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Palestinians Recognize U.S. as Jewish State


In a decisive move intended to break deadlocked Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Chief Palestinian mediator Saeb Erakt is prepared to recognize the United States as a Jewish State.

The thinking behind this decision is there are simply more Jews in the U.S. than in Israel. The dramatic announcement is believed intended to force direct face-to-face talks, whose end game is the creation of a Palestinian state (in this universe).

Unnamed Palestinian sources (though JeWikiLeaks released the names of their spouses) confirmed that a Palestinian state would fully welcome the Jewish State, providing it remained within the continental United States.

The proposal comes with additional preconditions, however. The Palestinian Authority demand an immediate freeze on all Jewish settlements in Lakewood NJ, South East Florida and all of Hollywood. Mel Gibson will raise a glass or 2 (hundred) on this last one.

”It’s all about compromise” Erakt said with a straight face. “That’s what Arabs do”, although he couldn’t come up with a single historical example. “We also insist on racially profiling anyone who’s remotely funny and Jewish (i.e. infidels). And we ask that everyone kindly turn a blind eye to honor killings.”

Israel  responded by offering to build entire villages on Arab land anywhere outside of Israel, including London.

Proposal’s Pros: The numbers make sense.

There are more Jews who live in the U.S. than Israel (6.5 vs. 5.77 million). If the majority of Jews live in the Diaspora, then that is where you put their country.

To bend a phrase, if the Jews won’t go to Israel, then Israel will go to the Jews. Or as Mike Brady said in The Brady Bunch Movie: “Wherever you go, there you are.”

If achieved, the demographic implications resulting from this land-transfer would be staggering and could come back to bite the United Arab Emirates in their barrels.

Iranian President and Holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stands the most to lose. Ahmadinejad would wake up to a new existential threat facing his country when seemingly over-night, the “Little Satan” had blossomed into a full “Uber Satan”, transforming “The Zionist Enemy” into the world’s #1 military super power.

Proposal’s Cons: The numbers don’t make sense.

While 45% of the world’s Jews live in America, the US Jewish population as a percent of the entire US is negligible. What’s the point of having a Zionist country where the Zionists make up less than 2% of the population? The odds are better to stay in Israel where support seldom drops bellow double digits.

Should we buy into this pledge?

By all means, yes we should. And why not? This is as ridiculous as every other Palestinian proposal sold as a “willingness to promote peace”. Let Israel take its’ usual wait-and-see approach i.e. wait and see how long it takes for the Palestinians to abrogate their commitments.

Previous guarantees to include maps of Israeli cities with their corresponding Hebrew names in school textbooks or removing Palestinian children’s programming that glorify martyrdom come to mind. These promises were dedicated with as much sincerity as this current, vacuous proposal.

via Palestinians Recognize U.S. as Jewish State – Funny Jewish Humour | Funny And Jewish – Choice Jewish Humour for Chosen People.

No austerity for EU military spending


High levels of military spending played a key role in the unfolding European sovereign debt crisis — and continue to undermine efforts to resolve it.

Military-Spending

A new report by the Transnational Institute — ‘Guns, Debt and Corruption: Military Spending and the EU Crisis’ — looks at the ways in which excessive militarization directly fed into the unfolding European debt crisis, and continues to undermine efforts to resolve it. Below the downlink links and infographic you can find the executive summary of the report.

TNI-military-spending-01

Executive Summary:

Five years into the financial and economic crisis in Europe, and there is still an elephant in Brussels that few are talking about. The elephant is the role of military spending in causing and perpetuating the economic crisis. As social infrastructure is being slashed, spending on weapon systems is hardly being reduced. While pensions and wages have been cut, the arms industry continues to profit from new orders as well as outstanding debts.

The shocking fact at a time of austerity is that EU military expenditure totalled €194 billion in 2010, equivalent to the annual deficits of Greece, Italy and Spain combined.

Perversely, the voices that are protesting the loudest in Brussels are the siren calls of military lobbyists, warning of “disaster” if any further cuts are made to military spending. This paper shows that the real disaster has emerged from years of high European military spending and corrupt arms deals. This dynamic contributed substantially to the debt crisis in countries such as Greece and Portugal and continues to weigh heavily on future budgets in all of the crisis countries.

