Sunday, August 30, 2015

Why the Refugee Crisis?

Why the Refugee Crisis?

by Stephen Lendman

Thousands of refugees and asylum seekers head for safe havens daily - a human flood entering Europe, risking life and limb to get there. Why?

Washington bears full responsibility. Endless US direct and proxy wars force desperate people to seek safety out of harm’s way. 

Numbers fleeing war and destabilized areas are greater than any time since WWII - increasing exponentially as conflicts and chaos rage in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Donbass, Somalia, South Sudan, and elsewhere.

A previous article cited a UNHCR report saying 60 million people were forcibly displaced by end of 2014. Globally one in every 122 people are asylum seekers, refugees or internally displaced persons. More than half the world’s refugees are children.

On August 28, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said over 300,000 refugees and asylum seekers crossed the Mediterranean to reach Europe so far this year - greatly exceeding 2014’s 219,000 total, a human flood likely to approach half a million by yearend, likely hundreds of thousands more in 2016 and beyond.

Thousands of others die or go missing. On August 27, hundreds were feared dead after two overcrowded vessels capsized off Libya’s coast. Dozens of Syrian refugees were found suffocated to death in a truck parked on an Austrian highway - their bodies in a state of decomposition. Other similar horror stories repeat with disturbing regularity.

Statements expressing concern by Germany’s Angela Merkel, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other top world officials ring hollow. 

Crisis resolution is obvious - not considered nor will it be. End US orchestrated and led imperial wars. The UN Charter’s pledge “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind” proved empty rhetoric.

America’s record is unparalleled - endless wars at home and/or abroad every year in its history, begun long before the republic’s inception.

After two world wars, never again became endless conflicts - raging today more than any time since WW II, heading recklessly toward possible WW III, a potential humanity destroying nuclear war if launched.

America is a global killing machine, glorifying war duplicitously in the name of peace - its imperial madness taking millions of lives post-9/11 alone.

The business of America is war - part of a deranged culture, a national addiction, a ruthless quest for wealth and power. Bipartisan lunatics infest Washington. Never before has one nation endangered humanity more - threatening possible nuclear war with Russia and/or China - to advance its maniacal quest for unchallenged world dominance, risking mass annihilation to achieve it.

The current US presidential race features an array of imperial warriors - not a peace and stability advocate in the bunch.

Hillary Clinton is a reckless war goddess. Donald Trump wants “the strongest military that we’ve ever had.” Other Republican aspirants support increased defense spending and militarism. Bernie Sanders supports all Obama wars. They exceed the worst of George Bush.

No matter who becomes president in 2017, America’s killing machine will keep raging - ravaging and destroying one country after another, causing an endless human flood of refugees, risking the unthinkable if Russia or China are challenged belligerently - ending life on earth.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.


It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Ukrainians Overwhelmingly Oppose Junta Rule

Ukrainians Overwhelmingly Oppose Junta Rule

by Stephen Lendman

Ukraine is a Nazi-infested police state - an illegitimate US-installed coup d’etat regime, run by criminal thugs, wrecking the economy, abolishing freedoms, waging war on their own people.

No wonder a poll conducted by Rating Group Ukraine found 0% full support for its regime. Poroshenko scored 3% full support, 21% partial support, and overwhelming opposition to his rule.

Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk had 0% full support. Kiev’s Verkhovna Rada (parliament) scored 1%. Random sampling included respondents from all Ukrainian regions except Donbass - victimized by Kiev aggression.

Results conflict with regime claims about achieving “national consensus.” None whatever exists. People worldwide want fundamental freedoms. Kiev offers none. Poll numbers show the regime is overwhelmingly despised.

Ukraine’s mismanaged economy is dysfunctional - teetering toward collapse. Borrowed money is used to wage war. 

Inflation is out-of-control. Many workers don’t get paid. Corruption is rampant. Hard times keep getting harder for ordinary Ukrainians. 

The IMF expects 9% economic contraction this year - severe Depression conditions. No end in sight to its economic troubles looms. It may be just a matter of time before Maidan 2.0.

