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New York Muslims protest police surveillance

RT | March 12, 2013

A new report by a coalition of Muslims has shed further light on the NYPD’s controversial surveillance program of the Muslim community, which they say generates widespread fear and has a “chilling effect” on their lives.

The New York Police Department has been found to spy on Muslims in mosques, restaurants, halal shops, cafes, hookah bars and other public places and has long outraged potential victims of the surveillance. Whether praying, conversing with friends, or walking down the street, the NYPD deploys cops that are always watching.

The surveillance “has stifled speech, communal life and religious practice and criminalized a broad segment of American Muslims,” Nermeen Arastu, fund attorney for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, told the Wall Street Journal.

The new report, compiled by the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition and its partners, specifically outlines the effect of the NYPD’s intimidation on New York City Muslims. As a result of sending spies throughout the city, some Muslims have stopped trusting anyone, fearful that something they say or do could land them in prison.

“Undercover Pakistani officers were sent into Pakistani communities and Arab-speaking officers were dispatched into the Egyptian community to ‘listen to neighborhood gossip’, and get an overall ‘feel for the community,’ ” the report says “They were instructed to visit schools and interact with business owners and patrons to ‘gauge sentiment.’”

By participating in school field trips and local cricket matches, undercover cops have crept into the personal lives of American Muslims, searching for any sign of illegal or terrorist intentions. The report, titled “Mapping Muslims”, claims that the far-reaching extent of the surveillance program has taken a toll on the Muslim community.

“[The NYPD] has repeatedly said that as long as you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear,” Diala Shamas, co-author of the report, told the Huffington Post. Instead, she said the study “shows that there are many disturbing impacts and consequences of the irresponsible, costly, harmful, completely ineffective surveillance program.”

Muslim college groups now forbid any discussion of politics, practicing Muslims have avoided mosques, and others have simply avoided making any sort of jokes that could be misinterpreted.

“People tell me ‘I’ll make mysalaah [prayer] at home.’ They mention the NYPD camera right outside the mosque as the reason,” Imam Mustapha, a Brooklyn-based religious leader, told authors of the report.

At some mosques, Muslims no longer trust religious leaders, fearing that they could be reporting to the NYPD.

“The relationship of trust and confidentiality between an imam and his congregation is no less sacred than that of pastors, rabbis and others, and those of whom they serve,” said Imam Al-Hajj Talib ‘Abdur-Rashid, Maklis Ash-Shura (Islamic Leadership Council) of Metropolitan New York. “The actions of the NYPD have compromised this sacred relationship… It not only weakens the capacity of some Muslim religious leaders to serve as advisors in sensitive matters, but it also compromises their effectiveness as partners in the struggle against extremism.”

New York City Muslims are afraid of growing beards, wearing traditional attire, participating in extracurricular activities, or talking to strangers.

The authors conclude the report with a plea to stop the pervasive program, claiming that the policing encourages deep-seated mistrust and distrust within the Muslim community.

“There’s a lot of collateral damage,” Park Slope Councilman Brad Lander told the Huffington Post.

The NYPD has so far spent more than $1 billion on the Intelligence Division, which conducts the surveillance program. But throughout six years of surveillance, the NYPD has never generated a lead, according to Assistant Chief Thomas Galati.

“I never made a lead from rhetoric that came from a Demographics report, and I’m here since 2006,” Galati said in a deposition last June. “I don’t recall other ones prior to my arrival.”

March 13, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Islamophobia | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Turkey economic champion of Iraq war

RT | March 13, 2013

The Americans won the war, Iran won peace, but Turkey won the Iraqi export market. Turkey’s exports to Iraq have increased by more than 25% a year, reaching $10.8 billion in 2012.

Turkey’s decision to block US military deployment from its territory has yielded economic success. Turkey is now Iraq’s second biggest supplier, when thirty years ago its goods were banned from Iraq, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Turkey has diverted its exports from a sluggish European market and Iraq is likely to replace Germany as its number one export market by the end of the year, Turkey’s Central Governor Erdem Basci told CNBC.

“Probably this year Iraq is going to replace Germany which has been our number one export destination,” Basci said.
“Iraq will probably become number one by the end of next year.”

In 2012 Turkish exports to Iraq rose to $10.83 billion from $8.3 billion a year earlier, while German exports fell slightly to $13.13 billion from $13.95 billion.

Iraq has replaced Italy as the second biggest importer of Turkish goods, according to Basci. Around 30 percent of the Turkey’s exports currently go to Iraq and that’s likely to rise.

“Europe has been our main trading partner. As of 2010 we had 60 percent of our exports heading to Europe but now there has been a big effort to diversify our markets,” Basci said.

Ozgur Altug, an economist at BGC Partners in Istanbul, forecasts a strong symbiotic relationship between the two nations.

As Iraq begins to accumulate wealth from its oil reserves (the fourth largest in the world, estimated at over 150 billion bbl), demand for Turkish goods will increase, by more than $2 billion a year, Altug predicts.

