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Sweden, Norway Act Against Israel

Sweden, Norway Act Against Israel | WSJ

International fallout from Israel's bloody boarding of a flotilla offshore Gaza intensified, moving beyond angry denunciation from Israel's foes to protest measures in some Western countries.

In Sweden, dockworkers are set to launch a weeklong boycott of Israeli ships and goods, a union spokesman said Saturday according to Associated Press.

Peter Annerback, a spokesman for the Swedish Port Workers Union which has around 1,500 members, said workers are urged to refuse handling of Israeli goods and ships during the June 15-24 boycott.

Norway's military says it has canceled a special operations seminar because the Defense Ministry objected to the inclusion of an Israeli army officer in the program, AP reported. Read more.

German President Horst Koehler Resigns Over Military Row

German president Horst Koehler resigns over military row
By Sarah Garrod | In The News UK

Germany's president Horst Koehler has resigned following remarks he made about the country's military deployment.

The 67-year-old faced increasing pressure to step down when comments he made about the link between the country's economic interests and its military deployments were met with criticism.

The president's role in Germany is largely ceremonial, with Mr Koehler being re-elected for a second term last year.

His remarks were made during a radio interview after visiting Afghanistan, in which he said military missions helped to "protect our interests, for example, free trade routes, or to prevent regional instability, which might certainly have a negative effect on our trade, jobs and income".

He said yesterday that "it was an honour for me to serve Germany as president", adding that he regretted the comments he had made if they were misunderstood, while his office said his they had been misinterpreted.

Mr Köhler's decision marked the first time in post-war German history that a president has resigned with immediate effect. His replacement will be voted in by an election next month. Read more.

The Common Culture of Turkey, the United States, and Iran

By David Swanson

I'd guess roughly 3% of the Americans who watch the new Disney movie Prince of Persia have any idea that Persia and Iran are the same place. A similar number are probably aware of Iranians' demonstrations of sympathy following 9-11 and of Iran's assistance to the United States in Afghanistan in 2001. But surely an even smaller percentage of Americans know that Iran, Turkey, and our own country all fought revolutions against British colonialism, and developed democracies, our own serving as an inspiration for the others, our nation serving as a friend and ally to them. And you could probably fit into one football stadium every American who knows that Turkey's democratic advance succeeded where Iran's failed, principally because Teddy Roosevelt's grandson, working for the CIA, overthrew Iran's elected leader and installed a dictator, whom the United States proceeded to support and arm for decades.

Poland: U.S. Moves First Missiles, Troops Near Russian Border


Poland: U.S. Moves First Missiles, Troops Near Russian Border
Rick Rozoff | Stop NATO | Blog site | May 29, 2010

On May 26 Polish news media announced that the first American Patriot interceptor missile battery and 100 U.S. troops were officially welcomed by Defense Minister Bogdan Klich, U.S. Ambassador Lee Feinstein and Brigadier General Mark Bellini of U.S. Army Europe at a ceremony in Poland.

American troops, it was further reported, had arrived over the previous weekend from a base in Germany to unload over 37 railway cars and assemble the Patriots in the Polish town of Morag, only 60 kilometers from Russia's northwestern border in the Kaliningrad district. Details concerning the Patriot deployment and the stationing of as many as 150 U.S. servicemen were finalized in a supplemental Status of Forces Agreement between Washington and Warsaw in February.

One of Britain's major daily newspapers characterized the development as follows: "The mission amounts to the most significant deployment ever of US forces to Poland, which once was behind the Iron Curtain but is now an enthusiastic member of Nato." [1]

At the unveiling of the missile battery the Polish defense chief stated that "Placing the Patriot batteries in Poland makes the country more secure and contributes to Poland's cooperation with the U.S," and, allowing for an imperfect translation, "The more America and Europe in Poland, the more Poland in American and European politics." [2]

The Associated Press reminded its readers on the occasion that "The U.S military has previously carried out training exercises in Poland, and
has also trained the Polish air force to operate F-16 military fighter planes, which Poland bought to modernize its military."

In fact between November of 2006 and December of 2008 Poland received 48 F-16 Fighting Falcon American warplanes and the Pentagon and NATO conduct regular military exercises - infantry, naval and air - at Polish bases.

What is qualitatively different about this week's events, though, was spelled out by Andrew Paul, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw, who acknowledged "that the Patriot garrison involves a longer time commitment than anything before, and marks 'the first continuing presence' of American soldiers and equipment in Poland." [3] The U.S. troops who arrived earlier this week are the first foreign ones based on Polish soil since the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact twenty years ago.

The Spanish Government Is Trying To Stop The Activities In Gijón and Madrid

The Spanish Government is trying to stop the activities in Gijón and Madrid
Memo from the Spanish Campaign against the Occupation and for the Sovereignty of Iraq
By CEOSI Organizing Committee | IraqSolidaridad | May 28, 2010

“CEOSI deplores the change of attitude of the Spanish government, which will complicate or delay what would have been an invaluable contribution to the success of a negotiated, democratic and binding solution in Iraq. The meetings organized in Spain encompass the participation of the highest representatives of the currents in the anti-occupation camp, along with Iraqi intellectuals and activists, international personalities and representatives of European and U.S. organizations. The rough draft of the final communiqué, which would be signed and presented in Gijón, would have been a remarkable contribution to this objective, as it would display for the first time a united and public commitment to a democratic reconstruction of Iraq and condemnation of terrorism.”

