Category Archives: National Politics
This is despite a loophole in the law blocking repossessions.
A new report estimates that lenders have issued legal proceedings to take properties off up to 44,000 borrowers.
These are made up of residential and buy-to-let properties, according to calculations contained in a new report by Davy Stockbrokers.
An analysis estimates that what it calls non-cooperative borrowers number between 23,700 and 43,700.
Letters threatening legal action have been sent to these borrowers.
And there are fears that large numbers of properties, particularly buy-to-lets, will be repossessed.
Ulster Bank said that up to a third of its property owners in arrears were making no payments at all. The bank said it would not hesitate to repossess in these cases.
Strong demand for family-type homes and the presence in the market of large numbers of cash buyers mean that a flood of newly repossessed properties can be absorbed.
A number of banks were also likely to keep repossessed properties on their books, take the rental income and slowly release them on the market, Mr Mac Coille wrote. Changes in the law to restore the right of lenders to repossess properties have been passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas and are expected to become law soon.
Davy reckons that arrears will keep rising this year, with large numbers of homeowners struggling to repay largely due to income decreases rather than job losses.
For large numbers of borrowers in trouble the mortgage repayments are so high they represent more than half of their income, Davy reported, citing unpublished Central Bank studies.
A separate MABS (Money Advice and Budgeting Service) report found that distressed borrowers had just €777 a month left, after paying for utilities, food and childcare. But the mortgage was around €500 a month.
Banks will have to write down up to €11.5bn of mortgage debt. Most of this will be in the form of split mortgages where part of the mortgage owed is put to one side, and in most cases will probably have to be written off at the end of the mortgage term.
But one-third of borrowers are in such a bad financial position that a debt writedown will not work. These are mainly buy-to-let investors.
Half of investor mortgages are paying interest only. Despite this, almost 30,000 out of 150,000 buy-to-let mortgages are in arrears.
Engineer Duje Kovai, who has worked in the shipyard at Split for 40 years, asks: “Why does Europe want to stop Croatia building ships?” He has no answer. The country has a long coastline and history of sailors, fishermen and shipbuilders, but EU membership will probably put an end to one of its oldest industries. The yards had to be completely privatised before Croatia officially joined the EU on 1 July.
Croatia had five shipyards, dating back to the 19th century: Uljanik in Pula, and 3-May at Rijeka, Kraljevica, Trogir and Split. They were the economic backbone of the coastal regions. Ships built in Yugoslavia used to sail the world, and for decades Dalmatia’s shipyards rivalled those of Trieste and Saint-Nazaire. Shipbuilding was key to the political imagination of the socialist years: Josip Broz Tito had worked as a mechanic at Kraljevica in the 1920s. Split’s history is linked with the shipyard: the famous Hajduk football club — which is to Croatia what Olympique de Marseille is to France — was founded by shipbuilders who joined the Communist partisans when Dalmatia was annexed by the Italian fascists in 1941.The termination of all public subsidies is stipulated in chapter 8 (Competition Policy) of the accession treaty admitting Croatia to the EU, and the European Commission has been monitoring the implementation of the “restructuring” programme. “All over the world, states help shipbuilding,” said Zvonko Šegvi, president of Split’s shipbuilders’ union. “In Italy, the Fincantieri shipyards are entirely in public hands; in France, the state is still a minority shareholder in the biggest yards such as STX-Chantiers de l’Atlantique. Even in South Korea, the world leader in naval construction, the state subsidises shipbuilding. What’s acceptable in every other country is forbidden in Croatia in the name of European integration.”
A few months before EU accession, the state put its shipyards up for sale. But this proved more difficult than expected: debts were underestimated and some potential buyers were put off by the requirement that they shoulder 40% of restructuring costs. Kraljevica didn’t find a buyer and went under. Only the privatisation of the small site at Trogir seems a comparative success: one pier will be turned into a marina and chandler’s yard, and shipbuilding will continue. It was bought by a Croatian businessman, Danko Konar. The state will contribute €60m ($80m) to its restructuring over five years, and the agreement includes cutting the workforce from 1,200 to 900. Slavko Bilota, an engineer, hopes though that as older workers retire new ones will be taken on.The yards in Split were purchased by the DIV group for the nominal sum of 500,000 kunas ($88,600). DIV, which is owned by the businessman Tomislav Debeljak, has not put forward any serious plan for getting them back in operation, and announced in June that almost all of the 3,500 workers would be laid off: 1,500 of these will be rehired on short-term contracts, but the selection criteria are unclear. DIV has also promised to recruit 500 former employees, also on temporary contracts.
