Archive for International

Nov
15

Trail of Fears: Paris

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Details of the Paris attacks continue to trickle out this morning. Three teams of gunmen may have been involved. A severed finger found at the Bataclan theater has identified the first of seven attackers who died on Friday:

Multiple sources have identified to French media one killer as Omar Ismaïl Mostefai, a 29-year-old of Algerian origin.

He was one of three gunmen to storm the Bataclan theatre.

Mostefai’s former home and birthplace in Courcouronnes, a town in Essonnes south of Paris, was searched on Saturday. Jean-Pierre Georges, a French MP, said the alleged terrorist also lived in Chartres, in south-west Paris, until 2012.

Mostefai had a criminal record, convicted of eight crimes between 2004 and 2010, but was never jailed. He was flagged as a radicalisation risk by French intelligence in 2010, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said on Saturday.

A car found abandoned in a suburb east of Paris suggests one or more attackers may have escaped:

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Nov
14

Monsters, Intl.

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Newt: My mommy always said there were no monsters – no real ones – but there are.

Newt: … they mostly come at night. Mostly.

France is in a state of shock this morning in the wake of a near-simultaneous rolling attacks at six different Paris locations Friday night by gunmen and suicide bombers. The situation is still fluid and details are coming in by the moment. More than 120 have been killed and dozens are in critical condition in hospitals. The latest word as I write this is that the Islamic State claims responsibility. That claim is unverified. The identity and nationality of the attackers as well as victims is still being investigated.

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Nov
06

TPP: It’s The Company’s world. They just let you live in it.

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Credit Mary Shelley with the “creation gone wrong” trope. Or perhaps Genesis. Yet, the evil mega-corporation is as much a staple of popular fiction as the radiation-spawned monstrosities and failed experiments we grew up with at matinees as kids. Omni Consumer Products (OCP) from Robocop, for example, Ridley Scott’s Tyrell Corporation from Blade Runner, or the Weyland-Yutani Corporation (“The Company”) from his Alien films. All fictional. But like those, it seems the real beasties are neither biological nor technological, but legal.

Enter TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The full text was released yesterday, but as a series of PDFs. The Washington Post has made the full agreement searchable. (Note: some English spellings are internationalized.) At Vox, Timothy Lee explains that it may take a month to examine and sort out its impact:

But the agreement is also a lot more than a trade deal. It has more than two dozen chapters that cover everything from tariffs to the handling of international investment disputes. The reason these deals have gotten so complex is that people realized that they were a good vehicle for creating binding international agreements.

Modern trade deals include a dispute settlement process that helps ensure countries keep the commitments they make under trade deals. If one country fails to keep its commitment, another country can file a complaint that’s heard by an impartial tribunal. If the complaining country prevails, it can impose retaliatory tariffs on the loser.

Following on the heels of last week’s New York Times three-part series on how arbitration agreements have essentially privatized the courts to the benefit of corporations and to the harm of consumers, one wonders how much more extra-judicial authority TPP may be handing our budding Weyland-Yutanis in shifting power from the people to the plutocrats. How much of the thousands of pages is fine print?

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Nov
02

“Privatization of the justice system”

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Just yesterday I was wondering what ever happened to “frivolous lawsuits” and the runaway juries Big Bidness and Republican lawmakers used to cite as reasons to push for tort reform. It seems Republicans couldn’t deliver. Big Bidness went to Plan B: circumventing the courts entirely. The New York Times brings us up to date:

Over the last 10 years, thousands of businesses across the country — from big corporations to storefront shops — have used arbitration to create an alternate system of justice. There, rules tend to favor businesses, and judges and juries have been replaced by arbitrators who commonly consider the companies their clients, The Times found.

The change has been swift and virtually unnoticed, even though it has meant that tens of millions of Americans have lost a fundamental right: their day in court.

“This amounts to the whole-scale privatization of the justice system,” said Myriam Gilles, a law professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. “Americans are actively being deprived of their rights.”

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Oct
30

No Shots Fired? Whassup With That?

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We shoot first here and ask questions later. Because … because.

Categories : International, National
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Oct
28

Saints and Scrooges

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“Now, I’ll tell you what, my friend,” said Scrooge, “I am not going to stand this sort of thing any longer. And therefore,” he continued, leaping from his stool, and giving Bob such a dig in the waistcoat that he staggered back into the Tank again; “and therefore I am about to raise your salary!”

CEOs who don’t act like CEOs are a rare breed, and newsworthy. Even more so when they are not fictional. Susie Madrak highlighted one the other day at Crooks and Liars. Seems this guy found out it paid off to double the salary of his entry-level employees. Blasphemy! Rush Limbaugh branded him a socialist. Need we say more?

In April, Dan Price, CEO of the credit card payment processor Gravity Payments, announced that he will eventually raise minimum pay for all employees to at least $70,000 a year.

The move sparked not just a firestorm of media attention, but also a lawsuit from Price’s brother and co-founder Lucas, claiming that the pay raise violated his rights as a minority shareholder.

But six months later, the financial results are starting to come in: Price told Inc. Magazine that revenue is now growing at double the rate before the raises began and profits have also doubled since then.

On top of that, while it lost a few customers in the kerfuffle, the company’s customer retention rate rose from 91 to 95 percent, and only two employees quit. Two weeks after he made the initial announcement, the company was flooded with 4,500 resumes and new customer inquiries jumped from 30 a month to 2,000 a month.

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Oct
26

Exxon Playing Dumb

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Oct
26

No slip-up, Sherlock

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While George W. Bush finger-paints in Crawford, TX, Tony Blair is still taking heat in England for the Iraq invasion. A six-year public inquiry into the affair is still unpublished. Only now, tentatively, has Blair admitted things have not gone as smoothly as Bush/Cheney promised (emphasis mine):

Only one of Tony Blair’s mea culpas in his CNN interview stands out as truly significant: his partial acknowledgment that without the Iraq war there would be no Islamic State (Isis).

Until now, Blair had refused to link the two, insisting instead in the lead-up to the war that sending western troops would deny jihadis an arena and prevent Saddam Hussein from using them as proxies in his standoff with the west.

Blair would only admit there were “elements of truth” in claims that the Iraq invasion gave rise to ISIL, now in control of swaths of Iraq and Syria, just the opposite of a key public goal of the Iraq invasion:

“Of course, you can’t say that those of us who removed (former Iraqi dictator) Saddam (Hussein) in 2003 bear no responsibility for the situation in 2015,” Blair told U.S. network CNN.

Critics say the U.S. decision to disband Saddam Hussein’s army after the invasion created a huge security vacuum exploited by al Qaeda, which was eventually replaced by Islamic State.

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Categories : International, Iraq
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Oct
25

Sham democracy and kangaroo elections

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In 2008, there were financial bailouts for megabanks and foreclosures for homeowners. There was vulture capitalist Paul Singer seizing an Argentine naval vessel in a dispute over debt in 2012. There was the European Central Bank bringing Greece to heel this summer after voters in January elected Alexis Tsipras to end the “vicious cycle of austerity.” Coming Soon: TPP. There are probably other cases as well. If it was not clear already who is really running the planet, here is another clue.

In Portugal’s elections earlier this month, Socialists, Communists, and the Left Bloc had won enough seats to form a coalition government, displacing the center-right Forward Portugal Alliance (PAF). And then?

Elections in Portugal this week offered the latest sign that when an individual European nation’s voters challenge eurozone austerity policies, the monetary union — and the international creditors it represents — takes precedence.

Portugal’s president, Anibal Cavaco Silva, fueled an ongoing debate about the future of European democracy on Thursday when he reappointed an outgoing center-right prime minister despite election results that gave three left-leaning political parties the majority of seats in parliament.

Silva asked incumbent Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho to remain and to form a new government. Opposition Socialists threaten to bring down his government with an immediate vote of no confidence.

Writing for the Independent, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard sees where this is going:

Greece’s Syriza movement, Europe’s first radical-Left government in Europe since the Second World War, was crushed into submission for daring to confront eurozone ideology. Now the Portuguese Left is running into a variant of the same meat-grinder.

Europe’s socialists face a dilemma. They are at last waking up to the unpleasant truth that monetary union is an authoritarian Right-wing enterprise that has slipped its democratic leash, yet if they act on this insight in any way they risk being prevented from taking power.

That is a nicer way of saying that what you thought was government by consent of the governed is really more like your student government experience in high school. The principal has the power to overrule. It is a sham democracy. Where once people might have held business’ leash, now we wear the collar.

This may still be reversible if Americans lead. But right now it appears there is only enough indignation for pushing back in Europe. America is so besotted with bread and circuses that people cannot even muster enough indignation to get off the couch, vote, and find out just how short their leashes actually are.

Fielding Mellish: I object, your honor! This trial is a travesty. It’s a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Oct
20

Swing to the left

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Political dynasties are not unheard of. The U.S. presidency went from Adams to Adams and from Bush to Bush. It could go from Clinton to Clinton next fall. On the other hand, Jeb! might be a Bush too far.

Yesterday, Canada went from Trudeau to Trudeau in a swing to the left:

Canadians voted for a sharp change in their government Monday, resoundingly ending Conservative Stephen Harper’s attempt to shift the nation to the right and returning a legendary name for liberals, Trudeau, to the prime minister’s office.

Justin Trudeau, the son of late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, became Canada’s new prime minister after his Liberal Party won a majority of Parliament’s 338 seats. Trudeau’s Liberals had been favored to win the most seats, but few expected the final margin of victory.

Well, that’s promising, and perhaps catching. Maybe that’s why Scott Walker proposed building a wall on our northern border.

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Categories : International
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