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The More Change the More the Same

Feb 05, 2009 Ramzy Baroud
Change the Lobby by Ramzy Baroud One…
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Baquba's Hostage Hospitals

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The People's Media at Work in Afghanistan

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Surfin' and Crashin' the Markets with the Repo Men: Damoclesian Repurchase Sword Dangles over Economy Yet

Still Broken Five Years Later
by Mike Whitney - CounterPunch
 “The repo market wasn’t just a part of the meltdown. It was the meltdown.” – David Weidner, Wall Street Journal, May 29, 2013.

Ask your average guy-on-the-street ‘what caused the financial crisis’ and you’ll either get a blank stare followed by a shrug of the shoulders or a brusque, three-word answer: “The housing bubble.”

Even people who follow the news closely are usually sketchy on the details. They might add something about subprime mortgages or Lehman Brothers, but not much more than that. Very few people seem to know that the crisis began in a shadowy part of the financial system called repo, which is short for repurchase agreement.

In 2008, repo was ground zero, the epicenter of the meltdown. That’s where the bank run took place that froze the credit markets and sent the financial system into freefall. Unfortunately, nothing has been done to fix the problems in repo, which means that we’re just as vulnerable today as we were five years ago when Lehman imploded and all hell broke loose.
 

"Liberal" Treatment of the Truth: Exploding Gas Myths in BC

Exploding BC LNG Myths – Part 2
by Kevin Logan - The Common Sense Canadian
The opposition wouldn’t know LNG if it came up and bit them, they’re totally uninformed.” - Rich Coleman, BC Minister of Natural Gas Development.

For over three years, Rich Coleman has led the BC LNG charge; however, he has taken a back seat in recent weeks as his self-imposed deadlines for progress on LNG development have repeatedly blown up.
 
Very little mention has been made of the non-disclosure agreements Coleman has with 12 or so companies lined up to exploit BC’s massive natural gas reserves – but that apparently does not stop him from admonishing his critics for being “totally uninformed.”
 
After missing his third self-imposed deadline to finally let the rest of us in on his non-disclosed, high-level negotiations, Coleman continues to hold his cards close to his chest.
 

"Quo Vadis, Syrie?" West Pushes for 'No-Fly Zone' as Regime Holds Its Ground

Syrian Regime Solidifies Recent Gains: ‘Coalition of the Willing’ Promotes No Fly Zone
by Franklin Lamb
Damascus - Since around Valentine Day, and aided by truly magnificent warm weather for this time of year, the dozens of parks in Damascus have been receiving unusually large numbers of visitors, not least of whom are Syrian soldiers on leave, enjoying the green space with girlfriends, families and friends.
 
At the large garden with dozen of benches and sculptures, called Al-Manshia (Presidents Bridge) public park, and located between two five-star hotels, the Dama Rose and the 4-Seasons, some soldiers, presumably from out of town and with many appearing utterly exhausted, can be seen simply laying on the grass fast asleep under the warm healing sunshine.
 
Soldiers joke, laugh and seem pleased when citizens approach them to offer their thanks for the army’s service to the Syrian Arab Republic and to inquire about how things are going personally and if there is some help the citizen might offer the soldier.
 
Such is the nature of Syrian nationalism and connection with Mother Syria that this observer has remarked about before and is strikingly rare from his experience. I love my country but frankly do not feel the pride and deep connection that Syrians appear to exhibit about their country’s 10,000 year history as the cradle of civilization. I would defend my country and fight for it if there were to be a legitimate war which frankly has not been the case in my lifetime.
 

Obama's "All of the Above" Energy Strategy "Nukes" America's Future

Obama's Nuke-Powered Drone Strike on America's Energy Future
by Harvey Wasserman - EcoWatch
So the “all the above” energy strategy now deems we dump another $6.5 billion in bogus loan guarantees down the atomic drain. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has announced finalization of hotly contested taxpayer handouts for the two Vogtle reactors being built in Georgia. Another $1.8 billion waits to be pulled out of your pocket and poured down the radioactive sink hole.
 
A nuke-powered drone strike on fiscal sanity.
 
While Fukushima burns and solar soars, our taxpayer money is being pitched at a failed 20th century technology currently distinguished by its non-stop outflow of lethal radiation into the Pacific Ocean.
 
Take that $6.5 or $8.3 billion and invest it right now in wind, solar, sustainable bio-fuels, geothermal, ocean thermal, wave energy, LED light bulbs, building insulation and Solartopian south-facing windows.
 

Defending Venezuela

In Defense of Venezuela
The U.S. media, echoing the sentiments of the U.S. government, is openly encouraging violent regime change in Venezuela. An emblematic story from yesterday was aired in what is considered a "liberal" media source, National Public Radio (NPR).
 
In short, this piece featured claims of Venezuela at the precipice of "economic collapse," and spoke in glowing terms of the opposition's hopes for a "coup" to overthrow President Maduro. This type of reporting is not only irresponsible, but it is deeply misinformed.
 
While the U.S. government and media have been portraying Venezuela as a basket case ever since Hugo Chavez took office in 1999, this is far from the truth. Indeed, if we look at the UN's Human Development Index, which measures several key indicators of the health of a country's citizenry (e.g., life expectancy, income, education, equality), we see that Venezuela has actually experienced a steady growth in such human development indicators since Chavez took office with a total Human Rights Index score of .662 in 2000, and rising to .748 in 2012. See, Table 2 at p. 149 of the UN Report.
 
Significantly, Venezuela had a huge relative increase in this index during that time, jumping nine (9) rankings in the HDI chart from 80 to number 71 in the world.
 

Obama's Ukraine Illusion: Undermining a Democracy, Sowing Seeds of Cold War 2.0

Sinister Illusions: Masking Tragedy in Ukraine
by Chris Floyd - Empire Burlesque
It is no secret that Barack Obama is one of the supreme illusionists of modern times. The disconnect between his words and his deeds is so profound as to be almost sublime, far surpassing the crude obfuscations of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Their projections of unreality were more transparent, and in any case were merely designed to put a little lipstick on the pig of policies they were openly pushing.

For example, they openly wanted to conquer Iraq and expand the militarist state, they openly wanted to redistribute national wealth to the elite, so they just gussied up this unhidden agenda with some fantasies about WMD and the occult magic of "tax cuts," whereby enriching the rich and degrading all notion of the common good would somehow create a utopia of prosperity (for deserving white folk, at least).
 
There was a disconnect between their rhetoric and reality, to be sure, but it was easily seen through (except, of course, by the highly-paid credulous cretins of our national media). Indeed, the Bushists seemed unconcerned by how threadbare their lies were; they delivered their lines like bored performers at the end of a long stage run, not caring whether they were believed or not -- just as long as they got to do what they wanted.
 
But Obama has taken all this to another level. He is a consummate performer, and strives to "inhabit" the role and mouth his lines as if they make sense and convey some sort of emotional truth. Also, most of the time his rhetoric, his role, his emotional stance are in stark opposition to his actual policies. He is not just gilding his open agenda with some slap-dash lies; he is masking a hidden agenda with a vast array of artifice, expending enormous effort not to prettify an ugly reality but to create an entire counter-reality, an alternate world that does not exist.

C-18: Agricultural Growth Act a Cancer for Canadian Farmers

Bill C-18, the Agricultural Growth Act -- Growth for Whom?
by Jan Slomp - National Farmers Union
On December 9th 2013, Omnibus Bill C-18, the Agricultural Growth Act went to Parliament for first reading. Passing Bill C-18 would make Canada compliant with UPOV ‘91, a much more restrictive form of Plant Breeders’ Rights than we currently have.
 
The second part of the Act will prepare Canada’s regulatory regime for fast track approval of feed or food additives, drugs or other inventions that are already approved in jurisdictions we trade with. Bill C-18 also opens the door for farmers to tap into multi-year advance payments secured by crops in storage or grown in the future.
 
After a groundswell of farmer-led opposition to adopting UPOV ‘91 in 2005, the Liberal government of the day let it quietly die, as it became clear that farmers would be drastically restricted in their ability to save, reuse, exchange and sell seed. The Canadian public clearly demanded that genetic resources remain a public good.
 
Before reintroducing UPOV ‘91 through Bill C-18, Agriculture Minister Ritz has been actively spreading the myth and managing to convince many farm organizations and commodity groups that saving seed is enshrined in this bill.
 

Totalitarianism the Logical Endpoint of Britain's Burgeoning Security State

The Security State Crushes Ever Tighter
by Craig Murray
The disgraceful judges of Britain’s High Court – who have gone along with torture, extraordinary rendition, every single argument for mass surveillance and hiding information from the public, and even secret courts – have ruled that it was lawful for the Home Office to detain David Miranda, a journalist, as information he was carrying might in some undefined way, and if communicated to them, aid “terrorists”.

Despite the entire industry, both private and governmental, devoted to whipping up fear, it is plain to pretty well everyone by now that terrorism is about the most unlikely way for you to die. A car accident is many hundreds of times more likely. Even drowning in your own bath is more likely.
 
Where is the massive industry of suppression against baths?

DeJong May Be Bored, But BC Better Wake Up to This Budget!

7 things that should be in this year’s BC Budget
by Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
Dear friends; yesterday our own Iglika Ivanova (economist and public interest researcher) and Lindsey Bertrand (communications officer) were locked up in Victoria with over one hundred other organizations and journalists to be among the first to analyze and comment on the 2014 provincial budget.
 
The duo quickly learned that the budget leaves a lot to be desired. British Columbians still face great economic insecurity in a weak job market. We need the government to invest in a diverse and sustainable economy, post-secondary education, poverty reduction and other key programs – not just boast about having a balanced budget.
 
Iglika produced a quick but in-depth analysis, which was posted to our PolicyNote.ca blog the moment the lockup ended, while Lindsey engaged with the press to ensure the public interest perspective would be impossible to miss.
 
In addition, the CCPA’s Marc Lee analyzed the government’s overly optimistic revenue expectations from the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) industry.
 
According to the Finance Minister, this was a "boring balanced budget". That’s too bad. Because if the provincial government chose to get serious about reducing poverty, investing in an affordable child care program, or increasing access to badly needed community-based seniors care, or greening our economy…there’d be nothing boring at all about it. - Seth
 

Jonathan Cook on Greenwald, Intercept, and the Realities of Big Media

Glenn Greenwald’s Great Betrayal
February 17, 2014
I’m a huge fan of Glenn Greenwald’s work, and I very much hope his new media venture, the Intercept, is a success – not just for his sake but for all of us who want to see the media landscape open up for independent journalists.
 
That said, I found his responses to Michael Albert in an interview on the problems of journalism utterly disillusioning.
Questioned about the ideological constraints on journalists posed by the nature of the media’s commercial, corporate interests, he comes across as smug and complacent. To be honest, he sounds like the Margaret Thatcher of new media.
 
Let’s start with the best bit. Greenwald agrees with Albert that there are institutional and structural pressures on journalists. Here’s what he says:
 
These kinds of biases [in media organisations] are cultural and generalized, not absolute. The Guardian has published Noam Chomsky many times [sic]. So has Salon. The nature of theories of media bias isn’t that it’s impossible to ever inject certain ideas into them. That’s just not the case. Exceptions happen. But to the extent that you’re suggesting that most journalists would find it uncomfortable and even damaging to their career to write critically of their employers, of course that’s true. That’s true everywhere, not just in journalism.

Unfortunately, that’s the high point. It goes rapidly downhill from there.
 

Mining-Affected Mexican Communities Vie for the Ear of Heads of State at Tripartite Meetings

Dear Mr. Harper: An Open Letter from Mining-Affected Communities in Mexico
via MiningWatch Canada
Mr. President of the Republic of Mexico
Mr. President of the United States of America
Mr. Prime Minister of Canada

The peoples and communities of Mexico opposed to the predatory mining extractive model, gathered in the 2014 National Forum in Zacualpan, in the municipality of Comala, state of Colima, Mexico, make the following statement with regard to agreements first signed twenty years ago by all three nations that gave rise to the now well known “Free Trade Agreement” (FTA).
 
On the eve of your meeting in the city of Toluca on February 19th, during which you will “renew and adjust” the commercial agreements between the three nations, we feel it necessary to remind you that is it not possible to continue promoting this sort of agreement and make us believe that this is the solution to the problems we face.

Hundreds of investigations and cases demonstrate that this global framework has clear signs of wearing out, is a set back for human rights, and is depleting the natural commons in a dramatic way given the predatory vision of the world that you and this framework share; a view of the world that involves handing over the natural commons to predatory and insatiable transnational companies that day after day destroy communities, populations and ecosystems in every corner of the world.