Today, on May 28, the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation has informed the Spanish Campaign against the Occupation and for the Sovereignty of Iraq (CEOSI) of “the impossibility of its giving support of any type” to the activities planned in Gijón and Madrid between June 18 and 21 within the framework of the International Conference of the Iraqi Political Resistance: Iraq, sovereignty and democratic reconstruction [1]. CEOSI believes that with this unexpected decision, the Spanish Government is preventing (in fact, prohibiting) the two activities from being carried out as initially programmed [2], and is unexpectedly failing to fulfill commitments agreed upon with the activities’ organizers.

In relation to this, CEOSI makes the following statement:

1. CEOSI denounces the breach in the agreement reached between CEOSI and the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation in relation to this initiative, which included the commitment of the Spanish authorities to facilitate the presentation of visas to the Iraqis participating in the planned activities.

The Breakup

The Breakup
By John Feffer | Foreign Policy in Focus

“I need a little space.”

When lovers utter these words, it’s usually a bad sign for the relationship. They feel suffocated. They're reexamining their commitment. They're checking out other options. But they don’t have the courage to make a clean break.

Britain is the latest country to question its “special relationship” with the United States. The recent elections have brought in the new team of David Cameron (Conservative Party) and Nicholas Clegg (Liberal Democrats). Both leaders have complained of how unquestioningly close Britain became to the United States during the Bush-Blair and then Brown-Obama years. The new British Foreign Minister Walter Hogue has called for trans-Atlantic relations to be “solid but not slavish.”

Meanwhile, a couple months ago, a British parliamentary committee recommended that the very phrase “special relationship” be retired altogether. “The UK needs to be less deferential and more willing to say no to the United States on those issues where the two countries’ interests and values diverge,” the committee’s report said.

Sounds to me like the Brits are very clearly saying: This whole shacking up thing isn’t working out. Let’s just be friends. Do you mind spending the night on the sofa? Read more.

Death Tolls Set To Spiral As Allied Forces Face 40 Attacks Every Day


Death tolls set to spiral as allied forces face 40 attacks every day

By Jonathan Owen | Independent.co.UK

British troops in Afghanistan are coming under the fiercest and most sustained assault since the start of the conflict nine years ago, with coalition forces subjected to more than 40 attacks each day in March: double the rate of a year ago. Attacks by the Taliban between September 2009 and March 2010 leapt by 83 per cent compared with the same period last year, according to a new report released this month by the US Government Accountability Office.

This in turn is greater than the 75 per cent increase between 2008 and 2009, when the Taliban launched 21,000 attacks. Worse, the violence is expected to grow even more ferocious in the coming months as US and British forces fight to retake Taliban-held territory in the south of the country.

Ineffective governance and money from the opium trade are cited as factors behind the continuing resilience of the insurgency. Read more.

Euro Crisis: Only Root-And-Branch Financial Reform Can Tame The Wolf Pack


Euro crisis: only root-and-branch financial reform can tame the wolf pack
By Dan Roberts | Guardian.co.UK

Excerpt:

European optimists hope the way to save the eurozone will be to complete the project by agreeing much closer fiscal and political union between the single currency members. In future, the hope is Germany would no more allow Greece to get into this mess than it would Bavaria.

Yet recognising how interconnected our economies have become does not in itself lessen the risks. In many respects, the credit crunch which began in 2007 has just jumped another firebreak: what began as a private sector banking problem has mutated into a sovereign debt disaster as nation states try to help, and is now becoming a supranational headache instead as the few remaining stable authorities, such as the EU and International Monetary Fund, get dragged in too.

Understandably, many are now again questioning the role that banks and traders have played in this saga – not least as a government-spurred recovery in bank profits once again drives personal bonuses to record levels.

In Europe, anger at the financial system is directed particularly towards London and New York, where most of the world's currency traders and debt investors hang out. The EU is already working on plans to form its own credit rating agencies as an answer to what many see as an American hegemony....

Satisfying, and just, as it may be to turn fire back on the financiers, the complicating factor is that indebted countries have never needed them more. Perhaps only a root-and-branch reassessment of our financial system itself can save us now. Read more.

Eastern Europe: From Socialist Bloc And Non-Alignment To U.S. Military Colonies

Eastern Europe: From Socialist Bloc And Non-Alignment To U.S. Military Colonies
Rick Rozoff | Stop NATO | Blog site | May 11, 2010

Eleven years ago today the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was in the seventh week of a bombing war against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, one which saw over 1,000 Western military planes fly over 38,000 combat missions, bombs dropped from the sky and Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from the Mediterranean Sea.