The power of the military-industrial lobby also makes any effective cuts less likely. This is perhaps most starkly shown in how the German government, while demanding ever higher sacrifices in social cuts, has been lobbying behind the scenes against military cuts because of concerns this would affect its own arms industry.

The paper reveals how:

High levels of military spending in countries now at the epicentre of the euro crisis played a significant role in causing their debt crises. Greece has been Europe’s biggest spender in relative terms for most of the past four decades, spending almost twice as much of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on defence as the EU average.Spain’s military expenditure increased 29% between 2000 and 2008, due to massive weapon purchases. It now faces huge problems repaying debts for its unnecessary military programmes.

As a former Spanish secretary of state for defence said: “We should not have acquired systems that we are not going to use, for conflict situations that do not exist and, what is worse, with funds that we did not have then and we do not have now.” Even the most recent casualty of the crisis, Cyprus, owes some of its debt troubles to a 50% increase in military spending over the past decade, the majority of which came after 2007.

The debts caused by arms sales were often a result of corrupt deals between government officials, but are being paid for by ordinary people facing savage cuts in social services. Investigations of an arms deal signed by Portugal in 2004 to buy two submarines for one billion euros, agreed by then-prime minister Manuel Barroso (now President of the EU Commission) have identified more than a dozen suspicious brokerage and consulting agreements that cost Portugal at least €34 million. Up to eight arms deals signed by the Greek government since the late 1990s are being investigated by judicial authorities for possible illegal bribes and kickbacks to state officials and politicians.

Military spending has been reduced as a result of the crisis in those countries most affected by the crisis, but most states still have military spending levels comparable to or higher than ten years ago. European countries rank 4th (UK), 5th (France), 9th (Germany) and 11th (Italy) in the list of major global military spenders. Even Italy, facing debts of €1.8 trillion, still spends a higher proportion of its GDP on military expenditure than the post-Cold War low of 1995.

The military spending cuts, where they have come, have almost entirely fallen on people – reductions in personnel, lower wages and pensions – rather than on arms purchases. The budget for arms purchases actually rose from €38.8 billion in 2006 to €42.9 billion in 2010 – up more than 10% – while personnel costs went down from €110.0 billion in 2006 to €98.7 billion in 2010, a 10% decrease that took largely place between 2008 and 2009.

While countries like Germany have insisted on the harshest cuts of social budgets by crisis countries to pay back debts, they have been much less supportive of cuts in military spending that would threaten arms sales. France and Germany have pressured the Greek government not to reduce defence spending. France is currently arranging a lease deal with Greece for two of Europe’s most expensive frigates; the surprising move is said to be largely “driven by political considerations, rather than an initiative of the armed forces”. In 2010 the Dutch government granted export licences worth €53 million to equip the Greek navy. As an aide to former Greek prime minister Papandreou noted: “No one is saying ‘Buy our warships or we won’t bail you out.’ But the clear implication is that they will be more supportive if we do”.

Continued high military spending has led to a boom in arms companies’ profits and an even more aggressive push of arms sales abroad ignoring human rights concerns. The hundred largest companies in the sector sold arms to the value of some €318 billion in 2011, 51% higher in real terms compared to 2002. Anticipating decreased demand at home, industry gets even more active political support in promoting arms sales abroad.In early 2013 French president François Hollande visited the United Arab Emirates to push them to buy the Rafale fighter aircraft. UK prime minister David Cameron visited the Emirates and Saudi Arabia in November 2012 to promote major arms sales packages. Spain hopes to win a highly controversial contract from Saudi Arabia for 250 Leopard 2 tanks, in which it is competing with Germany – the original builder of the tank.

Research shows that investment in the military is the least effective way to create jobs, regardless of the other costs of military spending. According to a University of Massachusetts study, defence spending per US$ one billion creates the fewest number of jobs, less than half of what it could generate if invested in education and public transport. At a time of desperate need for investment in job creation, supporting a bloated and wasteful military can not be justified given how many more jobs such money would create in areas such as health and public transport.

