Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.  If you broadcast our audio commentaries please consider a recurring donation to Black Agenda Report.

Feed aggregator

  • Sharebar

    The Mixed International Picture on Poverty and Inequality

    Naked Capitalism - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 04:19
    Yves here. As much as readers may already have an intuitive grasp of the story told in this post, data can help define its contours better. Here we see that the rising tide of global growth has not lifted all boats. The gains of the once-poor in China and India have come at the expense of the what used to be the middle class in more developed countries. Reducing poverty has not been a zero sum game. This post also omits another key piece: the rise and rise of an uber-wealthy class.
    Categories: political economy

    Why Are Stock Markets So Volatile?

    The Real News Network - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 02:10
    A serious depression is pending as a result of austerity, says Professor Michael Hudson, author of The Bubble and Beyond, and Finance Capitalism and Its Discontents

    Egypt’s U.S-Backed Military Regime is Brutalizing Student Protestors

    The Intercept - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 17:12

    Just a few short months after John Kerry disingenuously congratulated Egypt’s military junta for “transitioning to democracy”, the young students who helped galvanize the 2011 Egyptian Revolution are back protesting its increasingly draconian rule. Campus protests have broken out in several major cities calling for the release of imprisoned student activists and for the removal of new limits on academic freedom imposed by the regime.

    As part of wide-ranging campaign to stifle popular dissent, the government of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has recently given itself broad powers to directly appoint university heads, dismiss faculty without the possibility of appeal, and force students to sign documents promising “not to participate in political activities” in their housing applications. Private security firms have also been hired to enforce order on campus and monitor activists.

    Predictably, these measures have led to outrage among students – and equally as predictable, their protests have been met with harsh retribution from the military regime.

    According to Human Rights Watch, more than 100 students have been detained since the start of the school year on October 11th. Video shot by student activists has shown images of protestors teargassed and brutalized by baton-wielding riot police.

    Despite this, the Obama administration has remained steadfast in its support of the Egyptian government. Indeed, in the face of an escalating campaign of repression by the Sisi regime – including a Tiananmen Square-scale massacre of protestors, arbitrary detention, extrajudicial killings and torture – the American government has seemingly doubled down on its support for him.

    Earlier this year the U.S. concluded a major arms deal with the Egyptian government, even as popular activists once heralded as the vanguard of democracy languished in prison. In response to rampant human rights abuses, the American government has remained tactfully mute, even offering inexplicable praise at times for the Egyptian government’s non-existent commitment to “democracy”.

    While the crackdown originally targeted its fury at supporters of deposed President Mohammed Morsi, it has now extended itself to left-wing groups and civil society activists. Major NGO’s have been forced out of the country, and journalists have been imprisoned after public show trials.

    The sad truth behind all this is that the U.S.  has always been a committed enemy of democracy in Egypt. Apart from a few short weeks in 2011 when global media coverage of popular demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square made such a position politically untenable, the U.S. has consistently supported Egyptian dictators willing to align with American policies in the region - particularly support for Israel and Gulf Arab dictatorships.

    The reality of this has not been lost on Egyptians, who have seen successive American governments help impose military rule upon them and stifle their hopes for a democratic future.

    It’s worth remembering that the ideology which inspired Al Qaeda was itself born in the torture chambers of Egyptian government prisons. And when the military under General Sisi last year intervened to annul democratic elections – killing, torturing and imprisoning Muslim Brotherhood political activists in the process – it made clear that peaceful political participation was not an option available to Islamist groups.

    While heretofore such groups have largely eschewed a violent response in the (likely misplaced) hope that the international community will eventually intervene on their behalf, it’s difficult to imagine them continuing on this path indefinitely in the face of escalating repression.

    Abboud al-Zumar, a former member Egyptian Islamic Jihad who spent 30 years in prison for his role in the assassination of Anwar Sadat, said upon his amnesty after the 2011 Revolution:

    “The revolution created a new mechanism, the mechanism of strong, peaceful protests…the climate for armed action is finished and the main reason is the atmosphere of freedom we are now establishing… violence breeds violence.”

