Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Seven other Latin American countries want to join Mexico in supporting a lawsuit challenging Arizona's immigration enforcement law
Bolivia, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Peru filed separate, nearly identical motions to join Mexico's legal brief supporting the lawsuit filed by U.S. civil rights and other advocacy groups.
A federal judge formally accepted Mexico's filing July 1 but did not immediately rule on the latest motions filed late last week.
Mexico says the law would lead to racial profiling and hinder trade, tourism and the fight against drug trafficking.
The law is to take effect July 29. It requires that police conducting traffic stops or questioning people about possible legal violations ask them about their immigration status if there is "reasonable suspicion" that they're in the country illegally.
View from the Mount
- This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.
|Depth||35.9 km (22.3 miles)|
|Region||NEW BRITAIN REGION, PAPUA NEW GUINEA|
|Distances||70 km (45 miles) SE of Kimbe, New Britain, PNG|
130 km (80 miles) ENE of Kandrian, New Britain, PNG
550 km (340 miles) NE of PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea
2400 km (1490 miles) N of BRISBANE, Queensland, Australia
|Location Uncertainty||horizontal +/- 7.7 km (4.8 miles); depth +/- 18.8 km (11.7 miles)|
|Parameters||NST= 78, Nph= 78, Dmin=547.7 km, Rmss=1.26 sec, Gp= 36°,|
M-type=teleseismic moment magnitude (Mw), Version=6
- Did you feel it? Report shaking and damage at your location. You can also view a map displaying accumulated data from your report and others.
Hundreds of residents of one of the poorest municipalities in Los Angeles County shouted in protest last night as tensions rose over a report that the city’s manager earns an annual salary of almost $800,000.
An overflow crowd packed a City Council meeting in Bell, a mostly Hispanic city of 38,000 about 10 miles (16 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles, to call for the resignation of Mayor Oscar Hernandez and other city officials. Residents left standing outside the chamber banged on the doors and shouted “fuera,” or “get out” in Spanish.
It was the first council meeting since the Los Angeles Times reported July 15 that Chief Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo earns $787,637 -- with annual 12 percent raises -- and that Bell pays its police chief $457,000, more than Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck makes in a city of 3.8 million people. Bell council members earn almost $100,000 for part-time work.
City Attorney Edward Lee said the council members couldn’t discuss salaries in public without advance notice. The council then adjourned for a private session. About an hour later, the council members returned, and Hernandez read a statement saying the city would prepare a report on the salaries and seek public comment at the next council meeting, scheduled for Aug. 16.
Residents shouted in protest. Lee said he would have the room cleared if people continued to speak out of line. Police Chief Randy Adams said the fire department wanted to end the meeting because the crowd outside was blocking the door.
Then, in what appeared to be an effort to ease tensions, Hernandez announced that the meeting to discuss salaries would be held instead on July 26.
After the meeting, Bell resident Ali Saleh read a statement from a newly formed group called the Bell Association to Stop the Abuse. He called for an independent audit of city salaries and contracts.
On July 1 Bell took control of many of the city functions of neighboring Maywood, a city whose council members voted to contract out almost all services. Saleh also asked that Bell stop that process until the city’s salary investigations were resolved.
Bell has sold two general obligation bond issues totaling $50 million in the past six years, according to prospectuses for the bonds and information in the city’s annual financial statement for 2009. In that time, its debt has risen to $1,972 per capita in 2009 from $599 in 2004, according to its annual financial statement.
Inquiry Under Way
The city’s personal income was $24,800 per capita in 2008, according to its financial statement. That compares with an average of $32,819 nationwide, according to 2010 figures from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Bell’s general fund revenue declined 4.6 percent to $14.1 million for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2009, according to the city’s financial statement. The city’s expenses rose 2.3 percent to $15.9 million in same period.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has begun an inquiry into Bell council member pay, according to Dave Demerjian, head of the office’s Public Integrity Division. He said Bell council members were receiving $8,083 a month, mostly by serving on city-related commissions.
“We’re reviewing the council member salaries to see if they conform to state law,” Demerjian said in a telephone interview.
California law limits the salaries of council members to several hundred dollars a month, depending on the size of the city, according to Hector De La Torre, a state assemblyman from nearby South Gate, who sponsored legislation in 2005 that limits how much council members can get paid from other city-related assignments to $150 a month.
De La Torre said that after his bill was passed, Bell’s City Council voted to operate under its own charter, rather than adhere to state laws on how cities should be run.
“It seems obscene to me,” De La Torre said in a telephone interview. “People making $30,000 a year are paying taxes so that their council members can make $80,000.”
Adams, Bell’s police chief, said in an interview after the council meeting that he had retired as chief of police in the much larger city of Glendale, California, when Bell officials approached him.
“I told them they would have to pay me what I was making in retirement and the $165,000 I would make as chief of police,” Adams said.
Adams said he had been brought in to end corruption in Bell’s police department.
“Some of the former members of this force are in the federal penitentiary,” he said.
‘Streets Are Cleaner’
Hernandez, the mayor, defended the salaries in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.
“Our streets are cleaner, we have lovely parks, better lighting throughout the area, our community is better,” Hernandez said, according to the newspaper. “These things just don’t happen, they happen because he had a vision and made it happen.”
Carmen Avalos, the city clerk in South Gate, said she attended the Bell council meeting to help educate people about the political process.
“This is what we are trying to avoid,” she said in an interview at the meeting. “The lack of fiduciary responsibility, the lack of transparency.”
[Editor's note: The Tyee is pleased to welcome Andrew Nikiforuk as our first writer in residence. Over the coming months he regularly will be contributing a column named "Energy and Equity", examining from all angles Canada as rising petro-state. This is his inaugural piece.]
