Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

US says won’t recognize Venezuela presidential election

Press TV – May 20, 2018

The United States government says it is not going to recognize the outcome of Venezuela’s presidential election which will be held on Sunday.

US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan made the announcement in a press briefing on Sunday and stressed that Washington was actively considering strict sanctions against Venezuela’s oil industry.

He also noted that the US would discuss a response to vote with its allies at the G20 meeting in the Argentinean capital Buenos Aires on Monday.

Washington has already put in place sanctions against Caracas and top Venezuelan government officials, as well as other measures to further weaken the country’s troubled economy and prevent the government and its state oil company from accessing international credit through US markets or entities.

On Friday, the US Treasury slapped sanctions against the head of the Venezuelan socialist party, Diosdado Cabello, and his wife, Marleny Josefina Contreras, who heads the country’s tourism institute, and his brother, Jose David.

Earlier in May, the administration of US President Donald Trump has slapped more sanctions against a number of Venezuelan companies and officials, accusing them of trafficking narcotics.

President Nicolas Maduro, who is running for a second six-year term in the vote, says the US has joined forces with opposition groups to topple his socialist government.

His opponents blame him for mishandling the economy and accuse him of dictatorial tendencies.

Maduro is predicted to win the Sunday election against main opposition candidate Henri Falcon.

Some opposition members have boycotted the vote, claiming it is rigged to ensure that Maduro wins a second six-year term in office.

Caracas, however, has assured the public that the election will be free and fair, saying those opposition members who refuse to participate in the election believe they have no chance to win.

May 20, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , , | 2 Comments

Spend on schools or bow to US demands? German politicians debate NATO strategy

RT | May 19, 2018

US President Donald Trump has accused Germany of not contributing enough to the NATO budget – but will German Chancellor Angela Merkel dance to Washington’s tune?

Politicians on both sides of Germany’s political spectrum shared their views with RT.

On Thursday, Trump warned NATO members that they will be “dealt with” if they fail to fulfill their financial obligations to the US-led military alliance. Germany was singled out as one of those said to be delinquent on their obligations.

Speaking to RT, Martin Dolzer of Die Linke (Left Party) said that buying into Trump’s ideas may send the world order “into chaos,” citing US policy in the Middle East as evidence. Dolzer stressed that Germans do not want war, and said that more vital issues should be on agenda instead of boosting military spending.

“The German population does not want any more military expenses, the German population needs money for kindergartens, for education, for the growth of civil society organizations and the social sector,” Dolzer said. “There has to be a change. And the people in Germany, I think most of them want this change, but the government does not follow it.”

Though Merkel has shown no interest to raising defense spending, Alternative for Germany (AfD) chief whip Hansjorg Mueller believes she is poised to “bend down before the wish of the big brother” – a reference to Trump and the US.

“Our government is the government of a vassal state and governments of vassal states always obey to the wish of the big brother,” Mueller said.

Mueller believes a rise in defense spending would only further split German society, which is already divided over the chancellor’s immigration policy, and significantly weaken Merkel’s position. “We are viewing the doom of her leadership over Germany,” he told RT.

Apart from its reluctance in meeting Washington’s demands, Berlin is also at odds with its ally over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany. The US is opposed to the project and signaled that it might be targeted by sanctions. The measures could also affect German companies.

The situation with the project is “pure blackmail,” said Mueller, adding that he hopes Merkel does not give in the “dead-end game.”

Meanwhile, Dolzer believes the pipeline is necessary for stability. “If we want to have stable organization of the industry this is very, very necessary to build this Nord Stream pipeline and to not follow the sanctions,” Dolzer said, adding that the US government must be reminded that it cannot act like “a monopoly power” around the globe.

May 19, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , | 1 Comment

EU Blocking Statute Against Anti-Iran US Sanctions May Fail to Protect Companies

Sputnik – May 19, 2018

BRUSSELS – The reinforcement and modification by EU of its Blocking Statute, which protects EU companies from the effects of sanctions by a third country, in order to prohibit companies from complying with US anti-Iran sanctions will not protect companies from fines for cooperating with Iranian projects, experts told Sputnik.

Since US President Donald Trump announced his decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and reimpose its sanctions against the Islamic Republic, efforts by EU leaders have been focused on preserving the status quo in relations with Iran and mitigating the effects of the US withdrawal.

On Thursday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced that the union will amend its Blocking Statute in order to include the US sanction imposed against Iran in the regulation. As soon as the amendments are adopted, EU businesses will be allowed not to comply with the US restrictions or even demand compensation for losses caused by the US sanctions.

TO AVOID US PENALTIES FIRMS SHOULD ABANDON BUSINESS WITH US

“Reactivating and even modifying the 1996 Blocking Statute will not shield EU companies, banks, and even countries from the US Department of Treasury imposing penalties. An EU company, bank, or government would have to do no business directly or indirectly with US counterparts in order to not feel the impact of US responses,” Dr. Jamsheed K. Choksy, the chair of Department of Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University, said.

Choksy indicated that the safeguards that the EU leadership and national governments might potentially provide to the EU companies will not be able to make up for the losses caused by not doing business with the United States, which is a target market for EU firms.

Choksy explained that EU firms, in fact, had to choose between business with US entities or Iranian ones and business with US companies was far more economically viable and lucrative than business with Iran.

The head of the Europe of Nations and Freedom group in the European Parliament, Nicolas Bay, agreed with Choksy, saying that the importance of the US and Iranian markets for EU businesses was non-comparable.

POLITICAL ASPIRATIONS VS. ECONOMIC INTERESTS

According to the politician, Brussels’ attempts to demonstrate its political independence and significance by preserving the Iran nuclear deal without the United States have nothing to do with purely economic motives of the EU businesses.

