Archive for International

Feb
12

Can You Blame Them?

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Via Raw Story:

In a video uploaded to YouTube, a gathering of workers at an Indianapolis air conditioning manufacturing plant are stunned and enraged when told they’ll soon be out of work because the company is moving their jobs to Mexico.

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Jan
31

If it’s good enough for Denmark and Sweden….

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Border crossing between Russia and Norway near Kirkenes
By Elmar78 (Self-photographed) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Bernie Sanders is fond of citing examples from Europe of the benefits of democratic socialism. Denmark and Sweden, for example. Yet Sanders’ conservative critics sneer at America taking policy cues from Europe. Except when they do. Like now.

Denmark approved a controversial plan to pay for the upkeep of asylum seekers by confiscating valuables in excess of about $1,500:

The bill has been widely criticised by human rights groups.

The prospect of refugees having possessions seized has drawn comparisons to the confiscation of valuables from Jews during World War Two.

The government has said that items of sentimental value, such as wedding rings, will be exempt. It also raised the amount refugees will be allowed to keep from 3,000 kroner to 10,000 following objections.

Sweden and Finland announced plans last week to join Norway in deporting tens of thousands of people seeking asylum from war in the Middle East. They are poised to begin the kind of wholesale deportation of immigrants that Donald Trump has proposed for the United States.

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Jan
29

Elizabeth Warren indicts “shockingly weak” enforcement

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Photo by Tim Pierce (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)],via Wikimedia Commons.


If justice means a prison sentence for a teenager who steals a car, but it means nothing more than a sideways glance at a CEO who quietly engineers the theft of billions of dollars, then the promise of equal justice under the law has turned into a lie. – from Rigged Justice

In the first of what she promises will be annual reports on enforcement, Sen. Elizabeth Warren this morning released Rigged Justice: How Weak Enforcement Lets Corporate Offenders Off Easy. Calling the Obama administration’s enforcement against corporate criminals “feeble,” Warren’s report cites 20 criminal and civil cases from 2015 in which authorities punished corporate crimes – where they were enforced at all – with a slap on the wrist. Prosecutors took only one of these cases to trial. She follows up with an op-ed in the New York Times, writing, “These enforcement failures demean our principles.” The report begins:

Much of the public and media attention on Washington focuses on enacting laws. And strong laws are important – prosecutors must have the statutory tools they need to hold corporate criminals accountable.  But putting a law on the books is only the first step.  The second, and equally important, step is enforcing that law.  A law that is not enforced – or weakly enforced – may as well not even be a law at all.

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Jan
22

Drone protester jailed as drones drop from the sky

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Graphic from Remotely Operated Aircraft Operations in the National Airspace System, FAA website

Graphic from Remotely Operated Aircraft Operations in the National Airspace System, FAA website

Bill Moyers reports that Grady Flores, a 59-year-old peace activist in New York state, has begun serving a six-month prison sentence:

And what exactly did Grady Flores do to warrant spending the next six months in jail? She photographed a peaceful protest outside Hancock Field Air National Guard Base near Syracuse, New York. The base is where the US trains pilots to launch drone strikes in the Middle East, particularly in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. It wasn’t a crime for her to be taking pictures of the demonstration, but when she briefly and unintentionally — yes, unintentionally — stepped onto a road that belongs to the base, she violated what authorities called “an order of protection,” which had been issued in 2012 to forbid protesters from approaching the home or workplace of Col. Earl Evans, a commander of the 174th Attack Wing of the Air National Guard. She had never met Evans, never threatened him, never showed any intention of harming him.

Nonetheless, a town justice, David Gideon, issued the order to “protect” the Colonel from the activists. That’s right — the commander of a major military operation, piloting drones on lethal missions half-way around the world, requested a court order of protection against a group of mostly gray-haired demonstrators whom he had never met. In stepping briefly on the roadway at the base, Grady Flores violated that order, despite the fact that, as she says, “We weren’t at the security gate. We were out at the roadway.”

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Jan
18

A moral and financial black hole

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Not all drugs have to be injected, ingested or inhaled. Yesterday, I drew parallels between the man-made crisis on Wall Street and the man-made water crisis in Flint Michigan. The reason is that the amoral pursuit of personal gain is an addiction that goes far beyond Wall Street. The Big Short made a big impression, can you tell?

The Guardian’s Tim Adams spoke with “The Big Short” author Michael Lewis about the film’s protagonists:

The idea that the madness was going to get worse did not occur to him. “In fact, it got worse and worse to the point where people were paid unbelievable fortunes just to do stupid things with money. Even the movie can’t really get this across. The movie gets across that there was a bet and these smart guys were on the right side of the bet. And those smart guys made hundreds of millions of dollars. That inevitably leaves you thinking that the people on the other side of the bet lost. Of course, the banks went down. But the real story is the actual people on the other side of the bet also got very rich despite the banks collapsing. If no matter what side of the bet you are on things are still going to work out for you, the world is upside down.”

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Jan
09

Oh, but poor people…

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Greedy Humpty Dumpty (Fleischer, 1936).

Greedy Humpty Dumpty (Fleischer, 1936).

So now TransCanada is suing the United States under NAFTA for $15 billion over President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone pipeline deal:

In filing the NAFTA claim, TransCanada said it “had every reason to expect its application would be granted” as it had met the same criteria the U.S. State Department used when approving other similar cross-border pipelines.

It’s like suing for breach of promise. Except America never promised. Think Progress has this:

In the notice to submit a claim for arbitration, TransCanada notes that two previous pipelines, carrying oil from the same tar sands region across the U.S. border, were both approved. This, TransCanada claims, suggests that the denial was political in nature, which is prohibited under NAFTA.

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Dec
26

Nothing to see here, swim along

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It was the warmest Christmas on record in New York City, with swimmers out at Coney Island and Rockaway Beach and record highs from Maine to Florida. Oh, and rare December tornadoes in Michigan, Indiana, and across the South. Even without what could turn out to be the most powerful El Niño on record, “The bottom line is that the world is warming,” Jessica Blunden, a NOAA climate scientist in Asheville, N.C. told the New York Times in October.

Today is the eleventh anniversary of the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed nearly a quarter million people. It is also known as the Boxing Day tsunami, after the December 26th tradition in the Britain and its former colonies. The British Isles face their own Boxing Day natural disaster this morning:

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Dec
19

Somewhere beyond the sea

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Somewhere beyond the sea
Somewhere waiting for me
My lover stands on golden sands
And watches the ships that go sailin’

– from “Beyond the Sea” by Bobby Darin

The Chinese continue their efforts to colonize the South China Sea. Dump sand and concrete atop reefs and atolls in and around the Spratly Islands and — voila! — the 12 miles around their man-made islands magically become sovereign Chinese territory. (Or do they?) Smack dab in the middle of sea lanes that according to reports carry “more than $5 trillion of world trade ships every year, a fifth of it heading to and from U.S. ports.”

All of it effectively out of view of the eyes of the world, by the way.

In late October, the United States dispatched the USS Lassen to conduct a “freedom of navigation” cruise in the area to assert that the waters around the new islands are international waters. Foreign Policy reports:

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Dec
14

If we only had a brain

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At Foreign Policy, Stephan Walt considers what America might be doing if we were really serious about addressing terrorism. For some reason, he doesn’t think we are.

Jumping around here.

I’m positive organizations like Fox News and CNN do not intend to help al Qaeda or the Islamic State, but that is in fact precisely what they are doing.

[snip]

One of the best ways to discredit extremist movements is to make them look ridiculous, so that joining or backing them is seen as stupid, uncool, or embarrassing. Instead of constantly portraying the Islamic State and its ilk as cruel, cunning, fanatical, dedicated, dangerous, etc., we should spend at least as much time depicting them as ignorant, backward, inept, misguided, and absurd.

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Dec
13

You pays yer money and you takes yer choice

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“The problem’s not solved because of this accord.” – President Barack Obama

Environmental issues are not my forte, but I followed live the release of the Paris agreement yesterday morning nonetheless. The president later gave this statement:

“I believe this moment can be a turning point for the world,” Obama concluded. “We’ve shown that the world has both the will and the ability to take on this challenge.”

D.R. Tucker at Political Animal wrote passionately about the Paris agreement:

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