Having quickly exhausted military targets, NATO warplanes resorted to bombing so-called targets of opportunity, including bridges on the Danube River, factories, Radio Television of Serbia headquarters in the capital (where sixteen employees were killed), a refugee column in Kosovo, the offices of political parties and the residences of government officials and foreign ambassadors, a passenger train, a religious procession, hospitals, apartment courtyards, hotels, the Swedish and Swiss embassies and the nation's entire power grid.

U.S. Apache gunships and British Harrier jet aircraft were deployed for attacks on the ground and Yugoslavia was strewn with unexploded cluster bomb fragments and depleted uranium contamination.

The 78-day bombing campaign, NATO code name Operation Allied Force and U.S. Operation Noble Anvil, was promoted in Washington and other Western capitals as history's first "humanitarian war."

The U.S. and NATO dramatically escalated the reckless assault with an overnight attack on the Chinese embassy in Belgrade on May 7 in which five American bombs simultaneously struck the building, killing three and wounding 20 Chinese citizens. The government of China denounced the action for what it was, a "war crime," a "barbaric attack and a gross violation of Chinese sovereignty" and "NATO's barbarian act."

During the long Cold War it was assumed that military action by the North Atlantic military bloc would result in the death and injury of soldiers and civilians in member states of the Warsaw Pact. But NATO's first victims were Serbs and Chinese.

When the war ended on June 11, the West had achieved what it set out to accomplish:

50,000 troops under NATO's command entered Serbia's Kosovo province, where over 12,000 remain eleven years later.

The Financial Oligarchy Reigns: Democracy’s Death Spiral From Greece to the United States

The Financial Oligarchy Reigns: Democracy’s Death Spiral From Greece to the United States
By David DeGraw | Amped Status

As the Economic Elite continue their plunder, the people in Greece riot and the big banks score yet another big blow against the people of the United States.

Democracy throughout the world is under attack. Many people can make the argument that our democracy here in America is only an illusion, but even the illusion of democracy is crashing down. Tragedies are currently playing out across the world on an epic scale. Unprecedented economic and environmental catastrophes have become the norm. Billions of people, the overwhelming majority of humanity, have been sentenced to a slow death due to a concentration of wealth and resources within the humanity’s economic top 0.5%. Ultimately, short-sighted greed has proven to be humanity’s most severe disease.

I: Democracy Vs. Oligarchy: Lessons from History

The experiment known as democracy is devolving into fascism before our eyes, the “iron law of oligarchy” is once again asserting itself. From the Founding Fathers on, we have known that you cannot have a concentration of vast wealth and Democracy at the same time, and we currently have the greatest concentration of wealth in the history of the United States. As former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said, “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

The power struggle between democracy and the concentration of power represented within private banking interests has been a war raging throughout American history. Our Founders and early Presidents were very explicit in their opposition and our need to vigilantly guard against any private interests who sought control over our economy. In fact, our current crisis and power structure was summed up with stunning accuracy by the Founding Fathers themselves. As James Madison called it, “the daring depravity of the times.” As he described, “The stock-jobbers will become the praetorian band of the government, at once its tools and its tyrants; bribed by its largesse, and overawing it by clamors and combinations. Substituting the motive of private interest in place of public duty, leading to a real domination of the few under an apparent domination of the many.”

Leave it to Madison, the Father of the Constitution, to give us one of the most prescient quotes on modern day America you can find. For those of you who have never heard the term “stock-jobbers,” here’s the definition from a dictionary written in 1811:

“Stock Jobbers

Persons who gamble in Exchange Alley, by pretending to buy and sell the public funds, but in reality only betting that they will be at a certain price, at a particular time; possessing neither the stock pretended to be sold, nor money sufficient to make good the payments for which they contract: these gentlemen are known under the different appellations of bulls, bears, and lame ducks.”

Yes, even the Founders, long before High Frequency Trading algorithms and derivatives, had a clear understanding and great fear of the casino rigging tyrants in “Exchange Alley.” Madison also famously said: “History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling money and its issuance.” Read more.

Atlantic Council: Securing The 21st Century For NATO

Atlantic Council: Securing The 21st Century For NATO
Rick Rozoff | Stop NATO | Blog site | April 30, 2010

On April 28 the Atlantic Council held its annual awards dinner at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, D.C. where the U.S. State Department is also situated.

The honorees were headed by former President Bill Clinton, who was given the Distinguished International Leadership Award for his intervention in the Balkans in the 1990s, expanding the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and launching the North American Free Trade Agreement. Josef Ackermann, Chairman of the Management Board and the Group Executive Committee of Deutsche Bank AG, was presented with the Distinguished Business Leadership Award.

Distinguished Military Leadership Awards were presented jointly to U.S. Marine General James Mattis, currently chief of U.S. Joint Forces Command and NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Transformation from 2007-2009, and French General Stephane Abrial, who took over the NATO command in Norfolk, Virginia from Mattis last year.

The Atlantic Council of the United States also conferred its first Humanitarian Leadership Award on the Irish pop singer Bono.

