Sunday, November 29, 2015

Planned Parenthood shooting demonstrates the severity of domestic rightwing terror


Three people are dead and several others are injured after a crazed man opened fire near a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs. Among the victims of Robert Lewis Dear’s act of terror was police officer Garrett Swasey and two unidentified civilians.
When news of the six-hour standoff broke, media outlets and authorities were careful to not speculate on a motive until an investigation revealed why Dear would feel the need to murder innocent people. However, soon after the shooting, Dear made remarks about his anti-abortion leanings, and authorities still refuse to accept that his motive was clearly to terrorize Planned Parenthood due to his objection to reproductive rights.
CNN’s coverage perfectly demonstrates how authorities are extremely careful against speculating when it comes to a white murder suspect:
“…the suspect accused of carrying out the shooting spree made remarks about “baby parts” to investigators after his surrender, a law enforcement official told CNN. Dear, 57, told them he has anti-abortion and anti-government views, but that doesn’t mean those opinions were his motive for allegedly shooting up the Colorado Springs clinic on Friday, the official said. It’s too early to tell, as investigators are still processing evidence.”
Speculating on a motive, whether the shooter is white, black, or Muslim, is always unacceptable in responsible journalism or policing, which is why I refused to share my opinion on the shooting until I was certain that Planned Parenthood was the target.
At this point, it’s unclear what more Dear needs to say or do to make his motive clearer. He’s a deranged lunatic who thinks Planned Parenthood is profiting off of “baby parts” because another group of deranged lunatics released fraudulent and highly edited videos to make it seem like these clinics are doing something illegal. If we keep beating around the bush, these acts of domestic terror will continue.
After the Center for Medical Progress released its defamatory and deceptive series of edited videos accusing Planned Parenthood of selling fetal tissue for profit, at least three of the organization’s clinics have been vandalized. Domestic terrorists like Dear clearly have no grasp of irony, because in their quest to “protect life” they brutally murder innocent people. It’s also important to finally accept the fact that these are not isolated incidents that develop out of thin air.
As the National Abortion Federation notes, since 1977 there have been 8 murders, 17 attempted murders, 42 bombings and 186 arsons and thousands of other incidents, including vandalism. The real numbers are likely to be higher, and the NAF has made sure to only include incidents that were reported to law enforcement agencies. They rightly haven’t included cases that were ruled inconclusive.
After the Colorado Springs shooting, President Obama made the same predictable lukewarm statements that the media reported as bold.
“This is not normal. We can’t let it become normal,” Obama said, not realizing that these shooting are the new normal. “If we truly care about this — if we’re going to offer up our thoughts and prayers again, for God knows how many times, with a truly clean conscience — then we have to do something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets to people who have no business wielding them. Period. Enough is enough.”
And so we continue on with the same old routine in case after case of domestic terrorism. Rightwing organizations like the Center for Medical Progress and conservative presidential candidates like Carly Fiorina lie about Planned Parenthood, a right-winger opens fire at a clinic, the President offers up the same tough-guy rhetoric on gun control, conservatives act like this is an isolated incident, and at the end of it all nothing gets solved.
There needs to be real criminal consequences for organizations that deceive people to the point where they incite violence against abortion clinics. Domestic terrorism impacts Americans more than Islamic terrorism, yet nothing is being done about it. Last February, the Department of Homeland Security released a report warning about the threat of domestic rightwing terrorism, but the media and the government continued to shift its focus to Islamic terrorism abroad.
Turns out that rightwing fanatics have killed more people in the United States since 9/11 than Muslim extremists. Last June, the research center New America found that 26 people had been killed in jihadist violence in the U.S. since 9/11, but 48 people had been killed in attacks by rightwing groups.
According to Democracy Now, despite the intense focus by the Obama administration on Muslim communities, non-Muslims have carried out more than 19 terrorist attacks since September 11, 2001, while Muslims have been responsible for seven. The number reported by Democracy Now are from last June, and don’t even include the more recent cases of domestic terror.
Back in 2011, the DHS dismantled its unit that focused on rightwing terrorism because conservatives vilified the department for pointing a finger to real threats in the U.S. When you put all the puzzle pieces together, it’s not a surprise that horrific shootings like the one in Colorado Springs happen so often. The U.S. doesn’t really take these cases seriously. After all, we need to focus all our attention on despising movements like Black Lives Matter and demonizing Muslims. Apparently there’s no time to protect lives from genuine threats in the country.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Trump almost got it right: Some people were arrested for celebrating 9/11 — but they were Israeli


