Monthly Archives: March 2012

Saudis slammed for usual rights abuse, never for exporting revolution

‘Israel should give up nukes along with Iran’

Keiser Report: Kamikaze Banking (E269)

Caps or Beans: What could replace the weakened dollar?

New round of mass layoffs in North America

By Barry Grey 

31 March 2012
The US electronics retail chain Best Buy on Thursday announced it would close 50 stores this year and lay off 400 corporate and support workers as part of a plan to cut $800 million in costs and restructure its business. The Minnesota-based firm was one of a series of American and Canadian companies that announced major layoffs this week.
Best Buy announced the downsizing and cost-cutting plan on the same day it reported a $1.7 billion loss for its fourth quarter, which ended March 3. The company, which has 1,450 locations nationwide and 2,900 globally, is seeking to avoid the fate of its former rival Circuit City, which went out of business in 2009, wiping out tens of thousands of jobs.
Best Buy’s announcement follows last month’s announcement by the retail giant Sears Holdings of plans to sell off 1,250 of its Sears and K-Mart stores in a bid to raise $770 million, following a $2.4 billion quarterly loss. Sears did not give an estimate of job losses, but the scale of the downsizing suggests the elimination of between 10,000 and 20,000 positions.
The crisis of these retail giants is indicative of the deepening impact of economic slump and mass unemployment three-and-a half years after the Wall Street crash of September 2008. It underscores the fragile and marginal character of the jobs “recovery” of which President Barack Obama has boasted over the past several months. Obama is seeking to boost his reelection chances by presenting himself as a job creator.
While the official jobless rate has declined from 9.1 percent to 8.3 percent since last September and US payrolls have, according to the Labor Department, netted a total increase of 774,000 jobs over the past three months, there are still 5 million fewer private-sector jobs than at the official start of the recession in December 2007.
Nearly 13 million Americans are without a job, long-term unemployment is at post-World War II highs, and the uptick in employment has been largely based on a nationwide campaign of wage- and benefit-cutting, spearheaded by the administration’s imposition of a 50 percent wage cut on all newly hired General Motors and Chrysler workers.
Recent data shows that real median household income in the US fell 2.3 percent in 2010, and US manufacturing labor costs per unit of output that year were 13 percent lower than a decade earlier. While poverty, hunger and homelessness are rapidly rising, corporate profits are setting new records and the financial elite is monopolizing a bigger share of the national wealth than ever before.
On Friday, another major retailer, Home Depot, said it would lay off 225 workers over the next 18 months at its customer support and distribution center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This followed an announcement last October of the layoff of 400 workers at the firm’s Baton Rouge call center.
Also on Friday, ATK Sporting Group, a maker of tactical gear and shooting supplies, said it would scale back operations and lay off 325 employees in Fenton, Missouri. The layoffs are to take effect within the next 60 to 90 days. Earlier in the week the company announced the permanent closure of a manufacturing facility in Onalaska, Wisconsin, eliminating 130 jobs.
Other companies announcing major layoffs this week include:
• Television shopping network QVC, which said it was laying off more than 600 employees at its call center in Chesapeake, Maryland. The first group of targeted workers will be phased out by June.
• American Ordnance, a producer of military explosives, which said it will lay off 500 workers at its arsenal in Milan, Tennessee beginning this month.
• Cincinnati-based Convergys Inc., a large business services firm, said it would close its call center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and cut 300 jobs.
• The Siltronic Fab 1 silicon wafer plant in Portland, Oregon, which will release 350 workers over a three-month period this summer.
• Aerospace Corp., based in El Segundo, California, which notified 306 people, or 8 percent of its work force, that they will be terminated, effective May 31.
• Lockheed Martin cut 150 jobs at Hampton Roads, Virginia, in response to cuts in US military spending.
• Oxford Mine Company cut 120 jobs at two coal-mines in western Kentucky.
• Rogers, the Toronto-based telecommunications giant, which confirmed that it is laying off 300 workers, about 1 percent of its work force.
The previous week saw an even bigger toll in job cuts. T-Mobile announced it was closing seven call centers around the US, slashing 1,900 jobs. Centers slated to be closed were in Allentown, Pennsylvania; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Frisco, Texas; Brownsville, Texas; Lenexa, Kansas; Thornton, Colorado; and Redmond, Oregon.
AMR Corp., the parent company of American Airlines, said it was cutting annual spending at its trunk line American Eagle by $75 million and cutting up to 600 jobs. Last autumn, American Airlines filed for bankruptcy in order to rip up existing labor contracts and impose drastic cuts in jobs, pay, conditions and pensions on its 78,000 employees.
In Canada, Aveos Fleet Performance began liquidating its aircraft maintenance business, wiping out the jobs of 2,600 workers across the country. Nova Scotia-based printer Transcontinental said it would eliminate some 500 jobs, closing two of its plants by the end of June.
At the end of February, Procter & Gamble, the largest US consumer products manufacturer, said it was eliminating 5,700 jobs over the next 18 months, on top of a cut of 1,600 jobs announced earlier in the month.
Despite the ongoing assault on jobs, the Obama administration and both parties in Congress have used the supposed recovery in the labor market as justification for slashing jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed. Last month the White House and the Republicans reached an agreement to cut the maximum duration of unemployment benefits from 99 weeks to 73 weeks in the hardest-hit states, and from 93 weeks to 63 weeks in many other states. This cruel measure will drive untold thousands into destitution. It was aimed at paring the federal deficit at the expense of the working class and using the threat of being laid off and reduced to poverty to blackmail workers into accepting even deeper wage and benefit cuts.
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[28 March 2012]

