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New Brazil cabinet in trouble after leaks on anti-Rousseff plot

Press TV – May 24, 2016

Brazil’s interim government has been rattled by a leaked audio tape suggesting a plot against suspended President Dilma Rousseff, a scandal that forced a key minister in the new cabinet to resign.

Brazilian Planning Minister Romero Juca, a close ally of acting President Michel Temer, said Monday he is stepping down.

The decision came a day after a Brazilian newspaper published the transcript of a secretly-taped conversation between him and Sérgio Machado, a former senator.

Juca was caught on the tape saying Rousseff needed to be removed in an attempt to quash a vast corruption investigation that implicated him and other politicians, in what analysts call a first major political blow to the acting administration.

“We have to change the government to be able to stop this bleeding,” he was reportedly recorded saying.

Juca admitted earlier in the day that one of the two voices heard on the tape was his, but said his comments have been misinterpreted and taken out of context.

Later in the conversation, Juca says he talked about his plans to Supreme Sourt justices, who told him the corruption investigation and its media coverage would never come to an end as long as Rousseff remained in power.

The tape was recorded just weeks before the lower house of parliament voted to impeach Rousseff, according to the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper, which published chunks of a 75-minute conversation on Monday.

The impeachment bid was launched over allegations that the president manipulated government accounts before the last election. Rousseff, however, has denied the allegations.

Earlier this month, Brazil’s upper chamber of the National Congress voted to suspend Rousseff and begin an impeachment trial against her. Acting President Michel Temer stepped up from the post of vice-president and replaced her.

Reacting to the leaks, Rousseff said the tape proves that she has been a victim of a “political coup d’état.”

“This only confirms what we have been talking about for some time: it confirms the coup against Dilma,” said Paulo Rocha, the Senate leader for the Workers’ Party of Rousseff.

Ever since her suspension, the Latin American country has been the scene of nationwide demonstrations.

On Friday protesters took to the streets of Sao Paulo, calling for the resignation of Temer. They held banners and chanted slogans to support Rousseff.

May 24, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , | Leave a comment

Saudi offers to change stance on Israel: Report

Press TV – May 22, 2016

Saudi Arabia and its allies have asked Israel to resume Middle East negotiations under new terms which include changes to Riyadh’s “peace” initiative, Israeli media reports say.

The kingdom, its Persian Gulf allies, Jordan and Egypt have been sending messages to Israel through various emissaries, including former British PM Tony Blair, the Israeli newspaper Arutz Sheva reported.

“They are expecting to receive from Israel a response and are also expecting Israel to make gestures toward the Palestinians” in the West Bank, the paper said.

The Saudi “peace” initiative, unveiled in 2002, offers to normalize ties with Israel by 22 Arab countries in return for Tel Aviv’s withdrawal from the occupied West Bank.

Tel Aviv has rejected the Saudi initiative due to the fact that it calls for Israel to accept the right of return for the Palestinians who were forced to flee their homes under the Israeli occupation.

Saudi Arabia and its allies are now prepared to discuss changes to the initiative in order to resume talks between Tel Aviv and the Palestinian Authority, Israels’ Channel 10 News revealed.

The daily Maariv revealed earlier this month that the Israeli regime would present a bill to the Knesset in the coming weeks, calling for the annexation of 60% of the West Bank.

According to the paper, preliminary talks have been held to annex Area C of the West Bank where more than 350,000 illegal Israeli settlers are based.

Nevertheless, there is a desire among the leadership of the Arab countries in the region to change their attitude towards Israel and to start taking an active mediating role, Channel 10 reported, citing diplomatic sources.

The report comes days after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi urged Israelis and Palestinians to seize what he said was a “real opportunity” and renew “peace” talks.

Most extremist cabinet in the works

PM Benjamin Netanyahu, however, is set to form the most extremist cabinet in Israel’s history after revealing his intention to name notorious politician Avigdor Lieberman as the new minister of military affairs.

Palestinians have denounced the planned appointment, saying the decision showed Israel was intent on spreading extremism and expanding illegal settlements.

As the minister of military affairs, Lieberman would oversee military operations in the Palestinian territories and have a major say in policy towards the settlements.

Lieberman himself lives in a settlement which the international community considers illegal and persistent expansion of settler units as one of the biggest causes of the escalating tensions.

He has called on the Israeli regime to treat Palestinian resistance movement Hamas the same way as the United States treated “the Japanese in World War II.”

Israeli-Saudi links

On Saturday, an Israeli website said the “nightmare” of those critical of the new Israeli cabinet “is if Saudi King Salman and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, along with Netanyahu and Lieberman, will sit on the same podium and sign a cooperation agreement.”

“But this is a reality that is happening every day, not just wishful thinking,” the Israeli military intelligence website Debkafile wrote.

Last month, a well-connected former general in the Saudi military said the kingdom would open an embassy in Tel Aviv if Israel accepted the Saudi initiative to end the Middle East conflict.

Anwar Eshki was asked during an Al Jazeera interview how long it would be before Riyadh opened an embassy in Israel.

“You can ask Mr. Netanyahu,” Eshki replied, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Jerusalem Post reported on its website.

“If he announces that he accepts the initiative and gives all rights to Palestinians, Saudi Arabia will start to make an embassy in Tel Aviv,” Eshki said.

Eshki met publicly in June with Dore Gold just before the latter was appointed director-general of the Israeli foreign ministry. Gold said then Israel had contacts with “almost every Arab state.”

In the interview, Eshki said the Saudis are not interested in “Israel becoming isolated in the region.”

In March, Netanyahu said Israel’s relations with regional Arab countries were “dramatically warming” in what analysts said was an acknowledgement of behind-the-scenes ties.

Moshe Ya’alon, Israel’s minister of military affairs who resigned on Friday, pointed to open channels between the regime and Arab states in February.

Ya’alon said he was unable to shake hands with Arab officials in public due to the “sensitive” political realities, however, the two sides  “can meet in closed rooms.”

The Israeli minister later publicly shook the hand of Saudi Prince Turki bin Faisal al-Saud, who himself has openly met with a number of Israeli officials in the past.

Israeli training Saudi forces: Hezbollah 

Sheikh Naim Qassem, deputy secretary general of Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement, said in April that Israel was training Saudi military forces under the framework of clandestine relations.

Dozens of Saudi military officers were being trained following secret contacts that led to military cooperation, he said.

“The Saudis are currently fulfilling the cycle of the Israeli project in public and secret meetings,” he added.

May 22, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | Leave a comment

How US Creates Safety Risks for Nuclear Power Plants in Europe

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© Wikipedia/ Maxim Gavrilyuk
Sputnik – 21.05.2016

Washington is promoting commercial interests of the energy corporation Westinghouse in Europe, creating risks for European nuclear power plants, an article in Forbes read.

For example, in 2015, two of the Westinghouse-made fuel assemblies at the South Ukraine nuclear power plant (NPP) were found to be leaking. Since 2015, the NPP has been using US-made fuel.

In 2014, Ukraine and Westinghouse reached an agreement to supply nuclear fuel to some Ukrainian NPPs. The alleged reason behind the contract was the need to help Ukraine become energetically independent from Russia. Russia was a long-time supplier of nuclear fuel to Ukraine.

Experts have repeatedly warned that the deal would create serious risks for the safety of Ukrainian NPPs.

They cited the example of an incident which took place several years ago at the Temelin nuclear power plant, in the Czech Republic. The NPP operated on Russian-designed reactors and used fuel supplied by Westinghouse. The fuel was leaking and the rods were bending. All the Westinghouse fuel was removed from the core and replaced with Russian-made fuel.

As for Ukraine, the company announced that its fuel for Ukrainian NPPs had been improved.

Despite experts’ warnings, in March 2015, the first 42 fuel assemblies made by Westinghouse were loaded to the third reactor unit at the South Ukraine NPP.

According to Forbes, the two Westinghouse-made assemblies were found leaking during a scheduled outage at the third unit of the NPP.

The author of the article, Forbes contributor Kenneth Rapoza described how Washington has promoted Westinghouse’s interest in Eastern Europe, neglecting safety recommendations.

“Westinghouse is more than a brand name American power company. It’s a battering ram used by Washington to promote energy security,” the author wrote.

A source who wished to remain anonymous told Forbes that Westinghouse wants a market share in Eastern Europe in a bid to prevent the company from insolvency.

“Their new reactor division is loss-making, the fuel division is their only cash cow and it is not growing and existing margins are getting slimmer and slimmer. We think Westinghouse has spent millions of dollars to include nuclear fuel as part of the energy security narrative, and the current EU sentiment against Russia play into their hand,” the source said.

“But derailing nuclear projects while running into technical difficulties with Westinghouse fuel assemblies in Rosatom reactors is a dangerous way to promote energy security,” Rapoza noted.

According to former Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, the US has been promoting Westinghouse for years.

In the 1990s, US diplomats supported contribution between the Czech Republic and Westinghouse. The company pledged to improve Russian-designed nuclear plants to Western standards.

“However, the opposite proved to be true. Fuel assemblies delivered by Westinghouse were of inferior quality and higher price compared with than Russian fuel and caused frequent outages of Temelin reactors,” Paroubek told Forbes.

After, Westinghouse’s fuel assemblies were found leaking in the 2000s the Czech company CEZ decided to return to Russian-made nuclear fuel for the Temelin NPP.

“CEZ’s decision serves as a testament to the fact that the Russian fuel assembly was safer and that Washington was selling a product that did not quite work at the time, potentially putting nuclear power plants in danger,” the article read.

US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton was also involved in promoting Westinghouse in Eastern Europe. In 2012 when she served as US State Secretary Clinton met with then Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas, using the energy security argument to promote the company.

According to the article, Westinghouse can produce fuel for Russia-designed reactors as well as Rosatom can build fuel assemblies for Western-designed power units. However, for third parties working with Westinghouse is less economically efficient.

“Russia is the cheaper producer of the two, so when countries turn to Westinghouse for the fuel assemblies, they have to pay a premium for diversification,” Rapoza wrote.

Nevertheless, the largest initiative by Westinghouse is squeezing Russia from the Ukrainian nuclear fuel market, using again the argument of diversifying supplies.

In 2012, the Ukrainian nuclear regulator banned the use of Westinghouse’s fuel assemblies in the country pending an investigation over the incident at the South Ukraine NPP.

“Two years later, then-Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk consulted Westinghouse on picking a new nuclear safety regulator for his new government,” the author wrote citing a source in Ukraine.

In April, the Ukrainian Energy Ministry announced it would buy more nuclear fuel from Westinghouse. The company is planning to deliver five reloads of fuel to South Ukraine and Zaporizhia NPPs.

According to the author, Westinghouse’s commercial interests are closely tied to politics and thus the company neglects safety.

“Regardless, anti-Russia politics trumps technological problems,” Rapoza concluded.

May 21, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Environmentalism, Nuclear Power | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Clintons Accept Money From TPP Supporters

Sputnik – 21.05.2016

As the current Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton was entering the presidential race, her husband and former US President Bill Clinton received millions of dollars from special interest groups, including $325,000 from a group lobbying for the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership).

In October 2015, Hillary Clinton was pressured by her Democratic rival, Bernie Sanders, to openly oppose the controversial global deal to deregulate trade. The Vermont Senator did not hesitate to condemn the deal early in his campaign, claiming that it favors the corporate elite at the expense of American jobs.

Meanwhile, the National Association of Manufacturers, from which Bill Clinton received a substantial fee just one month before his wife announced her campaign, backs the TPP.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), the manufacturing business group affirmed its support for the hotly-debated deal three months before turning to Bill Clinton. The CRP called the proposed deal “a significant improvement over the status quo” for corporations.

Another $300,000 was donated to candidate Clinton from technology firm Oracle, when the former Secretary of State’s Democratic primary was in full swing. Disclosure forms reveal that Oracle supports ratification of the TPP.

Previously Hillary Clinton indicated that she would support the global deregulation deal, calling it the “gold standard” of free trade.

May 21, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Economics | , , , | Leave a comment

The Clinton-Colombia Connection

By Jonathan Marshall | Consortium News | May 19, 2016

On June 29, 2009, one day after Honduran military leaders ousted their country’s democratically elected president, President Obama publicly branded the coup illegal and denounced it as “a terrible precedent.” Yet even as he spoke, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was ensuring that U.S. aid continued and that major capitals would recognize the new regime.

Human rights activists have long decried her for abandoning democratic rights and values in Honduras. But many have overlooked her cozy embrace of the morally compromised Latin American leader who happened to be sharing the White House podium when Obama made his remarks: Colombian President Álvaro Uribe.

Obama was hosting Uribe to build political support for the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement, which both he and Hillary Clinton had vigorously opposed during the 2008 election campaign. Obama praised Uribe’s “courage” and his “admirabl(e)” progress on human rights and fighting drug cartels since taking office in 2002 — a controversial claim that Clinton’s State Department would certify that September.

A year later, the love affair between the Obama administration and Uribe grew even hotter. After landing in Bogota for an official visit in April 2010, Defense Secretary Robert Gates lauded the “historic” progress that Uribe’s government had made in the war against “narco-traffickers and terrorists.”

“Uribe, in my view, is a great hero and has been an enormously successful president of Colombia,” Gates told reporters.

Human rights campaigners were aghast. In an email to Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff, a senior aide to Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern cited Gates as an example of what not to do during Clinton’s upcoming visit to Colombia that June: “The most important thing the Secretary can do is avoid effusive praise for President Álvaro Uribe, who leaves office in August.”

McGovern’s aide cited several damning facts:

–Contrary to claims from Bogota, reports by the General Accountability Office and the U.S. Agency for International Development showed that U.S. aid and Colombia’s anti-drug programs were failing to meet their goals and in some cases were actually stimulating coca production.

–Military killings of civilians were up — with as many as 1,486 civilians killed “during the first six years of Álvaro Uribe’s presidency,” she noted. (The actual number was likely more than double that.)

–There were also “mounting allegations that the President’s intelligence service, the DAS, was put at the service of paramilitary leaders and narco-traffickers; used to spy on and intimidate Supreme Court justices, opposition politicians, journalists and human rights defenders; and employed in a campaign of sabotage and smears against political opponents” of Uribe.

–Dozens of President Uribe’s political supporters were under investigation for corruption and ties to illegal paramilitary units, she reported. “Many are large landholders with ties to narco-trafficking, the same local leaders who created and fostered the brutal pro-government paramilitary groups that killed tens of thousands of non-combatants in the 1990s and early 2000s. . . Those embroiled . . . include the President’s cousin, Mario Uribe; the brother of his former foreign minister; and individuals whom the President had named to be Colombia’s ambassadors to Chile, the Dominican Republic, and Canada.”

In conclusion, she maintained, the real heroes were not Uribe but “Colombian prosecutors, investigators, witnesses and non-governmental organizations trying to uncover the truth about these abuses” under conditions of great personal risk.

Falling on Deaf Ears

Her advice fell on deaf ears. Just one week later, Secretary Clinton was in Bogota to affirm the administration’s strong support for a free trade agreement, and underline Washington’s commitment to helping Uribe “consolidate the security gains of recent years” against “the insurgents, the guerillas, the narco-traffickers, who would wish to turn the clock back.”

Echoing her friend Bob Gates, she added, “because of your commitment to building strong democratic institutions here in Colombia and to nurturing the bonds of friendship between our two countries, you leave a legacy of great progress that will be viewed in historic terms.”

Clinton had nothing to say about the quarter million victims of right-wing paramilitary groups, many of them backed by the military, as reported in a November, 2009 cable from the U.S. embassy in Bogota. Nor did she have anything to say about the more than 2,700 union members murdered since 1986 (including hundreds under Uribe), making Colombia by far the world’s most dangerous place for organized labor.

Secretary Clinton may have been influenced by her husband’s warm relationship with Uribe. As President, he had signed and implemented a multi-year aid package called Plan Colombia, which contributed more than $8 billion to Colombia’s counterinsurgency wars, despite Washington’s full knowledge of the military’s “death-squad tactics” and cooperation with drug-running paramilitary groups.

In retirement, former President Clinton deepened his ties to Uribe and Colombia. In 2005, he introduced Uribe to Canadian mining magnate Frank Guistra, who was a leading donor to the Clinton Global Initiative fund; Guistra was interested in acquiring mineral and oil rights in Colombia. In 2005, Clinton also picked up $800,000 from a Colombia-based group for a speaking tour of Latin America to tout the merits of a U.S-Colombia free trade agreement. (Guistra provided the private jet for Clinton’s tour.)

To further promote the trade pact, Bogota provided a $300,000 P.R. contract to Clinton’s pollster Mark Penn. As part of his publicity campaign, Penn arranged for Uribe to hold an award banquet in honor of Clinton in 2007. Clinton reciprocated by featuring Uribe as an honored guest at his Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting a few months later.

When news of Penn’s contract with Bogota got out in 2008, Hillary Clinton had to fire him as her campaign strategist, lest she lose endorsements from labor unions. She insisted that her husband’s relationship with Colombia would not influence her stand on the free trade deal, which she opposed because of “the history of violence against trade unionists in Colombia.”

Reversing Course

As we have seen, both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton reversed course once in office. Clinton may simply have been following the President’s lead, but critics point to her family’s unsavory financial connections as another explanation for her change of heart. As International Business Times reported last year:

“When workers at the country’s largest independent oil company staged a strike in 2011, the Colombian military rounded them up at gunpoint and threatened violence if they failed to disband, according to human rights organizations. Similar intimidation tactics against the workers, say labor leaders, amounted to an everyday feature of life. . .

“Yet as union leaders and human rights activists conveyed these harrowing reports of violence to then-Secretary of State Clinton in late 2011, urging her to pressure the Colombian government to protect labor organizers, she responded first with silence, these organizers say. The State Department publicly praised Colombia’s progress on human rights, thereby permitting hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid to flow to the same Colombian military that labor activists say helped intimidate workers.

“At the same time that Clinton’s State Department was lauding Colombia’s human rights record, her family was forging a financial relationship with Pacific Rubiales, the sprawling Canadian petroleum company at the center of Colombia’s labor strife. The Clintons were also developing commercial ties with the oil giant’s founder, Canadian financier Frank Giustra, who now occupies a seat on the board of the Clinton Foundation, the family’s global philanthropic empire.

“The details of these financial dealings remain murky, but this much is clear: After millions of dollars were pledged by the oil company to the Clinton Foundation — supplemented by millions more from Giustra himself — Secretary Clinton abruptly changed her position on the controversial U.S.-Colombia trade pact.

“Having opposed the deal as a bad one for labor rights back when she was a presidential candidate in 2008, she now promoted it, calling it ‘strongly in the interests of both Colombia and the United States.’ The change of heart by Clinton and other Democratic leaders enabled congressional passage of a Colombia trade deal that experts say delivered big benefits to foreign investors like Giustra.”

According to a report this May by the AFL-CIO and four Colombian unions, 99 Colombian workers and union activists have been killed since the trade agreement took effect in 2011. Another six were kidnapped and 955 received death threats. Only a small fraction of those crimes were every solved.

Meanwhile, Uribe continues to be a major force in Colombian politics. In April, he mobilized a street protest against efforts by the current government to bring about a lasting peace with the Marxist guerrilla group FARC; a leading newspaper reported that Uribe’s protest was backed by Colombia’s largest paramilitary drug-trafficking organization, Los Urabeños, which managed to shut down much of the north of the country for 72 hours after assassinating a dozen policemen.

Ties to Drug Trade

A connection between Uribe, paramilitary groups, and drug traffickers is all too easy to imagine, despite his denials and Washington’s hero worship. Consider a few family connections, among the many that have been alleged:

–One of Uribe’s brothers was arrested this February for allegedly leading a death squad against suspected leftists that was run from the family cattle ranch. A Colombian legislator cited testimony that Álvaro himself may have “ordered massacres” from the ranch.

Another brother was arrested (but not convicted) for suspected ties to cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar; his extramarital partner was later arrested on a U.S. warrant for allegedly working with the head of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. Their daughter was also listed by the U.S. Treasury Department as a major money launderer.

–Uribe’s two sons are under investigation for massive tax evasion and showed up in the recent “Panama papers” leak as shareholders in a British Virgin Islands tax shelter;

–Uribe’s campaign manager and former chief of staff was flagged by DEA in 2001 as Colombia’s largest importer of a key precursor chemical for the production of cocaine.

–Uribe received contributions to his 2002 presidential campaign from the country’s largest and most murderous paramilitary organization, the AUC, which was listed by Washington as an international terrorist organization. By the time of Uribe’s election, according to one expert, “the AUC had become the most powerful network of drug traffickers in the country’s history.”

Uribe arranged a sweetheart deal to allow AUC leaders to escape serious justice with most of their wealth intact, until the nation’s top courts intervened. Uribe’s chief of security from 2002 to 2005 pleaded guilty in 2012 to taking bribes to protect the AUC.

–And as far back as 1991, a confidential U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency report called Uribe a “close personal friend” of Pablo Escobar, and said he was “dedicated to collaboration with the Medellín cartel at high government levels.” It also noted that his father had been murdered “for his connection with the narcotic traffickers.”

On the plus side, President George W. Bush awarded Uribe the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service named him a Distinguished Scholar. And Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation named him to its Board of Directors in 2012.

Hillary Clinton clearly sides with the camp of Uribe’s admirers. It’s time to call her out and make her account for that choice — and for a record that calls into question her professed devotion to human freedom, democratic values, and the rights of organized labor.


Jonathan Marshall is author or co-author of five books on international affairs, including The Lebanese Connection: Corruption, Civil War and the International Drug Traffic (Stanford University Press, 2012).

May 20, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Peace, Not Russia, Is Real Threat to US Power

By Finian CUNNINGHAM | Strategic Culture Foundation | 16.05.2016

or-37320The monstrous US military budget is a classic illustration of the proverb about not seeing the wood for the trees. It is such an overwhelming outgrowth, all too often it is misperceived.

In recent years, Washington’s military expenditure averages around $600 billion a year. That’s over half of the total discretionary spending by the US government, exceeding budgets for education, health and social security. It’s well over a third of the total world military annual spend of $1.7 trillion.

The incipient military-industrial complex that President Dwight Eisenhower warned of in his farewell speech in 1961 has indeed become a central, defining feature of American society and economy. To talk of «American free-market capitalism» is a staggering oxymoron when so much of the country’s economy is wholly dependent on government-funded militarism.

Or put it another way: if the US military budget were somehow drastically reduced in line with other nations, the all-powerful military-industrial complex and the American state as we know it would collapse. No doubt something better would evolve in time, but the impact on established power interests would be calamitous and therefore is trenchantly resisted.

This is the context for the escalation in Cold War tensions with Russia this week, with the deployment of the US missile system in Romania. The $800 million so-called missile shield is set to expand to Poland over the next two years and eventually will cover all of Europe from Greenland to southern Spain.

Washington and NATO officials maintain that the Aegis anti-missile network is not targeted at Russia. Unconvincingly, the US-led military alliance claims that the system is to defend against Iranian ballistic missiles or from other unspecified «rogue states». Given that Europe is well beyond the range of any Iranian ballistic capability and in light of the international nuclear accord signed last year between Tehran and the P5+1 powers, the rationale of «defense against Iranian rockets» beggars belief.

The Russian government is not buying American and NATO denials that the new missile system is not directed at Russia. The Kremlin reproached the latest deployment as a threat to its security, adding that it would be taking appropriate counter-measures to restore the strategic nuclear balance. That’s because the US Aegis system can be reasonably construed as giving NATO forces a «first-strike option» against Russia.

A couple of things need to be clarified before addressing the main point here. First, European states are chasing Iranian business investments and markets following the breakthrough P5+1 accord signed last July. Germany, France, Italy, Britain and Austria are among the Europeans who have been vying to tap Iran’s huge economic potential. The notion that Iran is harboring a military threat to such prospective partners is ludicrous, as Russian officials have pointed out.

Secondly, the US protestations of innocent intentions towards Russia are a contemptible insult to common sense. They contradict countless statements by Washington, including President Obama and his Pentagon top brass, which have nominated Russia as an aggressive threat to Europe. Washington is quadrupling its military spending in Europe, increasing its troops, tanks, fighter jets, warships and war exercises on Russia’s borders on the explicit basis of «deterring Russian aggression».

In other words, Russia is viewed as a top global enemy – an existential threat – according to Washington. So, the deployment of the US Aegis missile system this week in Eastern Europe is fully consistent with Washington’s bellicose policies towards Russia. It would thus be irrational and foolishly naive to somehow conclude otherwise, that the US and its NATO allies are not on an offensive march towards Russia.

The depiction of Russia as a global security threat is of course absurd. We can also include similar US claims against China, Iran and North Korea. All such US-designated «enemies» are wildly overblown.

Western claims – amplified relentlessly in the Western news media – of Russia «annexing» Crimea and «invading» eastern Ukraine can be easily contested with facts and indeed counterpoised more accurately as belying Washington’s covert regime change in Kiev.

Nevertheless, Western fear-mongering supported by unremitting media propaganda has to a degree succeeded in conflating these dubious claims into a bigger specter of Russia menacing all of Europe with hybrid warfare. It is, to be sure, a preposterous scare story of a Russian bogeyman which has racist undertones and antecedents in Nazi ideology of demonizing Slavic barbarians.

But this demonizing of Russia, as with other global enemies, is a necessary prop for the American military-industrial complex and its essential functioning for the US economy.

The $600 billion-a-year military spend by Washington is roughly tenfold what Russia spends. And yet, inverting reality, Russia is presented as the threat!

The US military budget is greater than the combined budgets of the world’s next nine big military spenders: China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Britain, France, Germany, India, Japan and South Korea, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Arguably, the US economy as we know it – dominated by Pentagon, corporate, Wall Street and congressional interests – would cease to exist were it not for the gargantuan government-subsidized military budget.

Structurally, the US economy has ossified into a war economy and the only way for this to be maintained is for the US to be continually placed on a war footing, either in the form of a Cold or Hot conflict. Historians will note that out of its 240 years of existence as a modern state, the US has been in war or overseas conflict for more than 95 per cent of its history.

During the former Cold War with the Soviet Union, a recurring theme in Washington was the alleged «missile gap» which purported to portray the US as losing its military edge. This resulted in relentless military expenditure and an arms race that in part led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Washington’s self-ordained privilege to run up endless debt (currently nearly $20 trillion) because of its dollar dominance as the world’s reserve currency has permitted the US to escape a day of reckoning for its ruinous military profligacy.

This madcap situation continues to prevail. A quarter of a century after the official end of the old Cold War, US military spending continues at the same profligate, unsustainable pace.

What Washington needs in order to keep the fiasco going is to whip the rest of the world into a frenzy of fear and loathing. That’s why the Cold War with Russia and China has had to be rehabilitated in recent years. Swords cannot be turned into plowshares because the US power interests that command its economy have no use for plowshares.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has on several occasions invited global cooperation on security matters, and with the US in particular. Moscow has also recently said that it does not want to embark on a new arms race. The latter wariness is understandable given the deleterious experience for the Soviet Union from runaway military spending.

However, that is precisely what the US wants and needs to induce: a global arms race which it can then invoke as justification for its own monstrous military.

According to SIPRI, both China and Russia have significantly increased their military budgets, by about 7.5 per cent each in 2015.

Russia may not want to engage in an arms race, mindful of the warping pressure that can inflict on its national resources and development.

But when the US installs a new missile system on Russia’s doorstep, the impetus for Russia to likewise scale up military commitments is onerous.

And that is what Washington is driving at. It is not that Russia is an objective security threat to Washington or its allies. The real threat to Washington is peaceful international relations which would make its military-industrial complex redundant.

It is a disturbing reality that world peace is antithetical to the very foundation of America’s corporate capitalist power.

Shamefully, the world is subjected to the risk of war and even annihilation all for the purpose of maintaining elite American power privileges. And among those who suffer this diabolical injustice are none other than the majority of American citizens, who have to endure poverty and misery while their corporate elite siphon off $600 billion a-year in military obscenity.

May 16, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Panama Papers: Should the Corporate Media Have Been Trusted?

By Joe Emersberger – teleSUR – May 14, 2016

“John Doe” made a bad call when he leaked the Panama papers to the corporate media.

“Can a corporate media system be expected to tell the truth about a world dominated by corporations?” the Media Lens editors once asked rhetorically.

Assuming the best of intentions on the part of whoever leaked the Panama Papers, trusting hundreds of corporate journalists to wage war on income inequality was a bad mistake. However, the corporate media can be trusted to wage war on the enemies of income inequality, in particular progressive governments in Latin America, and use the Panama Papers to do so even if the ammunition they have is pitiful.

Consider an article in the Miami Herald that ran with the mocking headline, “Ecuador’s leader demands release of Panama Papers, and learns he’s in them.” A very similar article with an almost identical headline ran in the UK Independent, and in many other outlets. The article in the Herald began:

“… Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa called out his country’s journalists and boasted that, unlike other countries, he and his government weren’t found in the leak.

However, the secret documents show that he and his estranged brother, Fabricio, caught the attention of anti-corruption authorities in Panama in 2012.”

Anyone who follows Ecuadorian politics will find this very underwhelming. Fabricio Correa is a long-time bitter foe of his brother’s government. Fabricio is also a businessman who has long been accused of being less than ethical by his brother and many other people. That’s old news and it is hardly surprising that it would have “caught the attention” of investigators years ago. How could it not have? A book was written in 2010 – “El Gran Hermano” – alleging that Rafael Correa was complicit with his brother’s corruption and in 2012 Correa won a defamation suit against the authors.

The article in the Herald is convoluted and often unclear, but that actually serves its purpose. It is padded with details that ultimately fail to land a blow against Fabricio Correa, never mind President Correa, but readers unfamiliar with Ecuador, even if left confused by the article, will probably still come away thinking that something damning has been uncovered.

The use of meaningless statistics is another way the article is padded. It says “searching the word ‘Ecuador’ yields more than 160,000 secret documents. Guayaquil, the wealthy coastal city, shows up in 109,000 documents,” as if that refutes Correa’s observation that hostile Ecuadorean journalists who have had access to the documents for a year have not found anything to discredit his government. Correa would be the last person to deny that corruption, in particular tax avoidance by his elite opponents, is still a big problem in Ecuador. That’s one reason why Correa demanded that all the information be released rather than cherry-picked by corporate journalists. Ecuador’s private media led a very dishonest propaganda campaign last year against tax reforms that would have almost entirely impacted Ecuador’s wealthiest 2 percent. Moreover, Guayaquil’s mayor for the past 16 years has been Jaime Nebot, a right-winger who is arguably Correa’s most prominent opponent. Applying the shoddy logic suggested by the article, Nebot and his right wing allies – including his many allies in Ecuador’s private media – are discredited by how often the word “Guayaquil” appears in the Panama Papers.

Reporters are not always so sloppy. When a journalist I recently corresponded with found a Venezuelan opposition member mentioned in the Panama Papers he explained to me that “he was simply mentioned in newspaper articles passed around by IMF staff.”

The article in the Herald also cited an NGO as follows:

“Last year, Transparency International ranked 168 countries and territories on its government corruption index. It found that 106 nations were less corrupt than Ecuador.”

It neglected to mention that the head of the groups’ Chile branch just resigned after being linked to offshore firms. Much more importantly, it has been obvious for many years that a little transparency does not flatter Transparency International (TI).  In 2008, Calvin Tucker wrote a hard hitting piece about a shockingly dishonest report that TI published about Venezuela’s state oil company. He reported “TI says that they ‘stand by their report’ and stand by the person who compiled the data, an anti-Chávez activist who backed the 2002 military coup against democracy.”

The Miami Herald also used the Panama Papers as an excuse to rehash the farcical “suitcase scandal” of 2008.  It was a comical example of the US government using its prosecutors and a more than cooperative media to smear governments it didn’t like – in this case the left governments of Venezuela and (at the time) Argentina. How could the United States possibly claim jurisdiction over a case based on far-fetched allegations that the Venezuelan government had tried to smuggle a suitcase full of cash into Argentina to influence an election? The U.S. government weaseled in by alleging that an “unregistered agent” of Venezuela’s government had come to the United States to convince one of the people involved to keep quiet. There had never been an indictment under this law unless there was an espionage or national security accusation to go along with it. Mind you, several years later the Obama Administration would officially declare Venezuela an “extraordinary threat to the national security” of the United States – and then defend the insane declaration by saying it didn’t mean it. The U.S. media responded with some timid criticism. That should be unsurprising. Media outlets owned by the rich and powerful, whose most influential customers, advertisers, are rich and powerful are not going to lead movements for serious reform, never mind revolution.

None of this is to say that the Panama Papers will not be of any help in the fight against income inequality. Time will tell. There must be a very small number of journalists working in the private media who are genuinely interested in fighting inequality, but one can easily imagine how much more positive impact these leaks may have had. Recall how wisely Edward Snowden singled out Glenn Greenwald as a journalist he could trust. Remember where Julian Assange, a real thorn in the side of the most powerful and violent people in the world, ended up seeking refuge; and never forget how viciously the corporate media turned on him.

The battle against inequality, which is a crucial part of the battle for meaningful democracy, requires a struggle against the corporate media, a real movement to democratize the means of communication, not (a few exceptional corporate journalists aside) collaboration with it.

RELATED:

Panama Papers: The Caribbean Connection

May 15, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

‘Make More War’: The Corporate Engine Behind US Foreign Policy

Sputnik – 14.05.2016

As the US Senate Armed Services Committee considers the 2017 Pentagon budget, political analyst Eric Draitser joins Radio Sputnik to discuss the ever-growing military-industrial complex.

“[President Dwight Eisenhower] was suggesting… that the danger for the United States was that these massive military contractors, these military-industrial firms, would eventually be able to control both sides of the government, both major parties, and be able to effectively create policy to their own liking,” Draitser told Loud & Clear’s Brian Becker, paraphrasing the former World War II five-star general and US President’s 1961 warning.

“And here we are in 2016 and that is, of course, exactly what’s happened…”

While President Barack Obama ran on a platform of reigning in US military endeavors, he has proven unable – or unwilling – to do so.

“Obama has raised spending on the military to historic levels. He has, obviously, waged countless wars; at least seven by the conservative count. Obama is, of course, upping aid to Israel… expanding [the] US military footprint in Asia with the Asia pivot strategy, expanding [the] US military in Africa…” Draitser says.

“If you look at it in its totality, Obama really works hand-in-glove with the military-industrial complex.”

The new draft bill of National Defense Authorization Act highlights this.

“[The bill shows] increased spending. I believe $1.5 billion for new aircraft. $1.5 billion for F-35s manufactured by Lockheed Martin. Army helicopters, Apache strike teams. We could go on and on down the list of all of these increases in spending.

“The consensus is ‘make more war.'”

Even presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, one of the most progressive members of the US Congress, isn’t guilt-free.

“Bernie Sanders lobbied for F-35 production in Vermont,” Draitser says. “He has a vested interest in making sure that this military program…took place in Vermont. He lobbied for it, he was in favor of it, and he’s gone down, at least in Vermont history, as a major supporter of that program.

“So even when you go to the left-progressive end of the political spectrum, they have a vested interested in making sure that programs such as the F-35 continue.”

The problem also relates to the Obama Administration’s inability to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.

“The story continues to be the same tired narrative that Obama desperately wants to close Guantanamo. It’s just this political gridlock, it’s the legislation, it’s the language that’s in place, it’s the Republicans, it’s the boogeyman, it’s Putin, it’s everybody preventing Obama from closing Guantanamo,” Draitser says.

“When in fact it is a consensus that Guantanamo stay open.”

The military-industrial complex is also the driving factor behind the military buildup in Eastern Europe, despite claims about defending against “Russian aggression.”

“The beneficiaries of these types of policies are Lockheed Martin and Raytheon and Boeing and all of these massive multinational military corporations that make hundreds of billions of dollars off of precisely these kinds of policies,” he says.

“When [NATO] talks about spending money in Eastern Europe to ‘reassure our partners,’ what they really mean is bolstering US military power along Russia’s western flank.

“There could not be a more dangerous policy.”

May 13, 2016 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Corruption, Militarism | , , , | 1 Comment

Soft Coup in Brazil: A Blow to Brazilian Democracy

By Juan Sebastian Chavarro, Raiesa Frazer, Rachael Hilderbrand and Emma Tyrou | Council on Hemispheric Affairs | May 12, 2016

The impeachment this week of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff represents the most significant test for Brazil’s institutions since the end of its military dictatorship in 1985. After the Senate voted Thursday to begin an impeachment trial of the country’s first female president, less than halfway through her second term in office, one politician described the events as representing the “saddest day for Brazil’s young democracy.”[1] Since the post-dictatorship transition, impeachment requests have been filed against each and every one of Brazil’s presidents, but none were carried through.[2] Rousseff, however, will be only the second president to experience an actual trial. Portrayed as a crusade against corruption, the current process against a democratically elected president rests on unclear budgetary charges and bears the mark of a right wing retaliation after 13 years of left rule.  This process is further complicated by the fact that virtually all of Brazil’s leading political figures are implicated to some degree in the corruption schemes. In the eyes of many, Brazil’s institutions seem to be failing this test and are not holding all actors equally accountable. From the outside it appears that in the young Brazilian republic, the structures of democracy are being shaken down. While the right-wing claims that Rousseff’s impeachment request is a legitimate response to budgetary malfeasance, her supporters are characterizing the efforts to impeach her as unconstitutional, and therefore a coup.

In “Behind Dilma’s Destitution, a Neoliberal Coup,” Tatiana Roque, a professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) described the events surrounding Rousseff’s impeachment as a “neoliberal coup.” She states: “In the putting on hold of the democratic principles and the weakening of the voting power, we foresee the appearance of a dramatically anti-democratic process.”[3] In coverage of such a complex situation, the crisis has been portrayed by the privately owned media as a movement of the people against a corrupt government, which is ultimately an inaccurate and oversimplified explanation. In light of events this past week, it is even more necessary to analyze the legal ground on which the whole illegitimate process rests and to grasp its significance for the entire region.

Brazil’s Senate Vote to Continue the Impeachment Process

The push to oust Rousseff from office has been a protracted and chaotic process littered with soap opera-like developments and reversals. On Wednesday, May 11, Brazil’s Senate voted in favor 55 votes to 22, after 21 hours of tense debate, to suspend the office of President Dilma Rousseff and to begin the formal impeachment trial against her on charges of fiscal and budget responsibility crimes. The process now moved to the Senate after a series of complicated events. On April 17, the Chamber of Deputies voted to approve the continuation of the impeachment process, in a circus-like atmosphere where almost none of the Deputies directly addressed the charge backing her impeachment. The former President of the Chamber of Deputies, Eduardo Cunha, was removed earlier this week on the grounds of the obstruction of investigations in the Petrobras corruption scandal. He was replaced by Waldir Maranhão who immediately after taking office, decided to annul the April 17 decision only to then cancel the request, a mere 48 hours before the Senate was scheduled to commence and vote. In response to this wild back and forth, the highly respected former Supreme Court (STF) judge, Joaquim Barbosa, tweeted: “Do you know what the whole world must be thinking about us Brazilians? “A laughing stock’.” Amidst all this, Rousseff insists that she will continue to keep fighting until the very end. In Brasilia, while waiting for the announcement of the Senate’s decision the two sides of the makeshift wall that separated those supporting from those opposing the impeachment could not have been more contrasting. While on one side the pro-impeachment crowd dressed in yellow and green had a Carnival like celebration, those opposing the impeachment process were at certain times in the evening subjected to tear gas by the police.

Now the Senate has voted in favor of the commencement of the impeachment trial, which will be conducted in the Senate and led by the President of the Supreme Court Ricardo Lewandowski. Within 180 days and after consideration of evidence and testimonies by both the accusatory commission and Rousseff’s defense team, a verdict will be rendered: guilty or not guilty. Meanwhile, she will be suspended from office and her duties will be temporarily fulfilled by the universally unpopular Vice President Michel Temer, from the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB). Temer, however, is himself implicated in a number of scandals, leaving his political future uncertain. He stands accused of illegal financing during the 2014 elections and also has been cited in a plea bargain regarding his alleged involvement in the Petrobras corruption scandal.[4]

The Veneer of Legitimacy

Opponents of Rousseff’s administration claim that the current impeachment followed a legal procedure: it was voted on by Congress and is a political process acting on the people’s desire to remove an increasingly unpopular president. According to them, the charges behind Dilma’s impeachment request – the maneuvering of funds and tampering with budgets – are sufficient cause for her removal since such acts are illegal under the Constitution due to the Fiscal Responsibility Law. However, the case against Dilma is missing the most important component: proof that a crime of responsibility has been committed.

The right-wing of Brazilian politics, represented by different parties – the main being the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB) – and principally supported by the traditional ruling class, economic elite, and a highly concentrated national mainstream media, have been out of power at the federal level for over a decade. However, in the current political crisis, recession, and corruption scandals, this coalition sees an opportunity to take back power from Rousseff’s Workers Party (PT) that has been ruling for the past 13 years. Since the right-wing has not been able to win at the ballot box, they have stirred up yet another anti-corruption campaign to gain support from the already angered population.[5] In the midst of an economic crisis there may be enough public discontent to push for Dilma’s impeachment due to fiscal irresponsibility, even if she has not committed a crime. Yet the already complicated situation becomes more complex when one considers that many of the very same politicians fighting for Dilma’s impeachment are also accused of personal embezzlement. All parties – those in power, the left; as well as those in the right-wing opposition trying to replace the current government – are involved in some measure of corruption. Ironically, Rousseff is one of the only political leaders not accused of personal enrichment. Nearly a third of the 594 members of Congress, including the leaders of the lower house and the Senate, are under scrutiny before the courts over claims of violating laws including Eduardo Cunha (PMDB), the former President of the Chamber of Deputies, Renan Calheiros (PMDB), the President of the Senate, and Aecio Neves, the opposition’s (PSDB) leader.[6] The motivation behind the impeachment process therefore appears not to be an anti-corruption campaign, but rather the desire to instigate a political war between the right and left in an opportunistic strategy for Brazil’s political elite to regain power without votes or democratic legitimacy.

Rousseff and her government supporters argue that she has not committed any crime that justifies her removal. Under any circumstances, impeachment without proof of a crime should be considered a coup. The legal flaws in the case against Dilma make the continuation of the impeachment process an undemocratic attempt by the Brazilian elite to enter into power by overthrowing a democratically elected leader. President Rousseff was democratically elected by majority vote in 2010 and again in 2014. Given that she was thereby twice granted a democratic mandate to govern in free and fair elections, the entire process, especially now that the trial has opened, is setting a dangerous precedent in Brazilian politics. The Brazilian Constitution (enacted in 1988 after decades of rule by a military junta) defines the country as a “presidential regime” rather than a parliamentary one. In the former, impeachment is designed as an ultimate solution to remove from power a leader guilty of crime, and therefore deemed unfit to conduct the remainder of its mandate. It should by no means be confused with the more common vote of non-confidence, aiming at replacing a leader who has lost legislative support in a parliamentarian system. Simply put, these attempted impeachments are trivializing the impeachment clause process, and are eroding citizens’ faith in their own political system.

Such a situation raises concerns over the prevailing strength of Brazilian democracy. In an interview with Democracy Now! on May 10, journalist Glenn Greenwald stated,

“To sit here and witness the utter dismantling of a democracy, which is exactly what is taking place, by the richest and most powerful people in the society, using their media organs that masquerade as journalistic outlets, but which are in fact propaganda channels for a tiny number of extremely rich families, almost all of whom supported that coup and then the military dictatorship, is really disturbing and frightening to see.”[7]

No more than three years ago, Brazil’s economy was booming, its prospects improving, and in the long-term it looked as if Brazil’s goal to become a developed power in the world was close at hand. The current economic crisis has reversed this process and frustrated the Brazilian people. While approval ratings for Rousseff and her administration were once high, Brazilian voters have directed their frustration towards Dilma and the Worker’s Party due to the economic downturn. The right-wing political and economic elite have used this economic discontent on top of the nation’s largest corruption scandal to remove Dilma from office – even if there is no legitimate claim backing her removal.

Regional Implications

With clear parallels to the 1964 coup that ousted then-President João Goulart as well as to the political crisis that led to oustings of democratically elected presidents in Paraguay and Honduras, Brazil’s ongoing impeachment process is an assault on democracy. The ousting of the current Brazilian president based on political and judicial manipulations, as well as constitutional misinterpretations, undermines the democratic legitimacy of the government but moreover calls into question the viability of Brazil’s major institutions. In its success, the precedents set for future governments are devastating not only in Brazil but in all Latin America. Brazil represents the eighth largest economy in the world, and it is a leading power in the continent.

In the first hours of his new mandate, acting President Temer promised the new government will announce austerity measures.[8] Temer has previously set eyes on Paulo Leme, the chairman of Goldman Sachs in Brazil, to potentially serve as finance minister or central bank chief. Temer also is considering Luiz Fernando Figueiredo, a previous central bank official and founder of asset manager Mauá Capital, to be Treasury secretary for the central bank. They have been consulted for the drafting of “A bridge to the Future”, the PMDB economic plan.[9]

The right wing takeover of the government in Brazil will likely have momentous consequences for the integrity of UNASUR as a bastion of independence from U.S. hegemony in the region. Combined with the neoliberal stance of President Macri in Argentina, we can expect a concerted effort by this conservative wave to drive MERCOSUR in to the free trade camp, isolate Venezuela, and undermine the Bolivarian cause in Bolivia and throughout the region. But just as Macri appears to be overplaying his hand in provoking popular outrage, the right in Brazil may soon find itself faced with an eroding, ephemeral legitimacy.

[1] Watts, Jonathan. “Dilma Rousseff Suspended as Senate Votes to Impeach Brazilian President.” The Guardian. 2016. Accessed May 12, 2016. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/12/dilma-rousseff-brazil-president-impeached-senate-vote?utm_source=esp.

[2]  Nolte Detlef, and Llanos Mariana. “The Many Faces of Latin American Presidentialism.” GIGA Focus Latin America, May 2016. Accessed May 11, 2016. https://www.academia.edu/25159273/The_Many_Faces_of_Latin_American_Presidentialism

[3] Roque, Tatiana. “Sous la Destitution de Dilma Rousseff un Coup d’Etat Neoliberal.” Regards, May 12, 2016. Accessed May 12, 2016. http://www.regards.fr/web/article/sous-la-destitution-de-dilma-rousseff-un-coup-d-etat-neoliberal

[4] Esther Fuentes. “Who Is Who in Brazil’s Complicated Lava Jato Corruption Allegations?” COHA. March 17, 2016. Accessed May 12, 2016. http://www.coha.org/who-is-who-in-brazils-complicated-lava-jato-corruption-allegations/

[5]  Jen Glüsing. “Staatskrise in Brasilien: Kalter Putsch.” Der Spiegel, March 19, 2016. Accessed May 12, 2016. http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/brasilien-hexenjagd-auf-lula-ein-kalter-putsch-kommentar-a-1083218.html  and  Laurent Delcourt. “Printemps Trompeur Au Brésil.” Le Monde Diplomatique, May 2016. Accessed May 12, 2016. https://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/2016/05/DELCOURT/55435

[6]  Esther Fuentes. “Who Is Who in Brazil’s Complicated Lava Jato Corruption Allegations?” COHA. March 17, 2016. Accessed May 12, 2016. http://www.coha.org/who-is-who-in-brazils-complicated-lava-jato-corruption-allegations/

[7] Amy Goodman. “Glenn Greenwald on Brazil: Goal of Rousseff Impeachment Is to Boost Neoliberals & Protect Corruption.” Democracy Now! May 10, 2016. Accessed May 12, 2016. http://www.democracynow.org/2016/5/10/glenn_greenwald_on_brazil_goal_of

[8]  “Brazil’s Rousseff Set to Bow out after Senate Votes to Put Her on Trial.” Reuters. May 12, 2016. Accessed May 12, 2016. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-brazil-politics-idUSKCN0Y206H

[9]  “Exclusive: Temer Eyes Goldman Banker, Investor for Brazil Economic Team: Sources.” Reuters. April 15, 2016. Accessed May 12, 2016. https://www.yahoo.com/news/exclusive-temer-eyes-goldman-banker-investor-brazil-economic-205132190–sector.html

To download a PDF version of this article, click here.

May 13, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption | , | Leave a comment

The Clinton Economy Is The Wal-Mart Economy

By Brandon Turbeville | Activist Post | May 10, 2016

If any corporate donation can accurately predict the direction in which a Hillary Clinton presidency would take the American economy, it would be the sizeable donations made by Wal-Mart executives.

As early as 2013, Alice Walton, heiress to the Wal-Mart fortune, donated the maximum allowed amount ($25,000) to the Ready For Hillary PAC. [1]

The Clinton Foundation has also received a sizeable amount of direct donations from Wal-Mart. Indeed, the Wal-Mart Foundation has even donated anywhere from $1 to $5 million to the Clinton Foundation in 2013 alone. The Wal-Mart Foundation has also funded and hosted a number of “energy and climate change” awards for the Clinton Global Initiative. [2]

The assistance and promotion has been reciprocal, of course, with the Clinton Global Initiative posting a rave review of the Wal-Mart corporation, naming it a company that makes great “efforts to empower girls and women.” It was unclear as to whether it was the slave labor wages, the humiliating work environment, or the abusive labor policies of Wal-mart that were the “empowerment of girls and women.” Such questions generally do go unanswered.[3]

The Clinton’s have also assisted Wal-Mart in the past regarding its effort to appear as more environmentally-friendly. For this reason, Bill Clinton met with past Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott in order to help boost the company’s relationship with environmentalists.[4]

Yet the Clinton connection to Wal-Mart goes much further back than 2013. As Kevin Young and Diana C. Sierra Becerra of Solidarity wrote in their article “Something That Might Be Called A Neo-Con: Hillary Clinton And Corporate Feminism,”

Hillary Clinton’s record on such issues is hardly encouraging. Her decades of service on corporate boards and in major policy roles as First Lady, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of State give a clear indication of where she stands. One of Clinton’s first high-profile public positions was at Walmart, where she served on the board from 1986 to 1992. [5] She “remained silent” in board meetings as her company “waged a major campaign against labor unions seeking to represent store workers,” as an ABC review of video recordings later noted.[6]

Clinton recounted in her 2003 book that Walmart CEO Sam Walton “taught me a great deal about corporate integrity and success.” Though she later began trying to shed her public identification with the company in order to attract labor support for her Senate and presidential candidacies, Walmart executives have continued to look favorably on her, with Alice Walton donating the maximum amount to the “Ready for Hillary” Super PAC in 2013.[7] Walton’s $25,000 donation was considerably higher than the average annual salary for Walmart’s hourly employees, two-thirds of whom are women. [8] [9] [10]

In regards to her “remaining silent” on Wal-Mart’s war on labor and labor unions while she served on the Wal-Mart corporate board, it appears that Clinton did much more than merely remain silent. Patrick Caldwell of Mother Jones reports that she was actually involved in these decisions. Caldwell writes,

Clinton was the first woman to serve on the board of the company. As the Village Voice noted in a 2000 article denouncing Clinton Walmart past, Clinton’s spot on the board was designed just for her: she wasn’t filling any open vacancies, and the company didn’t replace her seat when she resigned in 1992.[11] Her ties to Walmart weren’t confined to her role on the board, either. Walmart was one of Rose’s clients and, according to a 1994 New York Times article, Hillary served as “director” for the firm’s representation of Walmart.[12] [13]

In 2007 the New York Times reported that during her time on the board, Clinton pushed for greater representation for women in the company’s management and led an advisory group that focused on ways Walmart could improve its environmental practices.[14] During a shareholder meeting the year after she joined the company, Walton said they’d added a “strong-willed young lady on the board now who has already told the board it should do more to ensure the advancement of women.”

But on unionization—the primary liberal complaint against Walmart—Clinton had little to say. A 2008 ABC review of videotapes from Walmart meetings found that “Clinton remained silent as the world’s largest retailer waged a major campaign against labor unions seeking to represent store workers.”[15]

“She was not a dissenter,” one of her fellow board members told the Los Angeles Times in 2007. “She was a part of those decisions.”[16]

Even while Bill Clinton served as Governor of Arkansas, the Clintons, due to Hillary’s position on the board, traveled for free on the Wal-Mart corporate jet 14 times in the time span between 1990 and 1991. Bill was a widespread defender of Wal-Mart during his tenure as Governor. This is, of course, not surprising, since Bill depended on Wal-Mart for funding his campaigns both on the State and Federal level.[17]

It is thus a true pity that union members – we can assume the big union bosses are not unaware of Clinton’s Wal-Mart, anti-union history – find themselves at Clinton rallies, with their hard-earned dues being donated to the Clinton campaign merely to hear empty slogans of how Clinton supports labor, unions, and the right to collectively bargain.[18] All the evidence shows that, when Clinton finally seizes the reins of power, she does her part in crushing union formation, worker’s rights, and reasonable working conditions. In the meantime, however, the empty slogans come flowing out like rushing water.

[1] Caldwell, Patrick. “Retail Politics: Hillary Clinton Heads To Costco, Skips Walmart On Latest Book Tour.” Mother Jones. June 14, 2014. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/06/hillary-clinton-costco-walmart Accessed on September 8, 2015.

[2] Caldwell, Patrick. “Retail Politics: Hillary Clinton Heads To Costco, Skips Walmart On Latest Book Tour.” Mother Jones. June 14, 2014. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/06/hillary-clinton-costco-walmart Accessed on September 8, 2015.

[3] Abeywardena, Penny. “How Walmart Is Reimagining Its Investments To Empower Girls And Women.” Clinton Foundation website. April 29, 2014. https://www.clintonfoundation.org/blog/2014/04/29/how-walmart-reimagining-its-investments-empower-girls-and-women Accessed on September 8, 2015.

[4] Eidelson, Josh. “Wal-mart’s Big Green Con: Environmentalists Blast Megastore, As Worker’s Strike.” Salon. November 13, 2013. http://www.salon.com/2013/11/13/wal_marts_big_green_con_environmentalists_blast_megastore_as_workers_strike/ Accessed on September 8, 2015.

[5] Harkavy, Ward. “Wal-Mart’s First Lady.” Village Voice. May 23, 2000. http://www.villagevoice.com/news/wal-marts-first-lady-6418414 Accessed on September 8, 2015.

[6] Ross, Brian; Schwartz, Rhonda. “Clinton Remained Silent As Walmart Fought Unions.” ABC News. January 31, 2008. http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/story?id=4218509 Accessed on September 8, 2015.

[7] Caldwell, Patrick. “Retail Politics: Hillary Clinton Heads To Costco, Skips Walmart On Latest Book Tour.” Mother Jones. June 14, 2014. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/06/hillary-clinton-costco-walmart Accessed on September 8, 2015.

[8] “Fact Sheet – Wages.” Making A Change At Walmart website. http://makingchangeatwalmart.org/factsheet/walmart-watch-fact-sheets/fact-sheet-wages/ Accessed on September 9, 2015.

[9] “Walmart’s Women Workers Take Case To Supreme Court.” Alternet. http://www.alternet.org/rss/breaking_news/542766/walmart%27s_women_workers_take_case_to_supreme_court Accessed on September 9, 2015.

[10] Young, Kevin; Becerra, Diana C. Sierra. “’Something That Might Be Called A Neocon:’ Hillary Clinton And Corporate Feminism.” Solidarity. March 3, 2015. https://solidarity-us.org/node/4389 Accessed on September 8, 2015.

[11] Harkavy, Ward. “Wal-Mart’s First Lady.” Village Voice. May 23, 2000. http://www.villagevoice.com/news/wal-marts-first-lady-6418414 Accessed on September 9, 2015.

[12] Labaton, Stephen. “Rose Law Firm, Arkansas Power, Slips As It Steps Onto A Bigger Stage.” New York Times. February 26, 1994.

[13] Caldwell, Patrick. “Retail Politics: Hillary Clinton Heads To Costco, Skips Walmart On Her Latest Book Tour.” Mother Jones. June 14, 2014. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/06/hillary-clinton-costco-walmart Accessed on September 9, 2015.

[14] Barbaro, Michael. “As A Director, Clinton Moved Wal-Mart Board, but Only So Far.” New York Times. May 20, 2007. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/20/us/politics/20walmart.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 Accessed on September 9, 2015.

[15] Ross, Brian; Schwartz, Rhonda. “Clinton Remained Silent As Wal-Mart Fought Unions.” ABC News. January 31, 2008. http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/story?id=4218509 Accessed on September 9, 2015.

[16] Braun, Stephen. “At Wal-Mart, Clinton Didn’t Upset Any Carts.” Los Angeles Times. May 19, 2007. http://www.latimes.com/la-na-clintonwalmart19-2007may19-story.html#page=1 Accessed on September 9, 2015.

[17] Harkavy, Ward. “Wal-Mart’s First Lady.” Village Voice. May 23, 2000. http://www.villagevoice.com/news/wal-marts-first-lady-6418414 Accessed on September 9, 2015.

[18] Harkavy, Ward. “Wal-Mart’s First Lady.” Village Voice. May 23, 2000. http://www.villagevoice.com/news/wal-marts-first-lady-6418414 Accessed on September 9, 2015.


Brandon Turbeville – article archive here – is the author of seven books, including Codex Alimentarius — The End of Health Freedom, 7 Real Conspiracies, Five Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1 and volume 2, The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria. Brandon Turbeville’s new book, The Difference it Makes: 36 Reasons Why Hillary Clinton Should Never Be President is available in three different formats: Hardcopy (available here), Amazon Kindle for only .99 (available here), and a Free PDF Format (accessible free from his website, BrandonTurbeville.com). Please contact activistpost (at) gmail.com.

May 13, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Economics | , , | Leave a comment

US Financial System, Tax Authorities Refuse to Police Super-Rich

Sputnik – 12.05.2016

Only a handful of wealthy Americans and institutions bother to use overseas tax havens because they know the US government and financial regulators will let them get away with illegal behavior, US analysts told Sputnik.

Mossack Fonseca was the source of 11.5 million leaked documents, referred to as the Panama Papers, identifying more than 360,000 individuals and corporations around the world, among which only 36 American entities or persons were found.

“None of the big banks or ratings agencies that were engaged in criminal behavior and so were responsible for the [2008 Wall Street financial] crash was even indicted let alone prosecuted and jailed.” scientist and political commentator John V. Walsh said.

Only one very small investor was convicted but no serious action was taken against any of the major US banks or other financial institutions involved, Walsh recalled.

Walsh concluded that the major Wall Street financial institutions that survived the 2008-9 crisis were not only too big to be allowed to fail, they were also too big to be prosecuted.

Walsh dismissed an article published in the US journal Foreign Policy arguing that the United States benefitted from vigorously enforced financial laws and regulations as “gibberish.”

He said the problem was the opposite – that financial regulations already on the books had not been effectively implemented.

Executive Intelligence Review (EIR) senior editor Jeff Steinberg said there could have been many more Americans exposed in the Panama papers but the Mossack Fonseca law firm had stopped taking on US clients after it became aware of new federal government investigations into its activities.

“The law firm policy [was] to stop taking American clients after the FBI-DOJ [Department of Justice] started probes,” Steinberg explained.

On Monday the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published a searchable database of nearly 214,000 offshore entities created in 21 jurisdictions, from Nevada to Hong Kong and the British Virgin Islands.

May 13, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Economics | , | 1 Comment

The Dangers of Free Trade Agreements: TTIP’s Threat to Europe’s Elderly

Medical+Bill+

By Michael Hudson | CounterPunch | May 11, 2016

The most obvious approach to look at how European care for the elderly will evolve is to project technological trends and the costs of people living longer as diagnostic equipment, drug treatments and other medical science continues to improve. This kind of projection shows a rising cost to society of pensions and health care, because a rising proportion of the aging population is retiring. How will economies pay for it?

I want to point to some special problems that are looming on the political front. I assume that the reason you have invited me from America is that my country has been doing just about everything wrong in its health care. Its experience may provide an object lesson for what Europe should avoid (and indeed, has avoided up to this point).

For starters, privatization is much more expensive than European-style Single Payer public health care. Monopoly prices also are higher. And of course, fraud is a problem.

America’s Obamacare and health insurance laws have been written by political lobbyists for special interests. So has the TTIP: Transatlantische Handelsabwollen. Since George W. Bush, the U.S. Government has been prohibited from bargaining for low bulk prices from the pharmaceutical companies. Most Americans think that Health Management Organizations (HMOs) are rife with corruption and billing fraud. The insurance sector has made a killing by spending a great deal of money on bureaucratic techniques to reject patients who seem likely to require expensive health care. Doctors need to hire specialists working full time just to fill out the paperwork. Error is constant, and any visit to the doctor, even for a simple annual checkup, requires many hours by most patients on the phone with their insurance company to correct over-billing.

The dream of U.S. “free market” lobbyists to shift the costs of health care onto its users instead of as a public program. According to current plans backed both by the Republicans and by much of the Democratic Party leadership, these user costs ideally would be paid by pre-saving in special “health savings” accounts, to be managed by Wall Street banks as a kind of mutual fund (with all the financial risks this entails – the same kind of risks that are troubling most U.S. pension funds today).

The reason why the U.S. discussion of health care for the elderly is so relevant for Europeans is that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that President Barack Obama pushed on German Chancellor Angela Merkel two weeks ago poses a far-reaching threat to European policies.

The agreement has been drawn up in secret, and has only been available to Congressmen in a special room as a read-only copy. Not even Congressional staff have been permitted to see the details. The reason is that the terms of the TTIP are so awful that it could never be approved by voters. That is why the lobbyists for banks, insurance companies, drug companies, oil and gas companies and other special interests that wrote the law are trying to bypass democratic government and are going directly to Brussels – and in the United States to the Executive Branch of government.

The aim of the TTIP is to replace the application of national laws with special courts of referees nominated by the special interests. This includes the organization of health care. Last week Britain’s main labor union, Unite, warned that the TTIP would mean that the National Health Service would have to be wound down and privatized.[1] Although “Austria, Germany, Greece and Italy do have explicit reservations in the TTIP text to protect existing rules relating to healthcare,” the privatization lobbyist strategy is to have the treaty “provisionally applied” to force matters, by backing compliant politicians. Objections will be sidestepped as the “provisional’ law becomes a fait accompli.

I think that the best perspective that I can give you is to discuss how the various interest groups are working to shape political decisions regarding the public and private role of health care. This is an area I have been involved with for forty years. In 1976, I contributed the economic section for two reports by The Futures Group in Glastonbury, Connecticut for the National Science Foundation analyzing the economic and financial consequences of life‑extending technology: When We Live Longer: Prospects for America (with Herb Gurjuoy et al., 1977) and A Technology Assessment of Life-Extending Technologies (Vol. 5: Demography, Economics and Aging, 1977). I believe these were the first reports to pinpoint the implications for the Social Security system of an aging population and its inter-generational financial tensions.

American politicians and economic futurists were concerned with the effect on public health budgets of a rising proportion of the population able to live out the maximum present human lifespan of 125 years (called “squaring” the life expectancy curve). What is the best public response to what should be a dream being realized? More to the point, how should governments cope with special interests seeking merely to profiteer from such breakthroughs – and use their promise in an extortionate manner?

Every interest group has its own perspective. Most politicians in the United States are lawyers, and they worried that the Social Security, pension and health care contracts were a legal right that could not be broken or modified. President Eisenhower had called Social Security the “third rail” of American politics – meaning that any politician or party that sought to downgrade its promises would quickly be voted out of office.

It was obvious that a population living longer would receive more Social Security and pension payments, and that a rising proportion of national income would be spent on their health care. Some of the politicians I talked to were so pessimistic about the costs involved that one said that he was sorry that kidney dialysis procedures had been invented, because with so many people having kidney problems, it would cost a fortune to provide this service to everyone who medically needed it.

Some politicians sought ways to not to fund expensive medical technologies – on the ground that if these were developed, the government might have an obligation to supply the most expensive technologies (especially dialysis and organ transplants) to the population at large. The costs of doing this would absorb nearly all the economic growth.

One set of futures envisioned that the more costly medical treatments might become available only on islands – in the Caribbean, for instance. After all, did not Hippocrates practice on the island of Cos?

As forecast decades ago, health care is the most sharply rising cost in the United States. What none of us were cynical enough to forecast was the corrupt role played by special interests in maximizing the costs by treating each element of health care as a profit center – indeed, as an opportunity to extract monopoly rent.

Privatization of health insurance under Obamacare has been a bonanza for the financial sector and the insurance industry. Initially a Republican “free market” proposal, it required the Democratic Party in power to disable popular pressure for “Medicare for all” in the form of single payer public health care. No discussion within Congress was even permitted to favor public health care. (I was economic advisor to Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, whom the Democratic Party leadership blocked from even discussing a public option in the Congressional debate.)

The enormous power of lobbyists from the pharmaceutical industry bought the loyalty of politicians who blocked anti-trust laws from being applied against the drug companies. As I noted earlier, these lobbyists even succeeded in blocking the government from negotiating directly with the drug companies over prices.

I mention these points because the U.S. solution should serve as an object lesson for what European and other countries should avoid in managing their care for the elderly. This is especially important to Europe, because its neoliberal policies favoring the financial sector imply a slow economic crash squeezing household and employer budgets. Five concerns are paramount.

Triage: restricting the most expensive health care only to the wealthy

Lower incomes lead to shorter lifespans as a result of worse health, and also suicides. Marriage and birth rates also are lower as economies polarize and growth slows. Russia, Ukraine, Latvia and other post-Soviet states show this – and it may be a forecast of European experience. This raises the ratio of elderly to working-age populations. A slowly growing labor force must support more and more retirees.

Studies in almost every country have shown that health standards and lifespans are polarizing between wealthy and poor. A recent U.S. study notes: “The life-expectancy gap between rich and poor in the United States is actually accelerating. Since 2001, American men among the nation’s most affluent 5 percent have seen their lifespans increase by more than two years. American women in that bracket have registered an almost three-year extension to their life expectancy. Meanwhile, the poorest five percent of Americans have seen essentially no gains at all.”[2]

This has important implications regarding recent proposals to raise the retirement age at which people can qualify for Social Security. Only the well to do are living longer, not blue-collar labor. Raising the retirement age would deprive the latter of the retirement years that better-paid individuals enjoy as a result of their healthier lives.

I mentioned above one scenario drawn by futurists: that the best medical care might only be available in “medical islands” or their equivalent in the United States, called “Cadillac health insurance plans.”

Blaming the victims for their unhealthy environment as the problem were their “personal responsibility.”

George W. Bush recommended that the poor simply should go to hospital emergency wards when they get sick. This obviously is the most expensive approach. Prevention is by far more economical. But public moves along this line are being fought tooth and nail by the tobacco and soft-drink industries, and other purveyors of bad health.

Better health and longer lifespans are achieved not only by advanced medical technology, but by better public health standards, and personal diets and exercise. The most serious behaviors impairing health and longevity are smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol and eating junk foods to the point of obesity. In the United States, childhood diabetes is rising sharply, especially among racial and ethnic minorities, and the poor in general.

An obvious way to keep down health expenditures is to lead a more healthy life. In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg sought to ban the sale of large sugar-drink servings. Lawyers for the junk-food industry, supported by fast food restaurants and movie theaters, blocked his initiative. And an even more powerful legal tool to block public health warnings is contained in the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement and its European counterpart, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. These proposed treaties follow the earlier North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in levying enormous fines on government who warn populations of the dangers of smoking or other unhealthy behavior that is highly profitable to cigarette companies, soft drink “sugar water” makers, and fast food restaurants selling food-like substances that give little nourishment. Under the proposed neoliberal agreement being put in the hands of Brussels politicians by American lobbyists, government warnings of the health hazards of smoking will require these governments to pay the tobacco companies what they would have earned if cigarette sales had not declined as a result of these warnings! Fines already have been levied against Australia for seeking to improve public health by requiring such warnings on cigarette packages. A recent Australian report concludes:

Tobacco policies implemented in the past have been effective at decreasing overall rates of smoking, but new and innovative interventions will be needed in the future to affect change in all populations.

Six chapters were identified with potential to limit governments’ ability to implement tobacco control policies. The key chapters are: investment, particularly the ISDS mechanism; rules related to trademarks in intellectual property, regulatory coherence, cross-border services and technical barriers to trade. … Multiple chapters may also interact with the potential for amplified effects on tobacco control. Various provisions in these parts of the TPP may provide the tobacco industry with greater influence over policymaking and more avenues to contest tobacco control measures, as well as preventing governments from introducing new policies.[3]

Last week the European Court of Justice upheld the 2014 Tobacco Products Directive against challenges from British-American Tobacco (BAT) and Philip Morris. Like similar laws in other countries, the European law called for public warnings on cigarette packs telling smokers that nicotine kills. But the tobacco companies vowed to fight back, and the TTIP is now their major hope.

Dangers of privatization of health law under the TTIP

A recent British article lays out the problem:

A salient goal of TTIP is to shadow the Investor-State Dispute Settlement system (ISDS), an instrument of public international law granting firms the right to raise an action in a tribunal on the basis that a state’s policies have harmed their commercial interests. … The economist Max Otte has called ISDS ‘a complete disempowerment of politics’. The tribunals are confidential, as is usual in arbitration. Negotiations over ISDS within TTIP are also secret, the aim being to get the ink dry on the agreement before it can provoke opposition by being made public. …

As the Economist put it, ‘if you wanted to convince the public that international trade agreements are a way to let multinational companies get rich at the expense of ordinary people, this is what you would do.’[4]

Dangers of financialization

The most efficient way to finance care for the elderly – and pensions – remains pay-as-you-go planning. This is becoming difficult in a neoliberal political environment with shrinking economic growth and consequent demographic shrinkage. The horror story today is a Ukraine-like situation where the labor force has fled, leaving the elderly to be supported without much of a social budget. That is becoming the post-Soviet model, from East Germany to the Baltics.

The American situation is worse, because Social Security, Medicare and pensions are front-loaded by being financialized – paid for in advance. For decades, savings have been set aside in the form of stock and bond purchases. The problem is that when more workers retire than are contributing to the pension plan or similar plans, their prices will decline. This will leave the retirement plan under-funded.

As interest rates have been reduced to nearly zero since 2008 by Quantitative Easing by the U.S. Federal Reserve and now European Central Bank, pension funds and insurance companies have become desperate to meet their statistically required targets. They have turned to gambling on complex financial derivatives – and have lost heavily, because their managers are no match for Wall Street sharpies.

It may be appropriate here to note the monetary madness of the eurozone not having a central bank to monetize budget deficits to spend into the economy to help it grow. That is the proper function of a real central bank, from the Bank of England to the U.S. Federal Reserve System. European voters are being frightened by junk economics claiming that only commercial banks should create money and credit, not central banks. The reality is that central banks can create the money to fund health programs without inflating the economy. What would inflate health care costs, especially proper care for the elderly, would be privatization and a relinquishing of health policy to the large corporations best in a position to profiteer.

Danger of trade agreements raising the cost of drugs and medical technology

The technological medical revolution involves high rent-extracting opportunities, especially in treating the elderly. The Australian study cited above notes the dangers posed by the TPP (and hence also by its European version) to public health expenditure, especially health costs for the elderly. Designed largely to protect “intellectual property rights,” the proposed treaty aims to increase monopolyrent extraction by the pharmaceutical sector.

Provisions proposed for the TPP that have the potential to limit implementation of new food labelling requirements in Australia include the ISDS mechanism; the regulatory coherence chapter and technical barriers to trade chapter. Provisions in these parts of the TPP have the potential to restrict policymakers to regulate using the most effective public health nutrition instruments. For example, the food industry could argue that introduction of mandatory front-of-pack nutrition labelling would be a technical barrier to trade. Without strong compensatory intervention to improve consumer awareness of the relative healthfulness of foods, it is likely that there will be no change to current high rates of obesity, metabolic syndrome and non-communicable diseases. This would have a negative impact on health, particularly for vulnerable populations.

For starters, the trade agreement limits the ability of public or community pharmacies to bargain for lower drug prices. Also, any attempt at anti-monopoly legislation would require governments to pay the foreign producers or investors as much money as they would have earned if no “interference with markets” (that is, regulation of monopoly prices) had existed. This would sharply increase the cost of healthcare, and “many TPP provisions proposed during the negotiations are likely to be harmful to health.”

There is sufficient evidence which show that increases in the cost of medicines lead to greater patient copayments through the PBS, and that increases in patient copayments lead to lower rates of prescription use. Changes to prescription costs impact particularly on vulnerable populations who have less capacity to accommodate increased out-of-pocket expenses such as women, elderly adults, cultural and linguistic minorities, and low-income populations; people with chronic disease; geographically remote communities; and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations.

Many provisions proposed for the TPP had the potential to increase the cost of medicines. These were identified in leaked drafts of the intellectual property chapter; the healthcare transparency annex; and the investment chapter, which includes an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism. These provisions, if adopted, could be expected to lead to an increase in the costs of managing the PBS by delaying the availability of generic medicines, and constraining the ability of the PBS to contain costs. An increase in the cost of the PBS to government would be likely to lead to higher copayments for patients.

Summary

European sponsors of U.S.-style neoliberalism pose a threat of transforming European politics, and with it the structure of economies and society. Enormous sums of money are being spent on public relations, and to support politicians willing to shepherd corporate monopoly power against that of democratic government and voters. The most serious threat to European health care and care for the aging population in general is pressure from U.S. firms and diplomats to ram through the TTIP.

It is much more than a free trade agreement. Its “investor dispute” mechanism threatens to disenfranchise governments. The intent is to block them from protecting Europe’s economy, population and basic social philosophy that has developed over the past century of social democracy.

That is why so many of us in the United States also are fighting against this agreement. It has been a major issue in this year’s presidential campaign. Republican nominee Donald Trump has affirmed that the public option is by far the most economic. And Democratic contender Bernie Sanders has opposed Hillary Clinton’s support for her patrons on Wall Street and in the pharmaceutical monopolies. I hope that a similar fight will be waged in Europe.

This is the text of Michael Hudson’s speech to SANICADEMIA, May 9, 2016 in Villach, Austria for the 5th International Congress on Geriatrics and Gerontology = 59th Austrian Convention for Hospital Management, “We’re Living Longer: The healthcare challenges for today and tomorrow.”

Notes.

[1] Hazel Sheffield, “TTIP could cause an NHS sell-off and UK Parliament would be powerless to stop it, says leading union,” The Independent, April 29 2016. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/ttip-could-cause-an-nhs-sell-off-and-parliament-would-be-powerless-to-stop-it-says-leading-union-a7006471.html

[2] Sam Pizzigati, “Inequality Kills: Top 1% Lives 15 Years Longer Than the Poorest,” Naked Capitalism, May 3, 2016, originally published at Other Words. http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2016/05/inequality-kills-top-1-lives-15-years-longer-than-the-poorest.html

[3] Katherine Hirono, Fiona Haigh, Deborah Gleeson, Patrick Harris, Anne Marie Thow and Sharon Frie, “Is health impact assessment useful in the context of trade negotiations? A case study of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement,” April 4, 2016. http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/4/e010339.full. The report notes: “The final agreement also included an optional tobacco carve-out from ISDS, allowing TPP countries to prevent the use of ISDS to challenge tobacco control measures. Yet even these apparent ‘wins’ have some limitations. Unlike tobacco, the health system, food and alcohol were not carved out from ISDS, leaving these policy areas vulnerable to claims by foreign investors. While various safeguards have been included to try and protect public health, experts have raised doubts about whether they will be sufficient.”

[4] Glen Newey, “Investors v. States,” London Review of Books blog, April 29, 2016. http://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2016/04/29/glen-newey/investors-v-states/

May 11, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Economics | , , | Leave a comment

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