The International Republican Institute in the United States has published results of polling of attitudes of Ukrainians on the key issues facing the country. The polling was conducted in the latter two weeks of July 2015 by Rating Group Ukraine on behalf of the IRI.
The poll provides more evidence of deepgoing and growing political dissatisfaction and alienation in Ukraine. Absolute or relative majorities of Ukrainians now express unfavorable views of all major government leaders and politicians from major parties in Ukraine.
The people of the rebel region of Donbas are not included in the poll, which means that the levels of dissatisfaction of Ukrainian residents are even higher than what is reported by the IRI.
The poll results are unlikely to be reported in Western mainstream media, even though the poll is commissioned and published by a right-wing U.S. institute. That’s because the results fly in the face of the “news” and editorial opinions peddled by Western media. It proves that media is lying to its readers and grossly misleading them when it inaccurately presents the war in eastern Ukraine as a virtuous war against an aggressive Russia that is supported by the majority of the Ukrainian people.
Media also chooses to be silent about the profound economic crisis that is wracking Ukraine as a result of the Kyiv regime’s turn to austerity association with the European Union, and about the massive human rights violations accompanying the civil war of the Kyiv regime against the people in the eastern and southern regions of the country. The IRI poll shows extremely high levels of dissatisfaction with the economic crisis and the war.
The poll will also be ignored by the Russophobes in the governments and mainstream political parties in the NATO member countries who decry “Russian aggression” and “Russian imperialism” in Ukraine, and by the many pseudo-lefts in the international arena who are acting as echo chambers of that messaging.
Similarly stunning results of polling of the Crimean people in late 2014 and early 2015 were ignored by the same constellation of forces. That polling showed extraordinarily high levels of satisfaction with the democratic decision of Crimeans in March 2014 to secede from Ukraine. The polls contradict the ongoing stories of Russian “annexation” of Crimea.
The 71-page report International Republican Institute polling report can be read here. Enclosed below are 11 selected charts from the poll:
According to a group which monitors protests in Ukraine, repressions against protests in Ukraine more than tripled compared to the time period before the protests which led to Ukraine’s 2014 coup.
State repressions against protests in Ukraine more than tripled compared to the period before Ukraine’s Euromaidan protests and the February 2014 coup, a Ukrainian protest monitor said in a release.
According to the Kiev-based Center for Social and Labor Research (CLSR), the number of violent protests in the 11 months prior to the 2013 Euromaidan and the 11 months after August 2014 more than tripled. The monitor found that the peak of government repressions against protests peaked between April and June 2015, with 57 out of every 100 protest facing government violence.
“Worrying is the high frequency of repressions against protests with government critics and demand for lustration, against protests with socio-economic and political demands,” the release said.
The percentage of violent protests also more than doubled in the compared time periods, according to the monitor. At the same time, oppression against what the monitor called “anti-communist” protests decrease while violence at the protests more than doubled. The monitor also found that even without protests that it labeled “separatist,” the number of negative government reactions to protests more than doubled in 2015.
In response to President Rafael Correa’s proposed inheritance tax, a far right coalition in Ecuador has launched a campaign of anti-government protest in the country. This movement is being joined by some forces on the green and Indigenous left, long opposed to Correa’s economic strategy of neo-extractivism, that is, the exploitation of Ecuador’s rich deposits of oil to fuel the economy as well as providing the majority of government revenue. Correa’s economic approach has been to aggressively push forward oil operations, even in environmentally sensitive areas, and then use the proceeds to pay for poverty reduction programs. The various Eco-Indigenous groups have legitimate concerns about the sustainability of the neo-extractivist approach, but it is a fact that since Correa came into office in 2007 one million Ecuadorians have been lifted out of poverty. In 2007 4 of 10 Ecuadorians lived in poverty. Today less than a quarter of the population does.
COHA calls for an end to the violence that has accompanied the protests, with over 100 police and military now having suffered injuries, including grave ones. COHA supports dialogue between the various opposition sectors and the government, and the continuation of the positive trend in Ecuador of settling political differences by democratic procedures, not golpismo.
By Larry Birns, Director of COHA and Senior Research Fellows: Jim A. Baer, Nicholas Birns, William Camacaro, Lynn Holland, Frederick B. Mills, Ronn Pineo.
