The Canadian Press, By Alexander Panetta, February 24
Washington – U.S. President Barack Obama made good Tuesday on a threat to veto a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, bringing the two sides in the long-running controversy to a rare point of agreement: their battle is far from over.
”The president’s veto of the Keystone jobs bill is a national embarrassment,” said the top Republican in the House of Representatives, John Boehner.
”We are not going to give up in our efforts to get this pipeline built — not even close.”
Even the White House concurred that the issue is far from settled. It pointed out that Tuesday’s announcement was a step in a long, winding process — not a final destination.
The president cast the veto as a matter of procedural principle. In his letter to Congress, Obama said the bill he was scrapping had improperly tried to usurp presidential authority.
BBC, February 24
The head of the United Nations climate change panel (IPCC), Rajendra Pachauri, has stepped down amid sexual harassment allegations.
A spokesman for Mr Pachauri told the IPCC that he had resigned from his position with immediate effect.
Indian police are investigating a complaint from a 29-year-old woman working in Mr Pachauri’s office in Delhi.
Mr Pachauri has denied the allegations.
Reuters, By Matt Siegel, February 22
Sydney- Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Monday announced a national security crackdown that could deny welfare payments to people seen as potential threats, strip the passports of those with dual nationality and curb travel overseas.
Abbott, bruised politically and facing pressure for dramatic action after surviving a leadership challenge this month, unveiled the measures in the wake of a hostage siege in a Sydney cafe that left three dead in December.
He said some personal freedoms would have to be curtailed to fight what he called a rapidly growing threat from radical groups such as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
“For too long, we have given those who might be a threat to our country the benefit of the doubt,” Abbott said.
BBC – The UK and the EU have been accused of a “catastrophic misreading” of the mood in the Kremlin in the run-up to the crisis in Ukraine.
The House of Lords EU committee claimed Europe “sleepwalked” into the crisis. The EU had not realised the depth of Russian hostility to its plans for closer relations with Ukraine, it said… The committee’s report said Britain had not been “active or visible enough” in dealing with the situation in Ukraine. It blamed Foreign Office cuts, which it said led to fewer Russian experts working there, and less emphasis on analysis. A similar decline in EU foreign ministries had left them ill-equipped to formulate an “authoritative response” to the crisis, it said.
The report claimed that for too long the EU’s relationship with Moscow had been based on the “optimistic premise” that Russia was on a trajectory to becoming a democratic country. The result, it said, was a failure to appreciate the depth of Russian hostility when the EU opened talks aimed at establishing an “association agreement” with Ukraine in 2013.
Mr Cameron rejected claims Britain “sleepwalked” into the crisis in Ukraine.
AP, By Desmond Butler, February 19
Istanbul — Turkey and the United States signed an agreement Thursday to train and arm Syrian rebels fighting the Islamic State group, said the U.S. Embassy in Ankara.
The two countries have been in talks about such a pact for several months. The deal was signed Thursday evening by U.S Ambassador John Bass and Turkish Foreign Ministry undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu, said Embassy spokesman Joe Wierichs. He gave no further details.
Sinirlioglu called the deal “an important step” in the strategic partnership between Turkey and the United States, according to Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency.
The Turkish government has said the training by U.S. and Turkish soldiers could begin as early as next month at a base in the central Anatolian city of Kirsehir, and involve hundreds of Syrian fighters in the first year. The U.S. has said the goal is to go after the Islamic State group, but Turkish officials have suggested that the trained rebels could also target the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad.
Google says increasing the FBI’s powers set out in search warrants would raise ‘monumental’ legal concerns that should be decided by Congress
The Guardian, By Ed Pilkington, February 18
New York – Google is boldly opposing an attempt by the US Justice Department to expand federal powers to search and seize digital data, warning that the changes would open the door to US “government hacking of any facility” in the world.
In a strongly worded submission to the Washington committee that is considering the proposed changes, Google says that increasing the FBI’s powers set out in search warrants would raise “monumental and highly complex constitutional, legal and geopolitical concerns that should be left to Congress to decide”.
The search giant warns that under updated proposals, FBI agents would be able to carry out covert raids on servers no matter where they were situated, giving the US government unfettered global access to vast amounts of private information.
Los Angeles Times, By Richard A. Serrano, February 14
Abdullah al-Kidd approached the Dulles International Airport ticket counter in March 2003 expecting to catch a flight to Saudi Arabia to study Arabic and Islamic law.
Instead, federal agents slapped handcuffs on the Kansas-born former University of Idaho running back.
He spent the next 16 days in three jails without criminal charges on a warrant as a potential witness in a terrorism-related case. He was shackled, strip-searched and confined in a cell.
The government’s case eventually fell apart, but not before the husband and father had lost his family and livelihood.
More than a decade later, the U.S. government has presented Kidd with something rarely seen in the U.S. war against terrorism: an apology.
How Britain’s new police state will radicalise us all
Medium, By Nafeez Ahmed, February 13
In the UK, an insidious secret network of violent extremists is plotting to subvert democracy. The members of this network detest our way of life, and hate our freedoms. Walking amongst us, this dangerous fifth column is exploiting the very laws we hold dear to campaign for the establishment of an extremist, totalitarian state that would police every aspect of our lives based on a fanatical ideology that is devoid of reason.
No, the ‘Islamic State’ is not about to conquer Great Britain. But the neocons in government and industry who profit from fear might well be.
In the name of fighting terror, the UK government, hand-in-hand with the US, is leading the way to turn freedom of speech and dissent into mere formalities that, in practice, have no place in societies that will function, effectively, as full-fledged police-states.
