9/11 truther Chossudovsky

The tragic events of September 11, 2001 constitute a fundamental landmark in American history. a decisive watershed, a breaking point. Millions of people have been misled regarding the causes and consequences of 9/11.  September 11 2001 opens up an era of crisis, upheaval and militarization of American society.  A far-reaching overhaul of US military doctrine was launched in the wake of 9/11.  Endless wars of aggression under the humanitarian cloak of “counter-terrorism” were set in motion.  9/11 was also a stepping stone towards the relentless repeal of civil liberties, the militarization of law enforcement and the inauguration of “Police State USA”.  September 11, 2001 marks the onslaught of the “Global War on Terrorism” (GWOT), used as a pretext and a justification by the US and its NATO allies to carry out a “war without borders”, a global war of conquest.

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The Richest Rich Are in a Class by Themselves

econ_onepercentchartThe rallying cry of the Occupy Movement was that the richest 1 percent of Americans is getting richer while the rest of us struggle to get by. That’s not quite right, though. The bottom nine-tenths of the 1 Percent club have about the same slice of the national wealth pie that they had a generation ago. The gains have accrued almost exclusively to the top tenth of 1 Percenters. The richest 0.1 percent of the American population has rebuilt its share of wealth back to where it was in the Roaring Twenties. And the richest 0.01 percent’s share has grown even more rapidly, quadrupling since the eve of the Reagan Revolution.

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Cops or soldiers?

FROM the way police entered the house—helmeted and masked, guns drawn and shields in front, knocking down the door with a battering ram and rushing inside—you might think they were raiding a den of armed criminals. In fact they were looking for $1,000-worth of clothes and electronics allegedly bought with a stolen credit card. They found none of these things, but arrested two people in the house on unrelated charges.

They narrowly avoided tragedy. On hearing intruders break in, the homeowner’s son, a disabled ex-serviceman, reached for his (legal) gun. Luckily, he heard the police announce themselves and holstered it; otherwise, “they probably would have shot me,” he says. His mother, Sally Prince, says she is now traumatised.

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The 9/11 Joint Congressional Inquiry and the 28 Missing Pages

The leaders of the 9/11 Joint Congressional Inquiry were Congressman Porter Goss and Senator Bob Graham, who headed-up the House and Senate intelligence committees at the time. Due to Goss and Graham’s activities before 9/11 and on that day, as well as their representation of the state of Florida, their leadership of the Inquiry presented a remarkable number of questions.

For example, Goss and Graham were meeting with Pakistani ISI General Mahmud Ahmed just as the first plane struck the World Trade Center. The Ahmed meeting is interesting due to the Pakistani ISI’s history with the CIA in arming the “Afghan Arabs” from which al Qaeda evolved. The ISI had also been intimately linked with the terrorist network previously run by the CIA’s partner—the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). Added to these coincidences was the fact that Goss and Graham had just returned from a trip to Pakistan in which they had specifically discussed Osama bin Laden, who was a topic of discussion at their 9/11 breakfast meeting as well.

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Global military spending is now an integral part of capitalism

  China’s surge in military spending gains headlines, partly because of the ominous implications regarding its regional contest with Japan, but it’s the deeper structures of military spending in general that are far more compelling.

There are few surprises about the distribution of military spending: for all the current focus on China’s growing military outlays and it is significant that they have embarked on a sequence of double-digit increases as a percentage of GDP the United States still accounts for 40 per cent of such expenditures. However, the distribution is not the only thing that matters; it’s the sheer scale of such investment $1.756tn in 2012. The “peace dividend” from the end of the cold war has long since bitten the dust. Global military spending has returned to pre-1989 levels, undoubtedly a legacy of the war on terror and the returning salience of military competition in its context. In fact, by 2011 global military spending was higher than at any year since the end of the second world war.

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G-20 Plus Five: The Economic Forum’s Mixed Record

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It is time to take stock of the G-20. Just over five years ago, during the free fall of the global financial crisis, representatives from 20 of the world’s leading economies agreed to gather twice a year in order to develop a more sustainable regulatory framework for financial institutions.

 

There have been many signs of promise. The group has agreed on a new framework for regulatory standards for each country’s most important financial institutions and tasked a Financial Stability Board (FSB) with monitoring adherence to them. But the G-20 has also fallen short of some expectations. Although there have been improvements in global financial regulation over the past five years, serious flaws remain.

