* CHICAGO: WHY WE’LL MARCH
By Andy Thayer, StopNATO
A serious attack on the civil rights of every person in Chicago is under way and should disgust every thinking Chicagoan for its brazenness.
The run-up to the May 20-21 NATO summit has seen an effort by some to spread unnecessary fear of violence. The intention of this fear-mongering is to scare people from exercising the right to protest, a fundamental right enshrined in the First Amendment.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart’s proposal to reopen the long-shuttered Joliet prison for protest arrestees is simply a boneheaded idea. (Joliet, a hellhole when it was closed two decades after the making of “The Blues Brothers” movie, is undoubtedly much worse now for having been closed for a decade.)
Last week’s announcement of a “red zone” of troops in battle gear, to be deployed by the federal government in the South Loop, falls into the same category. So does the Red Cross sending out a mass email about putting Milwaukee on alert for the possible evacuation of Chicago, as reported by CBS News. […]
* SECRET SERVICE DETAILS NATO SUMMIT RESTRICTIONS
By Don Babwin, AP
Roadways, parking lots and some of Chicago’s top tourist attractions will close when world leaders come to the city later this month for the NATO Summit.
The U.S. Secret Service on Friday released what it calls its Security Restrictions and Transportation Plan for the May 20-21 summit, outlining a host of regulations for an area that stretches from O’Hare International Airport to downtown.
The plan calls for intermittent road closures on the Kennedy Expressway, the main thoroughfare that connects the airport to downtown, between May 19 and May 21 to accommodate the motorcades of world leaders attending the summit. […]
* NOAM CHOMSKY ON AMERICA’S ECONOMIC SUICIDE
By Laura Flanders and Noam Chomsky, AlterNet
Noam Chomsky has not just been watching the Occupy movement. A veteran of the civil rights, anti-war, and anti-intervention movements of the 1960s through the 1980s, he’s given lectures at Occupy Boston and talked with occupiers across the US. His new book, Occupy, published in the Occupied Media Pamphlet Series by Zuccotti Park Press brings together several of those lectures, a speech on “occupying foreign policy” and a brief tribute to his friend and co-agitator Howard Zinn.
From his speeches, and in this conversation, it’s clear that the emeritus MIT professor and author is as impressed by the spontaneous, cooperative communities some Occupy encampments created, as he is by the movement’s political impact.
We’re a nation whose leaders are pursuing policies that amount to economic “suicide” Chomsky says. But there are glimmers of possibility – in worker co-operatives, and other spaces where people get a taste of a different way of living.
We talked in his office, for Free Speech TV on April 24. […]
* THE AMERICAN CHARACTER
Fareed Zakaria says current policies make Americans “look like scared, fearful, losers”; is he right?
By Glenn Greenwald, Salon
Fareed Zakaria, normally a reliable and pleasant purveyor of conventional “centrist” wisdom, has a genuinely good and surprisingly confrontational CNN column today, in which he disputes the widespread belief that America is ending its War on Terror and explains what this reflects about the American character:
While we will leave the battlefields of the greater Middle East, we are firmly committed to the war on terror at home. What do I mean by that? Well, look at the expansion of federal bureaucracies to tackle this war.
Since September 11, 2001, the U.S. government has created or reconfigured at least 263 organizations to tackle some aspect of the war on terror. Thirty-three new building complexes have been built for the intelligence bureaucracies alone, occupying 17 million square feet – the equivalent of 22 U.S. Capitols or three Pentagons. The largest bureaucracy after the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs is now the Department of Homeland Security, which has a workforce of 230,000 people.
The rise of this national security state has entailed a vast expansion in the government’s powers that now touch every aspect of American life, even when seemingly unrelated to terrorism. Some 30,000 people, for example, are now employed exclusively to listen in on phone conversations and other communications within the United States.
In the past, the U.S. government has built up for wars, assumed emergency authority and sometimes abused that power, yet always demobilized after the war. But this is, of course, a war without end. . . . We don’t look like people who have won a war. We look like scared, fearful, losers. […]
* ICELAND FORGIVES MORTGAGE DEBT TO SAVE ITS ECONOMY
By J.D. Hayes, Natural News
It’s probably not a concept that most U.S. banks and lawmakers want to think about, but the fact is, Iceland’s economy has grown by leaps and bounds since the government there implemented widespread debt forgiveness for many of its citizens.
The initiative came about http://www.bloomberg.com ” target=”_blank”>following protests by Icelanders in 2008-2009 who were angry at the country’s leaders and bankers for its fiscal and economic collapse. At one point, protestors gathered around the Parliament building and pelted it with rocks.
In the ensuing months, Iceland banks have forgiven loans equaling 13 percent of the country’s annual gross domestic product, which has eased the debt burden for more than 25 percent of Iceland’s population, according to a February report published by the Icelandic Financial Services Association.