Regime authorities abuse the rights of all Ukrainians. The Kiev-based Center for Social and Labor Research (CLSR) reported repression and anti-government unrest vastly higher than under the previous Yanukovych government.

“Worrying is the high frequency of repression against protests with government critics and demand for lustration, against protests with socio-economic and political demands,” CLSR explained.

Ukraine is a gangster state run by fascist thugs. Human and civil rights are hugely abused. Police state terror is official policy.

Opposition media were shut down. Russian nationals, regime opponents, democracy supporters, and human rights activists are harassed, arrested, brutalized and extrajudicially imprisoned. Independent journalists are murdered or disappeared.

Poroshenko wants war, not peace. He systematically breached all ceasefire terms agreed to. Multiple violations occur daily. Residential areas, schools, hospitals and other civilian sites are targeted. Kiev propaganda blames Donbass freedom fighters for its aggression. Things could explode anytime into full-scale war.

Kiev’s war crimes include gruesome atrocities, torturing prisoners, using chemical and other banned weapons, as well as willfully murdering civilians. Investigative journalist Wayne Madsen believes it plans a false flag chemical weapons attack blamed on Donbass freedom fighters, maybe something major.

Minsk called for amending Kiev’s constitution - granting Donbass special autonomous status. Poroshenko flatly rejects it. 

On Saturday, he said Article 92 of Ukraine’s constitution granting special status for areas like Donbass will be rescinded. His interpretation of Minsk contravene’s its letter and spirit.

Ukraine is a cauldron of endless war on its own people, nationwide repression, social injustice and regional instability. Former Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said its regime is run by criminals.

“Armed gangs are ruling supreme now in what some people call this European integration…No one feels safe in Ukraine these days,” he explained. How long things can go on this way remains to be seen.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.


It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Dubious Sponsor Launches Petition to End Gaza Blockade

Dubious Sponsor Launches Petition to End Gaza Blockade

by Stephen Lendman

Avaaz is a phony human rights group. Michel Chossudovsky calls it “part of a corporate public relations campaign” - systematically misreporting on Washington’s imperial wars. 

Its petition calls on world leaders to pressure Israel to lift blockade restrictions - backed by Oxfam, World Vision International, Medical Aid for Palestinians and other groups. It states:

“For a whole year the Israeli government has restricted basic and essential construction materials from entering Gaza. Not one of the 19,000 homes that were bombed and destroyed has been fully rebuilt. 

One year on, around 100,000 Palestinians in Gaza are still homeless, hospitals and schools still lie in ruins, and whole neighbourhoods have no access to running water. 

But on the anniversary of the ceasefire - we can help ensure homes and hope are rebuilt. 

Our governments have already pledged to rebuild Gaza, and called on the government of Israel to lift the blockade. If we now show them that people everywhere want urgent action to stop this injustice, they are more likely to insist the Israeli government stop hindering reconstruction, and families will be able to build homes and children will finally get their schools back. 

Sign the petition and tell everyone - let's get 1.8 million voices for urgent action, one for each person living in Gaza.”

On the one hand, the petition drive is meaningless, a thinly veiled PR stunt - with no chance for ending Gaza’s siege.

On the other, it gathered an impressive half a million signatures within 24 hours of launch - well along toward reaching 1.8 million or more.

The only solution for Gaza and other oppressed peoples is sustained, committed, nonviolent revolution - millions putting their bodies on the line for justice powerful interests oppose, including in sham Western democratic countries, supporting Israel’s worst crimes.

Petition drives won’t end them - just grassroots activism for change, accepting nothing less than unconditional equity and justice for all - especially for long oppressed people.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.


It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Egypt's War on Press Freedom

Egypt’s War on Press Freedom

by Stephen Lendman

Egypt is a US-supported fascist dictatorship. Anyone challenging its authority risks imprisonment or death.

Police state injustice is official state policy. Thousands are imprisoned solely for their political beliefs.

On August 29, Al Jazeera reported on three of its journalists sentenced to three years in prison by a kangaroo Cairo court.

In June 2014, Baher Mohamed, Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste were declared guilty of “aiding a terrorist organization” - referring to the ousted Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013, coup d’etat illegitimacy replacing it.

