Jan 072012
 

 

* STEPHEN COLBERT TEARS INTO OBAMA OVER THE NDAA BILL (VIDEO)

By Glynnis MacNicol, Common Dreams

Last week, President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act, which among other things allows the government to detain indefinitely American citizens suspected of involvement in terrorism.

Last night Stephen Colbert took a brutal swing at the law that “unexpectedly” makes legal “what we’ve already been doing for ten years…we didn’t see that coming! (due to bag over head).”

Fear not, however: “We will not lock up Americans indefinitely…eventually they will die!”

Then he tears into Obama.

READ and VIDEO @ http://www.businessinsider.com/stephen-colbert-ndaa-2012-1

———————————————————————–

* IOWA: THE MEANINGLESS SIDESHOW BEGINS

By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

The 2012 presidential race officially begins today with the caucuses in Iowa, and we all know what that means …

Nothing.

The race for the White House is normally an event suffused with drama, sucking eyeballs to the page all over the globe. Just as even the non-British were at least temporarily engaged by last year’s royal wedding, people all over the world are normally fascinated by the presidential race: both dramas arouse the popular imagination as real-life versions of universal children’s fairy tales.

Instead of a tale about which maiden gets to marry the handsome prince, the campaign is an epic story, complete with a gleaming white castle at the end, about the battle to succeed to the king’s throne. Since the presidency is the most powerful office in the world, the tale has appeal for people all over the planet, from jungles to Siberian villages.

It takes an awful lot to rob the presidential race of this elemental appeal. But this year’s race has lost that buzz. In fact, this 2012 race may be the most meaningless national election campaign we’ve ever had. If the presidential race normally captivates the public as a dramatic and angry ideological battle pitting one impassioned half of society against the other, this year’s race feels like something else entirely.

In the wake of the Tea Party, the Occupy movement, and a dozen or more episodes of real rebellion on the streets, in the legislatures of cities and towns, and in state and federal courthouses, this presidential race now feels like a banal bureaucratic sideshow to the real event – the real event being a looming confrontation between huge masses of disaffected citizens on both sides of the aisle, and a corrupt and increasingly ideologically bankrupt political establishment, represented in large part by the two parties dominating this race.

Let’s put it this way. What feels more like a real news story – Newt Gingrich calling Mitt Romney a liar for the ten millionth time, or this sizzling item that just hit the wires by way of the Montana Supreme Court:

HELENA — The Montana Supreme Court restored the state’s century-old ban on direct spending by corporations on political candidates or committees in a ruling Friday that interest groups say bucks a high-profile U.S. Supreme Court decision granting political speech rights to corporations…

A group seeking to undo the Citizens United decision lauded the Montana high court, with its co-founder saying it was a “huge victory for democracy.”

“With this ruling, the Montana Supreme Court now sets up the first test case for the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit its Citizens United decision, a decision which poses a direct and serious threat to our democracy,” John Bonifaz, of Free Speech For People, said in a statement. […]

READ @ http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/iowa-the-meaningless-sideshow-begins-20120103

———————————————————————–

* ALEC – AMERICA’S SECRET POLITICAL POWER

By Olivia War, Truthout

Scottsdale, AZ – There’s something rotten in the air. A muggy, oniony, chemical smell that wafts over the lines of uniformed riot police, paddy wagons and metal barriers that are holding back a straggle of protesters waving slapdash placards reading “Shut Down ALEC.”

“Get back ma’am, for your own safety,” a courteous voice warns me. “They’re gonna start pepper spraying.”

Pepper spray?

It’s a surreal touch at the lush, sprawling Westin Kierland Resort, where the air is scented with fragrant flowering bushes and the aromatic lotions of the spa.

But the protesters are at the gate, and inside, hundreds of state legislators from all over the U.S., their wives and entourages are meeting with corporate leaders for a three-day annual policy summit. Or, to their banner-bearing foes, a cradle of “corporate profiteering at the expense of our communities.”

“Today only,” blazons a sign hoisted by a silver-haired protester, “Buy One Senator Get One Free!”

