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Corporatism and Fascism


Corporatism and Fascism

Iraqi in Blackwater Case Rejects Compensation Deal

Iraqi in Blackwater case rejects compensation deal
By Katharine Houreld, Associated Press Writer | SF Gate

An Iraqi injured by the U.S. private security firm once known as Blackwater said Sunday he would not accept a compensation deal for injuries he suffered after company employees opened fire in a crowded Baghdad square because the amount of money offered is too low.

Mahdi Abdul-Kadir was speaking about a civil lawsuit that is separate from the criminal case brought against the company, whose dismissal has become a lightening rod for Iraqi resentment over the behavior of private security companies and prompted Iraqi politicians to denounce the U.S. justice system.

Abdul-Kadir said Blackwater's offer of compensation to those who had been injured or had family members killed was too low. He said he has asked the deputy speaker of Iraq's parliament to cancel the agreement that the plaintiff's lawyer Susan Burke reached Jan. 6.

"We have rejected the settlement because it is a small amount. We won't accept such an amount," he said. Read more.

Answering Helen Thomas on Why They Want to Harm Us

Answering Helen Thomas on Why They Want to Harm Us
By Ray McGovern

Thank God for Helen Thomas, the only person to show any courage at the White House press briefing after President Barack Obama gave a flaccid account of the intelligence screw-up that almost downed an airliner on Christmas Day.

After Obama briefly addressed L’Affaire Abdulmutallab and wrote “must do better” on the report cards of the national security schoolboys responsible for the near catastrophe, the President turned the stage over to counter-terrorism guru John Brennan and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

It took 89-year old veteran correspondent Helen Thomas to break through the vapid remarks about channeling “intelligence streams,” fixing “no-fly” lists, deploying “behavior detection officers,” and buying more body-imaging scanners.

"An Absolute Bargain": Blackwater Settles Massacre Lawsuit by Paying Families of Dead Iraqis $100,000 Each

"An Absolute Bargain": Blackwater Settles Massacre Lawsuit by Paying Families of Dead Iraqis $100,000 Each
Blackwater says it is "pleased" with the outcome.
By Jeremy Scahill, Rebel Reports | Alternet

Two sources with inside knowledge of Blackwater’s settlement with Iraqi victims of a string of shootings, including the Nisour Square massacre, have confirmed to me that Blackwater is paying $100,000 for each of the Iraqis killed by its forces and between $20-30,000 to each Iraqi wounded. One source said it was "an absolute bargain" for Blackwater. Based on the number of dead and injured named in the civil lawsuits, the total amount paid by Blackwater is likely in the range of $5 million. Blackwater has made more than $1.5 billion in “security” contracts in Iraq alone since 2003.

Blackwater’s owner, Erik Prince, recently said his company is spending $2 million a month in legal fees to battle civil and criminal cases and investigations.

Blackwater released a statement saying the company was "pleased" with the ruling. “This enables Xe’s new management to move the company forward free of the costs and distraction of ongoing litigation, and provides some compensation to Iraqi families,” the company said, using its new moniker, Xe.

The Nisour Square massacre was the single deadliest incident involving private US forces in Iraq. Seventeen civilians were killed and more than 20 wounded by Blackwater forces in a shooting the US military labeled a “criminal” action. Among the dead were women and children and some victims were shot in the back as they fled Blackwater’s gunfire. Read more.

AP: Blackwater Settles Series of Civil Lawsuits

AP: Blackwater settles series of civil lawsuits
By Mike Baker | Business Week

The security firm formerly known as Blackwater has reached a settlement in a series of federal lawsuits in which dozens of Iraqis accused the company of cultivating a reckless culture that allowed innocent civilians to be killed.

Plaintiffs' attorney Susan Burke filed a motion in federal court late Wednesday requesting the cases be dismissed. The seven lawsuits cited a pattern of illegal activity, including several killing such as the 2007 shooting in Iraq's capital that left 17 Iraqis dead and strained relationships between Washington and Baghdad.

