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UN rights expert says Israel’s ‘self-defense’ claim in Gaza ‘untenable’, urges accountability

MEMO | September 30, 2014

A top UN rights expert has expressed alarm at the impact of Israel’s attack on Gaza for civilians, concluding that “Israel’s claim of self-defense against an occupied population living under a blockade considered to be illegal under international law is untenable.”

Makarim Wibisono, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, spoke Monday at the end of his first mission to the region.

In a press release, Wibisono stated that the Israeli military killed almost 1,500 civilians, including more than 500 children, with “a staggering 11,231 Palestinian civilians, including 3,436 children” injured and many “now struggling with life-long disabilities”.

Tens of thousands of children live with the trauma of having witnessed the horrific killings of family members, friends, and neighbours before their own eyes.

Wibisono, echoing similar and even stronger conclusions by the likes of Amnesty International and the International Committee of the Red Cross, said that “this raises serious questions about possible violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law.”

Wibisono related three demands from Palestinians: “the need for accountability, an end to the blockade, and an end to the occupation”. Affirming this call, the UN official said that “those responsible for violations of international law must be brought to justice in order to avoid yet another round of deadly violence in the near future”.

The Special Rapporteur had a special focus on children in Gaza, noting that “there wasn’t a single child…who has not been adversely affected”. Wibisono pointed to an estimated 7,000 unexploded ordinances “littered across” the territory, and described how over “50 days of relentless bombing and shelling”, some 228 schools were damaged, including 26 destroyed or damaged beyond repair.

According to Wibisono, around 60,000 Palestinians remain in 19 shelters in the Gaza Strip, while medical professionals report a “critical shortage” of medicines and equipment. “Israel must immediately lift the seven year land, sea and air blockade of Gaza”, Wibisono urged, “and urgently allow needed materials for reconstruction and recovery.”

The Special Rapporteur also spoke to the “excessive use of force” used by Israeli forces in the Occupied West Bank over the summer, “noting that during the period from 12 June to 31 August 2014, a total of 27 Palestinians were killed, of whom five were children, with the youngest victim only 11 years-old.” Wibisono stressed that “the use of live ammunition against Palestinians even if they were throwing stones, is unjustifiable.”

The Special Rapporteur will report fully on his findings and recommendations to the 28th session of the Human Rights Council in March 2015.

September 30, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

UK Home Office issues threat against the functioning of democracy

RT |September 30, 2014

Powers banning extremists from appearing on TV and which allow police to vet “harmful” individuals’ social media activity would be enforced if the Conservatives return to power next year, Home Secretary Theresa May is set to announce.

The party manifesto will also pledge to introduce time-limited Extremist Disruption Orders to curb individuals’ right to speak at public events and control their social media usage. The maximum sentence could be up to 10 years in prison for breaking a banning order.

Announcing the plans at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham on Tuesday, May will also promise greater powers for British police to access internet data.

Police and intelligence services would accrue greater access to details of when and where phone calls and emails are sent, but not their content.

Targeted individuals could be banned from taking part in public protests, certain public spaces, from associating with named people and from using broadcast media if deemed a threat to “the functioning of democracy.”

The Home Office counter-extremism strategy would encompass “the full spectrum of extremism” extending beyond radical Islamism to include far-right and fascist organizations.

Orders would target those who undertake activities “for the purpose of overthrowing democracy,” a broad definition that could encompass political activists of many different stripes.

Critics are expected to accuse the government’s gag order of dramatically widening state censorship against people who have never been convicted of a criminal offence.

In their final party conference ahead of the May 7 general election, the Conservatives aim to appear the toughest party on the threat of terrorism.

Prime Minister David Cameron told BBC Breakfast on Tuesday morning that new powers would go beyond mere advocates of violence, instead targeting those who propagate dangerous views and radicalize others.

Currently, organizations can only be banned if there is evidence of links to terrorism.

