Puppet MastersS

Bad Guys

Greece begrudgingly cedes sovereignty in exchange for bailout funds

The conditions the European Union set for Greece in exchange for a second bailout represent a very unusual amount of outside control and oversight of a sovereign country.

Eurogroup meeting
© Yves Herman/ReutersGreece's Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos (l.) and Greece's Prime Minister Lucas Papademos (r.) hold a joint news conference after a Eurogroup meeting in Brussels February 21. Eurozone finance ministers struck a deal early on Tuesday for a second bailout program for Greece that will involve financing of 130 billion euros ($172 billion) and aims to cut Greece's debts to 121 percent of GDP by 2020, EU officials said.
The $172 billion Greek bailout package hammered out in Brussels Tuesday averts a looming Greek default and, its architects hope, will ward off dangerous financial consequences for neighbors.

The sheer size of the bailout and a promised debt write-off of roughly 100 billion euros ($132 billion) represents a more favorable outcome than Greek officials expected. But the bailout comes with rigorous budget cuts demanded by northern European states and other requirements that represent an unprecedented amount of European Union control over a sovereign member.

"We have been learning for years how to share sovereignty in Europe," says Loukas Tsoukalis of the University of Athens and head of the think tank Eliamep, which deals with European and foreign policy. "With the crisis, we are all being asked to take some difficult steps further. It is uncharted territory. If you are a country on the verge of default, such as Greece, sovereignty and economic survival may create awkward tradeoffs."

Airplane

U.N. watchdog says nuclear talks with Iran failed

Vienna - The U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Wednesday it had failed to secure an agreement with Iran during two days of talks over disputed atomic activities and that the Islamic Republic had rejected a request to visit a key military site.

In the second such trip in less than a month, a senior team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had travelled to Tehran to press Iranian officials to start addressing mounting concerns that the Islamic Republic may be seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

The outcome seems likely to add to already soaring tension between Iran and Western powers, which have ratcheted up sanctions on the major oil producer in recent months.

"During both the first and second round of discussions, the agency team requested access to the military site at Parchin. Iran did not grant permission for this visit to take place," the Vienna-based IAEA said in a statement after the Feb 20-21 talks.

The IAEA named Parchin in a detailed report in November that lent independent weight to Western fears that Iran was working to develop an atomic bomb, an allegation Iranian officials reject.

Comment: In the "already soaring tensions" did they "press" Iran or did they "request" information?

"its track record of years of nuclear secrecy" Years eh? Iran Says Invites UN Nuclear Agency To Visit then there is: IAEA has no evidence on Iran''s building nuclear arms - ElBaradei, or how about: IAEA Chief: Iran can't make nukes unless it leaves the NPT - will resign if Iran is attacked?
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© Dr. Starr II



Pirates

Obama to address AIPAC before talks with Netanyahu on Iran

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© Joshua Roberts/Pool/ISP Pool/CorbisObama Speaks At AIPAC Policy Conference 2011
Barack Obama will address the annual convention of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on March 4, a day before he and visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold talks expected to focus on Iran, the White House announced Tuesday.

With the Middle East peace process stalled, the president and his guest are likely to focus on the best way to confront Iran over its suspect nuclear program, as well as the response to Syria's bloody crackdown on opponents of President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

The president's speech to the most powerful US pro-Israel lobby group could also have an election-year flavor: Republicans have tried to portray Obama as insufficiently supportive of Israel's security, a charge rejected by several high profile Israeli officials including Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

The announcement came after Obama's national security adviser, Tom Donilon, paid a two-day visit to Israel.

Comment: Middle East peace process? Is that what this is:



Crusader

US Religious Right: Graham Doubts Obama's Christianity, Santorum Warns of Satan

Santorum
© Eric Gay/AP Photo
The 2012 race turned to God, Satan and religion when Franklin Graham said he's surer that Rick Santorum is a Christian than President Obama and a 2008 Santorum speech surfaced in which the top GOP candidate told a religious audience that Satan is attacking U.S. institutions.

Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, said on MSNBC Tuesday that he could not verify that President Obama is a Christian. "I just have to assume that he is," Graham said.

But he has no question about Rick Santorum. "His values are so clear on moral issues. No question about it. ... I think he's a man of faith."

Santorum's faith was in the news for another reason, too. The Pennsylvania Republican said in 2008, two years after losing his Senate seat and four years before seeking the presidency, that Satan was attacking U.S. institutions in government and religion.

The comments, not before mentioned during the 2012 election cycle, were the lead item on the Drudge Report Tuesday. Santorum has surged to even or even ahead of Mitt Romney in opinion polls, including in Romney's home state of Michigan, where Republican voters cast their preference for the GOP nominee next Tuesday.

House

Best of the Web: US: The 50-State Foreclosure Settlement- Why Hasn't Anyone Gone to Jail?

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Under the terms of the 50-state mortgage foreclosure settlement, US taxpayers could end up paying billions in penalties that were supposed to be paid by the banks. That's the gist of a front-page story which appeared in the Financial Times on Thursday, February 17. The widely-cited article by Shahien Nasiripour notes that the 5 banks that will be effected by the settlement - Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Ally Financial - will be able to use Obama's mortgage modification program (HAMP) to reduce loan balances and "receive cash payments of up to 63 cents on the dollar for every dollar of loan principal forgiven."

And that's not all. If borrowers stay current on their payments after their loans are restructured, the banks could qualify for additional government funds which (according to the FT) "could then turn a profit for the banks according to people familiar with the settlement terms."

How do you like them apples? Leave it to the bank-friendly Obama administration to turn a penalty into a windfall. In effect, the settlement will help the banks avoid losses on mortgages that are vastly overpriced on their books and which were probably headed into foreclosure anyway.

Taxpayers will stump up the money for the principle writedowns that will allow the banks to extract even more tribute from underwater homeowners. What kind of penalty is that?

Cult

What price the new democracy? Goldman Sachs conquers Europe

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© The Independent
While ordinary people fret about austerity and jobs, the eurozone's corridors of power have been undergoing a remarkable transformation.

The ascension of Mario Monti to the Italian prime ministership is remarkable for more reasons than it is possible to count. By replacing the scandal-surfing Silvio Berlusconi, Italy has dislodged the undislodgeable. By imposing rule by unelected technocrats, it has suspended the normal rules of democracy, and maybe democracy itself. And by putting a senior adviser at Goldman Sachs in charge of a Western nation, it has taken to new heights the political power of an investment bank that you might have thought was prohibitively politically toxic.

This is the most remarkable thing of all: a giant leap forward for, or perhaps even the successful culmination of, the Goldman Sachs Project.

It is not just Mr Monti. The European Central Bank, another crucial player in the sovereign debt drama, is under ex-Goldman management, and the investment bank's alumni hold sway in the corridors of power in almost every European nation, as they have done in the US throughout the financial crisis. Until Wednesday, the International Monetary Fund's European division was also run by a Goldman man, Antonio Borges, who just resigned for personal reasons.

Even before the upheaval in Italy, there was no sign of Goldman Sachs living down its nickname as "the Vampire Squid", and now that its tentacles reach to the top of the eurozone, sceptical voices are raising questions over its influence. The political decisions taken in the coming weeks will determine if the eurozone can and will pay its debts - and Goldman's interests are intricately tied up with the answer to that question.

Bad Guys

Afghan drug war debacle: Blair said smashing opium trade was a major reason to invade but 10 years on heroin production is up from 185 tons a year to 5,800

Tony Blair
© ReutersBroken pledge: Then prime minister Tony Blair meets British troops in Afghanistan in 2006
The West is losing the heroin war in Afghanistan - ten years after Tony Blair pledged that wiping out the drug was one of the main reasons for invading the country.

Despite spending £18billion and a conflict which has so far cost the lives of almost 400 British troops, production of the class-A drug by Afghan farmers rose between 2001 and 2011 from just 185 tons to a staggering 5,800 tons.

It increased by 61 per cent last year alone.

Such has been the failure to combat the problem that more than 90 per cent of the heroin sold on Britain's streets is still made using opium from Afghanistan.

The United Nations yesterday warned that the situation was out of control.

Vader

Best of the Web: America: Hypnotized Into an Endless Dirty War

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America has decided it has the right to kill whoever it wants, whenever it wants.

If in the year 2000 the U.S. president had told the American people that the government would soon begin using robot planes to track people, including U.S. citizens, all over the world, and would reserve to itself the right to kill them without trial, it is safe to say there would have been an enormous uproar. But that is exactly what is happening today, and nobody cares. The majority of Americans, including those who were opposed to the war in Iraq, have no problems with their government killing at will, so long as the killing is done in the name of "national security."

How did this happen? In retrospect, the war in Afghanistan was the prime culprit. That endless, Sisyphean war was the thin end of the wedge. In that murky, shifting struggle, it was normal for the U.S. to arrogate to itself the right to kill the Taliban wherever they were in Afghanistan or Pakistan. Once that precedent was established, it was an small step to killing bad guys in Iraq, Somalia, Yemen and Libya. And so, by imperceptible steps we arrived at the place we are now, where 77 percent of liberals support President Obama's vastly expanded killer drone campaign, where an American citizen can be remotely vaporized at the touch of a button and no one cares. The war on Afghanistan set the precedent that shaped the entire "war on terror" paradigm. The chimera of "safety from terrorism" led us by easy stages to begin waging dirty war across the globe - changing the definition of war, eroding moral and legal standards and greatly increasing the likelihood of ugly future consequences.

What makes this subject so tricky is that morally, legally and by any standard, the war on Afghanistan was completely justified. Recall the situation before we launched the invasion. 9/11 had just happened. The Taliban were in control of Afghanistan. They had aided and abetted Osama bin Laden, and refused to hand him over. This was an intolerable situation. As accomplices to mass murder, they could not be allowed to get away with their monstrous crimes. Moreover, if bin Laden remained at large he could plan another attack. Removing the Taliban was a matter of self-defense. We had to do everything possible to reduce the chances of another 9/11.


Comment: Of course, none of this argumentation amounts to a hill of beans when you consider that 9-11 was NOT due to Osama bin Laden, but was rather, an inside job carried out by MOSSAD, the CIA, the MIC, and more...


Stormtrooper

Best of the Web: Consequences To Expect If The U.S. Invades Iran

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Let's be honest, quite a few Americans love a good war, especially those Americans who have never had to bear witness to one first hand. War is the ultimate tribally vicarious experience. Anyone, even pudgy armchair generals with deep-seated feelings of personal inadequacy, can revel in the victories and actions of armies a half a world away as if they themselves stood on the front lines risking possible annihilation at the hands of dastardly cartoon-land "evil doers". They may have never done a single worthwhile thing in their lives, but at least they can bask in the perceived glory of their country's military might.

This attitude of swollen ego through proxy is not limited to the "Right" side of the political spectrum as some might expect. In fact, if the terrifyingly demented presidency of Barack Obama has proven anything so far, it is that elements of the "Left" are just as bloodthirsty as any NeoCon, and just as ready to blindly support the political supremacy of their "side" regardless of any broken promises, abandoned principles, or openly flaunted hypocrisies. No matter how reasonable or irrefutable the arguments against a particular conflict are, there will ALWAYS be a certain percentage of the populace which ignores all logic and barrels forward to cheerlead violent actions which ultimately only benefit a select and elite few.

They do this, though they rarely openly admit it, because of unbalanced and irrational biases which drive their decision making processes. In the case of the wars in the Middle East, the common public argument boils down to one of "self defense". "They are coming to get us!" At least, that is what we are constantly told. And I'm sure that some Americans out there truly believe this. However, in their heart of hearts, others instead relish the idea of imposing their world views and philosophical systems upon others, even if it means using cluster bombs and predator drones.

UFO 2

US Sends Drones Over Syria as Fighting Spreads

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© Reuters
US military officials confirmed Saturday that US drones are flying over Syria, as fighting spreads inside the country and US officials discuss military or "humanitarian" intervention to topple Syrian President Bashar al Assad.

The drone flights, which flagrantly violate Syrian air space, include a "good number" of both military and US intelligence drones, according to US defense officials. These officials said the drones' mission is to obtain "intercepts of Syrian government and military communications in an effort to 'make the case for a widespread international response.'"

The Israeli daily Ha'aretz also reported Saturday that Syrian forces had captured 40 Turkish intelligence operatives working with the "opposition" inside Syria. It said the Turkish operatives confessed to working with the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad to train the US-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA), and claimed that Mossad operatives were working with Al Qaeda operatives in Jordan planning operations in Syria.

This echoes testimony Thursday before the US Senate Armed Services Committee by US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. He said that recent bombings in Damascus and Aleppo "had all the earmarks of an al Qaeda-like attack. So we believe that al Qaeda in Iraq is extending its reach into Syria."