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Dollar

US Debt Eclipses Economy, Reaching $16 Trillion

money
© unknown
The US government has announced its $16 trillion debt, a landmark number that has more than tripled during the last two presidencies. At 104 per cent of the nation's gross domestic product, the debt is now larger than the US economy itself.

The data released by the Treasury Department on Tuesday showed that the government debt has surpassed $16 trillion for the first time in American history.

The news comes as Republicans and Democrats formally nominate their presidential candidates, and the official announcement comes on the first day of the Democratic National Convention.

"This is a grim landmark for the United States. Yet the president seems strangely unconcerned," said Sen. Jeff Sessions of the Senate Budget Committee.

Each day, the debt grows by roughly $3.5 billion, or about $2 million per minute.

Airplane

Drone Strike Kills 13 Civilians in Yemen

drones
© Desconocido
Local officials in Yemen say that a United States-led drone strike over the weekend there killed 13 civilians.

Members of the Yemeni government tells reporters that an unmanned aerial vehicle operated remotely by the United States military executed more than a dozen civilians, including three women, near the town of Rada in al-Baitha province on Sunday.

"This was one of the very few times when our target was completely missed. It was a mistake, but we hope it will not hurt our anti-terror efforts in the region," a senior Yemeni Defense Ministry official says to CNN this week on condition of anonymity.

The United States believes that as many as 200 suspected members of the al-Qaeda terrorist organization operate out of Yemen, where the US has been linked to carrying out several air strikes.

On the record, however, the US has not officially acknowledged these missions, only further angering the families of the victims, including those who lost loved ones in this weekend's assault.

Fielding a question about the criticism his targeted-kill program has generated during this administration, US President Barack Obama said last year, it's "important for everybody to understand that this thing is kept on a very tight leash." Despite this claim, though, civilians on the other side of the world see things differently.

Comment: For more information about the use of drones please read:
Celebrating our "Warrior President"
Obama's Death Panels: Jeremy Scahill at the Drone Summit
Spy in the Sky: Is It Only a Matter of Time Before Drone Technology is Used in Civil Society?
Police State: "Robots R'US": Military-Style Drones on 63 Military Bases In The USA


Family

George Romney, Mitt's Father, "Was on Welfare Relief for the First Years of His Life"

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The most effective and politically potent moment of the GOP convention was not seen by most Americans (and the Tampa conclave had low ratings to begin with). It was a biography of the Romneys that did momentarily bring a Hollywood manufactured aura of personal amiability to the couple. Unfortunately for the hapless Romney campaign advisors, the video was shown before the golden hour of national television coverage - in order to make time for the disastrous appearance known as the "Clint Eastwood Outer Limits Moment."

One quickly glossed over moment in the video, however, is when Mitt Romney states that his father and grandparents came back to the United States to escape a revolution. Yes, they were escaping the Mexican revolution in 1912, but the GOP candidate president omits a bit of the story that is quite telling, according to the Boston Globe:
George Romney was born in Mexico and was 5 years old when a revolution forced his family members in 1912 to flee their Mormon colony and seek refuge in the United States. The Mormon exiles lost their homes, farms, and most of their belongings, were welcomed by the United States, and benefited from a $100,000 refugee fund established by Congress.

But there are other elements to the Romney story that may explain why he doesn't tell the full tale on the campaign trail. The reason that George was born in Mexico is that his grandfather - Mitt's great-grandfather - had taken refuge there in order to escape US laws against polygamy. It was this family patriarch, Miles Park Romney, who established the colony and lived there with four wives.

Arrow Up

Oil Sanctions against Iran Cost $7bln for EU in 2 Months

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© Unknown
The sharp increase in oil prices following the European Union's oil ban against Iran (July 1) has cost the 27-member bloc nearly $7bln in the past two months.

While the average oil price stood at $95 in June (one month before the EU sanctions were put into effect), the figure increased to $102.5 and $107.5 in the two months after the implementation of the embargos.