NBC plugged the event beforehand with this background blurb:

"The Atlantic Council, which counts current National Security Advisor James L. Jones and UN Ambassador Susan Rice as former employees, is a non-partisan group with a mission of promoting international cooperation, particularly between the U.S. and Europe. Jones will be joined at the black-tie gathering by Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen, Sen. John McCain and a host of other Washington socialites and politicians." [1]

European MPs and Ministers Assess Gaza Today


European MPs and Ministers Assess Gaza Today
By Stephen Lendman

During a recent visit, a 50-person European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza (ECESG) assessed conditions on the ground firsthand, one year after Operation Cast Lead:

"to collect and document the facts, and then return to our respective countries and the European Parliament to push for actions that will bring immediate humanitarian relief and an end to the siege, as well as peace and justice to the Palestinian people," what they've long been denied under a repressive occupation.

ECESG calls itself:

"an umbrella body of non-governmental organizations across Europe that advocates (for) the fundamental right of the Palestinian people in Gaza to live in peace and dignity without being subjected to any form of collective punishment....ECESG supports the restoration of (Gazans') inalienable rights....and lobbies for pressure to be exerted on (Israel) to lift its siege and end the human tragedy there."

Meetings were held with Palestinian Legislative Council members, Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, and UNRWA Director of Operations, John Ging.

Areas toured were most affected, including Izbet Abet Rabu, the Al-Fakhoura School, and the Al-Salam neighborhood. Delegates also met with Al-Samouni family survivors who lost 23 members during the war.

They saw firsthand what human rights and various international organizations documented, including the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) Goldstone Commission's damning indictment of Israeli crimes of war and against humanity after its extensive 2009 fact finding mission.

The combination of destructive war, siege, and humanitarian crisis has been well reported. Nonetheless, ECESG's report is important because it's current and by 50 European parliamentarians and ministers, able to reach other high level officials at home, perhaps with enough clout for action - if not now, toward it happening sooner.

Kucinich: UK Elections Inspiration for Democracy


Kucinich: UK Elections Inspiration for Democracy | Press Release

Washington D.C. (April 26, 2010) – Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today made the following statement concerning the televised election debates in the United Kingdom:

“Just a few months ago the people of the UK seemed to have little enthusiasm for politics. Suddenly that’s changed.

“The UK has already had two serious and exciting debates that have engaged the public. Brits are now more aware of a real range of options as evidenced by reports of a last minute rush of voters registering.

“I will be watching the third debate with great interest, and take this opportunity to thank the UK for showing us how democracy is about real choice. It excites me that when people are given true alternatives more voters will participate,” said Kucinich.

Leading U.S. Rights Group Seeks to Intervene in Spanish Court’s Investigations into Bush Administration’s Torture Program


Leading U.S. Rights Group Seeks to Intervene in Spanish Court’s Investigations into Bush Administration’s Torture Program | Press Release

Madrid, April 27, 2010 – Today, the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a motion with Spain’s national court (Audencia Nacional) seeking to intervene as a party (Acusación Popular) in the criminal investigation currently pending in Spain into the torture program conducted by the United States during the Bush Administration. Initiated in April of 2009 by Judge Baltasar Garzón, the investigation focuses on the torture and abuse of four former Guantánamo detainees, Hamed Abderrahman Ahmed, Ikassrien Lahcen, Jamiel Abdul Latif Al Banna and Omar Deghaye, each with strong ties to Spain. The investigation will examine what Judge Garzón described as “an approved systematic plan of torture and ill-treatment” and thus can encompass the torture that took place in Iraq, Afghanistan and U.S. run black sites around the world. Mr. Ahmed is a Spanish citizen and Mr. Ikassrien had been a Spanish resident for more than 13 years.

CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo and has represented plaintiffs who have been subjected to every facet of the United States’ torture program, from Guantánamo detainees to Abu Ghraib torture survivors, and victims of extraordinary rendition and CIA ghost detention. CCR has represented former detainees in U.S. federal courts in habeas corpus proceedings and civil actions, seeking habeas relief, injunctions or damages. It bases its motion to intervene on vast experience working on these issues on behalf of its clients

“For eight long years we have fought to redress the brutal, inhumane and illegal acts perpetrated against our clients but have been blocked at every turn by both the Bush and Obama administrations,” said CCR President Michael Ratner, who filed the first habeas corpus petition brought on behalf of a Guantanamo detainee in 2002. “We come to Spain in pursuit of nothing less than justice, which, sadly, is not available in the United States.”

CCR staff attorney and lead counsel in the action, Katherine Gallagher, added: “The purpose of the intervention is multi-fold: to pursue justice and accountability for egregious international law violations in a forum that is willing to exercise jurisdiction over the case, and to press the message that no one is above the law and that impunity cannot stand, even if the U.S. is unwilling to prosecute the crimes.”

"Fabricating Terrorism:" Victims of UK Injustice


"Fabricating Terrorism:" Victims of UK Injustice
By Stephen Lendman

Launched in October 2003, Cageprisoners is a human rights organization dedicated to raising the "awareness of the plight of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay" and other War on Terror victims. As a "comprehensive resource," six words explain its mission: "education, campaign, support, motivation, co-operation (and) prevention" for its efforts to educate the public, campaign for Guantanamo and other detainee repatriations or their asylum, and have prisoner rights guaranteed under international law, including humane treatment not to be:

  • tortured;
  • indefinitely detained;
  • disappeared; or
  • denied proper legal representation, due process, judicial fairness, and access to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), medical personnel and families.

