Thursday, August 28, 2014

Widespread Slowdown In US Home Prices

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S&P's Case-Shiller home price index has declined for the second straight month.
June prices fell 0.2%, worse than the consensus estimate for no change and the same rate of decline seen in May. Year-over-year, prices climbed 8.1%, about in-line with forecasts but slower than a revised 9.4% gain for May and a 17-month low.
“Home price gains continue to ease as they have since last fall,” David M. Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said in a release. “For the first time since February 2008, all cities showed lower annual rates than the previous month. Other housing indicators — starts, existing home sales, and builders’ sentiment — are positive. Taken together, these point to a more normal housing sector."
Pantheon Macro's Ian Shepherdson is not concerned in the short run but expects things to get worse after autumn:
"The CS measure as published is a three-month moving average, so it tends to lag shifts in the median price numbers published in the existing home sales report. In turn, those numbers lag shifts in home sales volumes, so we are inclined to see this softening in the CS data as a response to the drop in existing home sales during the severe winter. Sales have recovered all that drop and median prices have rebounded too; the CS numbers can be expected to follow in the fall. Thereafter, though, we are struggling to see where sustained momentum in sales and price might come from, given the latest downshift in mortgage applications."
Here's what it's looked like recently:
s&p case shiller

Month-over-month, everyone's gains were no better than paltry.
s&p case shiller

Year-over-year gains were more robust everywhere except Cleveland, where prices climbed just 0.8%. San Francisco price surged most at 12.9%.
S&P CASE SHILLER

Whistleblower Reveals Evidence of Criminal Coverup of Autism Links to Vaccines by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

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CDC scientists who conspired to commit scientific fraud in order to obscure the link between the MMR vaccine and autism knew that they might have been engaged in criminal acts as far back as 2002, documents now show.
Natural News has acquired an email sent by CDC whistleblower William Thompson to the following recipients: Melinda Wharton, Walt Orenstein, Kim Lane, Kevin M. Malone, Beverly Dozier, Robert Chen, David Shay, Coleen Boyle and Roger Bernier. The email focused on a Department of Justice investigation of the CDC, where the DoJ had requested “a broad range of documents associated with MMR, Thimerosal and Autism.”
Back in 2002, William Thompson was already aware of study results linking the MMR vaccine to a very large increase in autism risk among African-American children. See Brian Hooker’s published paper here, with a full analysis of the CDC’s own data revealing a 340% increased risk of autism in African-American children following the MMR vaccine.
The CDC’s Dr. Thompson was fully aware of this increased autism risk from MMR vaccines. He refers to these results as “sensitive results.” The smoking gun in this letter is Dr. Thompson’s admission that CDC scientists and decision makers are trying to decide which documents to turn over to the Dept. of Justice and which documents to suppress.
“I have also tried to bring your attention to some potentially sensitive legal issues surrounding what documents we should provide for this study,” Thompson wrote in an email dated Friday, October 18, 2002 at 4:43 AM. The email was addressed to Melinda Wharton and cc’d to the recipients listed above.
Even to this day, the CDC has deliberately withheld documents sought by members of Congress. Rather than disclosing the so-called “science” used by the CDC to promote mass vaccination programs, the agency buries evidence and lies to both Congress and the American public.
Dr. Thompson hires a personal attorney in 2002
 
“I don’t think anyone has broken the law,” Thompson writes, “but I was extremely uncomfortable when Dr. Coleen Boyle, a coauthor on our paper, was required to testify before Congressman Dan Burton’s Committee in April of 2002 regarding MMR and Autism. I became more concerned regarding legal issues surrounding the MADDSP MMR/Autism Study when individuals from the NCBDDD began to cc Beverly Dozier, an attorney, on e-mails regarding discussions we were having surrounding the provision of appropriate documents to satisfy the DOJ request.”
The letter goes on to say that attorney Beverly Dozier was consulting Dr. Coleen Boyle on what documents to provide (and therefore also what documents to withhold).
Dr. Thompson then concludes by saying “I will be hiring my own personal attorney…” and even adds, “[I will] seriously consider removing myself as an author on the draft manuscript.”
Twelve years later, Dr. William Thompson admits to scientific fraud at the CDC
The MMR vaccines / autism cover-up continued for twelve more years. The DoJ investigation petered out, and the scientists who participated in the cover-up were granted prestigious awards by Health and Human Services.
For twelve years, this cover-up haunted Dr. Thompson, who has now decided to clear his conscience and admit to the fraud. He now says:
Oh my God, I did not believe that we did what we did, but we did. It's all there. This is the lowest point in my career, that I went along with that paper. I have great shame now when I meet families of kids with autism, because I have been part of the problem. - Dr. William Thompson
Now, this MMR vaccine-autism cover-up continues to be perpetrated by the mainstream media which has so far run a total media blackout on the story, hoping to suppress the truth about MMR vaccines and autism for as long as possible.
Consider how extraordinary it is today that Natural News, a small independent media organization, would now be out-reporting the New York Times on one of the most explosive medical fraud stories in U.S. history. There is not a single mainstream media source in America today which has published a single article on this extraordinary turning point in the history of the CDC and its scientific fraud. What you are witnessing today is the total collapse of the illusion of credibility across the mainstream media and the rise of the only free press remaining in America: the independent media.
This is obvious in the fact that this story has widespread implications for public health and yet no one from the mainstream media is asking any questions at all. If the press won’t ask questions, then it’s not the press at all. It’s just a propaganda outlet for corporate and government disinfo.
This CDC whistleblower admitting to scientific fraud regarding MMR vaccines is one of the biggest stories in medical history. I feel honored to be one of only a handful of truth-telling independent journalists in America who has the credibility and courage to bring it to you. Spread the truth. Share this story.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Political Europe Suppressed Under Washington´s Thumb Is Waking Up