Mohamed received six additional months imprisonment for “possession of a spent bullet casing,” said Al Jazeera. Its acting director general Mostefa Souag issued a statement, saying:

“Today's verdict defies logic and common sense. Our colleagues Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy will now have to return to prison, and Peter Greste is sentenced in absentia.”

“The whole case has been heavily politicised and has not been conducted in a free and fair manner. There is no evidence proving that our colleagues in any way fabricated news or aided and abetted terrorist organisations and at no point during the long drawn out retrial did any of the unfounded allegations stand up to scrutiny.”

“A report issued by a technical committee assigned by the court in Egypt contradicted the accusations made by the public prosecutor and stated in its report that the seized videos were not fabricated.”

“Baher, Peter and Mohamed have been sentenced despite the fact that not a shred of evidence was found to support the extraordinary and false charges against them.”

“Today's verdict is yet another deliberate attack on press freedom. It is a dark day for the Egyptian judiciary; rather than defend liberties and a free and fair media they have compromised their independence for political reasons.”

Greste in Australia called the verdict “outrageous. We did nothing wrong. The court presented no evidence. For us to be convicted as terrorists is outrageous. It can only be a political verdict. This is unethical.”

The ruling is a defining characteristic of a police state. Amnesty International called the sentencing the “death knell for freedom of expression in Egypt.” AI’s Philip Luther said:

“The fact that two of these journalists are now facing time in jail following two grossly unfair trials makes a mockery of justice in Egypt.” 

“Today's verdict must be overturned immediately. Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed should be allowed to walk free without conditions.” 

“We consider them to be prisoners of conscience, jailed solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression.”

All three men were declared guilty by accusation. Trial proceedings were Kafkaesque. In June 2015, the Committee to Protect Journalists denounced Egypt’s crackdown on press freedom.

It said regime authorities imprisoned at least 18 journalists for their reporting. Press freedom is prohibited. Gag orders are issued on sensitive topics. Disclosing information junta officials want suppressed assures arrest and incarceration.

Targeted journalists are brutally treated - subjected to torture and isolation for extended periods. Some are abducted and disappeared - their whereabouts not disclosed to family members and counsel.

Fahmy accused Al Jazeera of placing him and his colleagues in harm’s way, lying about its legal status in Egypt, and biased reporting favoring Islamists. He’s suing for damages in a Canadian court.

His lawyer Amal Clooney said “(w)e will appeal this verdict and we hope it will be reversed. We are now going to be holding a series of meetings with government officials where we will be asking for Mr. Fahmy's immediate deportation to Canada.”

“His colleague Peter Greste was sent back to Australia. There is no reason why the same thing shouldn't happen in Mr. Fahmy’s case.”

His wife said “I ask the Canadian government to extract him from here as he is a Canadian citizen and to deport him back to Canada. All what I am asking (for) is justice and fairness, for what happened with Peter to be applied to Mohamed.”

A previous article discussed Egypt’s new anti-terror law - the latest regime tool to crush dissent, authorizing prosecution and imprisonment for the crime of 
legitimate journalism.

Reporting anything authorities want suppressed can be called a 
“terrorist crime.” Egypt banned freedom - with full US support.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.


It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Right-Wing DC Court of Appeals Upholds Unconstitutional Surveillance

Right-Wing DC Court of Appeals Upholds Unconstitutional Surveillance

by Stephen Lendman

Virtually unrestricted NSA data mining tramples on Fourth Amendment rights brazenly. In December 2013, Federal District Court of the District of Columbia Judge Richard Leon ruled NSA spying unconstitutional, saying:

“The threshold issue is whether plaintiffs have a reasonable expectation of privacy that is violated when the Government indiscriminately collects their telephone metadata along with the metadata of hundreds of millions of other citizens without any particularized suspicion of wrongdoing, retains all of that metadata for five years, and then queries, analyzes, and investigates that data without prior judicial approval of the investigative targets."

"I cannot imagine a more 'indiscriminate' and 'arbitrary' invasion than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval." 

"Surely, such a program infringes on 'that degree of privacy' that the founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment." 