Iraq is also expected to look to Turkey to help redevelop infrastructure after the 10 year war.

Last year, Turkish contractors secured about $3.5 billion in construction projects, according to Altug.

Calik Energy, a Turkish company, is building two gas turbine plants in the Monsul and Karbala regions, with a $800 million price tag financed by the Iraqi government.

Markets exist beyond oil and construction, ranging from services to even diapers.

Adman Altunakaya and his family run a family-owned diaper conglomerate, which accounts for two thirds of the Iraqi diaper market. Sales to Iraq are 90 percent of the company’s revenue, and have risen 50 to 60 percent in the last two years, since the US troop withdrawal.

“Our business with Iraq is increasing constantly,” Altunakaya said. “But of course it is affected by political tension.”

A huge chunk of Turkey’s success is dependent on the Kurdish region, the unofficial nation state situated between Iraq, Iran, and Turkey. The Kurdish market drives the Turkish exports, and accounts for about 70% of exports. Almost 1,000 Turkish businesses export in the northern region, including banks and hotels.

March 13, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Despite Civilian-Targeting US Sanctions, Damascus University Excels

By Franklin Lamb | Al-Manar | March 11, 2013

Damascus – Students everywhere are special people and this observer has discovered that Syrian students are among the very best.

Meeting and interviewing students again this past week, before and following a frank and enlightening discussion with Prof. Dr. Mohammad Amer Al-Mardini, the indefatigable President of Damascus University, about the situation of the students and current instruction at the University, one cannot, even as a foreigner, fail to feel pride in Syrian students.

Good meeting places, among others on campus, include “outdoor cafes” — a ‘street student union’ of sorts — consisting of a few chairs and portable tables. They are scattered among the dozens of vendor stalls that line “DU Boulevard” outside the main DU campus in central Damascus. Here students can buy everything from school supplies to mobile phones to snacks. It’s a perfect place to meet and chat with students.

One learns from them about the many effects on the education system in Syria of the US-led sanctions. Some argue that the Obama administration actually fuels the current crisis with its sanctions and achieves the opposite result of what the White House and its allies claim they are seeking.
These freewheeling discussions leave a foreigner with a reminder why this student body ranks among the best in the World. How Damascus University has to date reacted to this crisis evidences the same status.

Currently there are more than 200,000 full-time and ‘open-learning’ students at Damascus University, the 6th largest in the World. The core institutes of the University were established in 1901; they were the medicine and law institutes that formed the basis of the Syrian University that was established in 1923. In 1958, it got its current name, Damascus University when Aleppo University was established.

All of the students are feeling the effects of the Obama Administration’s harsh civilian-targeting sanctions and many are increasingly in the cross-hairs of the “humanitarian sanctions which Washington and Brussels claim “exempt food, medicines and medical supplies” and therefore “should be considered humane.”

Among DU Faculties most severely affected by the US-led sanctions are the Science Departments and the Medical and Nursing schools according to administration and student sources. Chemicals used in various science classes, medicines and medical equipment cannot be found as before and if some are brought in from Europe or elsewhere, the University often has to pay four times the normal price.

Utah’s Brigham Young University gained the respect and appreciation of many in Syria for its shipments to DU’s nursing school of medicines and equipment and even “model doll babies” which in Syria use in baby care classes. All are now banned by the US sanctions which claim to exempt medical equipment and medicines.

Damascus University, with its 36 specialized faculties and five higher institutes is no banking-hours institution and its proven commitment is to give the highest possible quality education to as many students as possible. Syria’s largest university is now open for classes 365 days a year minus a few holidays and a few short breaks for her professors and overworked staff, partly due to the increased number of students arriving from across Syria. The DU administration and faculty work with faculties in war zones to guarantee students can continue their studies without missing key exams required for semester advancement. Still, about 20% of college level students are unable to attend due to transportation and displacement problems.

One direct and predictable severe impact of the US-led civilian-targeting sanctions in Syria is that they have essentially stranded approximately 700 Damascus University students in Europe and half a dozen in the US, forcing some to take leaves of absence and find jobs to survive. This is because, as is well known among the US Treasury Department “craftsmen” who devise the sanctions, these students are no longer able to receive funds for Damascus University to pay for their foreign tuition or living expenses because the banking system has been essentially shut down. More than 1500 Syrian students from other institution of higher learning are similarly stranded as a direct result of the US-led sanctions.

Never the less, Damascus University keeps its commitment to pay the students their tuition fees and their living cost as they are on full scholarships. Currently, parents must pick up the funds from the University accountant and find a way to transfer them. Should they decide to send it via Western Union, for example, a new “sanctions surcharge” of 70 euros for every 1,000 euros sent, is demanded by WU and other money transfer agencies, suggesting another form of war profiteering.