Just two weeks ago the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development abruptly cancelled a big report on the tar sands and the project's extreme water impacts. The parliamentarians even destroyed draft copies of their final report.
After listening to testimony from scores of scientists, bureaucrats, lobbyists, aboriginal chiefs and environmental groups, the committee dropped the whole affair like a bucket of tar. (For the record, the Alberta government, a petro-state with Saudi visions of grandeur, refused to show up and testify.)
Killing reports paid for by Canadian taxpayers on a $200-billion backyard development is not the sort of behavior one associates with a "responsible energy producer," but there you have it. While federal panjandrums argue that the tar sands may be key to our economic prosperity, our politicians couldn't put aside their partisan views long enough to complete a national report on the project's formidable water liabilities.
Fortunately, civilians can do what politicians can't. In the interests of accountability and transparency, I read through 300 pages of evidence and pulled out the sort of uncomfortable revelations that Ottawa doesn't want U.S. oil customers, industry investors or Canadian taxpayers to know.
The evidence, of course, all points to one embarrassing conclusion: Ottawa has managed its mandate in the tar sands as irresponsibly as the U.S. Mineral Management Services oversaw the safety of deep sea drilling in the Gulf.
Failing to regulateLet's begin with the sorry testimony of federal regulators.
They all agreed that Environment Canada has responsibilities in the tar sands under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the Species at Risk Act, the Migratory Bird Convention and the Fisheries Act.
But nobody appears to be standing on guard. Even though Environment Canada has a clear mandate to protect fish from tar sands pollutants, the agency has completed but one fish study on an industrial development with a geographical footprint larger than 20 Calgaries or 17 Denvers.*
Fred Wrona, Environment Canada's acting director general for Water Science and Technology, even admitted that a 2003 study found that oil-sand pollutants did indeed poison wild fish. "Beyond that, we have actually done no additional in-field studies looking at fish health effects." Incredible.
Asked if the government knew much about the hydrogeology of the region, Ian Matheson, director general for Habitat Management Directorate at Fisheries and Oceans, didn't reach for words like responsible, safe or secure: "I guess we know more than we used to and not as much as we want to.... There's a lot to be learned yet."
Leaking and seeping
Cynthia Wright, acting assistant deputy minister of Environmental Stewardship branch, explained that Environment Canada was not involved in the design of tailing ponds holding six-billion barrels of toxic fish-killing and cancer-making mining waste that cover an 170 square kilometre area along the Athabasca River because the ponds don't contain fish. Wright also claimed the ponds don't leak.
But two University of Waterloo scientists, who study tailings pollution and groundwater for living, gave evidence proving that Environment Canada was out to lunch. James Barker, an earth science professor at the University of Waterloo, testified that the tailing ponds do leak and seep. In particular "seepage of process affected water is occurring from the (Suncor's) Tar Island dike into the sediments of the Athabasca River" at a rate of 67 litres per second.
Moreover the risk of more toxic seepage from the expanding tailing ponds into groundwater would escalate as mining projects increase bitumen production. "Newer oil sands tailings operations are forced really by geography to be located closer to or on top of sandy aquifers... the risk of local groundwater contamination is fairly high."
George Dixon, an expert on toxins such as naphthenic acids created by bitumen mining, also testified that he knew of at least two leaks from the tailing ponds into groundwater. He also told the committee that the Athabasca River now receives "chemical inputs" from natural bitumen deposits along the river as well as pollution from industrial mining activity.
"We don't know that the relative contributions from each are. We don't know whether or not the system can accept any further loading of oil sands type materials beyond what is naturally occurring." He added, "I don't really think we have a fully integrated sustainable management strategy for water in the Athabasca drainage."
Both the availability and accessibility of water information remain a critical concern for scientists: "I've been working there for 15 years... and I have difficulty pulling data together."
Dixon concluded that the research needs of the oil sands may have exceeded available human scientific resources in Canada. "It's a discomfort in that there are probably more questions that need to be asked than we're fully drawing our attention to at the present time."
Climate change? What's that?
Although industry folks claim, with the earnestness of BP executives, that city-scaled water withdrawals from the Athabasca River for bitumen processing are safely managed, committee witnesses gave a different story.
William Donahue, an Alberta research scientist and lawyer, characterized the controversial Lower Athabasca River Management Framework, a tool for policing industry withdrawals, as inadequate for the job. In particular the framework failed to incorporate a predicted 50 per cent decline in water flows in the river basin due to climate change. The federal and provincial designers of the framework, "arbitrarily decided that 90 per cent of the time, there would be no ecological effect and no need to limit flow extractions." By 2020, mining companies will either have to use 50 per cent less water or find it elsewhere warned Donahue.
Arlene Kwasniak, professor of law at the University of Calgary, pointed out even more flaws in the framework. The voluntary agreement, which directs companies to suck out less water during low river flows to save the fish, is probably unenforceable under Alberta's Water Act. "There is nothing that would require compliance, nor is that anything under predecessor legislation.... If we're going to protect the river, we're going to have to have some effective legislated control." But it doesn't exist. Even though industry has now dug up 80,000 hectares of critical peatlands and wetlands, Alberta still has no wetland policy either, said Kwasniak.
Yes, it's a huge polluter
Contrary to Environment Canada's fairy tale presentations, David Schindler, one of world's most respected water ecologists, told the committee that the project was directly polluting the Athabasca River. In particular, industry emissions were now depositing substantial volumes of bitumen, heavy metals and fish-killing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons on the landscape which then run-off into the river. (After his appearance, Schindler published a peer-reviewed paper in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showing that air pollution alone created the equivalent of an annual 5,000-barrel oil spill on the Athabasca River.)