On Friday, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals overruled him. It’s perhaps America’s most extremist appeals court. People for the American Way (PFAW) explained its character and power as follows:

“Despite progressive victories in 2012, the far right’s outsized influence on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit gives them the power to undermine progressive laws and thwart the agenda that Americans elected President Obama to pursue.” 

“This court’s decisions affect the entire country, making it second only to the Supreme Court in national importance. (It’s) dominated by right-wing ideologues who are deeply hostile to the use of a robust federal government to tackle national problems and make our lives better.”

It has exclusive judicial authority over federal agency decisions and regulations affecting everyone. Its rulings are “almost guaranteed to be the last (judicial) word,” said PFAW.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) called its Friday ruling “disappointing and, worse, based on a mistaken concern about the underlying facts.”

It remanded the case back to Judge Richard Leon. Klayman plaintiffs must prove the impossible - provide evidence that their phone records were collected. No ruling was rendered on metadata collection constitutionality. Friday’s decision effectively endorsed it.

EFF explained recent government “releases…make clear that the plaintiffs’ records were in fact collected.” Documents obtained from a New York Times FOIA request revealed Verizon Wireless collects bulk telephone records of its subscribers without their knowledge - at least since 2010, likely earlier.

“The government should give up its shell game here and admit the time frame that it collected the Klayman plaintiffs records, along with all other Verizon Wireless customers,” said EFF.

Most important is unconstitutional mass NSA spying on virtually all Americans - for phony national security reasons. An earlier article explained the following:

In June 2013, the ACLU challenged “the constitutionality of the National Security Agency's mass collection of Americans' phone records (ACLU v. Clapper).”

It argued that doing so violates Fourth and First Amendment rights, saying: 

“Because the NSA's aggregation of metadata constitutes an invasion of privacy and an unreasonable search, it is unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment.”

“The call-tracking program also violates the First Amendment, because it vacuums up sensitive information about associational and expressive activity.”

NSA claims authorization under the Patriot Act's Section 215 - the so-called “business records” provision.

It permits warrantless searches without probable cause. It violates fundamental First Amendment rights. It does so by mandating secrecy. 

It prohibits targeted subjects from telling others what's happening to them. It compromises free expression, assembly and association. 

It authorizes the FBI to investigate anyone based on what they say, write, or do with regard to groups they belong to or associate with.

It violates Fourth and Fifth Amendment protections by not telling targeted subjects their privacy was compromised. It subverts fundamental freedoms for contrived, exaggerated, or nonexistent security reasons.

At the time of its suit, the ACLU said “(w)hatever Section 215's 'relevance' requirement might allow, it does not permit the government to cast a seven-year dragnet sweeping up every phone call made or received by Americans.”

The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) authorized surveillance relating to “foreign intelligence information” between “foreign powers” and “agents of foreign powers.” 

It restricts spying on US citizens and residents to those engaged in espionage in America and territory under US control. 

No longer. Today anything goes. America is a total surveillance society. Obama officials claim no authority can challenge them. Governing this way is called tyranny.

The US Second Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. It held Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act doesn't permit bulk collection of Americans' phone records. A three-judge panel ruled unanimously - overturning a lower court decision.

The Obama administration argued that the ACLU lacked “standing” to challenge NSA surveillance practices, and Congress “precluded” judicial review except by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court most often only hearing government arguments.

The appeals court rejected this reasoning, saying:

“If the government is correct, it could use Section 215 to collect and store in bulk any other existing metadata available anywhere in the private sector, including metadata associated with financial records, medical records, and electronic communications (including e‐mail and social media information) relating to all Americans.” 

“Such expansive development of government repositories of formerly private records would be an unprecedented contraction of the privacy expectations of all Americans.”

The DC Circuit Appeals Court refused to strike down mass data-mining - violating the constitutional rights of millions of Americans - effectively supporting tyranny by not opposing it.

“Instead, it endorsed the government’s argument that no public, adversarial court can review its actions unless those seeking review can prove with some certainty that they were one of the millions whose records were collected,” said EFF.