Burke didn't immediately return a call seeking comment Thursday. Blackwater, now known as Xe, released a statement saying the company was "pleased" that the settlement, in the works for months, had been affirmed.

"This enables Xe's new management to move the company forward free of the costs and distraction of ongoing litigation, and provides some compensation to Iraqi families," the company said. Read more.

Drones Over America

Maine Press Conference Scheduled For New "Bring Our War $$ Home" Coalition Kick-Off 1/14, 11 AM, Capital's Hall of Flags

Leaders to Address State Fiscal Crisis: News Conference to Call for Cuts in War Spending As Vehicle to Fund State Programs | Press Release

Leaders from peace, church, health care, education, and social service communities will hold a news conference in Augusta, Maine on Thursday, January 14 at 11:00 am to call for cuts in war spending as a way to help Maine state government deal with its current fiscal crisis. The news conference will be held in the Hall of Flags inside the state capital in Augusta.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have already cost Maine taxpayers $2.5 billion according to the National Priorities Project.

“If not for the money that has been wasted on the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan we would not be in the fiscal crisis that we face today in Maine,” said Lisa Savage, public school teacher and a leader in the new statewide coalition called Bring Our War $$ Home.

“We will bring people together from around the state who are willing to address the elephant in the middle of the room. Our spending on endless war is killing the national economy as more than 40 states are now in fiscal crisis. We are not going to be able to cut our way out of this mess, tax our way out, nor will we be able to ‘grow’ our way out of this. Unless we cut military spending immediately there will be no serious recovery and no real stabilization of our state budget,” Savage stated.

A recent study, “The Employment Effects of Downsizing the U.S. Military” by UMASS-Amherst Economics Department, found that military spending actually creates fewer jobs than any other kind of investment.

The UMASS study reveals that for every $1 billion of spending on military production 8,555 jobs are created. But when that same amount of money is spent on home weatherization 12,804 jobs are created or when spent on education 17,687 jobs result.

“The little reported truth is that military spending is bad for the economy and creates fewer jobs and less tax revenue for state and local government than does other kinds of investment,” said Savage.

Airport Droids Attack Human Gene Pool

Airport Droids Attack Human Gene Pool
By Albert Bates | Culture Change

"If it's something that's going to improve safety, then I don't have any problem with it, I have nothing to hide." - Ashley Houston, 32, as she waited for a plane in Phoenix (Reuters).

If you were against transhumanism before, perhaps you should give it another look. Our bodies are the product of a billion years of nature’s evolutionary processes, but the War on Terror is about to irrevocably corrupt our gene pool, causing untold immune system and other genetic damage to future generations, and possibly rendering the DNA coding that we are based on unacceptably toxic.

We may need to port our intelligence to a machine, or to cyberspace, if “human” intelligence is to survive in today’s toxic environment.

While Homeland Security has installed Backscatter Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) into airports while successfully avoiding an environmental impact statement, and the Justice Department is now fighting FOIA requests for technical specifications (filed by EPIC, Electronic Privacy Information Center), we already know that backscatter radiation may interfere directly with DNA. Although the ionizing radiation is small, the terahertz waves the machines generate do more than show your private parts to the screener. They have been found to “unzip double-stranded DNA, creating bubbles in the double strand that could significantly interfere with processes such as gene expression and DNA replication.”

Radiation waves occur naturally in the environment, and we’re hit with them all the time. But should we bombard ourselves with them unwillingly every time we want to board a flight? Initially the machines were supposed to be voluntary. Suddenly they are not. Read more.

Thank God McCain & Palin Lost

Thank God McCain & Palin Lost
By Philip A. Farruggio

This new year, anyone who is either a true progressive or a true conservative is lucky. Can you imagine if McCain & Palin won the White House? Just think, the Bush / Cheney neo con agenda would have moved forward with the advent of a McCain-Palin administration. Wow? Are you folks who voted for Obama / Biden happy now, right? Let’s look at how some of the key national issues that a McCain-Palin administration, with support from a Republican Congress, would effect:

  • More troops sent to Afghanistan.....No exit in sight from Iraq
  • Increases in our military ....Oh, excuse me, defense spending
  • Giving away the store on any real health care reform to the greedy and inept private health insurance industry. No chance for a universal Medicare for All option for American families.
  • Close to a one trillion dollar bailout of the corrupt and greedy Wall Street banks and investment houses. No indictments. No prosecutions of the liars and con men.

Foreclosures continuing as the federal government refuses to negotiate with the troubled (ready to go kaput) Wall Street banks for their sick assets. Thus, the sub prime mortgages are not bought by Uncle Sam for dimes and quarters on the dollar. Thus, foreclosed homes stay on the market.....And all the rest of the homes across America continue to remain low low low in value. All the businesses connected to the housing market continue to go......broke!

The Miracle of Worgl

The miracle of Worgl | Greentheo

“To all whom it may concern ! Sluggishly circulating money has provoked an unprecedented trade depression and plunged millions into utter misery. Economically considered, the destruction of the world has started. – It is time, through determined and intelligent action, to endeavour to arrest the downward plunge of the trade machine and thereby to save mankind from fratricidal wars, chaos, and dissolution. Human beings live by exchanging their services. Sluggish circulation has largely stopped this exchange and thrown millions of willing workers out of employment. – We must therefore revive this exchange of services and by its means bring the unemployed back to the ranks of the producers. Such is the object of the labour certificate issued by the market town of Wörgl : it softens sufferings dread; it offers work and bread.”-Inscription on the back of Worgl alternative money (1932)

As the stock market crashes and economic turmoil seems all but inevitable many have been thinking back to the days of the great depression. Alas, it seems we little people can do nothing but wait on the Federal Government, and its official monetary policy producer and the privately owned and operated Federal Reserve to rescue us from the sins of the fat cats on Wall Street.

We might be waiting until a certain nether world freezes over.

Back in 1931-32 the small town of Worgl, Austria was suffering from the result of the 1929 stock crash. There was no investment, no spending, 30% unemployment and civil unrest (When Hitler came through 5 years later and annexed them, they greeted him as an economic savior). Read more.

A Manifesto for Progressives

A manifesto for progressives
By Brent Budowsky | Smirking Chimp

The Progressive Caucus in Congress can save Democrats from a disaster in the 2010 elections that could destroy any semblance of a governing majority and erase any hope for the mandate for change that voters gave Democrats in 2008.

Nothing has changed. Lobbyists dominate the town. Money dominates the legislation. Democrats repeatedly fail to fight for first principles. Voters are angry. Democrats are now the party of incumbency in a nation that again demands change....

1. Progressives should speak for the huge majority of independents and fight for a public option with an opt-in provision that would allow states that favor it to have it. This would regain the political ground and reverse the political-sucker play against Democrats. Progressives should propose sending the money saved by the public option back to participating states for job-creating programs.

2. Progressives should fight for the huge majority of independents and make price-fixing, price-gouging and collusion by insurers illegal. Any insurance exchange with legalized price-fixing is ludicrous and repellant to a large majority of Americans. Read more.

Meet Your Boss: Robert Gates


Meet Your Boss: Robert Gates
Who is deciding your fate?
By Michael Prysner | Michael Moore.com

Only a brief glance at Gates’ resume reveals his deep ties to the military-industrial complex, but we should not mistake these ties for the driving force behind his actions as secretary of defense. The billionaires in charge did not promote Gates to the highest echelons of their state machine because he is loyal to his own personal interests, but rather because he has demonstrated a record of unwavering service to the common interests of the owners, bankers, and the super-rich. In the eyes of the war profiteers, the fact that Gates is one of their own only enhances his qualifications as a trustworthy functionary.

