A modest proposal for replacing Guantánamo
just a thought... Submit To Propeller
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Just a year after the global downturn derailed Dubai's explosive growth, the city is now so swamped in debt that it's asking for a six-month reprieve on paying its bills — causing a drop on world markets Thursday and raising questions about Dubai's reputation as a magnet for international investment.
The fallout came swiftly and was felt globally after Wednesday statement that Dubai's main development engine, Dubai World, would ask creditors for a "standstill" on paying back its $60 billion debt until at least May. The company's real estate arm, Nakheel — whose projects include the palm-shaped island in the Gulf — shoulders the bulk of money due to banks, investment houses and outside development contractors.
In total, the state-backed networks nicknamed Dubai Inc. are $80 billion in the red and the emirate needed a bailout earlier this year from its oil-rich neighbor Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
I was recently passed this link by John Owen at London's City University journalism school and thought it might be of interest to others.
The 'Hum News' posting considers what it calls the "Geographic Gap" of the contemporary news environment. That is, world news is covered by a very small number of news organisations and those organisations choose to only cover a small portion of the world's news. I know it sounds like a riddle, but it is the reality of international news.
Although there is now a proliferation of news outlets, particularly online, there are in fact fewer reliable, independent organisations actually gathering the information and delivering it in a balanced fashion.
Hum News points out that while there are 237 countries or territories in the world, the four biggest news organisations only report from 121 countries. This means there are 116 countries not covered. By Hum's calculations that is:
"almost half the world, and 4 billion people"
Of course, it would be foolish for us to expect that news organisations cover every single thing that happens everywhere in the world. But just how important are the 116 countries not covered by the big news organisations?
63 of these ignored countries and territories are desperately poor.
All this has security implications for the United States. What do you want to bet that in the late 1990s, Afghanistan was in the 116? Hard to know an attack was being planned out there if you don't know the place exists.
What HUM does not say is that the ignoring of the 116 comes from the news corporations' profit motive, which is increasingly driving them to ignore most real news in favor of infotainment. Desperately poor 4th world countries? Not entertaining.
Aljazeera's model, being backed by the Qatar Foundation, may be one of the few ways out of this information gap. Aljazeera English does a better job covering subsaharan Africa and Latin American than any other Anglophone news service, and they pay attention to the poor and working people.
A mile-long trail of cars and trucks curves through my neighborhood. As we greet each other at the frontdoor of the Greenwood bodega, we glance over at the motorists, sitting there. In one way or another we know – that traffic jam is corrupt. We look over at the stack of newspapers inside the front door. The news is corrupt. We look up at the jetliner descending into La Guardia. That flight is corrupt.
We live in this era of corruption, hiding in plain sight. All public activities are controlled by players who pay for control. The public has no role except as consumers. Many of us would say, “It’s always been like this.” But I think corruption has changed in recent years. It has become so general that it wraps around us. It activates, engages and surrounds our senses like a powerful movie in the shape of a shell. The industries, celebrities and public agencies overlap their corruption on this shell.
The corruption is ambient now. A shell with a dazzling, pixilated surface. It’s like a Diamondvision in the shape of wind-tunnel. Products, celebrities, Christmas, gunships and candy appear and do their vaudeville routine. We live in this shell of unaccountably and secretly managed – well, what is it? It succeeds because we don’t notice it, we don’t know how to describe it. I can flail at it with phrases like “the great fake community” or the “privatized commons.” I don’t have it in words that work down here on the corner. Oh yes - we all know about the government bail-outs. We know about the insurance lobbyists writing the congressmens’ speeches. We look at the papers, up at the jet, and out at the glowing faces on the highway.
