Archive | February 9th, 2015

Do Not Drone Me

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A camera drone operated by a civilian flies near the scene where two buildings were destroyed in an explosion in New York, in this file photo taken March 12, 2014.

A camera drone operated by a civilian flies near the scene where two buildings were destroyed in an explosion in New York, in this file photo taken March 12, 2014. | Photo: Reuters

Will anyone stop 1984 on steroids before it becomes 2015 commonplace?

Yesterday’s imagined horror, Big Brother, is barely scary compared to today’s horrible reality: eyes in the sky.

Drones are on the verge of being able to stay in the air for weeks and maybe months on end. They can, not only have weapons for shredding people like a giant disposal might, but also super cameras. Wait, check that. A super camera — but what a camera.

Imagine taking video from 3.5 miles high. Forget about those on the ground hearing or seeing the drone from below. This is an eye in the sky, looking down, invisible to us, looking up. One camera on one drone can take video around the clock. Big deal you might think. One camera on one telephone pole can do that too. What can a drone possibly see from way the hell up there? And, even if it can see a lot in its sharp visual field, how big could that sharp field possibly be? Perhaps 100 square feet?

Well, no. When you take a photo, outdoors, the precise image part is huge, though the precise part is, what, 100 square feet, if that? The innovative video machine the drone carries can snap video covering 15 square miles, and it has billions of pixels so it is all precise. Every square foot of fifteen square miles recorded sharply. Put ten drones up there, and you are covering a mid size city, or more.

Big, deal, you say. What could it possibly see with enough resolution to make any difference? It can’t be much. No, it isn’t much. It is everything down to about six inches.

Yes, but the drone is there and then it is gone, so there is no lasting menace, you say. Well, no, it is there and then it is still there. And what it sees, it stores. So the drone’s camera videos everything that is outdoors, everywhere, every minute, and it stores the record as long as desired. Big Brother has grown up. How long before super cameras can produce highly informative images even through obstacles?

When I was in college in the mid-to-late sixties, a movement developed in part around the slogan, “do not fold, spindle, or mutilate.” People shouting the phrase, often while organizing mates or occupying streets or buildings, were rejecting being treated as mere objects in the very early days of computer technology.

In those days, we were coming of age caring about being — well, people, not targets. We were due respect. We were due privacy. To be cataloged in any way felt invasive. Now, however, does anyone care? Maybe we are not people, and we are not targets, we are frogs, slowly being immersed into and accommodating to a boiling pot of water whose heat has been raised, day after day.

One indication of our accommodation would be to notice that toy drones, quite capable items, have become very popular. Kids request them. Parents buy them. And they have cameras — though not yet, machine guns or missiles. Quality time for parent and child? Fly the cute things. Take funny pictures. Marvel at their fantastic capacities. Drone equals fun.

Will anyone stop 1984 on steroids before it becomes 2015 commonplace?

Again, when I was in college, we had to sneak onto military bases to discover what our researchers were developing — in my case, we discovered, for example, that a helicopter stabilization program being researched and enacted via my college, MIT, was actually not sprucing up traffic copters to be more stable in rainstorms over Detroit, as claimed, but sprucing up gunships used in Indochina, making them more stable to mow down peasants more effectively. Anything that flies against anything that moves.

Nowadays it isn’t as hard to find out what is going on. And we protest less. And the incredible technical marvel of a video camera in the sky? Yes, it tracks everything that moves — and can already carry weapons to shoot too.

View the following, if you don’t believe me. But not right after lunch, is my advice: Rise of the Drones.

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US Backs Indian Hegemony in Asia

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cartoon india

By Sajjad Shaukat

International politics is passing through transitory period, as rapidly developing geo-political

differences among global powers in Asia show that the next Cold War is likely to be waged

between the Russia-China alliance and the US-led bloc in Asia, while Pakistan has already

In this regard, US still backs Indian hegemony in Asia to counterbalance China. During

American President Barack Obama’s visit to India, on January 25, this year, the US and India

announced a breakthrough on a pact which would allow American companies to supply New

Delhi with civilian nuclear technology. On November 2, 2010, US agreed to sell India the most

expensive—the new F-35 fighter jets including US F-16 and F-18 fighters, C-17 and C-130

aircraft, radar systems, Harpoon weapons etc. Besides acquisition of arms and weapons from

other western countries—especially Israel, America is a potential military supplier to India. US

also pressurized International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers Group to grant a

waiver to New Delhi for obtaining civil nuclear trade on larger scale. However, US President

Obama also announced $4 billion of new initiatives aimed at boosting trade and investment ties

In this respect, Indian Foreign Mistier Sushma Swaraj was on a maiden visit to China since

January 31, 2015. Along with sideline commitments, she attended 13th trilateral meeting

between China, India and Russia held in Beijing on February 2, 2015. She was having series of

meetings with Chinese leaders in the backdrop of recently concluded visit of US President

In the joint communiqué of their trilateral meeting, the foreign ministers of Russia, India and

China have emphasized cooperation to maintain international and regional peace and stability

and promoting global economic growth and prosperity. But with the support of America, New

Delhi has been playing double game with Beijing and Moscow.