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In the aftermath of the downing of the Malaysian airliner in Ukraine, the Western media followed Washington’s lead and manipulated reports in order to make Europeans believe that Russia and Russian-supported separatists in eastern Ukraine were responsible for downing the airliner. In Germany, the press was an extension of Washington’s propaganda machine despite the lack of evidence from both Washington and Kiev to support their irresponsible claims.

It was not long, however, before the public mood in Europe began to turn. A pivotal factor was openly voiced U.S. threats in a law that had been passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate of the U.S. Congress that could eventually result in an invasion of the Netherlands by United States army forces. http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/internationales-strafgericht-us-kongress-droht-niederlanden-mit-invasion-a-200430.html [1]

When this was learned outrage was expressed not only within the Dutch government, but also among the population of the country. According to the law, if it should ever happen that American citizens are brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC) and accused at The Hague, Washington would exercise the preemptive right to invade the country in order to prevent prosecution.

Remember that Malaysia’s government had permitted a tribunal in 2011, whose judges in the tradition of British court proceedings condemned both George W. Bush and Tony Blair as war criminals.http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2011/11/20111128105712109215.html [2] Some Europeans are asking if there could be a connection between the ruling of this tribunal and the loss of two Malaysian airliners.

In addition, alert and intelligent Europeans have caught on to Washington’s campaign to demonize Russia. A Dutch group of professors sent an open letter to Russian president Vladimir Putin on August 12 in which the signatories officially apologized for the propaganda lies sprewed by Western media. http://futuristrendcast.wordpress.com/2014/08/05/an-open-letter-from-the-netherlands-to-putin-we-are-sorry/ [3]

The former “quality media” in Europe have lost the confidence of readers. A growing number of Europeans relying on Internet sites such as www.paulcraigroberts.org are quite well informed about the propagandistic nature of the Western mainstream media.

The chart recently published by a leading German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) indicates that for one reason or the other, Germans have turned away from German newspapers. The cumulative sales of German newspapers reached their climax back in the year 1983 – with a circulation of 30.1 million copies.

pastedGraphic [4]

Ever since, things have been deteriorating. In 2013, the circulation shrank to only 17.3 million sold copies – a significant decline of 42.5%, which really hurts many publishers. Persistent cost-reduction programs, massive job cuts and the demise of daily newspapers such as the Financial Times Deutschland are the consequence of newspapers in vassalage to Washington. Many excuses are made for the decline, but the real reason is that German newspapers no longer take their readers seriously

Germans wonder why their reunited country is still occupied by US troops 69 years after the end of World War II, why their country has no foreign policy independent of Washington, and why the German media provides no public discussion of these highly unusual characteristics of an allegedly sovereign state.

During the last several years the media’s propagandistic character has led to massive resistance among newspaper readers, especially in Germany. You only have to take a look at the comments published on Internet sites of the mainstream media to see angry and disappointed readers turn away from their once favorite newspapers that are accused of actively participating in Washington´s propaganda campaign. Readers see propaganda instead of investigative journalism. In place of evidence and honest reports, there are insinuations and ridiculous accusations. The German newspaper Die Welt even blamed the outbreak of the ebola virus on Russia! http://www.welt.de/politik/ausland/article131459175/Russland-hat-Ebola-zur-Waffe-gemacht.html [5]

Given the danger of Washington pushing Europe into war with Russia, one can be glad that so many Europeans see through the perfidious propaganda lies spread by the mainstream media. Internet sites now perform the role abandoned by newspapers. These mainly independent internet media refer to themselves as alternative media, which have the goal to provide objective and truthful information in place of propaganda.

Some of the large German newspapers destroyed what little credibility they had left when they used social media to spread their claim that the negative comments on their websites were written by people on the payroll of Vladimir Putin. One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry over this grotesque assertion.

The unanswered question is why does German mainstream media serve Washington instead of Germany? Does Washington pay well for propaganda services?

