Sunday, April 5, 2015

Bernie Sanders: 'This Country Belongs to All of Us, Not Just the Billionaire Class'

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The good news is that the economy today is much better than it was six years ago when George W. Bush left office. The bad news is that, despite these improvements, the 40-year decline of the American middle class continues. Real unemployment is much too high, 35 million Americans continue to have no health insurance and more of our friends and neighbors are living in poverty than at almost any time in the modern history of our country.

Meanwhile, as the rich become much richer, the level of income and wealth inequality has reached obscene and unimaginable levels. In the United States, we have the most unequal level of wealth and income distribution of any major country on earth, and worse now than at any other time since the 1920s. Today, the top one-tenth of 1 percent of our nation owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, and one family owns more wealth than the bottom 42 percent. In terms of income, 99 percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent.

This is what a rigged economic system looks like. At a time when millions of American workers have seen declines in their incomes and are working longer hours for lower wages, the wealth of the billionaire class is soaring in a way that few can imagine. If you can believe it, between 2013 and 2015, the 14 wealthiest individuals in the country saw their net worth increase by over $157 billion dollars. Children go hungry, veterans sleep out on the streets, senior citizens cannot afford their prescription drugs -- and 14 individuals saw a $157 billion dollar increase in their wealth over a two-year period.

The grotesque level of income and wealth inequality we are experiencing is not just a moral and economic issue, it is a political issue as well. As a result of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, billionaires are now able to spend unlimited sums of money to buy the candidates they want. The Koch brothers, an extreme right-wing family, recently announced that they were prepared to spend some $900 million in the next election cycle. This is likely more money than either the Democratic or Republican parties will spend. If you think that it is an accident that the Republican Party has become a far-right party, think again. The Koch brothers' agenda -- ending Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the U.S. Postal Service, the Environmental Protection Agency and all campaign finance limitations -- has become the agenda of the Republican candidates they fund.

And, by the way, if you think that the Republican Party's refusal to acknowledge that climate change is real, is caused by human activity and is a severe threat to our planet, is not related to how we finance campaigns, you would be sorely mistaken. With the Koch brothers (who make much of their money in the fossil fuel industry) and big energy companies strongly supporting Republican candidates, it should not surprise anyone that my Republican colleagues reject the views of the overwhelming majority of scientists who study climate issues.

With Republicans now controlling both houses of Congress, let me briefly touch on some of the battles that I will be helping to lead in this extreme right-wing environment. In my view, with so many of our fellow citizens demoralized about the political process, it is absolutely imperative that we establish a strong progressive agenda that Americans can rally around. It must be an agenda that reflects the real needs of the working families of our country. It must be an agenda that engages people in a political struggle that they are prepared to fight for.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs: The truth is that real unemployment in our country is not the "official" and widely-reported 5.5 percent. Counting those who are under-employed and those who have given up looking for work, real unemployment is 11 percent. Even more disturbingly, youth unemployment is close to 17 percent and African-American youth unemployment is much higher than that.

If we are truly serious about reversing the decline of the middle class and putting millions of people back to work, we need a major federal jobs program. There are a number of approaches which can be taken, but the fastest way to create jobs is to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure -- roads, bridges, dams, levees, airports, rail, water systems and wastewater plants.

In that regard, I have introduced legislation which would invest $1 trillion over 5 years to modernize our country's physical infrastructure. This legislation would create and maintain at least 13 million good-paying jobs. It would also make our country more productive, efficient and safe.

I will also continue my opposition to our current trade policies and vote against fast tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Simply put, our trade policies have failed. Permanent normal trade relations with China have led to the loss of more than 3.2 million American jobs. The North American Free Trade Agreement has led to the loss of nearly 1 million jobs. The Korean Free Trade Agreement has led to the loss of some 60,000 jobs.

We have got to fundamentally rewrite our trade rules so that American jobs are no longer our No.1 export. Corporate America must start investing in this country, not China.

As we struggle for decent-paying jobs, we must also rebuild the trade union movement. Throughout the country, millions of workers want to join unions but are meeting fierce opposition from their employers. We need legislation that makes it easier, not harder, for unions to flourish.

Raising Wages: Today, millions of Americans are working for starvation wages. The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is totally inadequate. In fact, the real value of today's minimum wage has declined by one-third since 1968. By raising the minimum wage to a living wage we can provide an increase in income for those people who need it the most. Our goal must be that no full-time worker in this country lives in poverty.

We must also bring about pay equity. There is no rational reason why women should be earning 78 cents on the dollar compared to men who perform the same work.