The warming up of Indo-US relations, especially in the nuclear domain poses a direct threat to

Chinese national interests, and both China and Russia feel uneasy over Indian overtures towards

US. Consequently, as part of duplicity, Indian leadership is launching intense diplomatic

activities to conciliate Beijing and Moscow that their overtures to US will not be at the cost of

bilateral relations with Russia and China.

In fact, US in the garb of this controversial deal is enticing New Delhi to assume anti-China role

and would have footprints in India to eavesdrop Chinese activities. China is apprehensive about

the emerging threat, as the intent of President Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi was

quite clear, while mentioning about free sea lanes and air passages in the South China Sea.

Russia, however, remained quiet over Obama’s comments at a press conference in Delhi

slamming President Vladimir Putin’s role in Ukraine.

It is notable that in 2013, during his visit to New Delhi, and after meeting Indian Prime Minister

Manmohan Singh, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang said that the two emerging Asian

economies were going to enhance cooperation. No doubt, Beijing wants cordial relationship with

New Delhi. But, India which apparently emphasizes mutual cooperation with China, showing

lethargic approach in the solution of border dispute, has been increasing military build near the

Chinese border, coupled with secret support to the Tibetan insurgents as part of its overt and

In the recent, part, tension arose between India and China when Indian army erected a military

camp in Chumar Sector of Ladakh at the Line of Actual Control (LAC)-disputed border, situated

between the two countries. Similarly, Indian soldiers crossed over the Line of Control (LoC) in

Kashmir on January 6, 2012 and attacked a Pakistani check post, killing one Pakistani soldier.

Afterwards, Indian troops shot dead more Pakistani soldiers on the LoC.

It is mentionable that under the Pak-China pretext, Indian ex-Army Chief, General Deepak

Kapoor, revealed on December 29, 2010 that the Indian army “is now revising its five-year old

doctrine” and is preparing for a “possible two-front war with China and Pakistan.”

Particularly, fast growing economic power of China coupled with her rising strategic relationship

with the Third World has irked the eyes of Americans and Indians. Owing to jealousy, America

desires to make India a major power to counterbalance China in Asia.

Besides, it is due to the fact Pakistan has a strategic geo-political location at the corridor of

world’s major maritime oil supply lines, and has close proximity to oil rich Central Asian

countries. Its location could influences Central Asia, South Asia and the Middle East. Besides,

Balochistan’s mineral resources and geo-strategic location with deep Gwadar seaport, entailing

Islamabad’s close ties with Beijing pinches the eyes of the US, India, Israel and some western

countries. Beijing has already invested billion of dollars to develop Gwadar seaport. It is owing

to multiple strategic designs that the US backs India in destabilizing both Pakistan and Iran.

Notably, by rejecting US growing pressure, on March 11, 2013, Pakistan’s President Asif Ali

Zardari inaugurated the gas pipeline project with Iran.

Taking cognizance of the enemy’s intensions, during his trip to Beijing, Pakistan’s Prime

Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang signed eight agreements on July

5, 2013 in various fields. The most important one envisages the establishment of China-Pakistan

Economic Corridor (CPEC) between deep Gwadar seaport of Balochistan and the historic Silk

Road city in western regions-Xinjiang of China—connecting to Gilgit-Baltistan through

Khunjerab Pass. Beijing has also offered to build an international airport, while the roads

infrastructure in Gwadar would be connected with the communication network of rest of the

country to facilitate transportation of goods. By rejecting US growing pressure, Pakistan has

handed over the control of Gwader seaport to China.

While, in May, 2013, a day before Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived in Islamabad; Chinese

engineers being driven through Clifton Block-1 in Karachi escaped a major bomb attack. As

regards anti-China diplomacy, Afghanistan has become a hub from where external secret

agencies like Indian RAW and Israeli Mossad have been assisting subversive activities in other

parts of Pakistan—especially in Balochistan through their affiliated militant groups at the cost of

Pakistan, China and Iran. In the past few years, they abducted and killed many Chinese and

It worth-mentioning that during China’s visit of Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff Gen. Raheel

Sharif, on January 25, this year, China’s Vice Chairman of Central Military Commission Gen.