The New Mandela

By Uri Avnery
March 30, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — MARWAN BARGHOUTI has spoken up. After a long silence, he has sent a message from prison.
In Israeli ears, this message does not sound pleasant. But for Palestinians, and for Arabs in general, it makes sense.
His message may well become the new program of the Palestinian liberation movement.
I FIRST met Marwan in the heyday of post-Oslo optimism. He was emerging as a leader of the new Palestinian generation, the home-grown young activists, men and women, who had matured in the first Intifada.
He is a man of small physical stature and large personality. When I met him, he was already the leader of Tanzim (“organization”), the youth group of the Fatah movement.
The topic of our conversations then was the organization of demonstrations and other non-violent actions, based on close cooperation between the Palestinians and Israeli peace groups. The aim was peace between Israel and a new State of Palestine.
When the Oslo process died with the assassinations of Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, Marwan and his organization became targets. Successive Israeli leaders – Binyamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon – decided to put an end to the two-state agenda. In the brutal “Defensive Shield operation (launched by Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, the new leader of the Kadima Party) the Palestinian Authority was attacked, its services destroyed and many of its activists arrested.
Marwan Barghouti was put on trial. It was alleged that, as the leader of Tanzim, he was responsible for several “terrorist” attacks in Israel. His trial was a mockery, resembling a Roman gladiatorial arena more than a judicial process. The hall was packed with howling rightists, presenting themselves as “victims of terrorism”. Members of Gush Shalom protested against the trial inside the court building but we were not allowed anywhere near the accused.
Marwan was sentenced to five life sentences. The picture of him raising his shackled hands above his head has become a Palestinian national icon. When I visited his family in Ramallah, it was hanging in the living room.
IN PRISON, Marwan Barghouti was immediately recognized as the leader of all Fatah prisoners. He is respected by Hamas activists as well. Together, the imprisoned leaders of Fatah and Hamas published several statements calling for Palestinian unity and reconciliation. These were widely distributed outside and received with admiration and respect.
(Members of the extended Barghouti family, by the way, play a major role in Palestinian affairs across the entire spectrum from moderate to extremist. One of them is Mustapha Barghouti, a doctor who heads a moderate Palestinian party with many connections abroad, whom I regularly meet at demonstrations in Bilin and elsewhere. I once joked that we always cry when we see each other – from tear gas. The family has its roots in a group of villages north of Jerusalem.)
NOWADAYS, MARWAN Barghouti is considered the outstanding candidate for leader of Fatah and president of the Palestinian Authority after Mahmoud Abbas. He is one of the very few personalities around whom all Palestinians, Fatah as well as Hamas, can unite.
After the capture of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, when the prisoner exchange was discussed, Hamas put Marwan Barghouti on top of the list of Palestinian prisoners whose release it demanded. This was a very unusual gesture, since Marwan belonged to the rival – and reviled – faction.
The Israeli government struck Marwan from the list right away, and remained adamant. When Shalit was finally released, Marwan stayed in prison. Obviously he was considered more dangerous than hundreds of Hamas “terrorists” with “blood on their hands”.
Cynics would say: because he wants peace. Because he sticks to the two-state solution. Because he can unify the Palestinian people for that purpose. All good reasons for a Netanyahu to keep him behind bars.
SO WHAT did Marwan tell his people this week?
Clearly, his attitude has hardened. So, one must assume, has the attitude of the Palestinian people at large.
He calls for a Third Intifada, a non-violent mass uprising in the spirit of the Arab Spring.
His manifesto is a clear rejection of the policy of Mahmoud Abbas, who maintains limited but all-important cooperation with the Israeli occupation authorities. Marwan calls for a total rupture of all forms of cooperation, whether economic, military or other.
A focal point of this cooperation is the day-to-day collaboration of the American-trained Palestinian security services with the Israeli occupation forces. This arrangement has effectively stopped violent Palestinian attacks in the occupied territories and in Israel proper. It guarantees, In practice, the security of the growing Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Marwan also calls for a total boycott of Israel, Israeli institutions and products in the Palestinian territories and throughout the world. Israeli products should disappear from West Bank shops, Palestinian products should be promoted.
At the same time, Marwan advocates an official end to the charade called “peace negotiations”. This term, by the way, is never heard anymore in Israel. First it was replaced with “peace process”, then “political process”, and lately “the political matter”. The simple word “peace” has become taboo among rightists and most “leftists” alike. It’s political poison.
Marwan proposes to make the absence of peace negotiations official. No more international talk about “reviving the peace process”, no more rushing around of ridiculous people like Tony Blair, no more hollow announcements by Hillary Clinton and Catherine Ashton, no more empty declarations of the “Quartet”. Since the Israeli government clearly has abandoned the two-state solution – which it never really accepted in the first place – keeping up the pretense just harms the Palestinian struggle.
Instead of this hypocrisy, Marwan proposes to renew the battle in the UN. First, apply again to the Security Council for the acceptance of Palestine as a member state, challenging the US to use its solitary veto openly against practically the whole world. After the expected rejection of the Palestinian request by the Council as a result of the veto, request a decision by the General Assembly, where the vast majority would vote in favor. Though this would not be binding, it would demonstrate that the freedom of Palestine enjoys the overwhelming support of the family of nations, and isolate Israel (and the US) even more.
Parallel to this course of action, Marwan insists on Palestinian unity, using his considerable moral force to put pressure on both Fatah and Hamas.
TO SUMMARIZE, Marwan Barghouti has given up all hope of achieving Palestinian freedom through cooperation with Israel, or even Israeli opposition forces. The Israeli peace movement is not mentioned anymore. “Normalization” has become a dirty word.
These ideas are not new, but coming from the No. 1 Palestinian prisoner, the foremost candidate for the succession of Mahmoud Abbas, the hero of the Palestinian masses, it means a turn to a more militant course, both in substance and in tone.
Marwan remains peace oriented – as he made clear when, in a rare recent appearance in court, he called out to the Israeli journalists that he continues to support the two-state solution. He also remains committed to non-violent action, having come to the conclusion that the violent attacks of yesteryear harmed the Palestinian cause instead of furthering it.
He wants to call a halt to the gradual and unwilling slide of the Palestinian Authority into a Vichy-like collaboration, while the expansion of the Israeli “settlement enterprise” goes on undisturbed.
NOT BY accident did Marwan publish his manifesto on the eve of “Land Day”, the world-wide day of protest against the occupation.
“Land Day” is the anniversary of an event that took place in 1976 to protest against the decision of the Israeli government to expropriate huge tracts of Arab-owned land in Galilee and other parts of Israel. The Israeli army and police fired on the protesters, killing six of them. (The day after, two of my friends and I laid wreaths on the graves of the victims, an act that earned me an outbreak of hatred and vilification I have seldom experienced.)
Land day was a turning point for Israel’s Arab citizens, and later became a symbol for Arabs everywhere. This year, the Netanyahu government threatened to shoot anybody who even approaches our borders. It may well be a harbinger for the Third Intifada heralded by Marwan.
For some time now, the world has lost much of its interest in Palestine. Everything looks quiet. Netanyahu has succeeded in deflecting world attention from Palestine to Iran. But in this country, nothing is ever static. While it seems that nothing is happening, settlements are growing incessantly, and so is the deep resentment of the Palestinians who see this happening before their eyes.
Marwan Barghouti’s manifesto expresses the near-unanimous feelings of the Palestinians in the West Bank and elsewhere. Like Nelson Mandela in apartheid South Africa, the man in prison may well be more important than the leaders outside.

