As the nation’s largest health insurance companies scale back participation in Obamacare (aka Affordable Care Act) creating what insurance jargon refers to as a death spiral, it was only a matter of time before state Democratic leaders and their agents announced their opposition to ColoradoCare (Amendment 69), a medicare-for-all health care system that will appear on the statewide November 8th ballot.
State Democratic establishment leaders who had already announced their opposition to ColoradoCare include Governor John Hickenlooper, former Governor Bill Ritter and Senator Michael Bennett who is running for re-election.
In an effort to salvage what is left of the President’s most significant (and perhaps only) legislative achievement as Obamacare struggles for relevance, ProgressNow Colorado (PN) held a press conference on August 17th (“ProgressNow Colorado Opposes Amendment 69, Calls For Nationwide Health Reform”) to announce their opposition to CC.
Featured speaker at the PN news conference was State House Majority Leader Cristina Duran, considered a ‘rising star’ who recently spoke on behalf of Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention. In 2016, it has been reported that Duran received campaign contributions from at least a dozen special interest groups associated with the health insurance industry.
In addition, Colorado NARAL joined the PN news event, again voicing their opposition to CC. The lack of availability for abortions is what keeps NARAL functioning. The obvious irony is that if CC is adopted (which will allow abortions), NARAL’s raison d’etre will cease to exist and they will be able to close their doors.
Since it is essential for the President to have a functioning Affordable Care Act to top his Legacy List of accomplishments, it would be foolishly naïve to believe that the DNC’s fingerprints are not all over the opposition to ColoradoCare.
As the state’s ‘largest on line environmental and advocacy organization,’ the PN Colorado’s website identifies its vision to “act as a public relations shop promoting progressive ideals while pushing back on bad policies and bad behavior…” The archives of PN press releases reveals the organization acting as a thinly-veiled extension of the neo-liberal Democratic party as a pr flack rather than an issue-oriented, independent thinking progressive organization focused on societal concerns of Colorado citizens.
Curiously, the PN press release called for “nationwide healthcare reform” but isn’t that what the Democrats offered as the Affordable Care Act in 2010?
Since March, 2012, PN has issued twenty press releases solely dedicated to the benefits of Obamacare including “Colorado Progressives Celebrate Upholding of Obamacare” (June 28, 2012) and “Colorado Progressives Celebrate Another Big Obamacare Victory” (June 25, 2015).
In retrospect, it is now apparent that any mention of CC’s successful petition drive with 156,000 submitted signatures in October, 2015 was a deliberate omission by PN. Even as ‘Petitions Delivered Let CU Students Attend GOP Debate” earned a press release from PN on October 22, 2015, the CC ability to secure a place on the 2016 ballot (November 9, 2015), no small feat, was not applauded by the PN.
State Senator Irene Aquilar (also a doctor), one of the authors of CC, said that when “Organizations mislabeled as ‘progressive’ choose to support the status quo, choose moneyed influence over the lives of the 535 Coloradans who die each year because of lack of health care, it makes me angry.”
As the Colorado Democratic party has exposed its true nature; willing to choose narrow political gain and greed over the long-term health of their citizens, they have revealed little social conscience, except when its suits their partisan agenda.
But what do we expect from a party that has opened its doors to Wall Street money, big business that continues to send American jobs abroad, trade agreements that undermine a nation’s sovereignty, pro war neo cons, drone attacks on civilians, support for the MISI (military-intelligence-surveillance industry) and other corporate globalist leeches that care nothing about our native country or its citizens.
Originally dubbed in 2010 by the President as ‘comprehensive health reform’ and given the Act’s controversial nature throughout its short legislative life, it should come as no surprise that success of the Act relied on competition between insurance companies [and] has failed abysmally. The Act was never a panacea to provide health care; it was always a vehicle to provide insurance to cover health care costs. Therein lies a big difference between Obamacare and CC.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, competition among insurance companies will be completely absent in five states (Alabama, Alaska, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Wyoming).
In what promises to be a futile attempt at a legislative fix, the Democrats have come up with a ‘reinsurance’ scheme to cover insurance industry losses while attempting to cover the cost of individual coverage. The mounting evidence, however, confirms that the politics of statutory resuscitation is formidable, if not impossible.
Apparently no one at the White House realized how many sick Americans there are, how expensive it would be to provide them with insurance coverage and that healthy Americans would prefer to take the risk and pay the penalty rather than pay double digit premium increases and exorbitant deductibles. Who did not see that coming?
Who believed that younger, healthier Americans would jump at the chance to sign up, take on health care debt on top of student loan debt – just to impress the President they had supported in 2008? My faith in the millennial generation is restored knowing they have the smarts to put the numbers together.
Some of those departing big leaguers who are abandoning their health care customers due to lack of profits include Aetna which covered 900,000 people in fifteen states and has announced a cut back to four states and suffered a loss of $300 M; Humana is cutting back its coverage from 1,350 counties to 156; Blue Cross lost $715 M in just three states and the nation’s largest health care insurance company, UnitedHealthGroup lost $450 M in 2015 and is cutting back to three states.
In late July, the Department of Justice filed suit to prevent the Humana – Aetna and the Cigna – Anthem mergers from taking place. By mid August, Aetna and Anthem informed the DOJ that they would totally pull out of Obamacare unless their mergers were approved. Any bets on whether these mergers will go forward after the Presidential election?
To date, 70% of the original Obamacare insurance participants have backed out because of financial problems with only seven of the original twenty three insurance providers still offering policies.