Further, we have got to expand overtime protections for millions of workers. It is absurd that "supervisors" who earn $25,000 a year are currently forced to work 50 or 60 hours a week with no overtime pay. Raising the income threshold to at least $56,680 from the absurdly low level of $23,660 a year for overtime will mean increased income for many millions of salaried workers.

Addressing Wealth and Income Inequality: Today the richest 400 Americans own more than $2.3 trillion in wealth, more than the bottom 150 million Americans combined. Meanwhile, nearly half of Americans have less than $10,000 in savings and have no idea how they will be able to retire with dignity.

We need real tax reform which makes the rich and profitable corporations begin to pay their fair share of taxes. It is absurd that in 1952 corporate income taxes provided 32 percent of federal revenue while in 2014 they provided 11 percent. It is scandalous that major profitable corporations like General Electric, Verizon, Citigroup and JP Morgan have, in a given recent year, paid nothing in federal income taxes. It is fiscally irresponsible that the U.S. Treasury loses about $100 billion a year because corporations and the rich stash their profits in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and other tax havens.

Warren Buffett is honest. He has pointed out the unfairness of him, a multi-billionaire, paying a lower effective tax rate than his secretary. It is disgraceful that millionaire hedge fund managers are able to pay lower tax effective tax rates than truck drivers or nurses because they take advantage of a variety of loopholes that their lobbyists wrote.

This must end. We need a tax system which is fair and progressive. Children should not go hungry in this country while profitable corporations and the wealthy avoid their tax responsibilities.

Reversing Climate Change: The United States must lead the world in reversing climate change and make certain that this planet is habitable for our children and grandchildren. We must transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energies. Millions of homes and buildings need to be weatherized, our transportation system needs to be energy efficient and we need to greatly accelerate the progress we are already seeing in wind, solar, geothermal and other forms of sustainable energy. Transforming our energy system will not only protect the environment, it will create good-paying jobs.

Health Care for All: The United States remains the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care for all as a right. Despite the modest gains of the Affordable Care Act, 35 million Americans continue to lack health insurance and many more are under-insured. Yet, we continue paying far more per capita for health care than any other nation. The United States must move toward a Medicare-for-All single-payer system.

Protecting Our Most Vulnerable: Today the United States has more people living in poverty than at almost any time in the modern history of our country. We have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major nation, 35 million Americans still lack health insurance and millions of seniors and disabled people struggle to put food on the table because of insufficient Social Security benefits.

The Republican response to the economic pain of so many of our people was to make a bad situation much worse. The recently-passed Republican budget throws 27 million Americans off of health insurance, cuts Medicare, makes huge cuts to nutrition and makes it harder for working class families to afford college or put their kids in the Head Start program.

In my view, we have a moral responsibility to make certain that no American goes hungry or sleeps out on the streets. We must also make certain that seniors and people with disabilities can live in dignity. Not only must we vigorously oppose Republican attacks on the social safety net, we must expand benefits for those in need. That is why I have recently introduced legislation which would increase the solvency of Social Security until 2065, while expanding benefits for those who need them the most.

Making College Affordable for All: We live in a highly competitive global economy. If this country is to do well economically, we need to have the best-educated workforce in the world. Yet today many Americans cannot get a higher education, not because they are unqualified, but because they simply cannot afford it. Millions of others who do graduate from college or graduate school are drowning in debt. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the total amount of outstanding student loan debt in the United States has tripled in the last 10 years, and has now reached $1.2 trillion.

The United States must join many other countries in understanding that investing in our young people's education is investing in the future of our nation. I will soon be introducing legislation to make tuition in public colleges and universities free, as well as substantially lower interest rates on student loans.

And these are just SOME of the issues we are dealing with.

Let me conclude this letter by stating the obvious. This country is in serious trouble. Our economic system benefits the rich and large corporations and leaves working families behind. Our political system is dominated by billionaire campaign contributors and their lobbyists and is moving us in the direction of oligarchy. Our media system, owned by the corporate world, spends enormous time and energy diverting our attention away from the most important issues facing us. Climate change threatens the planet and we have a major political party denying its reality.

Clearly, the struggle to create a nation and world of economic and social justice and environmental sanity is not an easy one. But this I know: despair is not an option if we care about our kids and grandchildren. Giving up is not an option if we want to prevent irreparable harm to our planet.

We must stand up and fight back. We must launch a political revolution which engages millions of Americans from all walks of life in the struggle for real change. This country belongs to all of us, not just the billionaire class.

Please join the grass-roots revolution that we desperately need.