Split is not going down without a fight, and DIV has brought charges against union leaders for alleged acts of violence and has had them banned from the site.The identity of Istria is likewise inextricably linked to the Uljanik shipyard at Pula. In this tiny region of 200,000 people, shipbuilding accounts for nearly 30,000 jobs, direct and indirect. Production has continued and the order book is full, despite a reduction in state aid since 2006. Uljanik even made a bid to buy the 3-May shipyard in Rijeka. But the future remains uncertain. The site is attracting attention for its touristic rather than industrial potential: the islet on which the shipyards are located is in the middle of Pula bay, visible from the promenade and the town’s Roman amphitheatre. For now, Pula’s tourist future is focused on Muzil, a former military base built in 1859 for the Austro-Hungarian fleet and used by the Yugoslav then Croatian navies until it was closed in 2007. Pula residents currently stroll, bathe, fish, and picnic on the site, which also hosts alternative festivals, but there are plans to privatise it and turn it into a tourist complex with a 2,500-bed hotel, golf course and marina.
The planned demise of the shipyards will complete Croatia’s deindustrialisation. But can the country rely on tourism? The coastal regions have the highest unemployment, with 22% officially out of work overall, and a third of those under 25. Many young people get by on casual work on the black market, earning as little as $250 a month. Zvonko Šegvi says Croatia is joining the EU “without any real preparation … our economy has been devastated, and all we can do is provide services to the rich countries in the north. In the EU, Croatia is going to be a second-rank country, like all the other states in the south.”
Andrew Watt ended his article with the post-mortem examination being carried out by Dr Nicholas Hunt on the evening the body was found 18 July 2003. It was the penetrating smell of Lysol, lights and stainless steel in the mortuary of the John Radcliffe Infirmary Oxford, as well as the remains of a fit husband and father. Nine police officers were in attendance, the most senior being Detective Chief Inspector Alan Young who was in charge of the investigation. He was at the scene on Harrowdown Hill where the unidentified body was found by Louise Holmes. In spite of his lead position in the inquiry into a missing person, and then a suspicious death, he was neither called to the Hutton Inquiry which started sitting 13 days later, nor did he submit a statement to it (1). There is no obvious explanation for the presence of nine police officers at this very morbid autopsy given that the police had sprayed the word ‘suicide’ about earlier that day. The size of the squad would surely have fitted better if murder was foremost in the minds of the investigating authorities.
The examination finished just after midnight. Dr Hunt wrote up his report of his findings at the scene and of his post mortem examination the next day, the 19th of July. He would have come to preliminary conclusions as to the cause of death and been helped in that by the early findings of Dr Allan the toxicologist. That first report has never been published; it was not referred to by Dr Hunt when he gave evidence at the Hutton Inquiry (2) The only report, and that is entitled Final Post Mortem Report – 25th July 2003, was published in October 2010, by the Ministry of Justice. The only original copy of this in existence is a very poor ‘scan’. An OCR and tidied version of this is here (3). That the findings in the first report have never been made public was one among three important concerns brought by this author to the General Medical Council in 2011, established by the Medical Act of 1858. (4) This will be discussed later but suffice to say they were dismissed.
Dr Nicholas Gardiner, HM Coroner for Oxfordshire, opened an inquest as the law demands for all violent, unnatural or unexplained deaths on the 21st July. It is surprising that transcripts of coronial hearings are seldom made. The hearing would have been attended by Dr Hunt, the coroner’s officer and the police. It would have been adjourned until more evidence had flowed in. However, it can be inferred that the cause of death had been given by Dr Hunt. (5 )
Whilst this mouse of an inquest moved ever so quietly, an elephant had been trampling the undergrowth for the three previous days, starting at Harrowdown Hill. Within three hours of the body being found, my Lord Hutton had been engaged to chair an ad hoc inquiry, by my Lord Falconer as Dr Watt has already described. Miles Goslett recently reported in the Mail that Hutton had confirmed in a letter to Norman Baker MP that he had been asked to meet Lord Chancellor Falconer in his Lord’s office around noon of the 18th July and that he agreed to serve.(6) At that point the subject, David Christopher Kelly CMG DSc had not been identified and no cause of death had been established. This fixer was a friend of Blair’s when they were in chambers studying law! He had assisted his friend the PM in bolstering the claim that there was a legal basis for a massive bombardment and invasion of Iraq rather than it being a supreme war crime as defined at Nuremberg.
It is salutary to consider that it took six and half years for the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq ‘War’ to be set up in which over one million Iraqi humans died, at least two million were maimed by customary calculation and four million were made refugees in Syria and Jordan. It took the New Labour high command, the sofa cabinet, just three hours after the death of just one man to set up Hutton with the clear intention of containing the inquiry and ensuring safe conclusions. The instruction given to Hutton was to ‘…urgently to conduct an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr Kelly’. ‘Urgently’ can be interpreted as ‘nail this promptly’, ‘consider’ as ‘without especial accuracy’ and ‘circumstances’ as equalling the ‘media furore’ which obviously drove Kelly to an inevitable suicide. It was not who the deceased was, and how, when and where he died which are the plain duties of a coroner. It was the ‘circumstances’; and if anything showed the mind and the motives of this most evil cabal, that word is the nub.