“In the current state of the crisis, Jean-Claude Juncker, Donald Tusk and the European Union are only into communication to hide their weakness, because Brussels will not be able to force the banks, the car manufacturers, and all the European companies that depend on the American market to continue to trade with Iran,” Bay said.

Drieu Godefridi, a writer and former Director of the Hayek Institute, said that EU firms would not abandon pragmatic interests to appease EU politicians trying to recover from Trump’s neglect of transatlantic partnership.

“Whatever Mr. Juncker says now and the sabre-rattling by some, large and small European companies will never jeopardize their North American business to please the Brussels politicians. Europe is divided; we may be the largest world market but Europe is a political dwarf,” Godefridi said.

EUROPE WILL HAVE TO ABIDE

“My analysis when Trump announced the re-establishment of sanctions was that Europeans would have to abide. There is no way Europe could take a different path: America is the backbone of European defense in NATO, America is the first market of Germany and the third of France. No European bank can live without access to the dollar zone,” Godefridi predicted.

Jacques Leroy, a French international consultant on deals in the Middle East, believes that in the current situation, taking into account the importance of the US market for European countries, national governments will try to obtain some exemptions for their firms on an individual basis.

“Every European leader will try to obtain ‘special treatment’ from Washington, which is exactly what Donald Trump counts on. Divide to control. Europe will have to bow to US sanctions in the end,” Leroy stressed.

IRAN’S SALVATION LIES IN PARTNERSHIP WITH RUSSIA, CHINA

Since the majority of experts were convinced that the EU dependence on the United States would not allow Brussels to preserve its cooperation with Iran, they suggested that the Islamic Republic should seek refuge in partnership with more independent Russia ad China.

“I do not think [EU politicians] have the stomach to stand up to Trump. The United States wants Iran, Russia, and China to fall on their knees. These three countries must move closer to each other,” Mohammad Marandi, a professor at the University of Tehran, recommended.

His views were fully shared by Godefridi, who assumed that Russia and China were independent enough from the US economy to go their own way and trade with Iran.

May 19, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , , | Leave a comment

With Iran sanctions Trump made Europeans look like the fools they are

By John Laughland | RT | May 18, 2018

The attacks by European leaders against US President Donald Trump are getting sharper by the day.

On the day Trump announced that he was ripping up the Iran deal, and that the US would impose sanctions on European companies trading with that country, the French finance minister Bruno Le Maire said that European states refused to be treated like “vassals” of the US.

At Aachen on 11 May, Emmanuel Macron effectively accused the US of blackmail.  On 17 May, the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, asked, “With friends like that (i.e. Trump), who needs enemies?”

The temperature only rose further when the French energy giant Total announced that it would pull out of a multi-billion dollar gas deal with Iran unless European diplomacy succeeds in obtaining a specific waiver from US sanctions. Other European behemoths including Allianz and Siemens have also announced either that they will wind down operations in Iran or that they will not start any new ones.

These statements show that Trump’s decision is a slap in the face for the EU politically, economically and – perhaps above all – ideologically. Politically, because both Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel made special trips to Washington to plead with Trump, to no avail whatever.  Moreover, the EU is itself a signatory to the Iran deal, which it regards as a major diplomatic triumph from which it draws credibility: its disavowal by Trump is a deep insult to the diplomatic status of the EU as such.

Economically, because of the gigantic contracts which European companies could lose. For years, following the nearly $9 billion fine imposed by the US on Paribas in 2015, European companies and banks have been terrified of engaging in any business activity likely to attract the ire of the Americans. Deals with Russia, for instance, are shunned. The effect of this latest decision could be like many Paribas situations at once.

Ideologically, because the EU draws its entire legitimacy from the belief that by pooling sovereignty and by merging its states into one entity, it has advanced beyond the age when international relations were decided by force. It believes that it embodies instead a new international system based on rules and agreements, and that any other system leads to war. It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of this belief for European leaders; yet Donald Trump has just driven a coach and horses through it.

The angry statements by European leaders might lead one to think that we are on the cusp of a major reappraisal of trans-Atlantic relations. However, the reality is that the EU and its leaders have painted themselves into a corner from which it will be very difficult, perhaps impossible, to extricate themselves.

First, the links between the EU and the US are not only very long-standing, they are also set in stone. NATO and the EU are in reality Siamese twins, two bodies born at the same time which are joined at the hip. The first European community was created with overt and covert US support in 1950 in order to militarize Western Europe and to prepare it to fight a land war against the Soviet Union; NATO acquired its integrated command structure a few months later and its Supreme Commander is always an American.

Today the two organizations are legally inseparable because the consolidated Treaty on European Union, in the form adopted at Lisbon in 2009, states that EU foreign policy “shall respect” the obligations of NATO member states and that it shall “be compatible” with NATO policy. In other words, the constitutional charter of the EU subordinates it to NATO, which the USA dominates legally and structurally. In such circumstances, European states can only liberate themselves from US hegemony, as Donald Tusk said they should, by leaving the EU.  It is obvious that they are not prepared to do that.

Second, EU leaders have burned their own bridges with other potential partners, especially Russia. Angela Merkel traveled to Russia on Friday but only a few weeks ago more than half of the EU member states expelled scores of Russian diplomats and encouraged non-EU European states like Ukraine and Montenegro to do the same, in retaliation for the poisoning in Salisbury of Sergei and Julia Skripal.

How is Mrs Merkel going to convince Mr Putin to join her in keeping Iran’s nuclear program under control if she officially thinks that Mr Putin is guilty of secretly stockpiling and using chemical weapons for assassinations in the West?  Only a few weeks later, in mid-April, Britain and France, together with the US, attacked Syria on the basis that its army had used chemical weapons at Douma with Russian backing. If they try to turn on the charm now in Sochi or in Moscow, do they really expect the Russians can take them seriously?