To make things even more difficult for the students, foreign universities which might consider lending their stranded Syrian students tuition money or might even consider aiding them with scholarships or a grant have been “chilled” and are backing-off because these institutions do not want to be accused of “sanction-busting” by the US Treasury hound dogs.
Few food or medicine suppliers — given the sanctions’ language, the meanings of which is uncertain even for their own lawyers, some of whom have declared it incomprehensible — want to risk the wrath of the US Treasury Department and be slapped with severe penalties including very expensive fines by dealing with anyone in Syria.

One of the US Treasury hound dogs is David Cohen, Under-Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. Late last month, Mr. Cohen made a trip to the region (including Israel) to brief allies and businesses as well as NGO’s “to be sure the sanctions were biting hard” to use a favorite phase of UN Ambassador Susan Rice. The Obama administration, reportedly frustrated by the fact that its multi-tiered sanctions have failed to topple the governments of Syria and Iran, has been attempting to find and plug loopholes in the sanctions and are intensifying warnings to the international community not to mess with the US Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (TFI) or the Office of Financial Assets Control (OFAC) by getting all wobbly-kneed and going soft on full sanction enforcement.

Meanwhile, Syria’s Department of Education is joining the struggle to shield Syria’s education institutions and is being joined by various student associations. To date, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education have not cut their substantial disbursements to schools and faculties. Tuition remains among the lowest in the world (almost free; 5 US $ a year with the current exchange rate) at Damascus University, which also provides housing for 15,000 students. The DU administration is currently under pressure to find more dormitory space for those needing housing.

Still, despite the conflict, even in Deraa near the Jordanian border where the current crisis started, DU’s campus continues to function.

Many DU students are also volunteering with assisting Syrian primary schools which urgently need their help. According to a December 2012 UNICEF education assessment of primary schools in Syria — at least 2,400 schools have been damaged or destroyed, including 772 in Idlib (50 per cent of the total), 300 in Aleppo and another 300 in Deraa. Over 1,500 schools are being used as shelters for displaced persons. The Damascus University community has also taken on the humanitarian challenge of assisting sister educational institutions that have been affected by the current crisis including campuses in Homs, Deir al Zur and Aleppo, among others.

This observer has met several Damascus University students among the 9,000 volunteers, including Palestinian refugees, who are donating their time working with the Syria Red Crescent Society (SARCS). Many DU students are also volunteering by assisting at primary schools.

The grim reality for Syrian families, hospitals, health care facilities and now university students and educational institutions across the country is that the claimed “humanitarian” exemptions for food, medicine and medical equipment is little more than News-Speak.

Rather than target the people who represent Syria’s future leaders, the White House would do better to cancel its sanctions and send Secretary Kerry to Damascus to meet face-to-face with the Syrian people and government and demonstrate a real American interest in stopping the bloodshed. Armored vehicles and assorted “non-lethal aid” to one side in this conflict will only prolong the killing, as any student here will attest.

Franklin Lamb is doing research in Syria and can be reached c/o fplamb@gmail.com

March 13, 2013 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Iran can’t covertly produce atomic bomb’ – US intelligence chief

RT | March 12, 2013

Iran cannot produce enough highly-enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon without being found out by the international community, the US National Intelligence Director told Congress. He also countered claims Tehran had decided to build an atomic bomb.

Developments in Iran’s nuclear capabilities intended to “enhance its security, prestige, and regional influence” would ultimately “give the Islamic Republic the ability to develop a nuclear weapon,” US National Intelligence Director James Clapper told a Senate panel during an annual report on global threats on Tuesday.

Despite these advances, “we assess Iran could not divert safeguarded material and produce a weapon-worth of WGU (weapons-grade uranium) before this activity is discovered,” he continued.

Clapper further said “we do not know if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.”

His assessment reiterated last year’s analysis from intelligence agencies stating “Iran’s nuclear decision-making is guided by a cost-benefit approach” which had subsequently precluded efforts to build a bomb.

“…We have not changed our assessment that Iran prefers to avoid direct confrontation with the United States because regime preservation is its top priority,” he continued.

Clapper’s statements come on the same day an Iranian news agency reported Tehran plans on telling the UN it has no plan of building an atomic bomb.

“Iran plans to declare in the UN that it will never go after nuclear bombs,” the semi-official Mehr news agency quotes Vice President Mohammed Reza Rahimi as saying.

Rahimi provided no further details on when such an announcement might be made.

The reports foreshadow President Barack Obama’s upcoming trip to Israel, where top officials have warned that the world has until the summer to stop Iran from acquiring the bomb.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly threatened to pre-emptively strike Iran if it crosses the red line where Israel believes Iran would be able to build a nuclear weapon.

“It’s still not crossed the red line I drew with the United Nations last September,” Netanyahu told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee earlier this month.

“But Iran is getting closer to that red line, and it is putting itself in a position to cross that line very quickly once it decides to do so.”

Netanyahu reiterated previous warnings that on-going efforts must be “coupled with a clear and credible military threat if diplomacy and sanctions fail.”