In April 2009, its report titled, "Fabricating Terrorism II: British Complicity in renditions and torture" followed its same-titled 2006 report. Part I covered 13 cases with evidence based on detainee testimonies, interviews with security service officials, and other research.

Part II updated it (including 16 other cases - 29 in all), focusing on Britain's claim to be a human rights leader. Stating it ratified the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) in 2003, its practices belie its commitment.

Prior to 9/11, Britain became complicit in America's War on Terror, and the worst of its crimes, including renouncing the rule of law, due process, and judicial fairness in persecuting innocent people, subjecting them to barbaric torture, other abuses, and long internments.

Muslims were targets of choice for their faith, ethnicity, prominence, activism, and at times charity. They've been singled out, hunted down, rounded up, held in detention, kept in isolation, denied bail, restricted in their right to counsel, tried on secret evidence and bogus charges, convicted in sham proceedings, then incarcerated as political prisoners for practicing Islam at the wrong time in America and Britain.

Targets were kidnapped, illegally detained, then extrajudicially disappeared to black sites, called extraordinary or irregular rendition, or the practice of forcibly transferring someone from one nation to another. The term is undefined in law.

Nuclear Weapons And Interceptor Missiles: Twin Pillars Of U.S.-NATO Military Strategy In Europe

Nuclear Weapons And Interceptor Missiles: Twin Pillars Of U.S.-NATO Military Strategy In Europe
Rick Rozoff Stop NATO | Blog site | April 23, 2010

The two-day NATO foreign ministers meeting in the Estonian capital of Tallinn on April 22-23 focused on the completion of the military alliance's first 21st century Strategic Concept and on the war in Afghanistan, the near-complete absorption of the Balkans into the bloc, and the expansion of operations at the Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence established by NATO two years ago in the same city.

The most important deliberations, however, were on the integrally related questions of U.S. nuclear weapons stored on air bases in five NATO member states and the expansion of the Pentagon's interceptor missile program to all of Europe west of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.

Discussions on the role of nuclear arms in Europe a generation after the end of the Cold War are in line with the Nuclear Posture Review released last month by the U.S. Department of Defense. NATO has never been known to deviate from American precedents and expectations. Its role is to accommodate and complement Pentagon initiatives. A nation like the Netherlands or Poland proposes, Washington disposes.

While speaking at a press conference in the ministerial meeting's host city, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen directly tied together the retention of U.S. nuclear arms in Europe and NATO's cooperation with its dominant member on a continent-wide interceptor missile system:

"NATO’s core business, its raison-d’etre, is to protect our territory and our populations....And in a world where nuclear weapons actually exist, NATO needs a credible, effective, and safely managed deterrent.

Center for American Progress Backs Progressive Third Party

From ThinkProgress.org

With national elections approaching on May 6, the United Kingdom hosted its first-ever prime ministerial TV debate last week, featuring Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the Labour Party, David Cameron of the Conservative Party, and Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats. Heading into the debate, the election was "considered too close to call" and "likely to be a two-horse race between Labour and the Conservatives." But Clegg, who offered himself "up as the fresh and honest alternative to two tired old parties," was the clear winner in the post-debate polls, instantly altering the dynamics of the race. Clegg's debate performance and the subsequent surge in the polls for the Liberal Democrats has led some observers to compare him to President Obama and his rise in the 2008 campaign. The three leaders engaged in a second debate yesterday, in which Cameron and Brown both engaged Clegg more aggressively in an effort to stop what some have dubbed "Cleggmania." Though the Liberal Democrats are often labeled the "centrist party" in Britain, much of Clegg's surge has been attributed to his steadfast advocacy for progressive policy positions.

What the Doomsayers Haven't Been Telling You about Greece

By Steven Hill

The recent battle over health care reform in the United States, in which the Obama administration was barely able to pass weak reform, is just further proof of how far the U.S. has fallen behind Europe. Yet all the media has been able to obsess over for the last couple of months is -- THE GREEK DEBT CRISIS!

By now of course everyone knows that Greece is in really tough shape, right? Practically at the cliff's edge, ready to collapse? All the gloom and doomers like Simon Johnson and others have been telling us this for two months, not only in the mainstream media but on Huffington Post and other progressive media outlets. So it must be true. But before we pronounce it so, let's take a quick pop quiz:

* Which country has less inequality, Greece or the United States?
* Which country has lower rates of infant mortality, Greece or the United States?

NATO: Pentagon's Gateway Into Former Warsaw Pact, Soviet Nations

NATO: Pentagon's Gateway Into Former Warsaw Pact, Soviet Nations
Rick Rozoff | Stop NATO | Blog site

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was founded in April of 1949 by a country not on the European continent, the United States, and eleven subordinates which had fought on both sides of the World War that had ended four years earlier: Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Portugal. Greece and Turkey were added in 1952 after their service in the Korean War and West Germany joined in 1955.