The words of the two conversations (6) between Falconer in Westminster and his pal Blair on wing to Tokyo in the hour after noon that day have not, of course, been revealed. That it was to do with an awkward corpse in a wood it is fair to assume. After all, it was a central topic at the press conference in Tokyo where blood, or other medium, drained from Blair’s face with ‘Have you got blood on your hands Mr Blair’ from a Daily Mail journalist. The obvious answer was that he had the blood of thousands upon thousands of people on his hands whereas the European only had one white man in mind at that moment.
Correspondence by Ms Albon of Falconer’s other office (he was also the Secretary of State in the Department of Constitutional Affairs – Mikado style) with the Oxfordshire coroner has a dictatorial ring to it. It was recognised he had to reconvene his inquest in law but this mouse then had to be silent until the elephant had trumpeted the findings. All this was engineered by the mechanism of Section 17a of the 1988 Coroner’s Act. It had been applied for multiple deaths of common cause – Shipman, the Ladbroke rail crash and the sinking of the trawler Gaul. It had at its root – efficiency in investigation, thoughtfulness towards loved ones and verdict as to the common cause. There was no justification for invocation of Section 17a on top of this ad hoc inquiry other than to shackle the coroner and thus to subvert due process. With a few ‘phone calls Falconer had made certain with this ad hoc ‘judicial’ inquiry that there would be no evidence under oath, no ability to subpoena witnesses, no cross examination and no ability to call a jury. The last thing he wanted was twelve good women/men and true.
The coup de grace for the mouse was this Section 17a. There was a further hearing on the 14th of August at which an extraordinary death certificate was conjured up and registered four days later. The hearing was not publicised and again there was no transcript or reportage. This officer of the Crown whose authority and duties stretched back to the 13th Century had been made into a small creature by power and cunning. “The use of these powers to oust the Coroner’s jurisdiction …” is how Frances Swaine of Leigh Day & Co put it an excellent memorandum to the Attorney General in October 2010. (7) (Leigh Day were initially instructed by Dr Frost; they did a large amount of excellent work without charge.)
A letter that Mr Gardiner wrote 6th of August to Ms Albon includes “The preliminary cause of death given at the opening of the inquest no longer represents the view of the Pathologist and evidence from him would need to be given to correct and update the evidence already received.”
(5 – section ONE). This was brushed aside in a letter from lawyers acting for Dr Hunt who were reacting to this long letter from the author to the GMC listing his concerns about Dr Hunt’s performance.(5) Whether his opinion had been changed or not, there was an absolute professional and legal requirement on him to reveal his initial report with its conclusions and his train of thought.
This principle has been tested in the case of Dr Kenneth Shorrock who is currently suspended for unknown reason from the Home Office list of forensic pathologists which was last updated 15th May 2013. This extract from (5 – section ONE) – “He was charged with serious professional misconduct by the General Medical Council on eight counts I believe. He had produced a second post-mortem report on a hospital patient which was indicative of negligence by the surgeon without any reference to his first report which had exonerated the surgeon.’
The surgeon was charged with manslaughter but was cleared. He complained to the Home Office whose Scientific Standards Committee of the Policy Advisory Board opined that he had not ‘maintained the standards required’ and simply issued advice, its interest ending in July 2004. The surgeon then complained to the General Medical Council. Mr Vernon Coaker, Minister of State at the Home Office, said in a letter to the author 22 November 2008 “The GMC had been considering the complaint for, I believe, many months (prior to July 2005) and had, similarly, taken no steps to restrict Dr Shorrock’s practice.”
Of the greatest importance is the fact that he was called from Sheffield to examine the remains of Jean Charles de Menezes who had been shot with six hollow point bullets in the head as he sat in a ‘tube’ carriage 22nd July 2005. Sheffield is 150 miles from London which has at least 8 forensic pathologists available. The call to attend a headless Jean Charles was in spite of the fact that a charge of serious professional misconduct was hanging over him; the first hearing by the GMC Fitness to Practice Panel was only six weeks after the killing of Jean Charles. There had been several adjournments of the GMC hearings of this charge which was first heard 5th of September 2005. The nine page summary of the final hearing 19 February 2007 found him guilty of serious professional misconduct. (8 -HALPIN website)
This author wrote to five relevant authorities before the 22nd September 2008 inquest at the Oval, Kennington about this most improper instruction given to Dr Shorrock to take this case in the summer of 2005. There were no replies from any one of the five; this included the Public Solicitor to the inquiry and Justice4Jean. Dr Shorrock’s evidence would be central at this inquest and would include the position and identity of each bullet prior to ballistic studies, and would thus indicate which weapon and which agent had injured Jean Charles beyond recognition IF the evidence had not been contaminated. The Independent Police Complaints Commission does not have a reputation for being just but it did not take possession of the scene until 48 hours had elapsed.
The final hearing of five altogether took place on the 5th of February 2007. The GMC panel found him guilty of the charge of serious professional misconduct. It found his actions “unprofessional, inconsistent, unreasonable, not based upon the medical and pathological information and likely to bring the medical profession into disrepute”.