Do you have your savings in a mutual fund? Does your pension fund invest in stocks, just as mutual funds do? If so, you may want to know this has been a bad week for U.S. stock markets. The Dow and Nasdaq indices have plummeted big time, but not because of the U.S. economy which is showing signs of revival. It is, as the Wall Street Journal reports, mostly because of the woes in China plus the shakiness of the depressed Greek economy and weaknesses of the economies in other larger emerging nations such as Brazil and Turkey.
Welcome to the world of extreme dependency by the U.S., the world’s biggest economy, on the instabilities of small and large nations overseas. This dependency is exactly what the giant corporations further by pushing globalization, often to misname it “free trade” in order to boost Congressional and White House support for the “global economy”.
Although big business won’t go so far as to advocate U.S. dependence-inducing globalized markets for oil, they are pushing for trade agreements that make the U.S. more dependent even on essentials like food and medicines.
For example, 80 percent of our seafood is now imported, often through dubiously treated fish farms from China. Eighty percent of the ingredients in the medicines you take come from China and India where there are very few inspectors from the Food and Drug Administration, assuming they can gain entry visas.
The 2014 report to Congress from the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission describes the recent casualties and looming dangers to the health of the American people from uninspected or counterfeit drugs.
U.S. companies and importers are working hand-in-hand with these exporters to increase their markups and lower costs by displacing U.S. domestic production. Corporations and patriotism are rarely associated.
How often have you been told that trade agreements like NAFTA, GATT and the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are “win-win” deals for all signatory countries? But are you told that the U.S. has been buying more abroad than it is selling abroad, leading to huge trade deficits for more than three decades?
China shipped “nearly four dollars’ worth of goods to the United States for every dollar’s worth of imports it purchased from the United States” (according to the above-noted Report) for a deficit exceeding $300 billion and growing each year.
These regular trade deficits mean we’re exporting millions of jobs. When chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan was asked over fifteen years ago at a Congressional hearing whether he was worried about these annual trade deficits, he replied that he would be concerned only if they continue unabated. Mr. Greenspan has not been heard from since on his projected worries.
Dogmatic free traders don’t recognize any evidence that disproves their “win-win” secular religion. Whole industries are taken from the U.S. and lost to dictatorial countries with poorly paid workers that daily violate human rights. Still, the “free-traders” don’t budge.
Of course the ultimate, latter stage dependency created by corporate globalization is when our own health, safety, labor and legal/democratic standards are pulled down by the combination of fleeing U.S. corporate giants in cahoots with fascist regimes overseas.
To be first or best with labor rights, environmental or safety standards for our people is to be accused of imposing “non-tariff trade barriers” against imports from countries that treat badly their consumers, workers and environment. So, for example, our being first with an auto safety standard, a food labelling requirement or a ban on a toxic chemical here lets exporting countries sue the U.S. in secret tribunals in Geneva, Switzerland whose decisions by corporate lawyers (temporarily sitting as trade judges) are final.
If we disobey these secret rulings, countries that win can collect billions of dollars in fines from you the taxpayers. Did you know that international trade could impose its profiteering zeal on your daily health and safety and get its way, not in our courts, but in kangaroo courts closed to the public?
You’re entitled to ask whether you ever agreed to this corporatism when you voted for your Senators, Representatives and Presidents.
Meanwhile, better take a last look at the country-of-origin label on the meat packages sold in your neighborhood supermarkets. Brazil and Mexico beat the U.S. in a secret tribunal in Geneva and were ready to charge us billions of dollars because of these labels. So, the Congress is rushing to repeal its own country-of-origin labelling law—supported by just about every American—to avoid being fined. Isn’t that crazy?
Isn’t it time for us to bear down on our corporatist politicians and export them out of our legislatures?
For more information to quicken your resolve, see http://www.citizen.org/trade/.
It all began in 1835 when the British Empire sent a German-born naturalist and explorer to conduct geographical research in the South American territory it had colonized and named British Guiana. In the course of his explorations, a map was drawn that well-exceeded the original western boundary first occupied by the Dutch and later passed to British control. Sparking the interest of the Empire’s desire to expand its borders into the area west of the Essequibo River that was rich in gold, the British government commissioned the explorer to survey their territorial boundaries. What became known as the “Schomburgk Line”, named after the explorer, Robert Hermann Schomburgk, usurped a large portion of Venezuelan land, and provoked the beginning of a territorial dispute that has remained unresolved to this day.
In 1850, after decades of arguing over the boundary line dividing Venezuela from its colonized neighbor, both sides agreed not to occupy the disputed territory until further determinations could be made. But as the demand for gold and other natural resources grew in the region, the British again tried to claim the territory declaring the Schomburgk Line the frontier of British Guiana, in clear violation of the previous accord with Venezuela.
Ironically, Venezuela appealed to the United States government for help at the time, using the Monroe Doctrine as a justification to prevent further colonization by the British Empire in the hemisphere. US President Grover Cleveland eventually declared the matter of US interest and forced Great Britain to sign a Treaty of Arbitration with Venezuela in Washington in 1897. Two years later, the Arbitration Tribunal, which had no representatives from Venezuela but instead two arbitrators from the United States said to be acting in Venezuela’s interest, ruled in favor of Britain. Venezuela rejected the decision, alleging there had been political collusion and illegal pressures in favor of the other side. These claims were supported by a letter written by Severo Mallet-Prevost, the Official Secretary of the US/Venezuela delegation in the Arbitration Tribunal who revealed the President of the Tribunal, Friedrich Martens had pressured the arbitrators to decide in favor of Great Britain.
More than half a century went by until the dispute was re-introduced on the international stage, this time at the United Nations. Venezuela denounced the corruption that had led to the arbitrators decision in 1899 and reiterated its claim over the territory known as the “Essequibo”. In February 1966, at a meeting in Geneva, all parties to the conflict – Venezuela, British Guiana and Great Britain – signed the agreement to resolve the dispute over the border between Venezuela and British Guiana, known as the Treaty of Geneva. They agreed neither side would act on the disputed territory until they could resolve a definitive border, acceptable to all parties. Months later, in May 1966, Guyana achieved its independence from the United Kingdom, further complicating matters. On subsequent maps of Venezuela and Guyana, both countries claimed the territory as part of their sovereign land.
Despite minor disagreements since 1966, the dispute did not become the source of escalating regional tensions until 2015, when a large oil discovery was made by Exxon right smack in the middle of the Essequibo, and claimed by Guyana.
The Cooperative Republic of Guyana is the second poorest country in the Caribbean, only surpassing desolate Haiti in per capita income. The country’s main economic activity is agriculture, specifically rice and sugar production, which account for over 30% of export income. Despite being surrounded by vast oil and gas reserves in neighboring Venezuela, which has the largest oil reserves on the planet in its Orinoco River Basin, and nearby Trinidad and Tobago, up until recently Guyana had no known oil reserves within its territorial boundaries.
Enter Exxon Mobil, one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies, and a declared enemy of Venezuela. Until 2007, Exxon had a significant investment through its Cerro Negro Project in Venezuela’s Orinoco River Basin. Initially, U.S. oil and geological experts had classified the oil-based substance found in mass quantities in that area to be bitumen, a thick black tar-like asphalt, therefore rendering it not subject to the 1976 Hydrocarbons Law in Venezuela that nationalized oil and gas reserves. After President Hugo Chavez suspected the area actually contained huge oil reserves, he had his own research done and was proved right: the Orinoco River Basin was certified with over 300 billion barrels of heavy-crude petroleum.
On May 1, 2007, Chavez officially declared all hydrocarbons in that region subject to the prior nationalization laws, legally binding any foreign companies operating there to engage in joint-ventures with the Venezuelan public oil company, PDVSA. The law required a minimum of 51% ownership by the Venezuelan state, with a maximum of 49% for foreign companies. Only two companies refused to cooperate with the new laws. Both were from the United States: ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil. Both sued Venezuela over the nationalizations.
ConocoPhillips’ claim was significantly smaller than Exxon’s, which demanded over $18 billion for the expropriation. Venezuela offered market value and the case went to an international arbitration tribunal that eventually ordered the Venezuelan government to pay Exxon $1.6 billion, a mere fraction of what the US oil giant had expected.
In an apparent act of revenge, Exxon found a way to get Venezuela’s oil without following Venezuela’s rules, albeit through illegal and potentially dangerous channels.
As the Obama administration was amping up hostility against Venezuela, declaring it via Executive Decree an “unusual and extraordinary threat to U.S. national security” and imposing potentially vast-reaching sanctions on government officials, Exxon was making a deal with Guyana to explore oil deposits in the disputed Essequibo territory.
In May 2015, just as Guyana was swearing in a new president, the conservative military officer David Granger, a close U.S. ally, Exxon was making a huge discovery in the Atlantic Ocean near the Venezuelan coast. According to reports, the deposits found by Exxon in the ’Liza-1 well’ hold over 700 million barrels of oil, worth about $40 billion today. The find could be a major game changer for Guyana, representing more than 12 times its current economic input, that is, if the oil actually belonged to Guyana instead of Venezuela.
On January 26, 2015, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden hosted the first Caribbean Energy Security Initiative, bringing heads of state and high-level officials from Caribbean nations together with multinational executives in Washington. The stated goal of the new initiative is to help Caribbean nations “create the conditions to attract private-sector investment”, but Biden made the true objective clear when he declared, “…whether it’s the Ukraine or the Caribbean, no country should be able to use natural resources as a tool of coercion against any other country.”
Without mentioning it by name, Biden was referring to Venezuela and its PetroCaribe program that provides subsidized oil and gas to Caribbean nations at virtually no upfront cost. PetroCaribe has been fundamental in aiding development in the region during the past ten years since its creation. And clearly, its perceived as a threat to U.S. influence in the Caribbean, and an affront to traditional corporate exploitation of small, developing nations.
In addition to the Obama administration sanctions aimed at isolating Venezuela in the region and portraying it as a ‘failed state’, the Caribbean Energy Security Initiative takes a direct stab at Venezuela’s lifeline: oil. In the U.S. Senate Report on the Department of State’s Foreign Operations Budget for 2016, $5,000,000.00 was recommended for “enhanced efforts to help Latin America and Caribbean countries achieve greater energy independence from Venezuela”. Falling oil prices have already done damage to Venezuela’s economy, but forcing it out of the regional oil trade would hurt even more.
The main conundrum of figuring out how to replace Venezuelan oil in PetroCaribe was resolved with the stroke of a pen by Guyana’s new president, a former instructor at the U.S. Army War College who made a secret trip to the United States just three days after taking office in May. Hours later, Exxon’s oil exploration rig, Deepwater Champion made its first major lucrative discovery in the large Stabroek Block in the disputed coastal territory.
The Venezuelan government warned Exxon to leave the area, citing its claim over the Essequibo territory and the ongoing dispute with Guyana subject to UN mediation. But Exxon paid no heed to Venezuela, following President Granger’s lead in openly defying the Geneva Agreement and Venezuela’s calls to solve the conflict through diplomacy, involving the UN Good Offices in the resolution of the centuries-old dispute.
UN Secretary General Ban ki-moon has pledged to send a commission to both Venezuela and Guyana to seek resolution for a problem that now, as Washington hoped, is dividing the region. President Maduro and his Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez have been making their case before regional leaders, encouraging other Caribbean nations to support their claim over the Essequibo, or at least approve the involvement of the UN to arbitrate the dispute. In the meantime, Guyana continues to aggressively push forward with Exxon to pursue what could become the largest oil theft in the Americas.
Eva Golinger is the author of The Chavez Code.
After decades of claiming that cannabis has no medicinal value, the U.S. government is finally admitting that cannabis can kill cancer cells.
Although still claiming, “there is not enough evidence to recommend that patients inhale or ingest cannabis as a treatment for cancer-related symptoms or side effects of cancer therapy,” the admission that “cannabis has been shown to kill cancer cells in the laboratory,” highlights a rapidly changing perspective on medicinal cannabis treatments.
In the most recent update to the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) website included a listing of studies, which indicated anti-tumor effects of cannabis treatment.
Preclinical studies of cannabinoids have investigated the following activities:
• Studies in mice and rats have shown that cannabinoids may inhibit tumor growth by causing cell death, blocking cell growth, and blocking the development of blood vessels needed by tumors to grow. Laboratory and animal studies have shown that cannabinoids may be able to kill cancer cells while protecting normal cells.
• A study in mice showed that cannabinoids may protect against inflammation of the colon and may have potential in reducing the risk of colon cancer, and possibly in its treatment.
• A laboratory study of delta-9-THC in hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer) cells showed that it damaged or killed the cancer cells. The same study of delta-9-THC in mouse models of liver cancer showed that it had antitumor effects. Delta-9-THC has been shown to cause these effects by acting on molecules that may also be found in non-small cell lung cancer cells and breast cancer cells.
• A laboratory study of cannabidiol (CBD) in estrogen receptor positive and estrogen receptor negative breast cancer cells showed that it caused cancer cell death while having little effect on normal breast cells. Studies in mouse models of metastatic breast cancer showed that cannabinoids may lessen the growth, number, and spread of tumors.
• A laboratory study of cannabidiol (CBD) in human glioma cells showed that when given along with chemotherapy, CBD may make chemotherapy more effective and increase cancer cell death without harming normal cells. Studies in mouse models of cancer showed that CBD together with delta-9-THC may make chemotherapy such as temozolomide more effective.
The NCI, part of the U.S. Department of Health, advises that ‘cannabinoids may be useful in treating the side effects of cancer and cancer treatment’ by smoking, eating it in baked products, drinking herbal teas or even spraying it under the tongue.
The site goes on to list other beneficial uses, which include: anti-inflammatory activity, blocking cell growth, preventing the growth of blood vessels that supply tumors, antiviral activity and relieving muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis.
Several scientific studies have given indications of these beneficial properties in the past, and this past April the US government’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) revised their publications to suggest cannabis could shrink brain tumors by killing off cancer cells, stating, “marijuana can kill certain cancer cells and reduce the size of others.”
“Evidence from one animal study suggests that extracts from whole-plant marijuana can shrink one of the most serious types of brain tumors,” the NIDA said. “Research in mice showed that these extracts, when used with radiation, increased the cancer-killing effects of the radiation.”
Research on marijuana’s potential as a medicine has been stifled for decades by federal restrictions, even though nearly half of the states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana in some form.
Although cannabis has been increasingly legalized by states, the federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug — along with heroin and ecstasy — defining it as having no medical benefits and a potential for abuse.
The vast majority of the $1.4 billion spent on marijuana research, by the National Institute of Health, absurdly involves the study of abuse and addiction, with only $297 million being spent researching potential medical benefits.
Judging by the spending levels, it seems the feds have a vested interest in keeping public opinion of cannabis negative. Perhaps “Big Pharma” is utilizing their financial influence over politicians in an effort to maintain a stranglehold on the medical treatment market.
Puerto Rico’s debt crisis will likely lead to the privatization of public enterprises including the electrical power authority and the water agency. The proposed solution reflects the application of neoliberal policies as if they were magic recipes for resolving a most complex situation.
The capitol building in San Juan. Payments on Puerto Rico’s public debt will likely favor large U.S. investment firms at the expense of small local creditors.
(Wayne Hsieh / Creative Commons)
This past June 29, the governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Alejandro García Padilla, declared the island’s $72 billion public debt unpayable and said that his government would likely be forced to default on its next round of scheduled payments. A month later, García Padilla’s government did exactly that, paying only $628,000 of the $58 million payment due on its Public Finance Corporation (PFC) bonds.
The inevitability of the default has become a major—and contentious—subject of debate on the island and in the U.S. financial media. New York-based financial information agencies, have warned that the default could pose serious problems for several major U.S. investment firms and money funds. Ominously, the debt crisis also threatens to accentuate the economic and social decline of the island’s population, which has long lived in political, social, cultural, and economic limbo.
In all probability, the fiscal and financial dilemmas faced by García Padilla’s government will be resolved by a proposed debt exchange in which new bonds are issued with terms more favorable to the borrowers—the Puerto Rico financial administration. But not all creditors are likely to be treated equally. The noted Puerto Rican economist, Elías Gutiérrez, has argued that the decision by the Puerto Rican government to suspend payments to PFC bondholders on August 1 was not due to a lack of funds but to the willingness to allow the weakest creditors pay for the lack of foresight shown by fiscal and financial authorities. In other words, the neocolonial relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico will play an important role in the resolution of this crisis.
It is estimated that a significant percentage of PFC bonds were sold to small investors resident in Puerto Rico. The bondholders placed their savings in the public bonds because they had confidence in the longstanding positive debt service record of the Puerto Rican government. Among these small bondholders are cooperatives, small banks, 401K pension funds, retirement funds as well as many individuals.
Gutiérrez argues that the government of García Padilla is following its lawyers’ legal and financial advice, essentially dividing the debtors into separate groups: the most powerful—basically U.S. banks and money funds—which will continue to get full service and payment, while the second group, the weaker local investors, would be forced to accept delays and an unfavorable debt exchange. This outcome is the most likely because big Wall Street firms and banks will take their cases against Puerto Rico to the federal courts and, if precedent is followed, probably win. This has been the case in decisions handed down in recent years by New York courts regarding Argentina’s debt. On the other hand, cooperatives, small savers and Puerto Rican retirees are most likely to lose their cases.
The current Puerto Rican financial crisis is different from the older Latin American debt crises because the public debt incurred by the government of Puerto Rico from 1950 to the 1990s was quite small. Budgets were traditionally balanced and deficits limited. The Government Development Bank, founded in 1942, was long effective in raising finance on good terms for development and infrastructure programs and projects, which helps explain the success of the Puerto Rican economic expansion, at least until the 1970s. The oil crisis of the 1970s hit the local economy hard, but continued emigration to the United States made it possible to avoid social collapse. (While the island now has about 3.5 million inhabitants, there are an estimated five million self-identified Puerto Ricans—either born on the island or of Puerto Rican descent—resident in the United States, with over a million living in New York City.)
Puerto Rico’s public debt began to more closely resemble those in Latin America in the 1990s when the conservative administration headed by Governor Pedro Roselló went on a loan binge, increasing the public debt by over ten billion dollars. Roselló was head of the Partido Nuevo Progresista, which is closely linked to the Republican Party, and while in office led an unsuccessful campaign to make Puerto Rico the 51st U.S. state. He also privatized state companies, reinforced law-and-order programs and negotiated loans for public works that benefitted major companies linked to his party.
Nonetheless, the administrations of the rival Partido Popular, which held office from 2001 to 2009, did not do much better. Aside from accusations of electoral fraud, corruption, and lax handling of public finances, Puerto Rico’s public debt—much of it issued as municipal bonds—rose by another 22 billion dollars.
The champion in the debt game, however, was the conservative government headed by Governor Luis Fortuño between 2009 and 2013, which managed to add on another 17 billion dollars to the public debt in a mere four years. This profligacy is a major cause of the current debt crisis, which cannot simply be ignored, not least because the economy of Puerto Rico has fallen on hard times.
From the 1950s to the late 1970s, Puerto Rico successfully moved away from the old agricultural export model to light industrialization based principally in textiles, and subsequently to investments by U.S. multinationals, particularly in pharmaceuticals and some electronics. This was complemented by expansion of construction and by a tourist boom. But in the 1980s, the economy took a downturn, and unemployment increased.
In the 1990s this trend was temporarily reversed as U.S. companies took advantage of the tax credits available under section 936 of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code, which had been designed specifically to attract mainland investors to Puerto Rico. After 2000, however, these tax breaks were reduced dramatically, and hundreds of factories on the island closed, leading to a notable drop in manufacturing employment and tax income. As a result, local governments increased public spending to maintain the economy and sustain employment.
In recent years, more and more bonds have been issued in large part to refinance the old ones. But the debt game has reached a breaking point. The government of Governor García Padilla recently decided on a new strategy and commissioned a study by former officials at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The officials recommended a debt relief program which includes exchanging old bonds for new ones with a longer period of amortization and lower interest rates.
According to a confidential copy obtained by The New York Times, one of the chief authors of the report, Anne O. Krueger, a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, commented: “There is no U.S. precedent for anything of this scale or scope.” This document has been baptized the “Krueger Report,” an ironic choice, considering that as vice president of the IMF in 2001, Krueger recommended that Argentina not be given any debt relief, forcing that nation to default.
A likely sequel to the Puerto Rico debt crisis is the privatization of public enterprises including the electrical power authority and the water agency, which in all probability will be declared bankrupt if Governor García Padilla can convince the U.S. Congress to treat them as if they were private companies and to apply Chapter 11 to them. Of Puerto Rico’s $72 billion in bonds, some $25 billion have been issued by public corporations.
As in so many Latin American nations in the 1980s and 1990s, responses to Puerto Rico’s debt crisis entail privatizations and the application of neoliberal solutions as if they were elements of a magic recipe for a most complex situation. In this case, neoliberalism and neocolonialism appear to have much in common.
Carlos Marichal is professor of economic history at El Colegio de Mexico and author of studies on the history of Latin American debts.
The US Air Force apparently made a ‘slight’ miscalculation worth several billions of dollars regarding the cost of research, procurement and support of its upcoming top-secret long-range bomber, according to media reports.
In 2014, in its annual report to the US Congress, the Air Force estimated the cost of the Long-Range Strike Bomber program between fiscal years 2015 through 2025 would be $33.1 billion. A year later however a similar report contained quite a different figure — $58.4 billion for fiscal 2016-2026.
In an attempt to explain this ‘minor’ discrepancy, Air Force officials claimed that both figures were in fact off the mark, with the correct numbers in both cases being $41.7 billion, according to Bloomberg.
US Air Force spokesperson Ed Gulick said in a statement that the program costs remained stable and that the service “is working through the appropriate processes to ensure” the report, requested by lawmakers is “corrected, and that our reports in subsequent years are accurate.”
The Air Force originally intended to award the development and production contract for the bomber in June or July, but eventually delayed the announcement until September. Currently, two entities, Northrop Grumman and a joint team of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, – are working to secure the contract.
The Pentagon intends to use the new stealth aircraft to bolster its aging bomber fleet. According to the US Air Force’s estimates, it would cost about $55 billion to construct up to 100 of the new bombers, with each aircraft being worth about $550 million.
Israel’s occupation of the Gaza Strip is ongoing, despite frequent reminders that it “withdrew” its settlers and army posts 10 years ago. Legally and practically it is still the occupying power and it remains inflexible.
For example, Palestinian territorial waters off the coast of the Gaza Strip as defined by the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, should extend to 12 nautical miles (22.2 km or 13.8 miles) but the Israeli navy enforces a six mile limit, sometimes even five and a half miles, for Gaza’s fishermen. In addition, the Israeli occupation authorities often make petty and spiteful “security” excuses to reduce the already reduced fishing limit to three miles.
On top of that, Palestinian fisherman are harassed by the Israeli navy on a daily basis; their boats are fired upon, sunk and confiscated, and the fishermen themselves are often arrested if they are not killed or wounded in the process. All of this, of course, has an impact on the amount of fish caught off the Gaza coast, which should be a rich fishing ground. Catching more and larger fish requires sailing into international waters, as fishermen from other countries do.
Palestinian investors in Gaza have thus resorted to fish farming. Speaking to MEMO, Yasser Al-Haj said that he invested in this sector for personal gain as well as to ease the crisis in the Palestinian market. Although it is not regarded as a solution to the crisis, it can alleviate it.
Al-Haj’s newly-opened fish farm only produces one type of fish, sea bream. It is imported from Israel and then raised in this farm and others. He says that his farm produces 7 per cent of the Gaza Strip’s needs and sells about 250kg a day. One kilo of sea bream costs about $12.
For an ordinary middle-class citizen, this price is high, but for a poor citizen it is very expensive, given the average income in the Gaza Strip. The high price is set by many factors, including the price of fish feed from Israel, which is $1,850 per tonne, plus the issue of the power cuts suffered across the territory.
Fish farms require generators to keep the oxygen moving and water pumping continuously in the ponds. Yasser Al-Haj notes that he is unable to breed the fish in the sea because of pollution, which poses a danger to the fish and people who eat them. The sewage processing plants aren’t working due to the power cuts and lack of maintenance resulting from the Israeli blockade.
Images from MEMO photographer: Mohammad Asad
The United States has cautioned Swiss companies against dealing with Iran until the implementation of the nuclear agreement reached between Tehran and the P5+1 group of countries.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said on Wednesday that US sanctions against Iran will remain in place until the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) verifies the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
His remarks came after the Swiss government announced that it’s going to lift sanctions against Iran on Thursday.
The Swiss government said it wants the decision to be seen as a sign of support for the Iran nuclear agreement reached in Vienna last month.
“This agreement opens up new political and economic prospects with Iran, including bilateral relations,” the government said in a statement.
The decision underscores Switzerland’s “support for the ongoing process to implement the nuclear agreement, and its confidence in the constructive intentions of the negotiating parties,” it said.
The sanctions had been suspended since January 2014 following an interim nuclear deal between Tehran and the P5+1 group of countries – the US, Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany.
Other European countries are awaiting the final approval of the conclusion of nuclear talks by Tehran and the P5+1.
The illegal sanctions on Iran were imposed based on the unfounded accusation that Tehran is pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program.
Iran rejects the allegation, arguing that as a committed signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the IAEA, it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
Disappearing are the days of going to the pharmacy and asking for a generic version of a drug and expecting it to cost a lot less than its name brand equivalent. Consolidation in the generic drug industry has allowed manufacturers to raise prices dramatically.
Only two years ago, the cost of the antibiotic tetracycline in generic form was only $1.50 for pharmacies, according to Steve Hendricks at Truthout. But by 2014, the same drug cost $257.70 … a 17,080% increase. Another antibiotic, doxycycline, went from costing $1.20 to $111 in just six months. That’s an increase of 9,150%.
One of the big players in the generic field is Israeli company Teva Pharmaceuticals. Teva has bought up competitors and as it has done so, it has raised its prices. The company now controls 22% of the generic market.
Teva even bought a name-brand manufacturer, Cephalon, and in doing so became liable to pay a $1.2 billion fine for paying generic companies to give up their rights to manufacture a drug after patent protection expires. “Pay for delay” lets a drug’s originator keep its monopoly longer. Its drug Provigil went from $166 for a month’s supply to $1,001.
Hendricks also cited data from Medicare and Medicaid that showed from July 2013 to July 2014, “the price of half of all generics went up, and nearly 10 percent of them went up by double or more,” he wrote. Among that 10%, the average increase was 448%.
Something that would help cut costs would be giving the federal government the right to negotiate Medicare Part D drug prices. President George W. Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress inexplicably gave up that right when the law was passed in 2003.
To Learn More:
The Rise of Big Generic: Why Knockoff Prescriptions Now Cost $1,200 (by Steve Hendricks, Truthout )
How High? The Backlash Over Rising Prescription Drug Prices Gains Steam (by Ed Silverman, Wall Street Journal )
CVS Health Accused in Suit of Overcharging for Generic Drugs (by Michael Hytha, Bloomberg )
This Hepatitis C Drug, Developed with U.S. Government-Funded Research, Costs $300 per Treatment Course in India… and $84,000 in the U.S. (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov )
Six years after the so-called “Twitter Revolution” which ousted the ruling communist regime in Moldova and brought pro-Europeans to power, and one year since the ratification of the country’s association agreement with the EU, the country has found itself on the brink of ruin and in the tight grip of the oligarchs, according to a European official.
Six years of pro-European rule in Moldova has done little good for the country. Even though last year it signed and ratified an association agreement with the European Union, “corruption [in Moldova] remains endemic” and the state is “still in the hands of oligarchs, while punishingly low incomes have propelled hundreds of thousands of Moldovans to go abroad in search of a better life,” according to Thorbjorn Jagland, a former prime minister of Norway, who is the current secretary-general of the Council of Europe.
“The value of the Moldovan currency, the leu, has dropped, interest rates have rocketed and a recession looms,” he adds in his article in The New York Times.
The high-ranking politician however suggests that the remedy is “outside financing”.
“If the authorities fail to do what is needed to restore external support — and quickly — the country will face serious economic turmoil. Social programs for the poor and vulnerable will be cut just before the harsh winter months,” he therefore predicts.
“Alongside the urgent measures needed to fix the banks, the government must immediately begin purging corrupt officials from public bodies. As a start, the dozens of judges — some very high-profile — who have been accused of egregiously abusing their power should be investigated. Law enforcement agencies must also do everything they can to arrest the individuals responsible for the massive bank fraud.”
“In order to give people confidence that justice will be served in these cases, murky political interference must be eliminated from the judicial system. Legislation currently before Parliament that would guarantee the impartiality of state prosecutors should be implemented without delay. And to prove that no one is above the law, the current blanket immunity from prosecution enjoyed by members of Parliament should be reduced.”
It yet remains to be seen what reforms Moldova, which the politician calls a “captured state” will introduce in the nearest future.