Schindler also told the committee that once upon a time the federal government did good monitoring on the river but then turned it over to Alberta which "turned a lot of it over to industry itself. As a result we have a database that's not available to independent scientists to use."
Schindler also poked holes in claims made by Don Thompson, the president of the Oil Sands Developer's Group. Thompson told the committee there is no pollution in the Athabasca River because an industry funded multi-stakeholder group, the Regional Aquatic Monitoring Program (RAMP), couldn't find any. But Schindler described RAMP as a secretive, inconsistent and "unsuccessful" program. He noted that three federal scientists offered a scathing critique of RAMP in 2004.
The scientists found that RAMP repeatedly changed what pollutants it studied and where and how it sampled them..."all the things that violate the first principles of monitoring programs."
'A pretty unsustainable situation'
Although industry claims that in situ projects, which steam bitumen out of the ground, will be more water friendly than mining, that's not what the committee heard. Expert after expert all warned that the steam plants could impact a region the size of Florida by withdrawing almost as much water from the ground as the mines were now taking from the Athabasca River. Some unmapped underground aquifers in the region may even extend as far away as the Northwest Territories and Manitoba.
James Bruce, an acclaimed climate scientist and former director of Environment Canada's now defunct Inland Waters Directorate, testified that reports by the Alberta Research Council and the Council of Canadian Academies pointedly concluded that in situ projects have "gone ahead with a completely inadequate understanding of the groundwater regime in the area and they are having significant impacts on water.... We considered it a pretty unsustainable situation."
Alfonso Rivera, manager of Natural Resources Groundwater Mapping Program, then confirmed the terrible accuracy of Bruce's testimony. Asked if the government of Canada had studied the impact of the tar sands on groundwater Rivera replied that "The short answer is no. We are not able to provide facts."
In fact, the government did not even know "the sustainable safe yield" for Athabasca aquifers.
Nor did they know where or what contaminants might be transported by aquifers or how aquifers connected with surface water in the region. David Boerner, an administrator with the Geological Survey of Canada, explained that Canada had only mapped 12 of 30 critical aquifers in the country and that "lack of information is the real problem."
The view from downstream
Everyone living downstream from the project (more than 40,000 people) bitterly told the committee that the federal government had repeatedly neglected its duties. Chief Bill Erasmus, regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations for the Northwest Territories, called for an immediate halt to tar sands expansion until the government prepared emergency plans in case of catastrophic breaches in some 20 tailing ponds. (At least one is as large as the Aswan Dam on the Nile River.) He also called for a dry tailing process as well as a 10-year plan to immediately clean up six billion barrels of mining waste in the region.
Michael Miltenberger, environment and natural resources minister for the Northwest Territories, wondered why the federal government had abandoned the Mackenzie River Basin Transboundary Waters Master Agreement. After 25 years of negotiations ,the federal government, four provinces and two territories finally agreed to protect the world's third largest watershed in 1997. But ever since the world's largest energy project started to fill up Ottawa coffers, the federal government ignored an agreement.
Miltenberger asked why the transboundary board, with an annual budget of $250,000, was sitting "almost in neutral" and hadn't met for a decade? "Our futures and fates are inextricably linked in the Mackenzie River Basin and we have to recognize that." He also asked why "there's no national water strategy that allows the federal government to play a clear leadership role."
J. Owen Saunders, executive director of the Canadian Institute of Resources Law, called the abandonment of the basin's future a grave mistake. "There are important federal interests here and a clear need for federal leadership which has largely been abdicated by the federal government over the last three decades."
Chief Jim Boucher of the Fort McKay First Nation eloquently put his finger on the whole ugly problem: "Oil sands development has proceeded on an ad hoc, project-by-project basis within a fiscal and environmental regulatory framework that is seriously out of date. Lacking a coherent and overall plan and strategy, there is only an ineffective, reactive, piecemeal approach to environmental issues such as water management."
Boucher knows: his people live in the middle of four mining projects just 75 kilometres north of Fort McMurray.
A very bad report
So there you have it: some of the dismal evidence that the federal government didn't want to share with the world. The facts show that Canadian regulators have not behaved responsibly, honorably or prudently.
Ottawa has squandered surface and groundwater resources in the region.
It has failed to collect baseline data making the project both unsafe and insecure.
The ponds are leaking and the project is polluting the river.
The federal government has failed to issue national standards for regulating tar-sands pollutants such as naphthenic acids.
It, too, has neglected to transparently monitor water quality and quantity in the world's third largest watershed.
This evidence partly explains why the committee destroyed its final report. Tory MPs that behave like wannabe bitumen salesmen explain the rest.
Linda Duncan, an NDP MP who served on the querulous committee studying water and bitumen, promises to soon write her own report. Francis Scarpaleggia, the vice chair and Liberal MP, says he'll do the same.
But what stuns Duncan (and should anger every blue-blooded Canadian) is simply this: "The federal government has failed to properly regulate the oil sands and in so doing they've put the resource at risk."
Isn't that what corrupt U.S. oil regulators did in the Gulf?
Apollo 11 was the first manned mission to land on the Moon. The first steps by humans on another planetary body were taken by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on July 20, 1969. The astronauts also returned to Earth the first samples from another planetary body. Apollo 11 achieved its primary mission - to perform a manned lunar landing and return the mission safely to Earth - and paved the way for the Apollo lunar landing missions to follow.
More about the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia
Nestled between Panama to its south and Nicaragua to its north, Costa Rica is a Central American nation roughly the size of Rhode Island.