TEPCO Under Fire after Hiding Massive Radioactive Waste Leak at Fukushima for a Full Year

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A major bombshell has dropped concerning the failed cleanup efforts at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. The shuttered plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), has apparently been hiding for an entire year the fact that radioactive waste has been quietly pouring into the ocean from an onsite drainage ditch.
Sputnik News reports that TEPCO, which is also managing remediation efforts at the site (with guidance from the Japanese government), concealed from the public the fact that highly contaminated radioactive water has been flowing from the drainage ditch directly into the ocean. Local fishermen and others have since expressed outrage over the news.
“I don’t understand why you (TEPCO) kept silent about the leakage even though you knew about it,” stated Masakazu Yabuki, chief of the Iwaki fisheries cooperative, according to Sputnik. “Fishery operators are absolutely shocked.”
The news comes as TEPCO continues to sustain criticism over the way it’s handled cleanup efforts since the 2011 tsunami and earthquake took their toll. In recent months, TEPCO has been exposed for attempting to cover up the fact that U.S. Navy sailors were exposed to harmful radiation, as well as concealing true levels of radioactive waste releases into the Pacific Ocean.
And this latest revelation only reiterates TEPCO’s tarnished legacy, proving that the company can’t be trusted with adequately addressing the looming problems that are still present at Fukushima more than four years since the disaster occurred.
“This was part of an ongoing investigation in which we discovered a water puddle with high levels of radiation on top of the Reactor No. 2 building,” contended a TEPCO spokesman as to why the company delayed reporting the leak, adding that “because this also happens to be one of the sources for this drainage system, we decided to report everything all at once.”
Promises that Fukushima radiation is “under control” broken; TEPCO still sponsoring 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo
Since samples of ocean water collected from near the drainage pipe allegedly didn’t show any “substantial” radioactive spikes, TEPCO claims that it didn’t feel the need to report the leak, at least until now. This, as the company struggles to continue building radioactive waste storage tanks onsite at the plant to address the never-ending stream of waste pouring from the failed reactor buildings.
As you may recall from back in September 2013, when Tokyo was announced to be the site of the 2020 Summer Olympics, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised the International Olympic Committee and the world that all radiation leaks at Fukushima were “under control.” TEPCO was also named to be the primary sponsor for the Olympic Games.
But this latest disclosure proves that this simply isn’t the case, regardless of whether or not this latest leak situation violates the regulations set forth by the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (which TEPCO claims it doesn’t).
“The trust of the people in Fukushima is the most important thing” to us, explained a company spokesperson in an apology. “We’ve been working with that in mind, but unfortunately, we have damaged that trust this time.”
Meanwhile, a major investigation is currently underway to assess how Fukushima radiation, as it continues to make it’s way into soil, water and eventually into food, is affecting the safety of what people are eating both in Japan and abroad. More on this is available in a recent report published in Nature:
Nature.com.
Sources for this article include:

Americans Not In The Labor Force Soar To Record 93.2 Million As Participation Rate Drops To February 1978 Levels

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So much for yet another "above consensus" recovery, and what's worse it is, well, about to get even worse, because while the Fed keeps baning some illusory drum that slack in the economy is almost non-existent, the reality is that in March the number of people who dropped out of the labor force rose by yet another 277K, up 2.1 million in the past year, and has reached a record 93.175 million.
Indicatively, this means that the labor force participation rate dropped once more, from 62.8% to 62.7%, a level seen back in February 1978, even as the BLS reported that the entire labor forceactually declined for the second consecutive month, down almost 100K in March to 156,906.

Why is this important? Because as long as the true employment rate, that of the civilian employment to total population, remains at depression levels, there will be no incrases in average hourly earnings.

Can Evil Be Defeated

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John W. Whitehead is a constitutional attorney. As head of the Rutherford Institute he is actively involved in defending our civil liberties. Being actively involved in legal cases, he experiences first hand the transformation of law from a shield of the American people into a weapon in the hands of the government.

American civil liberty was seriously eroded prior to 9/11 and the rise of the police/warfare state, a story I tell in How America Was Lost[1]. Lawrence Stratton and I documented the loss of law as a shield of the American people in our book, The Tyranny of Good Intentions[2] (2000, 2008). Whitehead in his book, A Government of Wolves [3] (2013) and in his just released Battlefield America [4] (2015) shows how quickly and thoroughly the police state has taken root.

We live in an electronic concentration camp. We are addicted to images on screens that disinform and propagandize us to accept and even welcome the police state activities that have destroyed our autonomy, privacy, and independence.

I write many columns on this subject. The advantage of a book is that it all comes together under one cover, and that is what Whitehead has done in Battlefield America.

“The outlook for civil liberties grows bleaker by the day, from the government’s embrace of indefinite detention for US citizens and armed surveillance drones flying overhead to warrantless surveillance of phone, email and Internet communications, and prosecutions of government whistle-blowers. The homeland is ruled by a police-industrial complex, an extension of the American military empire. Everything that our founding fathers warned against is now the new norm. The government has trained its sights on the American people. We have become the enemy. All the while, the American people remain largely oblivious.”