What would I say if I had the words? That shell! It is the slippery and vast high alter of Consumerism! It expertly mimics us, but more than that – the professionals who control it anticipate what we WILL do, because they study our habits, our desires, our human-ness. Sadly, the shell broadcasts a completely believable Democracy. Has anything so universal ever been so hidden? The shell is un-locatable. It is as close as the radio in the dashboard of the citizens in traffic; it is as far as the Afghani war. The shell is bounding with young families made happy by Big Pharma, bubble credit, the hallucinating momentum of American greatness…
We see ourselves in the shell and we continue to wait, to waste our lives. That’s the trouble. The true cost of corruption is that we sit in traffic. A lot of us aren’t within reach anymore, so we cannot be creative as a community. That is what, for modern western culture, Americans invented. But it has gone up onto the shell now and performs brilliantly back at us, sitting in our cars, or in our drugs, or in our Christmas. Ultimately the violence of this present kind of corruption is our silence. We can no longer reach around the product-shell to address each other directly. But I’m repeating myself.
Breaking through the shell is illegal, but it is the necessary interruption of our time. We must walk into the traffic and try to say hello. I’m writing this after I walked back to my home from the bodega. The traffic citizens are still sitting out there. I could go back down and… what? …start the revolutionary season’s greetings. What if our Christmas this year was completely different?
bankersbanksters have much to be thankful for as they sit down to their turkey dinners on Thursday.
At this time last year, the American financial system was near collapse, rescued only by hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars. Now the system has stabilized, and the industry is on the verge of a coup that many would have thought impossible a year ago: an escape from any major reform of financial regulations.
On Tuesday, the American Financial Services Association even held a conference call with reporters to update them on its efforts -- successful so far -- to torpedo plans for a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency, which would protect people from the sort of lending abuses that led to last year's implosion.
The ASFA, a trade group of credit card issuers, auto-finance companies, mortgage lenders and others leading the fight against the CFPA, took the unusual approach on Tuesday of publicly celebrating the reform's fading prospects.
"This was supposed to be a slam-dunk," crowed Bill Hempler, the group's top lobbyist. But instead, he said, "Democratic members are increasingly having heartburn over CFPA and maybe second thoughts."
Now these same companies [CIT, CitiFinancial, Countrywide, EquiFirst, HSBC, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo Financial and GMAC], suffering from some combination of amnesia and ingratitude, are determined to fight off regulatory efforts to prevent a repeat of the same cycle of bubble, collapse and bailout. Big firms such as J.P. Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Bank of America -- direct or indirect beneficiaries of federal bailouts -- are all battling efforts to rein in derivatives. And credit card issuers, facing new regulations scheduled to take effect in February, have responded by increasing their rates and fees.
[T]he argument most likely to prevail for the financial firms on Capitol Hill was offered by Chris Stinebert, the trade group's chief. "Especially now, when we're in a very, very sensitive time, when the capital markets are just starting to recover," he said, "introducing a high level of uncertainty in the marketplace could be very detrimental."
Or, to put it another way: Don't regulate us now because the economy is still suffering from the mess we made because we weren't regulated the last time. Chutzpah, it appears, is recession-proof.
At a covert forward operating base run by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, "snatch and grabs" of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan, an investigation by The Nation has found. The Blackwater operatives also assist in gathering intelligence and help run a secret US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA predator strikes, according to a well-placed source within the US military intelligence apparatus.
The source, who has worked on covert US military programs for years, including in Afghanistan and Pakistan, has direct knowledge of Blackwater's involvement. He spoke to The Nation on condition of anonymity because the program is classified. The source said that the program is so "compartmentalized" that senior figures within the Obama administration and the US military chain of command may not be aware of its existence.
The previously unreported program, the military intelligence source said, is distinct from the CIA assassination program that the agency's director, Leon Panetta, announced he had canceled in June 2009. "This is a parallel operation to the CIA," said the source. "They are two separate beasts." The program puts Blackwater at the epicenter of a US military operation within the borders of a nation against which the United States has not declared war--knowledge that could further strain the already tense relations between the United States and Pakistan.