Despite the clear evidence of the cost of high military spending, military leaders continue to push a distorted and preposterous notion that European Union’s defence cuts threaten the security of Europe’s nations. NATO’s secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen “has used every occasion to cajole alliance members into investing and collaborating more in defense.”

Gen. Patrick de Rousiers, the French chairman of the EU Military Committee, at a hearing in the European Parliament, even suggested Europe’s future was at stake if military spending was not increased. “What place can a Europe of 500 million inhabitants have if it doesn’t have credible capacity to ensure its security?” he asked rhetorically.

We believe, by contrast, that at a time when the European Commission’s agenda of permanent austerity faces ever-growing challenges, there is one area where Europe could do much more to impose austerity. And that is the arena of military spending and the arms industry.

Abolishing nuclear weapons owned by France and the UK could save several billions of euros every year and fulfil a major pledge made by these countries under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty to finally eliminate nuclear weapons. Reductions of all EU nations’ military spending to Ireland’s levels (0.6% of GDP) would save many more billions.

Writing off dirty debts caused by arms deals concluded through bribes, would be a good first step to lay the bill for the crisis with those who helped cause it. Such measures would also prove that at a time of crisis, Europe is prepared to invest in a future desired by its citizens rather than its warmongers.

Download Guns, Debt and Corruption: Full report (pdf, 525KB)

Download Guns, Debt and Corruption: Executive Summary (pdf, 77KB)

via New report: no austerity for EU military spending | ROAR Magazine.

via New report: no austerity for EU military spending | ROAR Magazine.

A surprising map of the countries that are most and least welcoming to foreigners


Buried several hundred pages into a new World Economic Forum report on global tourism, past the sections on air travel infrastructure and physician density (by which they mean the number of physicians per capita, not the mass-per-cubic-meter of individual doctors), are some very interesting numbers. The WEF has compiled survey data from 140 countries estimating the attitude of each countries’ population toward foreign visitors.

The results, mapped out above, seem significant beyond just tourism. Red countries are less welcoming to foreign visitors, according to the data; blue countries are more welcoming. Click the map (or here) to enlarge the image.

The WEF gathered the data from late 2011 through late 2012 by asking respondents, “How welcome are foreign visitors in your country?” The WEF explains that the survey results are meant to help “measure the extent to which a country and society are open to tourism and foreign visitors.”

According to the data, the top three most welcoming countries for foreigners are, in order: Iceland, New Zealand and Morocco. Other high-ranking countries include the rich and peaceful of the Western world (Ireland, Canada, Austria), a few tourist havens (Thailand, United Arab Emirates), and, for some reason, big parts of West Africa.

The three countries least welcoming to foreigners are, in order: Bolivia, Venezuela and Russia. Other poorly ranked countries include the more troubled states of the greater Middle East (Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia), Eastern Europe and two East Asian states I was very surprised to see so near the bottom: China and South Korea.

Part of what makes these data so interesting is that there is no easy “grand unifying theory” that I can see, no single variable that explains the outcomes. It’s not wealth or GDP per capita: that would not explain why South Korea ranks so low, or the variance among rich Western states. It’s certainly not the number of foreign visitors: the mid-ranking United States and low-ranked China have some of the world’s highest rates of foreign tourism.

If anything, maybe what’s interesting about this map is the degree to which it seems to cut against common American perceptions of the world. Although there are definitely some Middle Eastern states in the red here, the region actually scores pretty well. Tourism-friendly Morocco is no surprise, but you might not have expected to see Yemen ranked above Sweden and Belgium.

Western Europe is generally friendly toward foreigners but, perhaps because of the touchy politics around immigration there, ranks alongside much of sub-Saharan Africa. The United States, the land of the Statue of Liberty and “give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” ranks 102nd out of 140 countries, well below much of the Middle East.

