Take one serving of pre-triple dip recessionary France, add a dash of US-made drones, drop a pinch of Al Qaeda scapegoating and the now generic false flags, and let it all simmer in the latest global conflict in which the uninvited west has decided it is its moral role to intervene, and what you get is the latest hilarious development out of military superpower France, which is now preparing to unleash US drones in West Africa. The comedic possibilities one ends up with are countless.
France will deploy its first U.S.-made unarmed surveillance drones to West Africa by the end of the year, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Thursday, as it seeks to “eliminate all traces of al Qaeda”.
France’s military intervention in Mali in January exposed its shortage of surveillance drones suitable for modern warfare, forcing it to rely on the United States to provide French commanders with intelligence from drones based in neighbouring Niger.
Paris said in June it would buy 12 Reaper reconnaissance drones built by privately owned U.S. firm General Atomics to eventually replace its EADS-made Harfang drones.
“Two drones that we have bought will be operational by the end of the year in Africa, in the Sahel. That is their main mission,” Le Drian told Europe 1 radio.
Niger gave permission in January for U.S. surveillance drones to be stationed on its territory to improve intelligence on al Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters in the region. Le Drian said pockets of militants remained in Mali, whom Paris would go after. They included veteran Islamist commander Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who claimed responsibility for attacks in Niger and on Algeria’s In Amenas gas plant earlier this year.
The humor does not end there:
“We have led successful counter-terrorism attacks in recent days and we will continue to act to eliminate all traces of al Qaeda,” he said. “These terrorist groups come and go, regroup and then disperse, so we need to follow them closely. This will be the role of our forces in 2014. There will be 1,000 soldiers in Mali whose main mission will be counter-terrorism.”
French forces killed 19 Islamist fighters during security operations in Mali’s northern region of Timbuktu earlier this month.
France intervened in Mali at the start of the year as Islamist forces, who seized control of the north in the confusion following a military coup in March 2012, pushed towards the capital Bamako.
Their advance lifted Mali to the forefront of U.S. and European security concerns, with fears the Islamists would turn the country into a base for international attacks.
Such pristine, unrequited nobility…
Of course, what was not mentioned anywhere, is that France, with its multi-decade high unemployment, is on the verge of a recession. And not just any recession, but a triple-dip, which would make it Europe’s first country to undergo a triple dip in the Eurozone’s history. So what is this socialist paradise to do? Why read chapter 1 of Keynes for Idiots of course: when in depression, start – or escalate – a war.
Each quarter the Fed releases their assessment of the economy along with their forward looking projections for three years into the future. (See Fed Projections Myth Vs. Reality for the September analysis) I started tracking these projections beginning in early 2011 and comparing the Fed’s forecasts with what eventually became reality. The problem has, and continues to be, is that their track record for forecasting has been left wanting. The reality is, however, is that the Federal Reserve simply cannot verbally state what they really see during each highly publicized meeting as it would roil the markets. Instead, they use their communications to guide the markets expectations toward reality in the hopes of reducing the risks of market dislocations.
The most recent release of the Fed’s economic projections on the economy, inflation and unemployment continue to follow the same previous trends of weaker growth, lower inflation and a complete misunderstanding of the real labor market.
When it comes to the economy, the Fed has consistently overstated economic strength. Take a look at the chart and table. In January of 2011, the Fed was predicting GDP growth for 2013 at 4.0%. Actual real GDP (inflation adjusted) is currently estimated at 2.0% for the year or a negative 50% difference. The estimates at that time for long run economic growth was 2.7% which has now fallen to 2.15% and was guided down from 2.3% in September and 2.5% in June.
We have been stating repeatedly over the last 2 years that we are in for a low growth economy due to the debt deleveraging, deficits and continued fiscal and monetary policies that are retardants for economic prosperity. The simple fact is that when an economy requires more than $5 of debt to provide $1 of economic growth – the engine of growth is broken.