Fan has assured that China will assist Pakistan in every challenge.

Taking note of US supported Indian plans; Pakistan has also cultivated its relationship with the

Russian Federation. In 2012, Moscow and Islamabad agreed to enhance bilateral relations in

diverse fields. Addressing a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar in

Islamabad on October 4, 2012, Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov said that the two countries

agreed that they had common goals on regional and current global challenges. Lavrov stated that

Russia supports Pakistan’s stance on Afghanistan by pointing out that any solution imposed from

In 2010, the then Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin publicly endorsed Pakistan’s bid to join

the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), which includes the former Central Asian

republics as permanent members. Putin also remarked that Pakistan was a very important partner

in South Asia and the Muslim world for Russia.

The then President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari participated in the 12th summit of the SCO held

in Beijing. While addressing the summit, hinting out towards Indo-US secret designs, Chinese

president Hu Jintao said, “The international situation has been complex, thus bringing many

uncertainties to the regional situation.” He explained that only when SCO member states remain

united can they effectively cope with emerging challenges. President Putin said, “The SCO

should enhance security cooperation.”

In fact, China, Pakistan, Russia and Iran know that after the withdrawal of most of the NATO

troops from Afghanistan, the US-led NATO has been maintaining military presence in that

country, having eyes on the energy resources of Central Asia, while encouraging Indian role in

It is noteworthy that on July 20, 2011, while hinting towards Pak-China ties, the then US

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged India to be more assertive in Asia, saying that as

American ally, the country should play more of a leadership role. She explained, “India has the

potential to positively shape the future of the Asia-Pacific.”

Nonetheless, US approach of backing Indian role in Asia would cause imbalance in the region

with serious implications for global security, and will embolden India to attain her   hegemonic

designs at the cost of modern world trends such as peaceful settlement of disputes, economic

development and disarmament.

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants,

Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations

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Ukraine Cease-Fire Talks to Open Wednesday in Belarus

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The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France have agreed to meet Wednesday in Belarus for talks aimed at a deal to end the surging pro-Russian rebellion in eastern Ukraine.

Their agreement came Sunday in four-way phone talks that followed crisis talks Friday in Moscow involving Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande.

Merkel is due in Washington Monday for talks with President Barack Obama about the fighting, which has claimed more than 5,600 lives since rebels launched their uprising 10 months ago.  A cease-fire reached in September has gone unheeded by both sides.

There were no public signs on Sunday of movement toward a new deal to end the fighting.  However, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko voiced optimism that a “swift and unconditional cease-fire” will be reached.

Despite that optimism, Russian President Putin warned in a newspaper interview set for publication in Egypt that Kyiv must end its military operations near the Russian border.  He also said Kyiv must end what he called punitive economic measures aimed at disrupting daily life in Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, citing that progress was reached during a call among the leaders on Sunday, predicted that a “swift and unconditional cease-fire” will be agreed to Wednesday between his government and the pro-Russian separatists it has been battling in eastern Ukraine.

‘One of the last chances’

For his part, French President Hollande said the upcoming talks present “one of the last chances” for reaching peace after nearly a year of fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Fighting has continued in eastern Ukraine, with intense battles in recent days. Separatist and Kyiv forces said 12 civilians and 12 Ukrainian forces were killed in the last day.

At a security conference in Munich Sunday, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said negotiators on the French-German plan are “far from finding a political solution” to Ukraine’s conflict after a few days of “intense” debate.

“For us Europeans, this conflict still means permanent security can only be together with and not against Russia, however this cannot be a unilateral recognition. It has to be clear to Moscow as well that there is only a good future for Russia with Europe, together with Europe, and not against Europe,” Steinmeier said.

“It’s also Moscow’s task to define joint and common interests. We’ve seen too little here so far and you have also heard and listened to my colleague Lavrov and of course this was not also conducive to our discussion,” he added.

However, Steinmeier said negotiators are “far from finding a political solution” to the crisis, after a weekend of “intense” debate.

He added that supplying Ukraine with lethal weapons would be “highly risky” and “counterproductive.”

Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said in Munich the bloc is trying to find ways to fully implement the Minsk agreement.

“At our east, on European territory, the conflict in Ukraine has carried an unsustainable price in human lives, has shown us that one of the basic principles of international law — respect of a country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, and that you don’t change borders by force — can be violated. An extremely dangerous precedent, not only for Europe, but for the rest of the world as well,” Mogherini said.

