Tuesday, July 31, 2012

AP: Romney's Remarks (In Jerusalem) Against Palestinian Culture Seen as Racist


Romney's Remarks Against Palestinian Culture Seen as Racist

By The Associated Press

July 30, 2012 "
AP" -- JERUSALEM - Mitt Romney told Jewish donors Monday that their culture is part of what has allowed them to be more economically successful than the nearby Palestinians, outraging Palestinian leaders who called his comments racist and out of touch.

``As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000 dollars, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality,'' the Republican presidential candidate told about 40 wealthy donors who breakfasted around a U-shaped table at the luxurious King David Hotel.

The reaction of Palestinian leaders to Romney's comments was swift and pointed.

``What is this man doing here?'' said Saeb Erekat, a top Palestinian official. ``Yesterday, he destroyed negotiations by saying Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and today he is saying Israeli culture is more advanced than Palestinian culture. Isn't this racism?''

The economic disparity between the Israelis and the Palestinians is actually much greater than Romney stated. Israel had a per capita gross domestic product of about $31,000 in 2011, while the West Bank and Gaza had a per capita GDP of just over $1,500, according to the World Bank.

Romney, seated next to billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson at the head of the table, told donors at his fundraiser that he had read books and relied on his own business experience to understand why the difference is so great.

``And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things,'' Romney said, citing an innovative business climate, the Jewish history of thriving in difficult circumstances and the ``hand of providence.''

Romney, in comparing the Israeli and Palestinian economies, made no mention of the fact that Israel has controlled the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem since capturing them in the 1967 war. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, but continues to control access, and has enforced a crippling border blockade since the Islamic militant Hamas seized the territory in 2007.

In the West Bank, Israel retains overall control, and Palestinians only have limited self-rule. Israel controls all border crossings in and out of the West Bank, and continues to restrict Palestinian trade and movement.

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have said repeatedly that the Palestinian economy can only grow if Israel lifts those restrictions.

``It's Israeli occupiers and Palestinians under occupation, and that's why Palestinians cannot realize their potential,'' Erekat said.

The breakfast with top donors - including Adelson, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson and hedge fund manager Paul Singer - concluded Romney's visit to Israel, the second leg of a three-nation overseas tour designed to bolster the his foreign policy credentials.

Standing on Israeli soil for the first time as the GOP's presumptive presidential nominee, Romney on Sunday declared Jerusalem to be the capital of the Jewish state and said the United States has promised never to ``look away from our passion and commitment to Israel.''

The status of Jerusalem is a critical issue in peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

During his visit to Israel, Romney did not meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas or visit the West Bank. He held a brief meeting with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

Romney's campaign says his trip abroad, which began in England last week, is aimed at improving the former Massachusetts governor's foreign policy experience through a series of meetings with foreign leaders. The candidate has largely avoided direct criticism of U.S. President Barack Obama while on foreign soil.

The Jerusalem fundraiser, however, was a political event that raised more than $1 million for Romney's campaign. It marks at least the second finance event during his tour. The first, in London, attracted about 250 people to a $2,500 per person fundraiser.

Both presidential candidates have aggressively courted American donors living abroad, a practice that is legal and has been used for decades.

Romney's declaration that Jerusalem is Israel's capital was keeping with claims made by Israeli governments for decades, even though the United States, like other nations, maintains its embassy in Tel Aviv.

His remarks on the subject during his speech drew a standing ovation from his audience, which included Adelson, the American businessman who has promised to donate more than $100 million to help defeat Obama.

Adelson was among a several donors who flew to Israel for a day of sightseeing with Romney in addition to private meetings with top Israeli officials.

A group of donors also met with a top aide to President Benjamin Netanyahu, one donor said on the condition of anonymity to discuss private meetings.

Romney met with Netanyahu and other leaders before his speech Sunday. He also visited the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site, where he was mobbed by worshippers.

In his remarks, Romney steered clear of overt criticism of Obama, even though he said the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran ``has only become worse'' in the past five years.

Romney flew to the Middle East from Britain, where he caused a stir by questioning whether officials there were fully prepared for the Olympic Games. A stop in Poland will complete his trip.

Four years ago, Obama visited Israel as a presidential candidate, part of a five-nation trip meant to establish his own foreign policy credentials.

A goal of Romney's overseas trip is to demonstrate his confidence on the world stage, but his stop in Israel also was designed to appeal to evangelical voters at home and to cut into Obama's support among Jewish voters and donors. A Gallup survey of Jewish voters released Friday showed Obama with a 68-25 edge over Romney.

Romney and other Republicans have said Obama is insufficiently supportive of Israel.

See also - Romney defends insulting Palestinians: Hey, I also said Mexico's culture sucks! And Ecuador's too!



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$21 Trillion Hoard Hidden From Taxman by Global Elite

From: earthactionnetwork@earthlink.net [mailto:earthactionnetwork@earthlink.net]
 <http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/320-80/12567-21- trillion-hoard-hidden-from-taxman-by-global-elite

$21 Trillion Hoard Hidden From Taxman by Global Elite
By Heather Stewart,  
Guardian UK : 23 July 12

  Study estimates staggering size of offshore economy
      Private banks help wealthiest to move cash into havens

A  global super-rich elite has exploited gaps in cross-border tax rules to hide an extraordinary £13 trillion ($21tn) of wealth offshore - as much as the American and Japanese GDPs put together - according to research commissioned by the campaign group Tax Justice Network.

James Henry, former chief economist at consultancy McKinsey and an expert on tax havens, has compiled the most detailed estimates yet of the size of the offshore economy in a new report, The Price of Offshore Revisited, released exclusively to the Observer.

He shows that at least £13tn - perhaps up to £20tn - has leaked out of scores of countries into secretive jurisdictions such as Switzerland and the Cayman Islands with the help of private banks, which vie to attract the assets of so-called high net-worth individuals. Their wealth is, as Henry puts it, "protected by a highly paid, industrious bevy of professional enablers in the private banking, legal, accounting and investment industries taking advantage of the increasingly borderless, frictionless global economy". According to Henry's research, the top 10 private banks, which include UBS and Credit Suisse in Switzerland, as well as the US investment bank Goldman Sachs, managed more than £4tn in 2010, a sharp rise from £1.5tn five years earlier.