Whitehead gives it to us straight. We are continually abused in the name of protecting us. Ordinary Americans are subject to far worst abuse from government than they ever could be from criminals and terrorists, both of which are bogymen used to justify the government’s terrorism of the citizenry.

Four-year old children are handcuffed by police. Ninety-five year old citizens with walkers are body-slammed with their neck broken by police. War veterans without legs and wheelchair bound are shot and murdered by police. The police always justify their abuse and criminal acts by claiming they felt threatened. What kind of heavily armed police, usually together in gangs, is threatened by a four-year old, a 95-year old, a double amputee? The fact that police get away with this brutality shows their total lack of humanity and the total transformation of the purpose of police. Today a paranoid police protect not the public but the police state and themselves from an imaginary threatening public. We pay them to abuse and murder us.

On September 6, 7, and 8, 2014, the Washington Post reported that state and local police had become bandits, as in Mexico, who stop drivers in order to rob them. In “Stop and Seize [5],” the Washington Post reported that “aggressive police take hundreds of millions of dollars from motorists not charged with crimes.”

There are now training [6] courses in which police are trained in the art of highway robbery. September 11, 2001, was used to create an industry that trains police in the aggressive techniques of highway interdiction. It is now routine for a traffic stop, whether justified or not, to result in the confiscation of your cash, other possessions, and your car itself. You can be robbed [7] by police on the basis of their assumptions without being ticketed or charged with a crime.

Whitehead reports that in fiscal year 2012 the federal government alone seized $4.2 billion in assets despite the fact that in 80 percent of the cases no charge was issued.

Did you know that the school security industry is a $4.9 billion annual business that instills in youth acceptance of tyranny and punishments for infractions that are simply the normal behavior of youth?

Did you know that in 2006 a Halliburton subsidiary, Dick Cheney’s firm, was awarded a $385 million federal contract to build concentration camps in the US?

Did you know that Republicans have privatized the prison system and turned it into a $70 billion per year industry that demands ever more incarceration of citizens in order to drive profits. Consequently, 2.7 million American children now have at least one parent in prison, often on charges that would not constitute crimes in a civilized country.

US prison labor is now the cheapest form of labor available with prisoners paid between 93 cents and $4.73 per day. Prisoners make office furniture, work in call centers, fabricate body armor, take hotel reservations, work in slaughterhouses, manufacture textiles, shoes, and clothing, process agricultural products like milk and beef, package Starbucks coffee, shrink wrap software for Microsoft, sew lingerie for Victoria’s Secret, produce the military’s helmets, shirts, pants, tents, bags, canteens, and a variety of other equipment, make circuit boards for IBM, Texas Instruments and Dell. Sew McDonald’s uniforms, and perform labor services for Boeing, Motorola, Compaq, Revlon and Kmart.

Even the “mainstream” presstitute media has reported the US military drills in South Florida where military teams working with local police practiced rounding up American citizens for detention. The media has also reported the upcoming military occupations in Texas and Utah. There are protests but not on the level that a people conscious of the threat to their liberty would mount.

It seems clear that these are federal troops practicing control of the population which is being stripped of the constitutional right to hold government accountable. The pointless lockdown of Boston and its suburbs and the gratuitous house to house searches, a martial law exercise clearly prepared prior to the Boston Marathon Bombing, used fear created by the bombing, possibly a false flag operation, to teach the population compliance with, and acceptance of, martial law. The insouciant American population went along with it. If someone points out how they were manipulated, the fools scream “conspiracy theorist.”

The official explanation of the military exercises practicing population control in South Florida, Texas and Utah is that the military is practicing for overseas actions. Why then are local police involved? More likely we are witnessing drills described in the US Army’s 2010 publication, “Internment and Resettlement Operations.”

It is now routine for police to amuse themselves by carrying out strip searches and vaginal searches of women. Police go out of their way to provoke resistance so that they can beat, taser, and murder. If they can’t provoke it, they beat, taser, and murder anyway and claim their victim resisted arrest or threatened them. Have you noticed how the police find everyone threatening?

Whitehead shows that the educational system, entertainment, and television serve to indoctrinate and teach compliance. Television can do more than form public opinion. It is used to alter the worldview of the population. Our cars, household appliances, and smart homes are becoming devices designed to spy on us and report noncompliance. A society is being created in which there can be no autonomy and no freedom.

The technology that permits the electronic concentration camp is produced by thoughtless people who have no concern for liberty. How, Whitehead asks, do we maintain our humanity in the face of technologies designed to dehumanize us?

America now has preemptive prosecution. Whitehead reports that 95 percent of those convicted of terrorism between 2001 and 2010 were prosecuted not for deeds, but for beliefs, ideology, or religious affiliations.

The two most engaging chapters in Battleground America are “The Matrix” and “The Posthuman Era,” together a mere 17 pages. The fusion of machines with humans to which trans-humanists are committed will destroy human sensibility, memory, and morality, and probably humans themselves.

Corporate America is in it for the money. Whitehead tells us: “With every smartphone we buy, every GPS device we install, and every Twitter, Facebook, and Google account we open, we’re helping Corporate America build a dossier for its government counterparts on who we know, what we think, how we spend our money, and how we spend our time.”

Whitehead quotes Bill Joy, a cofounder of Sun Microsystems: “I think it is no exaggeration to say we are on the cusp of the further perfection of evil.”

Jim Edwards says, “we humans are now data bits.”

In the penultimate chapter, Whitehead tells us what we can do, a question that I am forever asked by readers. Whitehead says that armed revolt is not an option. He believes that the tens of millions, perhaps 100 million, Americans who have pistols, rifles, and shotguns are not only unorganized, but outgunned. The 21st century has been used to militarize state and local police forces and to brutalize their attitude toward the American public. Even police in small towns now have helicopters, armored personnel carriers, tanks, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, drones, night vision, heat sensors, sensors that can see through the walls of houses and into cars.

If this is not enough, in comes the National Guard or federal troops, Army Rangers, Navy Seals. Or simply the release of germs. Washington can deal with its citizens the same way it dealt with the indigenous peoples we call Indians. Washington has retained in its hands live smallpox, a deadly killer, and there now have been several generations of Americans who have not had smallpox vaccination, because the disease was eliminated by vaccination. All the government has to do is to release smallpox on resistant populations, and, of course, the government has numerous other such means.

How did it come to this?

In my opinion, as I so often write, Americans are distracted by sex, entertainment, the difficulty of providing for themselves and for families. They are locked into the disinformation that sustains the American Matrix, blinded by their patriotism and the 4th of July speeches and by their indoctrination that Americans are “exceptional and indispensable.” And, of course, by their ignorance and arrogance. Americans simply have no clue.

The purpose of the evil that masquerades as a government in Washington is to prevent those few Americans who do have a clue from informing the rest of the population. Whistleblowers are arrested and falsely prosecuted and imprisoned. Journalists have been intimidated into silence.

Now, to Whitehead’s answer to what can we do. He says that we can mount “militant nonviolent resistance.” This worked for Christians in the decomposing Roman Empire.

It worked for Mahatma Gandhi in India against the British colonialists. It was working for Martin Luther King in America before he was assassinated, most likely by the FBI.

Whitehead says that the mass of the citizenry cannot be assassinated. If citizens simply stop cooperating by listening to the lies on TV, by purchasing the devices used to control them, by amusing themselves in front of propaganda screens, by learning again how to think, how to be human, how to be moral, the American police state can be defeated.

It worked in the past, and possibly it can work again. If not, Washington will remain the home of Sauron, a threat to every American citizen and to the entire world.

China Targets Dollar, Washington Has Conniptions

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Now even Israel – joined at the hip to the US though the relationship has run into rough waters – has applied to become a founding member of the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Despite US gyrations to keep them from it, over 40 countries, including bosom buddies Australia, Britain, and Germany, have signed up to join. Japan is still wavering politely.

The US government sees the China-dominated AIIB as competition to the US-dominated World Bank and Asian Development Bank. But now that it is clear even to the White House that the US can’t stop the tide, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew backpedaled vigorously on Tuesday. The government would welcome the AIIB, he suddenly said, as long as certain conditions are met, such as adequate transparency.

So after this bruising setback, the US now has another opportunity to oppose China’s financial and monetary ambitions.

China is trying to get the IMF to bestow reserve currency status on the yuan, which would add the yuan to a glorious basket that includes the dollar and the euro – currently the dominant reserve currencies with a 63% and 22% share respectively. So it has been lobbying core members of the IMF behind the scenes for support, and they’re coming around despite US conniptions, the Wall Street Journal reported.

China also wants the yuan to become part of the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights “in the foreseeable future,” Yi Gang, Director of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange and Deputy Governor of the People’s Bank of China, pointed out a couple of weeks ago. With the yuan, SDRs – which currently include only the dollar, the euro, the yen, and the British pound – would “undoubtedly” be more “representative” of the global economic landscape, Yi said.

Numerous countries are already publicly supporting the yuan as a payment currency. Excluding transactions between China and Hong Kong, the yuan’s use as payment currency is still tiny and edged down last year, handicapped also by China’s restrictions on capital flows. But hey, those are minor details. By now, there are 15 yuan clearing centers around the world, including in London, Frankfurt, Paris, and Luxembourg.

And oops, the rebellious city of Los Angeles, in the rebellious state of California, has signed such a deal with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China late last year, without apparently asking distant Washington for permission. So this is happening, whether the US government wants it or not.

And 20 central banks, once again including US allies Australia and the UK, have inked $430 billion in currency-swap agreements with China.

Baby steps, all of them, but part of a slow, methodical, relentless process of elevating the yuan and whittling away at the power of the dollar – and by extension, the power of the long arm of the US government.

More immediately, all these efforts contribute to making the yuan “freely useable,” which is what a currency must be in the eyes of the IMF in order to qualify as a reserve currency. And the IMF’s executive board will rule later this year on the yuan’s reserve currency status. Hence China’s intense lobbying.

The governments of Germany and Australia have already indicated that they would support the yuan as a reserve currency; other countries that support the yuan as a trading currency are expected to do the same.

It would be a huge win for China. Central banks around the globe would start buying the yuan, necessarily at the expense of other currencies, including the dollar. It would create demand for the yuan. It would raise China’s profile on the global stage. It would, in fact, bring China one step closer to being a full-fledged economic, financial, and political challenger to the US in a US-dominated system.

The US government has been, let’s say, lukewarm in its support for the idea. And it’s fighting back. To truly internationalize the yuan, China would need to first implement “a more market-determined exchange rate, interest-rate liberalization as well as strengthening of financial regulation and supervision,” Lew said.

These three items are where the Fed excels: It has manipulated the exchange rate of the dollar for decades; it has repressed interest rates to near zero for over six years; and it has abysmally failed “financial regulations and supervision,” as the Financial Crisis has amply demonstrated. So Lew’s concerns are baffling. Unless they’re a pretext, in which case they’re not baffling.

But US opposition at the IMF could still be difficult to overcome: the US has nearly 18% of the vote, as opposed to China, the second largest economy, which has a puny 3.8% of the vote. With the odds stacked against it, China would have to get the support of a lot of other countries.

The US is trying to leverage its power at the IMF to get China to reform its financial sector and liberalize its financial markets, though it remains unclear if the US’s manipulated financial markets and a financial sector gone haywire under the direct supervision and encouragement of the Fed make such a great model for China to follow.

Despite these US conniptions, the writing is on the wall, at least for the long term. IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde summarized it last week while in China: The yuan as a reserve currency, she said, is more a matter of when, not if.

For China, it’s part of a long-term strategy, and not dependent on the next election cycle: reign in the power of the dollar – and the benefits it conveys to the US – by elevating the yuan and transferring some of those benefits to China. It won’t happen on a straight line. A “hard landing” or the outright implosion of the China bubble would be one of the zigzags along the way. But it will happen, and the US government is only able to slow down the process.

After six years of reckless monetary policies around the globe, asset bubbles have been inflated nearly everywhere, though no top banker is allowed to admit it in public. But this bank CEO must have accidently veered off script during the press conference. Read…  “The Mother of All Bubbles” in Stocks and Bonds: Bank CEO