    Those avenues of peaceful democratic protest and representation have now been violently shut. As many analysts have pointed out, the repression of the Sisi regime in many ways dwarfs that of even Mubarak or Sadat.

    It remains to be seen what these policies – both tacitly and actively condoned by the Obama administration – will eventually give rise to in response. But if history is any guide, the answer will not be good.

    Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

    The post Egypt’s U.S-Backed Military Regime is Brutalizing Student Protestors appeared first on The Intercept.

    New Zealand Cops Raided Home of Reporter Working on Snowden Documents

    The Intercept - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 14:00

    Agents from New Zealand’s national police force ransacked the home of a prominent independent journalist earlier this month who was collaborating with The Intercept on stories from the NSA archive furnished by Edward Snowden. The stated purpose of the 10-hour police raid was to identify the source for allegations that the reporter, Nicky Hager, recently published in a book that caused a major political firestorm and led to the resignation of a top government minister.

    But in seizing all the paper files and electronic devices in Hager’s home, the authorities may have also taken source material concerning other unrelated stories that Hager was pursuing. Recognizing the severity of the threat posed to press freedoms from this raid, the Freedom of the Press Foundation today announced a global campaign to raise funds for Hager’s legal defense.

    In August, one month before New Zealand’s national election, Hager published Dirty Politics, which showed that key figures in Prime Minister John Key’s National Party were feeding derogatory information about their opponents to a virulent right-wing blogger named Cameron Slater. Hager published evidence in the form of incriminating emails, provided by a hacker, demonstrating coordination between National Party officials and Slater. The ensuing scandal forced the resignation of a top Key ally, Justice Minister Judith Collins, and implicated numerous other National Party officials and supporters. Despite the scandal, the National Party won a resounding victory in the election, sending Key to a third term as prime minister.

    On October 2—less than two weeks after the election—detectives from a regional “major crime team” came to Hager’s Wellington home armed with a search warrant authorizing them to seize anything that might lead them to the identity of his source for Dirty Politics. The warrant shows that prior to the raid, a police “intelligence analyst” had studied Hager’s media appearances in an effort to discover information about his sources for the book, taking particular note of references Hager made to knowing the source’s identity.

    While there is no evidence that Hager’s work on NSA documents was a factor in the raid, it is possible that authorities knew or suspected that he had been given access to some of those documents. Over the past several months, Hager has exchanged multiple encrypted emails with reporters at The Intercept which, if obtained by New Zealand authorities under a warrant, could have tipped them off to the existence of a relationship. When The Intercept reported last month on the activities of the nation’s surveillance agency GCSB, we made clear that we were working with local journalists on further stories, and it was widely speculated that Hager was the likeliest local candidate for such a partnership. At the time, Key expressed concern that future stories from the Snowden archive could jeopardize the country’s bid for a seat on the U.N. Security Council.

    Whether or not Hager’s work with The Intercept may have partially motivated the raid, the situation underscores the dangers of using invasive law enforcement tactics against reporters—they impede the reporting process, render source relationships very difficult to protect, and offer the very authorities that reporters are attempting to hold accountable a window into their ongoing reporting. (The Intercept‘s collaboration with Hager will proceed.)

    The raid at Hager’s home took place while he was out of town, visiting the University of Auckland to give a series of lectures. Six officers arrived at his home at 7:45 a.m., waking his 22-year-old daughter, who was presented with a search warrant as she answered the door.

    Once they entered the property, detectives spent ten hours sifting through Hager and his family’s personal effects, making copies of any USB storage devices they found and seizing Hager’s computer, personal documents, a camera, a dictaphone, CDs, and dozens of other items—not to mention his daughter’s laptop, cellphones, and iPod.

    “This was an unusually heavy action for New Zealand police to take against someone in the media,” Hager told The Intercept. “Occasionally police use a warrant to go after a particular piece of evidence held by a media person or organization. But hours of sifting through someone’s files and seizing piles of their materials does not normally occur. It has a strong smell of politics about it.”

