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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Eminent Economist Prabhat Patnaik write on The Refugee Crisis in Europe

WHAT is new about the “refugee crisis” which appears to have engulfed Europe is that for the first time in history the consequences of the tragedies inflicted by imperialism upon the people in the “outlying regions” are visiting the metropolis itself in the guise of “refugees”. The US conquest of the Philippines in the early years of the twentieth century which claimed a quarter of a million lives in that country, or the earlier colonial conquests throughout the world by Britain, France and Holland, or even the more recent Korean and Vietnam wars, had not produced a flood of “refugees” or “asylum seekers” on the shores of metropolitan countries. Those who did not merely embrace in silence the death, destitution or famines inflicted upon the “outlying regions” by imperialist intervention, escaped no doubt as refugees, but only to the neighbouring countries within the “outlying regions”, not to the metropolis. The fact that they are doing so now is a new development.

Indeed, imperialism has always been very particular in ensuring that the movement of population from the “outlying regions” into the metropolis was carefully controlled. Throughout the nineteenth century, while fifty million Europeans migrated to other temperate regions of the world to establish settlements there by grabbing land from the indigenous population, and fifty million tropical and sub-tropical workers from countries like India and China were shifted to other tropical or sub-tropical regions as coolies or “indentured labourers” (this figure excludes the slaves taken from Africa to work on mines and plantations), the latter were never free to move either into Europe or into the temperate regions of white settlement.
The two streams of migration in other words were kept strictly separate, which remains true to this day even during the period of contemporary “globalisation”. Indeed the carte blanche enjoyed by imperialism to intervene where it likes, to impose whatever order it wishes to do over the world, and hence upon the third world, presupposes that the devastations that may result from such intervention would remain confined to the third world itself, causing disruptions in the neighbourhood at the most, but without upsetting the demographic, social, and political equilibrium, such as it was, within the metropolis. At the present moment, even though restrictions on immigration still remain in force, this supposition has come under attack.
There are a number of reasons for this. First, some of the main theatres of destabilisation created by imperialism in the most recent years have been in close proximity to Europe, if not within Europe itself. The break-up of Yugoslavia, a country within Europe itself, was promoted by German imperialism, and, not surprisingly, quite a few of the refugees are from the Balkans, from the mess that the region has been thrown into. Syria, the country from which the maximum number of refugees come and which had witnessed Western intervention against the Assad regime, belongs to what used to be called the “near east”, as does Iraq, the other major source of refugees, which has experienced actual imperialist aggression. Libya, where again Western intervention against the Gaddafi regime generated the chaos that has driven thousands of refugees into Europe, is not too far from that continent; nor for that matter is Afghanistan which was subjected to Western intervention, and massive destabilisation as a consequence, and which too has sent large numbers of refugees to Europe.
The theatres of recent imperialist destabilisation in short have been relatively closer to Europe. And the movement of refugees from these regions into Europe also has had a “multiplier effect” on other regions in their close proximity, which, even though they have not experienced direct imperialist intervention in the recent past, are part of the “failed State” syndrome that the current imperialist order indirectly generates in the third world, by unleashing upon it the processes of deflation via fiscal austerity, and of primitive accumulation of capital, and the associated spread of divisive politics along ethnic, religious or tribal lines.
This latter group that comes under what I have called the “multiplier effect” of the exodus from neighbouring regions where imperialism has intervened directly, includes countries which have extremely repressive regimes, such as Eritrea, or are passing through civil war-like situations, such as Nigeria (with its Boko Haram). Refugees from both these countries have been streaming into Europe, making use of the routes “opened up” by other refugees from nearby countries.
The second reason why there is now an exodus to the metropolis unlike earlier has to do with the logic of globalisation, which has not only brought the world geographically closer together by making cross-border movement by people technically easier, but has also encouraged rampant commoditisation. Like everything else, this “service sector activity”, of ferrying refugees, has now become a “vendible” commodity. Not surprisingly, taking advantage of people’s miserable conditions from which they wish to flee, has now become a highly lucrative and rapidly expanding business.
Even today however it still remains the case that the refugee exodus from theatres of imperialist intervention is mainly to other third world countries. In other words, the basic structure of imperialism, where the consequences of imperialist intervention are absorbed within the third world itself, still remains intact. The only difference is that in addition to such absorption which is the main feature, there is also now an exodus at the margin to the metropolis itself which never occurred earlier.
For instance, while over half of the Syrian population has reportedly left its home in the course of the on-going war, the majority of them are still within their own borders. And the bulk of those who have moved to other countries, have taken shelter in Lebanon. In fact, even though Lebanon itself has a total population of merely 4.5 million, it currently houses as many as 1.2 million Syrian refugees. By contrast the total number of refugees who had arrived in Europe this year by early August (see The Guardian, August 10), was just 200,000, which constitutes 0.027 percent of Europe’s population. Comparing the scale of the influx of refugees into Europe with that into Lebanon, The Guardian (August 10) commented: “...a country that is more than 100 times smaller than the EU has already taken in more than 50 times as many refugees as the EU will even consider resettling in the future. Lebanon has a refugee crisis. Europe-and, in particular, Britain- does not.”
Such however is the domination of the metropolis even upon our consciousness that nobody talks of the “refugee crisis” facing Lebanon, while the world’s attention is riveted upon the “refugee crisis” of Europe. Even the standard description of the crisis as the worst since the Second World War betrays a remarkable Euro-centricity. In our own neighbourhood, the millions of people reduced to the status of refugees owing to the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947, the millions again who were uprooted from their homes and came to India as refugees during the Bangladesh war of 1971, represent human exoduses far exceeding in scale what Europe currently faces; but they are not even counted when statements are made about the current one being the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War. “Refugees” in short become a “crisis” only when they knock on the doors of the metropolis.
The question arises: how is Europe going to deal with its “crisis”? Progressive opinion in Europe has been remarkably sympathetic to the refugees, remarkably welcoming towards them, with the Left arguing that the refugee problem itself is the result of metropolitan interventions in the countries of their origin. So widespread has this welcoming attitude been among the population at large in countries like Germany, which have comparatively low levels of unemployment (though not in countries of Eastern Europe which are afflicted with extraordinarily high unemployment rates), that it appeared for a while that Germany and France would officially open their arms to the refugees and even persuade other EU countries to do the same. Indeed Angela Merkel from whom one normally expects right-wing twaddle of the sort one got during the negotiations over Greek debt, made remarkably sympathetic utterances towards the refugees.
But, welcoming refugees fleeing from theatres of war and devastations in the third world, is not the way of metropolitan capitalism. And, predictably, Germany instituted border controls on September 13 soon after Merkel’s expressions of sympathy on September 4. Though the spin put on this volte face was that it was only a routine border check, a matter of procedure, and not a volte face at all, even The Economist (September 19), which can hardly be accused of any Left-wing sympathies, saw the move for what it was, namely a going back on her word by the German leader.
If Europe had welcomed refugees and spent whatever was necessary upon their rehabilitation, without cutting on other State expenditures, then that would actually have given a boost to the European economies. Far from becoming a “burden” on the EU, as the right-wing argues, the refugees would have contributed towards pulling Europe out of its current crisis. They would have done so with immediate effect, via the State expenditure upon them boosting aggregate demand, and not just, as often argued, by providing youthful manpower in countries with ageing populations.
But if the EU accepted this argument, then it would have no excuse for the intransigent position it took on Greek debt, or, more generally, for the measures of “austerity” it has been imposing upon its member-States. Finance capital in short can no more tolerate a humane response to the “refugee crisis”, and the expenditure that such a response would entail, than it would tolerate a humane capitalism that is not shackled by “austerity”.
To be sure if the Left launched a popular movement in defence of accepting the refugees, then finance capital may be forced to concede ground. But such a movement cannot base itself only on the need to be “nice” to the refugees. It would have to involve a critique of the political economy being expounded by finance capital, and present to the people an alternative political economy showing that their interests and those of the refugees are not antagonistic to one another; they appear conflicting only in an irrational world that talks of the virtues of “austerity” in the midst of a crisis of aggregate demand. The struggle in defence of the refugees must also in other words be a struggle against this irrational world.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Prime Minister's San Jose speech to malign India and project himself