 

The G-20 has already addressed the main pillars of financial regulatory reform. The most important decision concerned international bank capital regulations. Prior to the G-20, there were serious problems. The Basel II agreement, initially published in June 2004, gave banks enormous discretion in determining whether they met minimum capital standards. That agreement was also undermined by the fact that the United States decided not to live up to it.

 

The Basel III regulations, which were agreed upon in 2011, were a great improvement. The first important step was that all the G-20 countries agreed to recognize the regulations and task a new body, called the Regulatory Consistency Assessment Programme (RCAP), with monitoring, assessing, and evaluating the implementation of new, more stringent capital standards. The RCAP audits the regulatory frameworks of participating countries and issues formal publications evaluating their progress. It has the authority to request improvements as necessary, and has done so. In each of the four countries it has reviewed, it has requested improvements — 90 of them, in the case of China. In a preliminary assessment, the European Union was declared materially noncompliant on two items, and the United States was declared materially noncompliant on one item.

 

Another achievement of the G-20 was the creation of a regulatory framework for over-the-counter-derivatives, risky financial instruments that were at the center of the last financial crisis. Before the crisis, there were essentially no regulations on the riskiest derivatives trading and there was no transparency in the derivatives marketplace. Now the majority of these transactions are bound to multilateral standards of transparency and regulation. Although these ideas were discussed by the G-20, ultimately the United States and Europe — where 85 to 90 percent of derivatives trading is conducted — are primarily responsible for implementing them. Although most countries have passed laws implementing these regulations, it is too early to tell whether they are working.

 

A third accomplishment of the G-20 was its reforms to international regulations on rating agencies. Before the crisis, ratings agencies, which are responsible for assessing the ability of debtors to pay back what they borrow, were unregulated in most G-20 countries. After the crisis, it was clear that this was a grave mistake. The industry was highly concentrated, with two U.S. firms controlling more than 80 percent of the market. But the ratings issued by these agencies were often sloppily fabricated.

 

The assumption behind the new regulations was that greater transparency and scrutiny of ratings agencies would encourage competition and improve overall performance. Preliminary data suggest that the plan has worked. In the United States and the EU, new entrants have joined the market and a greater number of firms are now rating financial institutions and asset-backed securities.

 

The G-20 has also succeeded at regulating hedge funds. Before the crisis, hedge funds were dealt with in different ways in different countries. (Even the EU lacked a single regulatory framework.) All G-20 economies, with the exception of Brazil, have now passed hedge fund regulations as part of broader efforts to regulate and supervise the shadow banking sector, which involves entities and activities (including hedge funds) that exist fully or partially outside the regular banking system.

 

Finally, the G-20 has made major progress on standards for winding down troubled banks. During the crisis, the lack of such standards proved to be a major problem, as the lack of a common playbook worsened market jitters. The need for a clear resolution scheme is especially relevant for large cross-border banks, which are especially difficult to unravel and are concentrated in the United States and the EU.

 

Resolution regimes require a clear operational authority to stabilize the bank, as well as a clear legislative framework that allows authorities to force creditors to take losses. It is already evident that such a system is easier to build in the United States than the EU. The United States already has a clear authority, the FDIC, which is responsible for taking control of the parent company of the distressed financial group. It has always been capable of keeping distressed operations open by injecting extra liquidity. The FDIC can also access an Orderly Liquidation Fund (OLF), administered by the U.S. Treasury, to finance a “bridge” bank, which is authorized to hold the assets and liabilities of an insolvent bank. A bridge bank is charged with continuing the operations of the insolvent bank until the bank becomes solvent through acquisition by another entity or through liquidation.

 

The EU is only halfway there. Although Europe has agreed on the procedure to resolve a bank, the proposed common fund for that kind of activity is, at 55 billion euro, still too small given the size of the EU banking market, and will only come in place too late. In practice, national governments will still likely be responsible for providing most of the money to assist their ailing banks, which would only worsen the distortions in European financial markets.

 

LONG ROAD AHEAD

 

The G-20 still has plenty of work in coming years. New financial regulatory items have emerged on the agenda, including regulation of the non-bank financial sector. International standards for the non-bank financial sector are far less developed than those for banking. In July 2013, the FSB published a list of nine insurance companies (five are European, three are American, and one is Chinese) that it deemed systemically important. It will soon publish a similar list for other finance and asset management companies. Although the size of total assets of insurers and asset management companies is far below that of the banking sector, and systemic risks are much lower, their business models and risk diversification still require proper supervision.