The detailed analysis in the report, compiled using data from a range of sources, including the Bank of International Settlements and the International Monetary Fund, suggests that for many developing countries the cumulative value of the capital that has flowed out of their economies since the 1970s would be more than enough to pay off their debts to the rest of the world.

Oil-rich states with an internationally mobile elite have been especially prone to watching their wealth disappear into offshore bank accounts instead of being invested at home, the research suggests. Once the returns on investing the hidden assets is included, almost £500bn has left Russia since the early 1990s when its economy was opened up. Saudi Arabia has seen £197bn flood out since the mid-1970s, and Nigeria £196bn.

"The problem here is that the assets of these countries are held by a small number of wealthy individuals while the debts are shouldered by the ordinary people of these countries through their governments," the report says.

The sheer size of the cash pile sitting out of reach of tax authorities is so great that it suggests standard measures of inequality radically underestimate the true gap between rich and poor. According to Henry's calculations, £6.3tn of assets is owned by only 92,000 people, or 0.001% of the world's population - a tiny class of the mega-rich who have more in common with each other than those at the bottom of the income scale in their own societies.

"These estimates reveal a staggering failure: inequality is much, much worse than official statistics show, but politicians are still relying on trickle-down to transfer wealth to poorer people," said John Christensen of the Tax Justice Network. "People on the street have no illusions about how unfair the situation has become."

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "Countries around the world are under intense pressure to reduce their deficits and governments cannot afford to let so much wealth slip past into tax havens.

"Closing down the tax loopholes exploited by multinationals and the super-rich to avoid paying their fair share will reduce the deficit. This way the government can focus on stimulating the economy, rather than squeezing the life out of it with cuts and tax rises for the 99% of people who aren't rich enough to avoid paying their taxes."

Assuming the £13tn mountain of assets earned an average 3% a year for its owners, and governments were able to tax that income at 30%, it would generate a bumper £121bn in revenues - more than rich countries spend on aid to the developing world each year.

Groups such as UK Uncut have focused attention on the paltry tax bills of some highly wealthy individuals, such as Topshop owner Sir Philip Green, with campaigners at one recent protest shouting: "Where did all the money go? He took it off to Monaco!" Much of Green's retail empire is owned by his wife, Tina, who lives in the low-tax principality.

A spokeswoman for UK Uncut said: "People like Philip Green use public services - they need the streets to be cleaned, people need public transport to get to their shops - but they don't want to pay for it."

Leaders of G20 countries have repeatedly pledged to close down tax havens since the financial crisis of 2008, when the secrecy shrouding parts of the banking system was widely seen as exacerbating instability. But many countries still refuse to make details of individuals' financial worth available to the tax authorities in their home countries as a matter of course. Tax Justice Network would like to see this kind of exchange of information become standard practice, to prevent rich individuals playing off one jurisdiction against another.

"The very existence of the global offshore industry, and the tax-free status of the enormous sums invested by their wealthy clients, is predicated on secrecy," said Henry.

You are currently on Mha Atma's Earth Action Network email list, option D (occasional emails and up to 3 emails/day).  To be removed, or to switch options (option A - 1x/week, option B - 3/wk, option C - up to 1x/day, option D - up to 3x/day) please reply and let us know!  If someone forwarded you this email and you want to be on our list, send an email to earthactionnetwork@earthlink.net and tell us which option you'd like.   For more info on Earth Action Network go to www.earthactionnetwork.org and for more info about Mha Atma see www.drmhaatma.com.

"War's never a winning thing, Charlie.  You just lose all the time, and the one who loses last asks for terms.  All I remember is a lot of losing and sadness and nothing good at the end of it.  The end of it, Charles, that was a winning all to itself, having nothing to do with guns."

    --Ray Bradbury, from the short story "The Time Machine" 1957

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Kristen Gwynne: Racial Tensions and Questionable Killings by Police in Anaheim


Racial Tensions and Questionable Killings by Police in Anaheim: What You Should Know

It’s best-known as "happiest place on Earth.” But just four miles away from Disneyland, a cloud of tear gas and public outrage has swept over Anaheim.

The city of Anaheim, California may be best-known as home to the "happiest place on Earth.” But on Tuesday, just four miles away from Disneyland, a cloud of tear gas swept over Anaheim. Angry residents smashed business windows, hurled rocks, and started trash-can fires as the police shot bean bag bullets, pepper balls, and tear gas at them.

The majority-Latino town appears to have imploded, as residents demand answers for a police killing they say is proof of racial biases.

Saturday afternoon was the last time twenty-five-year-old Manuel Diaz saw daylight. Residents say Diaz was unarmed and running when police shot him from behind. That afternoon, angry neighbors gathered near the incident in protest. Video shows Anaheim police firing bean bags and pepper spray into a crowd full of families. By Sunday, about 50 demonstrators marched to the Anaheim Police Department's headquarters, but the Anaheim PD had already killed again. This time, the dead was “documented gang member” Joel Acevedo, who allegedly fired at police pursuing his stolen vehicle. Demonstrations continued into Tuesday, when tensions erupted in a near- warzone just miles away from Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.

The people of Anaheim are demanding justice. What will happen next is uncertain, and anger rages on. Here are nine things you need to know about Anaheim’s past four days, and the building tension erupting in Southern California.

1)The Shot That Started It All

Residents first were in a uproar about the nature of Diaz’s killing, which appears to be an overt abuse of force. According to witness accounts, police first shot Diaz in the leg, bringing him down to his knees, before firing again at his head. Mayor Tom Tait called reports that Diaz was shot in the head and leg "unsettling." On Tuesday, Diaz's family filed a civil rights lawsuit for $50 million in damages from the city of Anaheim and the Anaheim police department. They say Diaz was not threatening, but was shot while running away.