One thing I’m struck by, in trying to puzzle out this map, is the apparent correlation between unfriendliness to foreigners and nationalism. That would maybe help to explain the low ratings for China and South Korea (although there are other possible factors here, including race) and for Russia. It might also help to explain why the United States, Germany and Japan — three countries with strongly nationalist histories — rank below other wealthy nations.

The nationalism theory makes a bit more sense when we look region-to-region. In Latin America, for example, a region generally friendly to foreigners, three countries stand out: Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela. All three have governments that could be fairly described as nationalistic. It also makes some sense in the Middle East, where Saudi Arabia and Iran rank poorly among countries that generally court foreign tourism.

But there are reasons to think my theory might be wrong: it doesn’t explain why Denmark, a rich Western European country, is so much redder than its neighbors, for example; nor does it explain the variation in southern Africa.

via A surprising map of the countries that are most and least welcoming to foreigners.

via A surprising map of the countries that are most and least welcoming to foreigners.

World’s largest concentrated solar power station (100 MW) begins operations in Abu Dhabi


More photons, less carbon

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) are best known for oil and gas, but the region is also home to interesting developments in renewable energy. The Shams Power Company has just inaugurated the Shams 1 concentrated solar power (CSP) station, which, with a capacity of 100 MW, is the biggest operating solar power station in the world. It makes sense when you think about it: They have lots of sun, and lots of money…

Shams 1 uses 258,048 parabolic mirrors to collect sunlight and concentrate it onto oil that flows through a tubing at the center of the curved mirrors. This heated oil makes its way into a heat exchanger and is then used to create steam that powers turbines, thus making electricity.

The plant uses Abengoa Solar’s ASTRO (Abengoa Solar Trough) parabolic trough collectors. The ASTRO collector is based on the 150m-long EuroTrough collector, which represents an improvement on the Luz collectors used in the SEGS CSP plants in California. ASTRO benefits from reduced weight and therefore reduced cost, while still delivering proven performance (established through EuroTrough tests conducted since 1998 at Plataforma Solar Almeria).

The ASTRO collector features an improved structural design, with a torque box that increases stiffness and reduces torsion and glass breakage. The EuroTrough collector design is used in most Spanish parabolic trough projects, including the commercial-scale Solnova and Andasol plants.

Of course, any natural gas that isn’t being burned in the UAE to generate electricity is likely to be exported elsewhere, but the UAE isn’t the only one to blame for that. While fossil fuel suppliers have done all kinds of things to stifle cleaner competition and extract subsidies for their industry, the demand side is also to be. Most people use a lot of fossil fuels directly, and indirectly to make and transport the things they buy. To kill demand we need to build alternatives such as this solar power plant.

One way to turbo-charge progress would be a carbon tax (and all money raised by it could be used to cut other taxes, such as income and payroll — let’s tax bad things rather than good ones); it would redirect so much money into renewables that we’d get to a clean power grid much faster. If we can’t do that, we should at the very least eliminate subsidies (direct and indirect) for fossil fuels….

via World’s largest concentrated solar power station (100 MW) begins operations in Abu Dhabi : TreeHugger.

via World’s largest concentrated solar power station (100 MW) begins operations in Abu Dhabi : TreeHugger.

Funds paid to Quinn firm from Ukraine –


AN IRISH company owned by a trust set up for the grandchildren of bankrupt businessman Seán Quinn was paid $650,000 last year by a Ukrainian company which is part of the international property group the State-owned Irish Bank Resolution Corporation wants to seize.

The money was paid into an AIB account in Blanchardstown, Dublin. The payments were made on foot of a contract agreed prior to the High Court ordering the Quinn family to stop asset-stripping the property group.

A second Irish company, owned by the wider Quinn family, was also paid substantial amounts in 2011.

The previously unreported payments are set out in an affidavit of Seán Quinn jnr, filed by him to the High Court in July when he was sent to jail for contempt.

In the document, Mr Quinn sets out certain matters concerning Cranre Property Services Ltd, with an address in Blanchardstown, Dublin.

The company was incorporated in April last year. Mr Quinn’s brothers-in-law, Niall McPartland and Stephen Kelly, are its directors, and the company’s shares are held by a Swedish entity, Irish Trust AB.