“The problem that we have had is this distinction of saying we will only go after you if you are an extremist that directly supports violence,” said Cameron. … Full article

September 30, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Moscow rejects Kiev’s ‘virtual’ gas price, seeks $3.9bn to resume supplies

RT | September 30, 2014

Russia is ready to resume gas deliveries to Ukraine only after it pays $2 billion of its debt and makes a $1.9 billion advance payment for future supplies, Russian Minister of Energy Aleksandr Novak said.

“There will be no new supplies if part of the debt is not paid. Otherwise, it turns out to be a game with only one goal, where we deliver the gas and the debt payment is postponed,” he argued.

Novak said that Ukraine is prepared to pay $3.1 billion of its Russian gas debt.

“They calculated the cost at their own virtual price at $268.5 [per thousand cubic meters of gas],” the Minister said.

However Russia is happy to sell its gas at $385 which amounts to $1.9 billion for the 5 billion cubic meters Ukraine wants to purchase. Together with the debt payment it amounts to $3.9 billion.

Prepayment will likely be made every month, according to the needs of Ukraine. The amount of $3.1 billion has to be paid in two tranches: $2 billion before supplies are resumed, and the remainder – by the end of the year, Novak said.

Russia is ready to fulfill the agreements reached on Friday in Berlin and is waiting for a Ukrainian response, Novak said answering a question concerning the possibility of sealing the deal this week.

All the agreements of the so-called “winter plan” worked out on September 26 were verbal, and the gas price remains an unresolved issue.

The money for this plan has already been provided to Ukraine by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Novak said.

September 30, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 2 Comments

Ukraine’s People’s Republics Rule Out Political Union With Kiev: Reports

RIA Novosti –  September 30, 2014

Ukraine’s southeastern regions could cooperate with Kiev in the spheres of security and economy, but a political union is out of the question, Andrei Purgin, Deputy Prime Minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) said in an interview with Russian Channel One on Tuesday.

“Federalism could not be discussed…Economic relations are possible, partly security… But [the republics] do not see a political union,” Purgin said, adding that this position is shared by an overwhelming majority of people in Ukraine’s southeastern regions.

After local residents voted for the independence of the people’s republics at the referendums held in May and lost thousands of lives in the armed conflict with Ukrainian forces, they cannot imagine a life under the power of the Kiev authorities, Purgin said.

A violent internal conflict erupted in Ukraine in mid-April, when Kiev launched a military operation against independence supporters in the southeastern regions of the country, who refused to recognize the new Ukrainian government which came to power as a result of the February coup.

The status of Ukraine’s southeastern regions remains a matter of debate. Kiev says it is ready to offer special status only to areas controlled by independence supporters, while the authorities of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics (DPR and LPR) claim they want full independence and will not agree to any status that regards them as a part of Ukraine.

September 30, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , | Leave a comment

Here’s Why Moldova Could be the Next Ukraine

By Andrew Korybko | Russia Insider | September 29, 2014

Lost among the talk of Ukraine’s Civil War and the ISIL threat is the coming Russia vs. West clash in Moldova.

The country is sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine, and the region of Transnistria has been de-facto independent for about two decades already.

As Moldova leaps towards the EU (it signed the Association Agreement at the end of June), it is also running towards NATO, and the US has pondered whether or not to grant it major non-NATO ally status via the tentative ‘Russian Aggression Prevention Act of 2014’ floating around Congress.

The problem is that Transnistria does not want to go along with Moldova’s vision of the future.

Instead, it has expressed its desire to politically and economically integrate with Russia, and over 1000 Russian peacekeepers are currently stationed there.

Its Russian-speaking and Russian-friendly population fears cultural and ethnic cleansing if Moldova moves closer to the West, since nationalists have been agitating for supposed ‘reunification’ with cultural cousin Romania.

After observing events in the run-up to and during Ukraine’s Civil War, Transnistria’s population surely has reason to worry about its fate. Unlike the people of Donbass, however, they will have no friendly, neighborly state to seek refuge in.

Worse still, tensions are already beginning to heat up. The Russian Foreign Ministry has accused Moldova and Ukraine of organizing a de-facto blockade over Transnistria, thereby placing its citizens in an uncomfortable economic position.