The target of this anger is the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC — a benign, user-friendly acronym that fits the friendly turf of Scottsdale, where the grass is always greener and everything is for your comfort and safety.

I’m here to learn more about this increasingly muscular organization, formally an educational non-profit — and one that shuns the “L” word, lobbyist. It puts state lawmakers together with representatives from some of the country’s most powerful corporations to advance their legislative agendas. And it’s the most influential organization the majority of Americans have never heard of.

As the coming federal election sucks all the oxygen out of America’s political room, it’s easy to ignore the power of the states, and the changes that are quietly taking place across the country independent of — and often hostile to — the federal government. But, for understanding grassroots America, ALEC, here in God’s golf country, is a good place to start.

In the words of its manifesto, “ALEC provides its public- and private-sector members with a unique opportunity to work together to develop policies and programs that effectively promote the Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism and individual liberty.”

And the success of its efforts is in little doubt.

By its own record, it has created an arsenal of about 800 “model” bills, templates or blueprints for future laws. They are tabled about 1,000 times a year across the country; about one in five are passed.

Some 2,000 state legislators belong to the organization, the vast majority of them Republican, in spite of its avowed non-partisan membership. And with Republicans now controlling half of all state governments, they pack an added punch.

To the protesters, and the growing number of media and non-governmental organizations who study it closely, ALEC is a factory for legislative bills that replicate across the 50 states, with the aim of undercutting the public sector and the role of government and promoting free-market policy at state level, where it often counts the most.

ALEC-backed provisions have opposed climate change legislation and environmental regulation, stoked the effort to privatize prisons and schools, pushed for rollbacks of workers’ rights, for limited voting rights and tax breaks for the wealthy. The results, critics say, line the pockets of corporations — a charge ALEC and its defenders insist is misrepresenting its operating style.

“The benefits of ALEC are that you don’t have to walk through 50 different legislatures,” says Jeff Reed, an Indiana “school choice” advocate who campaigns for developing alternatives to the public school system. “You can share ideas with everyone in the same room. But the people in the room are not in lockstep.”

But ALEC’s very success in advancing its policies has sparked a backlash in states such as Ohio and Wisconsin, where police and firefighters joined protests against anti-union legislation.

Recall campaigns have been launched to end the terms of conservative lawmakers in several states. And the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People petitioned the UN to protest restrictive voting laws in 14 states, inspired, they say, by ALEC’s model legislation.

“When a company needs a state bill passed,” writes the far-from-radical Bloomberg Businessweek, “the American Legislative Exchange Council can get it done.”

ALEC officials routinely deny it, insisting that in this “laboratory of democracy” lawmakers, not corporations, have the final word on the bills that emerge for approval: if companies have a hand on the legislative tiller, it is not the upper hand.

The group’s 300-strong corporate members include some of the most high-profile in America: among them AT&T, Wal-Mart, GlaxoSmithKline, UPS, Pfizer, Bayer, Verizon, and Koch Industries — headed by the Kansas-based billionaire brothers nicknamed “the Kochtopus” for their wide-ranging financial and ideological influence. […]

READ @ http://www.truth-out.org/americas-secret-political-power/1325535857

———————————————————————–

* THE DECLINE OF THE PUBLIC GOOD

By Robert Reich, Truthout

[…] What defines a society is a set of mutual benefits and duties embodied most visibly in public institutions — public schools, public libraries, public transportation, public hospitals, public parks, public museums, public recreation, public universities, and so on.

Public institutions are supported by all taxpayers, and are available to all. If the tax system is progressive, those who better off (and who, presumably, have benefitted from many of these same public institutions) help pay for everyone else.

“Privatiize” means pay-for-it-yourself. The practical consequence of this in an economy whose wealth and income are now more concentrated than any time in 90 years is to make high-quality public goods available to fewer and fewer.

In fact, much of what’s called “public” is increasingly a private good paid for by users — ever-higher tolls on public highways and public bridges, higher tuitions at so-called public universities, higher admission fees at public parks and public museums.

Much of the rest of what’s considered “public” has become so shoddy that those who can afford to do so find private alternatives. As public schools deteriorate, the upper-middle class and wealthy send their kids to private ones. As public pools and playgrounds decay, the better off buy memberships in private tennis and swimming clubs. As public hospitals decline, they pay premium rates for private care.