Mr Quinn jnr said in his affidavit to Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne that the company was ultimately owned by the Cranaghan Foundation, a foundation set up for the benefit of his parents’ grandchildren.

He said that in April 2011, the company took over a services contract with Univermag, a company operating a shopping mall in Kiev. The contract was agreed at a time when IBRC was seizing the Quinn Group from the family.

Mr Quinn jnr said he was advised by Mr Kelly that the terms of the contract were agreed between Mr Kelly and Larissa Yanez Puga, who ran Univermag for the family and whom the bank has been trying to depose.

Cranre received a $350,000 signing-on fee on July 8th, 2011, two payments of $100,000 each on September 2nd, 2011, and a further payment of $100,000 on September 3rd, arising from invoices for the months of June, July and August 2011.

Mr Quinn said he was told by Mr Kelly that Michael Waechter, of Senat FZC, Dubai, sourced a company called Letynaya, to act as a property services company in relation to the Kiev mall. Letynaya is based in the United Arab Emirates.

Mr Kelly agreed a contract between Cranre and Letynaya in August 2011, according to Mr Quinn. As part of this contract, Letynaya was to be paid €320,000 by Cranre, which it was in November 2011.

Since then, he said, the family has ended its role with Univermag and has sought the return of some of the money paid to Letynaya. “Letynaya refused this request,” Mr Quinn said in his affidavit.

He said the balance of the money that remained with Cranre “was used to pay general offi

via Funds paid to Quinn firm from Ukraine – The Irish Times – Mon, Oct 08, 2012.

via Funds paid to Quinn firm from Ukraine – The Irish Times – Mon, Oct 08, 2012.

IBRC secures Quinns’ former Moscow income of €15.5m


CONTROL OF rental income of approximately $20 million (€15.5 million) a year from a Moscow building formerly owned by Seán Quinn’s family has been secured for the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC), but further income of up to $15 million (€11.6 million) a year continues to elude the State-owned bank.

An administrator acting for the bank’s interest has managed to get charge of the Kutuzoff Tower in Moscow and is now seeking to establish what happened to rent of approximately $30 million in the period since the bank’s relationship with the Quinns broke down in April 2010.

The bank has not yet managed to assert control over the Ukrania shopping mall in Kiev, Ukraine, or the 750,000sq ft Q Tower in Hyderabad, India.

The buildings form part of an international property portfolio worth approximately €500 million owned by the Quinns and against which Anglo Irish Bank was given security in return for huge loans issued to the family.

Anglo is now part of the IBRC.

In June and July last year, the High Court in Dublin ordered the family to desist in its efforts to put the assets beyond the bank’s reach.

Earlier this year Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne found that Seán Quinn, his son Seán jnr, and his nephew, Peter Darragh Quinn, had acted in contempt of this order. Seán Quinn jnr was sent to jail, where he remains. There is a warrant out for Peter Darragh Quinn, who is believed to be in Northern Ireland.

The bank asked that Mr Quinn snr not be jailed so he might assist the bank recover some of the assets.

The courts reopen for the new law term on Monday and a number of hearings in relation to the Quinns are scheduled over the coming weeks.

The bank is seeking to establish the whereabouts of $4.5 million in accumulated rent that was moved from a Quinn family company account in Moscow last year, to an account in a new bank also in the company’s name. It is understood the money is no longer in that second account.

The administrator acting for the bank in Moscow has encountered difficulties in accessing the management records of the company that operates the commercial tower for the period up to his appointment.

The bank is also investigating an €11 million loan that was issued by a bank in India in January against the future income of the Q Tower.

This money is believed to be under the control of a company in the United Arab Emirates.

The bank believes that family members, with seemingly no involvement in the running of the Russian company, were put on its payroll and received $4.3 million gross as a result.

The family could not be contacted for comment last night.

The bank would make no comment.

via IBRC secures Quinns’ former Moscow income of €15.5m – The Irish Times – Sat, Sep 29, 2012.

via IBRC secures Quinns’ former Moscow income of €15.5m – The Irish Times – Sat, Sep 29, 2012.

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