On Tuesday Israeli President Shimon Peres told the European Parliament that the Iranian regime was “the greatest danger to peace in the world.”

“Nobody threatens Iran,” the Jewish Chronicle cites him as saying. “Iran threatens others.”

Israel has long pushed the White House to use military force to halt Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program, demands which have mostly been rejected by the Obama administration.

The White House, while refusing to take the military option off of the table, has thus far relied on diplomacy and increasingly harsh sanctions to force Iran to fully comply with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

On Tuesday President Obama extended the “national emergency with respect to Iran” sanctions package against the Islamic Republic for an additional year.

In February, the United States introduced sanctions which “effectively bar Iran from repatriating earnings from its oil exports, depriving Tehran of much needed hard currency,” the IEA said in its monthly report on the world oil market.

The new sanctions came six months after the US said it would deny access to the US financial system to countries buying Iranian oil.

Iran has long maintained that its uranium enrichment program is solely for peaceful purposes.

March 13, 2013 Posted by | Militarism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Funding and Denouncing Israeli Occupation: Hypocritical EU Must Make a Stand

By Ramzy Baroud | Palestine Chronicle | March 12 2013

More bad news emerged from Israel in recent weeks. Indeed, good news is seldom associated with Israel and its military occupation and institutionalized discrimination and mistreatment of Palestinians.

But now even those international organizations that are often supportive of Israel’s militancy seem to be joining the consensus that Tel Aviv is on an irrevocably perilous course.

Few international law experts would defend Israel’s fervent settlement-building on occupied Palestinian land.

Yet the Western powers, led by the United States, have brought little pressure to bear on Israel to cease its illegal activities.

In fact, without US and European funding it would have been nearly impossible for Israel to build settlements and transfer over half a million Israelis over the years to live on stolen Palestinian land, in violation of numerous international laws including the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Worse still, trade with European and other countries sustained these illegal settlements, allowing them to flourish at the expense of Palestinians who have suffered massive ethnic cleansing campaigns since 1967.

But at last EU diplomats in east Jerusalem and the West Bank are speaking out in unequivocal terms.

In a report released at the end of last month, the diplomats declared that “settlement construction remains the biggest single threat to the two-state solution. It is systematic, deliberate and provocative.”

The report called on EU states “not to support … research, education and technological co-operation” with settlements and to “discourage” investing in Israeli companies that operate in the occupied territories.

Expectedly, the report is non-binding. And even if such recommendations are considered, Israel and its EU friends and lobbyists are likely to find loopholes that would deprive any EU action of substance and vigor.

Without civil society action focused on turning up the heat on European governments, especially die-hard supporters of Israel such as the British government, business with Israel is most likely to carry on as usual.

Not only is Israel flouting international law but the supposed guardians of international law are the very ones that are empowering Israel in carrying out its illegal acts, disempowering and bankrupting Palestinians.

Last January an Oxfam report said that the Palestinian economy, which is currently in utter disarray, could generate urgently needed income – $1.5 billion to be exact – if Israel eased its restrictions in the Jordan Valley alone.

But without suitable access to their own land and to water sources, Palestinians in the valley continue to struggle while the settlers are thriving.

Although the US government is well known to have done everything in its power to defend Israel at any cost and ensure Israel’s superiority and military edge over all of its neighbors, the EU has falsely acquired a more balanced reputation. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In a recent report the Palestinian rights group al-Haq emphasized that trading in produce grown in settlements had “directly contributed to the growth and viability of settlements by providing an essential source of revenue that allows them to thrive.”

The reported value of total EU trade with illegal Israeli settlements amounts to approximately $300 million a year. This may appear small compared with the $39bn of total trade between the EU and Israel reported in 2011, for example, but it does mean that “the EU has some room for leverage given it is Israel’s largest trade partner, and it receives some 20 per cent of total Israeli exports,” as pointed out by Dalia Hatuqa writing for al-Monitor.

The fact is that Europe is ultimately taking part in the subjugation of the Palestinians by funding Israel’s illegal occupation and its massively growing settler population. And no amount of diplomatic “recommendations” or newspeak can alter that fact.

But settlement growth cannot be considered in a vacuum. It makes no sense to talk about boycotting settlements while supporting the main organs that ordered or sanctioned the illegal settlements in the first place.

So differentiating between products made in Israel or those made in the settlements is absurd at best.

The settlers are not self-sustaining autonomous outposts. They are considered part and parcel of the so-called Israel proper.

In the eyes of the Israeli government there is little distinction between settlers from Ma’ale Adumim or residents of Tel Aviv.

Yigal Palmore of the Israeli Foreign Ministry responded to the EU report in withering terms.

“A diplomat’s mission is to build bridges and bring people together, not to foster confrontation. The EU consuls have clearly failed in their mission,” he said.