In some reports, police claim they approached Diaz for “suspicious behavior -- hurling something they “believe” to have been heroin onto nearby roofs. Still, drug allegations have not been substantiated, with no recovery of the alleged heroin.

2. Child Victims of Police Brutality

Children were present at Saturday’s demonstration when police unleashed attack dogs and rubber bullets into the crowd. According to this heartbreaking video, some of Anaheim’s youth were not spared the police department’s force. Police dogs knocked over a stroller and a bit a young boy. One little girl said, “They’re saying they let the dog go out by accident but it was on purpose.”

A child as young as five -- shot in the eye with a police projectile -- is among the youngest reportedly struck. Amber Stephens at Orange County Weekly reports interviewing five children of the more than one dozen residents struck by beanbag rounds. “One minor said she was hit by a teargas bullet in her mouth,” Stephens wrote.

Anaheim Police Sargeant Bob Dunn told OC Weekly, "If children were hit, they have not made their presence known to us,” but footage of the rally makes it clear that children were everywhere -- their presence was obvious.

3. Why the Weapons?

The reason for police force on Saturday is unclear. Police have told the media they used weapons on the crowd in response to “gang-members” throwing bottles. Footage of the alleged instigation is not available; still, a bystander told OC Weekly “a few water bottles were tossed in the street" as demonstrators demanded answers from police, who "just started shooting everyone."

4. 600 Demonstrators vs 250 Riot Police

Tensions escalated Tuesday at City Hall after demonstrators urging the City Council to investigate Diaz’s death were not allowed to enter. Police issued a dispersal order to hundreds of demonstrators at around 9pm. According to the Guardian,“within minutes,” demonstrators were fleeing after police shot pepper balls at their feet. The 250 riot police called to the scene also released bean bag balls and tear gas on the 600 demonstrators. Twenty-four were arrested in the chaos, which some say included some struggles between angry rioters and demonstrators committed to peace.

The number of injuries stemming from Tuesday’s action is unclear, but if you don’t think bean bag bullets hurt, take a look at these photos.

5. Journalists Struck by Police Projectiles

Two Orange County Register reporters were injured on Tuesday-- one by a rock, another by a police projectile. The extent of their injuries is unclear, but at least five other journalists were shot while covering the action, including independent livestreamer Tim Pool, the emmy-award winning investigator Amber Lyon, and three KFI News staffers. Video of Pool and Lyon being shot at is disturbing: They don’t seem to be amid a violent crowd in which they were caught in the crossfire, but are standing peacefully on the sidewalk. Pool says his press badge was clearly displayed the second time police fired projectiles at him.

6. The Race Problem

Locals say the Anaheim police’s killing of Diaz and violence against protesters represents Anaheim PD’s disrespect for the Latino community. The zipcode where Diaz was shot -- and where demonstrators communed Saturday -- is 90% Latino. Still, the riots may be more than a response to the police department’s harsh racial profiling. Anaheim’s victims may have no outlet to air their grievances and work for change. Even though Anaheim is more than 50% Latino, none of its city council members are. The representational disparity is so lopsided the ACLU and local activists recently filed a lawsuit claiming it violates the 2001 Voting Rights Act, and demanding a new system whereby residents vote for their district’s representative only.

7. Death Represents Sixth Person Shot by Police

This weekend’s killings make for six shootings -- five of which have been fatal -- at the hands of Orange County police so far this year. In all of last year, the total was four.

8. Escalating Tensions

Protests against killings by police have been ongoing over the past couple of years. Every week, the mother of 35-year-old Caesar Cruz, shot by Anaheim police in 2009, joins her supporters at the police headquarters to demand answers. Ongoing demonstrations led officials last month to look into hiring a private investigator to probe “major police incidents.” Local activists are calling for a citizen review commission to oversee the police department, a federal investigation, and new training for police.

Fatal police force may be a growing problem not just in Anaheim, but Southern California. The Los Angeles Times reports that killings by cops in LA County increased 70% last year compared to 2010, even though homicide dipped to a historic low. And let’s not forget nearby Fullerton, where police brutally beat and killed a mentally ill man.

9. Investigations and Punishment

The Orange County District Attorney's Office is investigating the shooting death of Manuel Diaz -- and whether to file criminal charges -- independently of the police. City officials voted unanimously Tuesday to ask the U.S. attorney's office to investigate recent police shootings. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has agreed to review the evidence. Two police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Diaz have been placed on paid leave.

Kristen Gwynne covers drugs at AlterNet. She graduated from New York University with a degree in journalism and psychology.

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Robert Fisk: Syrian war of lies and hypocrisy

 Syrian war of lies and hypocrisy
Robert Fisk
Independent/UK: 29 July, 2012
The West's real target here is not Assad's brutal regime but his ally, Iran, and its nuclear weapons

Has there ever been a Middle Eastern war of such hypocrisy? A war of such cowardice and such mean morality, of such false rhetoric and such public humiliation? I'm not talking about the physical victims of the Syrian tragedy. I'm referring to the utter lies and mendacity of our masters and our own public opinion – eastern as well as western – in response to the slaughter, a vicious pantomime more worthy of Swiftian satire than Tolstoy or Shakespeare.

While Qatar and Saudi Arabia arm and fund the rebels of Syria to overthrow Bashar al-Assad's Alawite/Shia-Baathist dictatorship, Washington mutters not a word of criticism against them. President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, say they want a democracy in Syria. But Qatar is an autocracy and Saudi Arabia is among the most pernicious of caliphate-kingly-dictatorships in the Arab world. Rulers of both states inherit power from their families – just as Bashar has done – and Saudi Arabia is an ally of the Salafist-Wahabi rebels in Syria, just as it was the most fervent supporter of the medieval Taliban during Afghanistan's dark ages.

Indeed, 15 of the 19 hijacker-mass murderers of 11 September, 2001, came from Saudi Arabia – after which, of course, we bombed Afghanistan. The Saudis are repressing their own Shia minority just as they now wish to destroy the Alawite-Shia minority of Syria. And we believe Saudi Arabia wants to set up a democracy in Syria?

Then we have the Shia Hezbollah party/militia in Lebanon, right hand of Shia Iran and supporter of Bashar al-Assad's regime. For 30 years, Hezbollah has defended the oppressed Shias of southern Lebanon against Israeli aggression. They have presented themselves as the defenders of Palestinian rights in the West Bank and Gaza. But faced with the slow collapse of their ruthless ally in Syria, they have lost their tongue. Not a word have they uttered – nor their princely Sayed Hassan Nasrallah – about the rape and mass murder of Syrian civilians by Bashar's soldiers and "Shabiha" militia.

Then we have the heroes of America – La Clinton, the Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, and Obama himself. Clinton issues a "stern warning" to Assad. Panetta – the same man who repeated to the last US forces in Iraq that old lie about Saddam's connection to 9/11 – announces that things are "spiralling out of control" in Syria. They have been doing that for at least six months. Has he just realised? And then Obama told us last week that "given the regime's stockpile of nuclear weapons, we will continue to make it clear to Assad … that the world is watching". Now, was it not a County Cork newspaper called the Skibbereen Eagle, fearful of Russia's designs on China, which declared that it was "keeping an eye … on the Tsar of Russia"? Now it is Obama's turn to emphasise how little clout he has in the mighty conflicts of the world. How Bashar must be shaking in his boots.

But what US administration would really want to see Bashar's atrocious archives of torture opened to our gaze? Why, only a few years ago, the Bush administration was sending Muslims to Damascus for Bashar's torturers to tear their fingernails out for information, imprisoned at the US government's request in the very hell-hole which Syrian rebels blew to bits last week. Western embassies dutifully supplied the prisoners' tormentors with questions for the victims. Bashar, you see, was our baby.

Then there's that neighbouring country which owes us so much gratitude: Iraq. Last week, it suffered in one day 29 bombing attacks in 19 cities, killing 111 civilian and wounding another 235. The same day, Syria's bloodbath consumed about the same number of innocents. But Iraq was "down the page" from Syria, buried "below the fold", as we journalists say; because, of course, we gave freedom to Iraq, Jeffersonian democracy, etc, etc, didn't we? So this slaughter to the east of Syria didn't have quite the same impact, did it? Nothing we did in 2003 led to Iraq's suffering today. Right?

And talking of journalism, who in BBC World News decided that even the preparations for the Olympics should take precedence all last week over Syrian outrages? British newspapers and the BBC in Britain will naturally lead with the Olympics as a local story. But in a lamentable decision, the BBC – broadcasting "world" news to the world – also decided that the passage of the Olympic flame was more important than dying Syrian children, even when it has its own courageous reporter sending his despatches directly from Aleppo.

Then, of course, there's us, our dear liberal selves who are so quick to fill the streets of London in protest at the Israeli slaughter of Palestinians. Rightly so, of course. When our political leaders are happy to condemn Arabs for their savagery but too timid to utter a word of the mildest criticism when the Israeli army commits crimes against humanity – or watches its allies do it in Lebanon – ordinary people have to remind the world that they are not as timid as the politicians. But when the scorecard of death in Syria reaches 15,000 or 19,000 – perhaps 14 times as many fatalities as in Israel's savage 2008-2009 onslaught on Gaza – scarcely a single protester, save for Syrian expatriates abroad, walks the streets to condemn these crimes against humanity. Israel's crimes have not been on this scale since 1948. Rightly or wrongly, the message that goes out is simple: we demand justice and the right to life for Arabs if they are butchered by the West and its Israeli allies; but not when they are being butchered by their fellow Arabs.

And all the while, we forget the "big" truth. That this is an attempt to crush the Syrian dictatorship not because of our love for Syrians or our hatred of our former friend Bashar al-Assad, or because of our outrage at Russia, whose place in the pantheon of hypocrites is clear when we watch its reaction to all the little Stalingrads across Syria. No, this is all about Iran and our desire to crush the Islamic Republic and its infernal nuclear plans – if they exist – and has nothing to do with human rights or the right to life or the death of Syrian babies. Quelle horreur!

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Vote for Bernie!

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This isn't nepotism. If I didn't agree with the reviewers below and believe Bernie deserves the award, I wouldn't be sending this. 
 Enjoy, and Vote!  -Ed

From: Bernie Pearl [mailto:berniepearl@hotmail.com]
Sent: Saturday, July 28, 2012 4:11 PM
Subject: Vote for Bernie!

 Click on You Tube icon above to view live performances of three songs found on Bernie Pearl's
"Sittin' on the Right Side of the Blues"
 Hello Blues Pals: We're about to move into the second month of voting for the
2012 Blues Blast Music Awards.
"Sittin' On the Right Side of the Blues" is nominated for
"Best Traditional Recording" award.
 If you haven't already voted, you have until midnight, August 31 to cast your vote, but why wait?
Vote Now:
http://www.TheBluesBlast.com . It's easy to do, it's free, you use your e-mail address, not your name, you will receive Blues Blast e-mag at no cost (you can also opt out), they don't share this information with anyone, you immediately become eligible for free blues gifts, and you can make one dedicated blues guitarist and his bassist, very, very happy. Please read on.

 Mark Thompson, reviewer for the Crossroads Blues Society (Illinois) wrote me:
"You are the only solo act nominated - and the only one performing acoustically. That would indicate that your music really hit home with those people that decide who gets nominated.
I would say that this speaks volumes about your music."

And, indeed, many fans, friends, and Blues Music professionals have voiced their support. I have no idea how the vote stands now, and I don't know if I will ultimately tally the highest number, but if I stop now I will for sure not get to Buddy Guy's in late October to receive the award. Besides, friends, it is truly gratifying to receive notes of recognition for our work, and just asking for your consideration is deeply satisfying.
Here are some quotes from several published reviews of the CD. We're very proud of them:

Stephen A. King, Living Blues
".Pearl's music and voice evoke the unpretentious, truth-telling qualities of the blues... soulful and spiritual. (His) guitar virtuosity is evident..."

Mark C. Tucker, Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange (FAME.com)

"...crystal clear evocations of the deepest origins of the blues,
wellsprings Bernie is impeccably schooled in
his guitar work is just stunning ... sophisticated in so many ways that it'd take pages to parse and praise."

Vote Now: http://www.TheBluesBlast.com 

Jim Kanavy, Blues Blast Magazine
"His guitar playing flows like the muddy Mississippi and his voice and vocal style evoke the emotions to match the music. He carries on the blues tradition of taking favorite bits and melding them into something new."

 Joel Fritz, Golden Gate Grooves (S.F.)

"In particular, his slide playing in open tuning is marvelous.

He has a crisp attack, expressive vibrato, and impeccable time.
Pearl has the ability to approach an existing song from his own point of view and make the listener think about it in a different way."

Vote Now: http://www.TheBluesBlast.com 

Mick Rainsford,  Blues in Britain

"Pearl delivers a traditional blues masterclass,

his compelling vocals underpinned by some of the finest guitar picking and slide-work you are ever likely to hear."

Bill Wilson, Billtown Blues Notes (PA)

"Bernie Pearl, in a word, is a master. More than a simple CD, Sitting on the Right Side of the Blues captures a moment in time.a moment that should not be missed by any fan of traditional blues."  

Vote Now: http://www.TheBluesBlast.com 

Mark Thompson, Crossroads Blues Society of Northern Illinois

"His powerful singing continually diverts your attention from his masterful guitar work. Blues lovers who are looking for a more traditional blues sound should snap this one up right away."

Art Johnson, Critic, Teacher, Musician, France

"One of the stellar pieces on the CD for me is Bernie's composition, "Outside Boogie". In my opinion it is one of the most progressive acoustic blues guitar compositions ever written. If Thelonious Monk had played guitar it would have sounded just like this."

Vicente Zumel, La Hora Del Blues, Spain
".deep passion and credibility.he is born to play and live for the blues.something special other musicians are unable to communicate."

Vote Now: http://www.TheBluesBlast.com    Vote Now: http://www.TheBluesBlast.com 

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Alexander Cockburn's final column: This Week's Crime of the Century

From: Karen Pomer [mailto:krpomer@gmail.com]
Alexander Cockburn
TheNation.com: Tuesday, 24 July 2012
The great polemicist Alexander Cockburn has just died and we publish his last column for The Nation as a farewell salute, introduced by Anthony Barnett.

The hugely enjoyable polemicist Alexander Cockburn has just died at the age of 71. I knew him when he was a dashing member of the New Left Review Editorial Board in the late sixties and worked with him on the shortlived Seven Days. which he edited with brilliant, graphic skill from October 1971 to March 1972. He left for America after it folded. This is the last of his 'Beat the Devil' columns he wrote for the Nation. Written through the pain of terminal cancer the column demonstrates some of Alex's lucid qualities as journalist: a compelling, contemptuous grasp of how individuals fix their deals; a memorable turn of phrase (the supposedly marvellous 'hidden' hand of the market becomes "the grimy hand"); and an undying if bleak allegiance to his Communist world-view, "I think the system will collapse, but not through our agency". Fitting, final words. Anthony Barnett

Hardly had the boyish visage of JPMorgan Chase's Jamie Dimon quit CNN screens than it was succeeded by that of Bob Diamond, former chief executive of Barclays, accused of masterminding the greatest financial scandal in the history of Britain. Columnists shook with rage at the "reeking cesspool" being disclosed—disclosed, mind you, four long years after the Wall Street Journal broke the story that the Libor was being fixed. Libor, which stands for "London interbank offered rate," is supposed to be based on the average rate of interest banks charge to borrow from one another. The rate is set every morning by a panel of banks. Each bank "submits" the rates at which it believes it can borrow from the collective money pool, from overnight to twelve months.

Libor is the benchmark for investments all over the world—the Financial Times estimates that $350 trillion worth of contracts have been pegged to it. It is also considered a barometer of a bank's health. Just as customers with bad credit records have to pay higher interest rates, banks deemed in financial distress have to pay more to borrow. In October 2008, a doomsday month for the world banking industry, it looked like Barclays was next in line for a rescue after taxpayers bailed out the Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds/HBOS on October 13. One big warning flare was that beleaguered Barclays could borrow from the common money pool only at a very high rate of interest. The answer was to fix the rate, with Barclays traders secretly winching it down. It was all completely illegal.

Next thing we knew, there was Diamond being reprimanded by a select committee of the House of Commons for being nothing better than a common thief. But then into the hurly-burly suddenly intruded a new actor, actually one in the form of a savior: Paul Tucker, deputy governor of the Bank of England. It turned out that Diamond and Tucker had had a conversation of considerable moment, one prudently recorded by Barclays, on October 29, 2008.

Diamond said Tucker had relayed concerns from "senior Whitehall figures" that Barclays's Libor was consistently higher than that of other banks. Tucker is alleged to have conveyed the view from Westminster that the bank's rate did not "always need to appear as high as it had recently." In other words, Westminster wanted Barclays to massage its rate to a lower level.

But all with full deniability. According to Barclays, "Bob Diamond did not believe he received an instruction from Paul Tucker or that he gave an instruction to [former top Barclays deputy] Jerry del Missier. However, Jerry del Missier concluded that an instruction had been passed down from the Bank of England not to keep Libors so high and he therefore passed down a direction to that effect to the submitters."

Barclays said there was no allegation by the authorities that this instruction was intended to manipulate the Libor. And when he was questioned by Tory MP David Ruffley on July 9, Tucker testified that "a bell did not go off in my head" that banks were lowering their Libor submissions.

Marvelous: the join between civil society and state was tactfully seamless, with deniability all round.

So first there are the "senior Whitehall figures" (one turned out to be Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood)—i.e., the permanent government running Britain. When a senior Whitehall figure urges the commission of a serious crime, he merely murmurs that the bank's Libor did not "always need to appear as high as it had recently." There then follows a flurry of talk about misunderstandings but, Lord save us, certainly not an order to fix the Libor. Then, unmistakably, there is a huge plunge in Barclays's rate. The government's concern—that Barclays might appear to be on the brink—is averted.

But we live in a capitalist world, duly furnished with its rewards and penalties. Barclays has agreed to a $450 million settlement, and Diamond and del Missier have resigned. On his way out the door, Diamond said he'd been promised £18 million ($28 million) as a golden handshake. The standing committee had a good jeer, but Diamond stuck to his guns, and there the matter rested until July 10, when Barclays announced that Diamond will forfeit up to £20 million ($30 million) in bonuses and incentives but will retain one year's salary, pension and other benefits worth £2 million ($3 million).

Of course, there have been furious calls for further punishment and reform. Labour leader Ed Miliband says "we should break the dominance of the big five banks…and strike off those whose conduct lets this country down and prosecute those who break the law." He also wants to increase competition by forcing the big banks to sell off up to 1,000 of their branches. In the current culture of rabid criminality in the banking system, that would surely be unwise, unleashing 1,000 small-time banksters.

People calling for banking reform on either side of the 
Atlantic are underestimating the problems of enforcement. A writer on the financial news blog Zero Hedge recently 
remarked that "the Libor scandal seems to be waking people up to manipulation and fraud by the big banks." Of course, there are tools at the ready: sanctions, tribunals, a ban for life for crooked traders. But Libor was meant to be the prime glittering advertisement for the free market. Now it turns out that the whole thing is a fix—a grimy hand all too visible. It's like the spy in Conrad's Secret Agent vowing to destroy the first meridian.

Is it possible to reform the banking system? There are the usual nostrums—tighter regulations, savage penalties for misbehavior, a ban from financial markets for life. But I have to say I'm dubious. I think the system will collapse, but not through our agency.

With thanks to The Nation


Source: open Democracy

Picture: Barbara Schieber, RAVEN

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Dave Zirin: London's Olympic Games are Falling Down, Protests are coming

Hi.  As today marks the first day of the Olympics as well as large protests against them, in the face of massive police and security forces trying to prevent them by hook and crook, I thought it important to get some background via   two short, penetrating accounts by America's finest sports columnist.  It should interest even non-sports lovers, as   demonstrating the tentacles of the biggest corporations in the world and their hold on many governments, their armed forces and the Olympics.  Neither Zirin nor I demean the incredible athletes competing in the games. This should  be useful over the next two weeks of Olympic inundation and what happens to London and England in the future. 


Mind the Gap: London's Olympic Games are Falling Down

Upon returning to the United States after two weeks amidst London's pre-Olympic terrain, I have some final thoughts that I hope the International Olympic Committee and the UK's Tory Prime Minister David Cameron take to heart. I also hope that the Olympics lead corporate sponsors, British Petroleum, Dow Chemical, and McDonalds take a timeout from devising the latest cutting edge trends in evil and listen as well. Your games are in trouble. Your games are in trouble because the people who actually have to live in London alongside the Olympiad are mad as hell. And it's only May.

After two weeks of listening to everyone with an opinion about the Olympics – in other words, "everyone"- it's clear the entire affair suffers from Annie Hall Syndrome. At the start of Woody Allen's 1977 classic, Woody talks about the two elderly women at the Catskill resort who complain that the food is terrible while also adding, "And such small portions!" Londoners are annoyed at the inconvenience brought by the Olympics, incensed by the security crackdown... and outraged that there are no tickets available. This is hardly a petty complaint. Corporate partners have gobbled up the seats, leaving the overwhelming majority of the city with their nose pressed up against the glass. In London, where the pubs dot every block and open onto the streets after work in a daily party open to all comers, this comprises a cardinal sin. As Neill, one of many bartenders I encountered said to me, "It's like a big to-do that no one invited us to attend!"

The security crackdown and constant paranoia are discomfiting enough (fears are being disseminated about the Irish. Seriously.) But what singes the locals is the idea that the Olympics are a party that will stick them with the bill: a hangover from hell without the drunken rapture that by all rights should precede it.

All Olympics produce debt like a cow produces methane. But this one happens in the context of a double-dip recession. It happens with round-the-clock U.K. media coverage of the "Euro-panic", as voters in Greece are threatening to tell Angela Merkel, David Cameron, and the European Union to take their austerity agenda and cram it sideways. The fears of crisis and debt surround even the cheeriest propaganda about the looming Games. The BBC led every broadcast while I was there with these two separate stories. First, "Crisis in Greece" and then with a different anchor, reporters, and even music, "Getting Ready for the Olympics." Nowhere was any discussion that the 2004 Athens Olympics, came in at over 10 times the proposed budget. Those games aggravated the crisis Greece is currently slogging through, with the country's homeless now even squatting in dilapidated, unused Olympic structures. There is scant discussion that these London games could come in at 10 times their proposed 2005 budget as well, causing another "debt crisis" that will be taken from the hides - not to mention the pensions - of the UK's workers. At several events involving trade union workers and bureaucrats, the message was repeated to me over and over: "When the Olympics are over, the gloves will come off.

In other words, faced with the pressures of austerity and recession, Cameron and company are cooling their jets until the Olympics are over and then they will try to do their level best to disembowel the unions and further cut taxes for the wealthy. Why wait until after the Olympics? Because Cameron needs the unions cooperation to make sure that the games come off on time and on schedule. They need to make sure the unions don't take strike action or join the demonstrations planned for July 28th, the first Saturday of the Games. This is why they agreed to sizable bonuses for London's subway workers. Anything to make sure that the Olympics show London, and more critically David Cameron, in the best possible light.

I have no doubt that all the top sports reporters will write uxoriously about London and all it's quaint customs, and the cameras will point at only those cheering the events on, waving the Union Jack. But make no mistake: the Olympic Torch is not the most noteworthy thing passed from Greece to London. It's the looming struggle against austerity. David Cameron might want to wait until after the Olympics to "take the gloves off" but he's not the only one willing to go bare knuckles over the future of the UK.

Alexander Wolff, the great journalist from Sports Illustrated is stationed in London and wrote this week, "Every time I come to England I'm struck by how the lowbrow mingles with the high." But in London the "lowbrow" are angry and the "highbrow" are scared. They mingle only in the shared sense that a storm is coming to the British Isles. The summer will be filled with games. But an epic fall awaits.

* * *


Protests are Coming to the Olympic Games

Edge of Sports: 2012-05-22

To be in London, two months before the 2012 Summer Olympics, is to feel a bit like a fish in an aquarium, with people constantly poking at the glass. Cameras adorn nearly every street corner and police vehicles are more prevalent than double-decker buses. It's easy to understand why many are saying enough is enough.

On Saturday, July 28, protesters will be gathering in London to just say no to the priorities imposed by these most corporate of Olympic Games, and it's hardly difficult to understand why.

Security forces are busily militarizing the urban terrain. Olympics security officials recently unboxed the military-grade Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), an eardrum-shattering weapon that has been war-zone tested in Iraq. There are plans to station surface-to-air missiles on the roofs of London apartment buildings. The Royal Navy's biggest warship will sit along the Thames. Typhoon jets and Lynx helicopters will be ready for action. Scotland Yard has stockpiled more than 10,000 plastic bullets. Police are constructing mobile stations to facilitate swift bookings. And "dispersal zones" have been set up where police can freely ban anyone they deem to be engaging in antisocial behavior.

None of this comes cheap. Londoners were told that the Olympics would cost £2.4 billion. Projections that include ballooning infrastructure costs are now looking at £24 billion, ten times the original bid's estimate. They were told that the games would be funded with a "public-private partnership," but the "private" end is now picking up less than 2 percent of the tab. In such an atmosphere, protest is inevitable, but the people coming out on July 28 are angry about more than militarization and debt. There are other issues drawing people into London's privatized public square.

Olympics sponsorship has become a full-throttle, corporate cornucopia. London Games sponsors include icons of health and fair play like McDonald's, British Petroleum and Dow Chemical. In the name of good health, McDonald's is handing out "activity toys" for kids to play with after munching down their Happy Meals. BP is—no joke—an official "sustainability partner." Dow Chemical's prominent presence is a slap in the face to London's large South Asian population, given the notorious gas disaster in Bhopal, India, that killed more than 20,000 people and left hundreds of thousands more suffering in its wake. In 1999, Dow Chemical merged with Union Carbide, the US firm responsible for the Bhopal nightmare.

The UK Tar Sands Network has been active, helping carry out a gutsy intervention at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre where, dressed in Shakespearean garb, activists stormed the stage and delivered a brilliant monologue—"To BP or Not to BP?"—and urged patrons to tear out BP's sponsorship symbol from their program.

Behind this Bizzarro World where McDonald's means health and BP stands for sustainability are the plutocrats and moral midgets of the International Olympic Committee.

More than a year after the Arab Spring, this is one dictatorial operation still chugging along. Originally a decaying assemblage of barons, dukes and counts, the IOC has now broadened its membership to include our modern royalty, the mega-wealthy. Having only allowed women as members in 1981, the IOC is the 1 percent of the 1 percent, a global cosmopolitan elite that drips with privilege.

To stage the games, host cities must submit to a laundry list of IOC demands, and London is no exception. It has set aside 250 miles of VIP lanes for exclusive use by members of the "Olympic Family," including athletes, medics and corporate sponsors. London organizers are required to secure nearly 2,000 rooms for IOC bigwigs in the finest five-star hotels. To control commercial space in favor of the Olympics' corporate donors, the "Technical Manual on Brand Protection" dictates, "candidate cities are required to obtain control of all billboard advertising, city transport advertising, airport advertising, etc., for the duration of the games and the month preceding the games to support the marketing program."

As the games approach, and you begin to mark your favorite athletic contests on your calendar, remember that at noon on July 28 there will a different kind of event: when campaigners come together not to celebrate the breathtaking athleticism of the Olympics but to challenge the breathtaking audacity of Olympic elites.

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Friday, July 27, 2012

Pepe Escobar: Syrian blood etches a new line in the sand

From: laamn@yahoogroups.com On Behalf Of Romi Elnagar
Syrian blood etches a new line in the sand
Pepe Escobar
Asian Times: Jul 25, 2012

Once upon a time, early in the previous century, a line in the sand was drawn, from Acre to Kirkuk. Two colonial powers - Britain and France - nonchalantly divided the Middle East between themselves; everything north of the line in the sand was France's; south, it was Britain's.

Many blowbacks - and concentric tragedies - later, a new line in the sand is being drawn by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Between Syria and Iraq, they want it all. Talk about the return of the repressed; now, as part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization-Gulf Cooperation Council compound, they're in bed with their former colonial masters.

Blow by blow
No matter what militarized Western corporate media spins,
there's no endgame in Syria - yet. On the contrary; the sectarian game is just beginning.

It's 1980s Afghanistan all over again. The over 100 heavily armed gangs engaged in civil war in Syria are overflowing with Gulf Cooperation Council funds financing their Russian RPGs bought on the black market. Salafi-jihadis cross into Syria in droves - not only from Iraq but also Kuwait, Algeria, Tunisia and Pakistan, following enraged calls by their imams. Kidnapping, raping and slaughtering pro-Assad regime civilians is becoming the law of the land.

They go after Christians with a vengeance. [1] They force Iraqi exiles in Damascus to leave, especially those settled in Sayyida Zainab, the predominantly Shi'ite neighborhood named after Prophet Muhammad's grand-daughter, buried in the beautiful local mosque. The BBC, to its credit, at least followed the story. [2]

They perform summary executions; Iraq's deputy interior minister Adnan al-Assadi told AFP how Iraqi border guards saw the Free Syrian Army (FSA) take control of a border outpost and then "executed 22 Syrian soldiers in front of the eyes of Iraqi soldiers".

The Bab al-Hawa crossing between Syria and Turkey was overrun by no less than 150 multinational self-described mujahideen [3] - coming from Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, Chechnya and even France, many proclaiming their allegiance to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

They burned a lot of Turkish trucks. They shot their own promo video. They paraded their al-Qaeda flag. And they declared the whole border area an Islamic state.

Hand over your terrorist ID
There's no way to understand the Syrian dynamics without learning that most FSA commanders are not Syrians, but Iraqi Sunnis. The FSA could only capture the Abu Kamal border crossing between Syria and Iraq because the whole area is controlled by Sunni tribes viscerally antagonistic towards the al-Maliki government in Baghdad. The free flow of mujahideen, hardcore jihadis and weapons between Iraq and Syria is now more than established.

The idea of the Arab League - behaving as NATO-GCC's fully robed spokesman - offering exile to Bashar al-Assad may be as ridiculous as the notion of the CIA supervising which mujahideen and jihadi outfits may have access to the weapons financed by Qatar and the Saudis.

At first, it might have been just a bad joke. After all, the exile offer came from those exact same paragons of democracy, the House of Saud and Qatar, who control the Arab League and are financing the mujahideen and the anti-Syria jihad.

Baghdad, though, publicly condemned the exile offer. And the aftermath - in fact on the same day - was worthy of The Joker (yes, Batman's foe); a wave of anti-Shi'ite bombings in Iraq, with over 100 people dead, duly claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq, al-Qaeda's local franchise. Spokesman Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi energetically urged the Sunni tribes in Anbar and Nineveh to join the jihad and topple the "infidel" government in Baghdad.

The mujahideen/jihadi back and forth between Syria and Iraq has been more than confirmed by Izzat al-Shahbandar, a senior member of Iraq's Parliament and close aide to Prime Minister al-Maliki. Baghdad even has updated lists. The crossover could only spawn more frenetic Orwellian newspeak, nailed by the website Moon of Alabama. [4]

Mujahideen and jihadis active in Iraq are now "Iraqi insurgents". And mujahideen and jihadis active in Syria remain the usual "Syrian rebels". They have been all decommissioned as "terrorists". Under this logic, the Colorado Batman shooter may also be described as an "insurgent".

Follow the money
As it stands, the romanticized Syrian "rebels" plus the insurgents formerly known as terrorists cannot win against the Syria military - not even with the Saudis and Qataris showering them with loads of cash and weapons.

Nor is there any evidence the regime is contemplating a retreat to the Alawite mountains in northern Syria, as evoked by this collective foreign policy blog discussion. After all the "rebels" do not control any territory.

What's certain is who would profit from Syria being progressively balkanized. The House of Saud and Qatar would love nothing better than to have the civil war exported to Iraq and Lebanon; in their very narrow calculations, that would eventually yield fellow Sunni regimes.

So expect Saudi and Qatari funds buying every well-connected Syrian regime apparatchik in sight - even while the urban Sunni bourgeosie still has not abandoned the ship.

And as the civil war spreads out, a tsunami of weapons will keep inundating Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and of course Turkey, boosting assorted guerrilla outfits, Kurdish included - yet one more facet of now ostracized neo-Ottoman Turkey impotently watching nation states carved out of that 1920s colonial line in the sand being smashed.

Strategically, this will always be a war by proxy; essentially Saudi Arabia vs Iran - with the House of Saud behind hardcore Islamists of all colors compared to Qatar supporting "its" Muslim Brotherhood. But most of all this is the US-NATO-GCC vs Iran.

Israel's motives go way beyond the Saudi/Qatari sectarian lust. Israel's Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu has just excavated a Bushism - calling Iran-Syria-Hezbollah an "axis of evil". What Tel Aviv wants in the long run is clear; for Washington, Obama administration or not, to bring down the axis.

Meanwhile, this long-term goal does not prevent Defense Minister Ehud Barak from getting crazy - speculating on an invasion of Syria based on a hypothetical transfer of Syrian anti-aircraft missiles or even chemical weapons to Hezbollah.

Washington for its part would love at least a pliable/puppet Sunni regime in Damascus to turbo-charge the encircling of Iran - without increasing Israel's substantial fears. Meanwhile, what passes for "smart power" is no more than glorified wishful thinking. Here in detail is how pro-Israel functionaries in the US are designing post-Assad Syria. [5]

Meet the new Bane
For all its production values, NATO's jihad - in conjunction with al-Qaeda affiliates and copycats - still has not delivered regime change. UN Security Council sanctions won't be forthcoming, as Beijing and Moscow have already stressed three times. So Plan Bs keep surfacing all the time. The latest is straight from the Iraq playbook; Damascus will attack civilians with chemical weapons. This lasted only for a few news cycles.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has already made it clear; regime change is anathema, especially for a reason that eludes most in the West - jihadis at the gates of Damascus means they are a stone's throw from the Caucasus, the possible new pearl in a lethal collar bound to destabilize Muslim Russia.

Blowback meanwhile is ready to strike like the Medusa. What is for all practical purposes NATO-GCC mujahideen/jihadi death squads will be more than happy to bleed Syria across sectarian lines - in the sand and especially in urban areas. It's hunting season now, not only for Alawites but also Christians (10% of the population).

A foreign policy that privileges Sunni jihadis formerly known as terrorists to create a "democratic" state in the Middle East seems to have been conjured by Bane - the Hannibal Lecter meets Darth Vader bad guy in The Dark Knight Rises, the final chapter of the Batman trilogy. And yes, we are his creators. While the best lack all conviction, and the worst are full of passionate intensity, a masked Sunni jihadi superman is slouching towards Damascus to be born.

1. http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/homepage /world-news/detail/articolo/siria-syria-15868/
2. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-18930876
3, http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/07/22/227739.html
4. http://www.moonofalabama.org/2012/07/nyt-terrorists-are -now-insurgents.html#comments
5. http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/07/20/ inside_the_secret_effort_to_plan_for_a_post_assad_syria

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His most recent book is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009). He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com

(Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

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