Two professors of forensic pathology advised the panel:-
Vanezis – ‘He further stated that if a pathologist had reason to change his conclusions or opinion, an explanation should be given as to why he has deemed this necessary.’
Pounder – ‘ Dr Shorrock had a duty to make reference to the existence of the first report. In addition, the second report should have given the reasons for his change of view.
Many had written in support of Dr Kenneth Shorrock. He was simply issued with a reprimand.
The reader has two forensic pathologists in examine.
One was lecturing at the Police Staff College, Bramshill, Hampshire when he was called to a corpse on Harrowdown Hill which was all about a supreme war crime.
The other was called from Sheffield to a most high profile unlawful killing at Southwell Tube Station, London.
Should the second have been on gardening leave until the GMC had considered the serious charge against him? Or did Jean Charles not deserve the best within our law?
Should the first not have fully revealed the first post mortem report he wrote up on Dr Kelly on the 19th of July? It is certain there was a FIRST report and Lord Hutton referred to it in his introduction. Were the opinions as to the causes of death different in important ways between the 19th of July and the FINAL Post Mortem Report of the 25th of July. It is clear the Coroner thought so. That this gross defect slipped through is typical of much that happened at Hutton. His professional and legal duty was made completely clear later in the case of Dr Shorrock.
We move on next to the Hutton Inquiry and its many defects.
SYDNEY, Australia — Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, formally inaugurated a new political party bearing the name of his antisecrecy organization on Thursday and declared his own unorthodox candidacy for a seat in the Australian Senate in national elections to be held later this year.
In a telephone interview, Mr. Assange said he had every confidence in his ability to run a campaign from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. He has been living under asylum there for more than a year to avoid being extradited to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning on sexual assault accusations.
“It’s not unlike running the WikiLeaks organization,” he said. “We have people on every continent. We have to deal with over a dozen legal cases at once.”
“However, it’s nice to be politically engaged in my home country,” he added.
Mr. Assange, 42, an Australian computer hacker who rose to prominence as an evangelist for radical government transparency and a critic of United States foreign policy, is a deeply polarizing figure. Many believe that the WikiLeaks Party is simply a vanity project for Mr. Assange, although several polls conducted since plans to establish the party emerged earlier this year suggest that it could fare better than expected.
The Australian Senate has a long history of successful protest candidates, John Wanna, a political-science professor at Australian National University in Canberra, said in an interview. Mr. Assange is probably hoping to trade on his name recognition and follow in the footsteps of other rabble-rousing, single-issue senators, Professor Wanna said.
“He’s basically a nuisance candidate who may attract a bit of attention, because he’s not really about governing and sitting in Parliament,” he said. “He’s not standing to do the work, he’s standing for the nuisance value.”
If elected, Mr. Assange said, his party will work to advance “transparency, justice and accountability.”
“My plans are to essentially parachute in a crack troop of investigative journalists into the Senate and to do what we have done with WikiLeaks, in holding banks and government and intelligence agencies to account,” Mr. Assange said.
Supporters of Mr. Assange laud him as a hero for what they see as his dogged pursuit of government transparency, but prominent critics have described his releasing of classified information as a reckless act.
Mr. Assange is perhaps best known for WikiLeaks’ 2010 release of a huge trove of American diplomatic cables. His supporters maintain that the United States and its allies have fabricated the sexual assault case against him in Sweden to hamper his ability to release further classified materials and to punish him for those already released.
Under Australian law, Mr. Assange would have to take his seat within one year of being elected, although the Senate could technically grant him an extension if he is unable to physically take his seat. The British government has stated its intention to arrest him if he leaves the embassy in London.
Although he is best known for his views on international affairs, Mr. Assange was eager on Thursday to offer WikiLeaks’ position on the most contentious issue in contemporary Australian politics: the record number of people trying to reach Australia each year in rickety boats to claim political asylum.
Mr. Assange assailed a tough policy announced last week by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, under which all asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat are to be sent to refugee-processing centers in Papua New Guinea.
He compared his own situation, and that of Edward J. Snowden — the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked documents about American surveillance programs — with the plight of those trying to reach Australia by boat.
“I am a political asylum seeker, awarded political asylum by the Ecuadorean government, and another state, the United Kingdom, and other states are interfering with that,” he said.
The Executive Branch fought for that ruling — and is now celebrating.”We agree with the decision,” said a Justice Department spokesman. “We are examining the next steps in the prosecution of this case.” The Risen case, and potentially many others, are now under the ominous shadow of the Appeals Court’s pronouncement: ” There is no First Amendment testimonial privilege, absolute or qualified, that protects a reporter from being compelled to testify ” in criminal proceedings.”
At the Freedom of the Press Foundation, co-founder Trevor Timm calls the court ruling “the most significant reporter’s privilege decision in decades” and asserts that the court “eviscerated that privilege.” He’s not exaggerating. Press freedom is at stake.