Those insurance companies not exiting the marketplace have announced premiums with a nationwide average increase of 24% that is not affordable for many families and yet many Americans have an urgent need for health care.
With a $600,000 bank balance, CC is up against what looks like a omnipotent wall of opposition not limited to such community-minded organizations as the Sheet Metal Workers Union, the Denver Center for Performing Arts, the Colorado Black Chamber of Commerce and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, all of which chose to publicly oppose the CC rather than remain in the background and thus support their fellow citizens who need reliable, affordable health care.
Meanwhile the main opposition group, Coloradans for Coloradans, which crowed about the Democrats joining the opposition, have collected $1 M from Anthem, $450,000 from UnitedHealthCare Services, Healthone Systems and Centura Health $250,000 each, Cigna Health $100,000, PHRMA $100,000, the Colorado Association of Realtors $100,000 and so forth – you might imagine the rest of the list.
Contributions from some of the very same insurance companies that have either pulled out or are dramatically scaling back their participation is indicative of how corporations can afford to sit and wait – until the Federal government sweetens the pot for their re-entry into the healthcare marketplace.
In addition, the Koch Brothers Americans for Prosperity are partners with the Democrats in pummeling Amendment 69 into the ground. This may be the first time that the Koch Brothers and the Democratic party have officially and publicly lined up on the same issue, excluding campaign contributions.
If the Democrats (along with the medical care/health insurance industrial complex and Koch Bros) succeed in defeating CC, they can expect to take the blame for depriving Colorado citizens of an alternative to Obamacare which will predictably continue its spiral.
If, by some miracle of divine intervention, Colorado voters approve Amendment 69, they are telling the Obama Administration that they have no faith in the President’s Affordable Care Act, no faith in the Federal government to fix it and no faith in the Democratic party to protect the public interest.
Renee Parsons has been a member of the ACLU’s Florida State Board of Directors and president of the ACLU Treasure Coast Chapter. She has been an elected public official in Colorado, an environmental lobbyist and staff member of the US House of Representatives in Washington DC. She can be found on Twitter @reneedove31
Iran’s media say German engineering giant Siemens has started talks to invest in the country’s petrochemical industry in a fresh sign of growing post-sanctions opening in the business environment of the Islamic Republic.
Mehr News Agency reported that Siemens is already engaged in serious negotiations with Iran’s Ministry of Petroleum over investing in a certain number of the country’s petrochemical projects.
The report added that a ranking delegation from Siemens had visited Tehran over the past few days to meet the related Iranian officials for investment talks.
It also said that another topic in the meetings of the German firm with Iranian officials was providing the advanced technology as well as the related technical and management solutions for Iran’s petrochemical projects.
In May, Siemens reported a rise in its second-quarter profit by €130 million in what it says was a result of the promising prospects of future activities in Iran.
The company announced in a statement that the resurgent business prospects in Iran after the removal of international sanctions has already increased its expectations of second-quarter revenues by €174 million.
The Munich-based company has always been one of the most active German enterprises in Iran. Even during the multiple years of sanctions that a majority of foreign companies left the Islamic Republic, Siemens kept its office in Tehran open to maintain its business in the country.
It has been mostly providing engineering services as well as technical parts including turbines to Iran’s gas projects. After the removal of the sanctions against Iran in January, it became even more active to pursue an ambitious Iran investment agenda.
In March, the company signed memoranda of understanding on rail infrastructure and gas equipment projects potentially worth billions of euros, as well as an energy agreement with Iranian power and infrastructure group MAPNA.
India’s junior Foreign Minister Mubashir Javed Akbar met Assad in Damascus on 20 August 2016 [Image: Ministry of External Affairs, India]
During a weekend meeting with an Indian official, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has invited India to play an active role in the reconstruction of the Syrian economy.
India’s junior Foreign Minister Mubashir Javed Akbar met Assad in Damascus on Saturday. The visit will boost Syrian President Assad’s efforts to highlight continued critical support for his government.
State media reports in both countries quoted sources as saying New Delhi and Damascus have reasserted their rejection of “foreign interference in the internal affairs of states”.
The two sides discussed terrorism, faith equality and the need to upgrade bilateral security consultations, the Press Trust of India quoted Indian government sources.
As a growing power, India has a role to play in meeting the challenge of terrorism, Assad has said as the two countries agreed to upgrade their security consultations.
BRICS are opposed to the ouster of Assad as sought by the US and its allies.
Earlier in May, South African junior Foreign Minister Nomaindia Mfeketo had also called on Assad in Damascus to discuss the crisis.
Assad had told the South African Minister that the BRICS countries have played a key role in decreasing western hegemony in global affairs.
During the Indian Minister’s visit on Saturday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem said terrorism is the common adversary of both Syria and India.
There was an agreement between both sides for further upgrading security consultations, sources said.
No details of the security cooperation has been provided by the Indian government yet.
On Saturday, Vikas Swarup, spokesperson of the Indian Foreign Ministry, tweeted a picture of Assad and the Indian Minister.
“During his official visit to Syria, MoS
@mjakbar called on President Bashar Al Assad in Damascus today,” Swarup said.
The Indian Minister stressed that “India is ready to offer all that could help in alleviating the suffering of the Syrian people and contribute effectively to the development process and reconstruction in Syria”, Syrian state news agency SANA said.
During the meeting, Assad also welcomed India’s objective position on the conflict in Syria and both leaders acknowledged that terrorism was a global problem.
“As a growing power, India has a role to play in meeting the challenge of terrorism,” Assad said.
On his part, Akbar, during their meeting, said “the age of destruction” should give way to the age of “reconstruction” in Syria.
Russia, which is aiding the Syrian government’s fight against ISIL and the Al-Nusra front, said on Thursday it was willing to support weekly 48-hour ceasefires to allow aid to reach besieged areas.
It’s a little strange to write a fact sheet about a term that actually has no meaning.
That’s right – there’s no real definition of a “run-of-river” hydro project. As our former director, Patrick McCully, once said of run-of-river hydro, “It’s a sort of Alice in Wonderland, ‘it means exactly what I want it to mean’ term.”
Simply put, run-of-river (ROR) hydro projects have limited storage capacity as compared to conventional storage dams. But there, the clarity ends. The term has been applied to everything from micro-hydro projects providing electricity in remote villages to the Belo Monte mega-dam in Brazil, which will devastate an extensive area of the Brazilian rainforest, displace over 20,000 people, and threaten the survival of indigenous tribes that depend on the river.
One World Bank insider told me that Bank officials often misuse the term as short-hand for “low-impact.” That kind of imprecision lulls officials and the public into thinking ROR projects are the silver (or green) bullet: hydro projects that produce power but without the negative impacts. Because the term sounds so innocuous, ROR projects usually don’t get the level of scrutiny they require. And the truth is, run-of-river dams are anything but low-impact.
Preparing our new fact sheet, “Swindling Rivers,” I’ve learned a lot about run-of-river hydro, the different forms it takes, and the significant impact ROR projects can have:
The Himalayas are perforated by run-of-river tunnels where river flows are diverted to powerhouses, bypassing river channels for often dozens of kilometers. India’s Teesta River is undergoing a ROR boom that, once complete, will see more of the river flow though tunnels than the river channel itself. These ROR schemes divert some, or even all, of a river’s flow, often causing changes to a river’s temperature, velocity and depth that can completely kill off the natural life in a river.
At the same time, so-called “peaking” ROR projects are wreaking havoc on communities and aquatic life. Unlike the diversion tunnels, these projects often store a river’s flows behind a dam during the day, only to be released all at once in the evening to generate power during peak energy demand. These daily fluctuations between drought and flood are incredibly disruptive to river ecology. More tragically, these unexpected releases have made drownings a common occurrence for downstream communities in India.
And just like traditional dams, all run-of-river projects stymie the life cycle of migratory fish.
A new feature in The Economist highlights the perils of dam construction on one of the world’s greatest waterways, the Mekong River, where Laos is currently building the Xayaburi and Don Sahong Dams. These would be the first two of eleven dams planned on the lower mainstream of the river, all of which are classified as “run-of-river” projects, despite sizeable reservoirs. Laos’ downstream neighbors fear the dams’ impacts on fish populations and agriculture that sustain the livelihoods and food security of millions and have voiced strong concerns over the projects. The Government of Laos, in return, has pointed to the fact these projects are run-of-river in an attempt to downplay concern over their impacts. If the full suite of dams is constructed, they would transform more than half of the vibrant river into a series of stagnant reservoirs.
But the concerns are not going away. In fact, they were recently echoed in an article in the prestigious magazine Science, which raised the alarm about the threat of major biodiversity losses by run-of-river projects on the world’s great rivers – the Mekong, the Amazon and the Congo.
In short, there’s nothing innately better about run-of-river projects. If anything, the term is a greenwash for some deeply destructive projects. The upshot? Don’t be fooled by the name: All ROR projects deserve the same exacting scrutiny as any other dam.
With more than 34 trillion cubic meters, Iran owns the world’s largest natural gas reserves but its share of global trade in gas is less than 1%
Iran is pitching its massive gas sector for trade with Asia where it sees a better market for exports than Europe.
“Gas prices are more attractive in East Asia than in Europe,” Deputy Petroleum Minister for trade and international affairs Amir-Hossein Zamaninia has said.
The country hopes to eventually export natural gas to East Asia, including Japan, he told the Kyodo news agency in an interview on Sunday.
Zamaninia held the prospect of Iran and Japan forming a long-term partnership for the supply of Iranian LNG to the Asian country.
“Japan has a great potential of becoming a major partner for Iran in developing its gas industry,” he said.
The two countries have a chequered history of trade relations. They had to ditch a massive petrochemical project in 1991 as the Iraqi war of 1980-1988 under former dictator Saddam Hussein dragged on.
In 2010, Japan’s state-owned Inpex walked out of an agreement to develop Iran’s South Azadegan oilfield under US pressures.
Tokyo, however, was among the first countries to rush through a series of measures to lift sanctions on Iran before a nuclear agreement with Tehran went into effect.
In August, Japan sent its State Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Daishiro Yamagiwa to Tehran with executives from major trading houses such as Mitsubishi Corp., Mitsui & Co. and Itochu, as well as plant-engineering giant JGC and major banks.
Tehran accounted for 10% of Japan’s oil imports before sanctions cut them to five percent. Japan wants to raise the purchases to the previous level.
“Given that Iran’s oil and natural gas reserves are one of the world’s biggest, there is a possibility that Iran will play a part if Japan seeks to diversify its supply sources,” Kyodo quoted a Japanese gas and oil industry source as saying Sunday.
Zamaninia said Japanese companies are interested in being re-engaged in the Iranian energy sector, especially in the gas sector, adding he thinks Japan’s current policy seems to be focusing less on crude oil.
With more than 34 trillion cubic meters under its belt, Iran owns the world’s largest natural gas reserves but its share of the global trade in gas is less than one percent.
According to an Iranian energy official, natural gas will be the main fuel in the next 20 to 30 years. Zamaninia said within two to three years, Iran will be a major supplier of gas to its neighbors.
Currently, Turkey is Iran’s biggest customer with 30 million cubic meters a day of imports under a 25-year deal signed before the West imposed sanctions on Tehran.
Iran seeks to raise gas production to 1.2 billion cubic meters (bcm) a day in five years, from 800 million cubic meters now. Annual output totals 166 bcm, which is mostly used at home.
The country exports 10 bcm of gas per year. To put it in perspective, Russia exports about 150 billion cubic meters of gas a year.
South Pars in southern Iran is the world’s largest gas field which the country is developing in two dozen phases.
It provides feedstock for a number of petrochemical complexes in an area known the Pars Special Economic Energy Zone (PSEEZ) in Assaluyeh on the Persian Gulf coast.
Yoichi Yamamoto, adviser in charge of the Middle East at the Japan External Trade Organization in Tokyo, says petrochemical products, rather than natural gas itself, might be more attractive for Japanese companies for now.
“To transport gas across the sea, it is necessary to convert gas into liquefied natural gas and use special tankers, resulting in relatively large investment,” he told Kyodo.
“If Japanese companies are to form joint ventures or invest funds in the PSEEZ, petrochemical products produced there would be attractive,” he said.
“They cannot sell all the products in Japan. If they could draw up a business model in which they will sell the products also to third-party countries, I think it would be possible for them to invest,” he added.
The party platform adopted at the Democratic National Convention, on page 45, calls for a national mobilization on the scale of World War II. What enemy deserves the wrath endured by Hirohito and Hitler? Climate change! Democrats want to declare a war on climate.
Here is the amazing declaration: “We believe the United States must lead in forging a robust global solution to the climate crisis. We are committed to a national mobilization, and to leading a global effort to mobilize nations to address this threat on a scale not seen since World War II.”
This scale of mobilization is incredibly expensive and disruptive to people’s lives, something to which the Democrats seem oblivious. Great sacrifices by average Americans were required for mobilization during the Second World War, enforced by massively intrusive government authority. Is this what the Democrats want, the supreme government control that comes with a wartime effort?
To begin, there was widespread government rationing of essential products. For most families, driving was limited to just three gallons of gas a week. If the Democrat’s war on climate is designed to curtail fossil fuel use then will gasoline again be rationed, in spite of longer commutes due to massive post-war suburbanization? What about natural gas and coal-fired electric power? Meat and clothing were also rationed. Will this be repeated?
Even worse, many consumer products were simply not produced; their production prohibited in favor of war materials. These included most appliances, including refrigerators, plus cars, of course. Today’s banned appliance list might well include computers, smart phones and televisions, and again cars, as well as air conditioners and refrigerators. Will all these technologies be stopped in favor of building climate war materials like windmills, batteries and solar panels?
Not only is mobilization horrendous, there is no scientific justification for it. It is now clear that what is called “lukewarming” is probably the correct scientific view. Human activity may be causing a modest global warming that is actually beneficial. Beyond that climate change is natural and so beyond human control.
The only purpose for which a war on climate makes sense is justifying a massive increase in government power. Mobilization means controlling both production and consumption, as well as wage and price controls, all of which require detailed central planning of economic activity. This in turn requires a host of new agencies, programs, boards, etc. We have seen it all before.
Of course we have had so-called “war” policies before, such as the war on drugs. But these were mostly metaphorical policy names, typically just a shift in focus with a modest budget increase. The Democratic platform is very different because it specifies that the scale of the war on climate will be comparable to the Second World War mobilization, which entailed wrenching lifestyle changes.
If the Democrats are in fact serious, then we are talking about central economic planning on a massive scale, imposing great sacrifices on Americans, all in the futile name of stopping climate change. Sacrifice is harmful in its own right so this raises a host of moral issues. Which immediate harms will be deemed less harmful than speculative future climate change? Medical care is now a major sector of the economy, will it be curtailed? Will poverty be left to languish, or even encouraged via wage controls? Will travel be forbidden? Unfortunately the platform gives no clue, so this should be a major election issue.
In fact the specter of a WWII-scale mobilization to fight climate change dwarfs everything else proposed in the Democrats’ platform combined. It is also contrary to most of these other proposals, given the widespread restrictions that mobilization requires. Perhaps they do not understand what they are calling for, but if they do then they need to tell us what it is. Clarifying and justifying this outrageous mobilization declaration is essential to the election process.
Voting for mobilization without knowing what it means would be incredibly foolish.
David Wojick is a former consultant with the Office of Scientific and Technical Information at the U.S. Department of Energy in the area of information and communication science. He has a Ph.D. in the philosophy of science and mathematical logic from the University of Pittsburgh and a B.S. in civil engineering from Carnegie Tech. He has been on the faculty of Carnegie Mellon and the staffs of the U.S. Office of Naval Research and the Naval Research Lab.
© Sputnik/ Sergey Guneev
Russia deems it vital to restore economic relations with Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday after appointing the former education minister to the post of trade envoy with the neighboring country.
Putin accepted the prime minister’s proposal to appoint Olga Vasilyeva as the new Minister of Education and Science. Her predecessor Dmitry Livanov was assigned special envoy for trade and economic relations with Ukraine.
“The development of trade and economic relations [with Ukraine] should be in the permanent field of our attention,” Putin said during a working meeting with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on arrival to Crimea.
Noting Livanov’s “purely civilian” credentials with extensive public sector experience, Putin noted that his “personal business acumen will help in building and reviving economic relations with our neighboring country, which is important to us.”
Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani (R) and Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende in Tehran on August 17, 2016. ©IRNA
Iran says it has been offered a major export credit line by Norway worth €1 billion in what could be a fresh indication of Oslo’s determination to expand relations with the Islamic Republic in post-sanctions era.
The two countries have signed an agreement to the same effect after a meeting between the visiting Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende and his Iranian host Mohammad Javad Zarif in Tehran, Iran’s IRNA news agency reported.
The agreement was part of a total of three agreements that the Export Guarantee Fund of Iran and the Norwegian Export Credit Guarantee Agency signed to fund some of Iran’s key development and infrastructure projects.
“After the lifting of sanctions, good opportunities have emerged for cooperation and Norway is ready to utilize the post-deal situation to expand cooperation in various fields,” Brende has been quoted as saying by IRNA in a report that was also carried by AFP.
The report added that Brende and Zarif had also discussed the expansion of economic relations between Iran and Norway in different areas, particularly in monetary and banking sectors.
Brende will leave Tehran for Islamabad later in the day. Apart from Zarif, he is scheduled to meet several other top Iranian officials during his single-day stay in the Islamic Republic. They included President Hassan Rouhani, Petroleum Minister Bijan Zangeneh, Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, and Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani.
By Robert Fantina | Aletho News | August 17, 2016
In 2015, after much ado, and with great, international fanfare, the United States and 5 other nations (China, France, Russia, Great Britain and Germany) entered into an agreement with Iran, regulating that country’s nuclear activities. This was not an easy sell to the U.S. Congress, which, apparently, exists to serve Israel first, and U.S. citizens only after Israel’s needs have been satisfied.
A group of 47 senators succeeded in humiliating the nation by sending a letter to Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian Foreign Minister, purportedly explaining U.S. law.
Mr. Zarif, a U.S. constitutional expert, responded by schooling them.
Then, none other than Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Congress, telling its members, yet again, for the umpteenth time in the last ten years, that Iran was only ‘months away’ from having a nuclear weapon.
Democratic members of Congress particularly beholden to Israel but not wanting to embarrass a Democratic president, danced to a particularly awkward tune as they waited to see if the agreement had enough votes in the Senate to pass. Once it was apparent that the agreement would be approved by a Congressional majority, they were at liberty to express their opposition to it, knowing that doing so would please their Israeli masters, and not impact the vote, thus embarrassing President Barack Obama.
Now, the bizarre reasoning behind why Iran, a nation that hasn’t invaded another country in decades, should be forbidden from developing nuclear weapons, when Israel, a brutal, apartheid regime with more blood on its hands than a doctor after a botched surgery, can, is a topic for another essay. Our purpose today is to examine the agreement that was made with Iran, what concessions were made on each side, and how each is following through.
Iran, which never claimed it had the development of nuclear weapons as its goal, agreed to major reductions in its nuclear development program. It also agreed to allowing an international monitoring team to verify compliance. In return, the U.S. agreed to lift decades-old sanctions that, like most of U.S. sanctions, did little to impact the government, but caused untold suffering among the Iranian population.
It seems, however, that Iran overlooked an important aspect in its negotiations with the U.S. While there is a mechanism in place to monitor Iranian compliance with the agreement, no such measures exist to monitor U.S. compliance.
The U.S., in its usual hypocritical way, has released the obligation of European banks to avoid doing business with Iran, yet maintains some sanctions, thus effectively preventing the banks from conducting any business with that country. As reported by CNN Money in May of this year, “HSBC, Standard Chartered and France’s BNP Paribas have all been in trouble before — and paid billions in fines — for dealing with Iran while U.S. sanctions were in place. So while they may see attractive commercial opportunities in the country of about 80 million people, they’re treading very carefully because some sanctions still linger, including a ban on conducting transactions with Iran in U.S. dollars.”
So while the U.S. adheres to the letter of the law, it violates the spirit of it, and as a result, Iran is getting next to nothing for the concessions it made. “We hold the US responsible for all violations [of the nuclear agreement]. The US must accept responsibility for reneging on its promises on the international level,” Alaeddin Boroujerd, Chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy, stated on August 1. He further emphasized that the U.S., despite Iran’s adherence to the terms of the agreement, continued to damage “Iran’s economic relations with other countries.”
Now, isn’t the U.S. the land of the free and the home of the brave? Does it not proclaim its moral superiority around the globe, even as it bombs innocent men, women and children? Is its word not worth gold?
The U.S. does not want Iran to have nuclear weapons, because doing so would provide an equal, yet opposing, force to Israel in the Middle East. Current Democratic candidate, the corrupt former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has made support for Israel a cornerstone of her campaign. She has stated that the best way to serve Israel is to topple the government of Syrian president Bashar Assad. So if U.S. government officials will go so far as to overthrow foreign governments (please see Ecuador, Guatemala, Brazil, Bolivia (twice), Portugal, Nicaragua, etc.), with all the killing, mass arrests and oppression that accompanies each coup, certainly crippling the economy of one of Israel’s enemies, and violating its word in order to do so, is a trivial matter by comparison.