    Hager, New Zealand’s most well known independent reporter, emphasized the potential damage the raid could have on work that is wholly unrelated to Dirty Politics: “It is disruptive to anyone’s work to suddenly not have their computers and especially an investigative journalist’s work. There is now also the legal battle to get my equipment and files back untouched. There is no choice about fighting it. I have to protect this and other sources for life or why should anyone ever trust me again?”

    The New Zealand Police did not immediately respond to email request seeking comment. Hager is challenging the legality of the warrant in court, and the property that was seized remains sealed and unavailable to the police for the time being.

    Although he is being represented by pro bono counsel, Hager has already incurred legal expenses reaching into the thousands of dollars, and New Zealand’s “loser pays” provision could subject him to a very large monetary judgment if he loses. The Freedom of the Press Foundation campaign to raise money for Hager is intended to help him fight for the return of his property, challenge the legality of the raid, and defend himself against any potential future threats stemming from his work as a journalist. (The Intercept‘s Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras are co-founders of the foundation and, along with Edward Snowden and Intercept technology analyst Micah Lee, are also board members; in May, The Intercept‘s parent company First Look Media donated $350,000 to the foundation.)

    Press freedoms are under increasing assault in the English-speaking world—there have been similar controversies in the other Five Eyes alliance nations of the U.S., the U.K., Australia, and Canada—and the ability of New Zealand police officers to cavalierly raid the home of a reporter who has criticized the government in power threatens to establish a dangerous precedent everywhere reporters operate. A successful campaign on Hager’s behalf would signal that people around the world are willing to defend basic press freedoms and stand against such assaults. Those wishing to do so can contribute to Hager’s defense fund here.

    Update: In an emailed statement to The Intercept on Friday, New Zealand Police spokesman Ross Henderson denied that officers were aware Hager was working with leaked U.S. government documents. Henderson insisted that the raid was aimed at seeking information related to the source for Dirty Politics, and added that the police force “has a duty to appropriately investigate matters involving alleged criminal activity, regardless of a person’s occupation or position, and Mr. Hager is no exception.” Whether Hager’s material is covered by a law in New Zealand that protects a reporter’s right to keep his sources confidential, Henderson said, depends on whether Hager “meets the legal definition of a journalist” which “is now a matter for the court to rule on.”

    Photo: AP/Mark Mitchell/New Zealand Herald

    The post New Zealand Cops Raided Home of Reporter Working on Snowden Documents appeared first on The Intercept.

    2:00PM Water Cooler 10/16/14

    Naked Capitalism - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 13:58
    Today's Water Cooler: Ebola, Hong Kong, St. Louis cop calls protester's workplace, no panic on Wall Street, and how to erase memory in mice.
    Categories: political economy

    Pollution Inequality and Income Inequality

    The Real News Network - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 13:10
    Low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately impacted by pollution across the United States, according to a new study by economist James K. Boyce

    Emissions Reduction Impossible without Demilitarizing Foreign Policy

    The Real News Network - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 13:10
    The Pentagon's new climate change policy does not address the military's contribution to climate change, says researcher Tamara Lorincz

    And by 'Traditional Voters,' the New York Times Means White People

    FAIR blog - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 13:00
    For a piece that is crafted around the idea that white Democratic votes are really in play, it would have been helpful to point to some numbers--though it wouldn't have much helped the piece. I

    No Hooks for the Hip-Hop Chronicles!

    I Mix What I Like - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 12:23
    Check out our new contribution to WEAA and The Hip-Hop Chronicles; No Hooks with Catalina Byrd and Jared Ball. “A lot of beats and a little bit of knowledge!” Hear us chop up some of the top stories of the day, Islamophobia, Raven Simone and more! WEAA 89.3 FM WEAA.ORG Baltimore, MD. 12a-2a Weeknights!

    The Islamophobia of "Homeland" - Deepa Kumar on Reality Asserts Itself (4/5)

    The Real News Network - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 11:10
    Dr. Kumar tells Paul Jay that Muslim characters on Homeland are either terrorists, sympathizers of terrorists, or "good Muslims" which means pro-US

    Black Op Turns To Bedlam As Navy Silencer Scandal Unfolds

    The Intercept - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 11:05

    A former Navy intelligence officer is slated to go on trial in federal court next week on charges he conspired with a California auto mechanic to manufacture untraceable silencers for automatic rifles, ship them cross-country, and defraud the feds of nearly $1.7 million in the process.

