Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Washington Drives the World Toward War

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Washington has had the US at war for 12 years: Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, and almost Syria, which could still happen, with Iran waiting in the wings. These wars have been expensive in terms of money, prestige, and deaths and injuries of both US soldiers and the attacked civilian populations. None of these wars appears to have any compelling reason or justifiable explanation. The wars have been important to the profits of the military/security complex. The wars have provided cover for the construction of a Stasi police state in America, and the wars have served Israel’s interest by removing obstacles to Israel’s annexation of the entire West Bank and southern Lebanon.
As costly and destructive as these wars have been, they are far below the level of a world war, much less a world war against nuclear armed opponents.
The fatal war for humanity is the war with Russia and China toward which Washington is driving the US and Washington’s NATO and Asian puppet states. There are a number of factors contributing to Washington’s drive toward the final war, but the overarching one is the doctrine of American exceptionalism.
According to this self-righteous doctrine, America is the indispensable country. What this means is that the US has been chosen by history to establish the hegemony of secular “democratic capitalism” over the world. The primacy of this goal places the US government above traditional morality and above all law, both its own and international.
Thus, no one in the US government has been held accountable for unprovoked aggression against other countries and for attacking civilian populations, unambiguous war crimes under international law and the Nuremberg standard. Neither has anyone in the US government been held accountable for torture, a prohibited crime under US law and the Geneva Conventions. Neither has anyone been held accountable for numerous violations of constitutional rights–spying without warrants, warrantless searches, violations of habeas corpus, murder of citizens without due process, denial of legal representation, conviction on secret evidence. The list is long.
A person might wonder what is exceptional and indispensable about a government that is a reincarnation of Nazi Germany in every respect. People propagandized into the belief that they are the world’s special people inevitably lose their humanity. Thus, as the US military video released by Bradley Manning reveals, US troops get their jollies by mowing down innocent people as they walk along a city street.
With the exception of the ACLU, constitutional rights groups and independent Internet voices, the American people including the Christian churches have accepted their government’s criminality and immorality with scant protest.
The absence of moral denunciation emboldens Washington which is now pushing hard against Russia and China, the current governments of which stand in the way of Washington’s world hegemony.
Washington has been working against Russia for 22 years ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. In violation of the Reagan-Gorbachev agreement, Washington expanded NATO into Eastern Europe and the Baltic states and established military bases on Russia’s borders. Washington is also seeking to extend NATO into former constituent parts of Russia itself such as Georgia and Ukraine.
The only reason for Washington to establish military and missile bases on Russia’s frontiers is to negate Russia’s ability to resist Washington’s hegemony. Russia has made no threatening gestures toward its neighbors, and with the sole exception of Russia’s response to Georgia’s invasion of South Ossetia, has been extremely passive in the face of US provocations.
This is now changing. Faced with the George W. Bush regime’s alteration of US war doctrine, which elevated nuclear weapons from a defensive, retaliatory use to pre-emptive first strike, together with the construction on Russia’s borders of US anti-ballistic missile bases and Washington’s weaponization of new technologies, has made it clear to the Russian government that Washington is setting up Russia for a decapitating first strike.