Its ruling requires mass data mining challengers to “perform an almost impossible task - proving the still secret details of an admitted mass surveillance program in order to have a court determine whether it is constitutional.”

The ruling further erodes freedom in America, fast disappearing altogether. It’s a triumph for tyranny. EFF said it’ll “continue to fight to hold the NSA accountable for mass collection of Americans' private information. Our phone and Internet networks should be protected from unfettered government spying.”

Enactment of the Orwellian USA Freedom Act (the renamed Patriot Act) changed little. NSA and other US spy agencies continue trampling on constitutional protections.

Big Brother is real. Unconstitutional mass surveillance is official US policy. It’s one of the most defining characteristics of unchecked police state power.

Edward Snowden said he “do(esn’t) want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.”

Nor should anyone tolerate unconstitutional intrusiveness.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.


It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Black New Orleans 10 Years Post-Katrina

Black New Orleans 10 Years Post-Katrina

by Stephen Lendman

August 29 marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. A personal note: Its devastation and ugly aftermath inspired this 70-year-old retiree at the time to begin writing about major world and national issues along with media work pro bono. 

It bears repeating some what that first article said - calling Katrina less what nature wrought, more a conspiracy of federal, state and city government along with business interests against the area’s most vulnerable residents - mainly its poor Black population.

Over a million people were displaced. Over 1,000 died. Cashing in on disaster followed. Former Republican congressman/current lobbyist Richard Baker said at the time: “We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it but God did.”

New Orleans developer Joseph Canizaro added: “I think we have a clean sheet to start again (and take advantage of) big opportunities.”

Their scheme: Erasing poor communities, replacing them with upscale development. Battered Gulf coast areas became a laboratory for disaster capitalism pioneered in Iraq. 

Some of the same familiar names were involved - Halliburton, Bechtel and other profiteers aiming to cash in big. Plans were made in advance. Execution followed storm damage.

Davis-Bacon law guaranteeing prevailing wages on federally funded or assisted construction contracts was suspended - letting contractors employ undocumented workers at poverty wages and no benefits.

Blackwater USA and other paramilitaries were deployed straightaway - in full battle gear, patrolling streets in SUVs or unmarked cars with no license plates.

Army combat troops, National Guard forces, US Border Patrol operatives, and out-of-state police followed. Devastated New Orleans became a battleground.

In August 2013, Loyola University New Orleans Law Professor Bill Quigley wrote about conditions in New Orleans eight years post-Katrina.

Nearly 100,000 (largely Black) people “never got back,” he said. “(T)he city remains incredibly poor, jobs and income vary dramatically by race, rents are up, public transportation is down, traditional public housing is gone, life expectancy differs dramatically by race and place, and most public education has been converted into charter schools.”

Quigley explained city population declined from 455,000 pre-Katrina to about 369,000 in 2013. Nearly half of working-age Black men were unemployed.

Area African-American households earn half as much as white ones. Jobs continue shifting to urban areas. New Orleans public housing is gone. Poverty is double the national average.

Public transportation is woefully poor. Public education changed dramatically - to 80% quasi-public charter schools, an interim step toward likely privatization.

Imprisonment rates are four times higher that the national average. Quigley called New Orleans losing 948 square miles of coastal wetlands from 1932 to 2010 “the biggest crime of all.”

On August 27, he commented on New Orleans 10 years post-Katrina, saying tens of thousands of the city’s “sickest, oldest, poorest, youngest, people with disabilities and the like” were left behind.

Plans were to eliminate all unwanted residents. “Well, you can’t leave if you’re in a hospital. You can’t leave if you’re a nurse.” 

“You can’t leave if you are a patient. You can’t leave if you’re in a nursing home. You can’t leave if you don’t have a car. All these things.” 

“They didn’t…plan for that. And so, we’re talking about somewhere in the neighborhood, I think, of 100,000 (unwanted) people probably (remaining) in the metropolitan New Orleans area.” 

When Katrina struck, lots of nursing home and hospital deaths occurred, Quigley explained. “The jail was full, 7,000 or so prisoners there without electricity, water, everything…(P)eople (were) stranded on house tops…”

Mandatory evacuation was ordered, but there were no buses, no trains. Anyone without transportation had no way out.