When one party to any contract violates the terms of that contract, the other party is no longer bound by it. So when Iran decides that it need not slow its nuclear program, because the U.S. hasn’t respected its side of the agreement, we will all watch U.S. members of Congress proclaiming “I told you so! Those Iranians can’t be trusted!’, when, in fact, it is the U.S. that can’t be trusted. But the corporate-owned media will only report on what it will see as Iran’s violations of the agreement, without mentioning that the U.S. violated it first.
U.S. citizens will gasp in horror at the perfidy of Iran; after all, most Iranians are Muslim, and as the news media either hints at, or boldly proclaims, all Muslims are terrorists. And the way will be open for another U.S. imperial misadventure, something to match the tragedy of Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam or the countless other places where the U.S. has disastrously and illegally intervened. Countless innocent people will suffer and die, the Middle East will be further destabilized, and military contractors’ profits soar. It will be business as usual in the mighty, corrupt U.S.A.
Will Hungary be the next nation to exit the dysfunctional European Union? The question isn’t at all as far-fetched as it might seem. On October 2, voters in Hungary will participate in a nationwide referendum to vote whether they agree to the forced settlement of migrants in Hungary by the EU or not. It’s a major issue in Hungary, a land of proud and staunchly independent-minded people who have endured 150 years of Ottoman rule; wars with Habsburg Austria until the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 created a peaceful coexistence under the dual Monarchy of Austria–Hungary. After that, Hungarians were subject to the Soviet Union since 1945, initially under the dreaded Mátyás Rákosi, until it became the first Warsaw Pact communist country to declare a constitutional republic in October, 1989 and open its borders to Austria, setting in motion the domino fall of East Germany and then of the entire Warsaw Pact and, ultimately, the Soviet Union. Like every nation, they have a very special history.
It might well be said that Hungarians, always an ethnic melting-pot population whose parliament enacted the first laws of ethnic and minority rights in the world in 1849, are not a passive people when they sense something is wrong in the way they are being treated. So it is today regarding the Brussels proposal that Hungary and other EU member states must accept a Brussels-determined number of political war refugees from the Middle East and pay for all their costs whether they want them or not. Countries that refuse to take their quota would face severe financial penalties. In 2015 some 400,000 refugees arrived in Hungary in 2015 before a four-meter high razor wire fence was erected on the border with Serbia.
About half, or 200,000, attempted to gain asylum in Hungary, and after government procedures, only 264 refugees were granted political asylum. Since the erection of the fence the inflow via the so-called Balkan Route has all but stopped. The Austrian government has also decided to cooperate with the Orban government in jointly patrolling their common border.
Hungary is joined in opposing the Brussels mandatory refugee quota proposal by the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland–the so-called Visegrad Four group. So far only Hungary has decided on a national referendum on the issue. Polls show well over 66% opposed to the mandatory quotas, including Orban, who has urged a No vote.
Hungary’s outspoken Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, the only prime minister since 1989 to serve a full term and be re-elected, is very popular among Hungarians for speaking his mind against what he feels are wrong policies coming out of Brussels. Many Hungarians see him as a modern David pitted against the far larger Goliath, the faceless, unelected EU Commission.
On October 2 Hungarians will vote on a single question in a special national referendum: “Do you want the European Union to prescribe the mandatory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary even without the consent of Parliament?”
Orban: ‘terror risk…’
On the war refugee issue Orban minces no words: “Hungary does not need a single migrant for the economy to work, or the population to sustain itself, or for the country to have a future,” he said in a recent interview. On the contrary, he stated, “Every single migrant poses a public security and terror risk. This is why there is no need for a common European migration policy.” Whoever needs migrants can take them, but don’t force them on us, we don’t need them.” As far as Hungary is concerned, he stated in an interview with RT, “migration is not a solution but a problem… We don’t need it and won’t swallow it.” The Hungarian government insists that the right to decide refugee issues should be reserved exclusively for national governments.
Hungary and three other central European states that constitute the Visegrad Four group, which includes Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland, have been opposing the mandatory quotas the EU wants to impose on each member state. Last December Hungary filed a lawsuit with the European Court of Justice to thwart the EU’s attempt to redistribute incoming arrivals across the European Union. A decision could take years. The referendum is intended to give a broad popular mandate against Brussels’ forced quota attempts.
First step to EU Exit?
Clear to all from Brussels to Berlin to Budapest is that Hungarians will vote an overwhelming No to refugee forced quotas. At that point the real question will be whether Hungarians hold a second referendum, as the British did recently, to vote on leaving the EU or not when it becomes clear that Brussels will ignore the Hungarian vote with their usual deafening silence. The idea of a Hungarian EU exit is not unthinkable at all at this point now that Britain has become “first out the door,” establishing the precedent exit is possible.
The Orban government to date has moved with a certain directed caution to test the limits of EU rules. Far from a “right-wing tyrant” as Brussels bureaucrats and politically-correct mainstream EU media have portrayed him, the Oxford-educated Orban is a highly-sophisticated, apparently not corrupt (a real novelty in today’s politics if true) genuine democrat who always turns to his voters on key policy decisions to be sure he has them with him, something anathema to the unelected Brussels oligarchy.
Viktor Orban’s views on the current refugee crisis, which media deliberately misnames the far more benign-sounding mass migration situation of the EU, he outlined in detail in his February 28 annual State of the Union address to the nation, midway into his third term as (elected) Prime Minister.