In his presidential address to the Russian National Assembly (both chambers of parliament) on December 12, Vladimir Putin addressed the offensive military threat that Washington poses to Russia. Putin said that Washington calls its anti-ballistic missile system defensive, but “in fact it is a signifiant part of the strategic offensive potential” and designed to tip the balance of power in Washington’s favor. Having acknowledged the threat, Putin replied to the threat: “Let no one have illusions that he can achieve military superiority over Russia. We will never allow it.”
Faced with the Obama regime’s murder of the nuclear weapons reduction treaty, Putin said: “We realize all this and know what we need to do.”
If anyone remains to write a history, the Obama regime will be known as the regime that resurrected the cold war, which President Reagan worked so hard to end, and drove it into a hot war.
Not content to make Russia an enemy, the Obama regime has also made an enemy of China. The Obama regime declared the South China Sea to be an area of “US national security interest.” This is akin to China declaring the Gulf of Mexico to be an area of Chinese national security interest.
To make clear that the claim to the South China Sea was not rhetorical, the Obama regime announced its “Pivot to Asia,” which calls for the redeployment of 60% of the US fleet to China’s zone of influence. Washington is busy at work securing naval and air bases from the Philippines, South Korea, Vietnam, Australia, and Thailand. Washington has increased the provocation by aligning itself with China’s neighbors who are disputing China’s claims to various islands and an expanded air space.
China has not been intimidated. China has called for “de-americanizing the world.” Last month the Chinese government announced that it now possesses sufficient nuclear weapons and delivery systems to wipe the US off of the face of the earth. A couple of days ago, China aggressively harassed a US missile cruiser in the South China Sea.
The militarily aggressive stance that Washington has taken toward Russia and China is indicative of the extreme self-assuredness that usually ends in war. Washington is told that US technological prowess can prevent or intercept the launch of Russian and Chinese missiles, thus elevating a US pre-emptive attack to slam-dunk status. Yet the potential danger from Iran acquiring nuclear weapons is said to be so great that a pre-emptive war is necessary right now, and a massive Department of Homeland Security is justified on the grounds that the US remains vulnerable to a few stateless Muslims who might acquire a nuclear weapon. It is an anomalous situation that the Russian and Chinese retaliatory response to US attack is considered to be inconsequential, but not nuclear threats from Iran and stateless Muslims.
Not content with sending war signals to Russia and China, Washington has apparently also decided to torpedo the Iranian settlement by announcing new sanctions against companies doing business with Iran. The Iranians understood Washington’s monkey wrench as Washington probably intended, as a lack of Washington’s commitment to the agreement, left Geneva and returned to Iran. It remains to be seen whether the agreement can be resurrected or whether the Israel Lobby has succeeded in derailing the agreement that promised to end the threat of war with Iran.
American citizens seem to have little, if any, influence on their government or even awareness of its intentions. Moreover, there is no organized opposition behind which Americans could rally to stop Washington’s drive toward world war. Hope, if there is any, would seem to lie with Washington’s European and Asian puppets. What interests do these governments have in putting the existence of their countries at risk for no other purpose than to help Washington acquire hegemony over the world? Cannot they realize that Washington’s game is a death-dealing one for them?
Germany alone could save the world from war while simultaneously serving its own interests. All Germany has to do is to exit the EU and NATO. The alliance would collapse, and its fall would terminate Washington’s hegemonic ambition.

Washington Has Discredited America

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Years ago when I described the George W. Bush regime as a police state, right-wing eyebrows were raised. When I described the Obama regime as an even worse police state, liberals rolled their eyes. Alas! Now I am no longer controversial. Everybody says it.
According to the UK newspaper, The Guardian, the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, had an angry exchange with Obama in which Merkel compared Obama’s National Security Agency (NSA) with the East German Communist Stasi, which spied on everyone through networks of informers.http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/17/merkel-compares-nsa-stasi-obama
Merkel grew up in Communist East Germany where she was spied upon by the Stasi, and now that she has risen to the highest political office in Europe’s most powerful state, she is spied upon by “freedom and democracy” America.
A former top NSA official, William Binney, declared that “We (the US) are now in a police state.” The mass spying conducted by the Obama regime, Binney says “is a totalitarian process.”http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/12/former-top-nsa-official-now-police-state.html
Perhaps my best vindication, after all the hate mail from “super patriots,” who wear their ignorance on their sleeves, and Obama-worshipping liberals, whose gullibility is sickening, came from federal judge Richard Leon, who declared the Obama-sanctioned NSA spying to be “almost Orwellian.” As the American Civil Liberties Union realized, federal judge Leon’s decision vindicated Edward Snowden by ruling that the NSA spying is likely outside what the Constitution permits, “labeling it ‘Orwellian’–adding that James Madison would be ‘aghast.’”
If only more Americans were aghast. I sometimes wonder whether Americans like being spied upon, because it makes them feel important. “Look at me! I’m so important that the government spends enough money to wipe out US poverty spying on me and my Facebook, et. al., friends. I bet they are spending one billion dollars just to know who I connected with today. I hope it didn’t get lost in all the spam.”
Being spied upon is the latest craze of people devoid of any future but desperate for attention.
Jason Ditz at the FBI spied-upon Antiwar.com says that Judge Leon’s ruling is a setback for Obama, who was going to restore justice and liberty but instead created the American Stasi Spy State. Congress, of course, loves the spy state, because all the capitalist firms that make mega-millions or mega-billions from it generously finance congressional and senatorial campaigns for those who support the Stasi state.
The romance that libertarians and “free market economists” have with capitalism, which buys compliance with its greed and cooperates with the Stasi state, is foolish.
Let’s move on. It was only a few weeks ago that Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry were on the verge of attacking Syria on the basis of faked evidence that Syria had crossed the “red line” and used weapons of mass destruction against the American organized, armed, and financed “rebels,” almost all of whom come from outside Syria.
Only the bought-and-paid-for-by-Washington French president made a show of believing a word or Washington’s lies against the Assad government in Syria. The British Parliament, long a puppet of Washington, gave Obama the bird and voted down participating in another American war crime. That left UK prime minister, David Cameron, hanging. Where do the British get prime ministers like Cameron and Blair?
Washington’s plan for Syria, having lost the cover of its British puppet, received a fatal blow from Russian President Putin, who arranged for Syria’s chemical weapons to be delivered to foreign hands for destruction, thus putting an end to the controversy.
In the meantime it became apparent that the “Syrian rebellion” organized by Washington has been taken over by al-Qaeda, an organization allegedly responsible for 9/11. Even Washington was able to figure out that it didn’t make sense to put al-Qaeda in charge of Syria. Now the headlines are: “West tells Syria rebels: Assad must stay.”
Meanwhile, Washington’s arrogance has managed to make an enemy of India. The TSA, a component of Homeland Security, subjected a female diplomat from India to multiple strip searches, cavity searches and ignored her protestations of consular immunity. http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/12/18/devyani-khobragade-reveals-how-she-broke-down-after-stripping-and-cavity-searches-as-row-between-u-s-and-india-deepens/
There was no justification whatever for this abuse of an Indian diplomat. To indicate its displeasure, the Indian government has removed barriers that prevent truck bombs from being driven into the US embassy.
Washington has managed to recreate the arms race. More profits for the military/security complex, and less security for the world. Provoked by Washington’s military aggressiveness, Russia has announces a $700 billion upgrade of its nuclear ballistic missiles. China’s leaders have also made it clear that China is not intimidated by Washington’s intrusion into China’s sphere of influence. China is developing weapon systems that make obsolete Washington’s large investment in surface fleets.
Recently, Pat Buchanan, Mr. Conservative himself, made a case that Russia’s Putin better represents traditional American values than does the President of the United States.http://www.unz.com/pbuchanan/is-putin-one-of-us/
Buchanan has a point. It is Washington, not Moscow or Beijing, that threatens to bomb countries into the stone age, that forces down airplanes of heads of state and subjects them to searches, and that refuses to honor grants of political asylum.
Certainly, Washington’s claim to be “exceptional” and “indispensable” and, therefore, above law and morality contrasts unfavorably with Putin’s statement that “we do not infringe on anyone’s interests or try to teach anyone how to live.”
Washington’s arrogance has brought America disrepute. What damage will Washington next inflict on us?

Manipulations Rule The Markets

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The Federal Reserve’s announcement on December 18 that beginning in January its monthly purchases of mortgage-backed financial instruments and US Treasury bonds would each be cut by $5 billion is puzzling, as is the financial press’s account of the market’s response.
The Federal Reserve conveys a contradictory message. The Fed says that improvements in employment and the economy justify cutting back on bond purchases. Yet the Fed emphasizes that it is maintaining its commitment to record low interest rates “well past the time that the unemployment rate declines below 6.5 percent, especially if projected inflation continues to run below the [Open Market] Committee’s 2 percent longer-run goal. When the Committee decides to begin to remove policy accommodation it will take a balanced approach consistent with its longer-run goals of maximum employment and inflation of 2 percent.”
The last sentence in the quote states that the Fed does not regard its announced reduction in bond purchases as less accommodation or as a move toward tightening. In other words, the Fed is saying that tapering does not mean less accommodation.
To put it another way, the Fed is saying that the economy is doing well enough not to require the same amount of monthly bond purchases, but is not doing well enough to stand any change in the near zero nominal federal funds rate. The implication is that the Fed either does not think that a reduction in purchases will result in a rise in long-term interest rates or that such a rise will not derail the economy as long as the Fed keeps short-term rates at or near zero. If the $10 billion decrease in monthly bond demand results in higher long-term interest rates, what good does it do to keep the federal funds rate at zero? If the $10 billion monthly bond purchases were not needed as part of the accommodation policy, why was the Fed purchasing them?
Possibly the Fed thinks that Congress has taken steps to reduce the federal deficit, which would result in a reduced supply of bonds to match the Fed’s reduced demand for bonds, but the Fed’s statement makes no reference to federal deficit reduction, which is probably a smoke and mirrors change instead of a real one.
Moreover, the Fed’s outlook for the economy is mixed. The Fed says that “recovery in the housing sector slowed somewhat in recent months,” so why reduce purchases of mortgage-backed financial instruments? And surely the Fed is aware that the U3 unemployment rate has declined because discouraged workers who cannot find a job are not counted among the unemployed. As all measures show, real median family income and real per capita income are lower today than in 2007, and real consumer credit is not growing except for student loans. Without rising aggregate demand to drive the economy, why does the Fed see a recovery instead of faulty statistical measures that do not accurately portray economic reality?
The financial media’s reporting on the stock market’s response to the Fed’s announcement has its own puzzles. I have not seen the entirety of the news reports, but what I have seen says that the equity market rose because investors interpreted the reduction in bond purchases as signaling the Fed’s vote of confidence in the economy.
Previously when the Fed announced that it might cut back its bond purchases, the markets dropped sharply, and the Fed quickly back-tracked. Everyone knows that the high prices in the bond and equity markets are the result of the liquidity pouring out of the Fed and that a curtailment of this liquidity will adversely affect prices. So why this time did prices go up instead of down?
Pam Martens points out that there is evidence of manipulation. http://wallstreetonparade.com
As market data indicates, the initial response to the Fed’s announcement was a sharp move down as market participants sold stocks on the Fed’s announcement (see the chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Average in Pam Martens’ article). But within a few minutes the market changed course and rose on panic short-covering just as sharply as it had fallen.
The question is: who provided the upward push that panicked the shorts and sent the market up 292 points? Was it the plunge protection team and the NY Fed’s trading floor? Was it the large banks acting in concert with the Fed? It is hard to avoid the conclusion that this was an orchestrated event that forestalled a market decline.
Short selling in the paper gold futures market has been used to protect the US dollar’s value from being knocked down by the Fed’s Quantitative Easing. Following the Fed’s December 18 announcement, another big takedown of gold was launched.
William Kaye had predicted the takedown in advance. He noticed that the ETF gold trust GLD experienced a sudden loss in gold holdings as shares were redeemed for gold. Only the large Fed-dependent bullion banks can redeem shares for gold. Possession of physical gold allows the short-selling that drives down the gold price to be covered.
http://kingworldnews.com/kingworldnews/KWN_DailyWeb/Entries/2013/12/17_Absolutely_Shocking_Developments_In_The_War_On_Gold.html
Bloomberg reports that gold is exiting the West. It has been shipped out to Asia. You explain, dear reader, how the price of gold can fall so much in the West while the supply of gold dries up.http://www.bloomberg.com/video/what-s-happening-to-all-the-gold-d33u1c23SDqA0p0e~9_INw.html
In a few days prior to the Fed’s tapering announcement, GLD was drained of 25 tonnes of gold by primary bullion banks, JP MorganChase, HSBC, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, and Citicorp. As Dave Kranzler pointed out to me, these banks happen to be the biggest players in the OTC derivatives market for precious metals. HSBC is the custodian of the GLD gold and JPM is the custodian of SLV silver. HSBC and JPM are two of the three primary custodial and market-making banks for Comex gold and silver.
The conclusion is obvious. QE helps the big banks, and manipulation of the gold price downward protects the US dollar from its dilution by QE.
The Fed’s reduced bond purchasing announced for the New Year still leaves the Fed purchasing $900 billion worth of bonds annually, so obviously the Fed does not think that everything is OK. Moreover, the Fed has other ways to make up for the $120 billion annual reduction, assuming the reduction actually occurs. The prospect for tapering is dependent on the US economy not sinking deeper into depression. Massaged “success indicators” such as the unemployment rate, which is understated by not counting discouraged workers, and the GDP growth rate, which is overstated with an understated measure of inflation, do not a recovery make. No other economic indicator shows recovery.
Until a whistleblower speaks, we cannot know for certain, but my conclusion is that the Fed understands that it must protect the dollar from being driven down by QE and that the orchestrated takedowns of gold are part of protecting the dollar’s value, and perhaps also the cutback in QE is a part of the protection by signaling an end of money creation. The Fed also understands that it cannot forever drive down the gold price and that it cannot forever pour liquidity into stock and bond markets. To retreat from this policy without crashing the edifice requires successful orchestrations. Therefore, we are likely to experience more of them in the days to come.
Allegedly, the US has free capital markets, and globalism is bringing free capital markets to the world. In actual fact, US capital markets are so manipulated–and now by the authorities themselves–that manipulation cannot stop without a crash.
What American “democratic capitalism” has brought to the world is manipulated financial markets and the absence of democracy. How long this game can play depends on the outside world.

Latest Snowden revelations expose Obama’s lies on NSA spy programs

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Just hours after receiving a report from his hand-picked advisory panel on National Security Agency surveillance operations, President Barack Obama used his end of the year press conference Friday to deliver an Orwellian defense of unrestrained US spying both at home and abroad.
“I have confidence that the NSA is not engaging in domestic surveillance and snooping around,” Obama said, despite the cascade of revelations proving just the opposite. These revelations, including the latest from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, have established that the agency is collecting and storing billions of files recording the phone calls, text messages, emails, Internet searches and even the daily movements of virtually ever US citizen, not to mention those of hundreds of millions of people abroad.
“The United States is a country that abides by rule of law, that cares deeply about privacy, that cares deeply about civil liberties,” he added. Who, at this late juncture, does the American president think he’s fooling? One only has to read the ruling by a Washington, DC Federal District Court judge—which was then stayed in the interest of “national security”—finding the surveillance methods of the NSA to be “almost Orwellian,” and its activities unconstitutional, i.e., criminal.
On Snowden, without whose courageous actions the NSA’s illegal activities would still be concealed from the public, Obama refused to address calls to grant him amnesty, insisting, falsely, that he has been indicted, and that his fate is in the hands of the US attorney general and the courts.
Nonetheless, he charged that Snowden’s revelations had given a “pretty distorted view of what’s going on out there,” by which he meant that they cut through Washington’s propaganda about the US representing a beacon of freedom and democracy, exposing the infrastructure of a police state at the heart of the government.
Declaring that the furor unleashed by Snowden’s disclosures represented an “important conversation we needed to have,” Obama added, “the way in which these disclosures happened have been damaging to the United States, damaging to our intelligence capabilities. And I think that there was a way for us to have this conversation without that damage.”
What way that was the US president did not specify. Undoubtedly within the intelligence apparatus, the preferred method would have been to assassinate Snowden before he could leak a single document. The fact is that there would have been no “conversation” without the actions taken by Snowden, because neither the NSA, nor the president, nor the Congress was about to expose to the American people and the people of the world the massive conspiracy being mounted against their fundamental democratic rights.
On one question, Obama remained silent. The decision handed down by Judge Richard Leon in Washington on Monday referred to “the utter lack of evidence that a terrorist attack has ever been prevented” through the dragnet surveillance being carried out by the NSA.” Similarly, the report issued by Obama’s own advisory panel three days later concluded that “the information contributed to terrorist investigations by the use of . . . telephony metadata was not essential to preventing attacks.” In other words, the pretext provided repeatedly by Obama and US intelligence officials—that the massive spying was required to keep the American people “safe”—was a lie.
Asked point blank whether he could “identify any specific examples” in which the NSA spying program had contributed to the foiling of an act of terrorism, Obama failed to provide any.
Given that the sweeping domestic and international spying operation has not proved useful in this regard, the obvious question is what interests is it intended to serve?
One answer to this question was indicated in secret documents leaked by Snowden and reported on by the New York Times, the Guardian, and Der Spiegelon Friday, showing that among 1,000 targets of the NSA and its British partner, the General Communications Headquarters, were Joaquin Almunia, the European Union’s competition commissioner and current European Commission vice president. Almunia was involved in pursuing charges of commercial and financial abuse against US corporations such as Google, Microsoft, the pharmaceutical conglomerate Johnson & Johnson and financial giants such as Citigroup and J.P. Morgan Chase.
Other targets included the French defense contractor Thales, the Paris-based energy giant Total, European telecom companies and the heads of oil and finance ministries. This is in line with earlier revelations of NSA spying on Brazil’s state-owned energy firm, Petrobras.
In the face of outraged denunciations of industrial espionage by the European Union and others, the NSA attempted to deny the obvious. “We do not use our foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of—or give intelligence we collect to—U.S. companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line,” said an agency spokeswoman Friday.
She quickly added, however, that economic spying is essential “to providing policy makers with the information they need to make informed decisions that are in the best interest of our national security.” In other words, if the NSA doesn’t directly pass intelligence to Citigroup, Google, Exxon Mobil and others, it is giving it to other government officials who do.
What emerges is a state intelligence apparatus of genuine totalitarian dimensions that acts as a direct partner of giant corporations—that in turn willingly cooperate with the NSA’s illegal operations—while spying relentlessly on the masses of people.
Underlying this development is social structure that has turned increasingly aristocratic in character, with a narrow financial and corporate oligarchy having amassed an unprecedented share of the country’s wealth, while living in fear that the glaring levels of social inequality will spark a revolt from below. There exists within this ruling layer, and the Democratic and Republican parties that defend its interests, no constituency for democratic rights. Rather it strongly supports authoritarian methods to suppress growing opposition among working people.
Under the phony cover of the “war on terror”—and in the real context of endless war abroad—the US government under Obama has arrogated to itself vast powers to spy on the entire population, subject its perceived enemies to indefinite military detention and even summarily kill anyone, including US citizens, without due process.
The threat of police state dictatorship emerges more clearly with each passing day. The struggle against this threat is fundamentally a class question. The only social force that has a life-and-death interest in democratic rights is the working class, which historically has secured these rights through mass struggles.
Today these rights cannot be defended through the courts, the Democratic Party or any section of the government and its auxiliary agencies. Rather the working class must mobilize its own independent political strength to put an end to the capitalist profit system, the source of the drive to a police state.

Report Suggests NSA Engaged In Financial Manipulation, Changing Money In Bank Accounts

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Matt Blaze has been pointing out that when you read the new White House intelligence task force report and its recommendations on how to reform the NSA and the wider intelligence community, that there may be hints to other excesses not yet revealed by the Snowden documents. Trevor Timm may have spotted a big one. In the recommendation concerning increasing security in online communications, the second sub-point sticks out like a sore thumb:
If you can't read that, it says:
Governments should not use their offensive cyber capabilities to change the amounts held in financial accounts or otherwise manipulate the financial system.
While there have been plenty of reports about the US running hundreds of offensive cyberattacks on others, outside of things like Stuxnet, not many have been directly identified. And I'm unaware of any claims suggesting attempts to "manipulate the financial system" of any particular country and/or to "change the amounts held in financial accounts." It seems a bit odd to come out of the blue like that, and certainly suggests that this particular bullet point likely came as a result of a rather specific thing that came up during the task force's review. 

So, now we wait for the inevitable news of what sort of financial shenanigans the NSA was up to.

How the Federal Reserve and Bank of England are Fueling Massive Global Inequality

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“Following World War II, the U.S. dollar was adopted as the world's reserve currency against the wishes of the pre-eminent economist John Maynard Keynes," Joel Benjamin tells me, "cementing the economic and political power of the U.S. Federal Reserve."
Benjamin works as the local authority manager for the U.K. campaign Move Your Money and is investigating how much public money authorities lost in the financial crisis. Founded in early 2012, Move Your Money — which has parallel groups like this oneoperating in the U.S. — has helped over 2 million people in the U.K. transfer their finances from unethical too-big-to-fail banks to smaller, safer institutions.
The Federal Reserve holds a significant responsibility for the 2008 global crash, Benjamin explains. In particular, Alan Greenspan's ultra-low interest rate policies — known as the "Greenspan put" — encouraged the housing and stock market bubbles to dangerously inflate throughout the early 2000s.
“The Fed is staffed by insiders from within the banking industry, and this determines its direction. We see a similar trend with the appointment of Goldman Sachs’s Mark Carney to the Bank of England,” Benjamin says, and "of course, the Fed’s global economic power is further extended by U.S. military industrial hegemony.”
"When the crash happened, bigger financial institutions such as JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs were bailed out with TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) funds and went on to profit massively buying up distressed assets, while other smaller banks were allowed to sink. Too big to fail has gotten even bigger since the crash.”
To head off another financial meltdown, the British organization Positive Money is calling for drastic changes to the Bank of England, something akin to the growing calls in the U.S. to democratize the Fed — literally, to federalize it and alter its objectivesso that it serves the public's interest.
A core aspect of the Positive Money campaign is to analyze and explain how money is created. Currently, the vast majority of British money is created by privately owned banks as debt. Only 3% of money in the U.K. exists physically in notes and coins.
But the group asserts this economic reality is rarely taught in most economics departments, let alone understood by many politicians -- and even less so by the average citizen. Like the FedUp100 campaign which seeks to nationalize the Federal Reserve, bringing it under control of the U.S. Treasury enabling the government to create dollars debt- and interest-free, Positive Money advocates restructuring the British monetary system so it too works for the 99%.
The group's founder, Ben Dyson, assesses how the Fed, the Bank of England and both nations' monetary systems run on very similar lines. “The BoE and Fed have the power to create money, yet until the 2008 crisis it was mainly created by privately owned banks, and this went into property and the financial markets, not the productive economy,” Dyson says.
“As debt creation creates money, and people were paying back loans, the economy was effectively shrinking,” he continues, and "to remedy this, both central banks started creating money through Quantitative Easing (QE), again fueling speculation.”
Citing analyses undertaken by Positive Money, Dyson asserts that this strategy undermines the central banks’ very reason for enacting QE, purportedly so that the money fuels production in the economy. “In the U.K., from the £375 billion ($614 billion) that [they] pumped into the banks, only £30 billion ($49 billion) went into the productive areas of the economy," Dyson says. "The extent QE failed is clear because at the same time Britain teetered on the edge of going into a triple dip recession, its stock market was at a record high.”
These are the same criticisms people have been making, with growing clamor, since the Fed initiated its QE spending in 2010. Since the financial crash, both the Fed and Bank of England have been running these stimulus programs — a "money for nothing" technique of buying bonds from toxic banks. As Dyson mentions, the U.K. has created an extra £375 billion for big banks through the spending.
Meanwhile, Professor David McNally of York University Toronto calculates the Fed has pumped an equivalent amount, $600 billion, into Wall Street banks in the course of QE1, QE2 and QE3. He asserts this “hot money” is funding speculators to buy currencies, commodities and assets with the result that it's driving up currencies such as Brazil’s real, funding lands grabs across Africa and Asia, and making food prices soar.
A deeper look at the Fed’s impact on food prices, in fact, illuminates how the private central bank is working as an engine to fund rising inequality worldwide.
Backing up McNally’s assertions, the Guardian reports that QE has meant that commodity markets like food are being overwhelmed with investors who are focused on making the highest returns. The increased speculation has driven food prices to record levels, according to Britain's World Development Movement.
To appreciate the consequences that food speculation has had on the majority of the globe's population, I asked Miriam Ross, media officer for WDM in London, to set out its impact. “Speculation has been a major contributor to the sharp spikes in global food prices," Ross said. "When prices of staple foods rise suddenly, everyone is affected. Here in the U.K., for example, prices rose by 32% [between] 2007 to 2012.”
Ross went on, “With incomes failing to keep pace, many people have felt the pinch. But in poor countries, where many people typically spend 50 to 90% of their incomes on food compared to an average of 10 to 15% in rich countries, price spikes can spell disaster. In the last six months of 2010 alone, 44 million more people were pushed into extreme poverty by rising food prices.”
“This does not just mean peoples’ lives are devastated due to a hunger and malnutrition. It causes people to sell off possessions including cattle, take their children out of school, or cut out spending on health care,” she added, and proposed that reducing speculation should be an easy goal for the public to embrace.
“Regulation to curb speculation is on the table on both sides of the Atlantic. Whether or not regulators seize the opportunity to rein in the speculators depends on whether they prioritize the profits of investment banks or the fundamental right of people to food.”
That the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England are encouraging food speculation — and are responsible for its disastrous results — shows clearly how both America's and Britain's monetary policies are engineered to work against the interests of the majority, not only at home but internationally.
An alternative strategy, according to groups like Positive Money, is for the nation's central bank to strategically stimulate parts of the economy and help produce the things that people actually need, like low-carbon emitting forms of transportation, manufacturing, energy production, and so on. If the Fed were federalized, restructured as a public force for investing in the public good, not just Americans but the world's population would have a more hopeful future before it.

TEPCO detects record radiation at Fukushima’s reactor 2, new leak suspected

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TEPCO has found a record 1.9 million becquerels per liter of beta ray-emitting radioactive substances at its No.2 reactor. Also radioactive cesium was detected in deeper groundwater at No.4 unit’s well, as fears grow of a new leak into the ocean.
The level of beta ray-emitting radioactivity in groundwater around the crippled Fukushima reactor No. 2 reactor has been rising since November, NHK reported. 

Previous the highest level – 1.8 million becquerels (bq/liter), of beta-ray sources per liter - was registered at reactor No.1 on December 13. 

Meanwhile, TEPCO’s latest examination of deeper groundwater beneath the #4 reactor's well has raised new concerns that there might be another source of radioactive substances leakage into the ocean. 

For the first time, the analysis of water samples taken from a layer 25 meters beneath the No. 4 reactor's well that is facing the ocean has revealed radioactivity in groundwater. 

TEPCO investigators detected 6.7 bq/liter of Cesium 137 and 89 bq/liter of strontium as well as other beta ray-emitting radioactive substances. 

However, the company’s officials said that it is early to talk about a hotspot of radiation leak and more examinations are needed to prove that. TEPCO suggested that current numbers could be wrong because radioactive substances may have been mistakenly mixed during the process of getting the sample. 

Leakage of radiation-contaminated water has been the major threat to Japan’s population and environment from the very beginning of the Fukushima disaster in March 2011. 

Only in late July 2013 did TEPCO acknowledge the fact that contaminated water is escaping from basements and trenches of the Fukushima plant into the ocean. 

Since then, TEPCO reported about two major leaks of highly radioactive water into the ocean from storage tanks – a 300-ton leak in August and 430 liters in October.

Lawsuit alleges BP, Chevron dumped radioactive waste into Louisiana waters

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Oil behemoths BP and Chevron dumped toxic waste - including some radioactive material - from their drilling operations into coastal waters, claims Louisiana parish Plaquemines in a lawsuit removed to federal court Thursday.
Plaquemines Parish alleges the companies released oil field waste into ocean water “without limitation,” violating the Louisiana State and Local Coastal Resources Management Act of 1978. The law requires companies to clear, revegetate, detoxify or restore polluted areas, which the companies did not do, the lawsuit claims.
The pollution, along with the companies’ lack of adequate maintenance of their oilfields, has resulted in serious coastal erosion and contaminated groundwater, according to the lawsuit.
“I think the oil companies have an obligation to self-report, I think the oil companies are to blame and I think the oil companies took advantage of the state,” John Carmouche, a lead attorney for Plaquemines, told The Advocate in November when the suit first came out in state court.
Plaquemines and the Jefferson Parish filed nearly 30 lawsuits in November aimed at dozens of energy companies and their contractors based on claims of destruction and pollution of coastal space.
The suit against BP and Chevron alleges the companies should have recognized that the drilling waste, or “brine,” contained “unacceptable and inherently dangerous” amounts of the radioactive materials Radium 226 and Radium 228.
Though minor amounts of Radium 226 were once used in health items like toothpaste, they were eventually discarded in everyday uses when it was discovered the perceived health benefits were not at all true, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Exposure to radium over a long-term period increases one’s chances of developing diseases such as lymphoma, bone cancer, leukemia and aplastic anemia, the Environmental Protection Agency reports.
Containing gamma radiation, radium is harmful if ingested or inhaled. The Environmental Protection Agency says about 20 percent of ingested radium does not leave the body, entering the bloodstream and often accumulating in bones.
The lawsuit also calls attention to the company’s construction of “unlined earthen waste pits,” described in the lawsuit as “simply holes, ponds or excavations” dug into the ground or a marsh. Many pits were never sealed correctly, nor did the companies even attempt to acquire permits to close them, the suit says.
Plaquemines also alleges BP has illegally, without permits, dredged canals throughout the area for oil and gas development.
“These suits are more of the same,” Louisiana Oil and Gas Association President Don Briggs told The Advocate in November. “Extort as much money from the oil and gas industry as possible, thus lining the pockets of a small group of trial lawyers.”
In November, Harper’s magazine published a comprehensive report on the dirty legacy of oil development in the state and how industry has an unrelenting grip on Louisiana politicians.
Briggs played a part in the article, lamenting environmental and health initiatives used to halt domestic fracking or oil and gas production in Louisiana.
In an interview with Briggs, author Ken Silverstein wrote that the lobbyist criticized what he saw as a“shameless scramble by residents along the Gulf of Mexico to get a piece of the $20 billion compensation fund created following the Deepwater Horizon spill. ‘BP is getting raped and pillaged by anyone who had any sort of business on the Gulf Coast,’ he said with a snort.”
BP is currently embroiled in a legal dispute against what it says are meritless claims filed by businesses impacted by the 2010 oil spill, part of a multi-billion dollar compensation scheme.