SAN JOSE — In a veiled attack on the corruption during UPA regime and a barb at the Congress President's son-in-law Robert Vadra, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today deprecated the culture of graft in the country and said he has provided graft-free governance.
He said corruption during the previous government's time had triggered anger among people.
"In our country it doesn't take much for allegations to come up against politicians... Someone made 50 crores, someone's son made 250 crores, (someone's) daughter made 500 crores, (someone's) damaad (son-in-law) made 1000 crores..." he said addressing the Indian community at the packed SAP Centre in San Jose, California.
Switching on to a question answer mode, he asked the audience "Is the country not disappointed?"
The people replied "yes".
"Is there not anger against corruption," he asked.
"Yes," people shouted.
Mod then asked, "I am standing before you. Tell me if there is any allegation against me."
"No," people shouted. He then told the crowd that he is giving every minute of his life in the service of the nation and he would live and die for the country.
While Modi's reference to sons and daughters of politicians being corrupt is seen as a reference to culture of corruption in the country, the reference to son-in-law is seen as a barb at alleged land deals entered into by Vadra with the some state governments.
Modi also said that the 21st century is India's century and attributed the sudden change in India's fortune to the commitment, strength and pledge of the 125 crore people of the country.
"For some time now, people are saying that the 21st century is India's century," Modi thundered in an address to a strong crowd of 18,500 Indian-Americans.
 Modi said that in the past 16 months, world's perception about India has changed dramatically. The world is looking at India with a new vision and aspiration. He attributed this change to the commitment, strength and pledge of the 125 crore people of the country. Modi said he is confident of India's success because 65 per cent of the population of the country are of less than 35 years 800 million.

Reuters report on agreement on security issues in Baghdad between Russia, Iran, Syria .

Iraq has said its military officials are engaged in intelligence and security cooperation in Baghdad with Russia, Iran and Syria to counter the threat from the Islamic State (IS) militant group, a pact that could raise concerns in Washington.
A statement from the Iraqi military’s joint operations command on Saturday said the cooperation had come “with increased Russian concern about the presence of thousands of terrorists from Russia undertaking criminal acts with Daesh [IS].”
Giving more sway to Russia
The move could give Moscow more sway in the Middle-East. It has stepped up its military involvement in Syria in recent weeks while pressing for Damascus to be included in international efforts to fight the IS, a demand Washington rejects.
Russia’s engagement in Iraq could mean increased competition for Washington from a Cold War rival as long-time enemy Iran increases its influence through Shi’ite militia allies just four years after the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
Coordination centre
Russian news agency Interfax quoted a military diplomatic source in Moscow as saying the Baghdad coordination centre would be led on a rotating basis by officers of the four countries, starting with Iraq.
The source added that a committee might be created in Baghdad to plan military operations and control armed forces units in the fight against the IS. The Russian Defence Ministry declined comment.
By raising the stakes in Syria’s four-year-old civil war, Moscow has prompted Washington to expand diplomatic channels with it.
Kerry to launch new effort
Western officials have said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wants to launch a new effort at the U.N. General Assembly this week to try and find a political solution to the Syrian conflict.
Diplomacy has taken on a new urgency in the light of Russia’s military build-up in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and a refugee crisis that has spilled into Europe.
Obama asked to be more decisive
Critics have urged U.S. President Barack Obama to be more decisive in the Middle-East, particularly towards the Syrian conflict, and say lack of a clear American policy has given the IS opportunities to expand.
A Russian Foreign Ministry official told Interfax on Friday that Moscow could “theoretically” join the U.S.-led coalition against the IS if Damascus were included in international efforts to combat the dreaded outfit and any international military operation in Syria had a United Nations mandate.
Iraq denies reports
Iraqi officials on Friday had denied reports of a coordination cell in Baghdad set up by Russian, Syrian and Iranian military commanders aimed at working with Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias in Iraq.
The armed groups, some of which have fought alongside troops loyal to Mr. Assad, are seen as a critical weapon in Baghdad’s battle against the radical Sunni militants of the IS.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said in New York on Friday that his country had not received any Russian military advisers to help its forces but called for the U.S.-led coalition to bomb more IS targets in Iraq.
Collapse of Iraq army
Despite more than $20 billion in U.S. aid and training, Iraq’s army has nearly collapsed twice in the last year in the face of advances by the IS, which controls large swathes of territory in the north and west of the OPEC oil producer.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Why It Is a Loser's Game to Bet Against China's Leadership

Fred Hu 

Founder and Chairman of Primavera Capital Group; member Berggruen Institute’s 21st Century Council