Journalists who can be compelled to violate the confidentiality of their sources, or otherwise go to prison, are reduced to doing little more than providing stenographic services to pass along the official story. That’s what the White House wants.
The federal Fourth Circuit covers the geographical area where most of the U.S. government’s intelligence, surveillance and top-level military agencies — including the NSA and CIA — are headquartered. The ruling “pretty much guts national security journalism in the states in which it matters,” Marcy Wheeler writes.
That court decision came seven days after the Justice Department released its “News Media Policies” report announcing “significant revisions to the Department’s policies regarding investigations that involve members of the news media.” The report offered assurances that “members of the news media will not be subject to prosecution based solely on newsgathering activities.” (Hey thanks!) But the document quickly added that the government will take such action “as a last resort” when seeking information that is “essential to a successful investigation or prosecution.”
Translation: We won’t prosecute journalists for doing their jobs unless we really want to.
Over the weekend, some news accounts described Friday’s court decision as bad timing for Attorney General Eric Holder, who has scrambled in recent weeks to soothe anger at the Justice Department’s surveillance of journalists. “The ruling was awkwardly timed for the Obama administration,” the New York Times reported. But the ruling wasn’t just “awkwardly timed” — it was revealing, and it underscored just how hostile the Obama White House has become toward freedom of the press.
News broke in May that the Justice Department had seized records of calls on more than 20 phone lines used by Associated Press reporters over a two-month period and had also done intensive surveillance of a Fox News reporter that included obtaining phone records and reading his emails. Since then, the Obama administration tried to defuse the explosive reaction without actually retreating from its offensive against press freedom.
At a news conference two months ago, when President Obama refused to say a critical word about his Justice Department’s targeted surveillance of reporters, he touted plans to reintroduce a bill for a federal shield law so journalists can protect their sources. But Obama didn’t mention that he has insisted on a “national security exception” that would make such a law approximately worthless for reporters doing the kind of reporting that has resulted in government surveillance — and has sometimes landed them in federal court.
Obama’s current notion of a potential shield law would leave his administration fully able to block protection of journalistic sources. In a mid-May article — headlined “White House Shield Bill Could Actually Make It Easier for the Government to Get Journalists’ Sources” — the Freedom of the Press Foundation shed light on the duplicity: As a supposed concession to press freedom, the president was calling for reintroduction of a 2009 Senate bill that “would not have helped the Associated Press in this case, and worse, it would actually make it easier for the Justice Department to subpoena journalists covering national security issues.”
Whether hyping a scenario for a shield law or citing new Justice Department guidelines for news media policies, the cranked-up spin from the administration’s PR machinery does not change the fact that Obama is doubling down on a commitment to routine surveillance of everyone, along with extreme measures specifically aimed at journalists — and whistleblowers.
The administration’s efforts to quash press freedom are in sync with its unrelenting persecution of whistleblowers. The purpose is to further choke off the flow of crucial information to the public, making informed “consent of the governed” impossible while imposing massive surveillance and other violations of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments. Behind the assault on civil liberties is maintenance of a warfare state with huge corporate military contracts and endless war. The whole agenda is repugnant and completely unacceptable.
Norman Solomon is the author of many books, including “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death,” which has been adapted into a documentary film. For more information, go to: http://www.normansolomon.com
The most important court case taking place over the last month has involved no hoodies or homosexuality. This case does not arouse the primitivegroupthink and culture wars into which so many recent high-profile cases have devolved. However, while the trial of former Army Private Bradley Manning offers no edgy photo to adorn the tabloids, the proceedings offer a clear picture of American society. Without hyperbole, the outcome of this trial may reveal whether America remains a nation of free and sovereign individuals, or a mass of subjects under the authority of a military-intelligence state.
On Thursday, Col. Denise Lind, the judge presiding over Manning’s case, sent an ominous sign for Bradley and for freedom of speech, re-affirming the most serious charge against the former Army private. Previously, the defense motioned to omit the charge of “aiding the enemy,” on the ground that Manning did not knowingly offer information to Al-Qaeda or any enemy combatants. Government prosecutors rebutted that Manning knew that terrorist groups would scour the information on WikiLeaks. The prosecution’s premise asserts that offering intelligence to a third party constitutes aiding the enemy if the enemy might uncover the materials. Judge Lind seems to agree.
In a few quick logical connections, the trial of Bradley Manning for the charge of “aiding the enemy” would put on trial the existence of independent investigative journalism. The prosecution has already made those connections. In a move which she may regret, Capt. Angel Overgaardaffirmed that Manning would have faced the same charges whether he had given the information to WikiLeaks or the New York Times. Previously, in the most similar high-profile case regarding the leaking of military secrets, Daniel Ellsberg ultimately faced no penalty for leaking the “Pentagon Papers” to the New York Times. However, the judge in that case left much ambiguity, dismissing the charges against Ellsberg due to governmental misconduct rather than acquitting him on principle.
