Archive | August 24th, 2018

Ex-Obama Official: We Fueled the Syria War Rather Than Stopping It

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad bears criminal responsibility for the Syrian crisis, says Robert Malley, a former top White House official and now the CEO of the International Crisis Group. But once the US became part of the proxy war against Assad, Malley argues, “we were part of what fueled the conflict rather than stopped it.”

[This is the third part of an extended interview on US policy in Iran, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Syria with Robert Malley, a senior Obama administration official on Middle East affairs].

Story Transcript

AARON MATE: It’s The Real News. I’m Aaron Mate. We are continuing with Robert Malley. He is president and CEO of the International Crisis Group. He served in the Obama Administration as Special Assistant to President Obama, and as the White House coordinator on the Middle East, North Africa, and Gulf region.

So you mentioned earlier that- Syria being different than Yemen because the U.S. was not actively involved, and the responsibility for the violence falls on our foes. Well, I want to present-.

ROBERT MALLEY: I’m sorry, I just- what I said was the ones who are directly prosecuting the war were our allies in one case, and were enemies in the other. Which does, again-. Let’s talk about Syria. But I mean, in Yemen, these were allies who were doing things that we disagreed with. So we should have a much better, a better claim and much more purchase on them than we did on the Syrian regime, or on Iran, or Hezbollah, or Russia. That doesn’t answer your other question, but go ahead, because I think I know where you’re going.

AARON MATE: Well, my contention is that it wasn’t just our foes who were prosecuting the war in Syria. It was us as well, via our support for the so-called ‘moderate rebels’; the weapons we provided, a lot of that ended up in the hands of jihadists. And it was our Gulf allies pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into arming them and fueling a terrible proxy war in which atrocities are committed on all sides. And so on this front, I want to play you a clip of Joe Biden speaking in 2014, where he seemed to acknowledge this.

JOE BIDEN: Our biggest problem is our allies; our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria. The Turks were great friends, and I have a great relationship with Erdogan, which I’ve just spent a lot of time with, the Saudis, the Emiratis, et cetera. What were they doing? They were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad. Except that the people who were being, who were being supplied were al Nusra and al Qaeda, and the extremist elements of jihadi is coming from other parts of the world.

AARON MATE: So that is Joe Biden speaking in 2014. So Rob, I think you know where I’m going with that. I mean, what about the role of our allies and ourselves in fueling that terrible war? And why didn’t we simply just stop our own actions and use the leverage we had with our allies there to bring a resolution to this conflict much earlier? Something that I know you personally advocated in your time in government.

ROBERT MALLEY: So let me say two things about first. And again, I’m agreeing with a lot of what you’re saying. But I do think there’s another side. We have to be careful not to try to jump from one extreme- I’m not saying it’s an extreme- but from one side to the other without acknowledging one thing. The main responsibility for the horror that has befallen Syria lies with the regime. I mean, and, and as you said, I’ve been- I was an advocate inside and outside the administration of a different policy, and which has echoes of what you just said, but not because I think that Bashar al-Assad did nothing wrong, and it’s all the fault-. And I’m not saying you said that. But it’s not all the fault of the countries that then intervene on behalf of the opposition. I think-.

AARON MATE: Certainly not saying that.

ROBERT MALLEY: I know, I know you’re not. But the regime early on chose an extraordinarily repressive way of dealing with this. I think our mistake was throwing our lot-. I think we needed to just try to do something to put pressure on the Assad regime not to use chemical weapons, not to use barrel bombs, not to do the, some of the things that we were just talking about in Yemen, only they did it even more, to go after hospitals and schools and kids. We needed to find ways to pressure that.

Once we threw in our lot and we became part of the regime change- by definition, even if we denied it- once we’re supplying the armed opposition which had only one goal, which was to topple- had one goal, which was to topple the regime. And once we were in bed with the Saudis, the Qataris, the Turks who also had that goal. And their goal was not just- their goal was not, and I don’t want to, I don’t want to simplify too much, but their role was not only to protect the Syrian people. In fact, as you said, a lot of their actions exacerbated the situation and led to more deaths. Their goal was to break the regime in order to break Iran’s role in the, in Syria.

Once we became part of that, then you’re right. Then we were part of what fueled the conflict rather than stopped it. And I think this is a longer discussion we should have. But I think the real challenge, looking back at the Obama administration’s policy in Syria, was was there a way to cabin off the humanitarian imperative of trying to stop the worst, the most egregious forms of warfare that were being used by the regime without becoming part of the regime change, anti-Iran, let’s change issues orientation? Because once that became the goal, number one, the humanitarian considerations were no longer number one. And number two, we were making it all the more likely that Iran and Hezbollah and Russia would pour in even more support to the regime, because they didn’t want to lose it. So it just- we were giving enough support for the opposition to keep the war going and to, and to aggravate it, but not enough to end it. And I’m not arguing that we should have given more.

But I was not in favor of the support the opposition crowd for a lot of those reasons. But again, I’m just saying that in terms of historic responsibility, when the objective history will be written, if such a thing exists, the primary fault will, will lie with the regime that decided to respond in the way it did. Then others obviously became contributing factors and saw in this an opportunity- again I say this, the opportunity not to save the Syrian people, but to topple the regime and to weaken Iran. Those should not have been our objectives.

AARON MATE: Fair enough. My only point is the regime is responsible for its brutal internal repression and atrocities. But it’s not- it’s not solely responsible for the choice of others to launch a proxy war. And that is something that the U.S.-

ROBERT MALLEY: I agree with you on that. I fully agree.

AARON MATE: OK. Well, Rob, we’d love to have you back, and we’ve kept you away over time. So next time, I promise-.

ROBERT MALLEY: That’s fine. It was interesting.

AARON MATE: It was, and we really appreciate it. Rob Malley, president and CEO of International Crisis Group; served in the Obama administration as Special Assistant to President Obama and White House coordinator on the Middle East and North Africa and the Gulf region. Rob, thank you so much.

ROBERT MALLEY: My pleasure. Thank you.

AARON MATE: Thank you. And thank you for joining us on The Real News.

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Prisoners Across the US Strike to End Modern Day Slavery

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Prisoners organized through prison walls to strike, demanding an end to work with no pay, voting rights and for rehabilitation, training, and Education Programs. Pastor Kenneth Glasgow, President of the Ordinary People Society talks about the prison strike

 

Story Transcript

MARC STEINER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Marc Steiner. Great to have you with us.

Prisoners across these United States began a three week-long strike to protest modern day enslavement of people in U.S. prisons. The first day of the strike marked the anniversary of the murder of George Jackson in 1971, in San Quentin Prison in California. George Jackson, of course, was a prisoner who led a radical movement inside the walls of those prisons. The strike is scheduled to end on September 9, which marks the anniversary of the Attica rebellions, where prisoners seized the Attica Correctional Facility in New York in 1971. Previous strikes have ended with leaders of those strikes being put in solitary confinement, and many times when strikers were met with a violent response by prison officials.

The prisoners, led by Jailhouse Lawyers Speak and supported by the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, are demanding an end to the death penalty and dying in prison; an end to labor without pay; an end to solitary confinement; reinstitution of Pell grants, education programs, and instituting plans for rehabilitation; and the right to vote, and more. And we’ll be following all this up and following the strike, and hoping that prisoners’ efforts will not lead to their persecution, nor their prosecution.

We’re joined today by the Pastor Kenneth Glasgow. He’s the founder and president of Ordinary People Society. He’s convener of the National Criminal Justice Coalition, and cochairman of the Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted Peoples Movement. Pastor, welcome. Good to have you with us back on The Real News.

PASTOR KENNETH GLASGOW: Thank you for having me.

MARC STEINER: So the first major strike that took place in this country among people inside, incarcerated, was in 2016, September 2016. So tell me, from that movement to this point on, almost two years later, what are the difference is and what’s happening at this moment.

PASTOR KENNETH GLASGOW: Well, basically there is not too much of a difference because of the fact that none of the demands were ever met. The Free Alabama movement call to action, 20 different states joined in, 40-50 prisons across this country. Men and women that’s incarcerated. We, as the Formerly Incarcerated Convicted Peoples Movement supported them, stood in solidarity with 40-50 different organizations across this country. And we have yet to see some of the results of them locking up children, of them with the [habitual] offender act, of what’s going on with our rights to vote all across the country, and different things that are going on.

So that’s why what we have declared now, and what has been declared by the Free Alabama movement inside Alabama prisons is the fact that they’re asking that we redistribute the pain. And in redistributing the pain, they are doing peaceful strikes all across the country, again to say, hey, you need to stop brutalizing those that are incarcerated, treat us more humanely, and you give us our rights. And so they are asking us and putting more pressure on those of us who are outside who are directly impacted, just as they are formerly incarcerated, currently incarcerated, to come together and say, hey, we are clearly the ones that fit the category of no taxation without representation. OK? So why are we being taxed, and we don’t have a right to vote? Because when we don’t have a right to vote, we are considered noncitizens or second-class citizens.

So their action is to redistribute the pain, and tell them no election, no re-election, as long as you’re taxing us. And so these are the things that’s going on. We’re looking at the Innocence Inquiry Commission that’s supposed to be in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, and these prisons in South Carolina, that is looking at death sentences, but not looking at any other sentences to see if those people are innocent. We’re looking at juveniles being targeted even younger now than they were in 2016. In 2016 we were looking at 17-18 year olds, and some of our 16 year olds. Now it’s become predominant all across this country that once you’re 16 you’re classified as an adult. And they’ll drop it now to 14-15 year olds.

We’re looking at these habitual acts and these habitual sentences that are coming across the mainstream. We’re looking at police brutality that is happening on the inside as well as on the outside. So we have a collective voice that we will not be erased, and our voices will be heard. And so this is what we’re doing on the inside with the first wave. And of course, you know, just like the first national strike, the second wave is those of us outside. And we started with the Free 2 Vote- I launched the Free 2 Vote campaign, Free, number 2, to Vote campaign, across the country where they go inside the jails and register people to vote who have not been convicted yet, and who have not been sentenced. And those on the inside across the country who are not like Alabama, where they can vote, you know, inside prisons and jails because of my lawsuit in 2008, they are doing- and as you see the picture of Kinetic Justice- they’re doing what’s called the Vote for Me campaign. The Vote for Me campaign is going to be very, very significant in Florida, because we have a [inaudible] on the ballot.

But in other places it’s going to affect their elections in 2018 because each and every person that is inside prison, that’s a prisoner, has at least 10-20 people that’s a friend, a family member, or a supporter that will be influenced to vote for that person that is locked up inside, that has lost their votes. One of the significant things that people need to understand is that inside prison they have time they even do the candidate opponent research. So we’re there directing us and we’re out here directing them on who’s best that’s fighting for our rights, that’s fighting for our humanity, and that is looking at criminal justice and reform, and prison reform, and all that.

MARC STEINER: So from what I’ve been reading, that, that I know the right to vote is a part of the 10 demands that people are making across the country. There are a lot of demands inside this movement. And from my understanding, in some ways this was triggered by the killing of a number of inmates in South Carolina at one prison that they’re trying to call a gang movement, but in reality was a great deal deeper than that. And that, and that this is being spread across the country at the moment. There are people who are incarcerated in Nova Scotia, California, New York, other places around the country. And they think four or five other states, though they can’t really get the information out at the moment about where it’s really happening, that this is spreading across country.

PASTOR KENNETH GLASGOW: Well, it’s also in Alabama, Florida especially, Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee, in all the Southern states. And you should see quoted as [inaudible] as well as Kinetic Justice, as well.

MARC STEINER: So the question is- I mean, so this this move is supposed to last until September, on the anniversary of Attica. And I wonder how you see building a movement from the inside and the outside that ends the kind of modern slavery that takes place inside of a prison.

PASTOR KENNETH GLASGOW: Well, our ultimate goal- another thing you must look at is when it ends on September 9 we’ll be having a national conference, the Formerly Incarcerated Convicted Peoples Movement, we’re going to our national conference in Orlando, Florida September 13-15. And you can go to FICPFM.org to learn more about that. And in our national conference our national goal for all of us collectively, currently incarcerated and formerly incarcerated, is to address the 13th Amendment. We need to ultimately get the exception clause out of the 13th Amendment that still have slavery written in our Constitution.

MARC STEINER: Pastor, for our viewers, I’m going to, I want to read the 13th Amendment. And then before we have to leave each other for this first segment we do together on this prison strike that we really want to cover here at The Real News, let me read this 13th Amendment. And then let’s talk a bit about what this means, because many people don’t realize what it really says. So let me just do that. Here we go.

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime where the party shall then be duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

So this is really, this is really a very important point, I think, here, that we have- that people who are incarcerated historically have been shopped out to people for free labor all throughout the South- and the North, and the West. Everywhere. Now, this is, at the heart of this, that this is really enslavement by another name.

PASTOR KENNETH GLASGOW: Yes. Yes. And so what we have is still written in our Constitution as an exception clause to slavery. You know, convict leasing in all these, a lot of these counties and different parts of the Southern states, you would use convict leasing. That’s how a lot of black folks got to a lot of different areas. But now we still have it in our Constitution. But also, if we want to get real technical and go into it we’ll do a different time. But there’s also a contradiction to our Constitution, because it says no one can be held in involuntary servitude or slavery, except as a means of punishment. But then it says in the Eighth Amendment, according to Brother Abdullah, it says in the Eighth Amendment there should be no cruel and unusual punishment. What is more cruel and unusual than slavery and indentured servitude?

MARC STEINER: I mean, this is actually- the historical roots of this have to do with the end of Reconstruction in 1877, and then that, that swelling of a mass incarceration of black people throughout the South that actually used this Amendment to renew slavery in the South. And now it’s moved across to the prison system all over America.

PASTOR KENNETH GLASGOW: Yes. And the reason they connected it and we put it so much with voting rights is because of the fact that when Dr. King got voting rights in 1965, then Nixon came out in 1971, six years later, with the drug war to get more black people locked up with slavery. Because we can look at the disparity and see that white people use drugs 15-20 times more than black folks. But black folks go to jail in prison 15-20 times more than white folks, who use more drugs. And so what it was was set up to disenfranchise and take away those voting rights. One of the biggest things that one of my colleagues say all the time is that he would hate to leave California, where he gained his rights, and become a noncitizen when he comes to Georgia.

And that’s the kind of stuff that we have to do. You know, people want to try to make this a blanket situation and look at, oh, these are prisoners. They committed- well, let’s look at it like- we are human beings. We are people with convictions. I’m not your ex-convict, I’m not your ex-felon, I’m not your ex-offender. That’s just like calling me the n-word. You know, and people say, well, oh, Glasgow, how’s that relative to racism? Well, it may not be racism, but it’s classism. The same hurt, the same pain, the same effect. And this is what we’re feeling inside prison as well outside prison, and that’s why they’re having the peaceful strikes right now.

MARC STEINER: Well, Pastor Glasgow, I really appreciate the time you took with us today, and we’re looking forward to covering the strike over the next two weeks that takes place in prisons around this country. It is moving across America and into Canada. And thank you so much for your work, and we look forward to talking to you again soon.

PASTOR KENNETH GLASGOW: Thank you so much for having me. And don’t forget, September 9, when it all ends, you’ve got a look at we’re going straight into our conference. We need to all come together, all allies, all families, all friends. Everyone is affected by prison. Everyone. Either you work for prison, or you work for a company that is getting stuff out of people that work for prisons. One of the biggest fallacies to me, and the hypocrisies, is the fact that we will work in prisons, they will use us for convict leasing, to work in their industries, work in their companies to make uniforms, to make furniture, to make lockers, to make even Victoria’s Secret, and all these different things that women wear. And then when we get out, they won’t give us a job. But we can work for them for 25 cents an hour in prison. God bless you.

MARC STEINER: And we’re going to continue to cover the strike here on The Real News through September 9 to let you know what’s happening in the movements inside of our prisons. And I’m Marc Steiner for The Real News Network. Thank you so much for watching. Take care.

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Greece Exits its Bailout but Remains Shackled by Debt and Austerity

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Former Greek MP Costas Lapavitsas says Greece has been reduced to a ‘weak and marginal Balkan economy’

Story Transcript

DIMITRI LASCARIS: This is Dimitri Lascaris, reporting from Montreal, Canada.

Yesterday, the eurozone and the Syriza-led government of Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced with much fanfare that Greece had finally exited its bailout. The bailout amounted to 289 billion euros over an eight-year period commencing in 2010. The bailout has left Greece with a crushing debt amounting to approximately 180 percent of GDP. Moreover, and as The Real News has previously reported, the bailout loans were conditional upon the Greek government imposing extraordinarily onerous conditions of austerity on the Greek people. That austerity resulted in an unprecedented 25 percent contraction in Greece’s economy, soaring unemployment and poverty, a massive brain drain, and sharply increased rates of suicide.

To announce the bailout exit, Prime Minister Tsipras travelled to the Greek island of Ithaca, the home of the legendary Greek hero Odysseus. Odysseus is the misnamed king whose arduous ten-year travels are immortalized in Homer’s Odyssey. Speaking from Ithaca, Prime Minister Tsipras declared that, quote: “Since 2010, Greece has undergone a modern Odyssey. Ithaca is just the beginning. Now we have reached our destination. The bailouts that carried with them austerity and recession, and turned our country into a social desert, are over. Our country is regaining its freedom to define its own fortunes and future like a normal European country, without having policies forced on it by foreign officials, with no more blackmail, no more sacrifices for our people.”

But has Greece’s government truly regained the freedom to pursue economic and social policies that enjoy wide support among Greek voters? Now here to discuss this with us is Costas Lapavitsas. Costas is a professor of economics at the University of London. In January of 2015 he was elected as a member of the Greek parliament for Syriza. In that election, Syriza won and formed the government for the first time. But in August 2015, a mere six or seven months later, following the decision of Alexis Tsipras to ignore the results of an anti-austerity referendum, Costas defected from Syriza to the newly formed Popular Unity Party. Thank you for joining us again on The Real News, Costas.

COSTAS LAPAVITSAS: Thank you for inviting me. It’s a real pleasure to talk to you.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: So Costas, based on the statements we are hearing from Greece’s government- and you heard some of them off the top, and I’m sure you’ve been reading about them- one would think that the Greek government will now enjoy the same level of policy freedom as other eurozone governments. In fact, however, Greece has made budgetary commitments to its creditors that extend years into the future, in particular with respect to its primary surplus. Please explain what the primary surplus is for those members of our audience who don’t know what future commitments Greece has made in regard to its primary surplus, and what you expect the economic consequences to be of Greece having to achieve those primary surpluses.

COSTAS LAPAVITSAS: Greece is formally obligated to ensure primary surpluses of three and a half percent of GDP annually for the next four years, to 2022. Primary surpluses are the surpluses the government must make before paying interest on its national debt. These surpluses can only be made by imposing heavy taxes, by cutting public expenditure. That’s the way to do it. After 2022, Greece is formally obliged to ensure primary surpluses of more than 2 percent annually until 2060. Yes, you’ve heard this right. Until 2060.

This is basically the substance of austerity. That’s what austerity means. Austerity means imposing taxes, cutting expenditure, to make sure that the surplus results, out of which creditors can be paid. Greece then is formally obligated through treaty, an agreement to make the surpluses. That severely limits the freedom of the government, this government or any other government that will follow, that will comply with these regulations to adopt independent economic policy. So Greece will not be like the other European countries, even on this score, just the score alone.

On top of that, Greece has got a public debt in the region of 180 percent of GDP. Yes, you heard this right, 180 percent of GDP. Which basically dictates the policies that the country will follow, because it has to be serviced. Because this government and other governments have accepted the need to service it. So that also acts as a very heavy constraint on the government. Now, this is not mere analytics or suppositions or surmising what might happen. The current government has signed up already to get a fresh round of cutting pensions in January 2019, and another round of raising taxes in 2020. These are obligations he has to fulfil. And these follow from the constraints that I’ve just explained. So under no circumstances is Greece in the same position as other European countries.

Finally, in terms of monitoring by the lenders, which was the reality of the last few years, because of these onerous obligations on the part of the country, Greece will be subjected to more severe monitoring than other European countries, with quarterly visits by the troika to examine its accounts and so on. The next visit is planned for the 10th of September, in about two, three weeks’ time.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: So therefore the ongoing, the intense supervision is by no means over, obviously. I want to talk to you a little bit about the debt. You raised the question of the debt. Is Greece’s debt any more sustainable today than it was before it purportedly exited from the bailout? And if not, is there any credible plan on the table between Greece and its creditors for the kind of debt relief that Greece would require in order to in order to render that debt sustainable?

COSTAS LAPAVITSAS: I want to make a couple of things clear about Greek debt, because so much has been written, spoken, and said during the last few years. Greek debt remains enormous. I mean, public debt remains enormous. However, its composition, it’s burden, and its implications for the economy are very different now to 2010 when this crisis broke out, and it’s very important to understand this. In 2010, Greek debt was actually a smaller proportion of the country’s gross domestic product, of a country’s economy. The debt was under Greek law. And it was owed primarily to private lenders; banks and various others who had lent money to the Greek state. It’s a very different beast to now. Greek debt now is actually bigger, in absolute terms. It’s bigger in relative terms, because Greek- the Greek economy has contracted dramatically. So it’s much bigger, proportionately. And it is debt that is under British law and owed to official lenders. Fundamentally owed to other states. It’s a very different type of debt.

This debt has just been rearranged in the way that the lenders chose to rearrange it. The lenders, incidentally, had promised Greece that if it applied the austerity and if it complied with the terms of the bailout, they would be generous when it came to lessening, likening the burden of the debt. Well, they were not. The terms that they offered Greece were basically terms of essentially extending some of the maturities of this vast debt, and making sure that there would not be heavy payments until 2032. The country was given a period of fairly light payments until 2032. But the weight of the debt is still there. And because it has to be sustainable in the eyes of the lenders, the country has to follow the austerity policy that I mentioned to you before. It has to secure that three and a half percent primary surpluses, and so on. The debt, then, acts as a ball and chain on the Greek economy, and it will act so for decades to come.

But in the medium term, it’s not as pressing as it was in 2010. It doesn’t threaten to finish off the Greek economy and to make the country go to default from week to week as it did in 2010, because its composition has changed and because the payments and the maturity have been changed.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Let’s talk about the current state of the Greek economy. The economy does appear to be growing, albeit modestly, and various eurozone officials and Greek government officials have been crowing about the current economic expansion in Greece. What do you say about that economic expansion- in particular, its relationship, if any, to cyclical growth across the eurozone? Is this, is this meaningful, particularly in light of the contraction? The severe contraction in the economy that we’ve seen? Is it sustainable? Is it something that is simply a broader trend in the eurozone, or is it peculiar to the conditions in Greece?

COSTAS LAPAVITSAS: It’s a mixture of all these things, as is often the case with this kind of economic phenomenon. I want to say a few things, however, to explain the nature of the outcomes that these bailouts have led to. Because it’s eight years, a tremendous period of intervention and policy applied to and imposed on Greece by the lenders and by the foreign powers. The Greek economy in 2010, under the heavy weight of its debt, faced two tremendous immediate problems: A vast fiscal deficit; in other words, a deficit of the government. And a vast external deficit; in other words a deficit of the economy as a whole. Imports, exports, and services coming in, services being exported. These two deficits, together with the debt, threaten default. And there was the immediate passing danger for the Greek economy.

The bailouts, eight years of bailouts, essentially dealt with the problem of these two deficits. And of the debt, after a fashion. That’s what they did. That’s what the lenders were interested in, and that’s what they did. They imposed austerity on the country, cut expenditure, dramatically imposed extremely heavy taxes, created unemployment, and so on, in order to deal precisely with these twin deficits. And they did. They did in the most brutal, the most clumsy, and unsophisticated way possible, by making the country poorer. That’s what they did. They clobbered the country very heavily. Its people, its society, its welfare state, it’s productive structure. They forced bankruptcies, failures, unemployment, and so on. They made Greeks much poorer. And in that way, they stabilized the fiscal deficit. There’s no fiscal deficit in the country anymore, there’s a fiscal surplus. And they stabilized the external deficit. There is a deficit, but it’s much, much smaller. It’s not, it’s not a vast problem at the moment.

So the Greek economy has been stabilized. The bailouts, in this respect, have been successful. The lenders have attained what they wished to attain, which was that: To stabilize the economy so that Greece would not be a threat to the eurozone, and so on. That’s been a great success. When we look at the Greek economy, however, and Greek society, we realize the true cost of all this. The social cost has been vast, of course. Vast. The health system has been completely disrupted. Education has been entirely disrupted. Unemployment has been phenomenal. The destruction of the productive fiber of the country has been vast. This has been the longest and deepest recession in decades. Much worse than the Great Depression in the United States in the 1920s. But worse than that, much worse than that, is the kind of economy that has emerged out of it; the kind of state of the Greek economy right now.

And that’s what I want to spend a little bit of time on, because it’s important to understand that. The lenders presumably imposed the bailout loans in order to make the Greek economy more efficient, and to make sure that Greece will enter on a growth path of prosperity and all these other fine words that they often use. When you look at the Greek economy right now, it’s anything but that. Anything but that. It’s actually a tremendous failure. The structure of the Greek economy is pretty much the same as it was back in 2010. Nothing has changed. It’s an economy of primarily services, of low productivity and low competitiveness. Industry has been dramatically shrunk and hit very hard; of low competitiveness, again. And of agriculture, which is low productivity and cannot survive, fundamentally, in the world market.

COSTAS LAPAVITSAS: This economy has got negative net savings. In other words, it hasn’t got the capital to invest. It doesn’t generate the capital to invest. And it has got banks that are basically dead on their feet. Greek banks have got non-performing loans; 45 percent of their total assets. These are ghosts. They’re not real banks. So they cannot write the credit that is necessary for investment to take place. So investment has collapsed. There is no investment in Greece. The capital stock is not even replenished. It’s basically dying away.

On top of that, 400,000 Greeks- Greece is a small country. It has a population of 11 million- 400,000 Greeks during the last few years have emigrated. These are Greeks who are very well trained. These are the best in the country. They’ve emigrated because they cannot live in the country. And that, of course, weakens the prospects for growth. Because if you don’t have trained labor, how can the economy grow?

So both on the side of capital and from the side of labor, the prospects of growth are basically non-existent. That’s the economy that the lenders have created. And that’s an economy of basically older people burdened by huge debts who will have very low growth. It’s a very unequal economy. It’s basically a marginal economy. Greece has been marginalized. That’s what’s happened. It’s become a marginal, weak Balkan country in the last eight years.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Well, we’ve been speaking to Professor of Economics Costas Lapavitsas, former Greek parliamentarian for the Syriza party before defecting to Popular Unity. Thank you very much for joining us today, Costas.

COSTAS LAPAVITSAS: Thank you.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: And this is Dimitri Lascaris, reporting for The Real News.

Posted in GreeceComments Off on Greece Exits its Bailout but Remains Shackled by Debt and Austerity

The Trump Administration Says Poverty Barely Exists and Measuring It Is “Arbitrary”

NOVANEWS

Roughly half of the difference is because the Trump administration is measuring poverty with a federal survey that tracks household reports of spending, including spending financed by credit cards and other debt, rather than income. Luke Shaefer and Joshua Rivera at the University of Michigan have already detailed some of the problems with this approach, but in short, the measurement just doesn’t line up with any of the struggles we associate with poverty. In years when we know that more families had trouble paying for basic necessities (for example, during the Great Recession), the measurement the Trump administration used (labeled “consumption” in the chart below) shows a decline in the poverty rate. Every other measurement shows an increase.

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US Cities Issue IDs to Protect Undocumented Immigrants

NOVANEWS

When Nate and his sister were children, their grandparents brought them to the US from a rural farm town in Belize. They were fleeing domestic violence: Their father was a powerful government official who often threatened them.

“We came over here legally at first,” Nate recalled. “We flew over on a plane and met my mother in Oklahoma, where she already had a home and a job.”

He and his family had visas and passports, and were cleared to set foot on US soil. But when he turned 18, his visa expired and he hadn’t been naturalized. Going back to Belize wasn’t a safe or feasible option for Nate (his name has been changed to protect his identity). His queer identity could put him at risk; gay intimacy was outlawed in the Central American country until 2016. Plus, he’d established a life and identity rooted in the US But navigating life here without government-issued documentation has come with a different set of challenges.

In addition to the more egregious forms of oppression many undocumented immigrants face, Nate has contended with being unable to do everyday tasks, such as opening a bank account, cashing checks, and applying for jobs and housing. “I’ve found ways around it because a lot of people in my community have known me since I was a kid,” he said. Racial perceptions have also shielded him because people often assume he is Black American. But still, he says that he “would benefit greatly from having a government ID.”

With people like Nate in mind, more than 20 US cities and counties have launched municipal identification programs since 2007 to make civic engagement and day-to-day living more accessible. Several more are in the process of creating legislation that would allow residents of any immigration status to get a local government ID.

Poughkeepsie, New York, is the latest city to pass a municipal identification program into law, and the first city to do so with a Republican mayor in office. The Poughkeepsie Common Council voted unanimously in July to launch the new program, which was made possible in part by the advocacy and lobbying efforts of Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson, a membership-based grassroots movement combating issues faced by mostly working-class communities of color in the Hudson Valley region. For the members of the organization, the issue of safety and access for immigrants in their communities is a very personal one.

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Mother of NSA Whistleblower Reality Winner: My Daughter Was “Nailed to the Door”

NOVANEWS

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NSA whistleblower Reality Winner has been sentenced to five years and three months in prison — the longest sentence ever imposed in federal court for leaking government information to the media. Twenty-six-year-old Reality Winner is the first person to be sentenced under the Espionage Act since President Trump took office. Her sentencing Thursday came after she pleaded guilty in June to transmitting a top-secret document to a news organization. She had faced up to 10 years in prison. We speak with her mother, Billie Winner-Davis.

TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: NSA whistleblower Reality Winner has been sentenced to five years and three months in prison — the longest sentence ever imposed in federal court for leaking government information to the media. The 26-year-old Reality Winner is the first person to be sentenced under the Espionage Act since President Trump took office. Her sentencing Thursday came after she pleaded guilty in June to transmitting a top-secret document to a news organization. She had faced up to 10 years in prison.

This is Bobby Christine, US attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, speaking after Winner’s sentencing.

BOBBY CHRISTINE: The sentence rendered today is the longest received by a defendant for an unauthorized disclosure of national defense information to the media. It appropriately satisfies the need for both punishment and deterrence, in light of the nature and seriousness of the offense. … Winner’s purposeful violation put our nation’s security at risk. … She claimed to hate America. When asked, “You don’t really hate America, right?” she responded, “I mean, yeah, I do. It’s literally the worst thing to happen on the planet.” She was the quintessential example of an insider threat.

AMY GOODMAN: Reality Winner was arrested by FBI agents at her home in Augusta, Georgia, June 3rd, 2017, two days before The Interceptpublished an exposé revealing Russian military intelligence conducted a cyberattack on at least one US voting software company just days before the US presidential election in 2016. The exposé was based on a classifiedNSA report from May 5th, 2017, that shows the agency is convinced the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, was responsible for interfering in the 2016 presidential election.

Earlier this morning, President Trump tweeted about the case, saying, quote, “Ex-NSA contractor to spend 63 months in jail over ‘classified’ information. Gee, this is ‘small potatoes’ compared to what Hillary Clinton did! So unfair Jeff, Double Standard.” He was referring to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who he has been attacking over the last 24 hours.

For more, we’re joined by three guests who were in the courtroom Thursday during Reality Winner’s sentencing. Joining us via Democracy Now! video stream is Billie Winner-Davis, mother of Reality Leigh Winner. She’s joining us from Augusta, where Reality Winner was sentenced. In Atlanta, Georgia, Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He has been covering Reality’s case and has covered several whistleblower trials, including that of Chelsea Manning. He was in the courtroom on Wednesday. And in Washington, DC, James Risen is with us, The Intercept’s senior national security correspondent, a best-selling author and a former New York Times reporter, also serves as director of First Look Media’s Press Freedom Defense Fund.

We welcome you all to Democracy Now! Let’s begin with Reality’s mother, Billie Winner-Davis. You were in the courtroom with your daughter. Can you explain your — can you share your reaction to her plea deal and sentencing?

BILLIE WINNERDAVIS: Well, I think yesterday my initial reaction to the whole proceeding and the judge’s sentencing was, I was relieved that the judge did approve of the plea agreement that the parties had reached for the 63 months in prison with a 3-year supervised release. Today I’m a little bit bitter. I’m a little angry. No, I should say I’m a lot bitter today. Just processing it, knowing that she is going to be serving the longest prison sentence for this, hearing Mr. Christine’s comments about her, hearing, you know, again, that she has to be the deterrent for anyone else in America who would think of warning us, of blowing the whistle on something important like this, it’s just — it’s really hard. It’s hard, as her mother, to have to experience this and to know that she’s going to be the one who is going to set the example. She is that first leaker under Trump’s administration. She’s the first one that they intended to nail to the door as a message to others.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you share Reality’s statement yesterday before the judge?

BILLIE WINNERDAVIS: Reality had a pretty lengthy statement that she had worked on. She basically — she let the judge know a little bit about who she was. She did share with the court that she was grateful for the professionalism that everyone had shown to her, the respectful environment. She let the court know, you know, a little bit about who she was, why she went in to serve her country. She basically went through her childhood, her relationship with her father, how 9/11 had affected her as a child, how she followed her stepbrother’s footsteps to go into the Air Force to be a linguist. She wanted to serve her country. She really had the desire to protect and defend and serve her country. I think she was trying to, you know, let the court know that although in some statements with texting with her sister she did indicate that she hates America, that that’s not really who she was. And so, she was really letting the court know a little bit about herself.

She also apologized to the court. She apologized to the government for the breach of trust. She apologized to the court and the government for the expense that she has cost them. She apologized to her family. She indicated that she knew that what she had done was wrong. She indicated that she was willing to accept responsibility and willing to move forward and accept the consequences of her actions.

AMY GOODMAN: How long has she been in jail, Billie?

BILLIE WINNERDAVIS: She’s been in jail for about 15 months.

AMY GOODMAN: Will that be part — will time served be part of that five — more than five years in jail?

BILLIE WINNERDAVIS: Yes, it’s my understanding that that time served will count toward her sentence, day for day.

AMY GOODMAN: When she came into the courtroom, you heard her shackles?

BILLIE WINNERDAVIS: Yes. That was — that was really difficult. That’s the first time that we’ve heard that, I think, because typically she’s been in the courtroom downstairs, and there’s carpeting. You know, you kind of hear her shuffle. But yesterday it was very quiet when they brought her in. And when she went up to the podium, you could actually hear her leg shackles hit the floor and make that clanking sound. It’s really striking that every time that Reality has appeared in court, she has to wear the orange inmate jumpsuit. She is shackled. She is very much presented as a criminal in that court. They dehumanize her, and they portray her as a criminal.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, your daughter Reality will be incarcerated at the Federal Medical Center, Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas. Why a medical center?

BILLIE WINNERDAVIS: That is only the recommendation at this time. That’s the recommendation that her defense team is making for her, the recommendation that a psychiatrist is making for her. And the judge actually approved of that recommendation yesterday. Whether or not she’s placed there, we won’t know. That will be up to the Bureau of Prisons to decide. But we do feel like that facility will meet her needs. My daughter does suffer from severe depression. She does suffer from bulimia. This entire situation with her being incarcerated, her inability to really control her environment, has been very difficult on her. And we’re hoping that she is placed there, so that they can meet her needs and she can get the treatment that she needs.

AMY GOODMAN: And did you speak to her? Were you able to communicate with her yesterday?

BILLIE WINNERDAVIS: Afterward, she called me when she was back at the jail. The defense team did ask the marshals if we could be allowed, you know, a brief visit with her yesterday at the courthouse. And again, we were denied. They make this request whenever they can. And again, the marshals will not permit us to be in the same room with her.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and then come back to this discussion. We’re speaking to Billie Winner-Davis. She is the mother of Reality Winner, who has just been sentenced to more than five years for releasing intelligence, leaking a top-secret document to The Intercept. When we come back, in addition to Billie Winner-Davis, we’ll be joined by Jim Risen. He is now at The Intercept. He’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. He himself has been prosecuted, under the Obama administration. And we’ll talk about that, as well. And Kevin Gosztola, longtime reporter, in the courtroom yesterday, he’ll be speaking to us from Atlanta. Stay with us.

Posted in USAComments Off on Mother of NSA Whistleblower Reality Winner: My Daughter Was “Nailed to the Door”

BDS Win: How Tunisian Groups Blocked Entry of an Israel-Linked Cargo Ship

NOVANEWS

This August, the Tunisian General Labour Union, Tunisia’s main labor federation, and Tunisian civil society succeeded in turning back a cargo ship that was seeking to unload its goods in the Tunisian port of Radès.

On July 31, the Tunisian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, a group affiliated with the BDS movement, learned that a vessel named Cornelius A, operated on behalf of the Israeli shipping company ZIM, was due to stop at the Tunisian port of Radès on August 5. The vessel is owned by the Turkish company Arkas, which has a Vessel Sharing Agreement with ZIM.

According to the Jerusalem Post, a call then came from Palestinian trade unions, a local Tunisian union and international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) activists to prevent the ship from entering the port. The successful blocking of the ship was a meaningful victory for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which originated in Palestinian civil society in 2005 and asks the international community to cease normal relations with Israeli state institutions until Israel gives the Palestinians the rights due to them according to international law.

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Palestine: Gestapo secret service asks German about his ‘Palestinian blood’

NOVANEWS
Israel secret service asks German about his ‘Palestinian blood’ at border

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By Shoah

Nadim Sarrouh and his wife Venus Ayoub [Nadim Sarrouh/Facebook]

Nadim Sarrouh and his wife Venus Ayoub [Nadim Sarrouh/Facebook]

Israel’s Shin Bet interrogated a German citizen about his “Palestinian blood” at a southern border crossing with Jordan earlier this month, reported Haaretz.

Nadim Sarrouh, his wife, Venus Ayoub, her parents, two brothers and sister had returned to ‘Israel’ on 11 August from a short trip to Jordan, according to the paper.

“Ayoub and her family, all of them Israeli citizens and residents of the Galilee village of Jish, had already gone through border control,” but Sarrrouh’s passport wasn’t returned, and he was taken for questioning by a border inspector and Shin Bet interrogator.

“She [the Shin Bet agent] started by asking where I am from,” recounted Sarroush. “I said I am from Germany. She asked me where I am really from. I said, I was born in Berlin, Germany, have a German passport and no other and am thus a German citizen.”

Read: Palestine journalist arrested by Israel military, accused of inciting violence

But the agent persisted: “Your blood isn’t German, right? Your blood is Palestinian.” Sarrouh replied: “I don’t know about that, but if my blood is anything, it’s probably also Polish” (his mother is a Polish woman who was born in Germany).

The investigator also asked him his opinion regarding Gaza. “I told her that I don’t think that they should ask me about my political opinions in order to decide whether or not I’m allowed to enter,” he told Haaretz.

Her reply was that “we can actually do anything. We are not Germany! We are not letting in refugees just like that, like your Merkel is doing! We check who we let in!”

She then pointed to a large Israeli flag and said:

You see that? That means that you’re in Israel. It isn’t your country. You don’t belong here. We can detain you for a few days, decide whether or not to let you enter, and if you don’t like it – you can take your passport and return to Jordan.

Subsequently, a second interrogator “shouted a lot”, and threatened him: “We know that you did something bad and you know it too, so the sooner you comply, the sooner this can be over.”

“Don’t lie to us, because we already know everything anyway, and we can see when you lie too. We have a lot of video footage from you, we know where you went and what you did. We can also arrest your wife and your wife’s family and interrogate them,”  he recalls her telling him.

Read: 520 Palestinians arrested by Israel in July

Shin Bet told Haaretz that Sarrouh “refrained from cooperating throughout his investigation, behaving rudely and aggressively towards the security personnel. During his interrogation various findings aroused suspicion that he is involved in hostile activity and is connected to hostile organisations. At the conclusion of the security investigation he was allowed to enter Israel.”

Posted in Palestine Affairs, UKComments Off on Palestine: Gestapo secret service asks German about his ‘Palestinian blood’

Noam Chomsky: Hopes and Anxieties in the Age of Trump

NOVANEWS

For over half a century, Noam Chomsky, celebrated linguist and current Laureate Professor of Linguistics and Agnese Nelms Haury Chair at the University of Arizona, has provided intellectual and moral leadership to critics of American foreign policy. In the interview below, conducted in his office at the University of Arizona on August 7, 2018, Chomsky discusses the American obsession with Iran, and why the Trump administration seems ready for a confrontation. He also addresses the disappointing trends in two Latin American nations, Venezuela and Nicaragua. Above all, Chomsky expresses his concerns over nuclear weapons, especially in the unpredictable hands of Donald Trump. Reprinted below is the entire text of the interview.

Saul Isaacson: In the larger sense, do you believe that there is still a reservoir of untapped anti-Semitism in the United States?

Noam Chomsky: It’s not even untapped. Take the strongest supporters of Israel, the Christian evangelicals. That’s the most anti-Semitic group in history. I mean, even Hitler didn’t say that all Jews should go to eternal perdition. Can you be any more anti-Semitic than that?

But what about mainstream American society? Less so?

I mean, it was true up until, I’d say, about mid-1950s. So, I was a student at Harvard in the 1950s. I mean, you could cut the anti-Semitism with a knife. It wasn’t — one of the reasons MIT became a great institution is because people like Norbert Wiener couldn’t get jobs at Harvard, literally. Paul Samuelson, Bob Solow, so they came down to the engineering school down the street. Didn’t care. But, so there was plenty of it. But it’s pretty much — I mean, it could easily — it could be an upsurge. These things are always right below the surface. But right now, I think there isn’t much, except for groups like Christian evangelicals or white nationalists, you know, they don’t like anybody.

Can you see Democrats taking a less pugnacious stance toward Iran in 2020? It seems that they’re showing a little bit less sympathy for Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Perhaps that will be replicated in other places in the Middle East, like Iran. Is there any hope for that?

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Syria: Terrorists readying chemical attack

NOVANEWS

Terrorists readying chemical attack to frame Damascus & provide pretext for US strikes

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The US and its allies are preparing new airstrikes on Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry said, adding that militants are poised to stage a chemical weapons attack in order to frame Damascus and provide a pretext for the strikes.

The attack would be used as a pretext for US, UK and French airstrikes on Syrian targets, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Major General Igor Konashenkov said. USS ‘The Sullivans,’ an Arleigh Burke-class Aegis guided missile destroyer, was already deployed to the Persian Gulf a couple of days ago, he added.

The destroyer has 56 cruise missiles on board, according to data from the Russian Defence Ministry. A US Rockwell B-1 Lancer, a supersonic bomber equipped with 24 cruise missiles, has also been deployed at the Qatari Al Udeid Airbase.

 National Security Advisor John Bolton © Global Look Press

The provocations are being prepared by militants from Al-Nusra Front (now known as Tahrir al-Sham) in Idlib province, northwestern Syria,

In order to stage the attack, some eight canisters of chlorine were delivered in to village near Jisr al-Shughur city for the terrorists’ use, he added. A separate group of militants, prepped by private British security company Olive, have also arrived in the area. The group will be disguised as volunteers from the White Helmets group and will simulate a rescue operation involving locals purportedly injured in the attack, according to the military official.

According to the Defense Ministry spokesman, recent statements by US National Security Advisor John Bolton – in which he threatened to bomb Syria – could be interpreted as an implicit confirmation of such airstrikes. On August 22, Bolton stated that “… if the Syrian regime uses chemical weapons, we will respond very strongly and they really ought to think about this a long time.”

In April, the US, UK and France unleashed a bombing campaign on Syria. The airstrikes were carried out in response to an alleged gas attack in Douma on April 7, which the West blamed on Bashar Assad’s government. The operation started hours before a team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was due to reach the city.

Back then, Syrian defenses were scrambled to repel some 103 cruise missiles and air-to-surface missiles launched at civilian and military targets by the Western trio. It managed to intercept at least 71 of them, the Russian Defense Ministry said at the time.

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