Nothing is random in Israeli planning. As is already the case in various parts of the occupied territories, Palestinians are becoming an unwanted presence on their own land.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s has decided to develop more settlements in an area known as E1, which is set to cut off east Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.

There is unlikely to be a turning back from the construction plans, which include the building of 3,000 settler homes in the land corridor near Jerusalem.

Israel is unrelenting and seems to have no regard for international law. It is emboldened in its actions by the weakness of its neighbors, the unhindered backing of its friends, and the gutlessness of its critics, who all too often are consumed in intellectual tussles over the boundaries of language and proper ways to frame the discourse.

None of this wrangling is of any concern to Israel, which is merely winning time to achieve its own harrowingly ugly version of apartheid.

For those who still feel uneasy with this provocative term, consider the latest Israeli transport ministry’s initiative. It has designated bus line No 210, which shuttles cheap Palestinian laborers to and from the West Bank, to be “Palestinian only.”

Of course this is not an isolated policy but a continuation of a dreadful track record.

Bad news from Israel is likely to continue.

Almost every day there is a new disturbing development in Israeli practices against Palestinians.

All too often this is merely met with feeble international criticism without any substantial action.

Civil society organizations and groups must tell their governments that enough is enough.

While Israel should be held responsible for its own behavior, the EU and other countries should not finance the occupation while decrying the settlements. This hypocrisy can no longer be tolerated.

Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is: My Father was A Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press).

March 13, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Daiichi: A Chronological Account of the Disaster

Hiroaki Koide, Master of Science in Nuclear Engineering, Assistant Professor at the Kyoto University Research Institute, Nuclear Waste Management & Safety Expert

Helen Caldicott Foundation
“Symposium”
The Medical and Ecological Consequences of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident
Co-Sponsored by Physicians for Social Responsibility
March 11th & 12th, 2013
New York City
http://www.nuclearfreeplanet.org/symp…

Videographed & Edited by Intertelemedia, Inc
Translated by Kazko Kawai, Voices for Lively Spring
Subtitled by East River Films Inc

March 13, 2013 Posted by | Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , | Leave a comment

Illegal Israeli bullet claims a Palestinian life

460_0___10000000_0_0_0_0_0_teety Mahmoud At-Teety – Facebook
Al-Akhbar | March 13, 2013

Israeli forces shot dead a young Palestinian protester Tuesday night using bullets prohibited by international law.

Mahmoud Adel Faris al-Teiti, 25, was hit in the head by expanding “dum dum” bullets during clashes at the al-Fawwar refugee camp near Hebron, according to local media.

“Dum dum” bullets, first made by British colonial forces in India’s Calcutta, expand on impact to limit penetration and produce a larger diameter wound. The use of expanding bullets is prohibited by the 1899 Hague Declaration and is listed as a war crime in the Statute of the International Criminal Court (Article 8(2)(b)(xix)).

Witnesses said Israeli soldiers raided Fuwar and opened fire after coming under a barrage of rocks from local Palestinians. Hospital officials said a 25-year-old man died after being shot in the head and two others were wounded by the Israelis.

Two other young men were shot and injured by live ammunition. Another six were hit by rubber-coated bullets.

Israeli forces say they only shoot live fire in ‘life-threatening situations’, but reports of their use in recent weeks have been abundant.

According to Palestinian officials, al-Teiti was the sixth Palestinian killed by Israeli fire in the Israeli-occupied West Bank since the beginning of this year. A seventh was killed on the Gaza border on January 11.

Palestinians have also taken to the streets to protest against Israel’s extrajudicial jailing of thousands of their countrymen. The resulting confrontations, often bloody, have drawn warnings on both sides that a full Palestinian revolt could be brewing.

(Al-Akhbar, Ma’an, Reuters)

March 13, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Venezuelan Opposition Channel Globovision to be Sold after Elections

By Tamara Pearson | Venezuelanalysis | March 12th 2013

Merida – Globovision, an opposition news television station, announced yesterday that it has accepted a buyout offer, to be carried out after the 14 April presidential elections.

Various Globovision spokespeople attributed the sale to supposed operational and profitability issues, on which they blamed the Venezuelan government.

According to Globovision’s majority owner, Guillermo Zuloaga, the group buying the channel is headed by Juan Domingo Cordero, who also runs an insurance company, Vitalicia. According to El Nacional, Cordero has also been on the executive boards of the stock exchange, another insurance company, and a small bank.

“We are economically unviable, because our revenues no longer cover our cash needs… we are politically unfeasible, because we are in a totally polarised country and against a powerful government that wants to see us fail,” Zuloaga said in a statement.

Further, the host of Globovision’s program ‘Alo Ciudadano’ – a program that aimed to counter Chavez’s Sunday show ‘Alo Presidente’, Leopoldo Castillo, discussed the sale yesterday. He claimed the reasons for it include requiring technology, being judicially unviable, the priority of “saving the workers” and “many difficult years, it has become more and more difficult to satisfy the needs … of the personnel of Globovision”.