Also, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin’s plane was forced to turn around in May after visiting the region when Ukraine denied it air transit rights, in a previously unheard of application of diplomatic aggression that would be unthinkable if Rogozin was American.

As it stands, Transnistria is now surrounded by NATO-member Romania and vehemently pro-NATO Moldova and Ukraine, and each of these neighbors is conspiring against it to their own (and Washington’s) advantage.

Placed under such circumstances, the future looks dim for Transnistria, but Russian peacekeepers (and Moscow’s track record in protecting them) present a tangible guarantee for its security.

September 30, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

US Judge Claims Argentina ‘in Contempt’ of Court

teleSUR | September 30, 2014

U.S. Judge Thomas Griesa, who has repeatedly sided with vulture funds, has declared Argentina in contempt of court for its attempts to pay back over US$200 million in interest to creditors.

The Argentinian debt case reached a new landmark on Monday, as U.S. Judge Thomas Griesa ruled Argentina “in contempt” of court for attempting to pay back the debt it owes to bondholders.

Argentina defaulted in 2001 but reached debt exchanges with nearly all the creditors in 2005 and 2010, with a tiny minority refusing the deal.

Griesa justified his latest decision by saying the country is taking “illegal” steps to avoid his orders. Griesa had previously ruled that hold out creditors, known as vulture funds, had to be paid before other creditors could be settled with.

“These proposed steps are illegal and cannot be carried out,” Griesa said, during a court hearing in lower Manhattan, referring to the steps that Argentina has taken to pay back bondholders.

The judge also rejected any recognition of the newly approved law on Sovereign Debt in Argentina, passed by both its Congress and Senate.

In a further extraordinary rejection of Argentine sovereignty, Griesa warned that he will impose unspecified penalties on Argentina.

Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman said in a statement late on Monday that the judge’s decision was a “violation of international law” and would have no impact other than to embolden the vulture funds against Argentina.

“The Argentine government reaffirms its decision to continue defending national sovereignty and asking the U.S. government to accept the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice to resolve this controversy between both countries,” he said.

September 30, 2014 Posted by | Economics | , | Leave a comment

Raising minimum wage reduces poverty while increasing GDP in Brazil

Report Examines Economy and Social Indicators During the Past Decade in Brazil

CEPR | September 29, 2014

The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) released a research paper today that looks at social and economic indicators, as well as policy changes that have occurred since 2003 in Brazil.

“The lives of tens of millions of Brazilians have been transformed by the economic and social policy changes of the past decade,” said CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot, lead author of the paper. “A sharp increase in economic growth, combined with increased social spending, large increases in the real minimum wage, and increased bargaining power for labor allowed for greatly reduced poverty and unemployment, as well as declining inequality.”

“These changes appear to be durable, having mostly withstood the world recession and the slowdown in worldwide economic and trade growth of the past few years.”

Among the paper’s findings:

  • Since the Workers’ Party (PT) won the presidency with Lula da Silva taking office in 2003, poverty has been reduced by over 55 percent, from 35.8 percent of the population to 15.9 percent in 2012. Extreme poverty has been reduced by 65 percent, from 15.2 percent to 5.3 percent over the same time period. Over the last decade, 31.5 million Brazilians were lifted out of poverty and, of that number, over 16 million out of extreme poverty.
  • GDP per person grew at a rate of 2.5 percent annually from 2003-2014, more than three times faster than the 0.8 percent annual growth of the prior government (1995-2002). This was in spite of the 2008-09 world financial crisis and recession, which pushed Brazil into recession in 2009; and also including the slowdown of the past few years.
  • While inequality remains high, there were large changes in how the gains from economic growth were distributed as compared with the prior decade. For example, the top 10 percent of households received more than half of all income gains from 1993-2002, but this fell to about one-third for 2003-2012.
  • Social spending has consistently increased since 2003, rising from 13 percent of GDP to over 16 percent in 2011, the last year for which data is available. Education spending has increased from 4.6 percent of GDP in 2003 to 6.1 percent of GDP in 2011.
  • Unemployment has decreased from 13.0 percent in 2003 to an average of 4.9 percent in the first quarter of 2014, a historic low.