The European officials have put the total volume of the EU oil imports at 11mln barrels a day. While the EU members paid $32.4bln for importing 11mln barrels of crude on June 31, they were made to pay $35bln in July and $36.7bln in August for the same volume of crude.

Estimates show that the EU has paid $6.9bln more for buying the same volume of oil during the two months after imposing the sanctions against Iran.

Video

iRevolution: CNN's own documentary on Bahrain's Arab Spring repression that its international arm refused to broadcast

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Amber Lyon on CNN, commenting on the March 2011 repression in Bahrain
A former CNN correspondent defies threats from her former employer to speak out about self-censorship at the network.

In late March 2011, as the Arab Spring was spreading, CNN sent a four-person crew to Bahrain to produce a one-hour documentary on the use of internet technologies and social media by democracy activists in the region. Featuring on-air investigative correspondent Amber Lyon, the CNN team had a very eventful eight-day stay in that small, US-backed kingdom.

By the time the CNN crew arrived, many of the sources who had agreed to speak to them were either in hiding or had disappeared. Regime opponents whom they interviewed suffered recriminations, as did ordinary citizens who worked with them as fixers. Leading human rights activist Nabeel Rajab was charged with crimes shortly after speaking to the CNN team. A doctor who gave the crew a tour of his village and arranged meetings with government opponents, Saeed Ayyad, had his house burned to the ground shortly after. Their local fixer was fired ten days after working with them.

Eye 1

What Was the FBI Doing with 12 Million Apple IDs Anyway?

This morning AntiSec released a list of 1 million out of 12 million Apple UDID's that it said it got from the FBI, which has raised many questions, most prominently perhaps: Just what was the FBI doing with that data in the first place? First off, neither the FBI nor Apple has confirmed that the data released so far is real. Update: Just after we published this post, the FBI issued a statement to Gizmodo denying that the data came from them. "At this time, there is no evidence indicating that an FBI laptop was compromised or that the FBI either sought or obtained this data."

Before that statement, an FBI spokesperson told Computer World and Gizmodo that it was "declining to comment," which has led Gizmodo's Jamie Condliffe and Sam Biddle to suggest "it's very much possible that an FBI computer is the original source of this alleged data dump." Even though we have no proof of that, others have at least confirmed that the UDIDs out there correspond to actual phones, with ArsTechnica's Jacqui Cheng posting responses from Security journalist Rob Lemos and "eCrime specialist" Peter Kruse saying that they have devices on the list. With so little information -- AntiSec has refused to give interviews, for now -- we still can't be sure that these came from the FBI. But if the hackers are to be believed (an admittedly big if), it brings us back to that initial question: What did the FBI want with those Apple IDs? Some theories.

Heart - Black

Al-Qaeda-Trained Terrorists Sent to Syria from Waziristan

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© Fars News Agency
Al-Qaeda, backed by Turkey, the US and its regional Arab allies, has set up a new camp in Northern Waziristan in Pakistan to train Salafi and Jihadi terrorists and dispatches them to Syria via Turkish borders, sources said.

"A new Al-Qaeda has been created in the region through the financial and logistical backup of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and a number of western states, specially the US," the source told FNA.

Ali Mahdian told FNA that the US and the British governments have been playing with the al-Qaeda through their Arab proxy regimes in the region in a bid to materialize their goals, specially in Syria.

He said the Saudi and Qatari regimes serve as interlocutors to facilitate the CIA and MI6 plans in Syria through instigating terrorist operations by Salafi and Arab Jihadi groups, adding that the terrorists do not know that they actually exercise the US plans.

"Turkey has also been misusing extremist Salafis and Al-Qaeda terrorists to intensify the crisis in Syria and it has recently augmented its efforts in this regard by helping the new Al-Qaeda branch set up a camp in Northern Waziristan in Pakistan to train Al-Qaeda and Taliban members as well as Turkish Salafis and Arab Jihadis who are later sent to Syria for terrorist operations," said the source.