So far, the English language private press has reported the news of the sale as an issue of “press freedom”, with Associated Press referring to the government’s so called “campaign to financially strangle the broadcaster through regulatory pressure… the announcement… is a crushing blow to press freedom”.

Jose Vivanco, director of Human Rights Watch, also said the news was part of a “disturbing trend… the government of Venezuela has created an environment in which journalists weigh the consequences of what they say for fear of suffering reprisals”. Human Rights Watch has consistently attacked the Bolivarian government, misrepresented its human rights situation, and declined to criticise the 2002 short lived coup against then president Hugo Chavez.

However Zuloaga’s own statement says, “Since we began [20 years ago] we have had problems with the government, which is natural for an information channel. With the last government of Rafael Caldera… they didn’t want to give us access to official sources”.

He then mentions the “attacks getting stronger” under the current government, and that last year, he decided to “do everything in our power…to make sure the opposition won the [presidential] elections in October…but the opposition lost”.

Private press are reporting that the buyer, Cordero, is “friendly” with some government officials, but so far has offered no concrete examples or proof of this, only citing anonymous “sources”.

According to Entorno Inteligente, Cordero has promised to improve the quality of news, and maintain the channel’s audience and workers. Zuloaga says in his statement that he has known Cordero “for years” and “he is a successful man in the financial world”.

Globovision’s public broadcast licence is up for renewal in 2 years. The Zuloaga family owns 80% of Globovision, but Zuloaga has been living overseas since 2010 when courts put out an arrest warrant for him for conspiracy and general usury over irregularities in his car dealership.

Journalists for the Truth respond

“The announced sale of Globovision is the strongest proof of the upcoming defeat of the candidate for the bourgeoisie [and the opposition], Henrique Capriles, in the 14 April [presidential] elections,” said Marco Hernandez, president of the Venezuelan NGO, Journalists for the Truth.

He asserted that the timing of the announcement was convenient, arguing that “its false that the channel is economically nonviable… it’s enough to look at their publicity income… with net earnings of BsF 11 million (US $1.75 million) … and Globovision’s workers have the highest salaries in the field and they have the best technology in Venezuela”.

“What’s happening is the owners of [Globovision] are only thinking about their own interests as capitalists… not in the journalists who they use like cannon fodder… they take for granted that Capriles will lose… and knowing that their licence doesn’t deserve renewing… they are selling their channel because it doesn’t have any value without the concession granted to them by the state,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez pointed out that Zuloaga is a “fugitive” and that in his statement he had admitted he was an “enemy of the government” and therefore his channel wasn’t “an independent news channel” as it claimed to be.

“The truth is that it is a propaganda trench for the Venezuelan and international oligarchy opposed to the changes promoted by Chavez, something that is provable by analysing their programming,” Hernandez said.

“Their programming is so extreme and manipulative of the truth that it has been the object of innumerable denunciations by Consumer Organisations (OUU), and the opening of eight administrative proceedings against it, and a sanction by [public communication body] Conatel,” Hernandez added.

Last June Globovision paid a fine of Bs 9.3 million (US $1.5 million), eight months after the fine was first emitted by Contatel. The station only paid the fine after the Supreme Court ordered an embargo on part of its assets, to force compliance.

Conatel issued the fine after determining that Globovision had broken articles 27 and 29 of the Law of Social Responsibility in Radio and Television during its coverage of the Rodeo prison hostage situation in June 2011. The station played interviews of distraught prison mothers 269 times over four days and added the sound of gunfire to the reports.

March 13, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In the End, Awful Journalism

By Chris Carlson | Venezuelanalysis | March 12th 2013

On the occasion of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s death last week, much of the international media responded in typical fashion, by painting the Chavez administration much as they painted it when Chavez was alive—as an autocratic regime led by a foolish tyrant who mismanaged the country and squandered its oil wealth.

They showed little mercy for the larger-than-life leader, so beloved by the majority in his country, and by millions around the world, giving the impression that Hugo Chavez got almost everything wrong, and did virtually nothing right.

Many of the criticisms have an element of truth to them, as many problems persist in Venezuela. And the press made sure to highlight these problems as evidence of Chavez’s failure, making it sound as if any sensible leader or government in Chavez’s position could have resolved them. But what showed through more than anything in these anti-Chavez tirades was a very revealing, almost embarrassing, misunderstanding of Venezuela’s principal economic and social issues.

“It’s a pity no one took 20 minutes to explain macroeconomics to him,” writes Rory Carroll in an op-ed in the New York Times that claims Chavez was “an awful manager” who destroyed Venezuela. Carroll slams Chavez for everything from failing to fix up the presidential palace, to spending too much on education and health, to not investing enough in infrastructure.

As The Guardian’s correspondent in Venezuela since 2006, Carroll apparently had seen enough to conclude that Chavez had “left Venezuela a ruin”. Yet one wonders if he ever managed to talk to the millions of Venezuelans—those who packed the streets to mourn the president’s death last week—who feel the country has been forever transformed.