Kerry: No rift between US, allies

Also in Munich, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addressed reports of a rift between the U.S. and Europe related to supplying Ukraine with weapons. He said there is no split between the U.S. and its European allies, but that all agree Ukraine’s challenges will end through diplomacy, not with military force.

“Let me assure everybody, there is no division, there is no split. I keep hearing people trying to create one — we are united, we are working closely together, we all agree that this challenge will not end through military force, we are united in our diplomacy,” Kerry said.

“But the longer that it takes, the more the off-ramps are avoided, the more we will be forced to raise the costs on Russia and its proxies,” he said.

“Suffice it to say that today Russia is seeking to fundamentally alter the security landscape of eastern and central Europe, first through its illegal occupation of Crimea, and now through the brazen effort, the overt effort, indisputable effort to destabilize eastern Ukraine,” Kerry added.

In an interview to fully air Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kerry said the U.S. would be helping Ukraine with the understanding that there is no military solution.

However, U.S. President Barack Obama has been considering providing lethal weaponry to Kyiv’s out-gunned forces, an escalation beyond the economic sanctions the U.S. and Europe have already imposed on Moscow.

The Western powers contend that Moscow has been arming the separatists, although Russia continues to deny it.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said at the conference that France and its allies must stick together, show resolve and not agree to concessions that undermine European security.  But he said no one wants to get “trapped” in a raging war.

Mogherini said the conflict in Ukraine has shown that one of the basic tenets of international law — respect for a country’s territorial integrity — can be violated. She called this an “extremely dangerous precedent” for the world.

The cease-fire signed in September in Minsk called on forces from both sides to stop the shelling, pull back from the front lines and begin immediate peace talks. The deal was violated almost from the moment it was signed.

A Ukrainian military vehicles drives toward Debaltseve on the outskirts of Artemivsk, eastern Ukraine, Feb. 8, 2015.
A Ukrainian military vehicles drives toward Debaltseve on the outskirts of Artemivsk, eastern Ukraine, Feb. 8, 2015.

Death toll, displaced

Ukrainian forces have been fighting to take back parts of eastern Ukraine seized by Russian-backed separatists when a new Western-leaning government took power in Ukraine last year.

The United Nations said more than 5,300 people have been killed in the conflict in Ukraine, which began nearly a year ago.

Last Friday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported that nearly 1 million civilians have been internally displaced by fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Russia has denied involvement in the fighting. But Poroshenko stood before reporters at the security conference in Munich Saturday holding up Russian passports that he said were taken from Russian soldiers inside Ukraine.

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Russia slams US plan for arming Ukraine

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US Secretary of State John Kerry

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has criticized the US’ plans to supply “lethal weapons” to the Ukrainian government.

Lavrov made the criticism at a meeting with his American counterpart John Kerry in Munich.

“Lavrov stressed that the plans currently discussed in Washington to supply military hardware and weapons to Kyiv could have unpredictable consequences and risk undermining the efforts to find a political solution to the conflict in the South-East of the country,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said on its Facebook page.

Lavrov and Kerry met on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.

Russia believes arms supplies to Ukraine would only aggravate the raging crisis in the European country.

Lavrov had earlier said that Washington’s actions over the crisis in Ukraine crisis had aggravated the situation.

“The U.S. took steps at each stage of the Ukraine crisis that only led to its further escalation,” Lavrov said at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.

He also added that the US puts the blame on Russia for “any complicated situation”.

“In any complicated situation, our American colleagues try to shift the blame to Russia – take, for instance, the talk about the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which has become increasingly more active of late.”

The New York Times the US President Barack Obama’s administration is considering supplying Ukrainian forces with weapons and equipment to fight pro-Russian militias in country’s restive eastern regions.

It reported that John Kerry and US joint chiefs chairman Martin Dempsey were open to discuss the idea.

An increasing numbers of American lawmakers have been asking President Obama to send arms to Ukraine.

Republican Senator John McCain, leading a dozen Republican and Democratic lawmakers, said few days ago that US lawmakers would introduce a legislation requiring the US to send arms to Ukraine if President Barack Obama does not move to send weapons.

Republican and Democrat Senators from Illinois Mark Kirk and Richard Durbin have written a letter to President Obama asking him to ask Obama to arm Ukraine “over escalating Russian aggression” there.

The idea of sending lethal arms to Ukraine has drove a wedge among Washington’s allies with German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying the crisis in Ukraine would not be solved by military means.

“The progress that Ukraine needs cannot be achieved by more weapons,” Merkel said in Munich on Saturday.