Gated communities and office parks now come with their own manicured lawns and walkways, security guards, and backup power systems.

Why the decline of public institutions? The financial squeeze on government at all levels since 2008 explains only part of it. The slide really started more than three decades ago with so-called “tax revolts” by a middle class whose earnings had stopped advancing even though the economy continued to grow. Most families still wanted good public services and institutions but could no longer afford the tab. […]

READ @ http://www.truth-out.org/decline-public-good/1325872638

———————————————————————–

* THE HIGH COST OF POVERTY: WHY THE POOR PAY MORE

By DeNeen L. Brown, The Washington Post

You have to be rich to be poor.

That’s what some people who have never lived below the poverty line don’t understand.

Put it another way: The poorer you are, the more things cost. More in money, time, hassle, exhaustion, menace. This is a fact of life that reality television and magazines don’t often explain.

So we’ll explain it here. Consider this a primer on the economics of poverty.

“The poor pay more for a gallon of milk; they pay more on a capital basis for inferior housing,” says Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.). “The poor and 100 million who are struggling for the middle class actually end up paying more for transportation, for housing, for health care, for mortgages. They get steered to subprime lending. . . . The poor pay more for things middle-class America takes for granted.”

Poverty 101: We’ll start with the basics.

Like food: You don’t have a car to get to a supermarket, much less to Costco or Trader Joe’s, where the middle class goes to save money. You don’t have three hours to take the bus. So you buy groceries at the corner store, where a gallon of milk costs an extra dollar.

A loaf of bread there costs you $2.99 for white. For wheat, it’s $3.79. The clerk behind the counter tells you the gallon of leaking milk in the bottom of the back cooler is $4.99. She holds up four fingers to clarify. The milk is beneath the shelf that holds beef bologna for $3.79. A pound of butter sells for $4.49. In the back of the store are fruits and vegetables. The green peppers are shriveled, the bananas are more brown than yellow, the oranges are picked over.

(At a Safeway on Bradley Boulevard in Bethesda, the wheat bread costs $1.19, and white bread is on sale for $1. A gallon of milk costs $3.49 — $2.99 if you buy two gallons. A pound of butter is $2.49. Beef bologna is on sale, two packages for $5.)

Prices in urban corner stores are almost always higher, economists say. And sometimes, prices in supermarkets in poorer neighborhoods are higher. Many of these stores charge more because the cost of doing business in some neighborhoods is higher. “First, they are probably paying more on goods because they don’t get the low wholesale price that bigger stores get,” says Bradley R. Schiller, a professor emeritus at American University and the author of “The Economics of Poverty and Discrimination.”

“The real estate is higher. The fact that volume is low means fewer sales per worker. They make fewer dollars of revenue per square foot of space. They don’t end up making more money. Every corner grocery store wishes they had profits their customers think they have.”

According to the Census Bureau, more than 37 million people in the country live below the poverty line. The poor know these facts of life. These facts become their lives. […]

READ @ http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/17/AR2009051702053_pf.html

———————————————————————–

* JUDY MILLER ALERT! THE NEW YORK TIMES IS LYING ABOUT IRAN’S NUCLEAR PROGRAM

By Robert Naiman, Common Dreams

It’s deja vu all over again. AIPAC is trying to trick America into another catastrophic war with a Middle Eastern country on behalf of the Likud Party’s colonial ambitions, and the New York Times is lying about allegations that said country is developing “weapons of mass destruction.”

In an article attributed to Steven Erlanger on January 4 (“Europe Takes Bold Step Toward a Ban on Iranian Oil “), this paragraph appeared:

The threats from Iran, aimed both at the West and at Israel, combined with a recent assessment by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran’s nuclear program has a military objective, is becoming an important issue in the American presidential campaign. [my emphasis]

The claim that there is “a recent assessment by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran’s nuclear program has a military objective” is a lie.

As Washington Post Ombudsman Patrick Pexton noted on December 9,

But the IAEA report does not say Iran has a bomb, nor does it say it is building one, only that its multiyear effort pursuing nuclear technology is sophisticated and broad enough that it could be consistent with building a bomb.

Indeed, if you try now to find the offending paragraph on the New York Times website, you can’t. They took it down. But there is no note, like there is supposed to be, acknowledging that they changed the article, and that there was something wrong with it before. Sneaky, huh?

But you can still find the original here. Indeed, at this writing, if you go to the New York Times website, and search on the phrase, “military objective,” the article pops right up. But if you open the article, the text is gone. But again, there is no explanatory note saying that they changed the text.

This is not an isolated example in the Times‘ reporting. The very same day – January 4 – the New York Times published another article, attributed to Clifford Krauss (“Oil Price Would Skyrocket if Iran Closed the Strait of Hormuz “), that contained the following paragraph.

Various Iranian officials in recent weeks have said they would blockade the strait, which is only 21 miles wide at its narrowest point, if the United States and Europe imposed a tight oil embargo on their country in an effort to thwart its development of nuclear weapons [my emphasis]. […]

READ @ http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/01/06-8

———————————————————————–

* THE US-IRAN ECONOMIC WAR

By Pepe Escobar, Information Clearing House

Here’s a crash course on how to further wreck the global economy.

A key amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act signed by United States President Barack Obama on the last day of 2011 – when no one was paying attention – imposes sanctions on any countries or companies that buy Iranian oil and pay for it through Iran’s central bank. Starting this summer, anybody who does it is prevented from doing business with the US.

This amendment – for all practical purposes a declaration of economic war – was brought to you by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), on direct orders of the Israeli Torrents of spin have tried to rationalize it as the Obama administration’s plan B as opposed to letting the Israeli dogs of war conduct an unilateral attack on Iran over its supposed nuclear weapons program.

Yet the original Israeli strategy was in fact even more hysterical – as in effectively preventing any country or company from paying for imported Iranian oil, with the possible exceptions of China and India. On top of it, American Israel-firsters were trying to convince anyone this would not result in relentless oil price hikes.

Once again displaying a matchless capacity to shoot themselves in their Ferragamo-clad feet, governments in the European Union (EU) are debating whether or not to buy oil from Iran anymore. The existential doubt is should we start now or wait for a few months. Inevitably, like death and taxes, the result has been – what else – oil prices soaring. Brent crude is now hovering around $114, and the only way is up. […]

READ @ http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article30172.htm

———————————————————————–

* AS CURRENCY CRISIS AND FEUD WITH WEST DEEPEN, IRANIANS BRACE FOR WAR

By Thomas Erdbrink and Joby Warrick, The Washington Post

TEHRAN — At a time when U.S. officials are increasingly confident that economic and political pressure alone may succeed in curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the mood here has turned bleak and belligerent as Iranians prepare grimly for a period of prolonged hardship and, they fear, war.

This stark contrast has been evident in the Iranian capital this week as a top military commander declared a “critical point” in the country’s long feud with the West and ordinary Iranians stocked up on essential supplies. Merchants watched helplessly as the Iranian currency, the rial, shed more than a third of its value, triggering huge increases in the prices of imported goods.

“I will tell you what this is leading to: war,” said a merchant in Tehran’s popular Paytakht bazaar who gave his name only as Milad. “My family, friends and I — we are all desperate.”

The sense of impending confrontation is not shared in Washington and other Western capitals, where government officials and analysts expressed cautious satisfaction that their policies are working.

Former and current U.S. government officials did not dismiss the possibility of a military confrontation but said they saw recent threats by Iranian leaders — including warning a U.S. aircraft carrier this week not to return to the crucial Strait of Hormuz — mainly as signs of rising frustration. U.S. officials say this amounts to vindication of a years-long policy of increasing pressure, including through clandestine operations, on Iran’s clerical rulers without provoking war.

“The reasons you’re seeing the bluster now is because they’re feeling it,” said Dennis Ross, who was one of the White House’s chief advisers on Iran before stepping down late last year. With even tougher sanctions poised to take effect in weeks, the White House had succeeded in dramatically raising the costs of Iran’s nuclear program, he said.