The paper finds that these results were achieved due to policy choices, including often counter-cyclical fiscal and monetary policy, a reactivated industrial policy, lowered domestic interest rates and a break with IMF conditionalities following Brazil’s paying off its IMF debt early, in 2005. Economic stimulus helped Brazil rebound strongly from the 2008-2009 global recession. The government has raised the real (inflation-adjusted) minimum wage by 84 percent; this boosted pensions and public sector wages that are tied to it, as well as other wages and salaries.

Programs such as Bolsa Familia (BF) helped bring down poverty; since 2003, expenditures on the program in real (inflation-adjusted) Reais increased from 4.8 billion to 20.7 billion (0.2 percent of GDP to 0.5 percent of GDP). From 2003 to 2012 the number of individuals covered by Bolsa Familia increased from 16.2 million to 57.8 million. As a percent of the population, coverage increased from below 9 percent in 2003 to nearly 29 percent in 2012.

The PT government has aided the country’s industrial sector in part through the national development bank BNDES. Disbursements from BNDES have increased from 2.2 percent of GDP in 2005 to nearly 4 percent in 2013, with priority sectors for Brazil’s industrial policy receiving about 80 percent of BNDES disbursements between 2006 and 2012.

In the last few years the economy has slowed, although unemployment has continued to decline, and average wages have risen. The paper faults overly-tight and sometimes pro-cyclical macroeconomic policies, including monetary and fiscal policy, since 2011, for the economic slowdown; as well as the slowdown in world economic and trade growth.

September 30, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Video | | Leave a comment

Record global debt risks new crisis – Geneva report

RT | September 30, 2014

A record level of $158.8 trillion in global debt, together with low economic growth is creating a serious threat of a new financial crisis, says the sixteenth annual Geneva Report.

Total world debt, excluding the financial sector, has risen from 180 percent of global output in 2008 to 212 percent last year, according to the report written by a panel of senior economists including three former senior central bankers.

“Contrary to widely held beliefs, the world has not yet begun to deliver, and the global debt to GDP ratio is still growing, breaking new highs,” the report said.

The World Bank data showed that in 2013 global GDP was $74.909 trillion.

source: Geneva Reports on the World Economy

source: Geneva Reports on the World Economy

At a world level, there was acceleration in real growth from the mid-1990s until the mid-2000s, largely driven by the impressive performance of emerging markets over this period.

However, output growth in advanced economies has been declining for decades, which accelerated after the crisis. The developed economies enjoyed only a temporary improvement in real output growth in the late 1990s which had already started gradually eroding by the mid-2000s.

A “poisonous combination of high and rising global debt and slowing gross domestic product, driven by both slowing real growth and falling inflation,” may cause a crisis, warns the report.

Despite the modest decrease in household debt in the UK and the rest of Europe, the credit binge in Asia has offset the improvements, pushing the global private and public debt to a new high in 2013.

Until 2008, the leveraging up was being led by developed markets, but since then emerging economies led by China have been the driving force in the process, thus becoming the most vulnerable to the next crisis.

“Although the level of leverage is higher in developed markets, the speed of the recent leverage process in emerging economies, and especially in Asia, is indeed an increasing concern,” says the report.

September 30, 2014 Posted by | Economics | , , , | Leave a comment

Massive new debt hides years of negative GDP growth in EU and USA

By Jon Hellevig | Oriental Review | September 29, 2014

Finland – In a groundbreaking study Awara Group reveals that the real GDP growth of Western countries has been in negative territory for years. Only by massively loading up debt have they been able to hide the true picture and delay the onset of an inevitable collapse of their respective economies. The study shows that the real GDP of those countries hides hefty losses after netting the debt figures, which gives the Real-GDP-net-of-debt.

The moral of the study is that GDP growth figures as such reveal very little about the underlying dynamics of an economy if one does not simultaneously attempt to analyze what part of the growth is credited to simply artificially fueling the economy with new loans.