As of the latest Fed meeting the forecast for 2014 and 2015 economic growth has been revised down to just 2.9% and 2.8% respectively as the realization of a slow-growth economy is recognized. However, the current annualized trend of GDP suggests growth rates in the next two years could likely be lower than that.
With more than 48 months of economic expansion behind us; this current expansion is longer than the historical average. Economic data continues to show signs of weakness, despite intermittent pops of activity, and the global economy remains drag on domestic exports. With higher taxes, government spending cuts and the debt ceiling debate looming the fiscal drag on the economy could be larger than expected.
What is very important is the long run outlook of 2.15% economic growth. That rate of growth is not strong enough to achieve the “escape velocity” required to substantially improve the level of incomes and employment that were enjoyed in previous decades.
The Fed’s new goal of targeting a specific unemployment level to monetary policy could potentially put the Fed into a box. Currently, the Fed sees 2014 unemployment falling to 6.45% and ultimately returning to a 5.6% “full employment” rate in the long run. That long run rate was adjusted higher from the June meeting. The issue with this “full employment”prediction really becomes what the definition of “reality” is.
Today, average Americans have begun to question the credibility of the BLS employment reports. Even Congress has made an inquiry into the data collection and analysis methods used to determine employment reports. Since the end of the last recession employment has improved modestly. However, that improvement, as shown in full-time employment to population ratio chart below, has primarily due to increases in temporary and lower wage paying positions. More importantly, where the Fed is concerned, the drop in the unemployment rate has been due to a shrinkage of the labor pool rather than an increase in employment.
While the unemployment “rate” is declining, it is a very poor measure from which to benchmark the health of the economy. The drop in unemployment is primarily due totemporary hires, labor hoarding and falling labor participation rates. Real full-time employment as a percentage of the working population shows that employment has only marginally increased since the financial crisis. The drop in jobless claims does not necessarily represent an increasing employment picture but rather labor hoarding by companies after deep levels of employment reductions over the past 4 years.
InflationWhen it comes to inflation, and the Fed’s outlook, the debate comes down to what type of inflation you are actually talking about. The table and chart below show the actual versus projected levels of inflation.
The Fed significantly underestimated official rates of inflation in 2011. However, in 2012 and 2013 their projections and reality became much more aligned. Unfortunately, inflation has fallen well below target levels of 2% which is weighing on economic growth. The Fed’s greatest economic fear is deflation and the current drop in annual rates of inflation will keep pressure on the Fed to continue to accommodative policy active for longer than most expect.
However, for the average American the inflation story is entirely different. Reported inflation has little meaning to the consumer as the real cost of living has risen sharply in recent years. Whether it has been the cost of health insurance, school tuition, food, gas or energy – these everyday costs have continued to rise substantially faster than their incomes. This is why personal savings rates continue to fall, and consumer credit has risen, as incomes remain stagnant or weaken. It is the rising “cost of living” that is weighing on the American psyche, and ultimately, on economic growth.
While the FOMC is vastly hopeful that the current economic improvement will be sustained; rising deflationary pressures, weak global growth rates and stagnant wages pose major headwinds. The problem is that the current proposed policy is an exercise in wishful thinking. While the Fed blames fiscal policy out of Washington; the reality is that monetary policy does not work in reducing real unemployment or interest rates. However, what monetary policy does do is promote asset bubbles that are dangerous; particularly when they are concentrated in the riskiest of assets from stocks to junk bonds.
The problem that the Fed will eventually face, with respect to their monetary policy decisions, is that effectively the economy could be running at “full rates” of employment but with a very large pool of individuals excluded from the labor force. Of course, this also explains the continued rise in the number of individuals claiming disability and participating in the nutritional assistance programs. While the Fed could very well achieve its goal of fostering a “full employment” rate of 6.5%, it certainly does not mean that 93.5% of working age Americans will be gainfully employed. It could well just be a victory in name only
With the Fed committed to continuing its Large Scale Asset Purchase program (Quantitative Easing or Q.E.), and deploying specific performance targets, the question of effectiveness looms large. Bernanke has been quite vocal in his testimonies over the last year that monetary stimulus is not a panacea. In his most recently statement, Bernanke specifically stated that “fiscal policy is restraining economic growth.”