“The measure, in the end, is, ‘Do they change their behavior?’ ” Ross said.

The Obama administration is readying new punitive measures targeting the Central Bank of Iran, while leaders of the European Union took a step this week toward approving strict curbs on imports of Iranian petroleum in hopes of pressuring the nation to abandon what they say is a drive to develop nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful energy production.

State Department spokes­woman Victoria Nuland deemed as “very good news” the E.U.’s commitment to shutting off the flow of Iranian oil to Europe.

“This is consistent with tightening the noose on Iran economically,” Nuland told reporters Wednesday. “We think that the place to get Iran’s attention is with regard to its oil sector.”

In Tehran, that tightening is being felt by millions of people. […]

READ @ http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/iranians-brace-for-war-as-feud-with-west-reaches-critical-point/2012/01/05/gIQA8oygdP_story.html?hpid=z2

———————————————————————–

* SO, OIL BARONS JUST THREATENED THE PRESIDENT OF THE U.S. (VIDEO)

Source: youtube.com

Speaking at a conference this week – Jack Gerard – the head of the American Petroleum Institute – which is the nation’s largest lobbying organization for oil and gas corporations – told President Obama, “I think it would be a huge mistake on the part of the president of the United States to deny the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline…Clearly, the Keystone XL pipeline is in the national interest. A determination to decide anything less than that I believe will have huge political consequences.” Do what the oil barons say – build the damn pipeline – or suffer “huge political consequences.” The sad part is – in today’s post Citizens United world – we have to take these threats seriously.

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9C-AJ6ZNVw&feature=share

———————————————————————–

* GREECE SPEEDS UP OIL AND GAS EXPLORATION

By Kostis Geropoulos, New Europe Online

Pasted Graphic.tiff

Debt-stricken Greece, which currently has the least exploration for hydrocarbons in the region, is vowing to exploit its oil and gas reserves.

On 2 January, the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change (YPEKA) invited investors through an Open Door process to bid to exploit hydrocarbon reserves in three blocks estimated to hold around 250 million barrels of oil. The first two blocks, Patraikos Gulf and Katakolo, are located off the western coast, and the third block – Ioannina – is in the northwest of the mainland. Investors must submit offers by 2 July.

The bidding contest is part of Greece’s strategy to reduce energy dependence and boost security of energy supply through the dynamic development of domestic energy sources, George Papaconstantinou, Greece’s minister for the environment, energy and climate change, said in an emailed statement. Already planning to develop renewable sources of energy, the Greek government’s efforts to exploit the country’s hydrocarbon reserves are an integral part of this strategy.

“Today’s invitation to investors is an important step in this direction,” he said.

Deputy Minister Yiannis Maniatis said that Greece has begun the first round of invitations for the three blocks as previously announced: “In conjunction with the progress of bidding contest for seismic exploration in the Ionian Sea and south of Crete, as well as the creation of the Greek Hydrocarbons Exploration Company that was legally established last August, we have managed in four months to cover a fifteen-year period of inertia. We are confident that the current invitation will draw interest from serious companies in the international oil market. With transparency, speed and efficiency and respect to the environment, we plan to develop all of Greece’s resources.”

On 3 January, the deputy minister briefed Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papadimos about the latest developments, saying that Athens aims to have the first oil drill on its territory by the end of 2012.

The area south of Crete is expected to hold primarily gas reserves. US firm Noble Energy’s recent offshore discovery of major gas reserves in Cyprus is boosting Greece’s hopes that there may be “satisfactory” reserves in Greece as well. “All these discoveries and especially the latest one south of Cyprus increase optimism that also in Greece – because there is a geological connection to a certain extent – there will be discovered satisfactory amounts of primarily natural gas but also oil,” a source at the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change told New Europe on 3 January.

“After we complete seismic exploration in the Ionian and south of Crete, it is estimated that we can offer 10-15 blocks in the first round.”

Fadel Gheit, a senior energy analyst at Oppenheimer in New York, told New Europe on 3 January that oil and gas majors may become interested in hydrocarbon exploration and extraction offshore Greece. He noted that natural gas discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean, that is Cyprus and Israel, “will be a tremendous boost obviously for Europe”. […]

READ @ http://www.neurope.eu/article/greece-speeds-oil-and-gas-exploration

———————————————————————–

* HAS ITALY GONE FACIST?

By Tyler Durden, Zero Hedge

In August this year, CLSA’s Russell Napier wrote: “Italy is scary – yields will rise when governments chose to take money from their savers – what Russell calls THE GREAT THEFT – Expect massive capital flight”.  Yet while Russell was commenting on Italy’s opening move in repressing private capital by raising the capital gains tax, but not on gains of government debt, the situation has moved with such speed over the past 5 months that the emergence of the first Fascist regime following the 2008 crisis can probably now be associated with the new Monti government.

And while Doug Casey addresses getting out of Dodge on these pages (http://www.zerohedge.com/news/doug-casey-addresses-getting-out-dodge), it may be time for Italian to get themselves as well as their capital even faster out of Pizzaland.

Here are the latest developments which are coming in at extraordinary speed:

  • The appointment in December of an unelected government. This government has no accountability and no fixed time mandate. It is being sold as being “technocratic”, but is in fact headed by a University Professor who is distinguished for: (i) having been head of the EU Internal Market Commission, where he used the power of the State to fine Microsoft and other corporate that were “getting too big for their boots”;(ii) being a good friend of Romano Prodi, another University Professor from the Communist  heartland of the University of Bologna and creator of the Euro (more on him later);(iii) a paid hand of Goldman Sachs and a friend of Mario Draghi, another Goldman puppet who dispatched of the government of Berlusconi within days of taking the helm of the ECB; (iv) a fervent believer in the pre-eminence of the state over the individual;
  • Prodi, the original architect of this catastrophe, famously made this comment in 2001, indicating that this cabal of Professors are playing a very long game indeed:

I am sure the Euro will oblige us to introduce a new set of economic policy instruments. It is politically impossible to propose that now. But some day there will be a crisis and new instruments will be created.”

Romano Prodi, EU Commission President, December 2001

  • Thanks to his friendship with Monti and the current government, he is very much still involved in shaping just what such instruments can be;
  • The passing of an extraordinary edict making cash transactions of more than Euro 1,000 illegal (not subject to reporting – just plain illegal). Following Prodi’s own desire, the existing regime has indicated that this level will be progressively reduced to a limit as low as Euro 300. Hence cash is maybe for the first time in history no longer legal tender (over Euro 1,000, for now);
  • A requirement that credit card companies report all transactions carried out by Italians, in Italy and abroad to the fiscal authorities;
  • Delays and refusals by banks in allowing customers to withdraw  cash balances of as little as Euro 10,000;

Events in Italy must be watched closely. […]

READ @ http://www.zerohedge.com/news/guest-post-has-italy-gone-fascist

———————————————————————–

* U.S. PRESSURED SPAIN TO IMPLEMENT ONLINE PIRACY LAW, LEAKED FILE SHOWS

US ambassador threatened Spain with ‘retaliation actions’ if the country did not pass tough new Sopa-style internet piracy laws

By Dominic Rushe, Guardian UK

 

US ambassador Alan Solomont wrote: ‘[Spain] has unfortunately failed to finish the job for political reasons, to the detriment of the reputation and economy of Spain’ Photograph: Juan Medina/Reuters

The US ambassador in Madrid threatened Spain with “retaliation actions” if the country did not pass tough new internet piracy laws, according to leaked documents.

The latest revelation comes amid a fierce debate over America’s own plans to pass online piracy legislation that critics claim will damage the infrastructure of the internet and restrict free speech.

In a letter dated 12 December and obtained by Spanish newspaper El Pais, US ambassador Alan Solomont wrote to the outgoing Spanish prime minister expressing his concern about the lack of movement on a online piracy bill, known as the Sinde law.

“The government has unfortunately failed to finish the job for political reasons, to the detriment of the reputation and economy of Spain,” reads the letter to José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. The letter was also sent to minister of culture Ángeles González-Sinde, after whom the law is named.

Spain would go on to pass Sinde at the start of this year.