 

The G-20 regulations have also not yet solved the problem posed by central counterparties (CCPs), the entities that increasingly serve as an exchange for derivatives transactions. They play a critical role, but are still under-regulated: at periods of financial stress, they may not be able to meet the liquidity needs of their members. If inadequately managed, CCPs could become the Fukushimas of global finance. CCP board members need to take a much more hands-on approach to insulating risks coming from CCPs.

 

The G-20 also needs to place greater emphasis on macroeconomics, especially when it comes to coordinating exit policies from the unconventional monetary policy that developed countries have pursued since the start of the crisis. The prospect of the end of such policies — namely, the U.S. Federal Reserve’s decision to draw down its bond-buying program — has already led capital to flee emerging markets. Similar policies are sure to follow in the other developed countries. Whether central banks will take the global dimension into account remains an open question.

 

Overall, the G-20 has taken a big step toward instituting better global governance and a more consistent regulatory framework for financial markets. Five years on, the G-20 countries — and especially the United States and Europe, where the seeds of the last financial crisis were sown — have largely delivered on their commitments. Better rules are in place on bank capital, derivatives, ratings agents, hedge funds, and bank liquidation. How these rules are enforced will matter, of course, but at least the rules exist. Initial reports on the implementation of the new Basel III rules, which are key to the entire framework, are already promising.

 

That raises the question of how the G-20 has managed to enforce its agenda without possessing coercive authority. One important factor has been the quality and dedication of its leadership. The past and current chairs of the FSB, Mario Draghi and Mark Carney, were instrumental in driving the process forward. But another factor has been the subtle effectiveness of peer pressure. Although the G-20 cannot force any single country to pass regulations, each country is very aware of being observed by the others. No member of the group has wanted to be accused of shirking its responsibilities. For now, that should be enough for the G-20 to move forward on its remaining agenda.

 

The Return of the Twelfth Imam

ayatollahIn a fascinating article for FrontPage Magazine titled “Now the Twelfth Imam Can Come,” scholar of Islam Robert Spencer provides a crash course on the nature of Twelver Shi’ite theology, with particular reference to a nuclearizing Iran. Shi’ites believe in the return of the so-called Twelfth Imam who is descended from Mohammed’s son-in-law Ali ibn Abni Talib, the fourth caliph assassinated in 661 in a succession war, after which the split between Sunnis and Shi’ites eventually became permanent. As Spencer explains, the Shi’ites continued a line of imams, “members of Muhammad’s household and his prophetic heirs. Each one in turn, over two centuries, was poisoned.…According to the traditions of Twelver Shi’ism, the official religion of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the twelfth of these Imams, a boy of five years old, disappeared under mysterious and disputed circumstances in the year 874 – but remained alive.” Though communicating with the world through various agents, he entered the state of “occultation” in 941, promising to return when the time would be propitious.  The reigning authority on Twelver Shi’ism is the historian Emmanuel Sivan, who in his magisterial volume on the subject, Radical Islam: Medieval Theology and Modern Politics, warned that an integral part of Shi’a Islam’s belief and thought involves the initiating of a planetary conflagration. This belief system posits that Allah’s kingdom will be established on earth by the Twelfth or Hidden Imam, also known as the Mahdi, whose advent can be hastened by creating the right set of circumstances: friction and misunderstanding among the nations and violent upheavals in a welter of blood and fire.

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“Privatizing” Kosovo: The Madeleine Albright Way

The Balkan states of Albania and Kosovo are, without doubt, the most pro-American Muslim-majority countries in the world.  According to a new census including religious affiliation – the first since 1930 – Albania now counts 57% of its total population of 2.8 million as Muslim, down from 70% eighty-two years ago. Its Catholic population has remained stable at 10%, and Albanian citizens identifying themselves as Orthodox Christians have fallen from 20% in 1930 to about 7%.  Although Kosovo does not tally figures for religious communities, the Muslim share of the population is thought to be larger, at around 80%. Both republics are secular.  Americans are beloved in Albania thanks to a significant history of Albanian immigration and success in America, and early contributions by Albanians in the U.S. to the national movement for freedom from the Ottoman Empire. At the end of November, the Albanian government of Prime Minister Sali Berisha was prepared to vote with the U.S. against a Palestinian observer seat in the United Nations, and, following unsuccessful pressure to vote “yes,” from the Turkish Islamist prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Albania became the sole Muslim-majority UN member to abstain on the Palestinian issue.

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Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP)

Today, 13 November 2013, WikiLeaks released the secret negotiated draft text for the entire TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) Intellectual Property Rights Chapter. The TPP is the largest-ever economic treaty, encompassing nations representing more than 40 per cent of the world’s GDP. The WikiLeaks release of the text comes ahead of the decisive TPP Chief Negotiators summit in Salt Lake City, Utah, on 19-24 November 2013. The chapter published by WikiLeaks is perhaps the most controversial chapter of the TPP due to its wide-ranging effects on medicines, publishers, internet services, civil liberties and biological patents. Significantly, the released text includes the negotiation positions and disagreements between all 12 prospective member states.

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The New American Security Force: A Revolution in U.S. Military Strategy, Part I

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Did the rest of the world go to sleep when Sen. Ted Cruz started filibustering at the end of September? Well, he did read aloud Dr. Suess’s Green Eggs and Ham. Meanwhile, was peace established in Middle East or did the Taliban suddenly become a humanitarian organization? Americans might think so after the obsessive media attention of the federal government shutdown, the debt-ceiling showdown and the troubled rollout of Obamacare.

External Systems

Unfortunately, not so.  Civil war continues to rage in Syria, violence escalates in Iraq, a barbaric terrorist attack was recently perpetrated on civilians in Kenya, and tensions escalate in India and Pakistan. As well, the global proliferation of precision-guided weapons poses new threats, and old threats grow with the rise of China’s military and Russia’s re-emergence on the world’s geopolitical stage

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Saudi Arabia, Cuba, China Will Join UN ‘Human Rights’ Council

(CNSNews.com) – By the end of Tuesday, a handful of countries notorious for blocking human rights promotion at home and abroad will have rejoined the U.N. Human Rights Council.  Due to an absence of competition, Tuesday’s vote at the General Assembly in New York will see China, Russia and Saudi Arabia all return to the council in January, just one year after term limits obliged them to stand down. They will be joined by Vietnam, which will take a seat for the first time since the Geneva-based HRC was established in 2006.  The State Department’s latest report on human rights in China describes it as “an authoritarian state in which the Chinese Communist Party constitutionally is the paramount authority.” The report also cited China for its coercive one-child-per couple policy which sometimes resulted in “forced abortion” or “forced sterilization.”

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Armies and Police Are Being Privatized Around the World and Business Is Booming

In a world where budgets are tight, and bottom lines daunting, it makes sense that governments around the world have to do more with less, or they just have to do less. Surprisingly, one part of the state apparatus that most countries seem happy to outsource is one of its most fundamental—security. At home, cash-strapped American cities, and even communities, are turning to private forces to protect public order. And a report out of the UN on Monday shows that the private security industry is experiencing a global economic boom that many of its customers would love—the shadowy industry is growing at 7.4 percent a year and is on target to balloon to a $244 billion global market by 2016.  Unsurprisingly, the U.S. is the world’s biggest spender on private security, totaling $138 billion a year, thanks in large part to a spike in demand during the concurrent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Confessions of a Drone Warrior

He was an experiment, really. One of the first recruits for a new kind of warfare in which men and machines merge. He flew multiple missions, but he never left his computer. He hunted top terrorists, saved lives, but always from afar. He stalked and killed countless people, but could not always tell you precisely what he was hitting. Meet the 21st-century American killing machine. who’s still utterly, terrifyingly human.  From the darkness of a box in the Nevada desert, he watched as three men trudged down a dirt road in Afghanistan. The box was kept cold—precisely sixty-eight degrees—and the only light inside came from the glow of monitors. The air smelled spectrally of stale sweat and cigarette smoke. On his console, the image showed the midwinter landscape of eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar Province—a palette of browns and grays, fields cut to stubble, dark forests climbing the rocky foothills of the Hindu Kush. He zoomed the camera in on the suspected insurgents, each dressed in traditional shalwar kameez, long shirts and baggy pants. He knew nothing else about them: not their names, not their thoughts, not the thousand mundane and profound details of their lives.

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Battlehawks and rocks that spy: 3 wild new military technologies from AUSA

BattleHawk Textron

What do a kamikaze drone, a “field and forget” surveillance system and an Israeli robot have in common? Buzz at the annual AUSA Army meeting in Washington, D.C.  Here are three new pieces of tech revealed at this year’s show.  A new “kamikaze” drone that blows itself up — and takes its target with it — was revealed at AUSA.  Made by Textron System, the Battlehawk is similar to Aerovironment’s widely publicized Switchblade. Both are drones that can be carried in a backpack and hand-launched. And they both represent a movement towards making drones more accessible at a squad level.  Rather than call in air support, a squad would have a drone literally in their hands to deploy against threats like a sniper or an ambush waiting around the corner. The Battlehawk is made of carbon-fiber wings – wings that can be curled up for deployment from a 22-inch tube launcher.

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After JPMorgan $13B Deal, Banks Seek Protections in Future Bailouts

As the U.S. government closes in on a $13 billion settlement with JPMorgan Chase & Co. over its mortgage practices, lawyers specializing in bank mergers are looking for ways to protect their clients from big losses in similar cases in the future.  A big chunk of the record settlement is attributed to bad mortgage loans at Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns – two banks that U.S. financial regulators encouraged JPMorgan to buy during the 2008 financial crisis.   That has triggered discussions among bank merger lawyers about how they can get indemnification clauses into future bailout deals, and obtain greater protection from losses from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which seizes and sells troubled banks.  When the FDIC coordinates the sale of such banks, it often agrees to limit the losses that the acquiring bank may face on troubled assets. It did this, for example, in 2008 to help Citigroup Inc. buy parts of Wachovia Corp., which was ultimately bought without government assistance by Wells Fargo & Co.

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Pentagon agency creating digital map of the world

Future military operations may use a constantly updated digital “image skin” for a comprehensive map of the world under development by the Pentagon’s National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).  This week the NGA sought information from potential contractors to help develop the “orthorectified image skin” that would provide the base layer for the world map. Such a map would give the military a clearer picture of any potential trouble spot where they would have to operate.  Orthoimagery, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, are “high resolution aerial images that combine the visual attributes of an aerial photograph with the spatial accuracy and reliability” of a traditional map.  “A key element necessary to support global readiness is the availability of a current and accurate worldwide image base to ensure a common operational picture for all users,” the NGA document says.

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Let’s play God: The scientific experiments that might save the world (or destroy it…)

Two years ago this month, in a disused Norfolk airfield, a small group of scientists were preparing to undertake one of the more controversial experiments in British scientific history. What little equipment it needed – a B&Q pressure washer, 1km of hydraulic hose and an 8m air balloon – had been bought or loaned. A truck was ready. Once in the air, the dirigible balloon would spray 120 litres of fine water droplets into the East Anglia sky, a miniaturised test for a much larger system that would eventually pump out chemical particles to reflect sunlight and, so the scientists calculated, cool the planet. It was to be a momentous day.  Geoengineering – as defined by the Royal Society in 2009 – is the large-scale, technological manipulation of the climate (some call it “planet hacking”). After decades of theorising, the Cambridge group was going to be the first in the West to take research out of doors. But shortly before lift-off, they aborted. There was, they feared, no way of knowing who could use their research, or in what way, and the Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering (Spice) team did not want to open a door that might be impossible to close.

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NATO OKs Small Defense Advisory Mission for Libya

(BRUSSELS) — NATO says it is setting up a small team of experts to advise Libya in building the country’s defense institutions.  Carmen Romero, a spokeswoman for the defense alliance, said ambassadors from NATO’s 28 member countries on Monday granted the request first made by Libyan authorities in May.  She says the team won’t have a permanent base in Libya but will operate from Brussels and comprise “no more than 10 people.”  Libya has been in turmoil since the end of a civil war that ousted and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, with the new security forces still struggling to assert their control over the vast, mostly barren North African country

Too Big To Fail Is Now Bigger Than Ever Before

The too big to fail banks are now much, much larger than they were the last time they caused so much trouble.  The six largest banks in the United States have gotten 37 percent larger over the past five years.  Meanwhile, 1,400 smaller banks have disappeared from the banking industry during that time.  What this means is that the health of JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley is more critical to the U.S. economy than ever before.  If they were “too big to fail” back in 2008, then now they must be “too colossal to collapse”.  Without these banks, we do not have an economy.  The six largest banks control 67 percent of all U.S. banking assets, and Bank of America accounted for about a third of all business loans by itself last year.

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