“You could safely say that Iceland holds the world record in household debt relief,” Lars Christensen, chief emerging markets economist at Danske Bank A/S in Copenhagen, told Bloomberg News. “Iceland followed the textbook example of what is required in a crisis. Any economist would agree with that.”
By any definition, the initiative has been a success. […]
* THOSE REVOLTING EUROPEANS
By Paul Krugman, NYTimes
Both countries held elections Sunday that were in effect referendums on the current European economic strategy, and in both countries voters turned two thumbs down. It’s far from clear how soon the votes will lead to changes in actual policy, but time is clearly running out for the strategy of recovery through austerity — and that’s a good thing.
Needless to say, that’s not what you heard from the usual suspects in the run-up to the elections. It was actually kind of funny to see the apostles of orthodoxy trying to portray the cautious, mild-mannered François Hollande as a figure of menace. He is “rather dangerous,” declared The Economist, which observed that he “genuinely believes in the need to create a fairer society.” Quelle horreur!
What is true is that Mr. Hollande’s victory means the end of “Merkozy,” the Franco-German axis that has enforced the austerity regime of the past two years. This would be a “dangerous” development if that strategy were working, or even had a reasonable chance of working. But it isn’t and doesn’t; it’s time to move on. Europe’s voters, it turns out, are wiser than the Continent’s best and brightest.
What’s wrong with the prescription of spending cuts as the remedy for Europe’s ills? One answer is that the confidence fairy doesn’t exist — that is, claims that slashing government spending would somehow encourage consumers and businesses to spend more have been overwhelmingly refuted by the experience of the past two years. So spending cuts in a depressed economy just make the depression deeper. […]
* CHANGE EUROPE CAN BELIEVE IN?
By Pepe Escobar, Asia Times
Europe may just be living a remix of the late 2008 moment when Barack Obama won the presidency in the United States. But this time, will it be real?
The election on Sunday of socialist Francois Hollande as president of France comes at an extraordinary historical junction. He may have risen to the occasion himself, stressing in his acceptance speech “austerity is not a fatality”. This is not only about France – it’s about the future of Europe. And when France talks – better yet, acts – Europe listens.
What a party that was in Bastille on Sunday night – capable of sending chills to any spine. A cross-section of French society sending a message to Europe and the wider world; it’s possible to dream of change – and most of all, social justice. There is an alternative.
* SARKOZY LOSES IN FRANCE; GREEK VOTERS TURN ON ‘LEADERS’
By Roy Gutman, McClatchy Newspapers
Voters in France and Greece delivered a harsh judgment on their ruling parties in elections Sunday, ousting President Nicolas Sarkozy from power in France and severely punishing the two leading parties in Greece.
Final French results showed Socialist Francois Hollande beating Sarkozy with 52 percent of the vote, returning the Socialists to power in France for the first time in 17 years.
In Greece, where more than two dozen parties contested elections, the Socialist PASOK and its coalition partner New Democracy saw a dramatic cut in public support, and there was a chance that the breakaway Radical Left coalition, known as Syriza, Would finish first, official exit polls showed. […]
* IN CASE IT’S ALL GREEK TO YOU
The Greek election has huge implications for the rest of Europe. Here is a short explanation.
According to the exit polls (compiled by Singular Logic for the daily newspaper “Kathimerini”), seven parties are set to enter Parliament with the following number of seats:
NEA DIMOKRATIA – the centre-right party; broadly pro-austerity (109 seats)
SYRIZA – a coalition of radical left party; anti-austerity (50 seats)
PASOK – the centre-left party; broadly pro-austerity (42)
INDEPENDENT GREEKS – a right-wing newly formed party; think UKIP; anti-austerity (32)
KKE – the communist party; anti-austerity (26)
CHRISI AVGI – the far-right party; think BNP; anti-austerity (22)
DIMAR – social democratic party; anti-austerity (19)
This creates some tantalising possibilities. […]
* THE WORST YET TO COME? WHY NUCLEAR EXPERTS ARE CALLING FUKUSHIMA A TICKING TIME-BOMB
Experts say acknowledging the threat would call into question the safety of dozens of identically designed nuclear power plants in the U.S.
By Brad Jacobson, AlterNet
More than a year after the triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, the Japanese government, Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) present similar assurances of the site’s current state: challenges remain but everything is under control. The worst is over.
But nuclear waste experts say the Japanese are literally playing with fire in the way nuclear spent fuel continues to be stored onsite, especially in reactor 4, which contains the most irradiated fuel — 10 times the deadly cesium-137 released during the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident. These experts also charge that the NRC is letting this threat fester because acknowledging it would call into question safety at dozens of identically designed nuclear power plants around the U.S., which contain exceedingly higher volumes of spent fuel in similar elevated pools outside of reinforced containment. […]