However, the recent improvements in employment and economic activity allowed the FOMC to begin “tapering” their current rate of asset purchases from $85 to $75 billion per month.
“…the Committee sees the improvement in economic activity and labor market conditions over that period as consistent with growing underlying strength in the broader economy. In light of the cumulative progress toward maximum employment and the improvement in the outlook for labor market conditions, the Committee decided to modestly reduce the pace of its asset purchases.”
The problem for the Federal Reserve currently is that there are very few policy tools left, and the economic effectiveness of continued artificial stimulation is clearly waning. Lower mortgages rates, interest rates and excess liquidity served well in priming the pumps of the real estate and financial markets when valuations were extremely depressed. However, four years later, stock valuations are no longer low, earnings are no longer depressed and the majority of real estate related activity has likely been completed. More importantly, the recent surge in leverage and asset prices smacks of an asset bubble in the making.
Reminiscent of the choices of Goldilocks – the reality is that the Fed’s estimates for economic growth in 2013 was too hot, employment was too cold and inflation estimates were just about right. The real unspoken concern should be the continued threat of deflation and what actions will be available when the next recession eventually comes.
Canada’s wealthiest people are paying a shrinking amount of the country’s total tax burden, according to an analysis of new StatsCan data.
The share of federal and provincial taxes paid by the richest one per cent of earnersfell to 20.8 per cent in 2011, from 23.3 per cent in 2007, says an analysis from the Globe and Mail’s Economy Lab.
That’s not because the rich are getting poorer; StatsCan’s data on high-income earnings finds little change in recent years in the share of income taken by the wealthiest Canadians.
It’s another potential sign that Canada’s tax system is incrementally becoming more favourable to high-income earners, as well as to corporations.
For the first time ever, in 2014 more than half of the federal government’s revenue will come from personal income taxes, the result of aggressive tax cuts for corporations over the past decade and a half.
But the shrinking share of taxes paid by the richest Canadians may have to do with the collapse in stock prices during the last recession, StatsCan analysts told the Globe, because wealthy people earn more of their income through investments than middle earners, and those investments took a beating in the last recession.
Some analysts argue the rich are still paying more than their fair share of taxes. While the top one per cent paid 20.8 per cent of taxes in 2011, they collected half that share of total income — about 10.6 per cent of all earnings.
A recent study from human resources firm MacDowall Associates said the CEOs at Canada’s 60 largest publicly-traded firms made 133 times the average industrial wage in Canada in 2010 — $6.2 million, compared to an average $46,600.
But the study found taxes paid by those CEOs were 316 times the taxes on the average earner, with the top-60 CEOs paying an average of $2.52 million in income taxes, compared to just under $8,000 for the average earner.
“Do Canadian executives pay their fair share in taxes? We believe the answer is a resounding ‘yes’ based on our research,” the study concluded.
All the same, an ever-larger share of taxes in Canada is being paid by middle- and low-income earners. Personal income taxes next year will account for 50 per cent of the federal government’s total revenue, up from 30 per cent five decades ago, according to an analysis from economist Toby Sanger of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
Opposition parties have been hammering the Harper government over “hidden” taxes that they say impact middle- and low-income Canadians in particular, such as hikes in EI premiums, which have been rising steadily, and tariff hikes in the government’s latest budget, that the opposition says will raise prices for consumers.
Keystone XL Fork in the Road: TransCanada’s Houston Lateral Pipeline
Only Barack Obama knows the fate of the northern half of TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. But in the meantime, TransCanada is preparing thesouthern half of the line to open forcommercial operations on January 22.
Yet, there’s a fork in this controversial pipeline system that has largely flown under the radar: TransCanada’s Houston Lateral Pipeline, which serves as a literal fork in the road of the southern half of Keystone XL’s route to Gulf Coast refineries.
Rebranded the “Gulf Coast Pipeline” by TransCanada, the 485-mile southern half of Keystone XL brings a blend of Alberta’s tar sands crude, along with oil obtained viahydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale basin, to refineries in Port Arthur, Texas. This area has been coined a “sacrifice zone” by investigative journalist Ted Genoways, describing the impacts on local communities as the tar sands crude is refined mainly for export markets.
But not all tar sands and fracked oil roads lead to Port Arthur. That’s where the Houston Lateral comes into play. A pipeline oriented westward from Liberty County, TX rather than eastward to Port Arthur, Houston Lateral ushers crude oil toHouston’s refinery row.
“The 48-mile (77-kilometre) Houston Lateral Project is an additional project under development to transport oil to refineries in the Houston, TX marketplace,”TransCanada’s website explains. “Upon completion, the Gulf Coast Project and the Houston Lateral Project will become an integrated component of the Keystone Pipeline System.”
Image Credit: TransCanada
Boon for Houston’s Refinery Row
Houston’s LyondellBasell refinery is retooling itself for the looming feast of tar sands crude and fracked oil bounty that awaits from the Houston Lateral’s completion.
“The company is spending $50 million to nearly triple its capacity to run heavy Canadian crude at the Houston refinery, to 175,000 bpd from 60,000 bpd,”explained a March article in Reuters.
LyondellBasell admits TransCanada’s Houston Lateral project is a lifeline ensuring its Houston refinery remains a profitable asset.
“Over time, heavy Canadian oil is going to be extremely important to this refinery,” the company’s spokesman David Harpole said in a February interview withBloomberg. “It’s not all getting down there today but as time goes on, that will become more and more powerful to an asset like we have.”
But LyondellBasell’s not the only company with skin in the game. Valero — whose refining capacity is currently overflowing with fracked Eagle Ford shale oil — is also considering expanding its capacity to refine more tar sands crude.
Not “What If,” But “Right Now”
A financially lucrative asset to refining companies like LyondellBasell and Valero, Houston’s refineries are an issue of life or death for those living within the vicinity.
“In a December 2010 report, the Sierra Club linked tar sands refinery emissions to prenatal brain damage, asthma and emphysema,” a March Huffington Post article explained. “A recent Houston-area study found a 56 percent increased risk of acute lymphocytic leukemia among children living within two miles of the Houston Ship Channel, compared with children living more than 10 miles from the channel.”
Like Port Arthur, Houston — the headquarters for some of the biggest oil and gas companies in the world — is a major “sacrifice zone” for front-line communities, with many people suffering health impacts from the city’s four petrochemical refineries.
Photo Credit: Gulf Restoration Network
“Much of the debate around the Keystone XL pipeline has focused on the dangers of extracting and transporting the tar sands,” DeSmogBlog contributor Caroline Selle wrote in a May 2013 article. “Left out, however, are those in the United States who are guaranteed to feel the impacts of increased tar sands usage. Spill or no spill, anyone living near a tar sands refinery will bear the burden of the refining process.”
With Keystone XL’s southern half currently being injected with oil and with TransCanada counting down the weeks until it opens for commercial operations, those living in front-line refinery neighborhoods face a daunting “survival of the fittest” task ahead.
“With toxic chemical exposure nearly certain, it is unclear what the next step will be for residents [living in refinery neighborhoods],” Selle wrote in her May article. “[T]his is a life or death struggle more immediate than the ‘what-if’ of a pipeline spill. And it’s not a ‘what-if, [but rather] the fight is ‘right now.'”
The past two weeks have witnessed a series of cyber attacks against several national oil outlets. The oil industry in Angola, Kenya, and Mexico have all been targeted by website defacements in these past few weeks. The names of OpAngola, OpGreenRights, and OpPemex were attached to each, respectively. A timeline view using Recorded Future’s analysis tool provides a keen visualization of these attacks in relation to one another.
By the same token, the data underlying the above visualization provides additional insight into these three separate attacks. And that’s exactly what they are – three distinct hits that, while targeting actors in the same industry, are different in their objectives.
OpAngola, for example, went after the government of Angola, the third largest oil producer in Africa. AnonGhost led the defacement of some seventy government websites, including the Ministry of Oil’s, on December 4. The operation was launched after claims were made that the Angolan government was set to make Islam illegal in the country. Such claims were false.
AnonGhost was also behind the defacement of the website belonging to the National Oil Corporation of Kenya on December 10. The motivation here is less straightforward than in the case of OpAngola, yet the use of the hashtag #OpGreenRights with the attack is a clear association with the larger OpGreenRights campaign initiated by Anonymous.
This cyber campaign was launched after the taking of the so-called “Arctic 30” by Russian security forces on September 18. In a video release, Anonymous stated that OpGreenRights was “designed to target high-level communication assets of the Russian Federation worldwide.” While going after the national oil company of Kenya is a far cry form a “high-level communication asset” of Russia, the OpGreenRights moniker can of course be applied across different targets. The clear connection with oil is close enough.
In addition, Anonymous was behind the most recent cyber attack targeting an oil actor:OpPemex. The attack took down the websites of both the Mexican Senate and the Chamber of Deputies on December 12 in protest over a soon-to-be passed bill that leads to greater privatization of the state oil company, Pemex. The bill has passed the Senate and is slated to pass the Chamber of Deputies in the days ahead.
As the above data highlights, the targeting of actors in the same industry in this string of cyber attacks is not indicative of a larger industry-wide threat. The rationale behind each attack is not related in the same way that those oil-producing countries targeted byOpPetrol were supposed to be in June of this year.
By Amy Goodman with Denis Moynihan
President Barack Obama proclaimed Dec. 15 Bill of Rights Day, praising those first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution as “the foundation of American liberty, securing our most fundamental rights—from the freedom to speak, assemble and practice our faith as we please to the protections that ensure justice under the law.” The next day, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon called Obama’s surveillance policies “almost Orwellian” in a court order finding the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ telephone metadata very likely unconstitutional. If that was not enough, the president’s own task force on the issues, the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, delivered its report, which the White House released, with 46 recommendations for changes.
One adviser to the panel, Sascha Meinrath of the Open Technology Institute, was skeptical, telling me that “intelligence-community insiders, administration officials, comprise the entirety of this five-member group. I do not see how you can do a truly independent review of surveillance when so many people are tied in.” The panel is chaired by former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morrell, and is managed under the auspices of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, run by James Clapper. Clapper is widely considered to have lied in a Senate hearing on this issue. When asked by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., if the NSA collected phone records on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans, Clapper replied, “No, sir.” Following the Snowden leaks, Clapper admitted to NBC News that his answer was the “least untruthful” manner to say no.
Judge Leon’s ruling relates to just one of several filed after the June disclosures by former NSAcontractor Edward Snowden about the vast, global surveillance system vacuuming up personal data from billions of people. A separate federal lawsuit in New York, ACLU v. Clapper, seeks to end the mass surveillance completely, and to have all the data collected so far deleted.
Anthony Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, called Edward Snowden “a patriot,” noting: “As a whistle-blower of illegal government activity that was sanctioned and kept secret by the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government for years, he undertook great personal risk for the public good. And he has single-handedly reignited a global debate about the extent and nature of government surveillance and our most fundamental rights as individuals.”
Jay Carney, Obama’s press secretary, reiterated the White House’s hard line this week: “Mr. Snowden has been accused of leaking classified information, and he faces felony charges here in the United States.”
By Jeff Thomas
Cicero had it right when he described the Sword of Damocles.
To be the leader of a country is like having a sword constantly dangling over your head from a single horse hair. You never know if or when the sword is going to cause your demise, but you know that the danger is ever-present.
That is just as true today as it was in Cicero’s time, but the modern-day Sword of Damocles hangs over the heads of not just the world’s leaders. It hangs over the heads of the populations as well.
If we rely on the conventional media for our interpretation of world economic and political conditions, we may well be scratching our heads continuously as to what needs to be done to “save” the situation.
Whether the discussion is over the debts of nations, the likelihood of war, or the increase in the loss of rights, the governments of much of the world are heading in a similar direction.
And that direction is not a positive one.
However, the pundits in the media offer a wide variety of solutions for the problems being discussed.
The solution to national debt is either to expand monetisation or to back off on it, depending upon who is speaking at the moment. Whether debt monetisation is the right thing to do in the first place is rarely discussed.
The solution to the Middle East problem is either to arm the rebels or send in the military.
The solution to domestic terrorism is either to build up the power of the various authorities, or to pass more dramatic laws restricting basic freedoms.
And so, we are to be forgiven if we imagine that the solution to such problems lies in whether we choose one destructive approach or another.
Truth be told, the most difficult assessment for us to make is that we should sit very far back from the rhetoric and ask ourselves, “Is a solution even possible at this point, or have the powers-that–be gone past the point of no return?”
Here’s why the problems won’t be solved:
As regards the debt of the most prominent countries of the world, the point of no return has certainly been reached by most.
Historically, once the present level of debt has been reached, no amount of monetisation will save the economy. It may be possible to give the addict yet another injection of heroin to stave off the immediate withdrawal symptoms, but at some point, it becomes necessary to go cold turkey.
It may be a very painful thing to do, but it truly is the only solution. A country cannot reach solvency through increased debt.
However, political leaders are loath to go cold turkey. To do so is to cut the horse hair that holds the sword hanging above their careers. Better to push the situation further into ruin, if it can buy a little more time.
As regards the rapid deterioration into police states that is occurring in so many countries, no amount of discussion by the pundits in the media will reverse the present destruction of basic rights. After all, the decision is not in their hands. It is in the hands of congresses, parliaments, presidents, and prime ministers.
They know that, very soon, the façade of “economic recovery” will come tumbling down, and they have no intention of allowing the populace to have the basic freedom of removing them from power, once the veil has been removed from the lie that a solution is in the works.
Political leaders, whose hold over power is in danger, will always do whatever is necessary to retain that power.
As regards warfare, it is interesting that none of the pundits who discuss the subject in the media ever raise the question, “How can a country that is facing bankruptcy possibly fund a war—traditionally the most expensive undertaking for any country in any era?”
Yet, throughout history, political leaders have often used warfare as a distraction when a government has reached the tipping point economically. As Hermann Goering said,
“The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”
The disconnect here seems to be that the populace seems to believe that the governments of the West sincerely hope to avoid war, so the discussion in the media revolves around what can be done to that end.
However, far from seeking peace, the governments of the day consciously seek to create war. After all, a populace that is otherwise unhappy with its government tends to toe the line if the country is at war. Further, the government has a greater ability to silence domestic detractors in time of war.
Thus, the ability to hold power is assured. A state of war is the single most effective tool in silencing dissent in any country.
In considering all of the above, not only as a present-day anomaly, but as a recurrent theme throughout history, any discussion of “if” there will be an economic collapse, “if” there will be an increase in the loss of basic freedoms, “if” there will be a ramping up of warfare, becomes a non-starter. It is a question of “when.”
Of course, in spite of this, there will be those individuals who will say, “I like to be positive. I’m going to hope for the best.”
But, in truth, this is not positive thinking at all. If we see the truth before our eyes and then cover our eyes in order to be positive, we are merely delving into self-deception.
Positive thinking begins with truth. Once we accept what is true, we may then be as positive or as negative as we wish regarding what that truth means to us.
If we are faced with the fact that much of the world is, once again, passing through the classic cycle of economic decline / removal of rights / distraction of war, we can either shut our eyes to that fact and hope for the best, or we can open our eyes and recognise that the one choice left to us is to try to step aside of coming events.
As Benjamin Ola Akande wrote, “Hope is not a strategy.”
If we recognise that the sword of Damocles is indeed hovering above our own heads, we would be unwise to continue to sit below it and ponder whether the horse hair may break.
Instead, we should understand that our very first move should be to put some physical distance between ourselves and the potential harm that unquestionably hangs over us.
Editor’s Note: When you are dealing with a desperate government, it is always better to be proactive than reactive. Internationalization is your ultimate insurance policy. You can find specific guidance from Casey Research on this critically important topic—so that you can take action before it’s too late—by clicking here.
A Paraguayan farmer’s fight against agricultural corporations destroying the livelihoods of many like him.
Witness Last updated: 19 Dec 2013 10:29
|Filmmakers: David Bernet and Bettina Borgfeld
Raising Resistance explores Paraguayan farmers’ struggle against the expanding production of genetically modified soy in South America.
Biotechnology, mechanisation, and herbicides have radically changed the lives of small farmers, known as campesinos, across Latin America. For farmers in Paraguay this means displacement from their land, loss of basic food supplies, and a veritable fight for survival.
Geronimo Arevalos, a small farmer, together with some other farmers, stands defiantly in a corporate-owned soy field adjacent to his own, blocking a tractor from spraying herbicides that will decimate his crops and expose nearby families to toxic chemicals.
As corporate farms seize farmland and rapidly expand production of genetically modified soy, Geronimo and the campesinos find themselves in a life and death struggle. This film illustrates the mechanisms of a global economy that relies on monocrop agriculture (the practice of growing a single crop year after year on the same land), and corporate ownership of land, at the expense of the individual and small rural communities.
In telling the story of Paraguay, Raising Resistance poses the larger question of whether the global community wants to go on living with a system that allows one crop to prosper at the expense of all others.
For many campesinos – or farmers – in Paraguay, the expansion of soy fields is like a large, heavy barrel rolling towards them. It takes away the land on which they live and the air they breathe.
The problem of expanding soy fields affects many South American rural populations, not just in Paraguay. In our film, Raising Resistance , we identify a fundamental level of social conflict. It is a conflict that has an archetypal character because it takes place in many regions around the world where the global production of raw materials is the most important factor, while smaller interests are secondary.
For us, it painfully expresses one of the harsh truths of our civilisation – those who have the technological advantage will use it, no matter who suffers as a result.
Around the time we first travelled to Paraguay, the rural population had just decided to begin resisting the soy field expansion. Across the country, groups of campesinos put up their plastic tents in front of the soy fields in an effort to halt soy farming which was damaging their own crops and destroying their communities.
Before our very eyes, the rather abstract connection between the production of raw materials, agricultural chemistry and land conflict suddenly had faces, voices and feelings – and we felt what we saw had to be made into a film. We wanted to show that the campesinos also have the right to exist and feed their families.
The problem of the expanding production of genetically modified crops is not just limited to rural areas of Paraguay. The expansion of raw material production is going on in all regions of the world. At one point in the film, Geronimo, our main protagonist, predicts, “There will be collisions … violent conflicts … maybe even war”.
We believe the escalation Geronimo predicted at that time points far beyond this film and beyond Paraguay. We also believe that battles will happen wherever people are fighting for a basic livelihood and dignity.
After we left Paraguay and flew back to Germany to edit our film, we tried our best to create a film that not only presented a subject well but that helps our audience to see, hear and feel what the campesinos are experiencing.
Mark Udall Demands CIA Report Amid Dispute Over Torture Study.
WASHINGTON, Dec 17 (Reuters) – A member of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday disclosed the existence of a secret Central Intelligence Agency document that committee members believe supports their conclusions in a study highly critical of “waterboarding” and other harsh counterterrorism practices.
Senator Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat, demanded the document – a CIA study of the interrogation techniques – at a confirmation hearing for Caroline Krass, President Barack Obama’s nominee to be the CIA’s general counsel.
Udall said he would not support Krass’ nomination until the previously undisclosed document was provided, raising the possibility that he might use a “hold” to stop the nomination.
The intelligence panel’s disagreement with the CIA over its 6,300-page report and the need for cooperation with Congress were a major focus of Tuesday’s hearing, which also covered the nomination of Daniel Smith to be assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research.
The dispute over the report – and revelations by former contractor Edward Snowden about sweeping electronic surveillance by the National Security Agency – have sparked debate over whether congressional oversight of U.S. spy agencies is effective enough.
The Senate panel approved a draft of its report a year ago. But the CIA disputes many of its findings and has not met lawmakers’ requests that parts of it be made public, leaving some senators frustrated at what they see as a lack of cooperation.
During the hearing, Krass told Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the committee, that she did not believe members of the Senate panel had the right to see documents that provide the legal basis for CIA actions, such as waterboarding.
Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins said she was “troubled” by Krass’ answer.
Udall asked Krass to ensure that the CIA provide the committee a copy of the internal review initiated under former CIA Director Leon Panetta of the agency’s detention and interrogation program.
“It appears that this review … is consistent with the Intelligence Committee’s report, but, amazingly, it conflicts with the official CIA response to the committee’s report,” Udall said.
“If this is true, it raises fundamental questions about why a review the CIA conducted internally years ago and never provided to the committee is so different from the CIA’s formal written response to the committee’s study,” he added.
The report’s existence was not public knowledge until Udall questioned Krass during the hearing.
Committee Democrats have concluded that the CIA obtained little or no critical intelligence from its use of secret prisons and harsh interrogation. Several panel members offered tough criticism and closely questioned Krass over her view of such techniques.
“It (the use of such techniques) was a tragic mistake of great significance in the history of this country,” West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller said.
Krass said she considered waterboarding to be torture.
Udall said he also wanted the White House to make a public statement committing to “the fullest possible declassification” of the committee’s study, and the CIA’s response, before he could support Krass’ nomination.
Asked if Udall would use a hold, his spokesman Mike Saccone said the senator was committed to working with the committee and the CIA on the nomination and to get the information he requested.
But Saccone added: “He will have a full range of procedural tools to pick from to accomplish this objective.” (Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
Here’s an article by Daniel Drezner, a professor of international politics at Tufts University and a contributing editor to Foreign Policy. He recently spent a day at the NSA’s headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland. As you might expect, some interesting tidbits came from the mouths of some of these control-freak statists. One truly unenlightened official seemed to hold the press in particular disregard and stated: “I have some reforms for the First Amendment.” I’m quite certain he has some reforms in mind for the 4th Amendment as well…
Once again I ask, if they hold the U.S. Constitution and civil rights in such disdain; what exactly are they protecting us from?
From Foreign Policy:
For an organization that is so efficient at amassing data intended to be kept secret, the National Security Agency seemed surprisingly clumsy in accepting data that was volunteered to them. I’d emailed the bits and pieces of my personal data necessary to be cleared for access to the agency’s headquarters in Fort Meade a week before the scheduled visit, with zero response. As it turns out, an NSA server has crashed, they told me, creating havoc with some email accounts. This sort of hiccup humanizes the agency, though it also raises questions about their vulnerability.
The NSA’s biggest strategic communications problem, however, is that they’ve been so walled off from the American body politic that they have no idea when they’re saying things that sound tone-deaf. Like expats returning from a long overseas tour, NSA staffers don’t quite comprehend how much perceptions of the agency have changed. The NSA stresses in its mission statement and corporate culture that it “protects privacy rights.” Indeed, there were faded banners proclaiming that goal in our briefing room. Of course, NSAers see this as protecting Americans from foreign cyber-intrusions. In a post-Snowden era, however, it’s impossible to read that statement without suppressing a laugh.
The NSA’s attitude toward the press is, well, disturbing. There were repeated complaints about the ways in which recent reportage of the NSA was warped or lacking context. To be fair, this kind of griping is a staple of officials across the entire federal government. Some of the NSA folks went further, however. One official accused some media outlets of “intentionally misleading the American people,” which is a pretty serious accusation. This official also hoped that the Obama administration would crack down on these reporters, saying, “I have some reforms for the First Amendment.” I honestly do not know whether that last statement was a joke or not. Either way, it’s not funny.
If that’s what they are willing to say when a professor is around, just imagine what they say behind closed doors…
Full article here.