ties to Israel, Cooper writes that  “Mearsheimer and Walt were not the only scholars to discuss the influence of Israel on neoconservative thinking.  Stephen Sniegoski’s The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel (2008) is the most detailed and exhaustive attempt to link neoconservatives with the policies of Israel’s Likud Party.”  After this favorable introduction, he then  implies that my “loyalties” to the Palestinians are “taken to dangerous and irresponsible extremes,” asserting that “[o]ne does not have to be a ‘Likudnik’ to find Sniegoski’s unqualified reference to the ‘Palestinian resistance’ to be morally offensive . . . ” (p. 32)   Presumably,  I should have qualified this non-committal reference with some disparaging remarks about the  Palestinians, since I was not expressing anything positive about them in referring to their “resistance.”  Criminals, for example, are said to resist arrest. Perhaps Cooper believes that nothing has been done to the Palestinians that calls for any resistance and that they are instead engaging in aggressive violence.   No matter what his specific intent, Cooper’s comment would seem to indicate a pro-Israel bias.

Cooper does acknowledge that the neocons are “strong defenders of the Jewish state” and that some authored the “Clean Break” report (p. 32) , though he fails to elucidate the full significance of this work.  The “Clean Break” report,  which was presented to incoming Prime Minister Netanyahu in 1996,  advocated that Israel undertake a war policy to reconfigure the Middle East for the sole purpose of  enhancing its own security.  Moreover, the neocon authors of the report emphasized the need to justify these belligerent moves in terms of  American ideals in order, as I stated in The Transparent Cabal “[t]o prevent the debilitating American criticism of Israeli policy that took place during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982.” (TC, p. 92).  And the success of Israel’s belligerent activities  would have the effect of freeing it from United States pressure. As pointed out in The Transparent Cabal : “It was highly noteworthy that Americans would advise the Israeli government how to induce the United States to support Israeli interests and how to avoid having to follow the policies of the United States government.” (TC, p. 93)  Since the actual policy prescription of “Clean Break” was broadly similar to what the neoconservatives would later advocate for the United States during the Bush II administration, the neocons, in this latter case, were actually having the United States pursue policies that had originally been developed to advance Israeli interests.   As reiterated throughout  The Transparent Cabal, the neocons look at U.S.  Middle East policy through the “lens of Israel interest.”  (TC, pp. 4, 5, 7, 193, 211, 365, 366).  To state otherwise is to  ignore Occam’s razor.

When acknowledging the  neocons’ obvious link to Israel,  Cooper simultaneously downplays its role in shaping their views on Middle East policy.  “The affection neoconservatives have for the  state of Israel cannot be dismissed,” Cooper avers.   “The authors who demonstrate the degree to which many neoconservatives identify with the Jewish state make a number of thoughtful arguments. Yet what they truly reveal about the neoconservative approach to American foreign policy is a little unclear.  Even authors such as Sniegoski who aim to ‘expose’ the connections between segments of the hard right in Israel and neoconservatives often acknowledge the limitations of their studies.”  (p. 32)

To support his contention that I acknowledge limitations in my study, Cooper then quotes me: “To state that neoconservatives viewed American foreign policy in the Middle East through the lens of Israeli interest – and that this was the basis of the neocon Middle East war agenda is not to say that their support for Israel has been the be-all and end-all of their foreign policy ideas.”  (p. 32)

Cooper  leaves  out my ending “which encompass the entire world” (TC, p. 7),  which served to underscore what I meant.  I also elaborate on this  issue on the same page in my book where I write: “Lest any reader misinterpret this work, it is necessary to further explain what the book is not. Since it is not an analysis of neoconservatism per se it does not claim that neoconservatism is simply a cover for the support of Israel. Undoubtedly, the overall neoconservative viewpoint does not revolve solely around the security needs of Israel, and the same is true even of the neocons’ positions on foreign policy and national-security policy.” (TC, p. 7)

As is apparent, I explain the limits, or scope,  of my subject—it is about the neocon position on the Middle East (and how they influenced US Middle East policy); it is not about neoconservative foreign policy in general.  That my subject does not encompass a broader subject does not mean that I acknowledge any “limitations” in my study.  All historical works (works on anything for that matter, even for those physicists who claim to have a “theory of everything”)  deal with particular subjects—as opposed to everything—but to admit “limitations,”  the word used by Cooper, would seem to imply that there are weaknesses in dealing with the particular subject matter of the work.

Cooper, however, makes the claim  that my “admission [of ‘limitations’]  raises immediate questions.  If neoconservative support for Israel is not the ‘be-all and end-all of their foreign policy ideas,’  then to what extent are studies such as Sniegoski’s truly capable of illuminating the neoconservative approach to foreign policy?  Is it not possible that some of these other ideas that go unexamined in The Transparent Cabal may even strongly conflict with the those of the Israeli right?”

Cooper’s logic escapes me here unless his purpose  is to place me in a no-win position.  Obviously, if I had stated that support for Israel (or any other factor) explained the neocons’ entire foreign policy thinking,  I could be faulted for that, too.  The idea that one factor  might explain part of a group’s  or individual’s world view, but not the totality of that world view, would seem perfectly appropriate.

For Cooper to imply that my claim that the neocons’ Middle East policy position revolves around their concern for Israel is invalidated by my unwillingness to apply that same motive  to their policies elsewhere—for instance, the neocons’ China policy–makes no sense.  My arguments are based on inductive reasoning.  I have provided extensive empirical evidence to prove the case regarding the Middle East (inductive reasoning can only lead to tentative proofs); but I have made no  in-depth study of the neocons’‘ China policy so I cannot draw a comparable conclusion.

He then implies, or at least, seems to imply,  that the allegation that the Israeli government backed the war on Iraq was false, citing the view of one international relations expert (Russell Walter Mead), who held  that “the Israeli defense establishment was deeply skeptical of neoconservative hopes for a democratic renaissance in the Middle East following the removal of Saddam Hussein (2007).”   From that he asks rhetorically:  “Is it not possible, in other words, that there is something distinctly American about neoconservatism?” (p. 33)

Here Cooper describes an alleged neocon position never expressed by me, or strictly speaking, anyone one else, as far as I know.  Since no one claims that the there was ever democracy in the Middle East, no one could expect a “renaissance,” which, of course,  means rebirth.  And it is probably true that there is no evidence that the Israeli defense establishment, or anyone else with expertise on the Middle East, actually believed that the elimination of Saddam Hussein would create democracy in Iraq.  And in The Transparent Cabal,  I questioned the idea that the neocons themselves actually believed that their policies would lead to democracy, as democracy is conventionally understood.  But whatever their beliefs on the eventual social systems in the Middle East, the policies they prescribed dovetailed with those of the Israeli Likudniks, which were designed solely for the enhancement of the national interest of the state of Israel.  And, as documented in The Transparent Cabal, the Sharon government did promote the war on Iraq. (TC, pp. 169-72)

Moreover, contrary to Cooper’s insinuation, I never denied that there was “something distinctly American about neoconservatism,” since, as I explained in the book, neoconservatism in general was not my topic.  There could very well be “something distinctly American about neoconservatism” while, simultaneously,  their view on  Middle East policy was shaped by their identification with Israel security interests. The two beliefs are not mutually exclusive.

In an effort to counter the claim of neocon loyalty to Israel, Cooper holds that the neocons are “just as steadfast in their support for Taiwan as they are in their support for Israel.” (p. 33)  This is based on an article  by William Kristol and Robert Kagan stating that the US should defend Taiwan from China. Viewing this as the overall position of the neocons, Cooper  attributes neocon support for Israel and Taiwan to their belief that the two countries are  “endangered liberal democracies living in hostile regions.” (p. 33)  Cooper next cites a general statement by Irving Kristol, that “Barring extraordinary events, the United States will always feel obliged to defend, if possible, a democratic nation under attack from non-democratic forces, external or internal (2003).”  These statements allegedly provide sufficient evidence to prove that the neocons are  “driven more by feelings of ideological solidarity than ethnic identification.” (p. 33-34)

There are a number of problems with this notion of neocon support for Taiwan and other democratic nations being  comparable to their support for Israel.  A simple statement of support for Taiwan if threatened with attack, or in Irving Kristol’s case, a claim that the US “if possible” would “feel obliged” to defend democratic countries is obviously not equivalent to launching aggressive wars to weaken or eliminate Israel’s enemies.  Furthermore, the connection of the neocons to  other democratic foreign countries  is not in anyway equal  to the deep personal loyalty and intimate connection the neocons have with the state of Israel, which is illustrated throughout  The Transparent Cabal.

Neocons present Israel as a model democracy but this is hardly the case, as liberal democracy is generally defined today.   Rather, Israel is  a Jewish supremacist ethno-state that favors Jews over  Palestinians, going to the extent of dispossessing them of their  land on the West Bank for Jewish settlements.   Instead of supporting measures by Jewish leftists and liberals to allow more rights for the Palestinians in order to move Israel in the direction of a typical liberal democracy,  the neocons support the Likudnik (explicitly Jewish supremacist)  hard-line anti-Palestinian position, which is anything but pro-liberal democracy.   Their  goal is to maintain Israel as an ethnically-Jewish state instead of creating a modern liberal democracy with equal rights for all people.  That the neocons see this Jewish ethno-state as a model democracy would illustrate their ethnic bias, since they find no fault with the type of ethnic discrimination that Jews have historically railed against when applied against them in gentile countries.

It would seem that the predominantly Jewish composition of the core membership  of neoconservatism,  the latter’s close connection to and championing of  Israel,  and the fact that the neocons advocated that the US take militant positions against  the enemies of Israel would, taken together,  provide strong prima facie evidence that Jewish ethnicity shaped the neocons Middle East policy.  As pointed out in The Transparent Cabal,  the Jewish orientation of neoconservatism  has been acknowledged by some close students of the movement, including those who happen to be Jewish.  For example, Gal Beckerman wrote in the Jewish weekly newspaper Forward in January 2006: “[I]t is a fact that as a political philosophy, neoconservatism was born among the children of Jewish immigrants and is now largely the intellectual domain of those immigrants’ grandchildren.” In fact, Beckerman went so far as to maintain that “[i]f there is an intellectual movement in America to whose invention Jews can lay sole claim, neoconservatism is it.” (TC, p. 26)  Murray Friedman wrote  a favorable book about the neocons entitled  The Neoconservative Revolution: Jewish Intellectuals and the Shaping of Public Policy, which stresses the significance of their Jewish ethnicity.   In it he shows that  the neocons explicitly mentioned their group loyalty:   “A central element in [neocon godfather Norman] Podhoretz’s evolving views, which would soon become his and many of the neocons’ governing principle was the question, “Is It Good for the Jews,” the title of a February 1972 Commentary piece.”   [quoted in TC, p. 27; Friedman, p. 147]

In the much reviewed  The Fatal Embrace: Jews and the State (University of Chicago Press, 1993), noted political scientist (Johns Hopkins University)  Benjamin Ginsberg writes:  “One major factor that drew them [future Jewish neocons]  inexorably to the right was their attachment to Israel and their growing frustration during the 1960s with a Democratic party that was becoming increasingly opposed to American military preparedness and increasingly enamored of Third World causes [e.g., Palestinian rights]. In the Reaganite right’s hard-line anti-communism, commitment to American military strength, and willingness to intervene politically and militarily in the affairs of other nations to promote democratic values (and American interests), neocons found a political movement that would guarantee Israel’s security.” (T.C., p. 26; Ginsberg, Fatal Embrace, p. 231)

The aforementioned  illustrations of  the neocons’ Jewish ethnicity shaping their policy positions represent cases where this issue was broached in the mainstream. However, the mainstream media has left out this ethnic reference when dealing with recent U.S. Middle East policy. For to include such a reference would imply that  Jews are influential and exhibit “dual loyalty”– ideas that are taboo in the United States mainstream.   It was these taboos that caused the whole  idea of the neocons being the leading element for the war on Iraq to be blacked-out in mainstream presentations of the subject, a situation that recent works are only willing to change by discussing the role of the neoconservatives  in a sanitized fashion, with the taboos expurgated or explained away.

However, there is nothing  unusual in concluding that neocons would be motivated by ethnic loyalty to Israel.  Historians and other commentators on American foreign policy have readily attributed ethnic loyalty as  a fundamental factor in shaping the views of other groups – German-, Greek-, Polish-, Irish-, and Cuban-Americans.  There is no reason to think that this interpretation would not also apply to the predominantly Jewish neoconservatives, especially since there is so much evidence of their close ties to the Jewish state.

That recent mainstream works on the neocons  do everything possible to skirt their obviously ethnically-motivated concern for Israel represents not only a misinterpretation of a historical event, but has serious, negative ramifications for the understanding of ongoing U.S. Middle East policy.  For neocons constitute  only a more  extreme element of the overall Israel lobby, which influences U.S.  Middle East policy under both Democratic and Republican administrations.  Without the willingness to recognize this major force behind America’s belligerent policy in the Middle East, it will not only be impossible to extricate the United States from the  current Middle East morass, but there will be a strong possibility that the US will be involved in  future  wars in the region.

~

Dr. Stephen Sniegoski earned his Ph.D doctorate in American history,with a focus on American foreign policy, at the University of Maryland. His focus on the neoconservative involvement in American foreign policy antedates September 11, and his first major work on the subject, “The War on Iraq: Conceived in Israel” was published February 10, 2003, more than a month before the American attack. He is the author of “The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel”.

June 27, 2011 Posted by | Deception, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | 1 Comment

GREEK PARLIAMENT MAY REJECT EU/IMF AUSTERITY MEASURES

Historic vote on Wednesday, euro hangs by a thread

By Jane Burgermeister | June 27, 2011

*Greek Prime Minister’s  majority cut to one ahead of crucial IMF and EU austerity vote in parliament on Wednesday

*Rejection of austerity package will lead to a default by Greece and eurozone exit

*Greece is set to spend 131 billion euros on interest payments to banks between 2009 and 2014 according to IMF

*Germany’s Die Welt says Germans would rise up in rebellion if they had to accept equivalent austerity measures

*Protests and strikes intensify in Athens ahead of historical vote on Wednesday that could spell the end of the euro currency

Four Greek lawmakers from the ruling PASOK party have indicated they will vote against the new EU and IMF austerity package in parliament on Wednesday.  If the Greek parliament votes against the legislation, it would pave the way for Greece to default on its debt to foreign banks and exit the eurozone in an historic victory for democracy.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite1_4_26/06/2011_396030

Greece is set to pay a staggering €131bn in refinancing and interest payments to American, German and French banks between 2009 and 2014 , the IMF has estimated.

Prime Minister George Papandreou’s socialist PASOK party has a slim majority of only 155 deputies in the 300-member parliament. The defections of any more lawmakers may mean the government not be able to pass the new austerity measures and an implementation law on Wednesday and Thursday, which the EU, IMF and ECB are insisting on to enable the next interest payments to be made to banks on time.

The main opposition leader, Antonis Samaras, has said the austerity measures are a “medicine that is worse than the sickness they are meant to cure” and that he will not vote for them.

The draconian package of latest tax hikes and budget cuts include measures forcing people earning as little as 8000 euros a year to pay 10% in taxes to help the government meet the multi-billion euro interest payments to banks while universities close due to funding cuts.

“Crucially, bailout funds are not used to pay civil servants’ salaries and pensions, but to pay off debt held by German and French banks. According to IMF estimates, Greece will pay €131bn in refinancing and interest payments between 2009 and 2014, far more than the initial bailout loan of €110bn,” reports The Guardian.

The new austerity package is so harsh that if it were implemented in Germany, the people would rebell, Germany’s Die Welt newspaper admitted. The new Greek austerity measures would be the equivalent of German government cutting 117 billion euros from the budget and selling assets worth 555 billion worth of euros, estimated Die Welt.

http://www.welt.de/wirtschaft/article13451154/Wenn-Berlin-so-sparen-muesste-wie-Griechenland.html

Even the Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said over the weekend that the measures were “hard and unfair.”

The austerity measures would drain the economy of the last of its liquidity and bust those businesses that are still solvent. Andrew Lilico points out that the Greek money supply has  been falling at about 10 per cent a year.

The new IMF, EU, ECB austerity package comes on top of cuts that resulted in shrinkage in the economy and an increase in the country’s mountain of debt. Greece’s debt is set to rise to 170% of the GDP next year.

A 48-hour general strike is to be held in Athens tomorrow and Wednesday against the privatisations and austerity package.

Protesters outside the parliament in Syntagma Square, have said that they will block lawmakers from entering the building and voting on the austerity measures.

Greek lawmakers began debating the new austerity plans today.

If Greece does not pass the package, it will not receive a 12 billion euro installment of loans from its international bailout plan to make payments to banks in the USA, Germany and France forcing it into a disorderly default.

A recommendation by German economists to introduce an insolvency mechanism for the eurozone in autumn 2010 was buried by the German government.

The threat of a disorderly default and financial disaster is being used by banks and eurozone officials to pressure the Greeks to accept the transfer of  wealth to the banks and acceopt the loss of their sovereignty.

A disorderly default would, however, pave the way for a rapid recovery of Greece’s economy outside the eurozone.

Papandreou faced down a rebellion by lawmakers this month after making a cabinet reshuffle and changing his finance minister, but the protests by people are continuing to put pressure on parliamentarians.

Even Überbankster George Soros — who has held regular private meetings with Papandreou and who called on eurozone governments and continue to loot the tax payers to save the banks in an article in the Financial Times — was forced to admit at a discussion yesterday in Vienna that the collapse of the euro currency is likely.

The euro collapse will spell the end of the bankster’s financial eurozone empire and ambitions to loot the assets and taxes of the 400 million people under the pretext of having to pay the debts of governments and banks that are actually insolvent and should have been put through insolvency mechanism long ago.

June 27, 2011 Posted by | Economics | Leave a comment

Journalists criticize Israel’s threats against media covering Gaza flotilla

Palestine Information Center – 27/06/2011

NAZARETH — Journalists say Israel’s fresh threats to take dire sanctions against media covering the upcoming Gaza flotilla raise “serious questions about Israel’s commitment” to press freedom.

The statement issued by the Foreign Press Association in Israel was in response to a letter by the Government Press Office threatening to bar journalists joining the flotilla from entering the 1948-occupied territories for ten years.

The FPA statement says the “threat to punish journalists covering the Gaza flotilla sends a chilling message to the international media and raises serious questions about Israel’s commitment to freedom of the press”.

“Journalists covering a legitimate news event should be allowed to do their jobs without threats and intimidation,” the statement adds.

More than forty Western and Arab media outlets are set to join the flotilla.

“The Israeli threats, which conflict with all standards of human values, will not deter the peace activists on board the ships from achieving their objective of reaching Gaza, and they will not stop journalists and media organizations from carrying out their professional role in covering the international event,” said Khadir al-Mashayikh, the media official of the ship from Jordan scheduled to join the flotilla.

He called the threats “further evidence of the falsehood of Tel Aviv’s democracy claims”.

The source recalled that one of those killed during Israel’s military raid of flotilla’s predecessor in 2010 was a Turkish journalist who was filming the attack. The military force also confiscated all of the cameras on board and cut the ship’s internet connection.

June 27, 2011 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | Leave a comment

Soldiers order Palestinian farmers to stop work

Ma’an – 27/06/2011

NABLUS — Israeli forces on Monday stopped Palestinian farmers working on their land in villages in the northern West Bank, a local agricultural committee said.

Farmers were working in Jurish and Aqraba villages as part of a land reclamation project but soldiers said the farmland had been confiscated and now belonged to Israel, committee coordinator Yousif Deiriyya said.

Deiriyya added that forces confiscated a backhoe.

The committee for the union of agricultural workers said Friday that Israeli forces confiscated a vehicle from farmers and ordered them to stop work in the same area.

Land reclamation projects aim to improve the source of income for families which rely on agriculture and also serve to protect vulnerable land from Israeli confiscation.

The project is carried out by the committee for the union of agricultural workers in partnership with Palestinian non-governmental organizations under the management of agricultural relief committees. It is funded by the Dutch government.

June 27, 2011 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | Leave a comment

   

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