Tourist, business and other areas important to New Orleans largely recovered - “100,000 of our sisters and brothers in the African-American community never made it back, ever,” Quigley explained.

And returning poor people are worse off than ever. “Recovery has been a tale of two cities.” Privileged residents are well served. Blacks, the elderly, disabled and other disadvantaged ones were left out.

Bush and Obama administrations did nothing to help - serving rich and powerful interests exclusively, ignoring others most in need.

On August 27, Obama visited New Orleans for the first time as president, ignoring needs of its most disadvantaged throughout his tenure. 

He lied claiming “(m)y administration is going to stand with you and fight alongside you until the job is done, until (the city) is all the way back. All the way.”

Promises made throughout his tenure were systematically broken. America’s most disadvantaged in New Orleans and nationwide are more on their own unaided by all levels of government since pre-Great Depression days. Nothing in prospect suggests change.

New Orleans remains a window on America’s future. Survival increasingly depends on the ability to pay. Those unable are neglected, abandoned, ignored and forgotten.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.


It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Wall Street Rally: Hold the Cheers

Wall Street Rally: Hold the Cheers

by Stephen Lendman

Days of market turbulence likely haven’t ended. They’ve been more severe than any time since late 2008/early 2009. 

Hindsight may show upswing days were classic dead-cat bounces - a combination of short-covering and market manipulation.

An August 26 Wall Street Journal article should give investors pause - headlined “Margin Calls Bite Investors, Banks,” saying:

“Loans backed by investment portfolios have become a booming business for Wall Street brokerages. Now the bill is coming due - for both the banks and their clients.”

Bank of America and other lenders are issuing margin calls. Investors either have to put up more money to cover portfolio losses or sell holdings underlying their loans.

“Banks…are likely to take a hit to a key profit source if investors pull back from these loans as many expect,” said the Journal.

As of June 30, Morgan Stanley had $25.3 billion in equity loans - 37% higher than last year. Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch division had $38.2 billion in loan volume. Wells Fargo had $59.3 billion. Other Wall Street banks and brokerages issued huge amounts of credit - investors borrowing at low interest rates, taking full  advantage of bull market profit potential.

Things go as expected on upswings - polar opposite when they turn sour. Margin calls in enough volume can kill a bull market. When investors have to put up cash to cover losses, selling holdings usually follow, driving markets lower, how far for how long remains to be seen if beginning to occur now.

Zero Hedge called the Journal’s article “one of the most concerning and troubling finance/economics related articles…all year.” It explained the following:

Brokers let investors “take out loans of as much as 40% of the value from a portfolio of equities, and up to a terrifying 80% from a bond portfolio. The interest rates are often minuscule, as low as 2%, and since many of these clients are wealthy, the loans are often used to purchase boats and real estate.”

The Journal explained securities-base loans as follows:

“(T)he customer pledges all or part of a portfolio of stocks, bonds, mutual funds and/or other securities as collateral.” 

“But unlike traditional margin loans, in which the client uses the credit to buy more securities, the borrowing is for other purchases such as real estate, a boat or education.”

“Securities-based loans surged in the years after the financial crisis as banks retreated from home-equity and other consumer loans.” 

“Amid a years long bull market for stocks, the loans offered something for everyone in the equation: Clients kept their portfolios intact, financial advisers continued getting fees based on those assets and banks collected interest revenue from the loans.”

“(D)angerously high margin balances,” followed, according to Circle Squared Alternative Investments president Jeff Sica. When markets decline, margin calls rise - sharply if downturns continue.

With equity valuations way over-extended - at bubble levels vulnerable to bursting, the risk of markets crashing is greatest since 2008.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.


It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Washington Intends Breaching Iran Nuclear Deal

Washington Intends Breaching Iran Nuclear Deal

by Stephen Lendman

The dawn of a new era in US/Iranian relations didn’t arrive on July 14 in Vienna - with consummation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOC). Far from it.

Washington’s deal-making history is deplorable - a record of betrayal, consistently breaching agreements since the beginning of the republic, proving its word isn’t its bond.