Comment: "..Saudi and Qatari regimes serve as interlocutors to facilitate the CIA and MI6 plans in Syria through instigating terrorist operations by Salafi and Arab Jihadi groups, adding that the terrorists do not know that they actually exercise the US plans.."

Actually it is quite likely the CIA and MI6 know these Al-Quada and other alleged terrorist groups members - on a first name basis.
Mossad vs Assad? 'CIA death squads behind Syria bloodbath'
CIA, MI6 agents direct massacres in Syria: American analyst
Syria Is A Convenient Fallguy
Syria's Bloody CIA Revolution - A Distraction?


Arrow Down

Eurozone is running out of options and time to solve debt crisis

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© Francois Lenoir/ReutersLet's hope he'll be this happy later this week. European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi, pictured above, is expected to unveil a new plan Thursday to tackle the eurozone's nagging debt crisis.
Two years after eurozone began its downward financial spiral, the European Central Bank is about to unveil a widely-anticipated plan to pump more money into the system to stem a wider collapse.

But the plan, similar to the massive bond-buying undertaken by U.S. central bankers four years ago, may be too little, too late.

"It's going to take a lot more than a few rate cuts here and there to give us a lift," said Peter Dixon, a senior economist at Commerzbank Securities. "Monetary policy is effectively running out of options."

Europe is also running out of time. Manufacturing across the continent contracted faster than previously thought last month, according to the latest data released Monday. The recession sparked by a crushing debt hangover in a few smaller members of the 17-nation bloc is now sweeping through Germany and France. The financial turmoil that sank Greece as investors and depositors fled now threatens the much larger economies of Spain and Italy.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi bought some time last month, calming markets somewhat with a pledge to do "whatever it takes" to save the euro. Now, he has to deliver. On Thursday, the ECB is set to unveil details of a new bond-buying plan that has re-opened long-standing fault lines in Europe's experiment with a common currency.

Arrow Down

Three bad signs

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© UPI/Kevin DietschFederal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke testifies on the Board's Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to Congress during a Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on July 17, 2012 in Washington, D.C.
There have been three striking developments in different parts of the world in recent days, each of them with sobering implications for the global economy. Taken together, the prognosis is grim.The first was the speech of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke at the annual bankers' gathering in Jackson Hole, Wyo., in which he acknowledged that U.S. unemployment as unacceptably high, which meant growth was well below par and that therefore more quantitative easing could be expected.

Since the previous rounds of QE didn't succeed in reviving the economy (although they may have staved off more decline) it isn't clear why a third round should do the trick.

Although stock markets predictably rallied at the prospect of more cheap money and continued low interest rates (which means investors might hope to do better in stocks than in bonds) Bernanke's real motive may have been as much political as economic.

He is buying time and keeping the show on the road until such time as the politicians get their act together and reach a rational compromise on spending cuts and tax rises.

Handcuffs

Best of the Web: We're one crucial step closer to seeing Tony Blair at The Hague

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© Dan Kitwood/Getty ImagesTony Blair arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice in London to give evidence on media ethics to the Leveson inquiry in May 2012.
Desmond Tutu has helped us see the true nature of what the former prime minister did to Iraq and increased pressure for a prosecution

For years it seems impregnable, then suddenly the citadel collapses. An ideology, a fact, a regime appears fixed, unshakeable, almost geological. Then an inch of mortar falls, and the stonework begins to slide. Something of this kind happened over the weekend.

When Desmond Tutu wrote that Tony Blair should be treading the path to The Hague, he de-normalised what Blair has done. Tutu broke the protocol of power - the implicit accord between those who flit from one grand meeting to another - and named his crime. I expect that Blair will never recover from it.

The offence is known by two names in international law: the crime of aggression and a crime against peace. It is defined by the Nuremberg principles as the "planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression". This means a war fought for a purpose other than self-defence: in other words outwith articles 33 and 51 of the UN Charter.