“The problem is that I cannot envisage any situation in which an improved equipment of the Ukrainian army leads to a situation where President Putin is so impressed that he will lose militarily.”

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Coalition Military Leaders Discuss Operation Inherent Resolve

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From a Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve News Release

Military leaders representing member states of a combined joint task force to degrade and ultimately destroy the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant gathered Feb. 2-3 to discuss the way ahead in Operation Inherent Resolve, task force officials announced today.

The U.S.-led coalition was established after ISIL seized control of territory in Iraq and Syria.

Iraqi security forces have commenced offensive operations on multiple fronts in Iraq, officials said, with the United States and coalition partners supporting them with airstrikes and by training of security force personnel and advisor teams.

Coalition forces have launched more than 2,000 airstrikes in Syria and Iraq since the beginning of Operation Inherent Resolve.

Maintaining Collaboration

“Throughout the two-day event, we maintained coalition collaboration, [and] we encouraged candid views, discussions, sharing of ideas, challenges and successes. We also had the opportunity to hear from all of our coalition representatives,” said Canadian Army Lt. Col. Ryan Jurtkowski, the combined joint task force’s deputy chief of plans.

Leaders in attendance used the conference as a platform to brief planners from around the world about the state of their nations’ support to the coalition and the mission, officials said. The conference focused on measuring the progress made thus far in degrading ISIL in Iraq, and collaborating on effective future operations, they added.

“We continue to broaden our collective views of the mission and maintain the tremendous collaboration we’ve shared to date,” said U.S. Army Lt. Gen. James L. Terry, the combined joint task force’s commanding general.

More than 20 nations sent military leaders to the conference, and the consensus of participants was that the effort was successful, officials said.

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Supreme Leader cautions negotiators against prolonged deal

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Tehran, Feb 8, IRNA – Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei on Sunday advised the negotiators to sign straightforward deal to lift the sanctions and make sure that the other party would not enjoy bargaining chip, something they favor so much.

The Supreme Leader made it clear that the negotiations must target ultimate lifting of the sanctions which have been harmful to Iran.

He said that the negotiations must lead to lift the sanctions, and that the deal must not envisage prolonged process, because, the enemies favor to use next stages of the deal for bargaining and that they embarked on procrastination so far to make Iran suffer more from sanctions.

The Supreme Leader said that the Iranian government will make the sanctions weapon blunt if the western governments refused to lift them.

The enemies attempted to bring the Iranian nation to their knees and humiliate them through their miscalculation, said the Supreme Leader adding that the Iranian nation once again on the 22nd of Bahman marking anniversary victory of the Islamic revolution will prove that they never accept bullying and will respond strongly to any humiliating move.

The Supreme Leader made the remarks receiving commanders and personnel of the Air Force.

The Supreme Leader recalled the ten-day dawn events in 1979 and said that the brave actions of the then commanders and personnel of the Air Force proved the righteousness and attraction of Islamic revolution which shed light in the hearts of the then committed forces to the monarchy.

After triumph of the Islamic Revolution of Iran, world people were inspired to stand against bullying of the US, said the Supreme Leader.

The Supreme Leader said that bullying powers and the US on top from early stages of the Islamic revolution did their best to halt the process of the revolution, but to no avail.

They are not against people or individuals, they are opposed to the nature of the movement which brought resistance, independence and dignity for great Iranian nation, said the Supreme Leader.

They are very irritated for the resistance of the Iranian nation and seek to bring the Iranian nation to their knees and humiliate them which is totally wrong, said Ayatollah Khamenei.

The US miscalculation in dealing with regional developments have brought them more failure and defeats, said the Supreme Leader.

A US official has recently said that Iranians are hand-folded in nuclear talks and have been trapped, the Supreme Leader said as an example of such miscalculations.

Once again the world will witness the mass presence of the Iranian nation which proves who is hand folded, said the Supreme Leader.

The fact is that the US is in trouble, and the on-going developments in the region and the world are good reason for, said the Supreme Leader.

Referring to the defeats of the US in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Gaza, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Ukraine, the Supreme Leader addressed the Americans that it is you that have been defeated for many years but the Islamic Republic of Iran has developed and its current status is not comparable to the 30 years ago.

Iran has attained significant developments in various scientific, social and international issues said the Supreme Leader adding that the US failed to prevent the country’s success.

The ill-wishers and opponents try to imply that Iran has been trapped in nuclear talks which is totally wrong, said the Supreme Leader.

The Americans say ‘no agreement is much better that a bad one, said the Supreme Leader adding that we also believe that no agreement is better than an agreement which might be against the country’s national interests and might prepare ground for humiliation of great Iranian nation.

The Americans and some European countries have adopted irrational and illogical approach in nuclear talks which run counter to the principles of negotiations, said the Supreme Leader.

‘I agree with good agreement and there is no doubt that the Iranian nation will admit to any deal in line with their dignity and prestige,’ said the Supreme leader.

Dignity and development of Iranian nation in nuclear talks should be heeded as Iranian people never give up to any bullying of the US or others, said Ayatollah Khamenei.

Prior to Supreme Leader’s remarks, the Air Force Commander Brigadier Hassan Shahsafi briefed the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces about the advances and achievements of the Iranian Air Force in various fields.

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Yemen will resume national talks on Monday

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Yemen will resume national talks in the presence of all factions over its future, UN envoy to Sana’a, Jamal Benomar says just a few days after the formation of a transitional council by Shia Houthi fighters.

On Friday, Yemen’s Ansarullah movement announced a constitutional declaration on Transitional National Council, which is to replace Yemen’s parliament.

According to the constitutional declaration, the Transitional National Council will be set up to elect the presidential council in a bid to end the country’s persisting political deadlock.

Speaking to reporters in Sana’a on Sunday, Benomar said the leader of Shia Houthi fighters, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, and all political Yemeni parties have agreed to resume dialog on Monday.

“I stress on the need for all political leaderships to take up their responsibilities and achieve consensus to overcome this political impasse the country is going through,” Benomar added.

He insisted on a “peaceful solution” to the ongoing crisis in the Arab country.

UN chief’s stance on Yemen

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Sunday that President Abd Rabbu Mansur Hadi must be restored to power in Yemen.

“The situation is very, very seriously deteriorating, with the Houthis taking power and making this government vacuum. There must be restoration of legitimacy of President Hadi,” Ban told reporters.

This is while Abdul-Malik al-Houthi said in a public address on Saturday that the formation of a transitional council can thwart all plots against Yemen as it would put an end to the political vacuum in the Arab country.

In September 2014, Ansarullah fighters gained control of the capital city of Sana’a, following a four-day battle with army forces loyal to General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, the half-brother of the country’s former dictator, Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The Ansarullah revolutionaries say the Yemeni government has been incapable of properly running the affairs of the country and providing security.

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North Korea tested five more missiles

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Following a separate guided missile test on Saturday, as the US and South Korea prepare for joint exercises in March.

North Korea fired five short-range missiles into the Sea of Japan on Sunday, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported, following Saturday’s tests of a self-guided missile.”North Korea kicked off drills of the same kind two weeks earlier than last year,” the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman, Jeon Ha-kyu told the agency.The missile testing began at 4:20 p.m. local time, over the course of 50 minutes, and saw them fly about 200 kilometers before landing in the sea, according to the agency.

Sunday also marks the 67th anniversary of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), North Korean news agency KCNA reported.

“Sure is the final victory of the revolutionary cause of Juche and the revolutionary cause of Songun as great Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism indicates the way to be followed by us,” North Korean daily Rodong Sinmun wrote in commemoration of the event.On Saturday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un observed the test of an anti-ship rocket.”The ultra-precision anti-ship rocket blasted off from a rocket boat. The intelligent rocket precisely sought, tracked and hit the ‘enemy’ ship after flying there safely,” KCNA reported on Saturday.

The tests come in the run-up to the US-South Korean military drills, which are scheduled to take place this spring on the Korean Peninsula.Washington and Seoul have repeatedly blamed Pyongyang for developing rocket capabilities that they say are required for the creation of an effective inter-continental ballistic missile.

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Allies Must Stay Focused on Russia, Biden Says in Munich

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By Jim Garamone

Europe and the United States tried to bring Russia into the community of nations in a constructive manner, but Russian President Vladimir Putin has other ideas, Vice President Joe Biden said yesterday in Munich.

Russia’s actions against Ukraine, its bullying of neighboring nations and its repression of dissent at home worry U.S. and European leaders, and they must remain focused against the threat, Biden said at the annual Munich Security Conference.

“America and Europe are being tested,” the vice president said. “President Putin has to understand that as he has changed, so has our focus.”

Western leaders have moved from resetting relations with Russia to reasserting the fundamental bedrock principles on which European freedom and stability rest, Biden said=: inviolate borders, no spheres of influence and the sovereign right to choose alliances.

‘We Have to be Laser-focused on the Greater Threat’

“To protect these important principles,” he added, “we have to be laser-focused on the greater threats to the project of a Europe whole, free, and at peace.”

The vice president said world powers need to be united in support of Ukraine, and that what happens there will resonate well beyond Ukraine. Russia has gone back on freely achieved agreements, he said, and that should matter to countries around the world.

“Russia needs to understand that as long as it continues its current course, the United States, and, God willing, all of Europe and the international community, will continue to impose costs on their violation of basic international norms,” Biden said.

Russia’s president promised peace and a cease-fire, and instead launched troops and tanks and aircraft, the vice president said. The United States “will continue to provide Ukraine with security assistance, not to encourage war but to allow Ukraine to defend itself,” he added.

“Let me be clear,” Biden said. “We do not believe there is a military solution in Ukraine. But let me be equally clear: we do not believe Russia has the right to do what they are doing. We believe we should attempt an honorable peace. But we also believe the Ukrainian people have a right to defend themselves.”

Urges Russia to Comply With Minsk Agreement

Biden called for Russia to go back to the agreement it signed at Minsk with the Ukrainian government in September. This calls for the full withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine, the return of control over the international border to Ukraine and to develop a robust international monitoring mission on the Ukrainian-Russian border.

“It’s fully within the power of Moscow to stop the separatists from pursuing the military solution,” Biden said.

The objective, he said, is to preserve the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

“Let me state as clearly as I can what is not our objective — it is not the objective of the United States … to collapse or weaken the Russian economy,” he said. “That is not our objective. But President Putin has to make a simple, stark choice: Get out of Ukraine or face continued isolation and growing economic costs at home.”

Posted in USA, RussiaComments Off on Allies Must Stay Focused on Russia, Biden Says in Munich

Wall Street and the Crisis in Greece

NOVANEWS
When Only Bad Choices Remain
by ROB URIE

Occasionally a simple story, trivial even, is a useful metaphor for an historical epic. One such story: last week the New York State Attorney General’s office charged four major retailers with selling nutritional supplements that contained none of their advertised ingredients. This wasn’t / isn’t a case of low quality or of poor quality control. The manufacturers put cheap filler into pill form and sold as much as people would buy knowing that ‘consumers’ don’t have the resources to determine whether the products contained their advertised ingredients. No ‘market mechanism’ uncovered the fraud. It was / is undetectable in the ‘market’ frame. And while no one died as a result of the fraud, the same can’t be said of the broader circumstance for which the incident is metaphor.

Western economists call this ‘asymmetric’ information— the manufacturers knew that they are selling fraudulent goods but ‘consumers’ didn’t. The same principle was at work when Wall Street banks, including major French and German banks, created and sold faulty Mortgage-Backed Securities (MBS) to pension funds, insurance companies and smaller European banks in the run up to crisis in 2008. On the other side of the transactions, the home mortgages that backed the MBS resulted from predatory lending by Wall Street banks into the property bubble that Wall Street created. When these ‘assets’ inevitably imploded the liabilities were shifted from bank balance sheets to the public under the guise of ‘bailouts.’

uriegreecechart1

Graph (1) above: Western mythology has it that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was the result of an untenable economic system when the economic system didn’t become truly untenable until neo-liberal economists, mainly from Harvard University, began ‘advising’ the Russian leadership in the early 1990s. Debate persists around whether Larry Summers and his minions intended to destroy Russia or the combination of their corruption and improbable ideology accomplished to task. The outcome for the Russian people was utter economic catastrophe. Mr. Summers also had a large hand in the deregulation of Wall Street that still reverberates around the globe, including in Greece. Source: World Bank via St. Louis Fed.

The explanation provided by the Obama administration for the Wall Street bailouts, for shifting misbegotten ‘assets’ from bank balance sheets to the public, is that ‘the economy’ needed a functioning banking system to recover. Left substantially unaddressed is what constitutes a ‘functioning’ banking system. The system that preceded the crisis, the same one that has been recovered, can hardly be considered ‘functioning’ after it crashed the global economy, required the commitment of tens of trillions of dollars in contingent bailout money and continues to wreak economic havoc around the globe even today. And again, this system includes major German and French banks. The U.S. Federal Reserve most certainly understood this when it bailed out foreign banks in 2008.

When the ECB (European Central Bank) asserts, as it currently is with Greece, that national debts are sacrosanct, it is either taking a radically anti-historical stance or it is tipping its hand as to the troika’s true intentions. Debt ‘forgiveness,’ jubilees, has been public policy since credit was conceived. WWII became an extension of WWI in some measure because of residual war debts— reparations. In The World in Depression, economist Charles Kindleberger relates national debts to the development and perpetuation of the Great Depression. And while tiny Greece is no military threat to Germany and the European North, ongoing economic Depression in the European South caused by troika policies threatens broader economic and political stability around the globe.

uriegreen2

Picture (1) above: the Time Magazine cover proclaiming three of the most economically destructive people who ever lived, Alan Greenspan, Larry Summers and Robert Rubin, the ‘Committee to Save the World’ would be ironic if it weren’t still indicative of the age. Former Fed Chair Greenspan believed that ‘reputational risk’ would prevent businesses, from Wall Street to nutritional supplement manufacturers, from defrauding ‘their’ customers. Robert Rubin’s acolytes still consume the Democrat Party, including Barack Obama, with neo-liberal dogma. And from Harvard to Russia to Asia to Wall Street, few others alive embody economic malpractice more than Larry Summers. Source: Time Magazine.

The dominant storyline of the German / ECB view towards Greece is of obstinacy— Greece is in an ongoing economic Depression and its capacity to repay debt is declining. Under no configuration of circumstance can Greece repay debt in the amount owed. So, what do the Germans, the IMF and the ECB really want from Greece? A rough analogy can be found in IMF loans to Ukraine in the midst of a coup engineered by the Obama administration. The coup in Ukraine is about energy and geopolitics— from whom and by what route will oil and gas be supplied to Europe and in what form will the U.S. renew its Cold War against Russia? With the loan the IMF, a/k/a American and European banking interests, now owns Ukraine. And in addition to ‘gifting’ Ukraine with war, the IMF is implementing austerity policies along the lines of the Greek model.

The Obama administration’s refusal to prosecute Wall Street for its malfeasance in the run-up to crisis (and since) has had the broader political effect of ‘legitimating’ the consequences in official channels. It was well understood by the Wall Street banks that many, if not the preponderance, of the mortgage loans made in the housing bubble were unlikely to be paid back. The Obama administration’s practice of allowing the banks to leave debts in place while taking houses in foreclosure (the difference between the amount the house is sold for and what was owed remained) finds analog in Germany’s insistence that Greeks repay money borrowed to replace that which Western interests had taken. And chief among the Wall Street banks responsible for crisis in 2008 was Germany’s Deutsche Bank.

uriegreecechart3

Graph (2) above: since crisis struck in 2008 the Greek unemployment rate has risen from 8% to 27%. This is Great Depression level unemployment representing a degree of economic misery that is both gratuitous and difficult to conceive. It is gratuitous because the ECB has the wherewithal to eliminate the Greek debt, the rationale for austerity policies, with a few computer keystrokes. And it is difficult to conceive because it is being lived in wasted lives, suicides, shortened life spans, hunger and homelessness. Source: St. Louis Fed.

The role of Deutsche Bank in producing fraudulent financial products should give Germans pause. The head of Deutsche Bank’s structured products desk told me quite openly in 2005 that they were betting against the mortgage bonds they were selling to their customers to the full extent the bank would allow them to. This is to say that senior bankers at Deutsche Bank, like the rest of Wall Street, knew that they were creating faulty products and they intended to profit from their inevitable decline in value. The loans to the European periphery that Germany and the troika are now insisting that Greece repay went to ‘nationalize,’ convert to the public balance sheet, money ‘borrowed’ to purchase French and German goods. The strategy is explained here by economic ‘hit man’ John Perkins.

The question for the troika vis-à-vis Greece is: what do they really want? The ‘extend and pretend’ logic of making new loans on the premise that Greece can grow its way out of debt only makes sense if economic surplus accrues at a faster rate than what is extracted for debt repayment. The troika’s austerity policies assure that this will never happen. And any junior bond analyst can do the arithmetic and conclude that the Greek debt won’t be paid. The situation between Germany and Greece may be more complicated because of the monetary union and related concerns, but the imbalance in economic power between them preceded the union and Greek debt was in some significant measure undertaken to benefit French and German corporations, not the people of Greece.

With history as a guide, there are no good intentions coming from the U.S. and Northern Europe toward the European periphery. The very concept of a monetary union without a political union is premised in primitive neo-liberal ideology that assumes away the influence that political and economic power imbalances have over economic relations. The question then is: under what arrangement of circumstance is it in the Greek people’s interest to stay in the monetary union? This is a question that the troika should be answering as well. When there are only bad choices, bad choices will be made. Across the West imbalances in economic and political power are increasing, not diminishing. This trajectory suggests that declaring a different path today will be less painful than doing so tomorrow.

Posted in USA, GreeceComments Off on Wall Street and the Crisis in Greece

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