As Donald Trump continues to insist that he saw “thousands” of Muslims cheering the destruction of the World Trade Center — let’s pause to remember that several Israelis were arrested and eventually deported for acting suspiciously on 9/11.
Trump has said he personally witnessed large numbers of Muslims holding “tailgate parties” in New Jersey on Sept. 11, 2001, and his campaign manager suggested that “special interests” who control the media have conspired to bury video footage to back the Republican candidate’s claims.
The GOP frontrunner has dug himself in so deep defending those claims — which are not supported by law enforcement or media accounts — that he mocked a disabled reporter who questioned his recollection.
Police detained, questioned and eventually released a number of Muslims in the New York City area who were accused of behaving suspiciously following the terrorist attacks — but investigators found most of those claims to be unfounded.
A New Jersey woman, however, reported some suspicious men she saw recording video from a moving van that actually did result in arrests.
The woman, identified by police and news reports only as Maria, said she spotted three men kneeling on the roof of a white van outside her New Jersey apartment building as she watched the towers burn through binoculars.
She called police, who arrested five men — identified as Sivan Kurzberg, Paul Kurzberg, Oded Ellner, Omer Marmari and Yaron Shmuel — later that day near Giants Stadium while driving in a van registered to Urban Moving.
Although it’s never been confirmed, the company and the men are widely believed to have been part of an undercover operation set up by Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad, and they have been the subject of numerous conspiracy theories about the terrorist attacks.
Their case was transferred out of the FBI’s Criminal Division and into its Foreign Counterintelligence Section shortly after the men were jailed, and they were held ostensibly for overstaying their tourist visas.
An immigration judge ordered them deported two weeks later, but ABC News reported that FBI and CIA officials put a hold on their case.
The men were held in detention for more than two months and given multiple lie detector tests, and at least one of them spent 40 days in solitary confinement.
Intelligence experts suspect the men may have been conducting surveillance on radical Islamists in the U.S., but Israeli officials have denied the men were involved at all in intelligence operations.
Investigators determined the men had no advance knowledge of the terrorist attacks, and they were eventually sent back to Israel after 71 days.
One of the men denied Maria’s claims that they had been laughing as they recorded video of the doomed World Trade Center towers.
“The fact of the matter is we are coming from a country that experiences terror daily,” the man told investigators. “Our purpose was to document the event.”
A lawyer for the men suggested at the time that Maria had exaggerated her claims because she mistook the men for Muslims.
“One of the neighbors who saw them called the police and claimed they were posing, dancing and laughing, against the background of the burning towers,” said attorney Steve Gordon. “The five denied dancing. I presume the neighbor was not near them and does not understand Hebrew. Furthermore, the neighbor complained that the cheerful gang on the roof spoke Arabic.”

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Stephen Colbert hilariously mocks ‘NostraDonald’ Trump for ‘predicting the predictable’ about bin Laden


Donald Trump is a comedian’s dream — a ridiculous but famous person whose fatuous claims and haughty persona are making a mockery of the political process — and Stephen Colbert is thankful for that.
The Republican presidential frontrunner claimed last week that he saw “thousands and thousands” of Muslims cheering the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11, although police and news organizations can find no evidence that such an event took place.
But Trump has spent this week defending his dubious claims, insisting that — although he could not remember where he had seen the celebration — he was certain he had witnessed it because he has, in his own words, “the world’s greatest memory.”
“That’s right,” Colbert said. “He can’t remember exactly where he saw that video, but he can remember that he has ‘the world’s greatest memory.'”
Trump can also predict the future, according to the candidate himself — who has repeatedly bragged in recent days that he had “mentioned” in a 2000 book that Osama bin Laden was a “bad guy” who was “going to do damage to our country.”
Of course, the real estate tycoon and reality TV star’s passing warning went unheeded.
Colbert pointed out that Trump’s book was published the same year bin Laden was linked to the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, two years after the al Qaeda leader was indicted for the embassy bombings that killed 224 people in Tanzania and Kenya and seven years after he was implicated in a previous bombing of the World Trade Center.
“That’s spooky,” Colbert said. “It’s like Trump has some kind of, like, fifth sense that lets him see what’s in newspapers and on TVs.”
“NostraDonald is not the only one with this power,” Colbert added, setting a candle on his desk as the studio lights were dimmed. “Tonight I will attempt to predict the predictable. I will now commune with the occult powers so I may know the known.”
Colbert predicted that next year would bring an iPhone 7, followed quickly by an iPhone 7s, and he also foresaw a frozen yogurt shop opening in your neighborhood that would close within a year.
Author James Patterson will publish a book next year that may be purchased at the airport, Colbert foretold.
He predicted the weather would soon grow colder, followed by a warming trend in the spring and a heat wave in the summer.
Colbert then picked up a newspaper and read upcoming showtimes for “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2,” and he prophesied, popping open a Snapple and reading the underside of the bottlecap, that peace in the Middle East was “pretty darn unlikely.”
He began manipulating one of those origami fortune tellers and predicted that, no matter what Trump said, he would probably continue doing well in the polls.

Watch the entire segment posted online by The Late Show With Stephen Colbert:

4 arrested after "act of terrorism" against Black Lives Matter


 MINNEAPOLIS - They'd been there almost every night, protesters say, cruising in groups by the crowd protesting the shooting death of Jamar Clark, a black man, by Minneapolis police.
The car full of white men would often shoot video of the protests, organized by Black Lives Matter, the protest movement the grew from the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.
On Monday night, something changed.
CBS Minnesota reporter Lorena Delacuesta said she sensed trouble just before a shooting sent five protesters to the hospital.
"These three guys come, three white men, covering their faces and they started arguing with the protesters," Delacuesta said.
At 10:41 p.m., three masked men began shouting. Wesley Martin was among those who escorted them away.
Suddenly, shots rang out.
"I heard the N word and that's when everybody started charging," he said. "And we get to 14th and Morgan [avenues], and all I heard was pow...pow, pow, pow, pow, pow."
Martin was shot in the leg, and his brother was also hit.
Police, who haven't commented on a motive for the attack on the protesters, said three people were in custody. Authorities arrested a 23-year-old white man and two more men - both white, ages 26 and 21 - turned themselves in Tuesday afternoon. A 32-year-old Hispanic man was arrested but later released. No further details were immediately available.

On Tuesday, a Black Lives Matter spokesperson said the violence directed at protesters only strengthens their resolve.
"What happened last night was a planned hate crime, an act of terrorism," the spokesperson said.
Despite his injury, Martin returned to the protest at the 4th Precinct. It was his way of saying the cause won't buckle to fear.
"It just went through muscle...I don't care if I be in a wheelchair," he said. "I'll still be out here."
At Tuesday's protest, Black Lives Matter organizers asked that no one wear masks, for safety reasons. It helped set the tone for what organizers are calling a joyful, yet sorrow-filled night.
Cameron Clark was one of the victims of the shooting. He was at the precinct protesting the shooting of his cousin, Jamar Clark
"We were just asking them what's going on," Clark said. "They didn't say anything. The guy in all black just opened fire on us."
Clark was shot in the leg and foot after escorting several masked men away from the precinct.
"I'm hurting. My community needs me," he said. "I need them and I'm not going to lay down."
Clark left the hospital Tuesday and joined hundreds of others for a memorial concert. Black Lives Matter Minneapolis and the NAACP have come together to host a day of celebration, a day of mourning and a day of community.
The shooting followed several racially disparaging comments about the protests that had been posted on social media in recent days. One video showed a white man brandishing a gun while claiming to be on his way to the protests. Police issued a warning Friday night, asking demonstrators to be vigilant and report any suspicious behavior to authorities.
"We ain't scared," Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds told a large crowd gathered for a concert at the precinct early Tuesday evening. "We can't back down. We ain't turning around, but we're here fighting for justice."
Fourteen people whom protesters believed to be white supremacists were kicked out of the area one recent night, said Mica Grimm, an organizer of Black Lives Matter Minneapolis. She said they came in with their faces covered and filmed the crowd but would not talk to people. Some made racist comments.
Grimm said protesters had been threatened by one group online and had been working with hackers to figure out the group's plans. On one night, Grimm said, online chatter included a post stating that a pie had been left at the protest site with rat poison.
"We made sure that all the pies were thrown out, and actually other food was thrown out for fear of contamination," she said.
Grimm said concerns were brought up to police, but protesters felt the threats were not being taken seriously.
Some protesters criticized the police response time and said officers arrived in full riot gear. Officers aggressively pushed back on the crowd, Wronski-Riley said, at one point using a chemical irritant to keep people back.
Police did not answer questions about their response to the shootings or about their response to prior reports of suspicious behavior.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Burning of Christian churches in Israel justified, far-Right Jewish leader says

By Robert Tait, Jerusalem

The leader of a far-Right Israeli group has risked arrest by apparently voicing support for arson attacks on Christian churches amid an official crackdown on Jewish extremism.
Benzi Gopstein, the outspoken head of Lehava - which has drawn notoriety for its violent assaults on Jewish-Arab assimilation - made the remarks at a panel discussion for Jewish yeshiva students when asked by a fellow panelist if he believed burning down churches in Israel was justified.
He later tried to evade accusations of inciting his followers to fire-raise, saying it was the government's responsibility to carry out what he presented as a religious teaching of the 12th century Jewish philosopher, Maimonides.
“Did the Rambam [Maimonides] rule to destroy [idol worship] or not? Idol worship must be destroyed. It’s simply yes – what’s the question?” Mr Gopstein told the panel.
His comment alarmed his questioner Benny Rabinovich, a journalist, who told him: "Benzi, I must say I’m really shocked by what you’re saying here. You are essentially saying we must go out and burn down churches. You’re saying something insane here.”
Told by another panelist, Moshe Klein, rabbi of Israel's Haddash medical centres, that the discussion was being filmed and that his remarks could lead to his arrest, Mr Gopstein answered: “That’s the last thing that concerns me. If this is truth, I’m prepared to sit in jail 50 years for it.”
He later retreated slightly after a recording of the exchange was posted on Kikar Shabbat, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish website. "I stressed several times I was not calling to take operative steps, but that this is the Rambam’s approach and that it’s the responsibility of the government, not of individuals," he said in a statement.
Nevertheless, the incendiary comments could not have been more provocatively timed. They came after Moshe Ya'alon, Israel's defence minister, ordered the detention without trial of Mordechai Meyer, 18, for extremist activities believed to include starting a fire that badly damaged the symbolic Church of Loaves and Fishes in Galilee in June.
He was one of three extremists detained after Benjamin Netanyahu's government was prompted to launch an unprecedented offensive against "Jewish terrorism" following an arson attack by suspected hardline settlers in the West Bank village of Duma last Friday that killed a one-year-old Palestinian toddler and gravely injured his parents and brother.
Head of a Jewish extremist group Meir Ettinger appears in court in Nazareth Illit , Israel, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015. Head of a Jewish extremist group Meir Ettinger appears in court in Nazareth Illit , Israel, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015.   Photo: AP
Head of a Jewish extremist group Meir Ettinger appears in court in Nazareth Illit (AP)

Also arrested was Meir Ettinger, grandson of the late Meir Kahane, a Jewish rabbi notorious for racist beliefs who was murdered by a Palestinian in 1990.
Mr Gopstein, Lehava's founder, is a one-time member of Mr Kahane's Kach party, which was banned because of its racist philosophy.
However, Shin Bet - Israel's domestic intelligence agency - recently concluded that there are no legal grounds for similarly outlawing Lehava, despite a request from Mr Ya'alon to consider doing so.
Two of the group's members were recently jailed for setting fire to Jerusalem's Jewish-Arab Max Rayne Hand in Hand school last November. Hebrew graffiti reading "Kahane was right" was sprayed on a wall of the school.
Mr Gopstein was arrested along with 20 other Lehava members for suspected incitement to violence last last year but has so far not been charged.
Lehava - whose name means "flame" but is also the Hebrew acronym for "prevening assimilation in the Holy Land" - regularly holds open gatherings in Jerusalem's Zion Square, where members distribute literature warning of the dangers of relationships between Jewish women and Arab men.
The group held a demonstration at which members chanted "death to the Arabs" outside a wedding between a Muslim and Jewish woman who had converted to Islam during last summer's Gaza war.
It also staged a protest against last week's gay pride march in Jerusalem, where an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man attacked six participants, leading to the death of a 16-year-old girl.