RINF, By Eric Zuesse, February 11
Zacarias Moussaoui was the bookkeeper for Al Qaeda, but the U.S. intelligence services have been keeping this fact secret as much as they can, because what he knows about the crucial financial backers of Al Qaeda can be very damaging to the U.S. aristocracy, which is heavily oil-based and closely allied with the Saudi royal family, which created Al Qaeda in order to please the Saudi clerics, who are Wahhabist Muslims who constantly threaten the royals with exposure of their economic and sexual corruption unless the royals finance the spread of the Wahhabist sect (such as by Al Qaeda), and thereby finance the spread of those clerics’ own international influence and power.
Or, so says the former bookkeeper of Al Qaeda, who was selected by Al Qaeda’s military chief, Abu Hafs (also known as “Mohammed Atef”), to serve Osama bin Laden in that capacity: Zacarias Moussaoui. This is his testimony, in brief.
UN report finds girls face difficulty getting an education in more than 70 countries.
AP, February 9
Girls in at least 70 countries have faced threats, violent attacks and other abuse for trying to go to school over the past five years, the U.N. human rights office said Monday.
A report by the Geneva-based body noted that, despite some progress, girls still face difficulty getting an education in many countries around the world.
“Attacks against girls accessing education persist and, alarmingly, appear in some countries to be occurring with increasing regularity,” the authors found.
The privatization of America’s wars swells the ranks of armies for hire across the globe.
The American Conservative, By Kelley Vlahos, February 6
After more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, America’s most profound legacy could be that it set the world order back to the Middle Ages.
While this is a slight exaggeration, a recent examination by Sean McFate, a former Army paratrooper who later served in Africa working for Dyncorp International and is now an associate professor at the National Defense University, suggests that the Pentagon’s dependence on contractors to help wage its wars has unleashed a new era of warfare in which a multitude of freshly founded private military companies are meeting the demand of an exploding global market for conflict.
“Now that the United States has opened the Pandora’s Box of mercenarianism,” McFate writes in The Modern Mercenary: Private Armies and What they Mean for World Order, “private warriors of all stripes are coming out of the shadows to engage in for-profit warfare.”
Ekathimerini, By Mark Weisbrot, February 6
On Wednesday the European Central Bank (ECB) announced that it would no longer accept Greek government bonds and government-guaranteed debt as collateral. Although Greece would still be eligible for other, emergency lending from the Central Bank, the immediate effect of the announcement was to raise Greek borrowing costs and squeeze its banks, and to increase financial market instability within Greece.
We should be clear about what this means. The ECB’s move was completely unnecessary, and it was done some weeks before any decision had to be made. It looks very much like a deliberate attempt to undermine the new government. They are trying to force the government to abandon its promises to the Greek electorate, and to follow the IMF program that its predecessors signed on to.
BBC, By Robert Peston, February 4
After the explosion of borrowing in the boom years that led to the great crash and recession of 2007-08, most governments – especially those of rich developed countries – said they would embark on policies that would lead to greater saving, debt reduction and what’s known as deleveraging.
They implied they would encourage prudence, so that the sum of household, business and government debt would fall.
So what has actually happened to global debt?
According to a new study by the influential consultancy McKinsey Global Institute, global debt has grown by $57tn or 17 percentage points of GDP or worldwide income since 2007, to stand at $199tn, equivalent to 286% of GDP.
And the single biggest contributor to the rise and rise of global indebtedness is that government debts have increased by $25tn over these seven years.
Tens of thousands fill Spanish capital in support of Podemos, as anti-austerity message surges in polls.
Al Jazeera, January 31
Tens of thousands of people have marched in Madrid on Saturday in support of the anti-austerity party Podemos, whose surging popularity and policies have drawn comparisons with Syriza, Greece’s new leaders.
Protesters chanted “Yes we can!” as they made their way from Madrid city hall to the central Puerta del Sol square. Podemos and its anti-austerity message have been surging in polls ahead of local, regional and national elections this year. Podemos (“We Can”) was formed just a year ago but gained international attention after winning five seats in elections for the European Parliament last May.
Antonia Fernandez, a 69-year-old pensioner from Madrid, came to the demonstration with her family. Fernandez, who lives with her husband on a combined pension worth about $790 a month, said she used to vote for Spain’s Socialist party but had lost faith in it because of its handling of the economic crisis and its austerity policies. “People are fed up with the political class,” Fernandez said. “If we want to have a future, we need jobs,” she said.
Like Syriza, Podemos has found popular support by targeting corruption and rejecting a European austerity program aimed at lifting struggling economies out of a deep crisis. After his Syriza party swept to victory in a snap election on Jan. 25, Alexis Tsipras promised that five years of austerity, “humiliation and suffering” imposed on Greece by international creditors were over.
Digital Journal, By Ralph Lopez, January 26
Becoming the first credentialed, well-known media insider to step forward and state publicly that he was secretly a “propagandist,” an editor of a major German daily has said that he personally planted stories for the CIA.
Saying he believes a medical condition gives him only a few years to live, and that he is filled with remorse, Dr. Udo Ulfkotte, the editor of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of Germany’s largest newspapers, said in an interview that he accepted news stories written and given to him by the CIA and published them under his own name. Ulfkotte said the aim of much of the deception was to drive nations toward war.
Dr. Ulfkotte says the corruption of journalists and major news outlets by the CIA is routine, accepted, and widespread in the western media, and that journalists who do not comply either cannot get jobs at any news organization, or find their careers cut short.