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Flag-Waving to Death

By Gary G. Kohls | Consortium News | July 4, 2013

In American politics and media, anyone who questions the concept of “American Exceptionalism” is banished to the margins of society. But this self-aggrandizing notion has always contained a large measure of self-deception, ignoring the suffering inflicted on other peoples and on U.S. soldiers, as Gary G. Kohls notes.

On this Fourth of July, amidst the celebrations of our mythical “American Exceptionalism,” I submit the following moving testimony from Daniel Somers, a once-patriotic Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran who could no longer tolerate the physical and spiritual pain resulting from his visible and invisible wounds, his PTSD symptoms and his guilt for participating, albeit unwillingly, in U.S. military crimes against humanity and international war crimes that have been committed far more often than any of the major media have even hinted.

The 30-year-old Somers had been part of Task Force Lightning, an intelligence unit. In 2004-05, he was mainly assigned to a Tactical Human-Intelligence Team (THT) in Baghdad, Iraq, where he ran more than 400 combat missions as a machine gunner in the turret of a Humvee. He also interviewed Iraqis, both civilians and suspected insurgents. In 2006-07, Somers worked with Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in Mosul, Iraq.

From his military service, Somers suffered from PTSD and had been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury and several other war-related conditions.

Somers’s unbearably honest suicide note of June 10 should help clear up the feigned bafflement of his military command pooh-bahs, their fawning major media and the assorted politicians (who were duped into voting for the wars but have remained unrepentant for their errant behavior since then) as to why 22 American veterans are committing suicide daily and why there are more active-duty soldier suicides and suicide attempts than there are KIAs.

Perhaps a part of our nation’s response (if it was being honest to its veterans, its active duty military and their grieving and confused families) concerning the tragic deaths and maimings should be to finally admit that the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were based on lies fomented by the many hawkish politicians (most of whom are ChickenHawks) and duly reported on as truth by the corporate-controlled, uber-patriotic media and profitably and eagerly endorsed by uncounted profit-minded corporations and assorted secretive forces that benefit from war without any risk to themselves or their loved ones.

The next step in what could be a logical healing process would be to issue a sincere and repeated apology to the suicide survivors that their sons and daughters and loved ones fought unnecessarily and therefore may have died in vain – a cognitively difficult thing for most humans, especially politicians, to do, especially when there has been so much flag-waving, war-glorifying propaganda obscuring the fact that war is anything but glorious, especially for war-traumatized veterans like Somers.

For Frederick Douglas, the heroic ex-slave of the mid-1800s, the annual Fourth of July celebrations inspired him to write one of the most biting critiques of America ever written. Here is what Douglas said in a July 4, 1852, speech that raised irrefutable questions about the supposed freedoms of white Americans who were blind to the crimes against black humanity that they were tolerating right in their own backyards. He spoke for black slaves and all other victims of American imperialism when he said:

“Your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to God, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.”

Today, the celebration of “American Exceptionalism” must ignore the fact that the United States is far down the list of “civilized” nations (and sinking fast)  in scores of categories. The main exception being its #1 status in military spending, war-making, combat-induced PTSD, and the manufacture, possession and sales of the most lethal collection of weapons of mass destruction in the history of the world.

Before his suicide on June 10, Daniel Somers addressed the following statement to his family. It was published online with their permission and encouragement. Somers wrote: “I am sorry that it has come to this.

“The fact is, for as long as I can remember my motivation for getting up every day has been so that you would not have to bury me. As things have continued to get worse, it has become clear that this alone is not a sufficient reason to carry on. The fact is, I am not getting better, I am not going to get better, and I will most certainly deteriorate further as time goes on. From a logical standpoint, it is better to simply end things quickly and let any repercussions from that play out in the short term than to drag things out into the long term.

“You will perhaps be sad for a time, but over time you will forget and begin to carry on. Far better that than to inflict my growing misery upon you for years and decades to come, dragging you down with me. It is because I love you that I cannot do this to you. You will come to see that it is a far better thing as one day after another passes during which you do not have to worry about me or even give me a second thought. You will find that your world is better without me in it.

“I really have been trying to hang on, for more than a decade now. Each day has been a testament to the extent to which I cared, suffering unspeakable horror as quietly as possible so that you could feel as though I was still here for you. In truth, I was nothing more than a prop, filling space so that my absence would not be noted. In truth, I have already been absent for a long, long time.

“My body has become nothing but a cage, a source of pain and constant problems. The illness I have has caused me pain that not even the strongest medicines could dull, and there is no cure. All day, every day a screaming agony in every nerve ending in my body. It is nothing short of torture. My mind is a wasteland, filled with visions of incredible horror, unceasing depression, and crippling anxiety, even with all of the medications the doctors dare give. Simple things that everyone else takes for granted are nearly impossible for me. I cannot laugh or cry. I can barely leave the house. I derive no pleasure from any activity. Everything simply comes down to passing time until I can sleep again. Now, to sleep forever seems to be the most merciful thing.

You must not blame yourself. The simple truth is this: During my first deployment, I was made to participate in things, the enormity of which is hard to describe. War crimes, crimes against humanity. Though I did not participate willingly, and made what I thought was my best effort to stop these events, there are some things that a person simply cannot come back from. I take some pride in that, actually, as to move on in life after being part of such a thing would be the mark of a sociopath in my mind. These things go far beyond what most are even aware of.

“Force me to do these things and then participate in the ensuing cover-up is more than any government has the right to demand. Then, the same government has turned around and abandoned me. They offer no help, and actively block the pursuit of gaining outside help via their corrupt agents at the DEA. Any blame rests with them.

“Beyond that, there are the host of physical illnesses that have struck me down again and again, for which they also offer no help. There might be some progress by now if they had not spent nearly twenty years denying the illness that I and so many others were exposed to. Further complicating matters is the repeated and severe brain injuries to which I was subjected, which they also seem to be expending no effort into understanding. What is known is that each of these should have been cause enough for immediate medical attention, which was not rendered.

“Lastly, the DEA enters the picture again as they have now managed to create such a culture of fear in the medical community that doctors are too scared to even take the necessary steps to control the symptoms. All under the guise of a completely manufactured “over-prescribing epidemic,” which stands in stark relief to all of the legitimate research, which shows the opposite to be true. Perhaps, with the right medication at the right doses, I could have bought a couple of decent years, but even that is too much to ask from a regime built upon the idea that suffering is noble and relief is just for the weak.

“However, when the challenges facing a person are already so great that all but the weakest would give up, these extra factors are enough to push a person over the edge.

“Is it any wonder then that the latest figures show 22 veterans killing themselves each day? That is more veterans than children killed at Sandy Hook, every single day. Where are the huge policy initiatives? Why isn’t the president standing with those families at the state of the union? Perhaps because we were not killed by a single lunatic, but rather by his own system of dehumanization, neglect, and indifference.

“It leaves us to where all we have to look forward to is constant pain, misery, poverty, and dishonor. I assure you that, when the numbers do finally drop, it will merely be because those who were pushed the farthest are all already dead.

“And for what? Bush’s religious lunacy? Cheney’s ever growing fortune and that of his corporate friends? Is this what we destroy lives for

“Since then, I have tried everything to fill the void. I tried to move into a position of greater power and influence to try and right some of the wrongs. I deployed again, where I put a huge emphasis on saving lives. The fact of the matter, though, is that any new lives saved do not replace those who were murdered. It is an exercise in futility.

“Then, I pursued replacing destruction with creation. For a time this provided a distraction, but it could not last. The fact is that any kind of ordinary life is an insult to those who died at my hand. How can I possibly go around like everyone else while the widows and orphans I created continue to struggle? If they could see me sitting here in suburbia, in my comfortable home working on some music project they would be outraged, and rightfully so.

“I thought perhaps I could make some headway with this film project, maybe even directly appealing to those I had wronged and exposing a greater truth, but that is also now being taken away from me. I fear that, just as with everything else that requires the involvement of people who cannot understand by virtue of never having been there, it is going to fall apart as careers get in the way.

“The last thought that has occurred to me is one of some kind of final mission. It is true that I have found that I am capable of finding some kind of reprieve by doing things that are worthwhile on the scale of life and death. While it a nice thought to consider doing some good with my skills, experience, and killer instinct, the truth is that it isn’t realistic. First, there are the logistics of financing and equipping my own operation; then there is the near certainty of a grisly death, international incidents, and being branded a terrorist in the media that would follow. What is really stopping me, though, is that I simply am too sick to be effective in the field anymore. That too has been taken from me.

“Thus, I am left with basically nothing. Too trapped in a war to be at peace; too damaged to be at war. Abandoned by those who would take the easy route and a liability to those who stick it out—and thus deserve better. So you see, not only am I better off dead, but the world is better off without me in it

“This is what brought me to my actual final mission. Not suicide, but a mercy killing. I know how to kill, and I know how to do it so that there is no pain whatsoever. It was quick, and I did not suffer. And above all, now I am free. I feel no more pain. I have no more nightmares or flashbacks or hallucinations. I am no longer constantly depressed or afraid or worried. I am free.

“I ask that you be happy for me for that. It is perhaps the best break I could have hoped for.

“Please accept this and be glad for me.”

Gary G. Kohls, MD, is a founding member of Every Church A Peace Church ( and is a member of a local non-denominational affiliate of ECAPC, the Community of the Third Way. [The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.]

July 5, 2013 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Ten Most Disturbing Things You Should Know About the FBI Since 9/11

By Matthew Harwood | ACLU | July 5, 2013

Next Tuesday, James Comey will have his first job interview for succeeding Robert Mueller as director of the FBI.

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will not only have the chance to determine whether Comey is qualified for the job—and we have our concerns—but an opportunity to examine what the FBI has become since 9/11 and whether it needs to change course over the next decade.

Over the past 12 years, the FBI has become a domestic intelligence agency with unprecedented power to peer into the lives of ordinary Americans and secretly amass data about people not suspected of any wrongdoing. The recent revelation about the FBI using the Patriot Act’s “business records provision” to track all U.S. telephone calls is only the latest in a long line of abuse stemming from the expanded powers granted to the bureau since September 2001.

These abuses and bad policies, however, do not get the attention they deserve, despite serious violations of people’s civil rights and liberties. Since 9/11, the ACLU has learned of persistent FBI abuses, including domestic spying, racial and religious profiling, biased counterterrorism training materials, politically motivated investigations, abusive detention and interrogation practices, and misuse of the No-Fly List to recruit informants.

We hope Congress and the new FBI director, whoever it is, will use the information provided as a starting point to conduct a thorough evaluation of the FBI’s post-9/11 authorities, policies, and practices to identify and curb any and all activities that are illegal, ineffective, or prone to misuse.

The choice between our civil liberties and our security is a false one: we can be both safe and free.

In the interest of highlighting the worst abuses that have occurred over the last 12 years, the ACLU has put together a factsheet:

The Ten Most Disturbing Things You Should Know About the FBI Since 9/11

USA Patriot Act Abuse

The recent revelation about the FBI using the Patriot Act’s “business records provision” to track all U.S. telephone calls is only the latest in a long line of abuse. Five Justice Department Inspector General audits documented widespread FBI misuse of Patriot Act authorities (1,2,3,4,5), and a federal district court recently struck down the National Security Letter (NSL) statute because of its unconstitutional gag orders. The IG also revealed the FBI’s unlawful use of “exigent letters” that claimed false emergencies to get private information without NSLs, but in 2009 the Justice Department secretly re-interpreted the law to allow the FBI to get this information without emergencies or legal process. Congress and the American public need to know the full scope of the FBI’s spying on Americans under the Patriot Act and all other surveillance authorities enacted since 9/11, like the FISA Amendments Act that underlies the PRISM program.

2008 Amendments to the Attorney General’s Guidelines

Attorney General Michael Mukasey re-wrote the FBI’s rulebook in the final months of the Bush administration, giving FBI agents unfettered authority to investigate people without any factual basis for suspecting wrongdoing. The 2008 Attorney General’s Guidelines created a new kind of intrusive investigation called an “assessment,” which required no “factual predicate” before FBI agents could search through government or commercial databases, conduct overt or covert FBI interviews, and task informants to gather information about people or infiltrate lawful organizations. In a two-year period from 2009 to 2011, the FBI opened over 82,000 “assessments” of individuals or organizations, less than 3,500 of which discovered information justifying further investigation.

Racial and Ethnic Mapping

The 2008 Attorney General’s Guidelines also authorized “domain management assessments” which allow the FBI to map American communities by race and ethnicity based on crass stereotypes about the crimes they are likely to commit. FBI documents obtained by the ACLU show the FBI mapped entire Chinese and Russian communities in San Francisco on the theory that they might commit organized crime, all Latino communities in New Jersey and Alabama because a street gang has Latino members, African Americans in Georgia to find “Black separatists,” and Middle-Eastern communities in Detroit for terrorism investigations. The FBI’s racial and ethnic mapping program is simply racial and religious profiling of entire communities.

Unrestrained Data Collection and Data Mining

The FBI has claimed the authority to secretly sweep up voluminous amounts of private information from data aggregators for data mining purposes. In 2007 the FBI said it amassed databases containing 1.5 billion records, which were predicted to grow to 6 billion records by 2012, or equal to “20 separate ‘records’ for each man, woman and child in the United States.” When Congress sought information about one of these programs, the FBI refused to give the Government Accountability Office access. That program was temporarily defunded, but its successor, the FBI Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force, currently has 360 staff members running 40 separate projects. Records show analysts are allowed to use data mining tools to establish “risk scores” for U.S. persons. A 2013 IG audit questioned the task force’s effectiveness, concluding it “did not always provide FBI field offices with timely and relevant information.”

Suppressing Internal Dissent: The FBI War on Whistleblowers

The FBI is exempt from the Whistleblower Protection Act. Though the law required it to establish internal mechanisms to protect whistleblowers, it has a long history of retaliating against them. As a result, a 2009 IG report found that 28 percent of non-supervisory FBI employees and 22 percent of FBI supervisors at the GS-14 and GS-15 levels “never” reported misconduct they have seen or heard about on the job. The FBI has also aggressively investigated whistleblowers from other agencies, leading to an unprecedented increase in Espionage Act prosecutions under the Obama administration, almost invariably targeting critics of government policies.

Targeting Journalists

The FBI’s overzealous pursuit of government whistleblowers has resulted in the inappropriate targeting of journalists for investigation, potentially chilling press freedoms. Recently, the FBI obtained records from 21 telephone lines used by over 100 Associated Press journalists, including the AP’s main number in the U.S. House of Representatives’ press gallery. And an FBI search warrant affidavit claimed Fox News reporter James Rosen aided, abetted, or co-conspired in criminal activity because of his news gathering activities, in an apparent attempt to circumvent legal restrictions designed to protect journalists. In 2010, the IG reported that the FBI unlawfully used an “exigent letter” to obtain the telephone records of seven New York Times and Washington Post reporters and researchers during a media leak investigation.

Thwarting Congressional Oversight

The FBI has thwarted congressional oversight by withholding information, limiting or delaying responses to members’ inquiries, or worse, by providing false or misleading information to Congress and the American public. Examples include false information regarding FBI investigations of domestic advocacy groups, misleading information about the FBI’s awareness of detainee abuse, and deceptive responses to questions about government surveillance authorities.

Targeting First Amendment Activity

Several ACLU Freedom of Information Act requests have uncovered significant evidence that the FBI has used its expanded authorities to target individuals and organizations because of their participation in First Amendment-protected activities. A 2010 IG report confirmed the FBI conducted inappropriate investigations of domestic advocacy groups engaged in environmental and anti-war activism, and falsified public responses to hide this fact. Other FBI documents showed FBI exploitation of community outreach programs to secretly collect information about law-abiding citizens, including a mosque outreach program specifically targeting American Muslims. Many of these abuses are likely a result of flawed FBI training materials and intelligence products that expressed anti-Muslim sentiments and falsely identified religious practices or other First Amendment activities as indicators of terrorism.

Proxy Detentions

The FBI increasingly operates outside the U.S., where its authorities are less clear and its activities much more difficult to monitor. Several troubling cases indicate that during the Bush administration the FBI requested, facilitated, and/or exploited the arrests and detention of U.S. citizens by foreign governments, often without charges, so they could be interrogated, sometimes tortured, then interviewed by FBI agents. The ACLU represents two victims of such activities. Amir Meshal was arrested at the Kenya border by a joint U.S., Kenyan, and Ethiopian task force in 2007, subjected to more than four months of detention, and transferred between three different East African countries without charge, access to counsel, or presentment before a judicial officer, all at the behest of the U.S. government. FBI agents interrogated Meshal more than thirty times during his detention. Similarly, Naji Hamdan, a Lebanese-American businessman, sat for interviews with the FBI several times before moving from Los Angeles to the United Arab Emirates in 2006. In 2008, he was arrested by U.A.E. security forces and held incommunicado for nearly three months, beaten, and tortured. At one point an American participated in his interrogation; Hamdan believed this person to be an FBI agent based on the interrogator’s knowledge of previous FBI interviews. Another case in 2010, involving an American teenager jailed in Kuwait, may indicate this activity has continued into the Obama administration.

Use of No Fly List to Pressure Americans Abroad to Become Informants

The number of U.S. persons on the No Fly List has more than doubled since 2009, and people mistakenly on the list are denied their due process rights to meaningfully challenge their inclusion. In many cases Americans only find out they are on the list while they are traveling abroad, which all but forces them to interact with the U.S. government from a position of extreme vulnerability, and often without easy access to counsel. Many of those prevented from flying home have been subjected to FBI interviews while they sought assistance from U.S. Embassies to return. In those interviews, FBI agents sometimes offer to take people off the No Fly List if they agree to become an FBI informant. In 2010 the ACLU and its affiliates filed a lawsuit on behalf of 10 American citizens and permanent residents, including several U.S. military veterans, seven of whom were prevented from returning home until the suit was filed. We argue that barring them from flying without due process was unconstitutional. There are now 13 plaintiffs; none have been charged with a crime, told why they are barred from flying, or given an opportunity to challenge their inclusion on the No Fly List.

(Find a printable PDF version here.)

July 5, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Egyptian Army: State Within A State

By Barry Lando | July 4, 2013

In ousting Egypt’s first freely elected president, Mohammed Morsi, the Egyptian military have certainly not acted to preserve democracy. They’ve never shown much interest in that. They’re determined to put a break on the mounting political and economic chaos that is ripping the country apart. That turbulence was threatening not just the survival of Egypt, but, more to the point, it was menacing the vast state within a state that Egypt’s military presides over.

Of course, the Egyptian Army is not monolithic. Its lower ranks are very much of the people: filled with hundreds of thousands of conscripts, drawn from the most humble ranks of society—and has a strong identity with the Egyptian people.

It has traditionally been the most important means of socializing and educating the lower classes, in theory, inculcating them with a sense of pride and patriotism.

Indeed the 1971 Constitution says that the Egyptian Army shall “belong to the people”

Thus, as I have previously blogged, in 1977 when the army was called in to quell riots after President Sadat announced cuts in basic food subsidies, the generals refused to intervene unless the subsidies were reestablished. Sadat restored the subsidies.

The top ranks of the army, however, have other concerns—beginning with personal survival. They certainly will never forget the lurid spectacle of Iranian generals being publicly executed in the aftermath of Khomeini’s revolution in Iran. Iran also demonstrated that a radical revolution also means a radically transformed military. (Egypt’s generals have a constant reminder of that lesson nearby: The Shah is buried in a Cairo mosque.).

But since the fall of Mubarak, the military have feared not just a takeover by radical Muslims. There is also the fact that real civilian rule could spell an end to the system of massive military corruption and patronage that has gone on for decades in Egypt, a system that has given the military unimpeded control over an estimated 40% of the Egyptian economy–“a state within a state” as a well-informed Egyptian friend of mine puts it.

For years, Egypt’s top military ranks have enjoyed a pampered existence in sprawling developments such as Cairo’s Nasr City, where officers are housed in spacious, subsidized condominiums. They enjoy other amenities the average Egyptian can only dream of, such as nurseries, bonuses, new cars, schools and military consumer cooperatives featuring domestic and imported products at discount prices. In other areas, top officers are able to buy luxurious apartments on generous credit for 10 percent of what those apartments are actually worth.

But we’re not just talking about sensational official perks. Many of Egypt’s brass are notoriously corrupt. Vast swathes of military land, for instance, were sold by the generals to finance some major urban developments near Cairo — with little if any accounting.

Other choice military property ran on the Nile Delta and Red Sea coast boasted idyllic beaches, and exquisite coral reefs. In return for turning the land over to private developers, military officers became key shareholders in a slew of gleaming new tourist developments.

The generals also preside over 16 enormous factories that turn out not just weapons, but an array of domestic products from dishwashers to heaters, clothing, doors, stationary pharmaceutical products, and microscopes. Most of these products are sold to military personnel through discount military stores, but a large amount are also sold commercially.

The military also builds highways, housing developments, hotels, power lines, sewers, bridges, schools, telephone exchanges, often in murky arrangements with civilian companies.

The military are also Egypt’s largest farmers, running a vast network of dairy farms, milk processing facilities, cattle feed lots, poultry farms, fish farms. They’ve plenty left from their huge output to sell to civilians through a sprawling distribution network.

The justification for all this non-military activity is that the military are just naturally more efficient than civilians. Hard not to be “more efficient” when you are able to employ thousands of poorly paid military recruits for labor.

Many civilian businessmen complain that competing with the military is like trying to compete with the Mafia. And upon retiring, top military officers are often rewarded with plum positions running everything from factories and industries to charities.

Whatever the number, Robert Springborg, who has written extensively on Egypt, says officers in the Egyptian military are making “billions and billions and billions” of dollars.

But there’s no way to know how efficient or inefficient the military are, nor how much money their vast enterprises make, nor how many millions or billions get skimmed off since the military’s operations are off the nation’s books. No real published accountings.

No oversight. Even Mohammed Morsi when he became president, was obliged to agree to the military’s demand that there would be no civilian oversight of the military budget.

Of course none of the above is a surprise to U.S. officials who dole out some 1.3 billion dollars a year in military aid to the Egyptian Army, and hope that sum and the neat weapons it provides will keep the army in line. [One of the most detailed studies of the military’s non-military activities was done by a U.S. military researcher at Fort Leavenworth.]

The U.S. also has a 1.3 billion dollar carrot dangling in front of the Egyptian Army. That annual American military aid to Egypt has allowed the Egyptian officers to get their hands on some of the most sophisticated of modern weapons—as we’ve seen over the past couple of years in downtown Cairo.

The generals realize there is no way the U.S. will continue paying for those goodies if a new regime more hostile to Israel takes power in Cairo.

A perceptive look into all this came via a 2008 U.S.diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks. The writer in the U.S. Embassy in Cairo ticked off the various businesses the military was involved in, and considered how the military might react if Egypt’s then president, Hosni Mubarak, were to lose power.

The military would almost certainly go along with a successor, the cable’s author wrote, as long as that successor didn’t interfere in the military’s business arrangements.

But, the cable continued, “in a messier succession scenario, it becomes more difficult to predict the military’s actions.”

No scenario could be “messier” than the mounting chaos in Egypt over the past few months.

The military acted.

July 5, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Comments Off on The Egyptian Army: State Within A State

Banking on Influence with JPMorgan Chase

Global Power Project, Part 4

By Andrew Gavin Marshall | | July 3, 2013

In May, JPMorgan Chase was listed as the largest bank in the world with assets at roughly $4 trillion — some $1.53 trillion of it in derivatives. This was reported a month after the announcement that the bank had posted a record first-quarter profit of $6.5 billion.

Jamie Dimon, the bank’s CEO and Chairman, has faced a host of scandals in relation to his management of the megabank, including the loss of roughly $6 billion through the London branch of the bank — losses that Dimon was accused of hiding. A 300-page report by the U.S. Senate, investigating the “creative accounting” of JPMorgan, noted that the bank “hid losses, did not share information with its regulators, and misled the public” in what one banking regulator referred to as “make believe voodoo magic.” Stated bluntly in The New York Times, JPMorgan Chase, the largest derivatives dealer in the world, “is too big to regulate.”

In the midst of the scandal, the bank faced a potential “revolt” of its shareholders in a bid to strip Dimon of his dual role as CEO and Chairman. In confidential government reports which were leaked to The New York Times, the bank was accused of “manipulative schemes” which transformed “money-losing power plants into powerful profit centers” while executives made “false and misleading statements” under oath.

Yet even in the midst of scandal, Jamie Dimon was praised in a storm of support by billionaires, corporate kingpins and media barons. Calling JPMorgan Chase “as good a bank as there is,” New York City mayor and billionaire media baron Michael Bloomberg went on to call Dimon “a very smart, honest, great executive.” News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch praised Dimon as “one of the smartest, toughest guys around,” while Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of General Electric, referred to him as a “great leader” and said he had earned the “right to hold both Chairman and CEO titles.” To top it off, billionaire investor and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffet, dubbed Dimon “a fabulous banker.”

And the adoration goes all the way to the top rung. In 2009, The New York Times referred to Jamie Dimon as “President Obama’s favorite banker.” In 2010, Obama told Bloomberg BusinessWeek that he didn’t “begrudge” bank CEOs like Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs for their massive bonuses of $17 and $9 million, respectively. Obama explained: “I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free-market system.” The president added, “I know both those guys; they are very savvy businessmen.”

In May of 2012, Obama rushed to Jamie Dimon’s defense in light of the financial scandals, stating that Dimon was “one of the smartest bankers we got.” The Financial Times referred to Dimon as “the last king of Wall Street.” And when finally faced with the decision to strip Dimon of his dual role as chairman and CEO, Obama’s “favorite banker” ended up winning “a decisive victory” by maintaining both his roles.

But this is just the surface of JPMorgan Chase’s financial manipulations. The bank, in fact, was at the forefront of creating Credit Default Swaps (CDS), a key aspect of the derivatives market that led to the inflation and subsequent blowout of the housing bubble. JPMorgan developed these “financial instruments” as a type of insurance policy in 1994, allowing the bank to trade its debt (in the form of loans to corporations and governments) to third parties, thus handing off the risk and removing the debts from its accounts, which allowed it to make further loans. JPMorgan opened up the first CDS desk in New York in 1997, “a division that would eventually earn the name the Morgan Mafia for the number of former members who went on to senior positions at global banks and hedge funds.” Back in 2003, the same Warren Buffet who would later praise Dimon referred to credit default swaps as “financial weapons of mass destruction.”

JPMorgan was also at the forefront in the United States pushing for financial deregulation, particularly the slow-motion dismantling of the Glass-Steagall Act that had been put in place in 1933 in response to the financial speculation which had helped spark the Great Depression. After hearing proposals from banks such as Citicorp, JP Morgan and Bankers Trust, which advocated the loosening of “restrictions” put in place by Glass-Steagall, the Federal Reserve Board in 1987 voted to ease many of the regulations. That same year, Alan Greenspan, who had previously been a director of JP Morgan, became the chairman of the Fed. In 1989, the Fed approved an application submitted by JP Morgan, Chase Manhattan, Citicorp and Bankers Trust to further reduce the regulations imposed by Glass-Steagall. In 1990, JP Morgan became “the first bank to receive permission from the Federal Reserve to underwrite securities.”

Financial deregulation accelerated under President Clinton, much to the delight of Wall Street banks, which were then permitted to merge into megabanks, with JPMorgan merging with Chase Manhattan to form JPMorgan Chase. As early as 2006 and 2007, multiple megabanks were beginning to bet against the housing market through various hedge funds, allowing them to make profits on the housing collapse they created. JPMorgan continued to sell mortgages as it bet against the mortgage market, passing on the risk while it hedged its bets to profit from the failure and losses of others. In 2011, the bank paid a $153 million fine to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to settle allegations of “securities fraud.”

In the midst of the financial crisis in 2008, JPMorgan Chase became not only a major criminal, but also a prime beneficiary. In 2007, the global investment bank Bear Stearns was named by Fortune magazine as the second “most admired” financial securities company in the United States, while Lehman Brothers was put in first place. As the financial crisis erupted, Bear Stearns executives “discovered” that they were “nearly out of cash” in March of 2008. The CEO of Bear Stearns, Alan Schwartz, made a phone call to Jamie Dimon — JPMorgan Chase was the clearing agent for Bear Stearns — asking for an overnight loan. Dimon, who also sat on the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, turned there instead of providing the loan through his own bank. The president of the New York Fed – who was elected by the banks that own the New York Fed – was Timothy Geithner. Geithner began discussions with Bear Stearns, and the following morning he held a meeting with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, where they agreed to an emergency loan for Bear Stearns, providing the funds through JPMorgan Chase.

Over the following day, Geithner and Paulson informed Bear Stearns that it must sell the bank within days, and a deal was negotiated in which JPMorgan Chase would purchase Bear Stearns at $2 per share. Though Dimon had first refused to purchase the failed bank, he now engaged in negotiations with Geithner who won over Dimon by guaranteeing $30 billion for JPMorgan to purchase the sunken bank. Long story short: through the New York Fed, the U.S. government purchased billions of dollars in bad debts made by Bear Stearns, including $16 billion in credit default swaps that were downgraded to “junk” assets, while JPMorgan Chase acquired $360 billion in Bear Stearns assets with little or no risk.

With the purchase of Bear Stearns facilitated by the New York Fed, and for the benefit of JPMorgan, Geithner continued in his role as willing servant to the banks who had elected him as president. Then, in September of 2008 when the insurance conglomerate American International Group (AIG) plunged into crisis and sought support from the government, the Fed and Treasury initially refused. AIG turned to JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, who went to the government to pressure for state support. The New York Fed, with Geithner at the helm, again organized a secret bailout of the institution, valued at $85 billion. In October, the government added an extra $38 billion to the AIG bailout, and the New York Fed provided a further $40 billion in November. Overall, U.S. taxpayers bailed out the insurance giant with $150 billion.

Because many banks kept junk assets with AIG which didn’t affect its balance sheets, the insurance giant was allowed to continue making risky loans. Meanwhile, the New York Fed, noted Bloomberg journalist David Reilly, acted as “a black-ops outfit for the nation’s central bank,” and as a “quasi-governmental institution [which] isn’t subject to citizen intrusions such as freedom of information requests.” The AIG bailout, wrote Reilly, revealed what could be described as a “secret banking cabal.” Through AIG, bailout funds went to American, French, German, British, Swiss, Dutch and even Canadian banks. Goldman Sachs received over $12 billion, and billions also went to Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wachovia, Morgan Stanley, and JPMorgan Chase.

JPMorgan Chase was using bailout money from the government to purchase other banks and companies. As one executive at the bankcommented in regards to a $25 billion bailout from the government, “I think there are going to be some great opportunities for us to grow in this environment.” The banks repaid the bailout loans from other bailout funds they got from government, siphoning off taxpayer moneyback and forth and rewarding them for their risky behavior. One university study noted that banks with political access – whether through lobbying efforts or board membership on the Fed – were more likely to get bailout funds, and in bigger numbers, than other banks. Notably among the most politically connected banks were Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley.

According to a 2012 study by the International Monetary Fund and Bloomberg magazine, JPMorgan Chase continues to receive government support far beyond the bailouts, as it is a major recipient of corporate welfare and state subsidies. In fact, according to the study, the biggest bank in the world gets roughly $14 billion per year in state subsidies and welfare, largely helping “the bank pay big salaries and bonuses.”

The Biggest and Most Connected Bank

Not only is JPMorgan Chase the biggest bank in the world with over $4 trillion in assets, but its power and influence extends far beyond financial matters. It is a major political force in the world, highly integrated within the network of global elites who make up the plutocratic ruling class. As the subject of study for the Global Power Project, I examined 55 people at JPMorgan Chase, including all members of the executive committee, the board of directors and the international advisory council.

Of the 55 individuals examined at the bank, a total of 13 (or roughly 24%) of the individuals were either members or held leadership positions (previously or presently) with the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). The CFR has been at the heart of the foreign-policy elite of the United States since it was created in 1921. Further, a total of eight JPMorgan officials held leadership positions in the World Economic Forum, the second most represented institutional affiliation of the bank. Holding yearly conferences that bring together thousands of participants from elite financial, corporate, political, cultural, media and other institutions, the WEF is one of the principal forums for the global elite, with JPMorgan operating right there at the center.

The next most represented institution is the Trilateral Commission, with 5 individuals at JPMorgan Chase holding membership in the international think tank – or “global policy group” – uniting elites from North America, Western Europe and Japan (and now also including China, India, and other Pacific-rim nations). The Trilateral Commission itself was founded in 1973 by the CEO of Chase Manhattan Bank – which later merged into JPMorgan Chase – David Rockefeller.

In descending order, the other most highly represented institutions having cross membership between leadership positions with JPMorgan Chase are: the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (4), the Business Council (4), Citigroup (4), Bilderberg (4), the Group of Thirty (4), Sara Lee Corporation (3), Harvard (3), American Express (3), American International Group (3), the Business Roundtable (3), Rolls Royce (3), the Center for Strategic and International Studies – CSIS (3), the European Round Table of Industrialists (3), the Peterson Institute for International Economics (2), the U.S.-China Business Council (2), and the National Petroleum Council (2).

Institutions which hold two individual cross leadership positions with JPMorgan Chase include: the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the University of Chicago, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., General Electric, Asia Business Council, the U.S. President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), the Coca-Cola Company, National Bank of Kuwait Advisory Board, INSEAD, China-United States Exchange Foundation, Mitsubishi, the Carlyle Group, and the IMF.

Meet the Elites at JPMorgan Chase

It’s worth taking a look at some specific individuals who serve in a leadership and/or advisory capacity to JPMorgan Chase to get an idea of the composition of some of these global plutocrats.

Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, sits on the boards of directors of: the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Harvard Business School, and Catalyst. He is a Trustee of the New York University School of Medicine, a member of the Executive Committee of the Business Council, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a member of the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum, a member of the Financial Services Forum, and a member of the International Advisory Panel of the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

Members of the board of JPMorgan Chase include James A. Bell, former President of Boeing and a current member of the board of Dow Chemical; Crandall C. Bowles, a director of Deere & Company and the Sara Lee Corporation, a former director of Wachovia, a Trustee of the Brookings Institution, on the Governing Board of the Wilderness Society, and a member of the Business Council and the Economic Club of New York. Other JPM board members include Stephen B. Burke, CEO of NBC Universal and Executive Vice President of Comcast Corporation; David M. Cote, the Chairman and CEO of Honeywell International who sits on President Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, on the advisory panel to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR), and is a member of the Trilateral Commission; and Lee Raymond, director of the Business Council for International Understanding, who sits on the advisory panel to KKR, is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and former Chairman of the National Petroleum Council as well as former Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, from which he retired in 2006 with a compensation package of $398 million.

JPMorgan Chase has an International Council which provides advice to the bank’s leadership on economic, political and social trends across various regions and around the world. The International Council is chaired by Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of the UK, who also sits as an adviser to Zurich Financial. The Council includes Khalid A. Al-Falih, the President and CEO of Saudi Aramco (Saudi Arabian Oil Company), the world’s largest oil company, who also sits on the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum. Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is also on JPMorgan’s International Council, and sits as Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), a partnership between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. Annan is also on the boards of the United Nations Foundation, the World Economic Forum, and he is a member of the Global Board of Advisors of the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Council includes the third richest man in Mexico, Alberto Bailléres, as well as the Chairman and CEO of Telecom Italia, Franco Bernabé, who was the former CEO of Eni, one of the world’s largest oil companies (and Italy’s largest corporation), as well as the former Vice Chairman of Rothschild Europe. Bernabé sits on the board of PetroChina, China’s largest oil company. Bernabé is also a member of the European Round Table of Industrialists (a group of roughly 50 major European CEOs who directly advocate and work with EU political leaders in designing and implementing policy), he was a former Advisory Board member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a member of the board of FIAT, and is actively a member of the Steering Committee of the Bilderberg Meetings.

Martin Feldstein, a prominent Economics professor at Harvard and the President Emeritus of the National Bureau of Economic Research, is another member of the International Council. Feldstein was the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers to President Ronald Reagan and sat on the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (an “independent” group that advises the president on intelligence matters) under President George W. Bush (from 2007-2009). President Obama appointed Feldstein to the Economic Recovery Advisory Board, and he also sits on the board of the Council on Foreign Relations, is a member of the Trilateral Commission, a participant in Bilderberg Meetings, and is a member of the International Advisory Board of the National Bank of Kuwait.

Gao Xi-Qing is the Vice Chairman, President and Chief Investment Officer of the China Investment Corporation (CIC), China’s sovereign investment fund. He was referred to by the Atlantic as “the man who oversees $200 billion of China’s $2 trillion in dollar holdings.” Another notable Chinese member of the International Council is Tung Chee Hwa, the former Chief Executive and President of the Executive Council of Hong Kong, a core policy-making institution in the government of Hong Kong. Tung Chee Hwa is also the Vice Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), a major political advisory group in the People’s Republic of China, once chaired by Mao Zedong. Tung Chee Hwa as well is the founder and Chairman of the China-United States Exchange Foundation, and a former member of the International Advisory Board of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Carla A. Hills is the only woman on the JPMorgan International Council, and is Chairman and CEO of Hills & Company International, a global consulting firm. She was the former United States Trade Representative in the George H.W. Bush administration, where she was the primary negotiator for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). She is also the Co-Chair of the Council on Foreign Relations, and sits on the International Boards of Rolls Royce and the Coca-Cola Company, as well as sitting on the board of directors of Gilead Sciences. Hills is a Counselor and Trustee of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a major American think tank where she also sits as Co-Chair of the Advisory Board (alongside Zbigniew Brzezinski, co-founder of the Trilateral Commission). In addition, Hills is a member of the Executive Committee of both the Trilateral Commission and the Peterson Institute for International Economics, as well as sitting on the boards of the International Crisis Group and the US-China Business Council, as Chair of the National Committee on US-China Relations, and Chair of the Inter-American Dialogue.

Henry Kissinger – former U.S. Secretary of State, National Security Adviser to President Richard Nixon, and Secretary of State to President Ford – also sits on the International Council of JPMorgan. Kissinger was a former adviser to Nelson Rockefeller, who recruited Kissinger as director of the Special Studies Project of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund in the 1950s. Kissinger was a director of the Council on Foreign Relations from 1977-1981, is a member of the Trilateral Commission, a former member of the Steering Committee and continuous participant in the Bilderberg Meetings, and is founder and chair of Kissinger Associates, an international consulting and advisory firm. Kissinger Chaired the National Bipartisan Commission on Central America during the Reagan administration, which provided justification for Reagan’s wars in Central America, and he was also a member of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board from 1984-1990, advising both Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Alongside Zbigniew Brzezinski, Kissinger was a member of the Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy of the National Security Council and Defense Department, established in the late 1980s to develop a long-term strategy for the United States in the world. Kissinger has also been a member of the Defense Policy Board, providing “independent” advice to the Pentagon leadership on matters of foreign policy, from 2001 to the present, for both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations. Kissinger is also a Counselor and Trustee of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Honorary Governor of the Foreign Policy Association, an Honorary Member of the International Olympic Committee, an adviser to the board of directors of American Express, and is a Trustee Emeritus of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In addition, Kissinger is a director of the International Rescue Committee, the Atlantic Institute, and is on the advisory board of the RAND Center for Global Risk and Security, as well as Honorary Chairman of the China-United States Exchange Foundation.

Mustafa V. Koc is also a member of the International Council, and is Chairman of Koc Holding AS, Turkey’s largest multinational corporation. He also sits on the International Advisory Board of Rolls Royce, the Global Advisory Board of the Council on Foreign Relations, is a member of the Steering Committee of the Bilderberg Meetings, a former member of the International Advisory Board of the National Bank of Kuwait, and is Honorary Chairman of the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen’s High Advisory Council.

Gérard Mestrallet is the Chairman and CEO of GDF Suez, one of the largest energy conglomerates in the world, and is on the board of Suez Environment (one of the major water privatization companies in the world), and also sits on the supervisory board of AXA, a major global French financial conglomerate. He is also an advisory board member of Siemens, and is a member of the European Round Table of Industrialists and the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum.

John S. Watson is the Chairman and CEO of Chevron Corporation. He is on the board of the American Petroleum Institute and is a member of the National Petroleum Council, the Business Roundtable, the Business Council, the American Society of Corporate Executives, and the Chancellor’s Board of Advisors of the University of California Davis. He is also a member of the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum.

The Chairman of JPMorgan Chase International, Jacob A. Frenkel, is Chairman and CEO of the Group of Thirty, and a member of the International Council. He is also a former Vice Chairman of American International Group (from 2004 to 2009, when it was rescued with the massive government bailout); the former Chairman of Merrill Lynch International (from 2000 to 2004), and the former Governor of the Bank of Israel (from 1991 to 2000). Frenkel was an Economic Counselor and Director of Research at the International Monetary Fund (from 1987 to 1991) and prior to that he was the David Rockefeller Professor of International Economics at the University of Chicago (from 1973 to 1987). In addition, Frenkel is the former Editor of the Journal of Political Economy, former Vice Chairman of the Board of Governors of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, former Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Inter-American Development Bank, and a former member of the International Advisory Board of the Council on Foreign Relations. Frenkel is currently a member of the board of directors of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), a member of the Trilateral Commission, member of the International Advisory Council of the China Development Bank, member of the board of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, member of the Economic Advisory panel of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, member of the Council for the United States and Italy, member of the Investment Advisory Council of the Prime Minister of Turkey, and sits on the board of Loews Corporation.

To sum: it should be clear, from the evidence, that the leadership of JPMorgan Chase is not an isolated group of individuals involved in finance and exclusively relegated to the banking world, but a highly networked and influential group consisting of central figures in the global plutocracy – referred to as the “Transnational Capitalist Class” – with significant economic, social and political power. To refer to JPMorgan Chase simply as “a bank” is like referring to the United States as just “a country.” A geopolitical force unto itself, and a conglomerate embedded within a transnational network of elite institutions and individuals, JPMorgan Chase goes beyond the financial indicators. Put simply, it is one of the most powerful banks in the world.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, head of the Geopolitics Division of the Hampton Institute, the research director of’s Global Power Project, and has a weekly podcast with BoilingFrogsPost.

July 5, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Comments Off on Banking on Influence with JPMorgan Chase

Immigration Reform Bill Gives Big Money Straight to Largest Defense Contractors

By Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman | AllGov | July 3, 2013

If the U.S. Senate’s version of the immigration reform bill becomes law, the nation’s largest defense contractors will be quite pleased.

Included in the legislation designed to clear the way for millions of illegal immigrants to become citizens are pricey upgrades for improving security along the U.S.-Mexico border. These upgrades consist of specific purchases that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) must make, as written into the proposed law.

For starters, six airborne radar systems made by Northrop Grumman will be purchased, at a cost of $9.3 million a piece.

Helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky will benefit, too, from the legislation, through the Border Patrol buying 15 Black Hawks at $17 million each.

The government even has to buy 17 UH-1N helicopters from Bell Helicopter, even though the company no longer makes that particular model.

Watchdog groups say that these forced purchases prevent competition and constitute an end-run around the bidding process.

The spending requirements—which critics say resemble the old and now abolished practice of earmarks—are part of $46 billion in border security improvements that were folded into the Senate bill to win over Republican votes.

Thirty billion dollars will go towards hiring 19,000 more Border Patrol agents, a doubling of the current force which immigration experts claim—according to Matea Gold of The Washington Post—is both “wasteful and unnecessary.” An additional $7.5 billion will help build 350 miles of fencing along the border, and $4.5 billion will buy new border technology.

The plan provides a 60-day window for Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to substitute “equivalent brands” for the items on the list of required defense industry purchases. But critics say that is unlikely, given that the product list is so specific.

“Lawmakers have put their thumb on the scale for particular products and technologies,” Steve Ellis, vice president of the nonpartisan Taxpayers for Common Sense, told the Post. “And that is hard for an agency to ignore.”

The parent companies of the products’ manufacturers have donated about $11.5 million to federal candidates and their political campaigns during the past four years, with half coming from Northrop Grumman, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

To Learn More:

Immigration Deal Would Boost Defense Manufacturers (by Matea Gold, Washington Post)

Virtual Border Fence May be Dead, but Spending on Surveillance Continues (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Defense Contractors Turn to Border Control for New Profits (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Texas Outsourcing Border Security (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

July 5, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Full Spectrum Dominance, Militarism | , , , , , | Comments Off on Immigration Reform Bill Gives Big Money Straight to Largest Defense Contractors

UN: Four million Syrians could starve as aid delivery lags

Al-Akhbar | July 5, 2013

Four million Syrians, a fifth of the population, are unable to produce or buy enough food to survive, the United Nations said on Friday.

The statement comes as donations to Syrian civilians has been lagging far behind the levels of financial assistance initially pledged by member states and called for by the UN.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP) said Syria’s domestic wheat production over the next 12 months is likely to be severely compromised and that it will need to import 1.5 million tons of wheat for the 2013 to 2014 season.

“There is a limited window of opportunity to ensure crisis-affected families do not lose vital sources of food and income,” the two agencies said.

After two years of a civil war that has killed more than 90,000 people, food shortages have escalated due to massive population displacement, disruption of agricultural production, unemployment, economic sanctions and high food and fuel prices.

FAO has launched an appeal for $41.7 million to assist 768,000 people and has so far only received $3.3 million.

The WFP and the FAO said the funding must be secured by August to provide farmers with fertilizers and seeds to plant in October. Otherwise, the report said, many farmers will be unable to harvest wheat until mid-2015.

Syria’s livestock sector has also been seriously depleted by the conflict, with poultry production down by more than 50 percent compared with 2011 and significant declines in numbers of sheep and cattle, the report found.

The agencies said domestic wheat output was seen at about 2.4 million tons in 2012 and 2013, some 40 percent less than the average annual harvest of more than 4 million tons before the conflict.

WFP said last month that Syrian families were increasingly resorting to begging for food to cope with shortages and high prices.

The average monthly price of wheat flour has more than doubled between May 2011 and May 2013 in several areas, and there are serious bread shortages across the country.

Food production has been hampered by high costs, damage to machinery and storage facilities and by the fact that many farmers have fled their land for fear of violence, the report found.

The FAO and the WFP also warned of a serious risk that livestock diseases could be transmitted to neighboring countries and said farmers needed vaccines to prevent this from happening.

A Syrian state buyer earlier this week issued a tender to buy 200,000 tons of flour on the international market and planned to pay with funds from bank accounts frozen by trade sanctions.

Food is excluded from US and European trade sanctions imposed on President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

More than a million Syrians have fled the war-torn country, and about 4.25 million Syrians have been internally displaced, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center.

(Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

July 5, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Comments Off on UN: Four million Syrians could starve as aid delivery lags

As Obama regurgitates Israel lobby script on Syria, America sliding toward another Iraq

By Maidhc Ó Cathail | The Passionate Attachment | July 5, 2013

At a Washington Institute policy forum luncheon debate on June 28 entitled “Arming the Rebels: Sliding Toward Iraq or Inching Toward Stability,” Andrew J. Tabler, a senior fellow in the institute’s program on Arab politics, hinted at the pro-Israel think tank’s influence over President Obama’s recent shift in Syria policy. Referring to his Foreign Affairs piece entitled “Syria’s Collapse: And How Washington Can Stop It,” Tabler said he would like to say that it “follows a lot” of President Obama’s responses in a major June 17 television interview. Whether out of modesty or a desire to downplay the Israel lobby’s role in deepening Washington’s involvement in the destabilization of Syria, a smiling Tabler added, “I’m sure that he didn’t read it and then just go and regurgitate it to Charlie Rose.”

WINEP’s executive director Robert Satloff was similarly coy in his introduction. Describing Tabler as a “very consulted” expert on Syria, Satloff said, “I won’t go into the details of the consultations” he has with senior government officials “but suffice to say that the arguments that we’ll be hearing today very much reflect the arguments that are on the table.”

Given the proven track record of such arguments made “in the national interest” by partisans of Israel, it would appear that its oblivious American proxy is rapidly sliding toward another Iraq.

Maidhc Ó Cathail is an investigative journalist and Middle East analyst. He is also the creator and editor of The Passionate Attachment blog, which focuses primarily on the U.S.-Israeli relationship. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter @O_Cathail.

July 5, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

‘French PRISM’ revealed: All communications tracked, metadata collected

RT | July 4, 2013

The French external intelligence agency spies on French citizen’s phone calls, emails and social media activity and web use, the Le Monde newspaper has reported.

France’s external intelligence agency the DGSE, intercepts signals from computers and telephones in France and between France and other countries in order to get a picture of who is talking to whom, although, apparently, they do not randomly spy on the content of phone calls, the daily revealed on Thursday.

Emails, text messages, telephone records, access to Facebook and Twitter are stored for years. “All of our communications are spied on,” read the article quoting unnamed sources in the intelligence services as well as remarks made publicly by intelligence officials.

The DGSE allegedly stores the metadata from private communications in a basement under its Paris headquarters. All of France’s seven other intelligence services have access to the data and can tap into it freely as a means to spot people’s suspicious communications. Individuals can then be targeted by more intrusive techniques such as phone-tapping, it was reported.

Le Monde pointed out the activities were illegal, but the French national security commission whose job it is to authorize targeted spying, and the parliamentary intelligence committee, challenged the papers report. It said that it works within the law and that the only body in France that collected communication information was a government agency controlled by the Prime Minister’s office to monitor for security breaches.

The report comes after revelations that America’s NSA regularly spies on its own people as well as on European citizens and embassies.

The allegations were leaked by Edward Snowden and published in the German magazine Der Spiegel, and have sparked a furious response from European governments just as a major US-EU trade talks are about to get underway.

The Guardian newspaper reported last month that Britain has a similar spying program and shares vast quantities of information with the NSA through its Prism program.

July 5, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | Comments Off on ‘French PRISM’ revealed: All communications tracked, metadata collected