BEIJING -- The rout in China's stock markets has sent shockwaves across the world, dragging global equities, currencies, bonds and commodities into the worst tailspin since 2008. Both domestic and international investors seemed to have lost faith in China's once fabled ability to manage its economy, hence the deepening gloom and spreading panic everywhere. While there are very valid concerns about China's economy and financial system, market reactions are vastly exaggerated.
To start with, China's falling domestic equities do not necessarily herald a sharp contraction in its broader economy. Historically the country's immature and extremely volatile stock market has been a poor predictor of GDP growth. With retail trading dominating the market place, share prices are mostly driven by short-term sentiments, not by any rational expectations of economic fundamentals.
Since mid 2014 the Chinese equity market was gripped by sudden spikes of speculative frenzies, in part fanned by the official Party media, and started a stunning rally. As valuation quickly soared to astronomical levels, a sharp correction, and even a spectacular crash, just seemed inevitable. That is exactly what has happened over the past few months. With Shanghai now down by more than 42 percent from its peak, the current stock valuation has factored in most of the bad news -- manufacturing malaise, weakening exports and capital outflows. Chinese equities are now traded at a discount to major emerging market peers that face far worse macroeconomic conditions. The risks of further sharp decline in China equities appear to be limited.
The Chinese stock market remains a sideshow as far as China's Main Street is concerned.
Unfortunately, the Chinese authorities' market interventions have done more harm than good. Far from stabilizing the markets, massive stock buying by state-owned institutions such as China Securities Finance Corp and Central Huijin Investment Ltd. have distorted the functioning of the stock market, caused widespread confusion and aggravated the risk of moral hazard, further undermining investor confidence at home and abroad.
The unprecedented stock market interventions, many pundits speculate, must have revealed the Chinese government's deep worries about the rapid deterioration of the underlying economy. Yet the Chinese stock market, though second only to the U.S. by market capitalization, remains a sideshow as far as China's Main Street is concerned.
So what has happened to China's economy? Accustomed to growing at the double digit pace, it is now struggling to reach the official target growth rate of 7 percent. But the GDP growth slowdown has been both gradual and moderate, far from being the disaster that has so spooked global investors. Even at 5 percent, China would generate more growth than any other country.
China's New Growth Model
Partly to address the longstanding concern about China's over dependence on investment and export led growth and its impact on global imbalances, the Chinese leadership has vowed to transform China into a more consumer centric and innovation-led economy. Recent data clearly show such a shift has been well underway, with consumption accounting for over 50 percent of overall GDP growth in 2014 and 60 percent in the first half of 2015. True, headline GDP growth has been trending down, but growth is now broader-based, more balanced, higher quality and possibly more environmentally friendly -- if only judging by the increasing count of blue sky days in Beijing.
Moderating growth rates in the range of 5-7 percent per annum reflect the higher per capita income level and the changing growth paradigm in China. A modest slowdown is a necessary and healthy adjustment for China to transition to a new trajectory of more efficient and sustainable growth. But instead of greeting such a positive "new normal" with enthusiasm, the naysayers have reacted with dismay as though they would rather prefer the old growth model.
To be sure, the shift to a wholesale new economic model is always fraught with uncertainty and risks, let alone for a country of China's size and scale. Compounding the challenges is the messy legacy the old growth model has left China with -- manufacturing glut, excess real estate inventory, heavily indebted local governments and severely damaged environment. To manage such a transition successfully, China must implement broad structural reforms while maintaining macroeconomic and financial stability.
What Is to Be Done?
Except for the stock market interventions, the authorities have so far avoided costly policy mistakes and China's track record of deft economic management remains remarkable. In response to the latest economic and market headwinds the People's Bank of China has already lowered interest rates and reserve requirement ratios. While China does not need a new credit boom, there is still a scope for additional monetary easing, to ensure adequate liquidity in the financial system, ease the debt service burden of heavily indebted corporates and local governments and forestall a possible debt deflation vicious cycle.
On the fiscal front the Chinese leadership has taken a more cautious stance in recognition of past fiscal profligacies and local debt buildup. Even so, there is room for significant fiscal actions. China should follow on recent tax cuts for small and medium enterprises with carefully targeted public spending increases.
Despite early signs of housing price stabilization, unsold housing inventory across China remains at elevated levels, especially in the so-called third-tier and fourth-tier cities. The central government should provide significant tax and credit incentives for first time homebuyers, especially rural migrants and low income families, to spread affordable home ownership and broaden the urban middle class base, while redressing the overhang of pass real estate excesses.
The central government should provide significant tax and credit incentives for first time homebuyers.
China should significantly increase transfer payments to the elderly to raise their retirement income, improve health and medical benefits coverage for both urban and rural populations, and provide more generous financial aid for secondary, vocational and university students with less income means. While China is right about resisting the European style social welfare state, it is imperative to reform and strengthen the country's basic social security system. Academic studies have identified inadequate social protection as a key factor for extraordinarily high household savings. Improved pension, health and education benefits for China's rapidly growing urban population would weaken the incentive for precautionary savings and boost personal consumption.
While past over-investment has led to excess industrial capacity, China's environmental infrastructure, a vital public good, is woefully underinvested. Though China has made encouraging initial efforts, it should launch and can afford a far more ambitious public investment program to promote clean energy and control pollution. Public Investment in clean tech is essential for China to meet its climate change targets. Increased investment spending in clean tech not only helps make up the near-term demand shortfall caused by falling manufacturing exports and infrastructure spending, but also may likely spurt a new growth industry that could establish China's global leadership in renewable energy and clean technology.
Contrary to prevalent market fears, China retains a broad range of monetary and fiscal policy options to cope with its stock market woes and economic downward pressures. But perhaps the most powerful weapon of all in China's policy arsenals is the opportunity to pursue sweeping economic reforms. Indeed, ever since the inauguration of the Xi Jinping leadership, investors have been expecting the so-called "reform dividends," because robust reforms promised by President Xi will correct structural imbalances, curb intrusive and arbitrary powers of the state bureaucracy, stamp out endemic corruption and level the playing field for private sector and small medium sized enterprises. In other words, President Xi's reform agenda, if fully implemented, should allow the market forces to play a decisive role in resource allocation -- promoting open competition, increase market transparency, boost efficiency and productivity gains and stimulate entrepreneurship and innovation.
Public investment in clean tech is essential for China to meet its climate change targets.
Perhaps nothing is more disappointing than the lack of progress to date on reforms concerning state-owned enterprises. Despite early achievements of SOE reforms initiated by former Prime Minister Zhu Rongji, there has been little new progress and possibly backtracking in recent years. It is plainly clear that the SOE sector has impeded competition from the private sector and dragged down economic efficiency.
Privatization, restructuring, better corporate governance, strong market-based incentives and professional management are, among others, required to turn SOEs into productive commercial enterprises. As shown by the case of PetroChina, China's biggest state-owned petroleum company, there is a close linkage between political patronage, abuse of state assets and corruption. Hence, a complete overhaul of China's large SOEs should also bolster the effectiveness of President Xi's popular anti-corruption campaign.
The Stock Crisis Will Prompt Faster Market Reforms
True, the string of recent bad economic news and the stock market selloffs have dampened short-term sentiments, but worse still, investors and the Chinese people might completely lose hope for the country's medium and long-term prospects if the government fails to deliver genuine reforms.
Fortunately, China has the capacity to contain the near-term economic and financial pressures through a judicious combination of strong monetary and fiscal stimulus measures. More importantly, the recent market gyrations have sent a loud and clear message to the Chinese policy makers and will likely prompt the top leadership to embark on fundamental reforms as pledged at the Third Party Plenary two years ago. Bold reform actions can restore investor confidence that the stock market interventions could not. Pessimists are wrong to declare that China is out of options.
It is a loser's game to bet against China's new generation of reformist leadership.
For several decades China has been a major engine of global growth and a strong anchor of global stability. Now China is being tested again whether it can weather the current market turbulence. The short term challenges are real and the transition will be bumpy. However, China will likely manage its current financial and economic problems far better than expected.
China has the financial resources, the policy tools, and crucially -- the political will -- to meet its challenges. Past reforms have laid a solid foundation and expected new reforms will significantly improve the outlook for future growth. China's accelerating urbanization, rapidly expanding middle class, a strong human capital base, tremendous entrepreneurial energy and innovative potential portend an attractive prospect ahead. It is a loser's game to bet against China's new generation of reformist leadership.

The Huffington Post

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Devaluation of the Yuan----Prabhat Patnaik

THE Chinese central bank’s decision last week to let the yuan depreciate in three stages by almost 4 percent against the US dollar, was officially explained as a move towards greater market determination of its exchange rate. Though this explanation pacified stock markets around the world, China’s devaluation of the currency portends a serious accentuation of the world capitalist crisis.
To see this devaluation in its proper context, we have to remember that the Trade Weighted Exchange Rate (TWER) of the yuan (i.e., its exchange rate against a basket of currencies whose composition is determined by the importance of that currency in China’s trade), had appreciated by as much as 50 percent since 2005. Even compared to the year 2009 which had witnessed a major appreciation, China’s TWER had appreciated by a further 20 percent until recently, which means that other countries’ goods were becoming relatively cheaper compared to the Chinese goods, without the Chinese government doing anything about it. This had allowed other countries, including even the US, to experience higher growth than they would otherwise have done, while the Chinese economy itself had not experienced any marked slow-down in its growth rate, since its domestic demand had been rising owing to an asset market bubble. The appreciation of the yuan in other words had contributed towards imparting some degree of stimulus to the economies of the rest of the world.
China’s economy is now beginning to slow down; the asset market bubble in China has collapsed; and China is now looking for an export thrust to boost its growth rate, which is why it has devalued its currency. All this means that the stimulus which the world economy was getting until now from an appreciating yuan will now no longer be forthcoming. And this augurs ill for the world economic crisis. True, the extent of the depreciation of the yuan that occurred last week is small as yet; but, coming after a gap of nearly 20 years during which there had been no depreciation in the yuan, it shows a new turn in Chinese economic policy. The current depreciation therefore is likely to be a precursor to other similar depreciations in the days to come.