If another nation were to send Rhode Island a force of 7,000 troops, 200 helicopters, and 46 warships in an effort to eradicate drug trafficking, it is doubtful that the residents of Rhode Island would consider this offer "on-the-level." Such a massive military force could hardly be efficiently used to combat drug cartels. The only logical conclusion is that the nation whose troops now are occupying this other country had another agenda in mind that it didn't want to share.
In early July, by a vote of 31 to 8, the Costa Rican Congress approved the U.S. bringing into their nation the same military force described above, justified with the same dubious "war on drugs" rationale. According to the agreement, the military forces are supposed to leave Costa Rica by the end of 2010. This begs the question, however, if such an over the top display of military muscle is needed now to combat the drug cartels, what will be done in the next few months to make their presence unnecessary? The history of such U.S. military deployments around the world suggests a more credible outcome than what the agreement states. Once the U.S. moves such massive forces into a country, they rarely move them out.
When push comes to shove, the political machinery in Costa Rica is subservient to U.S. government and corporate interests. Nevertheless, there are many in Costa Rica who are declaring that the agreement is a violation of their national sovereignty and is unconstitutional. (In 1948 Costa Rica abolished its army, which was sanctioned in its constitution.) Legislator Luis Fishman has vowed to challenge the decision of the Congress in the courts.
Shifting Strategy and Tactics
The buildup of U.S. armed forces in Costa Rica is part of an escalating pattern that indicates a shifting of strategy and tactics for the U.S. in controlling what the Monroe Doctrine infamously described as the U.S.'s "backyard" — that is, all of Latin America. Since the U.S. government inspired covert coup d’etats and political reversals of popular governments and/or movements in Guatemala, Brazil, Chile, Nicaragua, and El Salvador in previous decades, U.S. rulers had figured they had things stitched up to their liking in Latin America. The political elites in Latin America were uniformly in the pockets of the U.S. corporate empire and appeared to be more or less in control of their people. They commonly outlawed strikes and at times even trade unions, eliminated minimum wage laws, and gave enormous tax breaks to U.S. corporations.
Therefore, the U.S. Empire builders could use their political and economic might alone to subjugate these neo-colonies to a very profitable neoliberal agenda. This agenda included allowing U.S. corporations easy access to pillage these nations’ public sectors through privatization, letting multi-national corporations overrun these nations’ local markets and farms through the elimination of trade barriers, and increasing the exploitation of their workers and the devastation of their natural resources by tossing out national labor and environmental standards. Because of the profits enjoyed by a few as a result of these measures, they carried the day, though they, in turn, created a simmering spirit of rebellion in the semi-colonies' peasantry and workers that would inevitably find expression.
As the U.S. began to set its sights on and send its resources to other parts of the world, most notably the Middle East and Asia, the web they had wrapped around Latin America began to unravel. This was most apparent in Venezuela where a U.S.-backed coup attempt in April of 2002 failed because of the massive mobilizing of the Venezuelan people in defense of their democratic rights. All subsequent attempts of the Venezuelan oligarchy, in collusion with the U.S. State Department, to get rid of Chavez resulted in their humiliation because of the constant support and organizing of the country’s lower classes. It became apparent to the U.S. ruling class that they could no longer rely on the Venezuelan oligarchy, which had lost direct control over the political situation. What is more, the popular upsurge witnessed in Venezuela in the past decade, opened up floodgates for anti-imperialist organizing across the continent, resulting in the election of a number of left-wing presidents.
Not only was the neoliberal agenda of the U.S. being blocked, an alternative to the U.S. Free Trade policies was being set up. The Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean (ALBA), which was initiated by Venezuela and Cuba, began to build a trading block based on exchange according to different nations' needs rather than U.S. corporate profits. While ALBA needs to be more substantially developed in order to fulfill its promise, especially in regards to organizing grassroots control to determine its priorities, it is a challenge to U.S. corporate and political dominance in the region.
U.S. Military Moves
As a result, the U.S. government began to shift its reliance from solely economic and political means to control Latin America towards taking military measures, even while engaged in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. What have been some of these measures?
In 2006 the U.S. conducted military exercises off the coast of Venezuela called "Operation Partnership of the Americas." This exercise involved four ships, 60 fighter planes, and 6,500 U.S. troops.
In 2006 the U.S. State Department classified the islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao, with their military bases jointly contracted to Holland and the U.S., as "The Third Frontier of the United States." U.S. aircraft carriers, war ships, combat planes, Black Hawk helicopters, nuclear submarines, and thousands of troops began to build up in Curacao in particular. In 2009 a U.S. military plane was intercepted in Venezuelan airspace that had flown from Curacao's base.
In 2008 the U.S. reactivated the Fourth Fleet to patrol Caribbean waters. This fleet had been out of commission since 1950. Now it operates with the potential of acting as a floating base for the U.S. to conduct military strikes throughout Central and South America.
In 2009 the U.S. made a deal with Colombia to build up its military personal in seven bases, from 250 to 800 American troops with 600 civilian contractors, effectively taking control over these installations. This was widely denounced throughout Latin America as an action aimed at intimidating Venezuela. In December of that year a U.S. drone plane flying from one of these Colombian bases violated Venezuelan airspace.
From 2009 to 2010 the U.S. worked behind the scenes to legitimize a military coup in Honduras against lawfully elected President Zelaya, who had aligned the nation with ALBA. Part of the U.S.'s motivation behind its actions was to maintain control of Soto Cano's Airbase, with its 550 U.S. troops and 650 U.S. and Honduran civilians. In the 1980's the U.S. had used this base for a training ground and launching pad for the Contra terrorists in Nicaragua and El Salvadorian death squads opposed to the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN). There is good reason for concern that this Airbase will again be used for similar operations today.
In 2009 the U.S. and Panama agreed to open up two naval bases in Panama, which will be the first time U.S. military forces will be based in this nation since 1999.
War on Drugs?
Most of these measures have been justified on the grounds of combating drug trafficking, including the military buildup in Costa Rica. However, they have not curtailed this problem at all. Such U.S. military buildups have generally been accompanied by an increase in drug trafficking, as has happened in both Columbia and Afghanistan. Based on this record it can only be concluded that the "War on Drugs" rationale is a red herring for public relations consumption, not the actual motivation.
This military build up in Costa Rica is the latest in a series of moves the U.S. has made in Latin America that seeks to use threats and arms to reverse the strength of popular anti-imperialist forces across the region. The U.S. is playing with the possibility of erupting a continental conflagration for the sake of corporate profits.
While it is doubtful that the U.S. wants to directly engage in a military conflict with, most likely, Venezuela right now, preparations for this possibility are being made. What is more likely in the short term is that the U.S. military will use its forces to engage in sabotage and intimidation in hopes of reversing support for the nations aligned with ALBA. It is also very possible that the U.S. military will help to support proxy armies, such as Colombia's, in military conflicts that align with U.S. interests. However, this is a dangerous game. Even in the short term, the U.S. ruling class may drag the nation into another direct conflict, in spite of their intentions, that could spread to involve numerous other nations.
Peace and International Solidarity
While U.S. workers are suffering from unemployment, insufficient health care, drastic cuts to education and social services, as well as environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico created by the Obama governmental collusion with BP, the priorities of the U.S. ruling class are elsewhere. They are more concerned with pouring money into military buildups that threaten war. The target of such a war or wars would be the popular working class movements in Latin America, whose only crime has been to struggle to liberate themselves from super exploitation and political repression. It is the same economic and political elite in the U.S. that are denying U.S. workers what is rightfully theirs that are opposing the efforts of workers and peasants throughout the continent to empower themselves.
It is the task of the anti-war movement not only to oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also to prevent future U.S. wars in Latin America. Wherever anti-war activists seek to mobilize people against war, they should also seek to educate about the U.S. empire's military moves in Latin America.
Furthermore, it will require international solidarity to combat what the U.S. elite is doing in Central and South America. There was recently an event that could go some way towards preparing this solidarity. In Sanare, Venezuela, from June 21 - 25, a series of meetings were held entitled "Ecuentro of the Americas: Resisting Militarization and Promoting a Culture of Peace." It consisted of delegates of organizations from 19 nations across the continent, including School of the Americas (SOA) Watch of the U.S. You can read more about this at http://www.soaw.org/.
Johnson & Johnson met EPS expectations, but was short on revenue and cut its full-year guidance, sending the shares down in premarket trading.
Excluding items, the health-care products giant posted 1.21 in earnings per share, matching the Street’s view. But its $15.33 billion in revenue fell short of the $15.64 billion that Wall Street was expecting. Johnson & Johnson lowered its earnings guidance to to $4.65 to $4.75 per share. In its last earnings report it pegged full year guidance at $4.80 to $4.90 per share.
The U.S. is sending the massive aircraft carrier the USS George Washington to South Korea this week, the military announced Monday.
The deployment is considered a show of force in the wake of the sinking of a South Korean warship last March that killed 46 sailors. South Korea and an international team of investigators have blamed North Korea for the attack.
The carrier was expected to be in South Korea's port of Busan by Wednesday and could participate in an upcoming military exercise.
The nuclear powered carrier, one of the world's largest warships, will be accompanied by three destroyers — the McCampbell, the John S. McCain and the Lassen.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton were expected to announce more details this week about the upcoming joint military exercise. Gates and Clinton were visiting Seoul to meet with their South Korean counterparts.
The military exercise and deployment of the George Washington has been under discussion since shortly after the March attack on the South Korean navy vessel, the Cheonan.
The Cheonan's sinking was considered South Korea's worst military disaster since the Korean War, which ended in a cease-fire in 1953. No formal peace treaty was ever signed, and more than 28,000 U.S. troops remain stationed in the south with a vow to protect its critical ally.
The deployment of the aircraft carrier could be seen by North Korea as a particularly aggressive move by the United States because of the ship's sheer size. According to a Navy website, the George Washington is 244 feet high from keel to mast and can accommodate some 6,250 crew members.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- More than 40 percent of homeowners seeking help from the Obama administration's flagship effort to rescue those at risk of foreclosure have dropped out of the program.
The latest report on the program suggests foreclosures could rise in the second half of the year and weaken an ailing housing market.
About 530,000 borrowers have fallen out of the program as of last month, the Treasury Department said Tuesday. Nearly 1.3 million homeowners had enrolled since March 2009.
Treasury officials say few of these borrowers will wind up in foreclosure. But many analysts are concerned that a new wave of foreclosures could greatly impact the struggling housing industry.
Another 390,000 homeowners, or 30 percent of those who started the program, have received permanent loan modifications and are making payments on time.
A major reason so many have fallen out of the program is the Obama administration initially pressured banks to sign up borrowers without insisting first on proof of their income. When banks later moved to collect the information, many troubled homeowners were disqualified or dropped out.
Many borrowers complain of a bureaucratic nightmare. They say banks often lose their documents and then claim borrowers did not send back the necessary paperwork.
The banking industry said borrowers weren't sending back the necessary paperwork.
The Obama plan was designed to help people in financial trouble by lowering their monthly mortgage payments. Homeowners who qualify can receive an interest rate as low as 2 percent for five years and a longer repayment period. The average monthly payment has been cut by about $500 on average.
The homeowners receive temporary modifications. These are supposed to become permanent after borrowers make three payments on time and complete the required paperwork. That includes proof of income and a letter explaining the reason for their troubles. In practice, though, the process has taken far longer.
The more than 100 participating mortgage companies get taxpayer incentives to reduce payments. But as of mid-May only $132 million has been spent out of a potential $75 billion, according to the Government Accountability Office.
Though the program has been widely criticized for making only a small dent in the foreclosure crisis, administration officials defend their efforts. They say that the foreclosure prevention program has spurred changes in the mortgage industry, prodding lenders to make more significant cuts to borrowers' monthly payments than before the government effort started.
Last week's Mexico car bomb in the border town of Cuidad Juarez killed three. It is the first known use of a car bomb against authorities and marks a troubling new level of violence in the country's brutal drug war.
For years drug experts, security officials, and political analysts have questioned the “Colombianization” of Mexico.
Mexico had already overtaken Colombia in terms of kidnappings. The public has long gotten accustomed to a censored press, threats to politicians, and grisly violence that includes decapitation and bodies hanging from highway overpasses. Now, it appears, Mexico has moved even closer to the kind of violence that plagued the South American nation in its darkest days.
A well-orchestrated car bomb exploded in Ciudad Juarez late Thursday, across from El Paso, Texas, killing at least three and sparking panic among the Mexican population. It is the first known use of a car bomb against authorities and the local population, and marks a troubling new level of violence as traffickers seeking to control the drug trade battle one another and Mexican authorities.
“We were already living with fear, but the kind of fear you have when living in a city that has a volcano or earthquake [risk], the kind of fear that is in the back of your mind,” says Jessica Peña, a sociology professor at the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juarez. “But this is an extreme situation. I think this will change people's fears to the worst.… This is something we thought just happened in societies like Iran or Iraq.”
Authorities try to play down the attack
Mexico's attorney general, Arturo Chavez, tried to downplay the event during a press conference Friday, assuring reporters that there is “no evidence anywhere in the country of narcoterrorism.”
The bomb was apparently set off by a cellphone in a trap designed by Mexican drug gangs. Ciudad Juarez Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz said at a press conference that drug gangs dressed a wounded man as a police officer and left him on the street. The perpetrators then called emergency services to lure federal police to the scene. As first responders approached, the bomb exploded. Among those killed was a doctor who rushed to treat the man. A cameraman was among the injured.
Officials placed the blame on La Linea, a street gang that works for the local Juarez cartel, and said the car bomb could have been in retaliation for the arrest of a gang member earlier in the week.
Why is Juarez so bad?
Ciudad Juarez has been in the throes of violence in Mexico in the past year, as the Juarez and Sinaloa gangs fight for the lucrative drug routes that head into the United States from the border. In response, federal police took control of the city from the military this spring, and the federal government is also experimenting with a new approach to the drug war, which saw the dispatching of the military across the country by Mexican President Felipe Calderón when he took office in December 2006 and placed more emphasis on social programs and the roots of violence.
Mexico has faced many troubling milestones since then. New figures released by the attorney general on Friday show that nearly 25,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence since Mr. Calderón took office. Local elections in early July were marred by intimidation, with the low point being the assassination of the leading candidate for governor for the northern state of Tamaulipas, Rodolfo Torre Cantu.
The attack comes as Calderón, who has promised to stay tough on drug cartels and not back down, reshuffled his cabinet last week, including naming a new Interior minister, José Francisco Blake.
This weekend alone left nearly 20 dead, including five factory workers in Ciudad Juarez and four police officers in the Pacific resort town of Acapulco.
"There are highly alarming elements: the military exercises that the South Koreans and gringos performed in the Yellow Sea; the pressure on Iran for daring to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes; the mobilization of U.S. and Israeli troops near Iran's coasts, and the violence in Iraq and Afghanistan occupied by the empire," Chavez said during his usual Sunday news commentary, "Las lineas de Chavez."
The president also listed Israel's blockade of Gaza with Washington's blessing as another alarming factor.
Chávez highlighted that the Barack Obama government "is proving to be, in words and actions, the second Bush administration (George W.), because it follows the same line as a warmonger and the same strategy of domination."
Chavez denounced the continuing and false accusations by Obama government agencies regarding alleged links between Caracas and international drug trafficking, and the surprising presence on unconvincing explanations for thousands of U.S. marines in Costa Rica and the overflights of Dutch aircraft in Venezuelan territory.
He also mentioned as other reasons for concern the violent destabilization plans revealed in the wake of capture of Salvadoran terrorist Francisco Chavez Abarca on national soil; the Chilean Senate's attempt to interfere in the September 26 elections and statements by the outgoing Colombian government linking Venezuela with Colombian guerrilla groups like the FARC and ELN.
"What a picture! We would be naive if we did not look at all of this aggression as a whole; everything is related," he said. "I think we are looking at a reenactment of the U.S. imperial doctrine, which is facing the new projects for the sovereignty of our America" he stated.
NEW YORK—Goldman Sachs Group Inc., clobbered by turbulent markets and charges to settle the U.S. government's civil-fraud complaint, posted its lowest earnings since the peak of the financial crisis.
The investment bank reported that second-quarter profit slumped 82% from a year earlier, reflecting a pullback in risk-taking by clients worried about the global economy. Profit was also sideswiped by $1.15 billion in one-time charges to settle a Securities and Exchange Commission case and pay a British tax on bank bonuses.
For Goldman, the disappointing results top off a stunning chapter in the 141-year-old company's history. Five days ago, it agreed ...
First of all, despite clamping down on immigration, our population grew by 2.6M people last year. Unfortunately, not only did we not create jobs for those 2.6M new people but we lost about 4M jobs so what are these new people going to do? Not only that, but nobody is talking about the another major job issue: People aren’t retiring! They can’t afford to because the economy is bad - that means there are even less job openings… The pimply-faced kid can’t get a job delivering pizza because his grandpa’s doing it.
There are some brilliant pundits who believe cutting retirement benefits will fix our economy. How will that work exactly? Pay old people less money, don’t cover their medical care and what happens? Then they need money. If they need money, they need to work and if they need to work they increase the supply of labor, which reduces wages and leaves all 308,367,109 of us with less money. Oh sorry, not ALL 308,367,109 - just 308,337,109 - the top 30,000 (0.01%) own the business the other 308,337,109 work at and they will be raking it in because labor is roughly 1/3 of the cost of doing business in America and our great and powerful capitalists have already cut their manufacturing costs by shipping all those jobs overseas, where they pay as little as $1 a day for a human life so now, in order to increase their profits (because profits MUST be increased) they have now turned inward to see what they can shave off in America.
How does one decrease the cost of labor in America? Well first, you have to bust the unions. Check. Then you have to create a pressing need for people to work - perhaps give them easy access to credit and then get them to go so deeply into debt that they will have to work until they die to pay them off. Check. It also helps if you push up the cost of living by manipulating commodity prices. Check. Then, take away people’s retirement savings. Check. Lower interest rates to make savings futile and interest income inadequate. Check. And finally, threaten to take away the 12% a year that people have been saving for retirement by labeling Social Security an "entitlement" program - as if it wasn’t money Americans worked their whole lives to save and gave to the government in good faith. Check.
As Allen Smith says: "Ronald Reagan and Alan Greenspan pulled off one of the greatest frauds ever perpetrated against the American people in the history of this great nation, and the underlying scam is still alive and well, more than a quarter century later. It represents the very foundation upon which the economic malpractice that led the nation to the great economic collapse of 2008 was built. Essentially, Reagan switched the federal government from what he critically called, a “tax and spend” policy, to a “borrow and spend” policy, where the government continued its heavy spending, but used borrowed money instead of tax revenue to pay the bills. The results were catastrophic. Although it had taken the United States more than 200 years to accumulate the first $1 trillion of national debt, it took only five years under Reagan to add the second one trillion dollars to the debt. By the end of the 12 years of the Reagan-Bush administrations, the national debt had quadrupled to $4 trillion!"
Both Reagan and Greenspan saw big government as an evil, and they saw big business as a virtue. They both had despised the progressive policies of Roosevelt, Kennedy and Johnson, and they wanted to turn back the pages of time. They came up with the perfect strategy for the redistribution of income and wealth from the working class to the rich. If Reagan had campaigned for the presidency by promising big tax cuts for the rich and pledging to make up for the lost revenue by imposing substantial tax increases on the working class, he would probably not have been elected. But that is exactly what Reagan did, with the help of Alan Greenspan. Consider the following sequence of events:
1) President Reagan appointed Greenspan as chairman of the 1982 National Commission on Social Security Reform (aka The Greenspan Commission)
2) The Greenspan Commission recommended a major payroll tax hike to generate Social Security surpluses for the next 30 years, in order to build up a large reserve in the trust fund that could be drawn down during the years after Social Security began running deficits.
3) The 1983 Social Security amendments enacted hefty increases in the payroll tax in order to generate large future surpluses.
4) As soon as the first surpluses began to role in, in 1985, the money was put into the general revenue fund and spent on other government programs. None of the surplus was saved or invested in anything. The surplus Social Security revenue, that was paid by working Americans, was used to replace the lost revenue from Reagan’s big income tax cuts that went primarily to the rich.
5) In 1987, President Reagan nominated Greenspan as the successor to Paul Volker as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. Greenspan continued as Fed Chairman until January 31, 2006. (One can only speculate on whether the coveted Fed Chairmanship represented, at least in part, a payback for Greenspan’s role in initiating the Social Security surplus revenue.)
6) In 1990, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, a member of the Greenspan Commission, and one of the strongest advocates the the 1983 legislation, became outraged when he learned that first Reagan, and then President George H.W. Bush used the surplus Social Security revenue to pay for other government programs instead of saving and investing it for the baby boomers. Moynihan locked horns with President Bush and proposed repealing the 1983 payroll tax hike. Moynihan’s view was that if the government could not keep its hands out of the Social Security cookie jar, the cookie jar should be emptied, so there would be no surplus Social Security revenue for the government to loot. President Bush would have no part of repealing the payroll tax hike. The “read-my-lips-no-new-taxes” president was not about to give up his huge slush fund.
The practice of using every dollar of the surplus Social Security revenue for general government spending continues to this day. The 1983 payroll tax hike has generated approximately $2.5 trillion in surplus Social Security revenue which is supposed to be in the trust fund for use in paying for the retirement benefits of the baby boomers. But the trust fund is empty! It contains no real assets. As a result, the government will soon be unable to pay full benefits without a tax increase. Money can be spent or it can be saved. But you can’t do both. Absolutely none of the $2.5 trillion was saved or invested in anything.
That is how the largest theft in the history of the world was carried out. 300M people worked and saved their whole lives to set aside $2.5Tn into a retirement system that, if it were paying a fair compounding rate of 5% interest over 40 years of labor (assuming an even $62Bn a year was contributed), would be worth $8.4Tn today - enough money to give 100M workers $84,000 each in cash! The looting of FICA hid the massive deficits of the last 30 years in the Unified Budget. Presidents and Congresses were able to reduce taxes on the wealthiest Americans without complaint from the deficit hawks, because they benefited. The money went directly from the pockets of average Americans into the pockets of the rich.
Now that it is time to repay those special bonds in the Trust Fund, we are inundated in opinion pieces in the leading newspapers and magazines complaining about Social Security and its horrible impact on the budget. Government finances have been trashed by foolish tax cuts, unpaid wars, tax loopholes for corporations and the very wealthy, the failures of economists, the greedy search for greater returns in financial markets and the collapse of moral values in giant businesses but Social Security is supposed to be the problem that needs fixing…
Social Security is not "broken" the money is in the Trust Fund. But the people who manage the finances of the United States don’t want to repay the bonds held by the Trust Fund. They want to default selectively against average people, their fellow citizens, who paid their taxes expecting to be protected in their retirement. Refusing to repay the $2.54 trillion dollars in bonds held by the Social Security Trust makes the US look like Greece, just another nation unable to govern itself coherently. The people who manage US finances come from the financial elites, the best that Wall Street and enormous corporations have to offer. Selective default exposes them as charlatans. The claims of the economics profession to expertise are puffery. Their theories about the benefits of tax cuts are proven false. Their mathematical proofs about free markets collapse in the real world.
So, what is this all about? It’s about forcing 5M people a year who reach the age 65 to remain in the work-force. The top 0.01% have already taken your money, they have already put you in debt, they have already bankrupted the government as well so it has no choice but to do their bidding. Now the top 0.01% want to make even MORE profits by paying American workers even LESS money. If they raise the retirement age to 70 to "balance" Social Security - that will guarantee that another 25M people remain in the workforce (less the ones that drop dead on the job - saving the bother of paying them severance).
What’s next? Is it fair to say that children can’t work in a struggling family business? Isn’t it to everybody’s benefit that kids should be allowed to help out at the family store? That will be the next step towards turning America into a 3rd World country. The seemingly innocent concept of "letting" kids work will deprive another 5M people of paying jobs - throwing them out into the labor force as well and driving labor costs down even further.
There’s an expression that goes "give them an inch and they’ll take a yard." The top 0.01% of this country have taken their inches and they are foreclosing on the yards and they will come for the rest of your stuff next. If you think you are "safe" from the looting of America, it is only because they haven’t gotten around to you yet. As I explained in "America is 234 Years Old Today - Is It Finished?" - the game is rigged very much like a poker tournament. The people at the top table don’t care how well you do wiping out your fellow players at the lower tables, they know they will get you eventually and your efforts to scoop up a pile of cash for yourself simply makes their job easier when they are ready to take it from you.
The average American is $634,000 in debt thanks to the efforts that Reagan and Greenspan put in motion 30 years ago and the richer you are, the more of that money is going to come out of your hide eventually and the more you lobby to make sure that the "rich" are not taxed unfairly, the less fair it will be to you because, no matter how rich you THINK you are, unless your income is measured in MILLIONS PER MONTH, you aren’t even close to the top 30,000.
No progressive tax? That means that people and corporations who make $1M PER DAY should pay no more tax than a person making $1M per year, right? Well that means that the $2.5M debt that your family of four owes will be paid by you over 2.5 years of labor while the $2.5M owed by your Billionaire competitor will be paid over a long weekend, after which he can turn his attention back to crushing your business by creating cheaper goods - maintaining profit margins by driving down local labor costs and outsourcing the rest.
It’s a new world, America, and you’d better get used to it - we were sold down the river on a slow boat to China long ago and we’re only just beginning to feel the first effects of waves that wash back to our own shores. The people who own the media don’t want CHANGE. That’s why you never hear this stuff in the MSM - things are going exactly according to plan and the old money crowd is playing a long, patient game and they already have most of the chips - the last thing they want is people questioning the system…
Laid-off job seekers who started new businesses hit a record low in the first half of 2010, reports Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an outplacement and executive coaching firm, that has been tracking the data for a decade.
Click on chart above for a larger view.
Just 3.7% of out-of-work managers said they are starting their own businesses rather than look for a job. That compares with 7.6% in the same period a year ago and 9.6% in the second half of 2009. The previous low was 4.4% in the second half of 2008 when the credit crunch led to the financial crisis.
Click here to read more about the Challenger Gray survey.
This report comes on the heels of a study by the Kauffman Foundation that found that net U.S. job growth comes only through startups. Kauffman, which promotes entrepreneurship, looked at business dynamics statistics for 1977 to 2005 from the U.S. Census. (Click on chart for a larger view):
In most years, companies less than a year old created an average of 3 million jobs while companies older than that eliminated a combined 1 million jobs a year. Startups continued to create jobs even in recessions, but existing businesses eliminated them, the Kauffman study found.
Click here to read more about Kauffman’s study.
The two reports combined help explain why job creation this year has been slow.
“It is difficult to pinpoint the exact reason behind the decline in start-up activity among former managers and executives,” said John A. Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “On one hand, it could be that the job market has improved to the point that many do not feel compelled to take a risk of going it alone. Then there is the fragility of the recovery and the uncertainty that comes with it. Many small-business owners are increasingly pessimistic about business conditions and still find it difficult to get a loan.”
Lending to small businesses was $670 billion in the first quarter of 2010, compared to $710 billion in the second quarter of 2008 prior to the credit crisis, reports the New York Times.
“Those who might have considered starting a business are looking at these statistics and deciding to seek traditional job opportunities,” Challenger said.