Five days after the inclusion of the Federal Republic of Germany on May 9, in contravention of the 1945 Potsdam Agreement between Britain, the U.S. and the Soviet Union which explicitly demanded and meticulously detailed plans for the demilitarization of Germany, the Soviet Union established the Warsaw Treaty Organization (Warsaw Pact) in response. Fellow members were Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), Hungary, Poland and Romania. Albania formally withdrew in 1968, though it had not been a participating member since the early 1960s, and Romania had been a member in name only for at least twenty years before the pact's formal disbandment.

With the accession of Spain into the "military alliance of democratic states in Europe and North America" in 1982 the U.S.-led military bloc grew from its original 12 to 16 members. By that time the Warsaw Pact had shrunk from eight to seven members and some of the remaining ones were only selectively involved.

NATO had regularly conducted large-scale military exercises in alleged defense of Norway, Denmark and other members, but never deployed forces or conducted operations outside member states' territories, counting on the thousands of American nuclear warheads in European NATO states to respond to the Warsaw Pact's conventional military superiority in the event of armed confrontation. [1]

Military forces from the Warsaw Pact intervened in Czechoslovakia in 1968 and in the early 1980s it appeared they might do so again in Poland, and the Soviet Union sent troops to Hungary in 1956 after Prime Minister Imre Nagy withdrew his nation from the Warsaw Pact.

The Soviet Union's justification for those actions was that nations in Eastern Europe gravitating toward the West could be transformed into sites from which NATO, and especially its dominant member the U.S., would present a military threat on or near its borders.

Sciatica

By Michael Schwartz

Here is my account of my encounter with the British National Health Service while in London, and suffering from Sciatica:

With excruciating pain that left me in no position to sleep comfortably, I was forced to faced the nightmare of socialized medicine. With the detailed forewarnings supplied by Sarah Palin and Fox News, I girded my loins, enlisted the life-risking aid of my girlfriend Carol, and ventured into the labyrinthine bureaucracy of state controlled health care.

Happy Tax Day: Are Americans Getting Our Money's Worth?


Happy Tax Day: Are Americans getting our money's worth?
By Steven Hill

Most Americans seem to regard April 15 -- the day income tax returns are due to the Internal Revenue Service -- as a recurring tragedy akin to a Biblical plague. Particularly this year, with US government deficits soaring, everyone from the teabaggers to Fox News and Senate Republicans are sounding the alarm about a return to "big government." Recently former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani even stated that President Obama was moving us towards -- gasp -- European socialism.

Europe frequently plays the punching bag role during these moments because there is a perception that the poor Europeans are overtaxed serfs. But a closer look reveals that this is a myth that prevents Americans from understanding the vast shortcomings of our own system.

A few years ago, an American acquaintance of mine who lives in Sweden told me that, quite by chance, he and his Swedish wife were in New York City and ended up sharing a limousine to the theater district with a southern U.S. Senator and his wife. This senator, a conservative, anti-tax Democrat, asked my acquaintance about Sweden and swaggeringly commented about "all those taxes the Swedes pay." To which this American replied, "The problem with Americans and their taxes is that we get nothing for them." He then went on to tell the senator about the comprehensive level of services and benefits that Swedes receive.

"If Americans knew what Swedes receive for their taxes, we would probably riot," he told the senator. The rest of the ride to the theater district was unsurprisingly quiet.

The fact is, in return for their taxes, Europeans are receiving a generous support system for families and individuals for which Americans must pay exorbitantly, out-of-pocket, if we are to receive it at all. That includes quality health care for every single person, the average cost of which is about half of what Americans pay, even as various studies show that Europeans achieve healthier results.

Sauk Centre Veteran Recalls Nightmarish Scene He Witnessed During World War II

Sauk Centre veteran recalls nightmarish scene he witnessed during World War II
By David Unze | Sauk Centre Times

Excerpts:

  • Motzko and his brother Jerry joined the Long Prairie National Guard in 1940, and in February 1941 they left Clarissa for California. Ed was sent overseas in September 1944 as a member of the 102nd Infantry Division of the 9th U.S. Army. They started in the Netherlands, and by April 1945 they were marching through German land on their way to the Elbe River to meet the Russians.

  • The Gardelegen prisoners were forced to march 600 miles in 20 days as the Russians chased their Nazi captors. There was little food and little sympathy for anyone who tired, or got injured. “They were starved, and the bulk of them died,” Motzko said. “The ones that didn’t die, they killed. It was torture, torture, torture,,,

  • More than 1,000 prisoners died at Gardelegen when the Nazis herded them inside a barn filled with gasoline-soaked straw and lit a match. Motzko, 89, was part of the effort to rescue the few survivors and nurse them back to health. And as the world today recognizes Holocaust Remembrance Day, Motzko continues to share his story with the hope that the world will take notice and prevent future genocides..
  • He has shared that story with author Michael Hirsh in a new book called “The Liberators: America’s Witnesses to the Holocaust.” Read more.

Debt Burden Weighs On Developed Nations

Debt burden weighs on developed nations
By Howard Schneider and Anthony Faiola | Washington Post

Excerpts:

  • Economists at the International Monetary Fund project that the amount of government debt held in the world's advanced economies will soon be so great that it surpasses the value of what they produce in a year.
  • In the United States, where the federal government's debt has reached 84 percent of GDP, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke spelled out the risks in a speech this week calling for restraint of public spending on entitlement programs.
  • But the same discourse is being heard across the world's mature economies, and IMF officials have begun to spell out the options -- tax hikes that might amount to as much as 3 percent of total economic output, a cap on increases in health and retirement benefits, and restrictions on spending on all other government programs.
  • Economists disagree on the level at which government debt becomes a problem. Even the amounts currently forecast -- an average of 118 percent of GDP among the world's top developed economies by 2014 -- might be sustained if countries were willing to pay the price of high interest costs and slower growth. Some see 90 percent of GDP as a point at which government debt begins to influence growth.  Read more.

UK Conservatives May Reopen Probe Into Iraq War Whistleblower’s Death

UK Conservatives may reopen probe into Iraq war whistleblower’s death
By Daniel Tencer | Raw Story

The death of a whistle-blower who said the UK government had "sexed up" a dossier on Saddam Hussein's military capabilities in order to sell the Iraq war has been one of the most intriguing and confusing elements of the war's history.

Now the UK's Conservative Party is signaling that it plans to reopen the inquiry into the death of Dr. David Kelly if it wins the next election. The move could potentially harm the ruling Labour Party, which championed the Iraq war effort and is now trailing in the polls for this spring's election.

On Sunday, Dominic Grieve, the Conservative Party's "shadow" justice minister, said members of the public "have not been reassured" that Kelly's death was a suicide, and if his government wins the election, he would want to reopen the case, reports the UK's Daily Mail.

Kelly, a weapons expert with Britain's Ministry of Defence, was found dead in a forest near his home in Oxfordshire in 2003, shortly after he gave an interview to the BBC in which he said that the British government was lying about its claim that Saddam Hussein could launch biological and chemical weapons within 45 minutes of giving the order.

Kelly's death sparked suspicions that he may have been killed for undermining the government of then-Prime Minister Tony Blair as the British leader stood with US President George W. Bush in pushing for an invasion of Iraq. Read more.

Grand Iraqi Dreams - for Whom?

Grand Iraqi Dreams - for Whom?
By Nick Mottern | Truthout

The Joint Operating Environment 2010 report, of the US Joint Forces Command, released March 15, 2010, expressed this view:

The economic importance of the Middle East with its energy supplies hardly needs emphasis. Whatever the outcome of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. forces will find themselves again employed in the region on numerous missions ranging from regular warfare, counterinsurgency, stability operations, relief and reconstruction, to engagement operations. The region and its energy supplies are too important for the U.S., China, and other energy importers to allow radical groups to gain dominance or control over any significant portion of the region.

Engineers of Technital SpA, the Italian firm that designed the system to save Venice from flooding, are working on the future of Iraq as embodied in their plan for the "New Al Faw Grand Port" at the southern tip of Iraq, a $6 billion major deep-water port on the Persian Gulf that will be the largest in the Gulf.

At the same time, officials of Deutsche Bahn, the German railway system, are hoping to work with the Iraqi government on a rail system that would link Al Faw to Europe. It is possible that the system might carry crude oil and petroleum products as well as dry freight to the West to augment existing pipelines and avoid ocean shipment through choke points such as the Straits of Hormuz, the Bab el-Mandab and the Suez Canal.

These plans point to a dramatically different Iraq from the emotionally, culturally and economically drained nation that it is today, horribly wounded by the US-led 2003 invasion. The Iraq of the planners will earn billions from its oil reserves, the third largest in the world, and it will attract billions from investors seeking to capitalize on its economically strategic location at the top of the Persian Gulf. Read more.

British Military Intelligence 'Ran Renegade Torture Unit In Iraq'

British military intelligence 'ran renegade torture unit in Iraq'
Secret operation 'reporting only to London' deprived prisoners of sleep, documents show
By Andrew Johnson | Independent.co.UK

Fresh evidence has emerged that British military intelligence ran a secret operation in Iraq which authorised degrading and unlawful treatment of prisoners. Documents reveal that prisoners were kept hooded for long periods in intense heat and deprived of sleep by defence intelligence officers. They also reveal that officers running the operation claimed to be answerable only "directly to London".

The revelations will further embarrass the British government, which last month was forced to release documents showing it knew that UK resident and terror suspect Binyam Mohamed had been tortured in Pakistan.

The latest documents emerged during the inquiry into Baha Mousa, an Iraqi hotel worker beaten to death while in the custody of British troops in September 2003. The inquiry is looking into how interrogation techniques banned by the Government in 1972 and considered torture and degrading treatment were used again in Iraq.

Lawyers believe the new evidence supports suspicions that an intelligence unit – the Joint Forward Interrogation Team (JFIT) which operated in Iraq – used illegal "coercive techniques" and was not answerable to military commanders in Iraq, despite official denials it operated independently. Read more.

Don't They Know There's A War On

From the Stop The War Coalition:

DON'T THEY KNOW THERE'S A WAR ON?

The main political parties in the coming general election don't want to mention the war in Afghanistan. They all support it, but they know it is opposed by the majority of the electorate, who want all the British troops withdrawn.

The Afghan war has led to the deaths of 280 British soldiers and an estimated 30,000 Afghans. As the death toll and the levels of expenditure rise, the politicians' silence is matched by a consensus between the three main parties over proposed savage cuts in public services.

This year the government will spend £3.8 billion on the war in Afghanistan, almost the same amount it plans to cut from the National Health Service.

We have now had nine years of wars that the British public did not support, and Stop the War is asking its supporters and local groups to take every opportunity to make sure the issue is not ignored by election candidates seeking our votes.

Email office@stopwar.org.uk
Tel: 020 7801 2768
Web: http://stopwar.org.uk
Twitter: http://twitter.com/STWuk

Special Relationship? Why Britain's Affair With the U.S. Is Over

Special Relationship? Why Britain's Affair With the U.S. Is Over
By Catherine Mayer | Information Clearing House

March 29, 2010 "Time" -- If anyone still doubts that George Bush and Tony Blair were the closest of allies, the text of a July 2002 note from the U.K. premier to the U.S. President, revealed in a new book, should dispel any lingering skepticism. "You know, George, whatever you decide to do [about Iraq], I'm with you," Blair assured his friend.

The End of the Party, an account by British political commentator Andrew Rawnsley of how Britain's Labour government came to squander a huge popular mandate to face possible defeat in the forthcoming parliamentary elections, identifies a multiplicity of contributory factors. Blair's unwavering determination to stand "shoulder to shoulder" with a martial U.S. is prominent among them. (See pictures of the Bush-Blair friendship.)

The damage may be permanent. On March 28 an influential cross-party committee of MPs in Britain weighed in on the wider impact of that policy. "The perception that the British Government was a subservient 'poodle' to the U.S. Administration leading up to the period of the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath is widespread both among the British public and overseas," states the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee. "This perception, whatever its relation to reality, is deeply damaging to the reputation and interests of the U.K."

The committee goes further, with a call to jettison the term "special relationship" as ruthlessly as colonists once dumped tea into Boston Harbor. The expression was coined by no less a person than Winston Churchill in 1946 to describe the intricate skeins of mutual interest, cultural heritage and sometimes gloopy sentiment that bind Washington and London. Globalization and "shifts in geopolitical power" mean that both countries are inevitably forming new and deep alliances with other players, and talk of a "special relationship" is increasingly misleading, says the report. "The overuse of the phrase by some politicians and many in the media serves simultaneously to devalue its meaning and to raise unrealistic expectations about the benefits the relationship can deliver to the U.K." (See the top ten most outrageous MP expense claims.) Read more.

The War On WikiLeaks And Why It Matters

The war on WikiLeaks and why it matters
By Glenn Greenwald | Salon

A newly leaked CIA report prepared earlier this month (.pdf) analyzes how the U.S. Government can best manipulate public opinion in Germany and France -- in order to ensure that those countries continue to fight in Afghanistan. The Report celebrates the fact that the governments of those two nations continue to fight the war in defiance of overwhelming public opinion which opposes it -- so much for all the recent veneration of "consent of the governed" -- and it notes that this is possible due to lack of interest among their citizenry: "Public Apathy Enables Leaders to Ignore Voters," proclaims the title of one section.

But the Report also cites the "fall of the Dutch Government over its troop commitment to Afghanistan" and worries that -- particularly if the "bloody summer in Afghanistan" that many predict takes place -- what happened to the Dutch will spread as a result of the "fragility of European support" for the war. As the truly creepy Report title puts it, the CIA's concern is: "Why Counting on Apathy May Not Be Enough": Read more.

CIA 'Suggests' Europe Should Understand Suffering Of Women Under Taliban

CIA 'suggests' Europe should understand suffering of women under Taliban
European Nato governments should emphasise the suffering of women under Taliban rule to counter domestic calls for troop withdrawal a leaked CIA analysis suggests.
By Ben Farmer | Telegraph.co.UK | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com

A steep increase in French and German casualties this summer could trigger public anger at their involvement and calls for a military pull out the document warns.

Paris and Berlin should start a targeted propaganda campaign to "forestall or at least contain" a backlash by stating the benefits of military action.

French voters could be made to feel guilty about abandoning civilians and refugees, while both nations' electorates are reluctant to "disappoint" Barack Obama, it concludes.

Afghan women are "ideal messengers in humanising the [international coalition] role" and should be put in front of European media for their "ability to speak personally and credibly about their experiences under the Taliban, their aspirations for the future, and their fears of a Taliban victory."

The analysis, marked "confidential" and not for release to foreign nationals, comes amid American concern that heavy fighting this summer could prompt a "precipitous" departure of Nato allies. Read more.

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