A former senior executive at Blackwater confirmed the military intelligence source's claim that the company is working in Pakistan for the CIA and JSOC, the premier counterterrorism and covert operations force within the military. He said that Blackwater is also working for the Pakistani government on a subcontract with an Islamabad-based security firm that puts US Blackwater operatives on the ground with Pakistani forces in counter-terrorism operations, including house raids and border interdictions, in the North-West Frontier Province and elsewhere in Pakistan. This arrangement, the former executive said, allows the Pakistani government to utilize former US Special Operations forces who now work for Blackwater while denying an official US military presence in the country. He also confirmed that Blackwater has a facility in Karachi and has personnel deployed elsewhere in Pakistan. The former executive spoke on condition of anonymity.
His account and that of the military intelligence source were borne out by a US military source who has knowledge of Special Forces actions in Pakistan and Afghanistan. When asked about Blackwater's covert work for JSOC in Pakistan, this source, who also asked for anonymity, told The Nation, "From my information that I have, that is absolutely correct," adding, "There's no question that's occurring."
"It wouldn't surprise me because we've outsourced nearly everything," said Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as Secretary of State Colin Powell's chief of staff from 2002 to 2005, when told of Blackwater's role in Pakistan. Wilkerson said that during his time in the Bush administration, he saw the beginnings of Blackwater's involvement with the sensitive operations of the military and CIA. "Part of this, of course, is an attempt to get around the constraints the Congress has placed on DoD. If you don't have sufficient soldiers to do it, you hire civilians to do it. I mean, it's that simple. It would not surprise me."
The United States government is financing its more than trillion-dollar-a-year borrowing with i.o.u.’s on terms that seem too good to be true.
Treasury officials now face a trifecta of headaches: a mountain of new debt, a balloon of short-term borrowings that come due in the months ahead, and interest rates that are sure to climb back to normal as soon as the Federal Reserve decides that the emergency has passed.
Even as Treasury officials are racing to lock in today’s low rates by exchanging short-term borrowings for long-term bonds, the government faces a payment shock similar to those that sent legions of overstretched homeowners into default on their mortgages.
With the national debt now topping $12 trillion, the White House estimates that the government’s tab for servicing the debt will exceed $700 billion a year in 2019, up from $202 billion this year, even if annual budget deficits shrink drastically. Other forecasters say the figure could be much higher.
The surge in borrowing over the last year or two is widely judged to have been a necessary response to the financial crisis and the deep recession, and there is still a raging debate over how aggressively to bring down deficits over the next few years. But there is little doubt that the United States’ long-term budget crisis is becoming too big to postpone.
A variety of factors — some transitory, like the spike in food prices, and others intractable, like global population growth and water scarcity — have created a market for farmland, as rich but resource-deprived nations in the Middle East, Asia and elsewhere seek to outsource their food production to places where fields are cheap and abundant.
Foreign investors — some of them representing governments, some of them private interests — are promising to construct infrastructure, bring new technologies, create jobs and boost the productivity of underused land so that it not only feeds overseas markets but also feeds more Africans. (More than a third of the continent’s population is malnourished.) They’ve found that impoverished governments are often only too welcoming, offering land at giveaway prices. A few transactions have received significant publicity, like Kenya’s deal to lease nearly 100,000 acres to the Qatari government in return for financing a new port, or South Korea’s agreement to develop almost 400 square miles in Tanzania. But many other land deals, of near-unprecedented size, have been sealed with little fanfare.
Investors who are taking part in the land rush say they are confronting a primal fear, a situation in which food is unavailable at any price.
“When some governments stop exporting rice or wheat, it becomes a real, serious problem for people that don’t have full self-sufficiency,” said Al Arabi Mohammed Hamdi, an economic adviser to the Arab Authority for Agricultural Investment and Development. Sitting in his office in Dubai, overlooking the cargo-laden wooden boats moored along the city’s creek, Hamdi told me his view, that the only way to assure food security is to control the means of production.
“There is no problem about money,” Hamdi said. “It’s about where and how.”