Third, how can EU leaders complain about US sanctions against their companies when they themselves have applied sanctions against Russian companies causing major economic disruptions in that country? EU states have also introduced punitive sanctions against Syria since 2011, one of the biggest programs of sanctions ever, whose effect and purpose is to disrupt the activities of the Syrian state including its ability to provide public goods like health.

Britain and France, who are, with Germany, the European signatories of the Iran deal, have been pursuing regime change in Syria for half a decade. By what right do they protest now that the US administration is taking decisions whose goal is to provoke regime change in Iran?

As if these external issues were not bad enough, the EU is currently riven by internal divisions too. Donald Tusk may say “Europe must be united economically, politically and also militarily like never before … either we are together or we are not at all” but Europe is indeed not “together” at all. The Brussels commission is hounding Poland and Hungary on what are clearly internal political matters beyond the Commission’s remit; the EU is about to lose one of its most important member states; and a new government is going to take power in Rome whose economic policies (a flat tax at 15%) will blow the eurozone’s borrowing rules out of the water and perhaps cause Italy to leave the euro.

The Italian 5-Star / League government also wants an end to the EU sanctions against Russia; these are voted by a unanimity which, although fragile, has held until now but which, if the new power in Rome keeps its word, will shortly collapse. In other words, what Trump has done is to make the Europeans look like the fools they are. In circumstances in which the EU has placed all its eggs in one basket, a basket which Trump has now overturned, it will be impossible for it to come together. On the contrary, it is falling apart.

John Laughland, who has a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Oxford and who has taught at universities in Paris and Rome, is a historian and specialist in international affairs.

May 18, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 3 Comments

EU will use ‘blocking statute’ to protect its firms from US sanctions for operating in Iran

RT | May 17, 2018

The European Union will activate legislation banning the bloc’s companies from complying with US sanctions against Iran as soon as Friday, according to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

The law also does not recognize any court rulings enforcing penalties, which could be potentially introduced by the White House against European corporations doing business in the Islamic Republic.

“As the European Commission we have the duty to protect European companies,” the Commission president said at a news conference after a meeting of EU leaders. “We now need to act and this is why we are launching the process of to activate the ‘blocking statute’ from 1996. We will do that tomorrow morning at 10:30.”

“We also decided to allow the European Investment Bank to facilitate European companies’ investment in Iran. The Commission itself will maintain its cooperation with Iran,” Juncker said.

The move followed Washington’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, clinched three years ago between Tehran and the P5+1 powers (China, France, Russia, UK, US, plus Germany) and to reintroduce sanctions that were lifted after signing the pact.

The US Treasury Department said it would give European businesses six months to wind up their investments in the country or risk US sanctions – forbidding them from signing new contracts.

Following a decades-long financial and economic blockade, the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), opened Iran as one of the biggest global markets to dozens of multinationals across the globe. The EU’s biggest companies rushed to sign multi-billion euro deals with Tehran shortly after the sanctions were lifted. As for Iran, the energy-rich republic got an opportunity to ramp up its presence in the global oil markets.

The EU has a lot of experience protecting its interests, Dawood Nazirizadeh, chairman of the Wiesbaden Academy for integration, told RT.

“In 1996 it defended itself against US secondary sanctions with the ‘blocking statute’. As a result, the US granted exemptions to European companies. However, under the current US administration, we are not optimistic about the future for such an agreement,” said Nazirizadeh.

The EU also agreed to stick to the Iran nuclear deal, aiming to protect the interests of European corporations dealing with Tehran against US sanctions, according to European Council President Donald Tusk.

“On Iran nuclear deal, we agreed unanimously that the EU will stay in the agreement as long as Iran remains fully committed to it. Additionally the Commission was given a green light to be ready to act whenever European interests are affected,” the top EU official said.

May 17, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , | 1 Comment

Iran Signs Free Trade Agreement With Eurasian Economic Union

By Adam Garrie | EurasiaFuture | May 17, 2018

Iran has just signed an agreement to enter a three year provisional free trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). According to EAEU official Tigran Sargsyan,

“The temporary agreement stipulates an effective dispute settlement mechanism, including arbitration… It also creates a joint committee of high-ranking officials and establishes a business dialogue”.

The EAEU’s current members are Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, while the bloc has existing free trade agreements with Vietnam, Uzbekistan and Moldova. Aside from Vietnam other ASEAN states including Indonesia and Thailand have been in early level discussions about the possibility of a free trade arrangement with the EAEU, while Serbia and Turkey have also considered joining.  Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak has said that Iran could become the sixth full member in the future. Today’s Iran-EAEU free trade agreement will function as a test to determine the viability of long term Iranian membership of the trading bloc. Novak stated,

“The move to enter into a temporary agreement making for a free trade zone to be set up between Iran and the Eurasian Economic Union, which is currently at an advanced stage, will obviously trigger further development of our bilateral trade and expansion of investment cooperation”.

While many will see EAEU membership as a further means for Iran to create new economic partnerships away from regions whose financial and commercial structures are subservient to a hostile United States, in the long term, it means far more to Iran than a means of skirting increasingly ridiculous sanctions from Washington in the light of the US withdrawal from the JCPOA.

For Iran, EAEU membership represents a new opportunity to expand its economic horizons beyond its current Middle Eastern partners. In this sense, just as Iran has a long history of ‘thinking east’ in terms of economic connectivity and cultural exchange, today’s EAEU presents Tehran with a modern cooperative model to expand its peaceful economic interactions to greater Eurasia. Beyond this, with proposals to integrate Pakistan into the North-South Economic Corridor, Pakistan and Iran could cooperate in order to form two unique and mutually complimentary road corridors.