    The strange and soap operatic tale of Pentagon-centered intrigue has been unfolding since 2011, when the two conspirators facing criminal charges — Lee Hall, then a civilian Naval intelligence officer, and Mark Landersman, a mechanic facing a separate trial who is also the  brother of Hall’s former boss  — entered into a nearly $1.7 million deal to have 349 silencers manufactured, apparently for a clandestine military operation, according to The Washington Post and court documents. Federal prosecutors say the silencers only cost around $10,000 to make.

    Even the prosecutors alleging fraud acknowledge the silencers were connected to a genuine, high-level secret operation, known in federal parlance as a “special access program.” But exactly what that operation might have been is entirely unclear. One story suggests the silencers were being procured for use by Navy SEAL Team 6, which disavowed any knowledge of them; another says they were being produced to outfit a stockpile of AK-47-style rifles that were seized overseas and then stored in the U.S. for later, untraceable, use abroad.

    He farmed out manufacturing to a machinist, who said he was asked to make hundreds of ‘small engine’ mufflers. In retrospect, he told the feds, they did actually look like silencers.

    That the illegal baffling devices were manufactured and shipped is clear, but as the tale spins forward in federal court, the why and what for remain, at least publicly, unknown.

    As the Post notes in its reporting this week, many documents related to the investigation have been filed under seal with the federal court in Arlington, Va., making it difficult, at best, to determine whether they were purchased for a legitimate, secret military mission, or whether they were procured as part of a “rogue operation,” being run out of the Navy’s Directorate for Plans, Policy, Oversight and Integration* — a small office meant to provide support for Navy and Marine intelligence operations and staffed by civilians, most of them military retirees. As a former senior Navy official told the Post, directorate officials behaved as “wanna-be spook-cops” who acted like “they were building their own mini law enforcement and intelligence agency.”

    Here is what is clear, according to public court records:

    In 2011, Landersman — whose brother David Landersman was then the senior director of intelligence in the Navy’s PPOI office — Hall and at least two other, unnamed civilian employees of the aforementioned Navy PPOI office began communicating about a “proposal” to manufacture silencers. In a 2012 email, someone from the Navy office sent Landersman a link to the online article “How I Built a 300 AAC Blackout Suppressor,” with a message that he should look it over.

    “Looks very much like what we’re going to send you,” it read.

    “Wow! Very simple,” Landersman replied (though he apparently failed to read the article’s first line, which noted that a particular Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives tax stamp is needed to avoid “hard prison time for violating” federal firearms law that bans manufacture of most silencers).

    In August 2012, the Navy’s Financial Management Division sent an email to the office to say that a request for a boost to the office’s budget — again, made by an unnamed conspirator — had been granted, in the sum of $2 million. According to a federal indictment, Hall then set out to procure a no-bid contract for Landersman’s newly-formed company, Advanced Machining and Engineering, to get the job to produce the 349 silencers at a total price of roughly $1.7 million. The sole-source contract was necessary, Hall wrote, because Landersman’s company possessed a “wholly, and solely exclusive” proprietary process for manufacturing the needed suppressors, according to an affidavit for an arrest warrant.

    Once Landersman had the dough (half up front, records indicate) he farmed out the manufacturing work to another person — a machinist who said he was asked to make several hundred “small engine” mufflers based on a prototype (in retrospect, he told the feds, they did actually look like silencers). Landersman paid just $12,000 to manufacture the entire order, which he then FedExed to Maryland where Hall apparently signed for the goods.

    The scheme, or whatever it was, apparently didn’t net any outside notice until sometime in early 2013, after the Naval Criminal Investigative Service became suspicious of another directorate official, Tedd Shellenbarger, who flashed credentials at the Defense Intelligence Agency that falsely identified him as a law enforcement officer. Back at the PPOI office, the NCIS found badge-making materials; the investigation grew from there.

    Hall has said that the silencer scheme was in fact a deal approved by Deputy Under Secretary of the Navy Robert Martinage, the Post reported, and that Hall had notes in his office that could prove the operation was legit.

    Of course that may now be difficult for Hall (and Landersman) to prove. Indeed, after news of the federal investigation landed on the Post’s front page in mid-November 2013, Navy security officers incinerated documents they had seized from the PPOI office. The federal court ultimately ordered the Navy to cease any further document destruction and to account for all that had been seized and burned. (And after investigators involved in the silencer probe found unrelated evidence of personal “misconduct” on Martinage’s part, Martinage was asked in January to resign.)

    According to the Post, when told about the destruction of evidence in the case Judge Leonie Brinkema was “incredulous,” and has on other occasions questioned whether prosecutors “were fully aware” of what was going on in the PPOI office and whether it actually wanted to expose those innards in court. “We’re getting deeper and deeper into a morass,” the Post quoted her as saying during a March hearing. “One of the things the government always has to think about is the cost-benefit analysis. At the end of the day, is this particular criminal prosecution worth the risk of having to disclose or reveal very sensitive information?”

    *The original post included a typo that renamed the PPOI office the Navy’s Directorate for Plans, Policy, Oversight and Interrogation. 

    DV.load('//', { width: '100%', height: '450', sidebar: false, container: '#dcv-1314081-indictment-in-u-s-vs-hall-and-landersman' });

    Affidavit by NCIS agent:
    DV.load('//', { width: '100%', height: '450', sidebar: false, container: '#dcv-1314080-affidavit-of-richard-holcomb' });

    Photo: John Scorza/U.S. Navy/AP

    The post Black Op Turns To Bedlam As Navy Silencer Scandal Unfolds appeared first on The Intercept.

    Will Ebola Vanquish the MBAs Who Run Our Hospitals?

    Naked Capitalism - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 09:55
    Yves here. This discussion from the BBC gives a damning picture of the performance of the supposedly "best of all possible worlds" US health care system has been in dealing with Ebola:
    Categories: political economy

    Ebola, the African Union and bioeconomic warfare

    Health questions and the challenges for Africa 2014-10-08 - public education about Ebola is required, including its possible links to biological warfare research in the West. As for the response to the present outbreak in West Africa, the AU and ECOWAS have horribly failed the people of that region and Africa.

    Wanted: Far-sighted African leadership against Ebola

    2014-10-08 - Ebola outbreak is a “Rwanda moment” for Africa. But leadership on this issue from around the continent has been at best too little too late, exposing Africa to external militarization of responses to the epidemic that could creep into other important policy spheres like the economy or upset the regional geopolitical balance

    What does President Obama “know” about Ethiopia’s “election”?

    2014-10-08 - will hold national elections next year. It is certain that the US-backed TPLF regime will rig the poll and proclaim a landslide victory. A look at the present repressive political climate shows clearly that there is not a chance for a free and fair election

    The 'World Versus Bank' seen from South Africa

    2014-10-09 - Friday, a new civil society campaign, 'WorldVsBank', featuring protests and teach-ins, will take place at the Bank’s Annual Meeting in Washington and ten other countries, including South Africa’s three largest cities. The campaign arises from widespread recognition all over the world that the Bank has made the world a worse place socially, politically, economically and environmentally.

    Has the ‘Asian takeover of the World Bank’ worsened discrimination against Blacks?

    2014-10-09 - Bank President Kim has vehemently rejected legitimate demands to establish accountability even in the most egregious cases of racial discrimination, which numerous Bank reports say is “systemic”. Now there are rumours that Asians have taken over at the Bank and worsened the racism.

    South Africa: Police torture at Glebelands ends fragile peace

    2014-10-09 - https://www.pambazuka.orgAre assassinations, manipulation of the criminal justice system and intimidation used regularly to protect greedy officials plundering the KwaZulu-Natal public purse? It would seem so when reviewing incidents of violence relating to housing and tender allocations over the last six years in poor communities across Durban.
    Syndicate content
    Clicky Web Analytics