Daily Archive: 08/14/2013

Aug 14 2013

Egypt: State of Emergency

Violent clashes broke out with Muslim Brotherhood supporters and government security forces in Egypt have left scores dead and wounded on both sides. A month long state of emergency and a curfew has been declared.

CAIRO – Egypt descended into a chaotic bloodbath – and another political crisis – Wednesday after security forces backed by bulldozers moved into opposition protest camps set up by supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi, sparking deadly violence.

At least 149 people were killed and 1,403 injured, the country’s health ministry said, but the toll looked certain to rise as unrest spread from Cairo to other parts of the country.

It is being reporting that interim Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei has resigned in protest over the crack down by the military and that at least two journalists have been killed.

Here is The Guardian‘s quick summary of events since last might:

Scores of people have been killed after the Egyptian security forces moved to clear two protest camps in Cairo. Egypt’s official news agency put the death toll at 149, although the chaotic nature of the crackdown made accurate reporting difficult. Violence began after security forces used bulldozers to dismantle camps established by supporters of the ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi.

Troops fired teargas and live rounds, quickly evacuating the smaller camp near Cairo University. But Morsi supporters held strong at the larger encampment, at the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in east Cairo. The dawn raids came after two weeks of warnings to protesters to evacuate.

The Egyptian interim government has declared a month-long state of emergency across the country. It later announced a curfew, beginning this evening at 7pm local time and lasting until 6am. The curfew is in place in Cairo and ten other provinces including Alexandria and Suez, the government said. It will last for one month.

Egypt’s vice-president, Mohamed El-Baradei, resigned in protest against the crackdown. He said there were peaceful options for ending the political crisis. Witnesses at Rabaa al-Adawiya dozens of bodies, while photographs showed more than 40 dead laid out on the ground. There were reports of snipers firing on crowds of people. The interior ministry denied live rounds had been used despite the casualties. Two journalists, including a British cameraman for Sky News, were among the dead.

The international community has denounced the violence. The US said it “strongly condemns the use of violence against protesters” and criticised the imposition of a state of emergency. UK foreign secretary William Hague said he was “deeply concerned at the escalating violence”. “I condemn the use of force in clearing protests and call on the security forces to act with restraint,” he said.

You can follow the live up dates from The Guardian here

On this morning’s Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman and Cairo correspondent for The Independent Alastair Beach reported on the crisis.

Aug 14 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Katrina vanden Heuvel: A populist insurgency in New York City

For the most part, Americans outside of New York have heard only one story about New York City’s mayoral race – the bizarre public self- immolation of former representative Anthony Weiner. But obscured beneath the flood lights of the Weiner farce is a populist insurgency that exemplifies the coming struggle to define the Democratic Party in the wake of President Obama. [..]

In the post-collapse, post-Occupy, post-Obama world, Democrats are headed into a fierce battle over the direction of the party. Obama forged his new majority largely on anti-war, socially liberal causes – aided by Republican reaction in contrast. But the Democratic Party’s consensus around social issues and diversity has masked a growing divide on economic issues between the Wall Street wing of the party and a populist wing that is beginning to stir. The mayor’s race in New York City is an early entry in this debate about the future of the party and the country. May it not be obscured by Weiner’s spectacular flameout.

Lindsey Bever: James Risen’s risk of prison means journalism is being criminalised

That a New York Times national security reporter may be jailed for refusing to name a source is a total affront to press freedom

Committing an act of journalism could soon become an imprisonable offence.

New York Times reporter James Risen has been ordered to testify in the criminal trial of former Central Intelligence Agency official Jeffrey Sterling, who has been indicted under the Espionage Act of 1917 – for leaking classified information to Risen for publication in his book, State of War. Last month, the US court of appeals for the fourth circuit in Richmond, Virginia, ruled that Risen could not claim a reporter’s privilege under the first amendment to win exemption from being compelled to testify. [..]

We take too much in our democracy for granted – for journalists cannot successfully hold government accountable in a society that does not recognise a reporter’s right to exercise discretion with his sources and the information they provide. This administration has an atrocious record for prosecuting whistleblowers. Can it really get away with jailing the reporters who talk to them, too?

Jennifer Hoelzer: If Obama wanted an ‘open debate’ on NSA spying, why thwart one for so long?

The president asks us to trust him on government surveillance, yet his administration constantly denigrates critics as unpatriotic

Tim Cushing made one of my favorite points of (last) week in his Tuesday post “Former NSA boss calls Snowden’s supporters internet shut-ins; equates transparency activists with al-Qaida“, when he explained that “some of the most ardent defenders of our nation’s surveillance programs” – much like proponents of overreaching cyber-legislation, like Sopa – have a habit of “belittling” their opponents as a loose confederation of basement-dwelling loners. I think it’s worth pointing out that General Hayden’s actual rhetoric is even more inflammatory than Cushing’s. Not only did the former NSA director call us “nihilists, anarchists, activists, Lulzsec, Anonymous, twentysomethings who haven’t talked to the opposite sex in five or six years”, he equates transparency groups like the ACLU with al-Qaida.

I appreciated this post for two reasons. [..]

But my main reason for singling out Tim’s post this week is that Hayden’s remark goes to the heart of what I continue to find most offensive about the administration’s handling of the NSA surveillance programs, which is their repeated insinuation that anyone who raises concerns about national security programs doesn’t care about national security.

Moira Herbst: Larry Summers’ record should rule him out of the Fed chairmanship

Why would we want a key advocate of the banking deregulation that brought us the great recession to head the Federal Reserve?

As a general rule in life – and certainly, in applying for a job – your record counts. If you’ve had a history of alienating people, being consistently wrong on the biggest issues in your field and screwing up – say, by helping set the stage (pdf) for the worst recession since the Great Depression – it’s time to look for a new career.

But that’s not, apparently, how life works out for Larry Summers, the fervent champion of deregulation and paid Wall Street consultant confirmed in last week’s presidential press conference to be a leading contender as Obama’s pick for the next chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Rebecca Hellmich: Who Dies in Yemen Drone Strikes?

A headline is sometimes worth a thousand words, and this was definitely the case after a deadly drone strike occurred in Yemen last week.

“Drone Strike Kills Six Suspected Militants in Yemen,” a Reuters headline (8/7/13) declared.  “More Suspected Al-Qaeda Militants Killed as Drone Strikes Intensify in Yemen,” a CNN.com headline  (8/8/13) offered. Whatever the language, one message was clear: “Suspected terrorists” or “militants” had been killed.

But with several drone strikes over the past week in Yemen, how can anyone actually know who is being killed?

The deceptive way the Obama administration defines “militants” has already been well – established – as the New York Times (5/29/12) put it, the White House policy “in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants.”

Deborah Burger: Let’s Talk about a Real Healthcare System (And, No, I Don’t Mean “Obamacare”)

Let’s talk about healthcare. I don’t mean debating the Affordable Care Act. I mean healthcare, as in: If everyone needs healthcare, guarantee that everybody gets it.

I know, when it comes to healthcare, it’s easy to get into a debate for or against Obamacare. But we nurses see the world through a different lens: our patients.

Good healthcare is a fundamental resource that keeps America’s big engine running. Every day, as we do our best to care for our patients, nurses see people with chronic disease like asthma or diabetes who can’t afford insurance costs or medication. Maybe they’re absent from work, tired, and distracted from trying to manage their health on a shoestring. They run the risk of hospitalization. They struggle for a distant unreachable shore hoping something will help. They can’t get ahead because their health keeps dragging them down.

Aug 14 2013

On This Day In History August 14

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

August 14 is the 226th day of the year (227th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 139 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law.

On this day in 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs into law the Social Security Act. Press photographers snapped pictures as FDR, flanked by ranking members of Congress, signed into law the historic act, which guaranteed an income for the unemployed and retirees. FDR commended Congress for what he considered to be a “patriotic” act.

U.S. Social Security is a social insurance program that is funded through dedicated payroll taxes called Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA). Tax deposits are formally entrusted to the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund, the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund, the Federal Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, or the Federal Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Fund.

The main part of the program is sometimes abbreviated OASDI (Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance) or RSDI (Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance). When initially signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935 as part of his New Deal, the term Social Security covered unemployment insurance as well. The term, in everyday speech, is used to refer only to the benefits for retirement, disability, survivorship, and death, which are the four main benefits provided by traditional private-sector pension plans. In 2004 the U.S. Social Security system paid out almost $500 billion in benefits.

By dollars paid, the U.S. Social Security program is the largest government program in the world and the single greatest expenditure in the federal budget, with 20.8% for social security, compared to 20.5% for discretionary defense and 20.1% for Medicare/Medicaid. Social Security is currently the largest social insurance program in the U.S., constituting 37% of government expenditure and 7% of the gross domestic product and is currently estimated to keep roughly 40% of all Americans age 65 or older out of poverty. The Social Security Administration is headquartered in Woodlawn, Maryland, just to the west of Baltimore.

Social Security privatization became a major political issue for more than three decades during the presidencies of Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush.

Aug 14 2013

Controlling Capitalism

In an interview with economist Richard Wolff, Bill Moyers discusses discuss the fight for economic justice, including a fair minimum wage and how to tame capitalism run wild.

“We have this disparity getting wider and wider between those for whom capitalism continues to deliver the goods by all means, [and] a growing majority in this society facing harder and harder times,” Wolff tells Bill. “And that’s what provokes some of us to say it’s a systemic problem.”



The transcript can be read here

Aug 14 2013

Austerity rocks!

Transcript

UK wages fall among sharpest in EU

Press Association

Sunday 11 August 2013 09.12 EDT

The value of UK workers’ wages has suffered one of the sharpest falls in the EU, House of Commons library figures show.

The 5.5% reduction in average hourly wages since mid-2010, adjusted for inflation, means British workers have felt the squeeze more than those in countries hit by the eurozone crisis. Spanish workers’s wages dropped by 3.3% over the same period and in Cyprus salaries fell by 3% in real terms.

Only Greek, Portuguese and Dutch wages suffered a steeper decline than the UK, the analysis showed, while they rose by 2.7% in Germany and 0.4% in France.

Across the EU as a whole the average fall in wages, adjusted for the European Central Bank’ s harmonised index of consumer prices, was 0.7% and in eurozone area 0.1%.

The shadow Treasury minister, Cathy Jamieson, said: “These figures show the full scale of David Cameron’s cost of living crisis. Working people are not only worse off under the Tories, we’re also doing much worse than almost all other EU countries.

Despite out of touch claims by ministers, life is getting harder for ordinary families as prices continue rising faster than wages. People on middle and low incomes have also seen tax rises and cuts to tax credits, while millionaires have been given a huge tax cut.”



Cameron has overseen 35 consecutive months of falling real wages, more than any other prime minister on record, and spending power has dropped in every month but one under coalition rule as price rises outstrip wage increases

Meanwhile in Greece-

Contraction Shows Signs of Slowing for Greece

By DAVID JOLLY, The New York Times

Published: August 12, 2013

The Greek economy posted its 20th consecutive quarterly decline in the three months through June, government data showed on Monday, but a slower pace of contraction provided a glimmer of hope for beleaguered Greeks.

Gross domestic product shrank by 4.6 percent in the second quarter compared with the same three months a year earlier, the official Hellenic Statistical Authority said. That was an improvement from the first quarter of 2013, when the economy contracted 5.6 percent compared with a year earlier.



“The troika’s forecast for a 4.2 percent annual decline in 2013 looks achievable,” Mr. May (an economist in London with Capital Economics) said.

But it remains “plausible,” he said, that the Greek economy will continue shrinking into 2015. He forecast a 2 percent decline in G.D.P. for next year, followed by a 0.5 percent contraction in 2015.



Many economists argue that the austerity approach favored by the troika is itself part of the problem, pushing Greek unemployment to depression levels. The jobless rate reached a new peak of 27.6 percent in May, according to the statistical agency, with youth unemployment around 65 percent.

Austerity has in practice largely meant laying off civil servants and cutting social spending, because raising taxes generates little revenue in a collapsing economy.

The URL title for this piece is- Greek Economy Shrinks for 20th Straight Quarter.