With courts’ past ambiguity on the release of sensitive information, the unprecedented case of Bradley Manning could set some foreboding precedents. For instance, if Col. Lind finds Manning guilty of “aiding the enemy” — and there is no difference between a leak to WikiLeaks or to theNew York Times — then not only WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, but any journalist publishing information that the government does not want published, could face fierce charges from the Department of Justice. Indeed, the Department of Justice has declared that any soldier who speaks with WikiLeaks or WikiLeaks supporters is subject to charges of “communicating with the enemy,” implying that WikiLeaks itself is the enemy. If there is no difference betweenWikiLeaks and mainstream newspapers, then it appears that the government aims to wage war on journalists — and, therefore, on freedom of speech and thought.
A new scandal emerges every other day regarding egregious violations of liberty by another arm of the Leviathan government — the IRS, the Department of Justice, the NSA, and the U.S. military, to name a few recent perpetrators. The government has engaged more frequently than ever before in criminalizing men and women whose only crime was speaking the truth. (In case you live under a rock, see Edward Snowden.) Whether the government aims benevolently to protect our national security or not, all Americans — and all dignified human beings who reject Orwellian totalitarianism — must oppose the outlawing of truth and the war on speech.
And the innocent Bradley Manning must be free.
Several subjects are difficult for me to write about. At such times, a long-ago professor’s words comes to mind. He advised young writers to take extra care with emotion-charged topics, cautioning that the message could be lost amid the sentiment. Still, I have to try.
The terms fracking, toxic tar sands, genetically modified organisms, carcinogenic chemicals, metallic sulfide mining, acid mine drainage and many others stir fear-filled loathing. I need answers to troubling questions:
• Are the people who run these companies and our government genuinely evil or just exceedingly naïve as they destroy our planet in the name of energy and jobs?
• Why are so many of us, seduced by energy-guzzling lifestyles and the promise of jobs, unwilling to change our wasteful ways? A recent report stated that most people would rather adjust to the negative effects of our actions than change them.
• What are the most effective things people who truly care can do to make a difference before it is too late?
The natural environment, particularly fresh water, is our source of life and livelihood, ultimately more precious than oil and craved by other countries.
Now, Enbridge wants to increase both the pressure within and poisonous content of the oil flowing through this aging pipeline. The existing pipeline should be removed, not made more vulnerable to a disaster of absolutely unparalleled proportions from which there can be no real recovery.
What happened in 1989 in the exquisitely beautiful Prince William Sound, Alaska, thanks to Exxon can never be undone nor can it in the Gulf, due to the negligence of British Petroleum, or here in Calhoun County, compliments of Enbridge.
Major corporations lie willfully, continually and without compunction. British Petroleum pats itself on the back in its public relations for its “commitment that began two years ago” to the Gulf Coast.
Awfully late isn’t it? Where was its “commitment” from the very beginning of any thought of drilling for oil in the Gulf or anywhere else for that matter? Shame on them and shame on those who are swayed by the verbiage.
Likewise, Chevron brags that it is so concerned about the environment that if it cannot do things right, it won’t do them at all. Yet when this hyperbole began airing, the company had been cited for deliberately violating environmental regulations at one of its major operations in California.
To me, Monsanto is a curse word. What would Rachel Carson, founder of the environmental movement, say if she were alive today? Might her words be a prophetic: “I told you so”?
Genetically modified crops are already linked to health problems while Monsanto intimidates farmers who want to work with heirloom seeds in sustainable settings. It is seeking government approval to allow more toxic “Round-Up” residue on food crops.
Corporate executives and government officials snuggle up and plump pillows in the same bed. It is all so convenient and cozy for deal-making and favor-swapping.
Yet, my anger isn’t just directed at them. It is also at us, the public. We’re being lied to, our world is being poisoned before our eyes and many of us blithely do nothing constructive or corrective. We are not part of the solution, but part of the problem.
On July 14, we have the opportunity to take steps on behalf of change at “Oil & Water Don’t Mix: A Rally for the Great Lakes” to be held at Bridge View Park in St. Ignace, in view of the Mackinac Bridge. (See http://www.oilandwaterdontmix.
com and the report by the National Wildlife Federation, “Sunken Hazard.”)
Without drinkable water, breathable air, and safe food-bearing soil, we cannot live. Can it be put any more directly than that? I am angry. You should be too. But anger isn’t enough. What will we do?
ON August 6, 1945, America dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, instantly killing 70,000–80,000 people and injuring another 70,000. The atomic bomb changed the world. President Truman promised a ‘rain of ruin’ would fall on America’s enemies if they didn’t surrender.
The chief architect of the atomic bomb project was a physicist, Robert Oppenheimer. Mr Oppenheimer had mixed feelings about his project. Initially, he was delighted that it worked at all.
Looking back, this relief is understandable. This was a world war in which millions had already died. The US leaders were sure Germany, Japan and Russia were also working on a nuclear bomb, so there was intense pressure to get the job done.