The North-South Transport Corridor is a joint initiative of nations who have built and continue to expand shipping and road links between South Asia, Northern Eurasia and Europe. The map below shows the basic route which begins with a shipping lane between India and Iran’s Chabahar Port on the Gulf of Oman, before travelling north through Iran to the Caucasus and into Russia, while also linking up with existing rail routes from Iran into Central Asia and west into Europe via Turkey.

While countries as diverse as Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan have embraced the North-South Corridor as a means of creating greater opportunities for economic enrichment through joint cooperative efforts, in India, the project has been sold as a rival to China’a One Belt–One Road. This has been the case even though the North-South Corridor is vastly more limited in its geographical expanse vis-a-vis the global Chinese project and perhaps even more crucially, the other partners in the North-South Transport Corridor do not share India’s zero-sum vision of the project.

In particular, India is keen to present the North-South Transport Corridor as a rival to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor linking China to the Indian ocean via a large road and rail network whose western terminus is Pakistan’s Gwadar port.

Pakistan’s Ambassador to Azerbaijan recently announced that his country is interested in linking up with existing routes along the North-South Transport Corridor. This gives Pakistan the opportunity to link the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) with the North-South Transport Corridor, which would serve the long term strategic interests of the wider region, in terms of linking Pakistan’s Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea with Iran’s Chabahar Port on the Gulf of Oman.

Under such a scenario, goods from China would enter Pakistan via newly built road and rail routes and could then travel in one of two directions. First of all, goods could travel south through Pakistan to Gwadar where from there they could go in multiple directions including into Africa, Europe via the Suez Canal, or the wider Middle East via the Gulf of Oman/Chabahar and the Persian Gulf. Alternatively, goods could travel north into Central Asia and ultimately into Russia via Pakistan. This second option was proposed by geopolitical expert Andrew Korybko in early 2017 when he wrote,

“The enhanced trade relations that were mentioned above [see full piece] can only occur if Russia and Pakistan are connected to one another through CPEC, no matter how indirectly due to the geographic distance between them and Moscow’s reluctance to officially endorse this trade route in order to preserve its strategic “balancing act” with India. The second part of this conditional implies that the private sector needs to drive these two countries’ CPEC connectivity since the Russian state isn’t going to do so because of delicate political reasons, which thus allows one to envision three possible solutions, all of which are inclusive of one another and could in theory exist concurrently.

The most probable of the three is that Russia could connect to CPEC via the Central Asian state of Kazakhstan, which is already a member of the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union and through which a lot of bilateral trade already traverses. Furthermore, the Eurasian Land Bridge between East Asia and Western Europe is expected to pass through this international corridor as well, so it’ll probably be easiest for Russia and Pakistan to trade across this route by linking up at CPEC’s Urumqi hub in China’s Autonomous Region of Xinjiang.

Considering that Xinjiang’s capital city is located closer to Russia’s southern Siberian border than to CPEC’s terminal Arabian Sea port of Gwadar, there’s also the chance that a more direct north-south trade route could be established between Russia and Pakistan via this avenue. After all, Russia’s “Pivot to Asia” (which is officially referred to as “rebalancing” in Moscow’s political parlance) isn’t just international but also internal, and it aspires to develop resource-rich Siberia just as much as it aims to chart new international partnerships. With this in mind, there’s no reason why southern Siberia couldn’t one day be connected to CPEC via the nearby Urumqi juncture.

Lastly, Russia’s already building a North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) through Azerbaijan and Iran in order to facilitate trade with India, so the opportunity exists for it to simply use this route’s overland transport infrastructure to reach Pakistan in the event that the Iranian terminal port of Chabahar is ultimately linked with nearby Gwadar. Even if that doesn’t happen, then there’s still nothing preventing private Russian businessman from using Chabahar or even the more developed port of Bandar Abbas as their base of operations for conducting maritime trade with Gwadar or Karachi. This would in effect make India’s “brainchild” the ironic basis for Russian-Pakistani economic relations”.

Both Pakistan’s willingness to embrace the North-South Corridor, thereby integrating it into CPEC which itself forms a crucial artery of One Belt–One Road and Iran’s eagerness to become a member of the EAEU, could help to speed up the process of wider inter-connectivity between China’s Pacific Coast, the Middle East and Russia’s wider economic sphere in northern Eurasia.

If all of these existing links became inter-connected, one would see Gwadar taking on the adding function of becoming Central Asia and Russia’s gateway to the wider shipping routes of the Indian Ocean, while Chabahar would act as a parallel route for goods from both CPEC and the wider Indian Ocean, into the Caucasus, Russia or the Middle East.

Iran’s membership in the EAEU would help to expedite this process as the routes from Iran into Armenia and finally, into Russia would all constitute a single market. Were Turkey to join the EAEU, this would make transcaucasian trade into Turkey and the wider Mediterranean region all the more simple, as it would also allow Iran to act as a conduit between the Caucasus and Turkey, thus avoiding the politically prickly issue of direct trade from Armenia into Turkey. Turkey and Armenia’s mutually healthy relations with Iran, means that Tehran could be a physical arbiter of trade between two nations with historically (and currently) poor relations.

Over all, a strong and southward looking EAEU will help to strengthen both Iran-Pakistan relations through enhanced South Asian-Northern Eurasian trading networks, while also helping to facilitate the smooth transport of goods along One Belt–One Road from the Pacific into the Middle East, western Eurasia and further south into Africa along Indian Ocean maritime belts.