NYT Editorial Board Calls Out Trump's 'Racist Lies'


Among the lies the board pointed to was when Trump said this weekend that he saw "thousands and thousands" of people in New Jersey cheering on 9/11 and when Trump said that the United States was accepting 250,000 Syrian refugees. The board wrote that Trump can be counted on to say lies "too vile to utter aloud" to gain the attention they afford him.
The board wrote the tactic is "nothing new" in politics, comparing Trump's words to comments Joseph McCarthy made as he ran for Senate and George Wallace made after being elected governor of Alabama.
The Times noted that Trump often wages his attacks on social media—a form of communication that doesn't require any proof, unlike an exchange with a reporter should—and that attention garnered online in turn earns him TV spots. On his hyperactive Twitter account, Trump has attacked politicians, retweeted an image of a swastika, and most recently shared an inaccurate statistic about the murder rate among African-Americans.
The board wrote that it doesn't want to limit Trump's free speech, but urged reporters to continue to challenge him. As the newspaper put it, "His right to spew nonsense is protected by the Constitution, but the public doesn’t need to swallow it."
Read the full piece here.

Scientists: Ted Cruz knows less about climate science than the average kindergartner


Climate change is perhaps the most daunting global problem facing humanity. But when it comes to climate science, at least one candidate to lead the world’s most powerful nation is only as informed as the average kindergartner.
A group of climate and biological scientists graded statements made about the environment by candidates. Some, like Democrat Hillary Clinton, performed well. Others — mostly Republicans flunked. But no one performed worse than GOP candidate and Texas senator Ted Cruz, according to the Associated Press.
None of the scientists knew which candidate said what. The contenders for president were identified only by numbers and their comments were graded anonymously.
“This individual understands less about science [and climate change] than the average kindergartner,” wrote Michael Mann, a Pennsylvania State University meteorology professor. “That sort of ignorance would be dangerous in a doorman, let alone a president.”
The scientists point to statements that are plainly false. In August, for example, Cruz said, “If you look at satellite data for the last 18 years, there’s been zero warming. … The satellite says it ain’t happening.”
The opposite is true.
Florida State University’s James Elsner pointed out that data shows every decade has been warmer than the last since the mid-1900s, the AP reports. Satellite data shows “continued warming over the past several decades,” and 2015 is set to be the warmest year on record.
Also earning the ire of scientists was Donald Trump, who said in September, “It could be warming and it’s going to start to cool at some point. And you know in the 1920s people talked about global cooling. I don’t know if you know that or not. They thought the Earth was cooling. Now it’s global warming. Actually, we’ve had times where the weather wasn’t working out so they changed it to extreme weather and they have all different names, you know, so that it fits the bill.”
Harvard’s Jim McCarthy called that “nonsense.”

Monday, November 23, 2015

Trump must apologize to Muslim Americans, Jersey City | Editorial

By Jersey Journal Editorial 

Donald Trump must apologize to Muslim Americans and to Jersey City for his untrue, divisive and reprehensible comments perpetuating an old rumor we thought had rightly died.
By repeating – and indeed embellishing – this hateful rumor, Trump once again ratchets up the ugliness in the current political climate.
Thousands and thousands of people in Jersey City did not cheer the destruction of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Period. End of story. There is no need to continue to "fact check'' his words.
The truth is that Trump's statements are factually, ethically and morally wrong. Those of us who were really there that day and in the days that followed know that Jersey City suffered tremendous loss, mourned and stepped up to help.
Trump should step up now and do the right thing: apologize.

Friday, November 20, 2015

China Cracks $64 Billion `Underground Bank' Moving Money Abroad

Bloomberg News 

China said it cracked the nation’s biggest “underground bank,” which handled 410 billion yuan ($64 billion) of illegal foreign-exchange transactions, as the authorities try to combat corruption and rein in capital outflows that have hit records this year.
More than 370 people have been arrested or face lawsuits or other punishment in the case centered in eastern Zhejiang province, the official People’s Daily reported on Friday, citing police officials. The case brought the total for underground banking and money-laundering activities to 800 billion yuan since April, the newspaper said.
The probe began in September last year and the police took almost a year to sort through more than 1.3 million suspicious transactions, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported separately. The authorities froze more than 3,000 bank accounts, Xinhua said.

Global Flows

The case highlights the nation’s struggle to control capital outflows that have helped to send real-estate prices soaring from Vancouver to Sydney -- even when Chinese citizens are officially limited to converting $50,000 of yuan per year. Some people may be moving the proceeds of corruption, while others may be concerned about the outlook for the economy and the potential for the yuan to weaken.
“The government wants to stem outflows and stabilize the yuan’s exchange rate, but the outflows cannot be stopped unless people change their expectation on yuan depreciation,” said Xi Junyang, a finance professor at Shanghai University of Finance & Economics. Besides illegal banking operations, “a lot of money is leaving the country by legal means,” Xi said.
China’s capital outflows may have climbed to a record $194 billion in September before cooling to $62 billion in October, according to a Bloomberg gauge which also takes into account decisions by exporters and direct investment recipients to hold funds in dollars.


The tactics used by Chinese citizens to defeat the controls include so-called smurfing, where large sums are moved by breaking them down into a series of smaller transfers using the bank accounts and foreign-exchange quotas of a range of individuals.
In the Zhejiang case, a suspect identified as Zhao Mouyi used a different method, setting up more than 10 companies in Hong Kong from 2013 and transferring more than 100 billion yuan through so-called non-resident accounts, which are used by offshore companies in China when they are transferring money abroad, according to the newspaper’s report.
Taking advantage of a “loophole” relating to non-resident accounts -- which has since been filled by banks -- Zhao circumvented the capital controls by directly transferring yuan overseas and then exchanged the money into foreign currencies at banks including HSBC Holdings Plc in Hong Kong, the People’s Daily said. Zhao then allegedly transferred it to his clients’ accounts, the report said, citing the local police.

Suspicious Transactions

HSBC declined to comment on the report. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority also declined to comment on the specifics of the case, while saying that banks in the city have “stepped up their internal controls to report suspicious transactions.”
Methods of bypassing China’s currency controls include:
  • making transfers using Hong Kong money changers
  • carrying checks from underground banks across the border to Hong Kong
  • smuggling cash through customs
  • making payments abroad using credit or debit cards and then returning merchandise for cash
  • getting an overseas mortgage based on savings held within China
The underground banking crackdown is “an attempt to reduce the capital outflow pressure,” said Hou Wei, a banking analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in Hong Kong. The government is “determined and very serious” about defending its currency reserves and the exchange rate, the analyst said.

Taiwan, Australia

In another case highlighted by the People’s Daily on Friday, an investigation of an underground bank in Fujian this year uncovered a network spanning Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia and Saudi Arabia -- and a senior executive at a state-owned enterprise who allegedly tried to move 18 million yuan abroad, the newspaper said.
The authorities have made a series of moves to control legal and illegal capital flows, including capping withdrawals at overseas automated teller machines.
The People’s Bank of China has given verbal guidance to onshore lenders to stop offering cross-border financing to offshore banks, people familiar with the matter said this week. The monetary authority has also told overseas banks to halt onshore bond repurchases, two of the people said.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Comic legend Mel Brooks: If I were making a Trump sitcom it would be about a powerful idiot


Comedy legend Mel Brooks said in an interview this week that he considers GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump to be nothing more than comedy fodder.
The creator of such farces and parodies as Blazing Saddles and Spaceballs said he hopes Trump stays in the race because he thinks he’s hilarious. The comments were made this week in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.
“If I were doing a sitcom I’d do it about a powerful idiot like this guy, who’s running a big corporation or a big network and we’d get to see behind the scenes what an idiot he is,” Brooks said. “The most interesting thing happening was Fox News turning on Trump. That’s hysterical. It’s like Bavaria fighting with Austria — they’re both Germans!”
Brooks, who is Jewish and often skewers Hitler and the Nazis in his work, made the comments before Trump said Thursday he thought Muslims should be forced to have special identification cards, drawing comparison to Nazis making Jewish people wear yellow-colored Stars of David on their clothes.
Trump was on Saturday Night Live this month, propping himself up as the butt of a joke in which comedian and Seinfeld creator Larry David shouted off-stage, “Trump’s a racist!” The real estate mogul, who is combative, bombastic and constantly on Twitter attacking people and boasting, has been criticized for remarks calling migrants from Mexico criminals and rapists.
“Thank God for Trump,” Brooks said. “He’s grist for the comic mill and we need it, God bless him.”

Ted Cruz says facing down ‘hostile’ CNBC debate moderators makes him qualified to be president


Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) cited his recent debate experience to show how he might unite Americans.
The Republican presidential candidate said he had been battle-tested by politically hostile moderators during the Oct. 28 debate broadcast by CNBC.
He lashed out during the debate and complained bitterly afterward that “real journalists” such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity should moderate future GOP debates.
Even so, that’s an experience Cruz said he could call upon when a reporter asked the “champion of conservative values and issues” how he would “bring unity to a divided nation,” reported Right Wing Watch.
“It’s a great question, and let’s talk about unity for a second,” Cruz said during the event earlier this month organized by Kevin Swanson, a pastor who has called for LGBT people to be put to death.
“How do you bring unity?” Cruz continued. “You know, we saw a moment of unity last week in the debate when I called out the debate moderators. One of the great results that happened was you saw all the Republicans on stage come together and be united, standing behind that charge of the ridiculous bias, the dripping condescension, the assumption in each of those media questions that anyone who actually believes in the conservative principles that America was built on is somehow a blithering idiot. That unity was encouraging.”
Cruz kept up his tough-talking debater act after President Barack Obama criticized him for suggesting that only Christian Syrian refugees should be allowed to resettle in the U.S.
“Mr. President, if you want to insult me, you can do it overseas, you can do it in Turkey, you can do it in foreign countries, but I would encourage you, Mr. President, come back and insult me to my face,” Cruz said Wednesday morning. “Let’s have a debate on Syrian refugees right now. We can do it anywhere you want. I’d prefer it in the United States and not overseas where you’re making the insults. It’s easy to toss a cheap insult when no one can respond, but let’s have a debate.”...........................

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

World leaders agree to close multinationals tax loopholes..

World leaders on Monday approved a crackdown on tax avoidance by multinationals such Google, Apple (LSE: 0R2V.L - news) and McDonalds whose rock-bottom tax bills have provoked widespread outrage.
Heads of the Group of 20 top economies put their final seal on a plan to close loopholes that let some big companies shift profits to low-tax nations so as to slash their bills, leaving ordinary tax payers fuming.
It (Other OTC: ITGL - news) comes a year after the "LuxLeaks" revelations that some of the world's biggest companies -- including Pepsi and Ikea -- had lowered their tax rates to as little as one percent in secret pacts with tax authorities in Luxembourg.
US President Barack Obama, Chinese leader Xi Jinping, and Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron joined fellow leaders in endorsing a clampdown drawn up by the wealthy nations' Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
In a joint statement delivered after a two-day summit at the Turkish Mediterranean resort of Antalya, leaders declared that they "strongly urge the timely implementation of the project and encourage all countries and jurisdictions, including developing ones, to participate".
The OECD calculates that national governments lose $100-240 billion (89-210 billion euros), or 4-10 percent of global tax revenues, every year because of the tax-minimising schemes of multinationals.
Its 15-point plan, adopted after years of negotiations, seeks to oblige multinationals to pay tax in the country where their main business activity is based.
- 'Step forward' -
The package represents "the first substantial -- and overdue -- renovation of the international tax standards in almost a century," the 34-nation, Paris-based OECD says.
The OECD says its scheme will:
- Stop companies exploiting differences in national tax rules and bilateral treaties, for example to win no-tax status in two places at once.
- Prevent companies from shifting profits to lower-taxation countries where their foreign subsidiaries are based, or from using technicalities to declare they are based in low-tax jurisdictions.
- Close loopholes that let companies shift debt within a group towards higher-tax countries, allowing them to declare lower profits there.
- Oblige multinationals to detail their business country by country to the tax authorities.
The British-based charity Oxfam said the plan was a "step forward".
"But until the G20 supports a reform process that truly tackles harmful tax competition, tax havens and multinationals will continue to gain most from this system, and the poorest countries will be the biggest losers," Oxfam said in a statement.
The charity urged the G20 to work with the United Nations, International Monetary Fund and World Bank along with the OECD on a second generation of tax reforms to build on the crackdown.

16/11/2015 19:59    

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Now the truth emerges: Here’s how the US fueled the rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq


The sectarian terror group won’t be defeated by the western states that incubated it in the first place
The war on terror, that campaign without end launched 14 years ago by George Bush, is tying itself up in ever more grotesque contortions. On Monday the trial in London of a Swedish man, Bherlin Gildo, accused of terrorism in Syria, collapsed after it became clear British intelligence had been arming the same rebel groups the defendant was charged with supporting.
The prosecution abandoned the case, apparently to avoid embarrassing the intelligence services. The defence argued that going ahead with the trial would have been an “affront to justice” when there was plenty of evidence the British state was itself providing “extensive support” to the armed Syrian opposition.
Related: Terrorism has come about in assimilationist France and also in multicultural Britain. Why is that? | Kenan Malik
That didn’t only include the “non-lethal assistance” boasted of by the government (including body armour and military vehicles), but training, logistical support and the secret supply of “arms on a massive scale”. Reports were cited that MI6 had cooperated with the CIA on a “rat line” of arms transfers from Libyan stockpiles to the Syrian rebels in 2012 after the fall of the Gaddafi regime.
Clearly, the absurdity of sending someone to prison for doing what ministers and their security officials were up to themselves became too much. But it’s only the latest of a string of such cases. Less fortunate was a London cab driver Anis Sardar, who was given a life sentence a fortnight earlier for taking part in 2007 in resistance to the occupation of Iraq by US and British forces. Armed opposition to illegal invasion and occupation clearly doesn’t constitute terrorism or murder on most definitions, including the Geneva convention.
But terrorism is now squarely in the eye of the beholder. And nowhere is that more so than in the Middle East, where today’s terrorists are tomorrow’s fighters against tyranny – and allies are enemies – often at the bewildering whim of a western policymaker’s conference call.
For the past year, US, British and other western forces have been back in Iraq, supposedly in the cause of destroying the hyper-sectarian terror group Islamic State (formerly known as al-Qaida in Iraq). This was after Isis overran huge chunks of Iraqi and Syrian territory and proclaimed a self-styled Islamic caliphate.
The campaign isn’t going well. Last month, Isis rolled into the Iraqi city of Ramadi, while on the other side of the now nonexistent border its forces conquered the Syrian town of Palmyra. Al-Qaida’s official franchise, the Nusra Front, has also been making gains in Syria.
Some Iraqis complain that the US sat on its hands while all this was going on. The Americans insist they are trying to avoid civilian casualties, and claim significant successes. Privately, officials say they don’t want to be seen hammering Sunni strongholds in a sectarian war and risk upsetting their Sunni allies in the Gulf.
A revealing light on how we got here has now been shone by a recently declassified secret US intelligence report, written in August 2012 , which uncannily predicts – and effectively welcomes – the prospect of a “Salafist principality” in eastern Syria and an al-Qaida-controlled Islamic state in Syria and Iraq. In stark contrast to western claims at the time, the Defense Intelligence Agency document identifies al-Qaida in Iraq (which became Isis) and fellow Salafists as the “major forces driving the insurgency in Syria” – and states that “western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey” were supporting the opposition’s efforts to take control of eastern Syria.
Raising the “possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality”, the Pentagon report goes on, “this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran)”.
American forces bomb one set of rebels while backing another in Syria
Which is pretty well exactly what happened two years later . The report isn’t a policy document. It’s heavily redacted and there are ambiguities in the language. But the implications are clear enough. A year into the Syrian rebellion, the US and its allies weren’t only supporting and arming an opposition they knew to be dominated by extreme sectarian groups; they were prepared to countenance the creation of some sort of “Islamic state” – despite the “grave danger” to Iraq’s unity – as a Sunni buffer to weaken Syria .
That doesn’t mean the US created Isis, of course, though some of its Gulf allies certainly played a role in it – as the US vice-president, Joe Biden, acknowledged last year. But there was no al-Qaida in Iraq until the US and Britain invaded. And the US has certainly exploited the existence of Isis against other forces in the region as part of a wider drive to maintain western control.
The calculus changed when Isis started beheading westerners and posting atrocities online, and the Gulf states are now backing other groups in the Syrian war, such as the Nusra Front. But this US and western habit of playing with jihadi groups, which then come back to bite them, goes back at least to the 1980s war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, which fostered the original al-Qaida under CIA tutelage.
It was recalibrated during the occupation of Iraq, when US forces led by General Petraeus sponsored an El Salvador-style dirty war of sectarian death squads to weaken the Iraqi resistance. And it was reprised in 2011 in the Nato-orchestrated war in Libya, where Isis last week took control of Gaddafi’s home town of Sirte.
In reality, US and western policy in the conflagration that is now the Middle East is in the classic mould of imperial divide-and-rule. American forces bomb one set of rebels while backing another in Syria, and mount what are effectively joint military operations with Iran against Isis in Iraq while supporting Saudi Arabia’s military campaign against Iranian-backed Houthi forces in Yemen. However confused US policy may often be, a weak, partitioned Iraq and Syria fit such an approach perfectly.
What’s clear is that Isis and its monstrosities won’t be defeated by the same powers that brought it to Iraq and Syria in the first place, or whose open and covert war-making has fostered it in the years since. Endless western military interventions in the Middle East have brought only destruction and division. It’s the people of the region who can cure this disease – not those who incubated the virus. © Guardian News and Media 2015

Here are the Republican presidential candidates’ top 7 distortions, disconnects and outright lies — so far


The RNC’s plan to keep the 2016 Republican primaries from being a clown show hasn’t worked out very well. The guy who was supposed to be the establishment candidate is polling in single digits. Leading the pack is a mobbed-up reality TV star. He’s fending off a challenge by a candidate who insists the media are biased for questioning whether he really tried to murder a child. It’s been a weird one.
But it’s been a good race for the fact-checkers. They’ve certainly been busy.
Yet beyond the day-to-day distortions that are typical of any campaign, the entire Republican field – really the whole party – shares some truly deep disconnects with objective reality these days. Here are a few that stand out.
The Apocalypse Isn’t All That Nigh
We’ve got problems. But if you’re a normal person, you’ll probably notice that the sun is still shining, there are no jackbooted government thugs or hordes of zombies roaming the streets and for the most part, we’re muddling through well enough.
But for many conservatives, this country has gone straight to Hell. Our lawless government is letting mobs of angry (but probably well-dressed) gays persecute defenseless Christians, Black Lives Matter activists are calling for cops to be murdered, ISIS is bringing Ebola into the country from Mexico and if Republicans don’t win in 2016 and stop this slide into either fascism or socialism – take your pick — the country will be doomed.
Typically, members of the party that doesn’t hold the White House tend to be pessimistic about the state of the country. But add in a dash of goldbuggery – which requires a firm belief that the economy is on the brink of collapse — some prepper mentality and a steady stream of right-wing rhetoric about how the United States is descending into tyranny, and you get the profound sense of doom that’s reflected in conservative discourse these days.
In reality, the unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been since early 2008. The share of Americans without health insurance has plummeted. Corporate profits are at record levels, stock prices have more than doubled and new business startups have increased by 19 percent since Barack Obama took office. And while the recovery has been too slow and unnecessarily painful, it’s also true that we’ve bounced back better than any of the other countries that were hit hard by the Great Recession. Yes, we’ve got problems, but it’s really not all that bad.
No, The Military Hasn’t Been “Gutted”
Every Republican debate so far has featured someone lamenting the sad fact that that Obama has gutted out military, and this is often based on two related claims: We have the fewest number of active-duty troops and the fewest number of Navy ships since World War II. Which is true, but also a lot like saying that our cavalry has fewer horses than at any time since the Spanish-American War. We have a technology-intensive military that requires fewer troops to pack a far greater punch than our grandfathers’ Army ever dreamed of. And a modern aircraft carrier has more firepower than dozens of World War II vessels.
In 2011, when Mitt Romney made the claim, political scientists Brian Crisher and Mark Souva answered with their dataset on relative naval power. While the relative power of the US Navy has indeed declined somewhat from its Korean War-era peek, we still control half of the world’s naval fighting capacity, and that share remains higher than at any point during Ronald Reagan’s presidency.
Now, it’s true that overall defense spending has come down somewhat as we’ve wrapped up major combat operations in Iraq and limited our footprint in Afghanistan – just as it declined after all of our previous wars. And the sequester has taken a small bite out of our historically bloated military budgets. But it still makes up around 20 percent of all federal spending, and we still shell out more on our military than the next seven countries combined. That’s not exactly a “gutted” military.
No, Federal Spending Really Isn’t “Out of Control”
 It’s almost a religious belief on the right that the government has grown into this massive Leviathan under Obama. But here’s a fun fact: In Obama’s seven years in office, federal spending, as a share of our economic output, has averaged 22.2 percent, and for the past three years it’s been under 21 percent. To put that in perspective, during Saint Ronald of Reagan’s eight years in office, it averaged 21.6 percent.
But discretionary spending, which is everything in the budget that isn’t mandated by law, really tells the story. It’s currently at 6.1 percent of our output. That number averaged 10.2 percent under Reagan and 7.3 percent under George W. Bush.
Here’s a picture, via economist Jared Bernstein:

The Border Is Anything But Open
Another mantra for conservatives is that our Southern border is wide open, allowing anyone to just saunter in anytime they want. Calls to “secure the border” are ubiquitous. But anyone who’s visited the border knows that it’s a heavily militarized zone, with check-points and multi-billion dollar boondoggles littering the entire region.
In 1994, we spent $550 million on border security. Since then, spending has increased 30-fold, to $18 billion in 2012. That’s 24 percent more than we spend “for the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives,” according to a 2013 report by the Migration Policy Institute.
As I wrote in Salon, it’s an “ungodly stupid” get-rich scheme for defense contractors, both because net migration from Mexico has essentially zeroed out over the past four years, and because around half of all undocumented immigrants enter the country legally, through an airport or whatever, and then overstay their visas. All that money does is force migrants who do enter the country illegally to take deadlier paths to get here – it increases the body count in arid Southern deserts but not the number of people living here without papers.
And a PS on immigration policy: Another central Republican belief is that Obama refuses to enforce our immigration laws. But let’s remember how the government works: Congress writes laws and controls the power of the purse, and the executive branch enforces those laws with the resources that Congress authorizes it to use. According to the Justice Department, Congress has authorized enough funds to deport approximately 400,000 undocumented immigrants per year, and the Obama administration has deported right around 400,000 undocumented immigrants per year.
According to one study, it would cost between $420 billion and $620 billion to round up, process and deport all 11 million unauthorized immigrants living in this country, and doing so would result in a loss of around 10 percent of our economic output. Crazy idea, but the good news is that it’s also a silly one and will never happen.
That Old Saw About Dependency
 In 2012, Obama’s reelection team briefly ran an online campaign called “The Life of Julia” to illustrate how his domestic policies might help a typical American. Three years later, conservatives are still obsessed with it. (No, really, they just keep talking about it.) For them, it typified the disastrous dependency that the left’s “cradle-to-grave” government benefits foster. But the interesting thing, as I noted back when it was still sort of relevant to normal people, is that the fictional Julia was quite independent. In fact, she represented the Republican ideal, working hard and striving to get ahead. Sure, she got some student loans, but then worked her butt off to get good grades. Thanks to the ACA, her birth control was covered, but it was covered under the insurance policy that she paid for. By working. She never stopped working. Julia was also entrepreneurial – she started her own business and ultimately became a “job creator.” But somehow they hate this fictional cartoon character with a passion because they’re convinced that she’s just lazy.
Such is the conservative view of “entitlements” and dependency. It really is central to their entire worldview. But research shows that “nations characterized by progressive and developed welfare policies and by a large public service sector tend to have high levels of female labor force participation.” Other studies find that there is at best a weak correlation between levels of employment and the generosity or duration of unemployments benefits (also here, here and here) or disability insurance.
European countries have more generous social welfare systems than the US. And a study of 19,000 people across 18 European countries released earlier this year found that the more generous a country’s benefits are, the more eager its citizens are to work. People like working. Keeps them busy.
Contrast all of that with what you hear in Republican circles, where it’s just assumed that millions of Americans have become shiftless moochers who are living high on the hog on their $29 weekly food-stamp benefits.
Climate Change
 I’m tempted to write: ‘Climate change. ‘Nuff said.’
But there is a divide among the Republican candidates here. The question is which is worse: denying the overwhelming scientific consensus that human-fueled climate change poses a grave threat to a huge number of people, like many of the candidates, or acknowledging that reality but then agreeing that the government shouldn’t take action to deal with it, which is basically the position of the “moderates” like Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and John Kasich.
While it’s true that 97 percent of climatologists agree that anthropogenic climate change is real and a serious problem– it’s actually up to 99.9 percent now — a scientific consensus isn’t the result of surveys. It’s the result of many different researchers, in many different institutions all over the world, running many different kinds of experiments in different fields of study, and all of those disparate results being broadly consistent with one another. More importantly, it arrives when competing theories don’t stand up to the scrutiny of the peer-review process. That’s the case with global warming.
So just step back and think for a moment about how crazy it is to think that all of those scientists, including Republican Mormons from Utah, are in on a massive hoax designed to undermine capitalism, as Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and Ben Carson all insist.
Corporate Taxes
In every Republican debate, we’ve heard that American companies have the highest corporate tax rate in the world and that it’s just killing us.
This one’s simple. We do have very high corporate tax rates on the books – not the highest, but the third highest after Chad and the UAE – topping out at 39 percent. But that’s just the official rates, and our corporations have successfully lobbied for all sorts of exemptions and loopholes. The result, according to Edward Kleinbard, a prof at the University of Southern California, is that our corporations pay only about a third of that top rate, on average.
So which is more important for a company’s bottom line, the rate on the books or the amount on the check they have to send to Uncle Sam? The question really answers itself.