Uri Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom –

John Pilger: Real Journalism


Researched, Produced and Directed by Abir Alsayed

More By John Pilger
Posted March 30, 2012

How the West de-democratised the Middle East  

How the West de-democratised the Middle East 

Information Clearing House

Point Break: ‘Spain last nail in Euro-coffin’

Foot Shooting: ‘Disturbing oil imports hurts US first’

NYPD Outlaws Drum Circles: Arrests at Union Square

GOP Compare ICE Prisons to a Holiday

Viral Spiral: Batman Gets Pulled Over

MSM: Afghan War Support at All Time Low

The More We Drone, The Less We Know

Reflections on Post-Capitalism, Political Entrepreneurialism, and the Be…

America: A Government Out of Control (Part 2)

America: A Government Out of Control (Part 1)

Bankers, grannies & cocaine

‘Land Day’ clashes: Tear gas & tension as Palestinians protest

Germany and Europe’s Path to the 19th Century

Congress bowed down to the Big Oil Kings today

Flashpoint Funding: UK doubles Syria rebel cashflow

The Burial Brigade of Homs An Executioner for Syria’s Rebels Tells His Story

Human Rights Watch has condemned abuses committed by Syrian rebels in their stronghold of Homs. But one member of a rebel “burial brigade” who has executed four men by slitting their throats defended his work in an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE. “If we don’t do it, nobody will hold these perpetrators to account,” he said.
By Ulrike Putz in Beirut
March 30, 2012 “Spiegel” — Hussein can barely remember the first time he executed someone. It was probably in a cemetery in the evening, or at night; he can’t recall exactly. It was definitely mid-October of last year, and the man was Shiite, for sure. He had confessed to killing women — decent women, whose husbands and sons had protested against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime. So the rebels had decided that the man, a soldier in the Syrian army, deserved to die, too.
Hussein didn’t care if the man had been beaten into a confession, or that he was terrified of death and had begun to stammer prayers. It was his tough luck that the rebels had caught him. Hussein took out his army knife and sliced the kneeling man’s neck. His comrades from the so-called “burial brigade” quickly interred the blood-stained corpse in the sand of the graveyard west of the Baba Amr area of the rebel stronghold of Homs. At the time, the neighborhood was in the hands of the insurgents.
That first execution was a rite of passage for Hussein. He now became a member of the Homs burial brigade. The men, of which there are only a handful, kill in the name of the Syrian revolution. They leave torture to others; that’s what the so-called interrogation brigade is for. “They do the ugly work,” says Hussein, who is currently being treated in a hospital in the Lebanese city of Tripoli. He was injured when a piece of shrapnel became lodged in his back during the army’s ground invasion of Baba Amr in early March.
He is recovering in relatively safe Lebanon until he can return to Syria and “get back to work.” It’s a job he considers relatively clean. “Most men can torture, but they’re not able to kill from close range,” he explains. “I don’t know why, but it doesn’t bother me. That’s why they gave me the job of executioner. It’s something for a madman like me.”
Before he joined the Farouk Brigade, as the Baba Amr militia is known, last August, the 24-year-old had worked as a salesman. “I can sell everything, from porcelain to yogurt,” he says.
How the Rebels Lost Their Innocence
The bloody uprising against the Assad regime has now lasted for a year. And Hussein’s story illustrates that, in this time, the rebels have also lost their innocence.
There are probably many reasons for that development. Hussein can rattle off several of them. “There are no longer any laws in Syria,” he says. “Soldiers or thugs hired by the regime kill men, maim children and rape our women. If we don’t do it, nobody will hold these perpetrators to account.”
Another reason, he explains, is the desire for vengeance. “I have been arrested twice. I was tortured for 72 hours. They hung me by the hands, until the joints in my shoulders cracked. They burnt me with hot irons. Of course I want revenge.”
His family, too, has suffered. He explains that he lost three uncles, all murdered by the regime. “One of them died with his five children,” he says. “Their murderers deserve no mercy.”
Most chillingly, Hussein believes that violence is simply in the nature of his society. “Children in France grow up with French, and learn to speak it perfectly,” he says. “We Syrians were brought up with the language of violence. We don’t speak anything else.”
But in spite of all the rebels’ justification for their brand of self-administered justice, Hussein’s actions fall under what the non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch on Tuesday condemned as “serious human rights abuses” on the part of the Syrian rebels. In the corridors of the hospital in Tripoli, Hussein and his fellow injured comrades speak openly about the fact that they, just like the regime’s troops, torture and kill. They find the criticism from the human rights activists unfair: “We rebels are trying to defend the people. We’re fighting against slaughterers. When we catch them, we must strike hard,” says one fighter, who goes by the nom de guerre Abu Rami.
Alternative Justice System
Over the course of the last year, Homs had developed into the unofficial capital of the revolution. Until a few weeks ago, the rebels controlled whole neighborhoods of the city, especially the district of Baba Amr. But that area was overrun by government troops in early March. The fight between rebels and government forces has now shifted to the neighboring district of Khalidiya.
According to Abu Rami and Hussein, the alternative justice system that the rebels set up in Homs last fall remains intact. “When we catch regime supporters, they are brought before a court martial,” they say. The commander of the rebels in Homs, Abu Mohammed, presides over the court. He is assisted by Abu Hussein, the head of the coordinating committee. “Sometimes even more men act as a jury,” says Hussein. The interrogation brigade reports on the confessions of the accused. Often the suspects even had videos on their cell phones that showed atrocities being perpetrated against insurgents, the men say. “In that situation, their guilt is established quickly.” In the event of a conviction, the prisoners are then handed over to Hussein’s burial brigade, which takes them to gardens or to the cemetery. And then Hussein comes along with his knife.
So far, Hussein has cut the throats of four men. Among the group of executioners in Homs, he is the least experienced — something that he almost seems apologetic about. “I was wounded four times in the last seven months,” he says. “I was out of action for a long time.” On top of that, he also has other commitments. “I operate our heavy machine gun, a Russian BKC. Naturally I have killed a lot more men with that. But only four with the blade.” That will change soon, he says. “I hope I will be released from the hospital next week and can return to Homs. Then those dogs will be in for it.”
‘Sometimes We Acquit People’
The rebels in Homs began carrying out regular executions in August of last year, shortly after the conflict in the country began to escalate, says Hussein’s comrade Abu Rami. In his Adidas tracksuit, he looks like any other convalescent in the hospital. But Abu Rami is a senior member of the Homs militia. The other Syrians in the ward greet him respectfully and pay close attention to his words.
“Since last summer, we have executed slightly fewer than 150 men, which represents about 20 percent of our prisoners,” says Abu Rami. Those prisoners who are not convicted and sentenced to death are exchanged for rebel prisoners or detained protesters, he says. But the executioners of Homs have been busier with traitors within their own ranks than with prisoners of war. “If we catch a Sunni spying, or if a citizen betrays the revolution, we make it quick,” says the fighter. According to Abu Rami, Hussein’s burial brigade has put between 200 and 250 traitors to death since the beginning of the uprising.
He dismisses any doubts about whether these people were really all guilty and whether they received a fair trial. “We make great efforts to investigate thoroughly,” Abu Rami says. “Sometimes we acquit people, too.”
Apart from anything else, it is simply the nature of every revolution to be bloody, Abu Rami explains. “Syria is not a country for the sensitive.”

Anatomy of a Massacre

 Dateline SBS Australia

What really happened on the night of March 11 when 17 Afghan civilians were massacred in Kandahar province?

Many Afghans, including some of the survivors that night, believe more than one U.S. soldier was present in the two villages where the killings took place.

With unprecedented access to Afghan military investigators, Yalda Hakim travels to the villages where the massacre took place and interviews survivors of the attack, as well as Afghan guards at the US military base that housed the alleged gunman.

 US soldier Robert Bales is in custody, facing charges of mass murder, but Afghan investigators suspect there may have been at least one other killer involved.

INTERVIEW WITH YALDA – Yalda Hakim explains to SBS Radio’s World News Australia how she was able to get such unprecedented access to the massacre investigation. Posted March 30, 2012

INTERVIEW WITH YALDA –  Yalda Hakim explains to SBS Radio’s World News Australia how she was able to get such unprecedented access to the massacre investigation.

The award-winning A Separation and the humanity of the Iranian people

30 March 2012

It is not often we devote a perspective to a film, or any art work. However, the combination of the context in which it appears and its own merits makes A Separation, by Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, worth acknowledging in this manner. It is a film with a good deal to say, and the present situation gives the work a special poignancy and relevance.
The United States government and military-intelligence apparatus, in complicity with the Israeli regime and allies in Europe, is relentlessly driving toward military action against Iran. The pretext is the Iranian nuclear program.
Such a war would mean unspeakable suffering for the Iranian population and the people of the region. It would have potentially calamitous global consequences as well, including for Israelis, Americans and Europeans.
With machinelike regularity, President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta make unsubstantiated claims about Iranian nuclear ambitions as though we had not experienced countless US government and mass media lies about Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction” in the run-up to the invasion of March 2003.
Will the world repeat this horrific experience in Iran, on an even more devastating scale?
Americans are bombarded almost daily with reports of Iran’s evil-doing: its “threats” against the US and Israel, its support for terrorism, its aggressive geopolitical ambitions. The Iranian people themselves, except when it serves propaganda purposes, i.e., in relation to the upper middle class Green opposition movement, are presented as alien, hostile, virtually subhuman creatures, driven by religious fanaticism and irrational hatred of Americans.
A Separation provides one of the few glimpses that Americans and others in the West will have into the reality of Iranian life. The film is direct and honest, unlike most products of the US movie industry. The critic for the New Republic was obliged to admit that American films on the same general subject matter “are airy, pretty and affluent” compared with Farhadi’s work.
The central problems in A Separation are deeply human, and thoroughly believable. A middle class couple in Tehran is on the verge of breaking up. The wife, Simin, wants to leave Iran and take her daughter with her. Her husband, Nader, feels obliged to stay and continue caring for his Alzheimer’s-stricken father. When Simin tells Nader that his father doesn’t even know him any more, he replies, “But I know he is my father.”
When his wife leaves to stay with her mother, Nader hires a devoutly religious, working class woman, Razieh, to look after his father. Razieh is pregnant. Her hot-headed husband, Hodjat, is out of work and creditors are hounding him. Forced by her condition to leave Nader’s apartment during the course of the day and visit a doctor, she ties the demented elderly man to his bed. On coming home, Nader is enraged by his father’s condition. An altercation occurs when Razieh returns, and Nader throws her out of the house. The next thing we know, she is in the hospital, having miscarried. She and her husband accuse him of causing the death of the baby, by pushing her down a flight of stairs.
As the story unfolds, the almost unbearable pressures bearing down on every character, including the children, make themselves felt. Changing what must be changed, the drama could be set in countless other locations, including many US cities and towns.
A Separation is a realistic, hardly flattering portrait of Iran, a society beset by intense contradictions. The film is frank about all sections of the population. At the same time, each of the central figures is fairly and sympathetically treated, even the judge who has to rule on the conflicting claims. The individual degrees of guilt or innocence fade into the background, as the ultimate responsibility for the tragedy clearly lies with the profound social and economic tensions. In the end, as elsewhere, the more affluent couple retain the upper hand.
The performances are superb in A Separation, a film virtually without a false note. Farhadi’s film stands in the best, intensely humane tradition of Iranian cinema in recent decades, along with Abbas Kiarostami’s Where is the Friend’s Home?Close-Up and Through the Olive Trees, and Jafar Panahi’sThe White Ballon and The Mirror, and numerous others.
A Separation reveals to the viewer a complex and highly cultured society, where daily life, to be blunt, often proceeds along more civilized lines than in the US at present.
This is a country with a long, terrible history of foreign oppression. In 1953, the US and Britain organized a coup against a democratically elected government and installed the torture regime of the Shah, which brutalized the Iranian people and defended the interests of Western oil companies until its overthrow in 1979.
And will a war, in the name of “the American people,” based on one transparent falsehood or another, soon be launched against Iran? Will deadly US bombs and missiles shortly be raining down on the streets, buildings and human beings we see in A Separation? Will the criminal cabal made up of Obama, Cameron, Sarkozy and Netanyahu have its way? It is almost impossible to conceive of. But it is the harsh reality. Even without a full-scale war, life in Iran is being strangled by economic sanctions and other measures, which no doubt help account for the pressures depicted in A Separation.
And why? So the US, and the jackals who follow in its wake, can have greater access to the energy supplies of the Middle East and shove out of their way a regime they consider an obstacle.
The American media is busy misrepresenting the situation and indoctrinating the population. On March 28, for example, the New York Times, whose editors already have the blood of innumerable Iraqis on their hands, ran another piece behind whose writing and publication one feels the thuggish presence of intelligence agencies. It is hard to tell in a given instance because the Times operates as a propaganda arm of the Pentagon and CIA more or less on “automatic pilot.”
The March 28 article chronicles the close relationship between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak as they plot war against Iran. “For Mr. Netanyahu,” we learn, “an Iranian nuclear weapon would be the 21st-century equivalent of the Nazi war machine and the Spanish Inquisition.” Historical ignorance and moral depravity here ally themselves with neo-colonial arrogance.
That Israel is the only power in the region already armed with nuclear weapons and has pursued aggressive and murderous policies against the Palestinians and other Arab peoples for decades are not facts troubling theTimes reporter.
Will an attack on Iran produce a “catastrophe”? Through its presentation of the views of Netanyahu and Barak, the Times dismisses the notion. The warmongering Israeli leaders contend “that given a choice between an Iran with nuclear weapons … and the consequences of an attack on Iran before it can go nuclear, the latter is far preferable. There will be a counterattack, they say; people will lose their lives and property will be destroyed. But they say it is the lesser of two evils.” If Iran counterattacks, the US, of course, will invoke its obligation to come to the “defense” of Israel and launch its own military assault.
What cold-blooded criminals all these people are, in the Obama administration and Congress, the Israeli state and the US media!
A relatively small number of people in the US have seen A Separation, some hundreds of thousands. Another one million or so have seen the film in France, far fewer in the UK. The governments of these countries are planning to destroy Iran as a regional power, a task requiring the punishment of its population with the most lethal weaponry ever developed.
Americans and Europeans should be seeing this film. Accepting the Academy Award, Farhadi offered the award to the Iranian people, a people, he said, who “respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment.” Mass opposition must build to the threat of war with Iran. Everything must be done to stop this crime being prepared before people’s eyes.
David Walsh

US House of Representatives approves plan to destroy Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps

By Patrick Martin 

30 March 2012
The US House of Representatives has adopted a budget resolution that calls for privatization of Medicare and the elimination of Medicaid, food stamps and many other federal entitlement benefits. The resolution is part of a bipartisan campaign to slash spending on social programs.
All but ten of the Republican majority in the House backed the resolution—and those ten wanted even bigger cuts. All Democrats voted against the resolution, while offering their own proposals that called for somewhat less drastic cuts in spending and token tax increases on the wealthy.
Not a single resolution was offered that called for increasing spending to meet social needs as the American economy staggers through a fifth year of economic slump and mass unemployment.
The budget was drafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who last year offered the first-ever proposal for the complete abolition of Medicare. It passed the House but not the Senate.
This year’s resolution was even more sweeping and reactionary. It calls for $5.3 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade. Part of the savings would be used to reduce the federal deficit, but the bulk of them would go to reward the wealthy with new tax breaks, including abolition of the estate tax and the Alternative Minimum Tax, making the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy permanent, and lowering the top income tax rate from the present 35 percent to 25 percent.
The major spending cuts in the budget resolution are focused on programs for the poor and the lower-paid sections of the working class. According to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 62 percent of the $5.3 trillion in spending cuts come from “programs that serve people of limited means.” If implemented, the cuts would drastically increase income inequality and poverty.
The CBPP analysis found the budget provides for $800 billion in cuts for Medicaid, $1.6 trillion from repealing the expansion of Medicaid and subsidies for low- and moderate-income people, $134 billion in cuts from food stamps, and $463 billion from other programs for low-income individuals and families, including an estimated $166 billion from Pell Grants for low-income college students.
According to other accounts, the budget would cut 200,000 children from Head Start, deny food stamps or WIC food commodities to 1.8 million infants, children and pregnant or nursing women, cut transportation financing by up to $50 billion, and cut unspecified billions from federal employee pensions.
The resolution proposes to turn back the clock on federal programs by more than half a century, capping federal spending at 19 percent of gross domestic product, about the level that prevailed in the 1950s, before the establishment of Medicare and other social welfare programs adopted under the Johnson administration.
In order to accomplish this goal, the age of eligibility for Medicare would be raised from 65 to 67, and end Medicare as a federal entitlement for all those now younger than 55. Anyone who turns 65 after 2023 would be relegated to buying private health insurance with a government grant that would be capped, shifting costs to the individual.
Unlike last year, however, Ryan modified his Medicare plan slightly to obtain a Democratic co-sponsor, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon. The Ryan-Wyden plan would give those under 55 the option to stay with traditional Medicare, but only under financing options that would make the federal program unviable.
As Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein noted, the Ryan plan establishes the identical mechanism for the elderly to purchase private insurance—state-run insurance exchanges—that the Obama administration has made the center of its healthcare reform program. Obama proposed this method to cut the cost of healthcare for the government and corporate employers. Ryan proposes the same means to cut the cost of providing healthcare for the elderly.
The other significant feature of the Ryan budget resolution is that it reneges on the agreement reached last August between the Obama administration and congressional Republicans, setting spending levels for the 2012 and 2013 fiscal years. The White House embraced significant cuts in discretionary spending in return for an increase in the federal debt ceiling. This raises the prospect of a new legislative deadlock over the adoption of appropriations bills for fiscal year 2013, and a partial shutdown of the federal government October 1, on the eve of the presidential and congressional elections.
The Obama White House mildly criticized the Ryan budget plan in language that all but begged for an agreement. Senior Obama adviser David Plouffe, appearing on multiple television talk shows last Sunday, reiterated the claim that the Republican resolution “fails the test of balance and fairness and shared responsibility.”
Adding just a touch of populist demagogy, Plouffe continued, “It showers huge additional tax cuts on the wealthy that are paid for by veterans and seniors and the middle class.”
None of the competing budget resolutions debated and voted on by the House Wednesday and Thursday, however, provided any serious alternative.
A proposal based on the Obama administration’s own budget numbers, offered by Republican Congressman Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina in order to ridicule it, was voted down by 414 to zero, without a single Democratic vote.
Three measures offered by various factions of the Democratic Party were all voted down—the Black Caucus budget was defeated 107-314, the Progressive Caucus budget 78-346, and a Democratic leadership budget 163-262.
Significantly, all of these budget resolutions adhered to the spending levels set last August in the bipartisan White House deal. In other words, the Democrats, even in their most liberal guise, accepted the budget cuts endorsed by Obama last year.
The House also defeated, by a vote of 136-285, an alternative to the Ryan budget resolution with even greater cuts, proposed by the Republican Study Group, a caucus of ultra-right and Tea Party members.
One other budget resolution was voted on, and despite its lopsided defeat, the measure was politically significant. A bipartisan group of right-wing Democrats and moderate Republicans proposed a budget plan based on the report of the Simpson-Bowles commission, which Obama appointed to devise a deficit-reduction program.
The resolution was overwhelmingly defeated, by 38 to 382, because few Republicans would vote for a resolution calling for tax increases on the wealthy, and few Democrats wanted to publicly support sizeable cuts in Medicare and Social Security in a bill that was certain to be defeated.
Nonetheless, the bipartisan measure indicated where a deal is to be had once the charade of the November elections is completed. Whatever the configuration of the two parties, in terms of control of the White House, Senate or House of Representatives, there will be a bipartisan deal to slash spending on the poor and working class, while preserving, with only token changes, the enormous tax boondoggles for the wealthy.
This will be presented to the American people, either by President Obama or his Republican successor, as a measure providing “equal sacrifice” or “shared responsibility” for the fiscal crisis of the federal government.

Millions join general strike in Spain

By Vicky Short 

30 March 2012
Yesterday’s general strike against new labour laws imposed by the right-wing Popular Party government was backed by millions.
The two main union federations, the Socialist Party (PSOE)-aligned General Workers Union (Union General de Trabajadores, UGT), and the Communist Party (PCE)-led Workers Commissions (Comisiones Obreras, CC.OO) estimated that the stoppages were supported by 77-80 percent of the workforce. Many more people, unemployed, school children, housewives and students used it as a vehicle to protest government cuts and austerity measures.
Mass stoppages took place in industry, transport and services. The walkout hit road, rail and air service with barely any domestic or European flights in operation.
Nissan, Seat, Ficosa o Valeo and the petrochemical factory in Tarragona were shut down as well as Yamaha and Derbi o Panrico. The PSA Peugeot Citroën plant was opened, but with about 10 percent attendance. In Navarre, factories such as Volkswagen, FCC Logística, Human Koxka, TRW, Kybse o Dana were paralysed. Factories near Madrid closed down. Industry, ports and shipyards in Galicia were idle.
Although the trade unions had agreed minimum transport services of 30 and 35 percent, huge queues formed in all cities. The unions report that 91 percent supported the strike on the railways.
Around 30 percent of bank workers struck. The big stores such as El Corte Ingles opened under heavy police protection, but there were few customers. Refuse collection stopped the night before and though a minimum service was agreed, most containers remained full.
Minimum services allowed hospitals to function, but in many hospitals there were incidents between strikers and those who scabbed. Public buildings were under heavy police guard.
The stoppage was massive at universities all over the country. Libraries were closed. Calling for unity with workers, students marched with banners that read, “Education Rest In Peace”. Masses of workers and young people filled the streets, halting traffic in main streets and roads.
In total, 111 demonstrations and rallies took place around the country.
The police were out in force. Police attacks on strikers led to dozens of arrests and injuries.
Trade union spokesmen referred to “situations of intimidation”, “police provocation” and “unjustified aggression”. The UGT’s 64-year-old Secretary of Training and Employment, Juan Jose Couso Ferreira, had to receive medical attention for wounds to his eyebrow, nose and arm. A cameraman was arrested as early as 6 a.m. An attack on a man in an electric wheelchair was filmed.
The new changes in the labour law go much further and deeper than those agreed between the PSOE government and the trade unions in September 2010, opposition to which also forced the unions to call a general strike. Many of these changes are already in operation, as the government unilaterally implemented them in February by decree.
All workers will eventually have to sign a contract which will limit severance pay to just 33 days for each year worked, with a limit of 24 months for unfair dismissal, as opposed to the present 45 days of severance pay, with a limit of 42 months. If layoffs are “financially driven”, companies only need to pay 20 days’ wages.
Companies are given the freedom to reduce working hours without having to apply to the Employment Authority and to reduce the number of employees depending on profitability, as well as redeploy them to other towns. People who are registered in unemployment offices and receiving benefits will be forced to “carry out services of general interest in the benefit of the community” through agreements with the Public Administrations.
Young people will be forced onto cheap labour “training” contracts. After they have finished one, they can be forced onto another, and so on, until the age of 30.
The law undermines collective national agreements and allows agreements by company. Congress has already approved the new labour law, and the Senate voted yesterday in the middle of the general strike.
Today’s budget announcement is expected to bring in further and much wider austerity measures.
Despite the massive response and militancy of Spanish workers, the unions are insistent that all they want are modifications and concessions from the government that would aid them in imposing the measures on the working class.
UGT’s leader Cándido Méndez said, “We are convening the strike because we have to connect it with the parliamentary debate which is now reaching the high point of amendments. The general strike is not an end in itself, it is a means to correct.”
CC.OO’s leader Ignacio Fernández Toxo defended the unions’ record of collaboration in the attacks on Spanish workers. “The country was in need of more compromises, but quite honestly I don’t think that anyone can accuse the UGT and CC.OO that we have not made considerable efforts”, he said.
Toxo elaborated on the unions’ record of betrayal: “In the midst of the longest and deepest crisis that Spanish society has known in decades, we have signed three agreements that I think have had an insufficient appreciation. We have repeated in January the salaries (agreement) of 2010, correcting its contents while it was still in force. And also we made an agreement on pensions the likes of which does not exist in Europe. We have put forward proposals in 2011 on the eve of the election such as progressive fiscal reform …”
Méndez added, “If we haven’t reached more agreements it is because they haven’t let us. We have had three agreements during the crisis and two strikes; three to two.”
At a press conference yesterday, he stated, “We have to look for a compromise with the government so that we can row in the same direction.”
Toxo added, “They have forced a general strike. I hope that this will be sufficient.”
The PSOE Parliamentary Group issued a statement supposedly in support of the strike, but focusing on a denunciation of the PP for not negotiating with the unions.
Minister of Labour Fátima Báñez replied that the government was open to proposals as far as the improvement and amplifications of the legislation was concerned, but the reforms were not going to be changed, strike or no strike. Asked about the brutal actions of the police, she said the government was elected to guarantee the right of those who want to strike and those who want to work.
The Madrid government delegate, Cristina Cifuentes, declared that “there are three groups with about one thousand people who are intending to mount riots in the centre of the city. They are being controlled by the police.”
The PP has received a big setback in two regional elections this week, and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has been accused by the European Union of going too softly on the cuts in response. Rajoy had hoped that a big majority, particularly in Andalucia (the biggest region in Spain), would have given him the clout to say that his next plan of drastic austerity measures had the backing of the country. But despite the setback, he is under orders to step up the attacks on workers. The EU will be sending officials in April to make sure he does not back pedal in the wake of the strike.
In industrial action in Athens the same day, thousands of protesters, including doctors, nurses and administrative staff marched on the Greek parliament.
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Mitt Romney: Overseas Job Creator-In-Chief


By Babu G. Ranganathan
Mitt Romney: Overseas Job Creator-In-Chief. 46956.jpeg
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney says that he knows how to create jobs, and he’s right. Romney has created tons of jobs overseas. Mitt Romney took away jobs from Americans and made huge money for himself by showing American companies and businesses how and where they can cut their workers and staff and ship their jobs overseas. Don’t be fooled. Mitt Romney is a great businessman but that doesn’t mean anything, nada, for Americans!
Romney was a poor Governor of the state of Massachusetts. Everybody knows this.  Mitt Romney, like his fellow Republicans, only care for giving huge tax breaks and advantages to the very wealthy.  Millions of Americans have been deceived into thinking that huge, unfair tax breaks for the wealthy will trickle down to create jobs for everybody else.
The simple fact, however, is that the wealthy won’t create jobs in society if the middle class doesn’t have money to spend. Why would a wealthy person hire someone to make something that people don’t have the money to buy? Not only does fairness require that the wealthy pay their fair share in taxes in proportion to their wealth, but also relieving the middle class of its increasingly unaffordable heavy tax burden will mean that the middle class will have more money to spend for products and services which creates jobs to provide those products and services.
As billionaire Warren Buffet himself has said, it’s not fair that the government allows him to pay less in percentage of taxes than what his secretary pays in percentage of taxes. 
The middle class, because of its sheer size, is the economic engine of any society. The wealthy are very few and can only consume and spend so much on themselves. The middle class can and does spend and consume a lot more. 
President Obama didn’t make Medicare law, but because Medicare already is the law the government has an obligation to finance it. The wealthy need to pay their share of taxes that they once used to do to keep Medicare solvent. A major reason for the U.S. budget deficit and why the government doesn’t have money now is because the wealthy have not been paying their fair share of taxes over the years, especially since the time the Bush tax cuts had went into effect. The American middle class cannot afford any more tax burden to keep Medicare and other government obligations solvent. These are among the reasons why President Obama is seeking to shift more tax burden on the wealthy, not because he’s against people being rich and successful. 
Obama wants government to spend more in order to grow more jobs. When government spends, then that spending creates jobs because people need to be hired to provide government what it wants. When people are hired, they make money and spend the money, which creates even more jobs. When there are enough people working, then government can tax the people reasonably to make back the money that government had borrowed and spent.
President Obama’s stimulus money to the states was not all spent wisely by the states, but it did help greatly in preventing the Republican caused economic collapse and Great Recession from becoming a Great Depression. Not enough Americans are humble, thankful, grateful, and intelligent enough to appreciate President Obama saving the nation from going into a far deeper hole.
Business owners know that you have to borrow and spend and go into deep debt before a business can make a profit. The same principle is true when government spends. In a down economy government needs to spend a lot (wisely) to generate a lot of jobs!
The far right wants no controls and regulations on the economy, and that’s what got us in the mess we’re in. Without legitimate financial controls and regulations, the greedy in our financial world were able to amass fortunes at the peril of society’s survival. If not for government intervention into the banking system the entire nation may have collapsed into economic ruin. Government keeps rescuing rugged individualists and capitalism! Capitalism is good and fine but it must be regulated (have financial safety valves) or otherwise capitalism will be destroyed by the dishonest and greedy. Regulations and controls keep greed in check and can prevent the few who, because of greed, would abuse capitalism at society’s expense.
President Obama hasn’t done everything right, and neither is he right on every issue, but Obama has accomplished much in saving the U.S. economy from total collapse and in helping establish financial controls and regulations in Wall Street.
Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress have done whatever they could to resist and stall President Obama in his attempts to provide adequate levels of control and regulation on Wall Street.
President Obama said that there are situations, which can be managed with less government, and there are situations requiring more government. That’s a realistic statement.
If so many Americans don’t like big government then why are these same Americans expecting big government to create jobs and solve our economic problems? Americans want their cake and eat it too! 
The author, Babu G. Ranganathan, is a freelance writer and has been recognized for his writings in the 24th edition of Marquis “Who’s Who In The East.” 