May 17, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pharma Paid and Trump Delivered

By Martha Rosenberg | CounterPunch | May 16, 2018

How high are Pharma’s prices? Novartis wants $475,000 a patient for its new cancer therapy. Hep C drugs cost $95,000 for a course of treatment. The immune drug, Actimmune, costs $52,321.80 a month. The parasite drug Daraprim costs $45,000 a month. And the gallstone drug Chenodal costs $42,570 a month.

But this week in his long-awaited speech, Trump blamed foreign countries for high drug prices in the US and reversed his campaign pledge to use Medicare’s buying power to negotiate lower drug prices. Pharma stock prices rose; the shilling paid off.

Pharma has two lobbyists for every member of Congress. It spends more on lobbying than tobacco, oil and defense contractors combined. It parades patients before public and consumer panels to “provide media outlets a human face to attach to a cause when insurers balk at reimbursing patients for new prescription medications,” writes Melissa Healy of the Los Angeles Times.

And that is not enough for Pharma. Companies also try to incorporate in the UK, Ireland and other overseas locations to dodge the US taxes that fund them such as Medicare. They already manufacture and test drugs overseas because the labor is cheap.

The US government is captured. Pharma operatives head both Health and Human Services and the FDA. The CDC Foundation which receives millions from corporations (not that it affects policies or anything) lists as donors Abbott, AbbVie, Bayer, AstraZeneca, Merck, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals, Eli Lilly, Amgen, Genentech, Gilead and many more. (Is that why the CDC allows its name to be used in Gilead ads for its Hep C drug?)

Until 2010, PhRMA, Pharma’s top lobbying group, was headed by former Louisiana Rep. Billy Tauzin who resigned from Congress where he chaired the committee which oversees the drug industryonly to immediately reappear as the leader of PhRMA where he drew a $2 million salary. No conflict of interest there.

Tauzin had played a key role in shepherding the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill through Congress which prohibited government negotiation of lower drug prices and Canadian imports. “It’s a sad commentary on politics in Washington that a member of Congress who pushed through a major piece of legislation benefiting the drug industry, gets the job leading that industry,” Public Citizen’s President Joan Claybrook said.

Two-thirds of Pharma lobbyists previously worked for Congress or federal agencies reports the New York Times. An aide to former Michigan Rep. John D. Dingell now works for PhRMA, and an aide to former Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, who was the chairman of the Senate health committee “is now a top lobbyist for Merck.” Gary Andres, former staff director of the House Energy and Commerce Committee now lobbies for biotech companies. And the list goes on.

Having captured Congress, you wouldn’t think Pharma would need a charm offensive. Yet it spends millions trying to convince the public it has our interests at heart as it raises our taxes and health care costs. Currently, “America’s Biopharmaceutical companies” are running their “Go Boldly” campaign, ennobling their work with the pay-off line “here’s to permission to fail.”

Yes, Pharma knows a lot about “permission to fail.” Over 20 of its drugs have been withdrawn from the market -after maximum money was made of course- in recent years because they were so dangerous. They include Vioxx, Bextra, Baycol, Trovan, Meridia, Seldane, Hismanal, Darvon, Raxar, Redux Mylotarg, Lotronex, Propulsid, phenylpropanolamine (PPA), Prexige, phenacetin, Oraflex, Omniflox, Posicor, Serzone and Duract.

Pharma also runs a sappy “Hope to Cures: The Value of Biopharmaceutical Innovation and New Drug Discovery” campaign that showcases patients whose lives were saved by expensive drugs. “If you object to our six-digit drug prices you are signing the death warrant for these patients,” the sleazy campaign seeks to convey.

Two lies lurk under the PR stunt. First, most of Pharma’s profits come from non life-saving drugs that treat acid reflux, ADHD, poor eating habits and a host of  trumped up psychiatric illnesses. Secondly, research accounts for only one-fifth of Pharma’s drug costs. Most drug costs Pharma seeks to recoup are for marketing––the ask-your-doctor ads you see on TV––and, of course, lobbying.

May 16, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Economics, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | | Leave a comment

A dozen googlers quit over Google’s military drone contract

boing boing | May 15, 2018

Google’s “Project Maven” is supplying machine-learning tools to the Pentagon to support drone strikes; the project has been hugely divisive within Google, with employees pointing out that the company is wildly profitable and doesn’t need to compromise on its ethics to keep its doors open; that the drone program is a system of extrajudicial killing far from the battlefield; and that the firm’s long-term health depends on its ability to win and retain the trust of users around the world, which will be harder if Google becomes a de facto wing of the US military.

A dozen googlers have put their money where their mouths are, publicly resigning over the contract; 4,000 more googlers have signed an open letter to the company’s CEO asking him to cancel the contract.

Companies have an emergent property of profit-seeking without regard to ethics or human flourishing, but individuals within companies retain their human sense of decency; that’s why we need to include techies in our plan for fixing tech.

A dozen Google employees quit over military drone project [Ron Amadeo/Ars Technica]

One resigning employee questioned why Google is even bothering with such a controversial program when it is already so massive. “It’s not like Google is this little machine-learning startup that’s trying to find clients in different industries,” the anonymous employee told Gizmodo. “It just seems like it makes sense for Google and Google’s reputation to stay out of that.”

“Actions speak louder than words, and that’s a standard I hold myself to as well,” another resigning employee told Gizmodo. “I wasn’t happy just voicing my concerns internally. The strongest possible statement I could take against this was to leave.”