For literally days on end, non-stop, all day and all night, people filed through the building where Chavez’s body was displayed to pay their final respects. A line stretched for miles outside, as people waited several days, eating and sleeping in the line, just to see their president one last time. This immense outpouring of emotion is very hard to square with the image Carroll gives us.

It might be an exaggeration to say Chavez transformed the country—though many things were deeply changed—but one doesn’t have to be an expert to know that Venezuela’s problems are more complicated than one man and his personality quirks.

The Economist tells us that Chavez was a “narcissist” who was “reckless” with his country’s economy and who “squandered an extraordinary opportunity”. We are told Chavez could have used the country’s oil wealth to “equip [Venezuela] with world-class infrastructure and to provide the best education and health services money can buy”. But due to mismanagement, “the economy became ever more dependent on oil”. Carroll echoes this, blaming Chavez for a “withering” private sector, and decaying infrastructure.

But apparently these self-proclaimed experts have never taken even the most cursory look at Venezuelan history. Had they done so, they would know that since Venezuela’s oil wealth was first discovered nearly a century ago, no government has ever been able to do what they claim should have been accomplished by the Chavez government.

Past governments have invested the country’s oil wealth in infrastructure, industry, and development projects—though never as much as Chavez—yet not one of them managed to break dependence on oil, diversify the economy, create a flourishing private sector, or build adequate health and education services. Was it because they were all reckless narcissists? Or do these problems perhaps have an explanation that goes deeper than the president’s personal style?

Of course, the truth is much more complex than what the Chavez haters would like to admit. It is true that Chavez did not provide solutions to many of Venezuela’s problems, and that some problems even got worse, but contrary to the media claims, he probably did better than any previous government in Venezuelan history.

One gets the opposite impression from much of the international media. Take a look at the following paragraph from last week’s article in the The Economist:

Behind the propaganda, the Bolivarian revolution was a corrupt, mismanaged affair. The economy became ever more dependent on oil and imports. State takeovers of farms cut agricultural output. Controls of prices and foreign exchange could not prevent persistent inflation and engendered shortages of staple goods. Infrastructure crumbled: most of the country has suffered frequent power cuts for years. Hospitals rotted: even many of the missions languished. Crime soared: Caracas is one of the world’s most violent capitals. Venezuela has become a conduit for the drug trade, with the involvement of segments of the security forces.

Amazingly, almost every sentence in the paragraph is false. Agricultural output did not drop, but rather grew by 2 to 3 percent per year, and grain production, which was the government’s major focus, grew by 140 percent. Inflation was considerably lower under Chavez than the previous two governments. Food shortages and power cuts were caused by the explosion in consumption among the poor, not a fall in production.

Both electricity production and food production have increased to all time highs. Thousands of new health clinics have been built around the country. However, it is true that many hospitals remain inadequate, that crime has soared, and that Venezuela is still a conduit for the drug trade, as it shares a large border with Colombia.

The claims of increased oil dependence are also not borne out by the facts. It is true that oil as a percentage of total exports has increased, but this is largely due to the fact that oil prices have increased nearly ten-fold since Chavez came to power, making it inevitable that their value in relation to total exports would also increase.

The critics say Chavez squandered the country’s oil wealth, which he could have used to transform it into a modern state. Indeed, the oil boom left Venezuela awash in oil money, a situation that Chavez’s policies had a hand in creating, as he united OPEC and increased royalties and taxes on the oil sector, giving the state vastly more funds to work with. If only this “awful manager” knew how to administer the funds, critics say, Venezuela could have been well on its way to becoming a modern, developed nation.

But this is shortsighted. Nations do not develop on the basis of resource wealth or commodity booms. A country cannot spend its way into the first world. Rather, economic development is about systematic growth in productivity, innovation, and technical change, activities that typically fall on the shoulders of the private sector. In the developed world, it is largely the private sector that invests surpluses into new technologies and improvements in the productive process, something that does not occur in Venezuela in a systematic fashion.

Of course, critics and opponents of Chavez argue that this is also the fault of the government, that it is Chavez’s fault for not creating the right environment for private investment, and that with the “right” policies the private sector would decide to invest in the country and would produce the kind of economic development that will benefit all sectors of society. Apparently no Venezuelan government in history has been able to figure out what those “right” policies are.

But this ideology defeats itself with its own logic, for private investors in market economies don’t invest in productivity because they feel like it, or because the conditions are just as they like. They do so because they have to in order to match the competition, to survive in the market, and to avoid going out of business. In modern market economies, producers invest in improving productivity because they are compelled to do so by the market, not because they decide they want to.

The fact that much of the private sector in Venezuela has seldom been compelled to do the same only demonstrates that this economy does not function like the model market economy that these theories are based on.

Huge swaths of the nation’s agricultural land have long been dominated by large estates—the infamous latifundios—that feel very little pressure to improve productivity, and graze cattle on the nation’s best land. The commercial and industrial sectors have long been dominated by highly diversified conglomerates—the so-called grupos económicos—that control key sectors of the economy, and are rarely threatened by competition.

In other words, it goes against these critics’ whole line of reasoning to point out that what really determines whether a country is rich or poor is not commodity booms or resource wealth, but rather has to do with productivity growth—something that has seldom been a priority for much of Venezuela’s private sector.

It’s a pity that no one took 20 minutes to explain this to Rory Carroll, The Economist and others who blame all of Venezuela’s problems on Hugo Chavez, for he did more than any president in history to try to change the unproductive logic of the private sector.

More than 3.6 million hectares of unproductive land were expropriated and redistributed to over 170,000 small producers—far more than the entire 40 years of pre-Chavez land reform. Major sectors of the economy were nationalized, and state companies expanded, in an attempt to improve production, raise investment, and remove bottlenecks. Massive investments were made in agriculture and industry—far more than under previous governments—in an attempt to spur their growth.

Many of these attempts were failures. The growing state sector often allowed for inefficiency and corruption. Chavez’s solutions to the country’s economic and social issues were not always the correct ones.

But the point is that Venezuela’s problems are quite complex and defy easy answers. Previous governments with previous oil booms also failed to resolve the country’s major problems, and did much less to help the poor, something that does not seem to interest those who want to blame everything on Chavez.

Instead of seeking to gain a better understanding of the country’s problems—to understand why they have been so intractable throughout the country’s history—the major media have preferred to vilify and condemn one man; a man who, right or wrong, spent his life trying to solve the problems that plague his country, and was undeniably dedicated to helping the poor; a man who constantly reminded his country’s poor majority that they mattered, that they were not inferior to anyone, and that they should feel proud of their national heritage. That doesn’t sound like a narcissist to me.

March 13, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Venezuela to probe Chavez cancer death conspiracy

RT | March 12, 2013

Venezuela is to formally investigate suspicions late President Hugo Chavez’s was afflicted with cancer after being poisoned by foreign enemies, the government said.

Acting President Nicolas Maduro vowed to set up an inquiry into the allegation, which was first leveled by Chavez after being diagnosed with cancer in 2011. Foreign scientists will also be invited to join a government commission to investigate the claim.

“We will seek the truth,” Reuters cites Maduro as telling regional TV network Telesur late on Monday. “We have the intuition that our commander, Chavez, was poisoned by dark forces that wanted him out of the way.”

Maduro said it was too early to determine the exact root of the cancer which was discovered in Chavez’s pelvic region in June 2011, but charged that the United States had laboratories which were experienced in manufacturing diseases.

“He had a cancer that broke all norms,” the agency cites Maduro as saying. “Everything seems to indicate that they affected his health using the most advanced techniques … He had that intuition from the beginning.”

Chavez reportedly underwent four surgeries in Cuba, before dying of respiratory failure after the cancer metastasized in in his lungs.

Maduro compared the conspiracy surrounding Chavez’s death to allegations that Israeli agents poisoned Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to death in 2004.

In December 2011, Chavez speculated that the United States could be infecting the regions leaders with cancer after Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

“I don’t want to make any reckless accusations,” Chavez said before asking:

“Would it be strange if [the United States] had developed a technology to induce cancer, and for no one to know it?” Maduro repeated the accusation last week on the eve of Chavez’s death.

“Behind all of [the plots] are the enemies of the fatherland,” he said on state television before announcing the expulsion of two US Air Force officials for spying on the military and plotting to destabilize the country.

Venezuela’s opposition has lambasted the claim as another Chavez-style conspiracy theory intended to distract people from real issues gripping the country in the run up to the snap presidential election called for April 14.

As Tuesday marked the last day of official mourning for Chavez, ceremonies are likely to continue, fueling claims by the opposition that the government is exploiting Chavez’s death to hold onto power.

While launching his candidacy on Monday, Maduro began his speech with a recording of Chavez singing the national anthem, sending many of his supporters into tears.

The pro-business state governor Henrique Capriles, who is running for the opposition’s Democratic Unity coalition, was quick to remind both his supporters and detractors that the charismatic socialist reformer Chavez was not his opponent.

“[Maduro] is not Chávez and you all know it,” The Christian Science Monitor quotes him as saying while announcing his candidacy on Sunday.

“President Chávez is no longer here.” Maduro, a former bus driver and Chavez’s handpicked successor, has attempted to deflect criticism that he lacks the former president’s rhetorical flair by painting himself as a working class hero.

“I’m a man of the street. … I’m not Chávez,” he said Sunday.

“I’m interim president, commander of the armed forces and presidential candidate because this is what Chávez decided and I’m following his orders.” Polls taken before Chavez’s death gave Maduro a 10 point lead over Capriles, who lost to Chavez in last October’s presidential poll.

March 13, 2013 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment