* BLURRED LINE BETWEEN ESPIONAGE AND TRUTH
By David Carr, NYTimes
[…] The Obama administration, which promised during its transition to power that it would enhance “whistle-blower laws to protect federal workers,” has been more prone than any administration in history in trying to silence and prosecute federal workers.
The Espionage Act, enacted back in 1917 to punish those who gave aid to our enemies, was used three times in all the prior administrations to bring cases against government officials accused of providing classified information to the media. It has been used six times since the current president took office.
Setting aside the case of Pfc. Bradley Manning, an Army intelligence analyst who is accused of stealing thousands of secret documents, the majority of the recent prosecutions seem to have everything to do with administrative secrecy and very little to do with national security.
In case after case, the Espionage Act has been deployed as a kind of ad hoc Official Secrets Act, which is not a law that has ever found traction in America, a place where the people’s right to know is viewed as superseding the government’s right to hide its business. […]
* NDAA INDEFINITE DETENTION OF AMERICAN CITIZENS
* OCCUPY LONDON READIES FOR EVICTION
By Allison Kilkenny, In These Times
Occupy protesters in London are braced for eviction following a court ruling that dictates local authorities can remove the 4-month-old campsite outside St. Paul’s Cathedral. The ruling came Wednesday, and ever since the Occupy London Twitter account (@OccupyLSX) has been posting periodic ominous updates.
“No sign yet,” @OccupyLSX tweeted in response today to a question about the eviction status.
While some protesters seemed determined to hold their ground – Occupy London tweeted that they would not be “bullied or afraid,” – the group’s lawyer, Karen Todner, ensured everyone that the activists are “seeking to discuss the best way to evacuate the camp in a peaceful and orderly fashion.” […]
* ST PAUL’S PROTEST: OCCUPY LONDON CAMP EVICTED
Police and bailiffs have evicted anti-capitalist protesters and removed tents from the Occupy London camp at St Paul’s Cathedral.
The operation, which began just after midnight, was mostly peaceful but there were 20 arrests.
The City of London Corporation said it “regretted” that it had become necessary to evict the protesters.
The Rev Giles Fraser, who resigned as canon chancellor of St Paul’s, said: “This is a sad day for the Church.”
Mr Fraser, who resigned in October in support of the protesters, added: “Riot police clearing the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral was a terrible sight.”
St Paul’s is yet to comment on the eviction.
Occupy London, which campaigns against corporate greed, set up the camp on 15 October. […]
* GREECE, “THE BOTTOMLESS BARREL,” AS GERMANS SAY
By Yves Smtih, Naked Capitalism
In Greece three-quarters of the independent doctors, lawyers, and engineers declare taxable income below the existential minimum. Tax fraud amounts to €20 billion per year (8.5% of GDP). And tax dodgers owe €63 billion in unpaid taxes (27% of GDP). The country is bankrupt and has been kept afloat by the Troika (EU, ECB, and IMF), of which Germany is by far the largest contributor. And the numbers are staggering: the first bailout package of €110 billion, the current bailout package of €130 billion, and the debt swap of €107 billion, in total €347 billion, amount to a mind boggling 150% of Greece’s GDP!
And even that won’t be enough, apparently, according to a crescendo of German politicians, among them Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble who inserted these devastating words into his letter to the members of the Bundestag: “I cannot give any guarantees that the path taken will lead to success.” And: It’s possibly “not the last time that the German Bundestag will have to deal with financial aid for Greece.” Thus, he put a third bailout package on the table. […]
* IS SPAIN THE NEXT GREECE?
Students and teachers in Spain have packed the streets of Valencia, angry at cuts to the education system by their government. They are also angry about harsh and brutal tactics used by police there at previous rallies when dozens were beaten and arrested. Spain is facing an out-of-control deficit and despite many across-the-board cuts, it slated for many more – in the realm of 40 billion Euros or 53 billion dollars. RT correspondent Sarah Firth brings the latest from Valencia, Spain in her report.
* WHAT HAPPENS AT DAVOS?
By Nick Paumgarten, The New Yorker
The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland, was well under way when it officially commenced, early on a Wednesday evening in January, with an address, in the Congress Hall of the Congress Center, by Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany. She had a lot to say about Europe. Some of it—“Do we dare more Europe? Yes, we do dare”—made the news. But outside the hall many Davos participants paid her no mind. They loitered in various lounges carrying on conversations with each other. They talked and talked—as though they hadn’t been talking all day. They had talked while sitting on panels or while skipping panels that others were sitting on. “Historic Complexity: How Did We Get Here?,” “The Compensation Question,” “Global Risks 2012: The Seeds of Dystopia”: over the course of five days, a man could skip more than two hundred and fifty such sessions.
Many Davos participants rarely, if ever, attend even one. Instead, they float around in the slack spaces, sitting down to one arranged meeting after another, or else making themselves available for chance encounters, either with friends or with strangers whom they will ever after be able to refer to as friends. The Congress Center, the daytime hub, is a warren of interconnected lounges, cafés, lobbies, and lecture halls, with espresso bars, juice stations, and stacks of apples scattered about. The participants have their preferred hovering areas. Wandering the center in search of people to talk to was like fishing a stretch of river; one could observe, over time, which pools held which fish, and what times of day they liked to feed. Jamie Dimon, running shoes in hand, near the espresso stand by the Global Leadership Fellows Program, in the late afternoon. Fareed Zakaria, happily besieged, in the Industry Partners Lounge, just before lunch. The lunkers would very occasionally emerge from their deep holes (there were rumors of secret passageways) and glide through the crowd, with aides alongside, like pilot fish. (The W.E.F. says that Davos is an entourage-free zone, but this doesn’t seem to apply to the biggest of the big wheels, like heads of state.) It is said that the faster you walk the more important you are. […]
* MONSANTO WINS DISMISSAL OF ORGANIC GROWERS’ GENE-PATENT SUIT
By Don Jeffery, Bloomberg
Monsanto Co., the world’s largest seed company, won the dismissal of a lawsuit by growers of organic crops seeking to have its patents for genetically altered seeds invalidated.
U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in Manhattan threw out the organic growers’ lawsuit in a ruling dated Feb. 24, saying it represented no controversy and that she had no jurisdiction over the suit.
Organic farmers, seed companies and food safety groups sued St. Louis-based Monsanto in March 2011 seeking court protection against possible lawsuits by the company for patent infringement if genetically modified crops were mistakenly found among their yields. […]
* AN EXCERPT FROM “KILLING THE COMPETITION: HOW THE NEW MONOPOLIES ARE DESTROYING OPEN MARKETS”
By Barry C. Lynn, Harpers
Fear, in any real market, is a natural emotion. There is the fear of not making a sale, not landing a job, not winning a client. Such fear is healthy, even constructive. It prods us to polish our wares, to refine our skills, and to conjure up—every so often—a wonder.
But these days, we see a different kind of fear in the eyes of America’s entrepreneurs and professionals. It’s a fear of the arbitrary edict, of the brute exercise of power. And the origins of this fear lie precisely in the fact that many if not most Americans can no longer count on open markets for their ideas and their work. Because of the overthrow of our antimonopoly laws a generation ago, we instead find ourselves subject to the ever more autocratic whims of the individuals who run our giant business corporations.
The equation is simple. In sector after sector of our political economy, there are still many sellers: many of us. But every day, there are fewer buyers: fewer of them. Hence, they enjoy more and more liberty to dictate terms—or simply to dictate. […]
* 2181 ITALIANS PACK A SPORTS ARENA TO LEARN MODERN MONETARY THEORY – THE ECONOMY DOESN’T NEED TO SUFFER NEOLIBERAL AUSTERITY
By Michael Hudson, Naked Capitalism
I have just returned from Rimini, Italy, where I experienced one of the most amazing spectacles of my academic life. Four of us associated with the University of Missouri at Kansas City (UMKC) were invited to lecture for three days on Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and explain why Europe is in such monetary trouble today – and to show that there is an alternative, that the enforced austerity for the 99% and vast wealth grab by the 1% is not a force of nature.
The basic thrust of our argument is that just as commercial banks create credit electronically on their computer keyboards (creating a bank account credit for borrowers in exchange for their signing an IOU at interest), governments can create money. There is no need to borrow from banks, as computer keyboards provide nearly free credit creation to finance spending.
The difference, of course, is that governments spend money (at least in principle) to promote long-term growth and employment, to invest in public infrastructure, research and development, provide health care and other basic economic functions. Banks have a more short-term time frame. They lend credit against collateral in place. Some 80% of bank loans are mortgages against real estate. Other loans are made to finance leveraged buyouts and corporate takeovers. But most new fixed capital investment by corporations is financed out of retained earnings. […]