May 16, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | , | Leave a comment

Europe drags feet on guaranteeing trade with Iran

Press TV – May 16, 2018

The European Union’s top policy chief has said that she cannot talk about giving Iran guarantees for the economic benefits of the 2015 agreement, but that she can give assurances that the EU will deepen the dialog with Iran and will immediately start work to arrive at practical solutions. Still a number of European firms have already started winding down business in Iran in an attempt to protect themselves from secondary US sanctions.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned ahead of a meeting with his British, French and German counterparts in Brussels on Tuesday that there was not much time for them to deliver those assurances.

“Guarantees of benefits of the JCPOA should be given to Iran. We will have to see whether those remaining in the JCPOA can deliver those benefits to Iran,” he was quoted as saying upon arrival in the Belgian capital.

However, the Europeans only pledged to keep the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) alive without the United States by trying to keep Iran’s oil and investment flowing.

“We all agreed that we have a relative in intensive care and we all want to get him or her out of intensive care as quickly as possible,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters after the 90-minute meeting.

Mogherini emphasized that the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions and the normalization of trade and economic relations with Iran constitute an essential part of the nuclear deal.

She said Iran and the Europeans will be working over the coming weeks to find practical solutions which will include continuing to sell Iran’s oil and gas products, maintaining effective banking transactions and protecting European investments in Iran.

As for the assurances, Mogherini said, “I cannot talk about legal or economic guarantees but I can talk about serious, determined, immediate work from the European side.”

The US has given companies a 180-day wind-down period before the sanctions are reimposed on Iran. That has prompted some European companies to start planning their exit from Iran’s market in the absence of guarantees from their governments.

Danish shipping companies Maersk Tankers and Torm were reported on Tuesday to have stopped taking new orders in Iran.

Even before Trump’s withdrawal, Iran had repeatedly complained to the Europeans about their failure to persuade companies into dealing with Tehran because banks in Europe are generally unwilling to handle transactions with the Islamic Republic.

On Tuesday, German insurer Allianz said it was preparing to wind down Iran-related business due to possible US sanctions.

“We are analyzing our portfolio to identify Iran-related business,” Reuters quoted an Allianz spokesman as saying.

“This analysis is ongoing and we are developing wind-down plans for relevant business to ensure appropriate termination within the defined periods,” he said.

May 16, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , , | Leave a comment

Reasons Trump Breaks Nuclear Sanction Agreement with Iran, Declares Trade War with China and Meets with North Korea

By James Petras | Axis of Logic | May 13, 2018

Introduction

For some time, critics of President Trump’s policies have attributed them to a mental disorder; uncontrolled manic-depression, narcissus bullying and other pathology.

The question of Trump’s mental health raises a deeper question: why does his pathology take a specific political direction?

Moreover, Trump’s decisions have a political history and background, and follow from a logic and belief in the reason and logic of imperial power.

We will examine the reason why Trump has embraced three strategic decisions which have world-historic consequences, namely: Trump’s reneging the nuclear accord with Iran; Trump’s declaration of a trade war with China; and Trump’s meeting with North Korea.

In brief we will explore the political reasons for his decisions; what he expects to gain; and what is his game plan if he fails to secure his expected outcome and his adversaries take reprisals.

Trump’s Strategic Framework

The underlying assumption of Trump’s strategic thinking is that ‘power works’: the more intransigent his posture, the greater his belief in a unipolar world based on US power. As a corollary, Trump interprets that any ally, adversary, competitor who seeks negotiations, reciprocity or concessions is ‘weak’ and should be pressured or forced to concede greater concessions and further retreats and sacrifices, up to the ultimate goal of surrender and submission. In other words, Trump’s politics of force only recognizes counter-force: limitations in Trump’s policies will only result when tangible economic and military losses and costs in US lives would undermine US imperial rule.

Reasons Why Trump Broke the Peace Accord with Iran

Trump broke the accord with Iran because the original agreement was based on retaining US sanctions against Iran; the total dismantling of its nuclear program and calling into question Iran’s limited role on behalf of possible allies in the Middle East.

Iran’s one-sided concessions; trading military defense for market opportunities encouraged Trump to believe that he could intimidate Iran militarily by closing all its markets.

Trump views President Rohani as a rug seller not a military strategist. Trump believes that an economic squeeze will lead President Rohani to sacrifice his allies in Syria, Lebanon (Hezbollah), Yemen (Houthi), Palestine (Hamas) and Iraq (Shia) and to dismantle its ICBM defense strategy.

Trump pursues the strategic goal of weakening Iran and preparing a regime change, reverting Iran into a client state – as it was prior to the 1979 revolution under the Shah.

The second reason for Trump’s policy is to strengthen Israel’s military power in the Middle East. The Trump regime is deeply influenced by the Zionist power configuration (ZPC) in the US, dubbed ‘the Lobby’.

Trump recognizes and submits to Zionist-Israeli dictates because they have unprecedented power in the media, real estate, finance and insurance (FIRE). Trump recognizes the ZPC’s power to buy Congressional votes, control both political parties and secure appointments in the executive branch.

Trump is the typical authoritarian: at the throat of the weak, citizens, allies and adversaries and on his knees before the powerful ZPC, the military and Wall Street. Trump’s submission to Zionist power reinforces and even dictates his decision to break the peace accord with Iran and his willingness to pressure France, Germany, the UK and Russia to sacrifice billion-dollar trade agreements with Iran and to pursue a policy of pressuring Teheran to accept part of Trump’s agenda of unilateral disarmament and isolation. Trump believes he can force the EU multi-nationals to disobey their governments and abide by sanctions.

Reasons for Trump’s Trade War with China

Prior to Trump’s presidency, especially under President Obama, the US launched a trade war and ‘military pivot’ to China. Obama proposed the Trans-Pacific Pact to exclude China and directed an air and naval armada to the South China Sea. Obama established a high-powered surveillance system in South Korea and supported war exercises on North Korea’s border. Trump’s policy deepened and radicalized Obama’s policies.

Trump extended Obama’s bellicose policy toward North Korea, demanding the de-nuclearization of its defense program. President Kim of North Korea and President Moon of South Korea reached an agreement to open negotiations toward a peace accord ending nearly 60 years of hostility.

However, President Trump joined the conversation on the presumption that North Korea’s peace overtures were due to his threats of war and intimidation. He insisted that any peace settlement and end of economic sanctions would only be achieved by unilateral nuclear disarmament, the maintenance of US forces on the peninsula and supervision by US approved inspectors.

Trump’s unilateral declaration of a trade war against China accompanied his belief that military threats led to North Korea’s “capitulation” – its promise to end its nuclear program.

Trump slapped a trade tariff on over $100 billion dollars of Chinese exports in order to reduce its trade imbalance by $200 billion over two years. He demanded China unilaterally end industrial ‘espionage’, technological ‘theft’ (all phony accusations) and China’s compliance monitored quarterly by the US.

Trump demanded that China not retaliate with tariffs or restrictions or face bigger sanctions.

Trump threatened to respond to any reciprocal tariff by Beijing, with greater tariffs, and restrictions on Chinese goods and services.

Trump’s goals seek to convert North Korea into a military satellite encroaching on China’s northern border; and a trade war that drives China into an economic crisis.

Trump believes that as China declines as a world economic power, the US will grow and dominate the Asian and world economy.

Trump believes a successful trade war will lead to a successful military war. Trump believes that a submissive China, based on its isolation from the ‘dynamic’ US market, will enhance Washington’s quest for uncontested world domination.

Trump’s Ten Erroneous Thesis

Trump’s political agenda is deeply flawed!

Breaking the nuclear agreement and imposing harsh sanctions has isolated Trump from his European and Asian allies.

His military intervention will inflame a regional war that would destroy the Saudi oil fields. He will force Iran to pursue a nuclear shield against US-Israeli aggression and lead to a prolonged, costly and ultimately losing war.

Trump’s policies will unify all Iranians, liberals and nationalist, and undermine US collaborators.

The entire Muslim world will unify forces and carry the conflict throughout Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Tel Aviv’s bombing will lead to counter-attacks in Israel.

Oil prices will skyrocket, financial markets will collapse, industries will go bankrupt.

Trump’s sanctions and military aggression against Iran will lead to mutual economic destruction.

Trump’s trade war with China will lead to the disruption of the supply chain which sustains the US economy and especially the 500 US multi-nationals who depend on the Chinese economy for exports to the US.

China will increase domestic consumption, diversify its markets and trading partners and reinforce its military alliance with Russia.

China has greater resilience and capacity to overcome short-term disruption and regain its dominant role as a global economic power house.

Wall Street will suffer a catastrophic financial collapse and send the US into a world depression.

Trump’s negotiations with North Korea will go nowhere as long as he demands unilateral nuclear disarmament, US military control over the peninsula and political isolation from China.

Kim will insist on the end of sanctions, and a mutual defense treaty with China.

Kim will offer to end nuclear testing but not nuclear weapons. After Trump’s reneged on the Iran deal, Kim will recognize that agreements with the US are not trustworthy.

Conclusion

Trump’s loud, threatening gestures are a real danger to world peace and justice. But his assumptions about the consequences of his policy are deeply flawed. There is no basis to think his sanctions will topple the Iranian regime; that Israel will survive unscathed from a war with Iran: that an oil war will not undermine the US economy; that Europe will allow its companies to be frozen out of the Iran market.

Trump’s trade war with China is dead in the water. He cannot find alternative production sites for US multi-nationals.

He cannot freeze China out of the world market, since they have links with five continents.

Trump cannot dominate North Korea and force it to sacrifice its sovereignty on the basis of empty economic promises to lift sanctions.

Trump is heading for defeats on all counts. But he may take the American people into the nuclear abyss in the process.

Epilogue

Are Trump’s threats of war part of a strategy of bluff and bombast designed to intimidate, in order to secure political advantages? Is Trump playing the Nixon-Kissinger ‘madman’ tactic, in which the Secretary of State tells adversaries to accept his ‘reasonable’ demands or face the worst from the President? I don’t think so.

Nixon, unlike Trump, was not led by the nose by Israel. Nixon, unlike Trump, was not led by pro-nuclear war advisers. Nixon, in contrast to Trump, opened the US to trade with China and signed nuclear reduction agreements with Russia.

Nixon successfully promoted peaceful co-existence.

Trump is a master of defeats.

© Copyright 2018 by AxisofLogic.com

May 14, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , | Leave a comment

IMF Warning of Global Inflation: Money Losing Value? – ‘US Will Be Hit First’

Sputnik – 13.05.2018

The International Monetary Fund issued a report analyzing possible inflation tendencies and warned of devaluation and drastic price increases. German analysts have commented on the issue in interviews with Sputnik.

“Things are getting more expensive,” Jochen Stanzl, a chief market analyst at the Frankfurt-based CMC Markets told Sputnik.

According to Stanzl, the important question — if the inflation occurs — is whether “central banks will be able to deal with it.”

“I believe central banks won’t be able to raise the rates as fast as they need to,” he said, adding that this is where the core problem lies.

His point of view is supported by Munich-based financial analyst Dimitri Speck.

“We are living in a heavily over-indebted world economy,” he told Sputnik.

“The global economy has never had such a high debt as now. And this debt, apparently, cannot be reduced by regular repayments, but rather by inflation or by the expropriation of private savings,” the expert argued.

According to Speck, inflation is a consequence of state action aimed at “creating demand” and “preventing banking crises.”