If we now come to the recent events in Ferguson, these incidents made us realize that the U.S. police state is not just on the rise, but is already in place! Scenes on TV and Internet videos of brutal militarized police equipped for battlefield combat applying extreme violence to protesters and journalists alike has raised the question in Europe whether America is a democracy or a police state. The continuing American massacre of people in the Middle East, together with Washington’s support for Israel’s massacre of Palestinians and now the massacre of Russians in eastern and southern Ukraine by the government that Washington installed in Kiev have changed the image of America from white hat to black hat. America no longer reassures us; America frightens us.

In a recent story Die Welt journalist Ansgar Graw wrote: “The day when the U.S. police became my enemy.”

Even Washington’s German media vassals reporting for Die Welt have now experienced firsthand the full brunt of American police violence. See http://www.welt.de/politik/ausland/article131363772/Der-Tag-an-dem-die-US-Polizei-mein-Feind-wurde.html [6] and http://www.handelsblatt.com/politik/international/krawalle-in-ferguson-panzer-gegen-protestler/10356412.html [7]

German journalists who have been living in the United States for 15 years are telling their readers that they have come to the decision to leave the US. They report that things have changed for the worse in the “land of the free” since 9/11, and that they were threatened, handcuffed and arrested for covering the protests in Ferguson.

The policeman who killed the 18-year old black man set off protests, the response to which opened the world’s eyes to the transformation of America into a police state. A country whose military bases occupy much of the world in the name of human rights and freedom, a country that violently interferes in internal affairs of sovereign nations and fights wars at its leisure is now perceived as waging war against its own oppressed propulation. By arrogantly exempting itself from the standards it applies to everyone else, the US has destroyed its credibility.

Now the Dutch wait for the appearance of US troops to show up at the Hague should international law ever be applied to Washington’s war criminals. As one German magazine put it recently, “with friends like America, we don’t need enemies.”

URLs in this post:
[1] http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/internationales-strafgericht-us-kongress-droht-niederlanden-mit-invasion-a-200430.html: http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/internationales-strafgericht-us-kongress-droht-niederlanden-mit-invasion-a-200430.html
[2] http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2011/11/20111128105712109215.html:http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2011/11/20111128105712109215.html
[3] http://futuristrendcast.wordpress.com/2014/08/05/an-open-letter-from-the-netherlands-to-putin-we-are-sorry/:http://futuristrendcast.wordpress.com/2014/08/05/an-open-letter-from-the-netherlands-to-putin-we-are-sorry/
[4] Image: http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/pastedGraphic.jpg
[5] http://www.welt.de/politik/ausland/article131459175/Russland-hat-Ebola-zur-Waffe-gemacht.html:http://www.welt.de/politik/ausland/article131459175/Russland-hat-Ebola-zur-Waffe-gemacht.html
[6] http://www.welt.de/politik/ausland/article131363772/Der-Tag-an-dem-die-US-Polizei-mein-Feind-wurde.html:http://www.welt.de/politik/ausland/article131363772/Der-Tag-an-dem-die-US-Polizei-mein-Feind-wurde.html
[7] http://www.handelsblatt.com/politik/international/krawalle-in-ferguson-panzer-gegen-protestler/10356412.html:http://www.handelsblatt.com/politik/international/krawalle-in-ferguson-panzer-gegen-protestler/10356412.html
[8] http://www.cashkurs.com/kategorie/wirtschaftsfacts/: http://www.cashkurs.com/kategorie/wirtschaftsfacts/

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Overkill: How the Pentagon Militarized the US Police Force

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“Have no doubt, police in the United States are militarizing, and in many communities, particularly those of color, the message is being received loud and clear: ‘You are the enemy,’” writes Tom Nolan, who worked for 27 years in the Boston Police Department. “Many communities now look upon police as an occupying army, their streets more reminiscent of Baghdad or Kabul than a city in America.”
This is no coincidence; much of the equipment used by police forces on the streets of America today is in fact directly from the US military.
From a weaponization bonanza enabled by a little-known Pentagon program, to an escalation in SWAT team deployments, the militarization of the US police force poses an increasing threat to the American public, as recently exhibited in Ferguson, Missouri.
Behind this militarization is the Pentagon’s “1033 program,” created in the National Defense Authorization Act for 1997, which enables the Defense Department to provide surplus military equipment at a highly reduced cost to local police departments. The program was expanded after 9/11, and has led to the distribution of $4.2 billion in equipment. Police departments across the country now utilize some 500 military aircraft, 93,763 assault weapons and 432 Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected military vehicles – which cost around $700,000 new, and are being sold to police departments for as low as $2,800.
An example of the program cited by The Guardian pointed to a Richland County sheriff in South Carolina obtaining a tank with 360-degree rotating machine gun turrets. The tank was named “The Peacemaker.”
Such unnecessary equipment is being utilized in cities and small towns across the country without sufficient oversight, proper training, or public input.
Following the outcry over police violence in Ferguson, the Pentagon still maintains that the weapon-selling program is for the public good. As Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told Newsweek, “This is a useful program that allows for the reuse of military equipment that would otherwise be disposed of, that could be used by law enforcement agencies to serve their citizens.”
However, rather than serving citizens, this militarization of the police force has contributed to unnecessary violence, primarily against people of color and under the pretext of the so-called war on drugs.
In June of this year, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a comprehensive report entitled “War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing,” which concludes that the US police force has become “excessively militarized through the use of weapons and tactics designed for the battlefield” and that this alarming trend “unfairly impacts people of color and undermines individual liberties, and it has been allowed to happen in the absence of any meaningful public discussion.”
While this escalation is ostensibly aimed at protecting the population from violent threats, the ACLU found that 62% of the SWAT raids examined were used to search for drugs, while only 7% were used for “for hostages, barricade, or active shooter scenarios.”
The use of SWAT teams has been skyrocketing over the past 45 years, according to Professor Peter Kraska of Eastern Kentucky University’s School of Justice Studies. In the 1970s, they were used only a few hundred times a year; now they’re deployed about 50,000 times annually, Kraska estimates. In some cases, they’ve even been used to break up illegal poker games, unlicensed barber shops and under-age drinking. In the case of Jesus Llovera, a suspected organizer of cockfights in Maricopa County Arizona, in 2011 a SWAT team took over the man’s living room, and drove a tank into his yard, killing his dog and over 100 of his chickens.
Highlighting the fact that this militarization is part of a wider assault of people of color in America, Alex Kane points out in Alternet that this violence is tied to the “war on undocumented immigrants.” Kane cites the ACLU’s report on Arizona’s infamously anti-immigrant sheriff Joe Arpaio, who, in addition to acquiring five armored vehicles and ten helicopters, has “a machine gun so powerful it could tear through buildings on multiple city blocks.”
One step in the right direction following police violence in Ferguson would be to demilitarize the US police force. As an unnamed Ferguson resident recently told the BBC about his city’s police officers: “It’s power. They have the power, they feel we don’t. That’s why they do the things that they do. What they did to young Michael Brown, that’s unnecessary. That’s overkill.”

What You're Not Being Told About The Mike Brown Shooting

TEPCO WANTS TO DUMP RADIOACTIVE WATER INTO THE PACIFIC

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Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the embattled owner of Japan’s crippled nuclear reactors, has said it is running out of space to store water contaminated with radioactive materials and is proposing to treat the water and dump it in the Pacific Ocean.

Up until now, TEPCO has been storing radioactive water in giant storage tanks on the site of its Fukushima reactor. But groundwater continually flowing into the reactor site becomes contaminated as it does so. Containing and storing an ever-increasing volume of contaminated water is a bit like running on a treadmill – new groundwater becomes contaminated just as TEPCO succeeds in removing previously contaminated water. Meanwhile, the storage tanks multiply around the reactor complex.

In June, TEPCO began construction on what it hoped would be a more permanent solution – an “ice wall.” This is how it is supposed to work: TEPCO would insert 1,500 pipes into the ground around the damaged reactors. It would then flow liquid through the pipes at -30 degrees Celsius, which would freeze the soil. That way, as groundwater rushed downhill towards the complex, the ice wall would block the water from flowing underneath the plant.

Separately, TEPCO is trying to freeze the contaminated water that has leaked directly from the reactor buildings into underground trenches. In total, a staggering 11,000 metric tons of water containing substances like uranium and plutonium has accumulated. TEPCO has thus far failed to freeze the contaminated water, and had to resort to dumping ice onto the site in an effort to freeze the area.

Now the company has admitted that it can’t keep up. So it wants approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Authority to pump out the water, treat it, and begin dumping it into the Pacific.

“We know we have to get an agreement from the relevant government authorities, the prefecture and local fishing unions,” a TEPCO spokesman said recently.

But pushback from the public could present a problem. “We would never consider dumping the water into the ocean unless we received the consent of local residents,” the TEPCO official told Asahi Shimbun. “The water close to the plant buildings is already contaminated. Fishermen are sure to raise objections to the plan, so it will be difficult to gain their understanding.”

The Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) has been critical of the company for not solely focusing on the contaminated trench water – which it says should be the highest priority – but spending resources on issues with lower priority.

“The biggest risk is the trench water. Until that matter is addressed, it will be difficult to proceed with other decommissioning work,” Shunichi Tanaka, NRA chairman said at a news conference, according to the Wall Street Journal. “It appears that they are getting off track.”

Controlling, treating, storing, and disposing of contaminated water is the most critical task in the near-term. Even if that can be resolved, the next step will actually decommissioning the destroyed reactors – a colossal engineering challenge expected to take 40 years and cost over $15 billion. Nothing like it has ever been done before; indeed, the task is so unprecedented, it will require robotics that haven’t been invented yet.

But first, TEPCO has to find a place for its toxic water.

Ferguson, Missouri: War comes home

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On Wednesday, the people of the United States and the world were shocked by the images coming out of Ferguson, Missouri.
In response to the eruption of anger over the police murder of 18-year-old Michael Brown, the suburb of St. Louis was transformed into a war zone. SWAT teams decked out in battle fatigues and goggles descended on the city, wielding high-power shotguns and automatic rifles and driving armored attack vehicles. Peaceful protesters and journalists were confronted at gunpoint and attacked with tear gas, rubber bullets, rifle-fired bean bags and flash-bang grenades. The police imposed arbitrary curfews and issued dispersal orders without any legal basis.
The forces involved may technically be local police, but what they are engaged in is essentially a military occupation. They look like the military, act like the military and have close ties to the military. Not only have police been armed with military equipment, they have been given a new set of rules. They are being trained to employ the methods used by the US and its allies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Gaza and Ukraine.
The turning of Ferguson into an armed camp is not just about Ferguson. It is about the character of social and political relations in the United States as a whole. The veneer of democracy has been ripped away. This is what martial law looks like.
The events in one relatively small suburb of St. Louis have suddenly exposed the reality of what has taken shape in the United States over the past 15 years. Following the stolen election of 2000, the ruling class used the September 11, 2001 attacks and the “war on terror” as a pretext to eviscerate every basic democratic right.
The president declares the right to detain and even assassinate US citizens without due process. US spy agencies, in cooperation with the FBI and local police forces, monitor the political and social relations of every American.
These measures have been accompanied by the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security and the US Northern Command. The latter was set up in 2002 as the first ever command overseeing military operations within the US.
Planning for military operations within the United States are far advanced. As noted on the World Socialist Web Site Thursday, Pentagon strategy briefs on urban warfare include case studies for intervention in New York City. The principal “driver of instability” cited by the military is “radical income disparity,” a trigger for class conflict. Behind closed doors, there have been many discussions about the forms and mechanisms for full-scale military rule.
The United States is presided over by a vast and unaccountable military-intelligence-police apparatus that functions as the guardian of the social and political interests of a new aristocracy. The official political institutions are hollowed out shells without any mass social base.
All of this is overseen by a president who serves as a front-man for powerful corporate and financial interests. Five days after the murder of Brown, Obama was brought forward to deliver perfunctory remarks from Martha’s Vineyard, where he is vacationing.
Declaring that “Now’s the time for peace and calm on the streets of Ferguson,” Obama equated protests over the execution-style killing of an unarmed youth with a wave of police repression that has already resulted in the arrest of scores of people.
With the limitless hypocrisy that defines his administration, Obama urged everyone to “remember that we’re all part of one American family.” He continued: “We are united in common values, and that includes belief in equality under the law, basic respect for public order and the right to peaceful public protest, a reverence for the dignity of every single man, woman and child among us, and the need for accountability when it comes to our government.”
The reality of American life exposed by the events in Ferguson cannot be covered over by Obama’s honeyed phrases. There is not “one American family,” but a society riven by class divisions. There is no “equality under the law,” but rather one law for the rich and another for the poor.
Obama’s pretense of reverence for “the right to peaceful public protest” is belied by his expansion of the Pentagon’s multi-billion-dollar programs to militarize local police forces, including those in the metropolitan St. Louis region. The Ferguson police department is a participant in a federal program called 1033 that distributed $450 million in equipment to local police forces in 2013 alone.
As for government “accountability,” Obama heads a government that has carried out countless illegal activities—from wars of aggression to domestic spying and torture. There is no accountability for these crimes, nor for the looting of the economy carried out by the banks and major corporations.
Obama’s comments betrayed a high level of nervousness over the state of social relations in America. Nevertheless, he did not make a single reference to the desperate economic conditions that underlie the anger in Ferguson and throughout the country. Neither he nor any other representative of the American ruling class has anything to propose to address the growth of poverty, hunger and economic insecurity—except more repression.
America is on a knife-edge. Social tensions, long repressed, are beginning to take open and explosive forms, and the ruling class has taken off its gloves.
When the city of Boston was placed under virtual martial law following the Boston Marathon bombings last year, the World Socialist Web Sitewarned that a historical threshold had been crossed. The lockdown of the city “laid bare the modus operandi for the establishment of dictatorial forms of rule in the US,” the WSWS wrote.
There were perhaps some who thought this evaluation was an overreaction. Had things really gone so far? What has been demonstrated on the streets of Ferguson is that yes, indeed, they have.

Gaza, Ukraine and US preparations for urban warfare

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For more than a month, the world has watched in horror as the Israeli military has pounded the densely populated and impoverished territory of Gaza with bombs, missiles and shells, while deploying tens of thousands of troops against a trapped population. This sustained onslaught has killed nearly 2,000, wounded over 10,000 more and left nearly half a million people displaced by the massive destruction of homes and basic infrastructure.
While receiving far less media coverage, similar atrocities are unfolding in eastern Ukraine, where the US-backed Kiev regime has launched its military, with key support from autonomous fascist militias, in a savage siege of the major cities of Donetsk and Luhansk. The death toll there has doubled in the last two weeks, pegged by Wednesday’s exceedingly conservative United Nations estimate at 2,086, with at least 5,000 more confirmed wounded.
Here too hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee their homes in what is emerging as a deliberate campaign of ethnic cleansing by the right-wing nationalists in Kiev. And, as in Gaza, hospitals and schools have been shelled, killing patients and children.
Images from both Gaza and Ukraine of the lifeless and maimed bodies of children, of older men and women weeping beside the ruins of homes and apartment blocks, and of innocent men and women cut down by shrapnel while leaving their homes or going to find food or water for their families, have shocked and appalled working people all over the globe.
In other quarters, however, these events are being closely watched with dispassionate and professional interest.
This is the case in the offices of senior political and military figures in Berlin and other European capitals, which have backed the Kiev regime’s “anti-terrorist” campaign against the population of eastern Ukraine.
The governments of Europe have remained silent even as the media has been forced to admit that virtually the entire ground offensive in this war of repression is being carried out by far right and neo-Nazi militias. These include the Azov Battalion, which, as the Sunday Times of London notes “has as its symbol the wolf’s hook that was used by Nazi storm troopers and is now banned in Germany.”
By their own admission, these fascist militias have attracted neo-Nazi and white supremacist recruits from a number of other countries, including Sweden, Italy, France, Canada and Greece. While there has been a hue and cry about the alleged danger of European Islamists going to fight in Syria and then returning to Europe, no such concerns have been raised about those gaining combat experience in eastern Ukraine. Under conditions of rising social tensions on the continent, there is undoubtedly among some layers of Europe’s ruling elite a feeling that battle-hardened fascist thugs may prove useful in the not too distant future.
The closest attention to the events in Gaza and Ukraine, however, is being paid by the Pentagon, which is up to its elbows in blood in both of these wars. The US military has the closest relations with the Israel Defense Forces, which Washington funds to the tune of $3 billion annually.
The Pentagon recently asked Congress for another $19 million—on top of $23 million already allocated—to train and equip Ukrainian National Guard units. In the midst of the “anti-terror” offensive in the east of the country, the US military last month rushed a team of specialists in “strategy and policy” to Kiev to evaluate this bloody campaign.
Both of these conflicts provide real-life laboratories for what is increasingly a top priority of the Pentagon—the preparation of US forces for urban warfare.
As far as Israel goes, this is nothing new. In 2001, the US built an Urban Warfare Training facility for the IDF in the Negev desert at the cost of $266 million. The 7.4-square-mile simulated city is used for joint training exercises involving Israeli and US special forces units, who share techniques that they have learned, respectively, in Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon, and in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In Donetsk and Luhansk, the Pentagon is overseeing something that it views with even greater interest—a full-scale siege of a modern city and a center of the industrial working class of over a million people.
Combat in large cities is central to the military doctrine that is being developed by the US armed forces. This is spelled out in a document entitled “Megacities and the United States Army: Preparing for a complex and uncertain future,” which was released in June by the Army’s Strategic Studies Group and endorsed by its chief of staff, Gen. Raymond Odierno.
Predicting that it is “highly likely that megacities [described as metropolitan areas with populations of more than 10 million] will be the strategic key terrain in any future crisis that requires U.S. military intervention,” the report reveals that the Pentagon has conducted “case studies” and “field work” in preparation for such interventions in: Dhaka, Bangladesh; Lagos, Nigeria; Bangkok, Thailand; Mexico City, Mexico, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Brazil … and New York City.
Describing the conditions that it anticipates will require US military intervention, the report warns, “As inequality between rich and poor increases … Stagnation will coexist with unprecedented development, as slums and shanty towns rapidly expand alongside modern high-rises. This is the urban future.”
“Radical income disparity,” is further described as the foremost “driver of instability” in these far-flung urban areas.
In other words, the Pentagon brass is seeking to prepare the US military for directly counterrevolutionary interventions aimed at quelling popular revolts that it sees as the inevitable consequence of the unprecedented social inequality created by world capitalism in crisis.
The inclusion of New York City in its “case studies” serves to make explicit that these preparations are directed at revolutionary developments not only in Africa, Asia, the Middle East or Latin America, but most critically within the United States itself.
This goal of preparing the US military to suppress popular rebellion inside the US has also been pursued with a series of provocative “urban warfare training” exercises conducted in major US cities in recent years. There was also the opening earlier this year in Virginia of a US Army Asymmetric Warfare Group training center that consists of a mock American town, replete with office buildings, a church, a sports stadium, a subway stop and a train station. The Army said that the $96 million center is designed to realistically “replicate complex operational environments and develop solutions.”
The Pentagon’s preparations go hand-in-hand with the militarization of supposedly civilian police forces, which are almost universally outfitted with SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) squads armed to the teeth for modern warfare, like those deployed against St. Louis residents protesting the police murder of Michael Brown.
The slaughter in Gaza and Ukraine represents a warning to the working class in the US and all over the world. The same financial and corporate oligarchy that supports these wars is prepared to employ murderous violence to defend its system against a revolutionary challenge from the working class.
It is clear that the ruling classes and their military commands are getting ready for such an eventuality. The working class must prepare itself accordingly.

The New Global Finance Capital Elite

Go To Original
A practice and loophole that emerged around 2008, US corporate tax ‘inversions’—the latest version in a long list of US transnational corporation tax scams—have taken off in 2014. A tax inversion is set in motion when a US based corporation buys another company offshore and then manipulates the tax codes of both countries to extract the greatest net tax reduction. The United Kingdom, Ireland, Switzerland and others are favorite locales for ‘inversions’ of late.  And US corporations and industries at the forefront of this new wave are typically pharmaceutical, technology, cable tv, entertainment, medical equipment, finance, and related retail companies—with many others waiting in the wings as well.
Briefly, here’s how it works: After purchasing an offshore company, the US company then designates its global headquarters as located in the new country of its purchase. With its headquarters now outside the US, the company can now transfer profits made in the USA, via various ‘intra-company price transfer’ tricks, to the foreign based headquarters and country where effective tax rates are lower and where various US tax code offshore loopholes are available to US transnational corporations.  The US purchasing company can also transfer its offshore debt from the purchased company to its US operations in turn. The higher debt and resulting higher interest payments on that debt are deductible from US corporate taxes, according to US tax law. The ‘inversion’ deal thus provides a double tax cut advantage to the US corporation. But that’s only the beginning.
The gains to be realized are not only from US tax code manipulation by the purchasing non-financial corporation. Shadow bankers and their financial speculators (i.e. hedge funds, private equity firms, investment banks, insurance companies, etc.) are also big beneficiaries of the Merger & Acquisition process at the heart of what appears on the surface, in the case of the tax inversion, as ‘just’ another transnational US corporate tax scam.
Lower taxes for the US corporation from the inversion means more retained corporate cash on hand, and the prospect of more future earnings as well, all of which in turn drives up the company’s stock price. That makes the company even more attractive to investors like hedge funds and equity firms, which buy up big blocks of both the purchasing and purchased companies’ stock. Banks and shadow bankers that jump into the process at the outset, buying up company stock in the process, also provide original funding for the company’s purchase. Others jump into the stock as the acquisition deal proceeds. Once concluded, early and latecomers both then reap a nice capital gain from the eventual stock price appreciation that almost always follows the deal.
So the profits gained are not just from tax reduction for the US purchasing company, but are financial and related to asset price speculation associated with the ‘tax inversion’ process and acquisition itself.
The practice of inversions gained public attention earlier this year with the US drug giant, Pfizer, attempting to purchase the UK drug firm, Astrazeneca. Pfizer offered more than $69 billion to purchase Astrazeneca, but was rebuffed by the latter’s shareholders, who wanted even more.
The key role of hedge funds and shadow bankers in the Pfizer-Astrazeneca deal was clearly evident from the start, since Pfizer did not put up the lion’s share of its $69 billion offer for Astrazeneca from its own retained cash. The big block of financing was to come from its hedge funds and other shadow banker partners and outside investors.
In many cases hedge funds (aka Vulture Funds) and other shadow bankers are the initiators and instigators behind the acquisition. They are at the forefront, prodding US corporation managements to ‘invert’.  A good example is the recent case of Walgreen, the US drug retailer.  Its major investor, the hedge fund, Jana Partners LLC, pushed hard for Walgreen to move its headquarters to Switzerland or the UK. This kind of pressure from funds like Jana Partners makes it difficult for corporate CEOs to resist, since the hedge fund can always turn to the company’s stockholders and have them put pressure on the management to do the deal, if they don’t want to deal with a stockholder ‘revolt’ and want to keep their corporate jobs.  Major stockholders see the opportunity for significant capital gains from stock appreciation in tax inversion deals, and together with the Hedge Funds demand that management undertake the corporate purchase and headquarters relocation.
In other words, while it appears that corporations gain at the public taxpayer expense through corporate tax reduction—which they clearly do—even greater gains come from financial speculation that benefit investors, big shareholders, and senior management of the purchasing company as well.
In the Walgreen case, last week it was announced that Walgreen was backing off the purchase—for now. The timing was not right, apparently, coming just before a midterm election in the US for a company dependent on US government subsidies to its customers with which to buy its drugs. But the hesitation by Walgreen is probably temporary, to resume after the November elections when the ‘tax inversion’ loophole gets addressed in comprehensive US corporate tax revision legislation that US corporations have been demanding of the Obama administration and Congress for several years now.
Corporate managers as well as hedge fund speculators benefit nicely from tax inversions. They are typically offered a ‘sweet incentive’ by their hedge fund investors and other big shareholders to do an inversion deal. So it’s not just the possible threat of a stockholder revolt, instigated by the company’s in house big fund investors, that incentivizes more corporate managers to jump on the tax inversion bandwagon. Senior managers stand to gain greatly as well from stock price appreciation in the wake of the deals.  Often their personal income tax bill from selling their own personal stock holdings after the company’s stock price rises from the deal is covered by their companies. Their own personal capital gains from the deals is often ‘grossed up’ by their company (i.e. paid for out of the company’s earnings) as part of the deal.
So all levels of financial speculators benefit from these ‘inversion’ deals—shadow bank investors, hedge fund managers, big stockholders, and top corporate managers with significant stock holdings and compensation—all realize big capital gains from stock price manipulation that is at the core of tax inversion deals. Again, it is not just about tax avoidance; it is about stock price manipulation and huge capital gains. Long term the benefits for the company may be from corporate tax reduction; but short term the big speculative profits rip-off is from engineering stock speculation and other forms of financial manipulation.
In the past year there has emerged a veritable ‘wave’ of corporate inversion deals erupting.  And the potential loss to US corporate tax revenue, should the trend continue, is considered significant by many estimates.  The Obama administration this past summer raised the possibility it may support legislation to curb the practice.  But the political outlook of such before the midterm elections in November 2014 is practically nil, so far as passage of legislation to check the trend is concerned.  While bills have been introduced earlier this year by a few liberal Senators, the Obama administration so far has been mostly just talking about supporting such legislation, or offering proposals tweaking the requirements for allowing inversions, not actually preventing them.  What’s going on politically in the administration and Congress is therefore just ‘grandstanding’ to make it appear they are concerned. Nothing will happen before the November midterm elections.
Political elements of both parties in the USA are eyeing the period after the election, during which the US tax code and general corporate tax revisions and cuts will be taken up.  An institutionalizing of rules governing corporate tax inversions going forward will undoubtedly be part of that comprehensive corporate tax revision. Tax inversions are not going away; they have only just begun.
The ‘inversion’ trend is another example of the growing dominance of the global finance capitalist elite, who are deeply entrenched in the USA and UK in particular, but worldwide growing in terms of numbers and absolute wealth as well.
This elite is deepening its control of nonfinancial companies and are increasingly directing those companies increasingly toward profits growth from financial manipulation as the primary corporate activity—in this case ‘inversions’ and corporate mergers and acquisitions activity.
Instead of making profits by making real things that require real investment and the employ real people, the focus of global capitalism is increasingly toward more financial asset investment—i.e. investment that produces even quicker, more lucrative profits growth than old fashioned ‘real’ investment that makes things that creates jobs and income for people to buy the things.
Global capitalism is growing progressively less interested in making things for profit than it is in generating forms of money capital as profit. Those engaged in financial asset investment (i.e. financial elite) are therefore accruing an ever larger share of global income and wealth for themselves, while those who were once participating in investment producing goods are finding their share of income in steady relative decline.
Global shadow banks now control more than $70 trillion in investible assets, according to such ‘radical’ sources as the Financial Times global periodical. And very high net worth investors, about 200,000 individuals worldwide with annual income flows of $30 million or more from existing assets—i.e. the new global finance capital elite—now own close to half of that $70 trillion in investible assets. And their assets are projected to rise another $10 trillion by 2017.
Inversions’ and related M&A activity are but one example of a growing emphasis of global capitalism on financial forms of speculative ‘investment’ in the 21st century. Inversions are but the latest example of this global relative shift toward financial speculative investing.
The growing shift by non-financial corporations toward ‘portfolio’ investing; the growing trend toward speculating in M&A, derivatives, old and new forms of bonds, dark pools of stocks, and other proliferating forms of securitized financial securities; the explosive growth of shadow banking institutions worldwide; the spread of liquid financial markets in which to speculate; and the accelerating ranks and assets of very high net worth investors worldwide—two third of whom are located in the US and Europe—are all examples of the new trends in 21st century global capitalism as it shifts toward greater reliance on financial profit making.
US politicians will not only fail to stop inversions, but following the November 2014 midterm elections, watch for both wings of the US Corporate Party in the USA to come together and legislate a new comprehensive corporate tax cut.  Included in that new code will be new terms governing future global corporate tax inversions—as well as a likely major reduction in the official US corporate tax rate to 28% or less that has been promised by both Obama and the Republicans for the past two years but has been postponed until the coming November midterm elections.