Debt Default, “Chain Reactions” and the Financial Stage of US-led Wars

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It is pretty much a given that we are living the end times of a three ring financial circus.  If you doubt this, only a small amount of research on your part will confirm this.  The odds in my opinion are quite high that we will witness some sort of military confrontation as usually occurs when business deals go bad. 
The three leading acts today are Greece, Ukraine and special guest under the Big Top is Austria.  We don’t want to slight the tensions in the Middle East but that is already in the military stage, today let’s look more closely at the financial stage.
Greece has already begun raiding public pensions to run even day to day operations.  The current estimate is they will run out of cash before the end of April.  It is no wonder they are having high level meetings with Moscow and will meet with Mr. Putin this coming Monday.  It has been said they are not looking for a handout.  This may be so but they will certainly be talking about running a pipeline through their country.  As I have said all along, broke is broke, they simply cannot make payment on what they have already borrowed from the West.
The West, led by Germany may be able to restructure terms or even offer the Greeks more current cash.  Any deal made will not solve anything as whatever Greece accepts (if they do) will also need to be paid back.  Paying one credit card off with another one does not lower your balance, on the contrary, the total balance rises and this is the problem.  Greece as recently as 2010 was the shining star of Europe, just as a bank rated AAA on a Friday afternoon is bankrupt on Monday morning, so went Greece.
What is being missed here is Greek debt is held widely by German and French banks …and by the ECB itself.  When Greece does finally default, these already undercapitalized banks will capsize, but this is only part of it.  Just as happened back in 2008, there may be 10 times the amount of CDS (insurance) written versus their debt, now we are talking $3.5 trillion.  Do you know of any entity on the planet that could make good on this policy?
Before finishing on Greece, James Turk did an interview yesterday with King World news where he theorizes there will shortly be a “crossover” of debt owed the ECB and Greek banking deposits.  The banks have bled down to 130 billion euros while the ECB holds nearly 100 billion worth of Greek debt.  James believes a “bail in” of Greek banks will occur before the bank balances are too small to cover the debt. http://kingworldnews.com/ecb-to-steal-greek-bank-deposits-as-greece-to-default-within-two-weeks-sending-shockwaves-around-the-world/ .  I believe this “crossover” has already happened.  I say this because many of the deposits are small.  I just don’t believe there are enough large deposits left to steal in order to cover the debt owed the ECB.  Can they really bail in small deposits of widows or retirees without a massive proletariat revolt?  I can envision small depositors of all ages out in the streets with pitchforks hunting down anyone who even looks like a banker!
Another financial tent which will fold is Ukraine.  The situation here is less cut and dry than Greece because Russia is involved.  A little refresher for you, Russia lent Ukraine $3 billion+ at the end of 2013.  They did this to try to help stabilize the country, within two months “their guy” was out and “our guy” was in.  Ukraine has payments due on debt in June and they do not have the funds (nor their gold as this has already been pilfered).   This debt held by Russia comes due at the end of this year and because it was written under “English law”, any restructuring must be approved by Russia.
The odds of Russia allowing a restructuring are virtually zero because they know any extra funds will be used to restart Ukraine’s assault on the Russian population of the east.  The risk of a default by Ukraine has risen greatly.  Just as with Greece, it is not only so much about the amount of debt itself, it’s about how much CDS “insurance” has been written.  Just as Greece is just another link in the derivatives chain, so too is Ukraine.  Any default will involve $1 trillion plus when derivatives are taken into account, are there a spare trillion or more (or even multiples of this) for any of these links should they break?
It is much more complicated than this but Russia will not aid the West at their own expense.  Please understand this, it is not about the money for Russia, the entire episode is about leverage, both financial and political.  You can add the leverage gained of debt problems to the fact Russia is a huge supplier of gas to Europe, who do you think Europe will side with when push comes to shove?
Under the Big Top but receiving the least amount of attention or press coverage is Austria and their banking problems.  It seems the collapse of Hypo-Alpe Adria bank is reaching the next level, it was only a matter of time.  Pfandbriefbank Oesterich AG is the next potential casualty http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-03-27/black-swan-2-next-critical-chapter-austrian-banking-system-story .
They have a 600 million euro payment in June (lots of June deadlines?) but won’t be able to make this without invoking “guarantees”.  One of these guarantees comes from the state of Carinthia itself, already unwilling and they say unable to perform.  This is not even a large number, but, it affects the whole system in a domino effect where bank A owes bank B who owes bank C and down the line.
You should look at this as an illustration of just how thin the margins really are, a 600 million euro shortfall can have such a large impact?  The fear is if Hypo doesn’t pay, Pfandbriefbank will not be able to either.  What is really interesting is the 2 year debt of Pfandbriefbank is trading at around 95 cents, down nearly 15% since just last week.  The debt market is already smelling this one out!  Also please keep in mind that Austria was supposed to be one of the “strong” European countries (rated AAA) and Hypo was highly rated right up until their announcement of impairment, what other overnight surprises might we see?
To refresh your memory, Austrian bank problems were triggered when Switzerland broke their peg with the euro.  Many real estate loans were taken out in Swiss francs because the interest rate was so low.  Once the franc revalued higher, many of these loans were greater in value than the underlying real estate itself through no fault of the borrower other than to have borrowed in francs.  Obviously another area where the revaluation has done damage is to the bank’s balance sheets.  The lenders are now effectively short francs while those whom have sold derivative insurance against a lower euro or higher franc are now sitting on huge losses.  Trust me when I use the term “chain reaction” because this is already in motion!
This “three ring circus” as I have dubbed it is by no means all there is, it does however have a finite time frame.  Greece and Ukraine owe monies before the end of June.  Pfandbriefbank also has a payment due in June.  Will any of these payments actually get done?  None of them?  I’d like to point out the obvious here, in neither of these three situations does the ability to pay exist without “help” from another source.  How long will these “sources” be available and what happens when they are no longer?  To this point it has been a hell of a show, it is best not to stay to watch the final act!