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Save France from the CIA, MOSSAD and Al Qaeda!


By Olivia Kroth
One month before the presidential elections, France had its newest sensation, a western cowboy style film with the headline “greatest manhunt in history,” showing Nicolas Sarkozy’s tragically pale face with tightly shut lips and wrinkled forehead, worrying about the future of France.
His polls were down low lately because French voters judged his political performance as bad, worse, worst. So Sarkozy hung on to his cowboy film with the “greatest manhunt in history” script like a dead fly to the window grid. The blown-up story was his last hope of winning voters and augmenting his chance in the upcoming elections.
France is home to the largest Jewish community in Europe. Around 700,000 Jews reside in the country. The story of the shooting at a Jewish school came in handy for Sarkozy, but many French people have their doubts.
The online media, Alterinfo, brought several articles, asking about the truth of the story.
There was a lot of bang-boom, patati and patata around the building, with a whole squadron of RAID police running around the block day and night, police cars with sirens screeching, colorful carnival fireworks, plenty of press people and dumbfounded lookers-on.
But were the three Jewish school children really shot dead? If so, then why did their bodies not undergo autopsy, as is required by criminal law in France? The official information given was that after Jewish ritual, the burials had to take place within 48 hours.
Some readers in their comments on Alterinfo mused about the absence of dead bodies. Could it be that those allegedly shot children were in reality whisked away to Israel?  People know that Jews do not kill other Jews. They believe that this “shooting” was a MOSSAD hoax to enhance their buddy Sarkozy’s chances in the election. It seems to be some sort of false flag operation, with dark forces trying to instill fear in French citizens.
If the alleged killer of the French Muslim parachutists in Montauban and the French Jewish children in Toulouse really belonged to the Al Qaeda network, then French voters have every right to ask Sarkozy why he supports Al Qaeda terrorists in Libya and in Syria, where French secret services are currently arming and training these terrorists to topple Bashar al-Assad’s government.
Sarkozy’s protection and support of Al Qaeda in Libya and Syria is like an invitation of Al Qaeda to France. The chickens always come home to roost.
The French people also asked why the “massive manhunt” was drawn-out so long, with endless reports, features, interviews and TV talk shows, before the young Frenchman of Algerian origin was finally liquidated by RAID policemen in his tiny apartment of 38 square metres.
Are the French police so incompetent that they are unable to capture a killer faster than that?
In Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, the French soldiers and secret service men work much faster, killing hundreds, even thousands of innocent people in the spur of a few minutes.
It was pathetic how Sarkozy’s wrinkled face was shown again and again, keeping “a minute of silence” for the victims in France, because he is the one who produces non-stop victims in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria by sending French killers to these Muslim countries in order to silently genocide their populations.
According to Gavin Hewitt of BBC, Mohammed Merah (23) was trained and handled by the French secret service DCRI.  He had a passport with an entry stamp for Israel. What did this young Muslim do in Israel?
He also had the direct phone line number of a French secret service agent of DCRI, who probably was his personal handler and trainer. What did they talk about on the telephone?
Mohammed Merah was obviously on best terms with the French secret services before they decided to set him up and annihilate him.
Was he a sort of stupid little patsy, an Algerian sheep in the wool of a French wolf?
Formerly, he had allegedly received his training in the CIA base of Bagram in Afghanistan by the secret service organization DCHC.
The Pentagon and the CIA are known to specialize in the creation of Al Qaeda terrorists for world-wide use.
Since the times of entry into NATO, France seems to have degenerated into some sort of banana republic, with growing state debt, unemployment and a president who is involved in shady business, to put it mildly.
The times of such noble patriots as General Charles de Gaulle are long gone, alas.  Let’s hope that France will find a new president soon, one who truly has French blood and honor in his veins, one who does not resort to all kinds of crooked shenanigans and endangers his citizens’ lives in order to remain in power.
The French will not forget the latest coup d’état with which Sarkozy, together with his best friends from the CIA, MOSSAD and Al Qaeda, tried to pull the wool over his voters’ eyes.
It is high time for him to leave France in peace.
 Prepared for publication by:
Lisa Karpova

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