Referring to the country’s recent experience extricating itself from the destructive decades of communist rule, now as an EU member state since 2004, Orban notes, “we are concerned as to how we should protect our national interests within the European Union.” This sounds reasonable enough unless one realizes that the aim of the EU as an institution is precisely the opposite–to ultimately destroy any and all national interests in favor of a top-down Brussels-centered autocracy of the unelected.
As so much about the true Hungary and Orban’s actual accomplishments is either ignored or distorted by mainstream non-Hungarian media, it’s first useful to note some of what Viktor Orban has accomplished in the first term from 1998-2002 when his Fidesz Party won in a coalition with the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) and the Independent Smallholders, Agrarian Workers and Civic Party (FKGP) and in his sole majority government since 2010. After 8 years out of office, Orban’s Fidesz Party won an overwhelming popular mandate of 53% of the vote and two-thirds of Parliament seats in 2010 and re-election in 2014 to the present.
As Orban notes in his February address to the nation, “within three years we had consolidated the budget, stabilized the economy, avoided bankruptcy, curbed inflation and reduced unemployment – the latter not marginally, but from 11.5% to 6.2%. We sent the IMF packing, repaid our loan ahead of schedule, and this year we shall also repay the last blessed penny of our debt to the European Union. All in all, in 2014 we rounded off this period of stabilization with economic growth of 3.7%, and opened a new chapter.”
In addition, under Orban’s term, the government managed “in five years to reduce personal income tax from 35% to 15%, and in five years we have left 1,300 billion forints in the pockets of families. We have reduced household utility bills by 25%, and in five years the minimum wage in Hungary has increased by 50%. We have achieved this together: the state and the market; the Government and the business sector; employers and employees; Hungarian micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises and the local subsidiaries of global conglomerates… Compared with 2010, we have allocated forty per cent more funding to health care. We have halved waiting lists. We have allocated more than five hundred billion – more than five hundred billion forints – to the development of our hospitals.”
That is the background of Hungary’s present economy under Orban’s term and the background to understand why the population supports his call for a no to mandatory refugee quotas. Now his remarks on the refugee crisis are relevant.
‘name of this danger is mass migration…’
Orban continues, “I would now like to explain why I have said all this. In summary, it is because all of this is now in danger. The financial stability we have worked so hard for is in danger… Our nationally-oriented foreign policy – which has been built with such painstaking attention to detail – is in danger. Restored public order and public security free of terrorist threats are in danger. And our national culture… is also in danger.”
He gets precise: “The name of this danger is mass migration… The year 2015 brought to an end an age in which, believing that it was under Europe’s control, we took the protection and safety of our continent for granted. One year ago, on this same occasion, we were already warning that a new age of mass migration had begun. We were mocked mercilessly, and insulted by friends, allies and rivals alike… The reality is that those coming here have no intention whatsoever of adopting our way of life, because they see their own as more valuable… And why, indeed, would they give it up? The reality is that they will not provide the supply of labor needed by the factories of Western Europe. Facts show that, across entire generations, the unemployment rate is much higher – sometimes several times higher –among those born outside Europe. The reality is that the European nations have been unable to integrate even the masses who arrived from Asia and Africa gradually, over a number of decades. How could they succeed in doing so now, so rapidly and for such large numbers?”
All those statements can be argued. But here is the core point on which Orban bases his strategy of Referendum, and the ultimate reason he will next be forced after October 2 to begin preparing a ‘Huexit’ from the EU for Hungary:
“… it is hardly the migrants whom we should be so angry with. The majority of them are also victims: victims of their countries’ collapsing governments, victims of bad international decisions, victims of people smugglers. They are doing what they see as being in their own interests. The problem is that we Europeans are not doing that which would be in our own interests. There is no better word for what Brussels is doing than “absurd”. It is like a ship’s captain heading for collision who, instead of wanting to take avoiding action, is more interested in deciding which lifeboats should be non-smoking. It is as if, instead of repairing the leaking hull, we are arguing about how much water should flood into which cabins…”
Orban then continues:
“It is a big enough problem that Brussels is not capable of organizing the defense of Europe, but it is an even bigger problem that it lacks the intent to do so. In Budapest, Warsaw, Prague and Bratislava it is difficult for us to understand how we have reached a point at which it is even possible that those wanting to come here from other continents and other cultures can be let in without controls. It is difficult to understand the weakening of our civilization’s natural and fundamental instinct for the defense of ourselves, our families, our homes and our land… This is Europe. Europe is Hellas, not Persia; it is Rome, not Carthage; it is Christianity, not a caliphate. When we say this we are not claiming that we are better, but that we are different. To point to the existence of an independent European civilization does not mean that it is better or worse; it only means that “we are like this, and you are like that.”
This move by Hungary, its Prime Minister and its population is no superficial political ploy to bargain for a better deal from Brussels as David Cameron intended with his Brexit fiasco (seen from Cameron’s view). It’s a fundamental drawing of a line in the sand of the entire European Union between countries who believe in a dissolved national sovereignty in favor of a supranational Brussels-based United Europe, and those countries who fiercely intend in the wake of this refugee crisis and all its ramifications, to demand essential national sovereign rights.
Brussels, and clearly Merkel’s Berlin, will oppose Hungary tooth-and-nail to defend their supranational concept. They will do that with the backing of George Soros and his European Council on Foreign Relations think tank. Not surprising, Viktor Orban has repeatedly openly opposed Hungarian-born billionaire speculator George Soros and his NGOs for trying to destabilize Hungary. Soros money also funded the document known as the Merkel Plan, which is the direct opposition to Orban’s defense of national sovereignty over the admission of refugees.
At this point the unfortunate experiment known as the European Union is flying apart in every direction. Hungary may well be forced to rethink its EU identity after October 2 if not well before as events are going, and that will ineluctably feed the forces of dissolution in the EU, perhaps a not at all bad consequence.
Twenty-one countries in Eastern and Central Europe want their citizens to return from abroad as emigration has led to a 7 percent drop in GDP. According to the IMF, the figure could grow to 9 percent if the trend continues.
Countries such as Latvia, whose population has been falling since the early 1990s due to low birth rates, have seen hundreds of thousands of people emigrate. After Latvia joined the European Union in 2004, many people left the country to seek a better life in the bloc’s more prosperous states.
Overall, the Baltic region has been hit most by the trend. Latvia and Lithuania have seen 0.6-0.9 percent of their GDP shaved off annually by emigration.
According to the IMF, Eastern European migrants’ education levels tend to be higher than their home country averages.
This has inspired a Latvian institute to launch the ‘I want you back’ campaign, inviting Latvians to tell their relatives and friends abroad they are welcome to return to the country.
“The initiative concerns our relationships with our relatives, friends and people close to us that are abroad, and [aims to] tell them clearly and directly – ‘I want you back,’” the initiative’s leader, Aiva Rozenberga, told national radio.
Latvian residents are being encouraged to use the hashtag #GribuTeviAtpakaļ (“I want you back” in Latvian) on Twitter and other social networks.
“The diaspora living abroad represent a huge untapped potential for their countries of origin,” Lithuania-based economist Rokas Grajauskas, working for Danske Bank, told Bloomberg.
Despite deep political tensions between Russia and the West, Moscow will continue to invest its surplus of currency in US Treasuries, a reliable and stable investment tool, analysts say.
As for the end of June, Russia increased its holdings of United States Treasuries to $90.9 billion, three percent more against the previous month, according to data from the US Treasury.
A year ago, Russia held $72 billion in US Treasuries. Thus, in 12 months, Russia increased investment in the US economy by 26 percent.
Moscow is the 16th biggest holder of US debt. The top three countries are China ($1.24 trillion), Japan ($1.15 trillion) and Ireland ($270.6 billion).
Currently, Russia is dealing with a sluggish economy. However, the government has ruled out the possibility of a default. Flexible exchange rates and low sovereign debt are helping to stabilize the economy. In addition, Russia has formidable gold and foreign exchange reserves of nearly $400 billion. The Russian Central Bank plans to increase reserves, from the actual $400 billion to $500 billion.
In theory, Russian gold and foreign exchange reserves, including the Reserve Fund ($38 billion), should be put in operations and bring profits.
Currently, there is a discussion between Russian economists and politicians about the ways to boost the Russian economy.
Some say that all reserves should be accumulated within one investment fund and used to invest in the economy. However, there is the risk that such a measure will not be effective and would only accelerate inflation rate. Finally, the Russian government has confirmed it will continue to invest in foreign assets.
Relations between Moscow and Washington now seem to be at their worst phase since the end of the Cold War. At the same time, nearly a fourth of the sum ($91 billion) has been invested to the US economy.
Many in Russia have repeatedly called to abandon investment in US debt. One of the arguments is that US Treasuries have a low yield. The most popular 10-year bonds have an annual yield of 1.5 percent. This is higher than the dollar inflation rate (0.7 percent in 2015), but is still extremely low. If all of Russia’s reserves were invested in US Treasuries Moscow would gain $6 billion of annual profits and only $3 billion in real terms (adjusted for inflation in the US).
However, Russia’s gold and foreign exchange reserves as well as its sovereign wealth fund are very limited financial tools. These funds can be invested only in the most reliable assets, including bonds issued by countries with high credit ratings. By contrast, for example, Norway’s welfare fund can invest across the world, buying stakes in European, Asian and American companies.
Russia invests the bulk of its money in conservative low-yield assets denominated in US dollars and euros. In this context, investing in US Treasuries is logical and clear.
Currently, bonds issued by European countries are a bit more profitable than US debt but their reliability is in question, taking into account the permanent debt crisis in the eurozone and uncertainty about the bloc’s future.
“Treasury bonds of the US and other developed countries are the most popular tool to invest surplus of currency. It is risk-free, in terms of liquidity, volatility and the possibility of a default. In fact, US Treasuries are a low-yield deposit account that can be closed at any moment and the money can be used for other needs,” Evgeny Loktyukhov, senior analyst at Promsvyazbank, told the Russian news website Lenta.ru.
According to the expert, the Russian government is investing in the US economy because this is the only possible way to invest. Loktyukhov said that there is no significant domestic demand for foreign currency in Russia. What is more, Russia does not have a large-scale international investment program.
US treasuries are high in demand because of their reliability and high liquidity, Bogdan Zvarich, analyst at Finam, added.
“The default risk on US Treasuries is extremely low. Of course, the flip side is their low yield. Nevertheless, US Treasuries are very attractive as an investment tool. As for their liquidity, US Treasuries can always be sold in the market at actual prices without serious losses,” he pointed out.
As for the increase of Russian investments in the US economy, analysts say the reason is that the situation with moving capital across Russian borders has improved.
“Increased investment in foreign obligations, including US Treasuries, is the consequence of the improved situation with the current account balance,” Loktyukhov said.