Washington’s “Human Rights” Imperialism Exposed

Go To Original
The Obama administration announced Tuesday that it is resuming arms shipments to the military dictatorship in Egypt, beginning with the transfer of 12 F-16 fighter jets, missiles and the components required to build 125 tanks. In a personal call to Egypt’s ruler, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Obama also pledged to resume the annual transfer of $1.3 billion in military aid.
The White House made no effort to claim that Egypt had made “credible progress toward an inclusive, democratically elected civilian government”—the statutory condition for ending the suspension of military aid imposed in October 2013. Instead, it invoked an exemption passed by Congress late last year to override this requirement.
Resuming military aid to Egypt, the second largest recipient of such assistance from the US, after Israel, is “in the interest of US national security,” a White House statement declared. Obama told al-Sisi it was necessary for Egypt and the US to “refine our military assistance relationship so that it is better positioned to address the shared challenges to US and Egyptian interests…”
The administration could not even make a pretense that Egypt had made a turn toward democracy. The blood-soaked al-Sisi regime has not slackened its murderous repression one iota. Since coming to power, it has brutally repressed protests. Political opponents have been beaten, killed and arrested en masse. According to one count, more than 41,000 people have been locked up since the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Mursi in 2013. More than 1,000 political opponents have been sentenced to death.
The decision to resume arms shipments to Egypt came only two days after the announcement by Ukraine’s interior minister, Arsen Avakov, that US military forces will begin direct training of right-wing National Guard militias organized by the Kiev regime, including the fascist Azov Battalion. This outfit, founded and led by neo-Nazis, has been on the front lines of the war in eastern Ukraine against pro-Russian separatists.
These are only two of the most damning exposures of the “human rights” pretenses of American foreign policy. With increasing brazenness, the United States functions as the spearhead of militarism and reaction all over the world. It is driven to support the most brutal regimes in pursuit of its program of global domination through military force.
The immediate spur for the resumption of arms shipments to Egypt is the air war against Yemen, led by Saudi Arabia and backed by the Obama administration. Egypt and Saudi Arabia have announced plans for a possible ground invasion alongside the escalating bombing campaign, with the goal of ousting Houthi forces backed by Iran. The additional military equipment Washington is sending to Egypt would undoubtedly be deployed in such a ground assault.
The two US allies leading this campaign sum up the character of the enterprise. The brutality of the Egyptian regime is matched by that of the Saudi monarchy, which rules with an iron fist, carries out beheadings with gruesome regularity, and has funneled money to Al Qaeda and other Islamic fundamentalist groups as part of the US regime-change operation in Syria.
As for Ukraine, support for openly fascistic forces has been a hallmark of the US-led operation that began last February with the ousting of the elected pro-Russian president. That putsch was spearheaded by the neo-Nazi Svoboda Party and Right Sector. Throughout Eastern Europe, the US is relying on right-wing, nationalist, racist and anti-Semitic movements and governments as part of its military-economic-diplomatic drive to isolate, undermine and, ultimately, dismember Russia.
On the other side of the world is Honduras, where death squads linked to the US-backed government of Juan Orlando Hernández have been carrying out a reign of terror against students protesting against education cuts, including the abduction, torture and murder of at least four young people. Hernández is the successor to President Porfirio Lobo, who came to power following a US-backed coup in 2009.
The US provides tens of millions of dollars annually to the Honduran police and military, headed by a regime that Foreign Policy recently described as “a cesspool of corruption and organized crime in which the topmost levels of government are enmeshed.” Hernández and Lobo have overseen the establishment of police militias with close ties to drug gangs and pushed for the direct involvement of the military in domestic repression.
The coming together of the police and military with right-wing death squads and drug gangs—funded with US money—is repeated in other countries in Latin America, most notably Mexico. The entire Mexican state is complicit in the massacre of 43 students last year, and the UN special envoy on torture declared earlier this month that the use of torture had become “generalized” in the country. None of this has had any impact on the full support the Obama administration accords the government of Mexican President Peña Nieto, which is pushing through economic “reforms” aimed at opening up the energy sector to foreign capital.
One could cite dozens of examples along these lines. The American financial aristocracy exports the blood, filth and criminality embedded in its social being wherever it seeks to dominate and control—and there is no part of the world that is exempt from this drive.
From the beginning of the rise of American imperialism, the ruling class has sought to couch its predatory ambitions in the language of “freedom,” “human rights” and “American values.” As Trotsky noted in 1924, “America is always liberating somebody. That is her profession.” At no other time, however, have the ideological justifications for aggression been so threadbare.
One final point. The ever more naked exposure of the criminality of American imperialism coincides with the further shift to the right of the organizations of the privileged middle class—the liberal and pseudo-left backers of the Obama administration.
Those who once presented themselves as “anti-war” have taken the opportunity of Obama’s election to line up directly behind US imperialism, backing US-led operations in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Ukraine and Iraq, among others. They have jumped onto the bandwagon of “human rights imperialism” precisely at the point where it is being decisively exposed before the people of the United States and the entire world.