But after the bombings, Mr Oppenheimer expressed regret that the bomb had been used, citing a passage from Hindu holy book the ‘Bhagavad Gita’: “Now I am become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds.”
Others involved in the making of the atomic bomb saw it as a problem to solve, a part of the war effort.
While they were saddened by the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians, the scientists were justified in trying to find the answer to the question put to them by the politicians and generals. Their research was, to some extent at least, independent of what the research was used for.
It’s not atomic physics, but economic theories have the potential to alter the lives of millions of people.
The wrong theory, implemented as policy, can reduce the living standards of millions of people over time, and harm the development of generations of workers and their families. Take Zimbabwe, for example, where a hyperinflation has destroyed the nation’s wealth.
Or go back in time to the Meiji Restoration in Japan in 1868 when Japan modernised, opened up to trade, and eventually militarised itself by 1905.
The openness policy championed by the Meiji dynasty led to a huge increase in living standards for the Japanese people, and, not incidentally, led to the militarisation that would one day help push the Japanese into confrontations with other world powers.
Economic theories are powerful things, to be used and misused. Those who write economic theory and do economic policy need to be aware of the consequences of what they are doing.
Read last year’s budget documents. You’ll find Appendix F on the web. Appendix F is a thoughtful, careful analysis of the distributional consequences of austerity policies on the Irish people, showing exactly who has been hit by these policies, and by how much.
But at least those in power in Ireland are aware of the consequences of their actions.
Not so for other proponents of austerity, where their research is of the ‘fire and forget’ type, divorced from the potential impact of their research.
Economists who help satisfy the consensus view are often feted, whether they are right or wrong, and when they are wrong, they walk away unscathed. There is nothing wrong with being wrong: things change, and no one is perfect.
But when you’re wrong – or worse, when your work is being misused – I believe there’s an imperative to shout stop.
Another example: economists Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff wrote a celebrated paper showing increasing government deficits harms growth: a country was likely to stagnate once its government debt-to-national output ratio exceeded 90pc.
Their finding implied deficit spending was bad, and because this fed a conservative need to reduce government spending through austerity, Mr Rogoff and Ms Reinhart’s paper was instantly adopted as gospel by the serious people in dark suits for this reason.
The paper was recently torn apart under serious scrutiny, but from 2010 to 2013, Mr Rogoff and Ms Reinhart made no attempt to modify their analysis or to chasten those who tried to use it for different means. Compare the Rogoff and Reinhart debacle with a recent example from Sweden, where one researcher, Jonas Himmelstrand, argued early childhood programmes increased the chances of mental health problems later on.
He cited a series of studies in his work. The author of one of the main studies was very quick to point out there was no substance whatsoever behind Mr Himmelstrand’s statement that a decline of mental health in young people in Sweden was related to daycare.
Eventually, those promulgating the notion of austerity as the only answer are going to be asked the same questions asked of the scientists on the project that birthed the atomic bomb: are you okay with how people have used your research?
Austerity is forcing millions to suffer needlessly. As unemployment rises and political realities force this to become a serious constraint on policy, austerity policies will be ditched. What will we have then?
Dr Stephen Kinsella is a senior lecturer in economics at the University of Limerick
Four congregations say they are willing to assist in all other aspects of recommended package
The four religious congregations that ran the Magdalene laundries have told the Government they will not make any financial contribution to the multimillion-euro fund set up to recompense former residents.
The Mercy Sisters, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Sisters of Charity and the Good Shepherd Sisters have informed Minister for Justice Alan Shatter in recent days that they will not pay into the fund, which could cost up to €58 million.
However, it is understood they have said they are willing to assist fully in all other aspects of the package recommended by Mr Justice John Quirke in his recent report, including the assembly of records and looking after former residents who remain in their care.
A spokeswoman for Mr Shatter said he was “disappointed” with the decision of the four orders not to make a financial contribution.
He will brief his ministerial colleagues about the situation at the weekly Cabinet meeting this morning.
Three of the four orders contacted through a spokesman were not prepared to make any comment at this point in time.
The Government announced the scheme last month after Mr Justice Quirke had conducted an examination of the various options to compensate the women who lived in the laundries, many of whom are now elderly.
The minimum payment was €11,500 for women who spent three months or less in a laundry and the maximum approved was €100,000 for those who were residents for 10 years or more.
Groups representing the women argued that higher awards should have been made available to those who had been long-term residents.
There was no onus on any applicant to show they had suffered hardship, injury or abuse. Some 600 women are reckoned to be eligible. The scheme is expected to cost between €34.5 million and €58 million.
When the scheme was announced, Mr Shatter said taxpayers expected the four religious orders to share the burden and make a contribution to the scheme. He would not be drawn on the amount he expected them to contribute.
The scheme follows on from a full apology on behalf of the State made to the survivors by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Dáil this year, in which he said that nobody should have been subjected to the conditions they endured.
That apology came in the wake an investigation by former senator Martin McAleese into the running and conditions within the laundries which were in operation for the best part of a century.