The study has found that the Western countries have lost the capacity to grow their economies. All they have left is a capacity to pile up debts. By massively accumulating new debt, they are able to keep up a semblance of at least sluggish growth, or of hovering around the zero growth mark.

If this massive debt would go towards investments, then there would be nothing wrong with it. But, it is not. The debt is going towards financing the losses in the national economies and essentially it all is wasted on consumption that the countries in reality cannot afford. The Western countries act like a 19th century heir to aristocratic wealth, borrowing from year to year to keep up the former lifestyle, while the estate is relentlessly dwindling. Sooner or later the prodigal heir would be forced to face reality and sell the remaining property to stave off the creditors, downgrade his dwellings, and rein in spending. Inevitably, the European countries and the USA will have to curb their excessive consumption, too, but for the time being they are putting off the final reckoning with new debt rather the way a drunkard reaches for the morning after drink to put off sobering up. In the case of the EU and the USA, we are speaking about a debt binge that has been going on for a decade.

While the situation has been generally bad for the last decade or so, it took a dramatic turn for the worse, or should we say for the catastrophic, following the onset of the global financial crisis in 2008. The shocking figures depicting the virtual crippling of the Western economies from 2009 to 2013 are illustrated in Chart 1. It depicts the development of real-GDP-growth per country in years 2005 to 2013. The chart shows that during this period Russia has been able to deliver real non-debt fueled GDP growth, whereas the Western countries are running huge deficits. The accumulated growth of the Russian economy from 2005 to 2013 was 147% while the Western countries accumulated losses from 16.5% (Germany) to 58% (USA). In the case of Russia, the real-GDP-net-of-debt figure is also corrected to adjust for the calculation error caused by an erroneous GDP deflator that Russian Statistics Agency (Rosstat) has used. We have discussed the persistent problem of Russia’s GDP growth having been underestimated due to the use of a wrong GDP deflator in the study Awara Group Research on the Effects of Putin’s Tax Reforms 2000-2012 on State Tax Revenue and GDP

Chart1

Chart 2 shows the real GDP growth net-of-debt after deducting the growth of public debt from the GDP figure. Net of debt we see the scale of the Western economies, for example the Spanish economy, which amounts to the staggering figure of minus 56.3%. This while the conventional official method of crediting GDP growth with growth of debt would give only minus 6.7%.

Chart2

The analysis shows that by these measures Russian economic growth, unlike that of the Western countries, has been comparatively healthy and not debt-driven. Russia has in fact a resoundingly positive ratio by these measures, where GDP growth has exceeded growth of debt by a staggering 14 times (1400%). The figure is astonishing when compared with the Western countries that have been flooded with new debt.

Chart3

Chart 3 shows how much the accumulation of debt in the Western countries exceeds the official GDP growth. The USA is leading the pack with an increase in the debt load in years 2004 to 2013 of USD 9.8 trillion (in the chart in euros, EUR 7 trillion). In those years, the growth of the USA public debt exceeded the GDP growth 9 times (900%), which is illustrated by Chart 4, comparing the proportion of growth of debt to that of growth of GDP.

The comparison of growth of debt to growth of GDP reveals the UK, as the country that has amassed the most amount of new debt relative to GDP growth, having a new-debt-to-GDP-growth ratio of 9 to 1; in other words UK has taken on 900% new debt relative to the GDP growth. But the picture is grim for all the Western countries surveyed, less so for Germany, while Russia’s debt increase amounts to only a fraction of the GDP growth.

Chart4

The analysis shows that by these measures Russian economic growth, unlike that of the Western countries, has been comparatively healthy and not debt-driven. Russia has in fact a resoundingly positive ratio by these measures, where GDP growth has exceeded growth of debt by a staggering 14 times (1400%). The figure is astonishing when compared with the Western countries that have been flooded with new debt.

The above figures are adjusted taking into account public debt (general government debt), but the situation is even worse when we consider the effect of private debt on the GDP. New debt of corporations and households have at least doubled private debt of most of the Western countries since year 1996 (Chart 5).