The decisions to send us to risk life and limb around the world—today in Afghanistan and Iraq—are not decisions that we have any part of, nor do our families, nor do the vast majority of people in the United States. They are decisions for the millionaire politicians, who have the backing of multi-billion-dollar corporations, and the generals and civilian advisors in the Pentagon. We are told we must trustingly follow orders and never question the chain of command.

But who is really in the chain of command? Who are these great and wise leaders who have, in the past eight years, ordered over 5,300 of us to our deaths?

At the top of this long line of officers and their civilian equivalents is Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates. The secretary of defense is the leading position at the Pentagon, presiding over the crew of generals—both in uniform and in three-piece suits—who determine whether or not we must go to war, how many of us have to go, what military strategy will be used, and the “conditions on the ground” that decide if we can leave or if we must stay. All of our orders come directly from the Pentagon brass, headed by Robert Gates.

Gates is the only U.S. secretary of defense ever to be asked to remain in office by a newly elected president. The 2008 election was an unambiguous popular rejection of the Bush administration and its imperial foreign policy. The people of the United States, including the majority of people in the military, wanted to sweep out the Bush team. But President Obama asked Gates, a key architect of the current conflicts, to stay.

Gates must have some valuable experience and qualifications to remain the head of the war machine after our “great democracy” voted those policies out! Read more.

Suspected U.S. Drones Kill 13 in Pakistan

Suspected U.S. drones kill 13 in Pakistan
By AP | ABC News 4.

A former Pakistani security chief says he believes U.S. drone missile strikes over the past week are retaliation for a suicide attack against the CIA.

Mahmood Shah says Pakistanis should expect more attacks.

Two suspected drone strikes killed at least 13 people in northwest Pakistan today. That area near the Afghan border is teeming with militants suspected in last week's attack that killed seven CIA employees in Afghanistan.

Since the CIA attack, five missile strikes have killed at least 20 people.

Shah said the drone strikes are counterproductive because he says they've killed Pakistan's spies in the region, hampering its intelligence gathering ability.

Jackie Ramos, Bank Of America Employee, Fired After Helping Customers

Jackie Ramos, Bank Of America Employee, Fired After Helping Customers
By Arthur Delaney | Huffington Post

Bank of America fired Jackie Ramos after she took a stand against the bank's $15 "convenience" charges and $39 over-the-limit fees so she could sleep better at night.

"There was something inherently evil about my job," the 23-year-old said in a YouTube video she uploaded on Nov. 27, two days after her termination.

Ramos, of Fairburn, Ga., worked as a "customer advocate," which involved calling people who fall behind on credit card payments and either encouraging them to pay or modifying their accounts. But not all customers qualify for modification programs that will help them, and Ramos grew tired of saying no after six months on the job.

"So I stopped denying people," said Ramos. "I helped people get on programs that they didn't necessarily qualify for but who definitely needed the help." Read more.

“Obama Has Kept the Machine Set on Kill”–Journalist and Activist Allan Nairn Reviews Obama’s First Year in Office

“Obama Has Kept the Machine Set on Kill”–Journalist and Activist Allan Nairn Reviews Obama’s First Year in Office

In an extended interview, award-winning journalist and activist Allan Nairn looks back over the Obama administration’s foreign policy and national security decisions over the last twelve months. “I think Obama should be remembered as a great man because of the blow he struck against white racism,” Nairn says. “But once he became president...Obama became a murderer and a terrorist, because the US has a machine that spans the globe, that has the capacity to kill, and Obama has kept it set on kill. He could have flipped the switch and turned it off…but he chose not to do so.” He continues, “In fact, as far as one can tell, Obama seems to have killed more civilians during his first year than Bush did in his first year, and maybe even than Bush killed in his final year.” [includes rush transcript]

The More Things Change

Sheldon H. Laskin wrote this interesting historical note.

I just finished reading a history of Ellis Island. I learned about a period in the island's history that I had been vaguely aware of, but I never knew the details.

Beginning prior to WWII and continuing into the Cold War, Ellis Island was used to detain (pending deportation) "enemy alien" German, Italian and Japanese non-naturalized residents of the US and (later) immigrants from Eastern Europe who were suspected of left-wing beliefs.

In many cases, the individuals had lived peacefully in the US for years; in some cases they were married to American citizens. J. Edgar Hoover compiled lists of enemy aliens before the war began and indeed, individuals were detained and brought to Ellis Island before hostitilities had even begun. Although the aliens could challenge their deportations, the evidence against them was secret and the courts in most cases basically rubber stamped the Executive's decisions. In some cases, believe it or not, people were seized in Latin America and brought to Ellis Island to be detained (sound familiar?). Perhaps most amazingly (as WWII was in fact a declared war), a number of the war detainees were still in detention as late as 1948. Whether or not the person was deported or allowed back into the country depended largely on the whims of the Executive and, in some cases, whether the individual had political connections.

US-Led Forces Accused of Executing Schoolchildren in Afghanistan

US-Led Forces Accused of Executing Schoolchildren in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, hundreds have taken to the streets of Kabul and elsewhere to protest the US killing of civilians. The incident that has sparked the most outrage took place in eastern Kunar on December 27th, when ten Afghans, eight of them schoolchildren, were killed. According to the Times of London, US-led troops dragged innocent children from their beds and shot them during a nighttime raid. Afghan government investigators said the eight students were aged from eleven to seventeen, all but one of them from the same family. [includes rush transcript]

Hotel Workers, Trumka Arrested at Sit-In for Fair Contract

Hotel Workers, Trumka Arrested at Sit-In for Fair Contract
By Mark Hall | AFL-CIO Blog

More than 100 union members, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and UNITEHERE! President John Wilhelm were arrested at a sit-in demanding justice and a fair contract for San Francisco hotel workers last night. The workers have been without a contract since August.

The sit-in in front of the Hilton San Francisco followed a march by nearly 1,000 members of UNITEHERE! Local 2, other union members and community and political supporters. Says Ingrid Carp, a cook for 29 years at the Hilton:

“We’re determined as ever to win a good contract. It’s wrong for corporations to position themselves to make billions with the coming economic recovery, and expect us to go backward.”

The action is part of a campaign to win fair contracts at several national hotel chains, including Hilton, Hyatt and Starwood. The profitable chains are using the recession as an excuse to demand health care benefit cuts in contract talks with more than 16,000 workers at dozens of hotels in San Francisco, Chicago and other cities. Read more.

Breaking News: 4 Civilians Killed In Gaza As Israel Strikes Food-Tunnels


Breaking News: 4 civilians killed in Gaza as Israel strikes food-tunnels
By Sameh A. Habeeb | Palestine Telegraph

Following the extensive Israeli attacks across Gaza Strip, Israeli air force launched a number of air raids against the food tunnels with Egypt. Medical sources reported that 4 civilians killed and a number injured in the heavy bombardment. Israeli F16 were used in the attack and easily heard directly within the targeted the area. Due to the raids number of 10 Palestinian civilians is missing at the moment, while 4 have been confirmed as dead.

There are more than 1500 tunnels between Gaza and Egypt that are mainly used for smuggling food as Israelis impose a harsh siege. The tunnels considered to be the key lifeline as the main crossings blocked via Israeli occupation.

Less than 2 hours ago a massive explosion took place few moments ago western Gaza City, in Tal Al Hawa neighborhood. Eyewitness reported that Israeli F16s launched an Arial attack midnight. The attack was followed by a series of air raids. Read more.

Making Their Day

Making Their Day
by digby | Hullabaloo

This story from the Wingnut Examiner is just lethal: Once Obama's target, lobbyist Tauzin now his pet

 

White House visitor logs dumped late in the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve show that Billy Tauzin, the top lobbyist for the prescription drug industry and once a favorite target of Barack Obama, visited the White House at least 11 times in Obama's first six months in office.

The White House's open door for Tauzin, whom candidate Obama attacked as the embodiment of the revolving door and the corrupt collusion between politicians and industry, further dismantles the myth of Obama as the scourge of special interests. It also bolsters the conclusion that health care "reform" has become a boondoggle for the health industry, especially pharmaceutical companies.

White House visitor logs dumped late in the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve show that Billy Tauzin, the top lobbyist for the prescription drug industry and once a favorite target of Barack Obama, visited the White House at least 11 times in Obama's first six months in office.

The White House's open door for Tauzin, whom candidate Obama attacked as the embodiment of the revolving door and the corrupt collusion between politicians and industry, further dismantles the myth of Obama as the scourge of special interests. It also bolsters the conclusion that health care "reform" has become a boondoggle for the health industry, especially pharmaceutical companies. Read more.

Blackwater and the Khost Bombing: Is the CIA Deceiving Congress?

Blackwater and the Khost Bombing: Is the CIA Deceiving Congress?
By Jeremy Scahill | The Nation

"It's just astonishing that given the track record of Blackwater, which is a repeat offender endangering our mission repeatedly, endangering the lives of our military and costing the lives of innocent civilians, that there would be any relationship," Schakowsky said. "That we would continue to contract with them or any of Blackwater's subsidiaries is completely unacceptable."

A leading member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has told The Nation that she will launch an investigation into why two Blackwater contractors were among the dead in the December 30 suicide bombing at the CIA station at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan. "The Intelligence Committees and the public were led to believe that the CIA was phasing out its contracts with Blackwater and now we find out that there is this ongoing presence," said Illinois Democrat Jan Schakowsky, chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, in an interview. "Is the CIA once again deceiving us about the relationship with Blackwater?"

In December, the CIA announced that the agency had canceled its contract with Blackwater to work on the agency's drone bombing campaign in Afghanistan and Pakistan and said Director Leon Panetta ordered a review of all existing CIA contracts with Blackwater. "At this time, Blackwater is not involved in any CIA operations other than in a security or support role," CIA spokesman George Little said December 11.

But Schakowsky said the fact that two Blackwater personnel were in such close proximity to the December 30 suicide bomber--an alleged double agent, who was reportedly meeting with CIA agents including the agency's second-ranking officer in Afghanistan when he blew himself up--shows how "deeply enmeshed" Blackwater remains in sensitive CIA operations, including those CIA officials claim it no longer participates in, such as intelligence gathering and briefings with valuable agency assets. The two Blackwater men were reportedly in the room for the expected briefing by the double agent, Humam Khalil Muhammed Abu Mulal al-Balawi, who claimed to have recently met with Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri. Read more.

The American Elite

The American Elite
By William Blum | Anti-Empire Report

Lincoln Gordon died a few weeks ago at the age of 96. He had graduated summa cum laude from Harvard at the age of 19, received a doctorate from Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, published his first book at 22, with dozens more to follow on government, economics, and foreign policy in Europe and Latin America. He joined the Harvard faculty at 23. Dr. Gordon was an executive on the War Production Board during World War II, a top administrator of Marshall Plan programs in postwar Europe, ambassador to Brazil, held other high positions at the State Department and the White House, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, economist at the Brookings Institution, president of Johns Hopkins University. President Lyndon B. Johnson praised Gordon's diplomatic service as "a rare combination of experience, idealism and practical judgment".

You get the picture? Boy wonder, intellectual shining light, distinguished leader of men, outstanding American patriot.

Abraham Lincoln Gordon was also Washington's on-site, and very active, director in Brazil of the military coup in 1964 which overthrew the moderately leftist government of João Goulart and condemned the people of Brazil to more than 20 years of an unspeakably brutal dictatorship. Human-rights campaigners have long maintained that Brazil's military regime originated the idea of the desaparecidos, "the disappeared", and exported torture methods across Latin America. In 2007, the Brazilian government published a 500-page book, "The Right to Memory and the Truth", which outlines the systematic torture, rape and disappearance of nearly 500 left-wing activists, and includes photos of corpses and torture victims. Currently, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is proposing a commission to investigate allegations of torture by the military during the 1964-1985 dictatorship. (When will the United States create a commission to investigate its own torture?) Read more.

American War Paar Da

Gaza: Is It Genocide?

Gaza: Is it genocide?
By Helena Cobban | Fair Policy, Fair Discussion

The excellent Palestinian analyst Nadia Hijab recently published a thought-provoking column in which she explored the question of whether the Israelis’ treatment of the 1.5 million Palestinians constitutes genocide, as defined under international law.

Her conclusion in this thoughtfully argued piece is that it does. She notes that the international Genocide Convention, signed by most of the world’s governments in 1948, defines genocide as any of a list of five kinds of acts, “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such.”

The list of qualifying acts includes these three,

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part...

Hijab argues that in Gaza Israel commits all three of these kinds of act, with the required, added genocidal intention, as defined above.

She also quotes a very revealing passage from the Polish-American legal scholar Raphael Lemkin, who in the 1940s was the first to coin the word ‘genocide’ and to define it. It was largely through Lemkin’s tireless organizing efforts that the Genocide Convention was convened and that it adopted its historic treaty, which lays on all parties to the convention– including the United States– a positive and universal duty to “prevent, suppress, and punish” any acts of genocide. Read more.

Escape From Pottersville: The North Dakota Model for Capitalizing Community Banks

Escape From Pottersville
The North Dakota Model for Capitalizing Community Banks
By Ellen Brown | Counter Punch

Arianna Huffington just posted an article on the Huffington Post that has sparked a remarkable wave of interest, evoking nearly 5,000 comments in less than a week. Called “Move Your Money,” the article maintains that we can get credit flowing again on Main Street by moving our money out of the Wall Street behemoths and into our local community banks. This solution has been suggested before, but Arianna added the very appealing draw of a video clip featuring Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life. In the holiday season, we are all hungry for a glimpse of that wonderful movie that used to be a mainstay of Christmas, showing daily throughout the holidays. The copyright holders have suddenly gotten very Scrooge-like and are allowing it to be shown only once a year on NBC. Whatever their motives, Wall Street no doubt approves of this restriction, since the movie continually reminded viewers of the potentially villainous nature of Big Banking.

Pulling our money out of Wall Street and putting it into our local community banks is an idea with definite popular appeal. Unfortunately, however, this move alone won't be sufficient to strengthen the small banks. Community banks lack capital – money that belongs to the bank -- and the deposits of customers don’t count as capital. Rather, they represent liabilities of the bank, since the money has to be available for the depositors on demand. Bank “capital” is the money paid in by investors plus accumulated retained earnings. It is the net worth of the bank, or assets minus liabilities. Lending ability is limited by a bank’s assets, not its deposits; and today, investors willing to build up the asset base of small community banks are scarce, due to the banks’ increasing propensity to go bankrupt.

It’s a Wonderful Life actually illustrated the weakness of local community banking without major capital backup. George Bailey’s bank was a savings and loan, which lent out the deposits of its customers. It “borrowed short and lent long,” meaning it took in short-term deposits and made long-term mortgage loans with them. When the customers panicked and all came for their deposits at once, the money was not to be had. George’s neighbors and family saved the day by raiding their cookie jars, but that miracle cannot be counted on outside Hollywood.

The savings and loan model collapsed completely in the 1980s. Since then, all banks have been allowed to create credit as needed just by writing it as loans on their books, a system called “fractional reserve” lending. Banks can do this up to a certain limit, which used to be capped by a “reserve requirement” of 10%. That meant the bank had to have on hand a sum equal to 10% of its deposits, either in its vault as cash or in the bank’s reserve account at its local Federal Reserve bank. But many exceptions were carved out of the rule, and the banks devised ways to get around it. Read more.

That Guy Directing Your Surgeon? He's In Sales

That guy directing your surgeon? He's in sales
By David S. Hilzenrath, The Washington Post | Herald Tribune

The presence of the salesman in the operating room was brought sharply into focus in 2003, when Endovascular Technologies pleaded guilty to federal charges that it covered up malfunctions of a device to treat aortic aneurysms. The government alleged sales reps were part of the coverup.

When the device became stuck in patients' bodies during surgery, sales representatives coached doctors in an unapproved technique to remove the device by breaking it, the government alleged. Use of that approach, which a sales representative helped develop, kept malfunctions below the radar of the Food and Drug Administration, the government said. A dozen patients died from malfunctions, the government said.

In a Florida operating room, a senior citizen with a collapsed vertebra lies face down and unconscious on the operating table, surrounded by members of a medical team.

If all goes well, they'll insert a tiny inflatable balloon into the brittle bone and then stabilize it by injecting cement. It's a delicate procedure that deploys needles close to the spinal cord, and it takes a coordinated effort.

There's an anesthesiologist alternating with a nurse anesthetist, an X-ray technician and a circulating nurse; there's a pair of scrub techs to handle surgical instruments; there's the surgeon, a middle-aged orthopedist who has never performed this type of operation before.

And, at the foot of the operating table, there's Chuck Bates, a guy who studied biology in college and always wanted to go to medical school but never did. Read more.

Health Insurers Want You To Keep Smoking, Harvard Doctors Say

Health insurers want you to keep smoking, Harvard doctors say
By Brendan Borrell | Scientific American

Health and life insurance companies in the U.S. and abroad have nearly $4.5 billion invested in tobacco stocks, according to Harvard doctors.

“It’s the combined taxidermist and veterinarian approach: either way you get your dog back,” says David Himmelstein, an internist at the Harvard Medical School and co-author of a letter published in this week’s issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The largest tobacco investor on the list, the 160-year old Prudential company with branches in the U.S. and the U.K., has more than $1.5 billion invested in tobacco stocks. The runner-up was Toronto-based Sun Life Financial, which apparently holds over $1 billion in Philip Morris (Altria) and other tobacco stocks. In total, seven companies that sell life, health, disability, or long-term care insurance, have major holdings in tobacco stock.

Why is it a big deal? “If you own a billion dollars [of tobacco stock], then you don’t want to see it go down,” says Himmelstein, “You are less likely to join anti-tobacco coalitions, endorse anti-tobacco legislation, basically, anything most health companies would want to participate in.” Read more.

Why Is Paul Minor Still Behind Bars?

Why Is Paul Minor Still Behind Bars?
By Brendan DeMelle | Huffington Post

In a recent unanimous decision, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned federal bribery charges against prominent Mississippi trial attorney Paul Minor, offering a ray of hope that Minor will soon be a free man.

Minor has spent the past three years a political prisoner, left to rot in jail after partisan operatives in the Bush administration targeted him for being the top funder of Democratic candidates in Mississippi...

Over the past three years that Minor spent in prison, he endured the loss of his wife Sylvia to brain cancer, a painful ordeal in which he was repeatedly denied release to be by his wife's side by the Bureau of Prisons, a subordinate arm of the DOJ. Paul's right to comfort Sylvia, to say goodbye in her final hours, and even to attend her funeral to deliver the eulogy he wrote about their 40-year marriage together, was stripped by the DOJ. Minor also remained behind bars when his son Paul Jr. was married in October, yet another important family moment this proud father will never get back.

Why was Paul Minor left rotting in jail while Sylvia passed away and Paul Jr. married? And now, with the federal bribery charges tossed out, why is he still behind bars today?

Attorney General Eric Holder had barely gotten his office set up when he ordered the Justice Department to drop charges against former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens based on prosecutorial misconduct, vowing to send a message that misconduct would not be tolerated in President Obama's DOJ.

Yet the American justice system's abhorrent treatment of Paul Minor has often been far more absurd, consistently unjust and shockingly inhumane. So why is Paul Minor continually left to rot in Pensacola federal prison camp? Read more.

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