The report also established that the State had played a significant role in the continued operation of the laundries.
In a desperate bid to evade the international reach of US authorities Snowden has applies for asylum to Wall Street. “Where else can I go?”, says Snowden. Pointing out that Wall Street ripped off 10 trillion dollars in 2008 and no one went to jail Snowden thinks this is the only place on Earth that is beyond the reach of the Justice Department. “If they can get away with that,” says Snowden, this must be the best place in the world to hide!”
via Dvorak News Blog.
Latin American leaders slammed European governments for diverting Bolivian President Evo Morales‘ plane on rumours it was carrying a wanted former US spy agency contractor, and announced an emergency summit in a new diplomatic twist to the Edward Snowden saga.
Heads of state from countries including Argentina, Ecuador and Uruguay were planning to gather in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba in a show of solidarity. The detour was a “humiliation” for the region, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner said.
Morales, who was greeted by cheering supporters throwing flowers and waving flags when he arrived at the La Paz airport, blamed his delay on the US and its “servants” in Europe whom he said are trying to “intimidate the people and social groups”.
“This is an open provocation to the continent, not just the president,” Morales said.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said she was “surprised and amazed” that European governments obstructed Morales’ travel after they condemned the US over Snowden’s allegations that it was spying on allies.
Such behaviour puts at risk dialogue between South America and Europe, she said.
Failure to allow Morales’ plane to fly through airspace of the European countries threatened the security of the people on board, Russia said. The actions of authorities in France, Spain and Portugal was “hardly friendly,” Russia’s foreign ministry said.
The international wrangle linked to Snowden took a further twist yesterday when a British private surveillance company denied that it was behind the bugging of the embassy, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been living for over a year.
WikiLeaks is trying to assist Snowden, who is believed to be stranded at an airport in Moscow and seeking asylum in a variety of countries including Ecuador.
Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino on Wednesday made the allegation against the Surveillance Group.
The Surveillance Group’s chief executive Timothy Young rejected Patino’s allegation as “completely untrue”.
“The Surveillance Group does not and has never been engaged in any activities of this nature,” Young said.
Patino described the Surveillance Group as “one of the biggest private investigation and undercover surveillance companies in the United Kingdom”.
On its website, the company says its clients include British law enforcement, other government bodies and financial institutions.
Surveillance experts have described the bugging device that Ecuador says was hidden behind a plug socket in its London embassy as rudimentary and unlikely to have been the work of the British police or security services.
Yesterday, France said it was rejecting a request for political asylum from Snowden, the Interior Ministry said in a statement in Paris.
With thousands of articles being written about Edward Snowden, many of them repetitious, we must remember another whistleblower who is presently on trial. Bradley Manning must not be forgotten.
Private Manning is being court-martialed for giving secret information to WikiLeaks in 2009 and 2012, while he was a junior intelligence analyst stationed in Iraq. Government prosecutors claim that Manning had obtained 700,000 files, combat videos, and diplomatic transmissions.
The prosecution’s case ended today, Tuesday. The defense will begin on Monday.
Julian Assange, an Australian, says the charges are reprisal for WikiLeaks’ publication of information embarrassing to the U.S. and other governments.
Mairead Corrigan-Maguire, an author and peace prize winner, believes that Manning should receive the ‘Nobel Peace Prize.’ She believes he should be credited for helping to end the war in Iraq, and keeping the United States from participating in other conflicts.
Ms. Corrigan-Maguire says this about peace: “Peace is more than simply the absence of war; it is the active creation of something better. Alfred Nobel recognized this when he created alongside those for chemistry, literature, medicine and physics, an annual prize for outstanding contributions in peace. Nobel’s foresight is a reminder to us all that peace must be created, maintained, and advanced, and it is indeed possible for one individual to have an extraordinary impact.”
I’ve never read a better definition.
Ms. Corrigan-Maguire recently returned from Syria. She spoke with refugees, rebels, and Syrian security forces. She says that hawks such as John McCain are wrong about assisting the rebels. The majority of the extreme violence is the product of outside military components on both sides. She said that the ‘true rebels’ and Syrian forces, all want to find a way to a peaceful end to the conflict.
She said that before Manning’s actions, and a growing condemnation of our continued presence in Iraq by the American people, Syria would already have been invaded by a number of U.S. forces.
Transparency of crimes against humanity is prevalent in the Middle East today. She said if Manning had not taken actions, the world would not have known the truth about the atrocities inside Iraq. US forces committed covert crimes in the name of spreading democracy in Iraq, killing innocent civilians in incidents such as the one depicted in the “Collateral Murder” video, and supported Iraqi prisoner torture.
She points out that Manning is the only one on trial. None of those who committed inhumane acts during the Iraqi conflict have been brought up on charges.
Ms. Corrigan-McGuire’s final words: “I hope American leaders will embrace the U.S. constitution, and base their national and foreign policies on ethical values, human rights and international law.”
Alfred James reporting OP-ED