In his letter, Solomont issued veiled threats, reminding its recipients that Spain is on the Special 301, the US trade representatives’ list of countries that do not provide “adequate and effective” protection of intellectual property rights. Spain risks having its position on the list “degraded”, and could join the real blacklist of “the worst violators of global intellectual property rights.”

Spain was among 28 countries put on 2011’s Special 301 list, including Belarus, Greece, Italy and Ukraine. Countries deemed the worst offenders are put on a “priority watchlist” and can be subject to “retaliation actions” including the elimination of tariff agreements and a referral to the World Trade Organisation. Last year’s priority list included China, India, Israel and Russia.

“The government of Spain made commitments to the rights owners and to the US government. Spain can not afford to see their credibility questioned on this issue,” Solomont wrote.

“The rampant Internet piracy hurts the economy of Spain and cultural industries,” he added.

The law creates a government body with powers to force internet service providers to block sites alleged to have infringed copyright. Copyright holders can lobby the government body to close down sites.

The Spanish legislation is similar to Protect IP and Sopa, the stop online piracy act, two pieces of anti-piracy legislation now being discussed in the US Congress.

Art Brodsky, director for Public Knowledge, a Washington-based public interest group that has campaigned against Sopa, said: “It appears as if the US government has been pressuring the Spanish government for at least three years on the copyright issue

“It is unfortunate that the US ambassador is again issuing threats to the new Spanish government over the implementation of a law similar to one that is generating quite a bit of controversy in the US and has brought forth opposition from all sides of the political spectrum.”

In 2010 El Paid published WikiLeaks cables that showed the US government has consistently pushed for Spain to tighten up its online piracy legislation and threatened to put the country on its 301 watch list. […]

READ @ http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/jan/05/us-pressured-spain-online-piracy

———————————————————————–

* UNIONS BOOST ECONOMY IN GERMANY

By Stephen D. Foster Jr., Addicting Information

As the Republican war on unions continues unabated, we should expect to see more jobs go overseas, and an increase in unemployment. At 9.1%, with perhaps a real unemployment rate of close to 20%, it’s probably time to start joining unions by the millions. Why you ask? Well, in Germany, unions are on the rise and the economy is soaring there, despite economic downturn in Europe and the United States.

At of the encouragement of the German government, unions are on the rise, which has resulted in an economic situation that Americans can only dream of at the moment. Because of increasing union membership, Germany has a 6% unemployment rate which is low compared to other European countries and the United States. Americans certainly wish the unemployment rate were 6%.

But that’s not all. Because of unions, income equality has also increased, leading to a higher purchasing power among the working class. Because unions secure better salaries for workers through the power of fair negotiation, the people in Germany are able to afford many of the products that businesses offer there. This means that money flows back into the German economy and back into the hands of corporations. In other words, everyone wins and prospers. Not only that, but corporations pay a higher tax rate in Germany as well, meaning they have to hire more people to boost production.

But why pay German workers a high salary when they could just outsource the work? Well, because of unions and the government support of those unions, German jobs are PROTECTED from the threat of outsourcing. Sure, businesses expand their operations elsewhere beyond German borders, but they don’t move their operations overseas like corporations in America do. In just the last ten years, American corporations have outsourced 2.4 million jobs. Can you imagine having those jobs back?

Income equality is also better in Germany. The top 1% of German households earns 11% of all income, which has remained unchanged since 1970. However, in the US the top 1% makes more than 20% of all income, up from 9% in 1970. Add on top of that, the destruction of unions, and one finds that American workers have less purchasing power. Taxes are also a big reason why Germany has a better overall economy. Corporations and the wealthy are taxed at a higher rate in Germany than in the US. This taxation is a big reason why the German government has low deficits, and the fact that regulation is tighter. Our deficit is high because corporations, aided by their Republican pawns, have loopholes that allow them to pay zero taxes. Get rid of the loopholes and deductions, and couple that with raising the tax rate and tightening regulations and our deficit will start melting away.

In Germany, corporations and unions peacefully coexist. […]

READ @ http://www.addictinginfo.org/2011/08/07/unions-boost-economy-in-germany/

Did you like this? Share it:

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

(required)

(required)