On Friday, Obama’s Treasury sanctions czar, Adam Szubin, arrived in Israel - to reassure its regime of continued US hardline anti-Iranian policy, ready to impose new “severe financial penalties for its (nonexistent) sponsorship of terrorism and support of military proxies,” according to The New York Times.

He’ll reassure Israeli officials about Washington’s “continued efforts to target Iran’s (nonexistent) malign activities” - intending “intensif(ied) sanctions (to) ensur(e) they bite even deeper,” he explained.

Washington agreeing in Vienna to remove Iranian sanctions was a Big Fat Lie. In return for ending some (on Iran’s nuclear program), new ones apparently will be imposed offsetting them, the usual US dirty game, pledging one thing, doing another with disturbing regularity.

The Times quoted Szubin saying “(w)e plan to enforce (sanctions) with all the toughness that people have come to expect from the US Treasury.”

On Friday, Obama will address the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (the nation’s leading Zionist groups, AIPAC its best known member) by webcast.

He’ll sell the benefits of the nuclear deal he already plans to breach - to please Israel and its Zionist Lobby.

On September 3, Vice President Biden will meet with US Jewish leaders (including major Democrat party fundraisers) in Florida - selling the nuclear deal. He’ll host a Labor Day Washington Rosh Hashanah (Jewish new year) event.

On Wednesday, nearly 200 retired US generals and admirals wrote Congress - urging lawmakers reject the Iran nuclear deal, on the phony claim of threatening national security.

The letter is the latest AIPAC effort to undermine a chance for preventing greater Middle East war. It’s similar to one sent last week by three dozen other retired senior US military officers - repeating the long ago discredited claim about facilitating Tehran’s path to the bomb, along with other familiar canards.

Obama appears to have enough support to prevent a two-thirds majority overriding his veto when Congress is expected to reject the Iran nuclear deal in September.

With Treasury’s Szubin explaining tough anti-Iranian sanctions remain official US policy, the JCPOC may not be worth the paper it’s written on - unless other P5+1 countries go their own way, breaking with US policy, not likely except for Russia and China.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.


It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Phony Reports of Russian Casualties in Ukraine Resurface


Phony Reports of Russian Casualties in Ukraine Resurface

by Stephen Lendman

Throughout 17 months of Kiev aggression on Donbass, reports of alleged “Russian aggression” have been a complete fabrication - including fake numbers of nonexistent military casualties.

No matter. Phony anti-Russian accusations persist - the latest from Forbes magazine (its motto: “The Capitalist Tool”). Its source: a dubious Delovaya Zhizn (Business Life) Russian web site. 

Its March 2015 article headlined “Increases in Pay for Military in 2015” claimed “official figures (reveal) the number of Russian soldiers killed or made invalids in eastern Ukraine” - the story a complete hoax, falsified information later removed, picked up in its original form by Forbes, then reported by NBC News, the London Independent, The Times Europe, the International Business Times, Daily Beast, other publications and Washington’s Radio Free Europe/Radio Europe propaganda - all repeating the same Big Lie without checking sources for verification. None exist.

Two former US ambassadors to Russia, a former one to Ukraine and Washington’s ambassador to the OSCE tweeted comments about Business Life’s report, suggesting its legitimacy.

In contrast, Bloomberg’s Leonid Bershidsky tweeted: “That ‘Business Life’ report of Russia’s Ukraine casualties is a fake. Bs-life.ru - come on, are you serious? (Plus the ‘B Ykpanhe (Ukraine) slip).” BS indeed!

AP’s Nataliya Vasilyeva called “(t)he ease of spreading rumors in the digital world…astonishing.”

“Two days of Western officials retweeting a Forbes report quoting a Ukrainian web-site quoting a non-existent Russia new web-site re Ukraine.”

“The main problem here is, of course, where was the Forbes online editor when the story was published, why nobody bothered to check sources?”

Russian media watchdog Roscomnadzor found four so-called Business Life-named publications - newspapers and magazines, not web sites.

The Delovaya Zhizn (bs-life.ru) site mentions no reference to print or mail subscriptions, its publisher, editor, other staff or contact information, except for an online reply form.

RT International made contact with someone called Anatoly Kravchenko - “introducing himself as ‘representing’ Delovaya Zhizn (Business Life).” Via email, he said:

“On August 23, the editorial staff received emails requesting clarification of the information contained in the article, in its last part. This is how we discovered that the site had been hacked… and an editor removed the part of the text added by the perpetrators to the story.”

He indicated Business Life’s site was hacked on August 22, “allegedly from a Kiev-registered IP address,” RT reported.

Kravchenko claimed the publication has no “political orientation and does not support any political power in the RF (Russian Federation).”

RT explained it can’t confirm Kravchenko’s identity, adding: “something which apparently did not stop Western news outlets from citing (unsubstantiated) claims.” They’re pervasive in propaganda reports - the way crabgrass infests lawns.

Paul Roderick Gregory wrote the Forbes article. He’s an anti-Russian right-wing Hoover Institute research fellow. Some of his other recent propaganda articles were titled:

“Is a slow Putsch against Putin under way?

“Putin in the dock”

“The dirty bomb - A thwarted Putin false flag operation?

“Russia’s veto of the MH17 UN criminal tribunal is an admission of guilt”

In May 2014, he called “Putin’s Ukrainian executioners worse than Stalin’s.”

Roderick is a propagandist masquerading as a journalist - featuring streams of anti-Russian disinformation and Big Lies.

His August 25 article headlined “Russia Inadvertently Posts Its Casualties In Ukraine: 2,000 Death, 3,200 Disabled,” saying:

Putin “decreed that all Russian casualties in peacetime be a state secret…Dissident Boris Nemtsov was murdered shortly before completing his study of Russian casualties in Ukraine.”

Fake Russian civil rights groups “working against the fog of official resistance, could only confirm several hundred (nonexistent) battlefield deaths.”

Fact: Putin had nothing to do with killing Nemtsov. Claims otherwise were fabricated.

Fact: Longstanding Russian policy classifies military wartime casualties.

Fact: Putin decreed all peacetime special operations military casualties a state secret. State Duma defense committee parliamentarian Franz Klintsevich said disclosing them “means telling everything about the character of (operations) and forces involved in (them).”

“Today, this is hardly justifiable…The international situation is so unstable that a new conflict can take place anywhere and we must prevent such threats and when it is possible we should launch preventive measures, including special operations.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin’s decree has nothing to do with conflict in Donbass. He has no intention of ordering special operations anywhere in Ukraine.

Russian Institute of Military and Political Analysis deputy head Aleksandr Khramchkhin said Putin’s decree conformed to generally accepted practices in other countries. “(I)n the USA, all actions of their special forces are an absolute secret, both in war and in peace. Nothing is known about them,” he explained.

Roderick implied Russia is concealing information about its (nonexistent) involvement in war on Donbass. He called the dubious Russian Business Life web site “scarcely an outlet for sensational information - reporting fabricated Donbass military casualty figures, erroneously claiming “Russian censors quickly removed the offending material…”

The publication removed the fabricated information added by Ukrainian hackers - webcached by Google in its original form, claiming Moscow paid monetary compensation to families of Russian soldiers killed or disabled “in military actions in Eastern Ukraine.”

Roderick lied claiming the “revelation of more than two thousand combat deaths in east Ukraine not only destroys the Putin myth of a small number of deaths of Russian patriots defending Russians in Ukraine from neo-Nazi extremists but also demolishes Putin’s cover story that no ‘active’ member of the Russian armed forces is or has been in Ukraine.”

Perhaps he inadvertently slipped admitting deployed “neo-Nazi extremists” involved in combat against Ukrainian citizens in Donbass.

He debunked legitimate Kremlin claims about fabricated accusations. He lied claiming “what should be obvious to all: (Nonexistent) Russian troops are in east Ukraine and are being supplied with heavy weapons by Russia. (Its) dead are secretly transported back to Russia for furtive burials.”

He ignored unsourced Business Life claims until removed. No evidence corroborates them. None exists. 

His article repeated the long ago discredited claim about so-called “Russian aggression” in Ukraine. None exists - not now or earlier.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

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