It is also used to “stimulate economy in the short run” and to wage wars.

“War is a very common reason for inflationary surges,” the analyst said. “I think this spending trend will gain force. The US is being hit first. The dollar is still the world’s leading currency. In Germany this tendency is, so far, not so evident,” Speck concluded.

In April, the IMF issued a report called “Global Financial Stability Report April 2018: A Bumpy Road Ahead” that warns of devaluation and inflation tendencies in the US economy, which could trigger a global domino effect. Experts warn that the inflation will cause a dramatic rise in costs of living, while income will also lose its value.

May 13, 2018 Posted by | Economics | | 3 Comments

Putin comes out with a ‘Russia First’ strategy

By M.K. Bhadrakumar | Asia Times | May 11, 2018

Vladimir Putin was sworn in as Russia’s new president at a grand ceremony in the Kremlin on Monday. As his fourth term begins – which may also be his last term – speculation is rife about the composition of the new Russian government.

Chronic Russia watchers are absolutely certain that Putin’s nominees for top government posts – to be announced by May 15 – will give clues about his priorities on the policy front. However, Putin may have ended their suspense already with a presidential decree titled “Russia for the People” issued within hours of being sworn in as president.

The decree consolidates his vision of the economic and social development of Russia and is projected as his top priority. One may call it Putin’s strategy of “Russia First.”

But Putin’s strategy is radically different from his US counterpart’s “America First.” For a start, it is far more sweeping in its scope with developmental programs embracing healthcare, education, demographics, housing and urban development, international cooperation and exports, labor productivity, SMEs, roads and infrastructure, ecology, digital economy, science and culture.

The ambitious goals include making Russia one of the five largest economies globally by 2024. In terms of nominal GDP, Russia now ranks 13th in world ranking, while in terms of total purchasing power parity, it is ranked sixth, after China, the US, India, Japan and Germany.

Other goals outlined in Putin’s strategy include extending the life expectancy in Russia to 78 years by 2024, from the present 71, and to 80 years by 2030, and halving the number of Russians in poverty, now estimated at 20 million, keeping productivity growth at 5% and maintaining GDP growth at a pace faster than the global average.

Cuts in defense spending

Interestingly, Putin aims to mobilize funding for “Russia First” not through aggressive pursuit of mercantilist policies abroad, but by axing military spending in the country’s budget. Whereas Trump intends to make American great by hiking defense spending to an all-time high level, Putin is taking the diametrically opposite course of effecting sharp cuts in spending on the military.

In essence, the steady annual rise of 10% in Russia’s defense spending in the Russian budget that was characteristic of recent years has ended. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates a 20% drop in defense spending in Russia last year. As a percentage of GDP, defense spending is slated to fall from 6.6% in 2016 to 5% this year. That figure is expected to drop to 3% by the end of Putin’s new term in 2024.

This marked shift in national policy grates against the prevailing thesis of Putin being a warmonger who is plotting land grabs in the Baltics. What Putin is aiming at must be understood from three different angles.

First, the ambitious modernization program of the Russian armed forces through the past decade has been more or less accomplished.

On March 1 in his State of the Union address, Putin unveiled a range of new cutting-edge military technologies that have been developed, which are designed to ensure global strategic balance, which is a corner stone of the Russian defense strategy. That is to say, a cut in military spending will not jeopardize Russia’s national defense. This is one thing.

Second, it stands to reason that Putin is viewing the legacy of his new six-year term as one which can be called “nation-building.” This is perfectly understandable. In the last term, Putin successfully piloted Russia’s resurgence on the world stage as a great power. A grateful nation appreciates his profound contribution in this direction.

The fantastic popularity rating of 82% that Putin now enjoys is largely to be attributed to his stewardship of Russia’s return to great power status.

Having said that, there is also a flip side to it. Paradoxically, 45% of the Russian people also register their disapproval of Putin for his failure to ensure an equitable distribution of income. Equally, close to 90% of Russians are convinced of the need for “reforms” in the country.

Although no one is talking here about a color revolution in Russia, the point is, there is social discontent, which can be the breeding ground of protests triggering social instability.

Third, while Putin has been successful in stabilizing the slump in 2014 resulting from a combination of a fall in oil prices and western sanctions, the economic situation is expected to become difficult in the coming period. It is no exaggeration that Putin’s Achilles’ heel is the economy.

Putin has promised a technological breakthrough in Russia, which would enhance economic competitiveness at the international level and reduce the overall dependence on commodity exports. But then, Russia’s success in closing the technological gap with Europe is traditionally linked to the cooperation it gets from the West.

Theoretically, Russia has a “China option” for modernizing its economy, but in reality, a variety of factors put serious limits to it.

Clearly, a policy of alienation from the West is not going to help matters for Putin’s “Russia First.” Suffice to say, a renewed effort by Putin to repair Russia’s relations with the West is on the cards. Interestingly, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be the first Western leader to meet Putin as he begins his new term. Merkel is paying a ‘working visit’ to Sochi on May 18.

Merkel probably knows Putin, a fluent German speaker, better than any other Western leader and is in a position to take the lead role to realign Russia with Europe. She is obviously on a mission to gauge the prospects of a new beginning. The good thing is that there is a growing realization in Europe that Russia’s complete segregation from the West will not work.

But it takes two to tango. Even if Putin makes an overture, it may not amount to much, given the toxic climate of Russophobia prevailing in US politics. Incredibly enough, the US chose the eve of Putin’s inaugural last week to announce the resurrection of the Second Fleet of the US Navy, which was mothballed years ago, to protect America’s east coast from the “Russian threat.”

May 11, 2018 Posted by | Economics | | 1 Comment