But even more significant than what the Chinese action per se would mean for the world economy, are the reactions it is likely to generate among other countries. Already several currencies of the world, including the Indian rupee, have depreciated vis-à-vis the US dollar in the wake of the depreciation of the yuan. This is because when the yuan depreciates, speculators expect that other countries too would be forced to depreciate their currencies to protect their exports against Chinese competition and to defend their domestic production against Chinese imports. Hence they move out of those currencies in anticipation of such depreciation, and thereby precipitate an actual depreciation; and the governments of these countries do not intervene to defend the value of their currencies, because they too, in their desire to ward off Chinese competition, want such a depreciation. What this means is that the bulk of the world’s currencies tend to depreciate vis-à-vis the US dollar when the Chinese currency depreciates, as indeed they are already doing.
Now, as far as the US is concerned, if the value of its currency appreciates vis-à-vis other currencies, then that affects the net exports of the US adversely, and hence its domestic activity and employment. Of late there had been much pressure on the US Federal Reserve Board to increase its interest rates which are currently as low as they could possibly be, at almost zero, since its domestic economy was supposed to have been “looking up”; and everybody was expecting the Fed to raise its interest rates in September. This, however, will now have to be postponed, since any such interest rate hike, by making the US dollar more attractive to hold, would have the effect of further raising its value vis-à-vis the world’s currencies, and hence further lowering the US economy’s level of activity even below what the current appreciation of the dollar (at near zero interest rates) would give rise to.
The problem with the US however is that even though it can postpone an interest rate hike, it can do little else to prevent a dollar appreciation. It cannot lower its interest rates any further, since they are already at rock bottom. Short of imposing import controls in open or clandestine ways, it will find it difficult to prevent a lowering of its level of activity and employment.
This explains why the US which had been pressurising China all these years to allow greater market determination of its exchange rate is so peeved when China claims to have done precisely that. The US calculation was that “greater market determination” of China’s exchange rate would produce an appreciation of the Chinese currency vis-à-vis the US dollar, and hence be of benefit to the United States in enlarging its market. As a matter of fact, since “greater market determination” has resulted in a depreciation of the Chinese currency, many US lawmakers have now started lashing out at this denouement.
Looking at it differently, with China wanting a larger share of the world market as a means of stimulating its domestic growth, which has been hit by the collapse of its asset market bubble, the competition between countries for a larger share of a more or less stagnant world market is getting intensified. On the one hand there are no factors working towards an expansion of the world market, and the collapse of China’s asset bubble has removed the last of such expansionary factors; on the other hand, every country, including China, is now joining in the race to get a larger chunk of this non-expanding world market. Not surprisingly, this can only compound the recession, since it constitutes a classic case of a “beggar-my-neighbour” policy, such as what had characterised the 1930s depression.
Two other factors are likely to work in the same direction. One is the collapse of the capitalists’ already feeble “inducement to invest”. Until now, for instance, being able to sell to China had acted as some sort of an investment stimulus for advanced country capitalists; this is now being removed. In addition, the currency price fluctuations, all of which do not move up or down synchronously, make profitability calculations much more difficult, and hence increase the risks of investment. For these reasons, again as in the 1930s, when “beggar-my-neighbour” policies were rampant, the capitalists’ “inducement to invest” would get adversely affected, compounding the recession.
The second factor is that the appreciation in the value of the dollar makes it more attractive for speculators to hold dollars rather than primary commodities, which is why world primary commodity prices, already on a falling trend (which incidentally explains the “negative” inflation in India according to the Wholesale Price Index), have fallen even more sharply after the devaluation of the yuan. This is further aggravated by the fact that China’s demand which had shored up primary commodity prices to an extent, would now be expected by speculators not to be doing so; this would also contribute to a collapse of primary commodity prices.
This fall in primary commodity prices has three effects: first, several countries like Australia, Brazil, Russia, and Chile, which are significant primary commodity exporters and whose fortunes therefore are tied up with primary commodity prices, will now experience a collapse of their growth rates. Secondly, debtor countries like Greece will now find that the real burden of their debt has gone up, which would push them further towards insolvency, and make creditor countries and creditor institutions impose even stiffer measures of “austerity” upon them. This, by reducing aggregate demand in those countries to an even greater extent, and hence, by implication, doing so all over the world, will aggravate the crisis even further.
The third effect is through what the American economist Irving Fisher, who had been a professor at Yale and had himself lost his entire personal fortune in the 1930s Great Depression, had called “debt-deflation”. It is not just countries, but all debtors who find that the real burden of the debt goes up when there is a fall in the price level. To be able to pay back their debt therefore they find themselves forced to sell some assets, which lowers the asset prices even further, raising the real burden of their debt even further, and so on cumulatively.
A “debt-deflation” in other words is a syndrome, which can result in acute crises and depressions. This is the reason why capitalists are always terrified of “negative inflation” or of “absolutely falling prices”. Once an economy begins to face declining prices in absolute terms, it can slide rapidly downhill through the unleashing of the process of “debt-deflation”, and its government and the central bank can do little to halt such a slide.
The world capitalist economy has been hovering close to such a scenario, of “deflation” or absolutely falling prices, for some time. (We know from our own experience that the Indian economy is facing a “deflation” in terms of the Wholesale Price Index largely because of international developments). With the depreciation in the Chinese yuan, and the expectations it generates regarding future Chinese growth and the future growth in primary commodity prices, there is a real likelihood of a “deflation” in the world economy setting in, and hence of the onset of a “debt-deflation” syndrome. In all these ways therefore the developments in China are likely to aggravate the capitalist crisis. We are in short on the threshold of a new phase in the world capitalist crisis which would witness its significant accentuation.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Julian Assange: 'Western Civilization Has Produced a God, the God of Mass Surveillance'

Seung-yoon Lee, CEO and Co-founder of Byline, recently conducted an exclusive three-hour interview with Julian Assange in the Embassy of Ecuador in London. The interview will be serialized in three parts over the next month.
In part one, Assange talks about how we now live in surveillance society, if Facebook and Google are spying on us and how on earth WikiLeaks out-smarted the United States to rescue Edward Snowden from Hong Kong. 

Seung-Yoon Lee (SY): You recently wrote in the New York Times that "not only do we live in a surveillance state but in a surveillance society." Can you explain what you mean by this?
JA: We've increasingly become accepting of the surveillance that exists at all levels of society. It's hard to escape from that in any traditional way. But I think there are ways to escape. On one hand, we are taking into ourselves the notion that there should be various form of surveillance of individuals -- that we can be surveilled. At the level of national security, this is still fresh. Other national intelligence agencies engage in bulk Internet monitoring. But over time, there will arise an acceptance that this is simply how society is -- as has already arisen with other forms of surveillance. At that point, society develops a type of self-censorship, with the knowledge that surveillance exists -- a self-censorship that is even expressed when people communicate with each other privately. There are examples of this in history, when everyone believes that the person they are talking to is not trustworthy or the communications medium is not trustworthy. That was the situation in East Germany, not because of mass electronics surveillance, but because up to 10 percent of people were at some stage of their lives informants for the state. A double language evolved where no one was saying what they really meant. And conformity was produced because of this low-level fear.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Great Indian Capitalist


  Editor in Chief of The Young Post

One year has passed under the premiership of Narendra Modi, and, to the disappointment of his prophetic opponents, India has not collapsed into a fiery orgy of violence, death, and backwardness. India has not arisen to the glorious and seemingly inevitable paradise that Modi's fervent endorsers promised either.
Narendra Damodardas Modi, the 15th Prime Minister of the Republic of India, it seems, is, like his 14 predecessors and certainly like all his successors, a man who fills proud optimism in the hearts of some, and bitter scorn in the hearts of others - neither of which is unjustified if one studies Modi's first year in power - a year filled with progress and retardations, order and chaos, great leaps forward, and great leaps back.
Narendra Modi stands to either be one of the greatest and most respected Prime Ministers in Indian history, or another loud mouthed demagogue who shall be relegated to the dustbin of history - labelled a failed experiment in Indian politics.
Regardless, Modi's first year has been anything but dull.

Narendra Modi's first year has been a colourful mixture of Modi planting the seeds of great change in India, and Modi harvesting the planted crops of the former Congress government. He hasn't made an overt effort to distinguish between the two, but the seeds he has planted will yield even greater fruits for India when the time comes.
The most noticeable success of Narendra Modi's first year has been the immense progress India has made in foreign relations. The recently concluded Hanover Messe is, by far, Modi's most impressive achievement - where India, as host country, pitched itself to foreign investors as the ideal manufacturing hub for a wide variety of products - from space to textiles.
The seeds he has planted will yield even greater fruits for India when the time comes.
This is of course in tandem with Modi's Make in India campaign - an ambitious vision to transform India into a manufacturing behemoth that can rival China. Although there are several imperfections in Modi's Make in India vision - such as the point raised by Dr. Raghuram Rajan that emulating a Chinese growth model may not work the same way for India as it did China - the fact that he envisioned it was more than enough to attract valuable foreign capital.
In the realm of international politics too Modi is becoming a giant to be reckoned with, having earned the respect of Barack Obama (who personally penned Modi's profile in the TIME 100 list this year and called him India's "reformer-in-chief"). His state visits to the East Asian tiger economies has also been greatly productive and has opened several avenues for FDI to pour into India.
India has earned greater respect under Modi, and Modi himself commands a fair deal of respect as not just a regional leader, but a world leader.
Economic growth has been stable and rose by nearly three percentage points between Modi's inauguration and the next financial quarter, and Modi's strategy of channelling FDI into manufacturing has not yet failed him despite the warnings of the central bank. All of this can be credited to the fact that Modi is the first Prime Minister since Indira Gandhi to have successfully tied his cabinet to a political leash.

Where Modi failed
It is important to understand that while Narendra Modi will arguably be the greatest Prime Minister of this decade, his government will be one of the worst. While Narendra Modi's vision will lead India to new realms of prosperity, his government's backwardness and conservatism will only pull his vision down into the mud.
Why? Because Narendra Modi's government is not one built on technocratic grounds, but political ones. In other words, his cabinet is not made up of entirely qualified ministers, but merely politically strategic ones - people who will let him carry out his great reforms without interfering and, most importantly, without opposing him. This trend will only continue, as it has with Smriti Irani, an under-qualified but politically strategic member of Modi's cabinet who will never be a contrarian to Modi.
Modi's one man show control of his government this past year has been a double edged sword, because there's only so much a one man army can do before breaking down
To talk about his economic performance would require another piece at another time, but considering that both of Dr. Manmohan Singh's first years as Prime Minister were more economically progressive than Modi's first year speaks volumes. Modi's supporters believe that he cannot work magic in just a year. Well, such generous time considerations were never given to Dr. Singh.
"It seems that only Dr. Manmohan Singh is a robot for not speaking up on important issues, while Narendra Modi is wise and contemplating for his silence."
Modi failed to speak up against increasing state censorship, did not address the question of net neutrality adequately, did not speak on the security threats posed to India by the Naxals this year, failed to advance basic rural programs for food security and women's safety despite launching ambitious rural finance programs, continuously ignored the valuable advice of the RBI governor with regards to investment policy, and has been silent about institutionalising a strong Lokpal system in India despite election promises to do the same in a matter of months. It seems that only Dr. Manmohan Singh is a robot for not speaking up on important issues, while Narendra Modi is wise and contemplating for his silence.
Narendra Modi's greatest failure as Prime Minister after one year, however, is that he cannot speak up against visible injustice and growing religious tension for fear of upsetting his mostly Hindu, mostly North Indian, and mostly male supporters. From the issue of forced conversions by Hindus and Christians, to the question of the Bajrang Dal's growing violence against other faiths, Modi chose to brush it all under one brief statement that promised his government's dedication to secularism.
Nobody can blame him. Very few politicians of his experience and calibre will do something as stupid as cracking down on the Bajrang Dal's unlawful activities after seeking campaigning help from them during the elections. Modi's political acumen is thus both a booster and a handicap to him, because he's too smart to choose the right thing over the most practical thing, which is nothing to be proud of.

A flawed messiah and a great capitalist
In many ways, Narendra Modi is the great Indian capitalist - a man willing to put everything on the line to watch Indian wealth grow, but not ready to accept that there are several dangerous consequences of rapid growth - such as income inequality, religious tensions between richer religious communities and poorer religious communities and the rabid advance of corporate influence in politics.
"Narendra Modi is a secular and liberal Prime Minister carrying the expectations of religious fanatics and conservatives on his shoulders."
Like all capitalists, Narendra Modi sees the ultimate profit - in this case, prosperity for India - as being more important than the gruelling and often difficult decisions that must be taken to reach that profit. To him, the net gain from passing a draconian land acquisition law is greater than the suffering of the farmers that will lose their land to satisfy someone else's model of "development".
And just as every other capitalist does, Narendra Modi will reach a fork in the road, where he must decide if he will choose the path that benefits the economy, or the people who are dependent on the economy. Because at the end of the day, a starving farmer on the verge of killing himself cares little for reforms that will take decades to come to fruition and will mostly benefit the affluent.
Narendra Modi is a secular and liberal Prime Minister carrying the expectations of religious fanatics and conservatives on his shoulders. His is a great burden to bear, and despite his imperfections, he is India's best hope for meaningful change.
Narendra Modi is essentially a flawed messiah - he shall deliver India to great progress, but India shall stumble along the way. In my book, stumbling along is far better than not moving at all.

Monday, May 18, 2015

How Trade Agreements Amount to a Secret Corporate Takeover

    Professor at Columbia University and a Nobel Laureate in Economics

NEW YORK - The United States and the world are engaged in a great debate about new trade agreements. Such pacts used to be called "free-trade agreements"; in fact, they were managed trade agreements, tailored to corporate interests, largely in the US and the European Union. Today, such deals are more often referred to as "partnerships,"as in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). But they are not partnerships of equals: the US effectively dictates the terms. Fortunately, America's "partners" are becoming increasingly resistant.
It is not hard to see why. These agreements go well beyond trade, governing investment and intellectual property as well, imposing fundamental changes to countries' legal, judicial, and regulatory frameworks, without input or accountability through democratic institutions.
Perhaps the most invidious - and most dishonest - part of such agreements concerns investor protection. Of course, investors have to be protected against the risk that rogue governments will seize their property. But that is not what these provisions are about. There have been very few expropriations in recent decades, and investors who want to protect themselves can buy insurance from the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, a World Bank affiliate (the US and other governments provide similar insurance). Nonetheless, the US is demanding such provisions in the TPP, even though many of its "partners" have property protections and judicial systems that are as good as its own.
The real intent of these provisions is to impede health, environmental, safety, and, yes, even financial regulations meant to protect America's own economy and citizens. Companies can sue governments for full compensation for any reduction in their future expected profits resulting from regulatory changes.
This is not just a theoretical possibility. Philip Morris is suing Uruguay and Australia for requiring warning labels on cigarettes. Admittedly, both countries went a little further than the US, mandating the inclusion of graphic images showing the consequences of cigarette smoking.
The labeling is working. It is discouraging smoking. So now Philip Morris is demanding to be compensated for lost profits.
In the future, if we discover that some other product causes health problems (think of asbestos), rather than facing lawsuits for the costs imposed on us, the manufacturer could sue governments for restraining them from killing more people. The same thing could happen if our governments impose more stringent regulations to protect us from the impact of greenhouse-gas emissions.
When I chaired President Bill Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers, anti-environmentalists tried to enact a similar provision, called "regulatory takings." They knew that once enacted, regulations would be brought to a halt, simply because government could not afford to pay the compensation. Fortunately, we succeeded in beating back the initiative, both in the courts and in the US Congress.
But now the same groups are attempting an end run around democratic processes by inserting such provisions in trade bills, the contents of which are being kept largely secret from the public (but not from the corporations that are pushing for them). It is only from leaks, and from talking to government officials who seem more committed to democratic processes, that we know what is happening.
Fundamental to America's system of government is an impartial public judiciary, with legal standards built up over the decades, based on principles of transparency, precedent, and the opportunity to appeal unfavorable decisions. All of this is being set aside, as the new agreements call for private, non-transparent, and very expensive arbitration. Moreover, this arrangement is often rife with conflicts of interest; for example, arbitrators may be a "judge" in one case and an advocate in a related case.
The proceedings are so expensive that Uruguay has had to turn to Michael Bloomberg and other wealthy Americans committed to health to defend itself against Philip Morris. And, though corporations can bring suit, others cannot. If there is a violation of other commitments - on labor and environmental standards, for example - citizens, unions, and civil-society groups have no recourse.
If there ever was a one-sided dispute-resolution mechanism that violates basic principles, this is it. That is why I joined leading US legal experts, including from Harvard, Yale, and Berkeley, in writing a letter to President Barack Obama explaining how damaging to our system of justice these agreements are.
American supporters of such agreements point out that the US has been sued only a few times so far, and has not lost a case. Corporations, however, are just learning how to use these agreements to their advantage.
And high-priced corporate lawyers in the US, Europe, and Japan will likely outmatch the underpaid government lawyers attempting to defend the public interest. Worse still, corporations in advanced countries can create subsidiaries in member countries through which to invest back home, and then sue, giving them a new channel to bloc regulations.
If there were a need for better property protection, and if this private, expensive dispute-resolution mechanism were superior to a public judiciary, we should be changing the law not just for well-heeled foreign companies, but also for our own citizens and small businesses. But there has been no suggestion that this is the case.
Rules and regulations determine the kind of economy and society in which people live. They affect relative bargaining power, with important implications for inequality, a growing problem around the world. The question is whether we should allow rich corporations to use provisions hidden in so-called trade agreements to dictate how we will live in the twenty-first century. I hope citizens in the US, Europe, and the Pacific answer with a resounding no.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Iran Nuke Deal subject to US congressional review


WASHINGTON -- After several months of wrangling between the White House and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), a controversial bill to increase Congress’ involvement in the Iran nuclear talks passed the committee Tuesday on a unanimous vote of 19-0. In a dramatic change from its stance only hours before the vote, the White House indicated that the president would not veto the legislation.
The bill’s apparent success is the result of last-minute negotiated changes to the text, which were hammered out by Corker and the committee's new ranking member, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), on Monday night into Tuesday morning.
According to Corker, the revised text was posted just minutes before the committee markup, which had been postponed 30 minutes to allow for last-minute discussions.
These efforts may have rescued the bill, which previously faced a veto threat from President Barack Obama and looked to be several votes short of the 67 needed from the full Senate to override a veto.
In its post-markup form, the legislation still requires the president to submit for congressional review the final nuclear agreement reached between Iran, the U.S. and its five negotiating partners. The bill also maintains the prohibition on the president's waiving congressionally enacted sanctions against Iran during the review period.
However, the review period in the measure has been shortened from 60 days to an initial 30 days. If, at the end of the 30 days, Congress were to pass a bill on sanctions relief and send it to the president, an additional 12 days would be automatically added to the review period. This could be another 10 days of review if the president vetoed the resulting sanctions bill.
The international nuclear negotiators currently face a deadline of June 30 to reach a final agreement. Under the new bill, the congressional review period would automatically return to 60 days if the negotiators ran late and concluded an agreement after June 9.
One of the key results of Corker and Cardin's efforts was the abandonment of a clause that would have required the White House to certify to Congress that Iran was not supporting terror in order to provide sanctions relief. The White House viewed requirements that were not specifically related to Iran’s nuclear program as a deliberate poison pill, and it lobbied hard to get the clause scrapped. While the president must still provide a series of reports to Congress detailing Iran’s support for terror globally, that would no longer be tied to implementation of aspects of the nuclear agreement.
Removal of the certification clause was a major requirement for Democrats, although Republicans accepted it grudgingly. During the committee markup, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) reintroduced the terrorism certification language as his own amendment to the modified bill.
Corker indicated that he would not support the amendment, making it impossible for it to pass along a party-line vote. After the markup, Corker and Cardin told reporters that Barrasso's move had been planned, with Barrasso aware that his amendment would not be allowed to pass.
“We all knew in advance that that was going to happen,” said Corker, who has been supportive of the terrorism reporting requirement. “We felt like that was a way for our members to express themselves appropriately."
Corker did, however, convince other members of his party to hold off on presenting amendments that would have almost certainly removed Democratic support for the bill.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who planned to introduce an amendment that would have required the president to certify to Congress that Iran recognizes the state of Israel, settled for language asserting that the nuclear agreement would not compromise U.S. support for Israel’s right to exist.
Similarly, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) agreed to hold off on his proposed amendment to treat any nuclear agreement with Iran as a treaty, which would require a two-thirds vote of approval from the Senate before it could be implemented.
Johnson made his disappointment with his party’s concessions clear. “It is a very limited role, it is a role with very little teeth,” he said of the modified oversight bill. “It is a far cry from advice and consent.”
Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), at the request of Corker, agreed to withdraw an amendment to provide compensation for American victims of the 1979 Iran hostage crisis from fees collected for violations of Iran sanctions.
While some Republicans were disappointed with the watered-down bill, Democrats on the committee were resoundingly impressed with the outcome of Tuesday’s markup.
“I believe this bill has been changed from a point in which I do not support it to a point in which I can,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who was one of the most steadfast opponents to the original bill. In the days before the markup, Boxer filed 18 amendments to the legislation. One of her amendments proposed striking the entire text of the Corker bill and replacing it with her own Iran oversight act.
“I believe the former bill would have disrupted and upended the ongoing negotiations between Iran and the P5+1. I believe that this bill will not do this,” Boxer said, voicing her support for the new text.
The unanimous bipartisan support for the legislation came as a surprise even to Cardin, who was constantly in touch with other committee Democrats in the days leading up to the vote. “No, I did not expect a 19-0 vote. I feel thrilled by that,” he told reporters.
“I think that really reflects the fact that we really did it right on the manager’s package,” Cardin continued, referring to the deal struck between him and Corker.
Perhaps more surprising than the unanimous vote was the White House’s apparent approval of the modified bill.
"The president would be willing to sign the proposed compromise that is working its way through the committee today," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said during Tuesday’s press briefing, just before the vote.
According to Corker, Secretary of State John Kerry had pushed back against the legislation as late as 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, when he presented a classified briefing on the Iran nuclear talks to members of the Senate.
Even Senate Democrats who were in contact with the White House over the upcoming committee vote seemed unaware that the Obama administration was prepared to drop its strong opposition to the bill.
“It is my hope that with the amendment and markup process today, they will reconsider, but I have no clear expectation of that,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) told reporters Tuesday morning. “No one has said to me, we won’t veto this if we get this, this and this. That’s not a conversation I’ve had.”
Coons was one of several Democrats who favored congressional oversight of the Iran deal but was hesitant to vote for the original bill. Tuesday’s modifications included language similar to amendments he had proposed last week.
With Obama evidently withdrawing his opposition, Corker's bill is almost certain to become law. Several Republicans took the White House’s reversal as recognition of the weakness of its stance.
“The White House came to the deal when they saw the numbers of people, the growing support that was here,” Corker said.
Cardin, who has been in close contact with the White House over the past 10 days, declined to comment on Corker’s assertion. “I was always trying to get them to the position where they would feel comfortable and allow this bill to go forward. That was my goal from day one,” he said.
To House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), it was the Senate Republicans, not the White House, who capitulated under pressure. “We told the Senate this is going nowhere, that we are going to sustain the president's veto,” she said on Tuesday. “I don't know if that had an impact on what the Senate had to do. But they certainly produced a bill that would be more palatable to our members.”

US Helped Build ISIS – Provide Weapons from U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gestures with Libyan soldiers upon her departure from Tripoli in Libya
Photo: Hillary Clinton with the “Libyan rebels”.

During an appearance on Fox News, General Thomas McInerney acknowledged that the United States “helped build ISIS” as a result of the group obtaining weapons from the Benghazi consulate in Libya which was attacked by jihadists in September 2012.
Asked what he thought of the idea of arming so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels after FSA militants kidnapped UN peacekeepers in the Golan Heights, McInerney said the policy had been a failure.
“We backed I believe in some cases, some of the wrong people and not in the right part of the Free Syrian Army and that’s a little confusing to people, so I’ve always maintained….that we were backing the wrong types.”
Then made reference to a Bret Baier Fox News special set to air on Friday which will, “show some of those weapons from Benghazi ended up in the hands of ISIS – so we helped build ISIS,” said
In May last year, Senator Rand Paul was one of the first to speculate that the truth behind Benghazi was linked to an illicit arms smuggling program that saw weapons being trafficked to terrorists in Syria as part of the United States’ proxy war against the Assad regime.
“I’ve actually always suspected that, although I have no evidence, that maybe we were facilitating arms leaving Libya going through Turkey into Syria,” Paul told CNN, adding that he “never….quite understood the cover-up — if it was intentional or incompetence”.
At the same time it emerged that the U.S. State Department had hired an Al-Qaeda offshoot organization, the February 17th Martyrs Brigade, to “defend” the Benghazi Mission months before the attack.
Senator Paul was vindicated less than three months later when it emerged that the CIA had been subjecting its operatives to monthly polygraph tests in an effort to keep a lid on details of the arms smuggling operation being leaked.
CNN subsequently reported that dozens of CIA agents were on the ground in Benghazi during the attack and that the polygraph tests were mandated in order to prevent operatives from talking to Congress or the media about a program that revolved around “secretly helping to move surface-to-air missiles out of Libya, through Turkey, and into the hands of Syrian rebels.” Key Syrian rebel leaders later defected to join ISIS.
In addition to ISIS obtaining weapons from Benghazi, many members of the group were also trained by the United States at a secret base in Jordan in 2012.
Aaron Klein was told by Jordanian officials that, “dozens of future ISIS members were trained at the time as part of covert aid to the insurgents targeting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.”
As we have previously documented, many of the United States’ biggest allies in the region, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Turkey and Qatar, have all bankrolled and armed ISIS militants.
Paul Joseph Watson is the editor at large of and Prison
Source GlobalResearch

Monday, April 13, 2015

Hillary Clinton may be the First Female President of America

 Interview with Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton: Everyday Americans need a champion

Former US secretary of state announces 2016 White House bid to become the first female president of the country.

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has declared that she is running for president in 2016, seeking to become the first female to occupy the seat that her husband Bill Clinton held for eight years, and setting up what could be the most expensive campaign in history.
Clinton made the announcement on Sunday in a video published on her website, saying "the deck is still stacked in favour of those at the top" as she sought to highlight the theme of economic inequality.
It is the second time that Clinton has run for presidency.

On Saturday, President Barack Obama, who defeated her in the 2008 Democratic nomination, said Clinton "would be an excellent president".
"She was an outstanding secretary of state. She is my friend. I think she would be an excellent president," Obama said from Panama, where he attended the Summit of the Americas and held a historic meeting with the Cuban leader Raul Castro.
With her first candidacy in 2008, Clinton made history as the first ever spouse of an American president to seek the highest elective office in the US.
In the biography section of her website, Clinton, a Democrat, talked about her bipartisan record as senator, crossing party lines to work with Republicans, who now control the US Congress.
But during her husband's presidency from 1993 to 2001, both Clintons repeatedly clashed with the Republicans, who tried to remove the 42nd president from office. She became a lightning-rod for Republican criticism, from her handling of the Clinton administration's failed healthcare reform to the investigations into their private lives.
$2.5bn campaign
Although a native of Chicago, Clinton has set up her campaign headquarters in New York, where she served as senator after her husband left office.
Clinton is expected to make her first campaign stop in the US state of Iowa, which will hold the first nominating process in early 2016.
Clinton is not the only high-profile US politician in the running for president. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, son of the 41st US President George HW Bush and brother of another former president, George W Bush is also expected to declare his candidacy for the Republican Party.
Not long after Clinton announced her bid on Sunday night, Jeb Bush responded on Twitter, saying: "We must do better than Hillary."

That sets up a potential Clinton-Bush matchup and a repeat of the 1992 elections, when the elderly President Bush lost to Bill Clinton, then a governor of the small southern US state of Arkansas.
According to a New York Times report, Clinton and her allies are trying to raise as much as $2.5bn to finance her campaign. The eventual Republican candidate is also expected to match that amount.
In anticipation of her announcement, the Republican Party posted on its website a 31-second video questioning Clinton's candidacy, from her role in the deadly US consulate attack in Benghazi to her decision to delete a large cache of emails from her time as the US top diplomat.
While Clinton tries to steer her campaign mostly on domestic issues, it is likely that her foreign policy record as the secretary of state during Obama's first four years, would be put under scrutiny.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Ibrahim Sharqieh, foreign policy fellow at Brookings Doha Center, said that as secretary of state, Clinton "lacked serious commitment" in resolving many of the issues affecting the Middle East, particularly the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Given her record, Sharqieh said that he is "not very optimistic that she is going to make a difference on US foreign policy towards the Middle East".
He said that Clinton "failed miserably" in putting pressure on Israel and the government of Benjamin Netanyahu to address the Palestine issue.
However, he said that he expects Clinton to be more "hawkish" than President Obama, whom he called as "the most passive American president in decades" on Middle East issues.
Source: Al Jazeera

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Deaths Saudi officers as Houthi rebels in Yemen attack Saudi border

Houthi rebels in Yemen have fired a mortar round at a Saudi Arabian border post, killing three Saudi officers and wounding two others, Saudi Arabia's Defence Ministry says.
A statement from the ministry on Saturday said that the incident took place the previous day in the Saudi border province of Najran.
The Saudi forces responded with gunfire, the statement said.
The ministry statement also said that since its campaign against the Houthis began last month, 500 Houthi fighters had been killed in clashes along the border.
Earlier this month, three Saudi border guards were killed in separate fighting with the Houthis.
Clashes in Aden
Meanwhile, in Aden, more than two dozen fighters and civilians died in fighting between Houthi rebels and gunmen loyal to President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, as the Saudi-led coalition intensified its air strikes in and around Yemen's capital Sanaa.
The coalition said that it was targeting suspected weapons storage sites used by the Houthis.
The air raids, which hit the Defence Ministry and facilities including al-Hafa military camp, lasted for several hours, Sanaa residents told the Reuters news agency.
The Republican Guard was also targeted in the 17th straight day of coalition air strikes on the country.
The strikes came after fierce clashes in Aden killed at least 25 people, Agence France-Presse news agency reported.
Despite the fighting, planes carrying medical aid desperately needed by civilians have finally been able to land for the first time since the air strikes began more than two weeks ago.

"My message to people is that the Cold War is over." Obama and Castro herald 'turning point' in US-Cuba ties


The presidents of the US and Cuba have met in Panama City, marking a potential turning point in US relations with Cuba and the region.
Barack Obama said after his meeting on Saturday with Raul Castro that the discussions had been "candid and fruitful", and that a strong majority of citizens in both Cuba and the US would back warmer relations.
"I think our ability to engage, to open up commerce and travel and people to people exchanges is ultimately going to be good for Cuban people," Obama said at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City.
"My message to people is that the Cold War is over."
Obama also said while relations would improve, that did not mean that there were not divisions between the two countries on sensitive issues such as human rights.
Castro had earlier told Obama that he was ready to discuss these issues, saying: "Everything can be on the table".
But Castro also cautioned that the two countries have "agreed to disagree" on some concerns.
"We are willing to discuss everything but we have to be patient," he said earlier

During a roundtable summit with other leaders of the American hemisphere earlier, Castro had praised Obama as "an honest man".
Castro said "every US president before him is to blame" for making Cuba suffer under the US blockade.
A normalisation of relations has seemed unthinkable to both Cubans and Americans for generations.
Al Jazeera's Latin America Editor Lucia Newman, reporting from Panama City, said Obama's comments did not mean that there were not divisions between the two countries.
She said Obama had not gone as far as announcing Cuba's removal from a US list of state sponsors of terrorism, as was widely expected, a move that would remove a major impediment in establishing diplomatic ties between Havana and Washington.
She quoted a seasoned political analyst with close contacts in both Washington and Havana as saying: "There must be something that the United States still wants that it is not getting, very likely related to access by US diplomats in Cuba to dissidents and other members of civil once embassies are opened,"
Our correspondent also said that Obama still had to deal with the US government embargo against Cuba and another thorny issue was Guantanamo Bay, the controversial US military prison which Cuba regarded as occupied territory.
Thawing of relations
Observers at the Summit of the Americas had still been surprised at the thawing of relations.
"Who would have guessed that of all people, President Raul Castro would sound almost conciliatory, almost like the new best friend of Barack Obama," they told Al Jazeera's Newman.
She said the meeting represented an important foreign policy achievement for Obama, who is set to end his presidency in less than two years, as well as for Castro, who is 83 and who has hinted at retiring in two years.
However, Rosa Maria Paya, a prominent Cuban dissident, told Al Jazeera that Obama had falled short in his support for "democracy advocates in Cuba".
"Obama has responded to Castro's demands, on the embargo and on wanting to take Cuba off the terrorist sponsor  list, very concrete things, but he is not so clear about the demands of the Cuban people," she said.
"His words words were symbolic, but I wanted to hear concrete demands, such as  stopping repression of opponents of the regime."

The secret of happiness? Accept being unhappy----Tim Lott

 Tim Lott

Disappointment, fear and loss are as much a part of life as achievement, hope and joy. But this indeterminate state no longer seems to be socially acceptable

I am going to come out of the closet, and make a shocking, even shameful, admission. I am not a happy person. In fact I am the sort of chap who complete strangers come up to in the street and advise to cheer up, since it might never happen. I am not, I should emphasise, an unhappy person either. I love to laugh, and some of my novels have been admired as pretty good comedies. I think I am pretty much like most people, with moods that shift and transform. Sometimes I am happy, sometimes sad, most of the time I am pretty much neutral, with my mind elsewhere. Disappointment, fear and loss are as much a part of my life as achievement, hope and joy. It is all of a piece.
However, this indeterminate state no longer seems to be socially acceptable. It is required of me, both implicitly and explicitly, that I remain in a state of continual near-explosion — passionate about this, excited about that, looking forward to something else. If not, I am antisocial, a grumpy old man. Worst of all I am a failure, because if I was a success, I would be happy.
Happiness, we are confidently assured, is the objective of life and it is something we “get” by working hard, shopping, playing and exercising, giving to charitable causes and taking part in the drama of late capitalism. Because capitalism loves the goal of happiness — since it can offer endless products that will promise it. When they fail to do so, it can offer alternative products which make an identical promise. And so on. I am not an advocate for misery — far from it. Happiness is good for you and for those around you. But you mustn’t be ashamed if you can’t.
I wish I were happy all the time — I just don’t think it’s a very realistic possibility. The daily parade of disaster on the news is sobering enough. The fact of my own mortality is a downer. Old age and sickness frighten me. The difficulties of human communication produce as much isolation as connection. The corruption and venality of the powerful are daily reminders of injustice. It’s no coincidence that all the greatest works of human drama —from Elektra to Hamlet to A View from the Bridge — are tragedies.
We can, it is suggested, find happiness through good works. This is also an ideology. I am as likely to be disappointed by “doing the right thing” as I am elevated. That’s why it’s so hard to do. The secret truth is that being unselfish can leave you just as empty as being selfish. Not that I’m advocating selfishness — just pointing out that if “goodness” were easy, it wouldn’t be particularly admirable. It would simply be a form of hedonism.
Lifting the weight of denial
I am sincerely glad that we have all cheered up since the 1970s and 1980s. But there’s a danger that all this positivity is becoming counterproductive. The UN now has an International Happiness Day when we are all instructed to be happy. If I wasn’t grumpy before, I was after this particular injunction, a classic case of happiness bullying. There is plenty of evidence that cheerfulness is not fuelling the zeitgeist quite as much as we suppose. Depressive illness is at record levels. Children are stressed like never before, as are teachers. Suicide is the main cause of death for men under 35.
There is plenty of unhappiness. Why dwell on it? There’s no need, I agree. But we shouldn’t refuse to acknowledge it. TV and the Internet disseminate a form of propaganda by insisting on and showcasing shiny, creative, fulfilling lives. It makes me feel inadequate because my life, although creative, and fulfilling and quite well paid, does not send me into paroxysms of ecstasy every day. It is just life, sometimes good, sometimes bad, often a confusing mixture of both.
I would not go so far as Slavoj Žižek who, when asked what he found most depressing, answered “the happiness of stupid people”. But I know what he meant. Anyone intelligent and sensitive and thoughtful cannot look at the world and themselves without some inkling that everything, although strange and remarkable, is not always awesome. If we could acknowledge it, the weight of denial could be lifted. And you know what? We’d all be a lot happier for it. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2015

Friday, April 10, 2015

U.S and its allies failed to target the epicentres of jihad -- Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

 The rise of Islamic State- ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution: Patrick Cockburn; LeftWord Books, 2254/2A Shadi Khampur, New Ranjit Nagar, New Delhi-110008. Rs. 250.

The Arabs opposed the Ottomans and sided with the allied powers in the First World War in the hope of getting the right to self determination.

Veteran foreign correspondent Patrick Cockburn (65), who has reported from the Middle East since 1979, has three full-length books on Iraq already to his credit. This monograph on the rise of the ultra-jihadist Islamic State builds on his reportage for The Independent and long-form writing for the London Review of Books.
It attributes the birth of IS to the belligerence shown by the West following the 9/11 attacks. It makes clear that it was not 9/11 but the reaction of U.S and its allies to the attacks that made al-Qaeda’s rise and expansion inevitable, giving birth to other splinter groups, including the most recent and the most violent one. Cockburn says that if the West’s war on terror has been a spectacular failure, it is because of its failure to target the epicentres of jihad -- Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
Two recent developments that Cockburn says provided fertile breeding ground for the IS are: marginalisation of the Sunnis in Iraq; and the hijacking of the Syrian uprising by jihadists. In both cases, Wahhabi Islam, a puritanical form patronised and exported by the House of Saud, provided the ideological fuel.
It is clear from the pessimism expressed by the book about the future of the region that questions behind the rise of the groups like IS need to go beyond those merely focused on security and stability: they need to take into account colonial ambitions that were instrumental in creation of the nations as such. For, isn’t the rise of non-state actors in the Middle East a product of the way the states were organised there 100 years ago?
The Arabs opposed the Ottomans and sided with the allied powers in the First World War in the hope of getting the right to self determination. However, they were used as strategic bargaining chips by the victors. The application of Sykes-Picot line to divide the region into French and the British spheres of influence was matched in its mendacity only by the Treaty of Versailles signed a few years later. The people of the region were left betrayed.
As written by T.E. Lawrence -- Lawrence of Arabia -- and quoted by Robert Fisk in The Great War For Civilisation, the Arabs did not risk their lives in battle simply to “change masters.” They wanted independence of their own.
Their experiments with puppet administrations started in 1922 when Britain installed King Feisal — neither an Iraqi nor a Shia — in Shia-majority Iraq. Robert Fisk calls this “our first betrayal of the Shias of Iraq.” There were more betrayals in store, resulting in societies, with a glorious record of coexistence, getting split further along sectarian lines. Cockburn foresees balkanisation of the region into Shia, Sunni and Kurdish enclaves where the ‘other’ is targeted. Here, he fears we may see a repeat of the carnage that accompanied India’s partition. However, military interventions in the form of air strikes continue, in the hope of defeating the enemy. Assuming that IS can be defeated by military means, a question that arises is: What could be done to prevent the future emergence of such groups? This book doesn’t provide many answers but the corpus of literature on the region does.
The West needs to attempt a genuine reconciliation with its erstwhile colonies and present-day clients. The next year will mark a century since the Sykes-Picot pact was signed. Serious reflection on what went wrong with the re-organisation of the states in the region needs to take place. This has to involve acceptance of historical blame.
The superpowers need to learn from history that Iraq and Syria are progenies of civilisations which a rich culture of tolerance and state building. The Mesopotamian civilisation, as fabulously documented by Jared Diamond in the rambunctious read, Guns, Germs and Steel, had a centralised state as early as 3500 BC.
The rich Mediterranean climate of Tigris and Euphrates valleys and the emergence of writing and irrigation technologies led to the formation of complex political organisations. What explains the irony that, in a region which has inherited such a sophisticated system of state building, the most popular party is a non-state actor?
The prime reason is the encumbrances thrown in the path of nationalist movements, first by colonial powers like Ottoman Turkey and Britain and later by post-colonial ones like U.S. and Soviet Union, which prevented the rise of modern institutions. Alas, U.S. and its allies show collective amnesia when it comes to history. The IS has numerous enemies but, as Cockburn says, they are disunited and have varying ideologies. IS is neither Islamic nor a state but to “degrade and ultimately destroy” it, as President Barack Obama put it, the West has to allow the organic evolution of genuine states, where Islam and democracy can both be allowed to play a role and where national aspirations, not external interests, provide the binding force.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

US will remove Cuba 'terror' status

Barack Obama, the US president, has signalled he will soon remove Cuba from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, boosting hopes for improved ties as he prepares for what's billed as an historic encounter with Raul Castro, his Cuban counterpart.
Obama's attendance at Friday's Summit of the Americas in Panama comes amid a new diplomatic outreach to Cuba, which has not attended the regional conclave since 1994.
For the first time, the US did not object to Castro attending.
Hours before his arrival in Panama, Obama said the US State Department had finished its review of Cuba's presence on the list, a major stumbling block for efforts to mend US-Cuba ties.
Ben Cardin, a US senator and top Democrat on the Senate's foreign relations panel, confirmed that the agency had recommended removing Cuba from the list, all but ensuring action by the president within days.
The highly anticipated interaction with Castro will test the power of personal diplomacy as the two leaders attempt to move past the issues that have interfered with their attempt to relaunch diplomatic relations.
The US has long since stopped accusing Cuba of supporting terrorism, and Obama has hinted at his willingness to take Cuba off the list ever since he and Castro announced a thaw in relations in December.
Yet Obama has stopped short of the formal decision amid indications that the White House was reluctant to grant Cuba's request until other issues, such as restrictions on US diplomats in Havana, were resolved.
Cuba is one of just four countries still on the US list of countries accused of repeatedly supporting global terrorism. The others are Iran, Sudan and Syria.
"Victim of US aggression"
However, Latin American policy analyst Juan Carlos Hidalgo told Al Jazeera that negoations between the US and Cuba had been held in secret "so we don't know what's going to happen".
"It's been a riling point for Cuba for over half a century, and it has been presenting itself as a victim of US aggression but now, all of a sudden the US wants to be friends with you (Cuba)," Hidalgo said.
"If you look at statements from Castro over the past months, it looks like he is trying to raise the price tag by asking the US to return Guantanamo Bay or lift the sanctions in return for closer ties."
In January, Castro said that Cuba would not improve relations with the US unless it returned the controversial naval base and military prison to Cuba and lifted the five decades-old sanctions.
Al Jazeera's diplomatic editor James Bays, reporting from Panama, said this year's summit was historic because all of the countries in the Americas were present for the first time.
"The Summit of the Americas is held every two years and in some ways this year's is a coming of age," Bays said.
"A lot of attention will be on the relationship on those two countries."
Bays said a cloud on the horizon at the summit was Obama's issuing an executive order for sanctions against Venezuelan officials a month ago.
Bays said the order could be viewed by some countries as "a clumsy move"
Source Al Jazeera