Chart5

Reviewing these figures, it becomes evident that in reality Western economies have not grown in the past decade, rather the countries have massively inflated their debt load. With these levels of debt reached this cannot continue for long. There is a real risk that the bluff will be called sooner rather than later dropping the Western economies to GDP levels that they can carry without debt leverage. But in that situation they will not be able to serve the accumulated debts leading to catastrophe scenarios.

We have not included Japan and China in the analysis due to the difficulties attributed to finding consistent data for all the input variables. For those countries we have come across problems of fractured data that do not capture all the relevant years; inconsistent data across the samples we looked at; and uncertainties about conversion of the input data into euros. (We are sure that major research houses could overcome such problems, having greater and more sophisticated resources than ours). This exclusion of Japan and China is regrettable as Japan is the country worst affected by the problem of debt-fueled GDP growth, having a public debt to GDP ratio of well above 200%, and would therefore have been very instructive for our purposes.

Japan has been essentially living on debt since the early 1990’s. However, some of the more irrational Western analysts want to take Japan as a prime example to follow, arguing that since Japan has been able to pile up debt for some 25 years now, all the Western countries would be able to do it as well for the foreseeable future. In this they fail to grasp that Japan earlier had the luxury of being the sole country living on such exorbitant levels of debt. Japan has enjoyed great support from the Western countries to be able to continue that practice, not least for political reasons. Another important consideration against the idea that Western countries could continue to accumulate debt is that they have, since the early 1990’s, rapidly lost their economic hegemony in terms of share of world trade and global GDP. I have written about this in a recent article entitled Why the West is Destined to Decline.

The West is fast shrinking in economic significance relative to the rest of the world. This is demonstrated by comparing the GDP of the Western powers as represented by the G7 countries (USA, Japan, Germany, France, UK, Italy and Canada) with the GDP of emerging powers. As recently as 1990, the combined GDP of the G7 was overwhelming in relation to that of today’s 7 emerging powers: China, India, Russia, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico and South Korea (not necessarily constituting one political block). In 1990, the G7 countries had a combined GDP of USD 14.4 trillion and the emerging 7 had a GDP of USD 2.3, but by 2013 the tables had been turned, as the G7 had USD 32 trillion and the emerging 7 had USD 35 trillion. (Chart 6).

Chart6

With the challenge of the ever increasing share of world economy belonging to the emerging countries, it becomes clear that the Western countries will not be able to profit sufficiently from world trade to service their debt loads.

For the time being the Western countries benefit from the privilege of having currencies that the rest of the world still largely trusts as reserve currencies. In essence, the USD and the euro enjoy a kind of monopoly status. This is what allows Western countries to gain access to cheap debt and fuel their economies with central bank financing (quantitative easing or “printing of money”). But the risk is that, with the deteriorating debt situation and diminishing share of the global economy, they will forfeit this privilege, perhaps even in the near future. What would follow from this is sharply more expensive financing and inflation, with hyperinflation as the eventual outcome. In this scenario – which I consider inevitable over the next 5 to 10 years – the economies of Western countries would essentially collapse.

The problem is that there is no way of averting this scenario, because the Western powers have lost their competitive advantages as economic powers. Eventually, their economies must shrink to match their resource and population bases. (I have written about this in the article referred to above). But it seems that the ruling Western elites have no intention of facing up to these realities. They will try to keep up a semblance of prosperity with ever new debt, as long as they can. The political parties of the West have been essentially converted into voting machines with one singular concern – that of winning the next elections. To do that they will continue to engage in what amounts to bribing of the electorate – creating new debt that fuels the national economy.

But there is no way to turn back this historical tide. Just as the aristocrat of the old regime eventually squandered his legacy, so will the Western powers. This inevitability of the process is what makes it really scary, because I am afraid that the Western elite might be tempted to bail itself out from this doomsday scenario with a war of epic proportions. We are now truly approaching the Armageddon between the West, with its desperate economic circumstances, and the emerging world powers.

Jon Hellevig is a business consultant and economic and political observer. He is the co-editor and co-author of Putin’s New Russia and several books on philosophy and political and social sciences.

September 30, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Economics | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment