Puppet MastersS


Airplane

Turkish leader says Russian munitions found on Syrian jetliner

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© Burhan Ozbilici/Associated PressA Syrian passenger plane that was forced by Turkish jets to land sat idle at Esenboga airport in Ankara early Thursday.
Moscow - Escalating a confrontation with Russia, Turkey's prime minister said Thursday that Russian military equipment and ammunition bound for Syria's Defense Ministry had been confiscated from a Syrian civilian jetliner on a Moscow-to-Damascus flight, which was forced to land in Ankara on suspicion of illicitly carrying war material.

The accusation by the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which directly contradicted Russian denials, also further inflamed Turkey's already difficult relationship with Syria, where a 19-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad has expanded into a civil war that is threatening the stability of the Middle East.

Mr. Erdogan's accusation, reported by Turkey's semiofficial Anatolian News Agency, came only hours after the Kremlin said no military cargo had been aboard the plane and accused the Turks of illegally grounding and searching it. The Turks, saying they had acted on an intelligence tip, forced the Air Syria flight with 35 passengers aboard to land at an Ankara airport on Wednesday.

"From Russia, an institution equivalent to our Machinery and Chemical Industry has sent military tools, equipment and ammunition to the Syrian Defense Ministry," Mr. Erdogan was quoted as saying about the plane inspection. He was drawing a comparison to Turkey's Machinery and Chemical Industry Institution, or MKEK, a leading provider of defense equipment to the Turkish military.

Arrow Down

The IMF admits it was wrong: Austerity did damage the British economy

For the UK, and indeed other advanced economies, the most important point in today's IMF World Economic Outlook is not that it further explodes the myth - repeated again yesterday by the Chancellor - that low interest rates reflect policy "credibility" rather than economic weakness, or that it again emphasises that the UK and others could and should loosen fiscal policy in the face of that weakness. The IMF said all this about the UK back in July, as I explained then. Rather, it is that the Fund has radically revised its opinion about just how damaging the impacts of premature fiscal consolidation have been in the UK and elsewhere.

Back in July, the Fund said that fiscal consolidation had knocked about 2.5% off UK economic growth. This estimate was based on an assumption that the "fiscal multiplier" - the reduction in GDP growth resulting from a reduction in the government's structural budget deficit - was about 0.5. This estimate was quite similar to that coming out of macroeconomic models like ours at NIESR. It was somewhat larger than the impact estimated by the Office of Budget Responsibility. But it was much smaller that the impacts that many of the most credible macroeconomists - Brad Delong and Paul Krugman in the United States, Martin Wolf and Simon Wren-Lewis here - thought likely. [See Krugman here, for example]. It was also significantly smaller than Dawn Holland here at NIESR and colleagues at LSE suggest in the analysis here.

Eye 1

Best of the Web: Police State: U.S. Supreme Court dismisses eavesdropping lawsuit

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed lawsuits in San Francisco against the nation's telecommunications companies for cooperating with the Bush administration's secret surveillance program, leaving intact an immunity law supported by President Obama.

The 2008 law shielded the companies from liability for their alleged roles in helping the government intercept phone calls and e-mails between Americans and suspected foreign terrorists without a search warrant. Obama voted for the law as a senator and has defended it in court as president.

The high court, without comment, denied a hearing on an appeal by AT&T customers after lower federal courts upheld the law.

The order does not affect a separate wiretapping suit by the customers against the government, currently pending before a federal judge in San Francisco. The plaintiffs allege that federal agents conducted warrantless "dragnet" surveillance that intercepted millions of messages from U.S. residents. The suit is partly based on testimony in 2003 by a former AT&T technician about equipment in the company's Folsom Street office that allowed Internet traffic to be routed to the government.

Hourglass

Best of the Web: 28 good questions that the mainstream media should be asking

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Anybody home?
Why is there so little trust in the mainstream media these days? CNN ratings have been hovering close to record lows over the past few months. A recent Gallup survey found that 60 percent of all Americans "have little or no trust" in the mainstream media. That was a record high according to Gallup. So why is this happening? Sadly, the truth is that the mainstream media quit telling the truth a long time ago. The mainstream media has an agenda, and more Americans than ever are beginning to recognize this. Once upon a time, control of the news in the United States was at least somewhat decentralized. But now there are just six giant media corporations that control almost everything that we see, hear and watch. The version of "the news" that they give us is designed to serve the interests of those corporate giants and the other corporate giants that spend billions of dollars to advertise their products through those outlets. Watching the news on television can be an extremely frustrating experience these days. Yes, there are little bits and pieces of the truth in there, but you have to wade through an awful lot of "infotainment" to get to those bits and pieces. That is one of the reasons why the "alternative media" has absolutely exploded in recent years. The American people are hungry for the truth, and they are increasingly turning to alternative sources of news on the Internet in an attempt to find it.

Stormtrooper

Vive le Sarkoisme: 12 held after anti-terror sweep in France

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Spot the difference
A judicial official says French authorities are questioning 12 suspects in connection with an alleged radical Islamic cell believed to have been behind the firebombing of a Jewish grocery north of Paris last month.

Paris prosecutor's office spokeswoman Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre says the suspects were held Monday after raids in Strasbourg, Cannes and the Paris area. Earlier, authorities had said 11 were being questioned.

Police in Strasbourg shot dead suspect Jeremie Louis-Sidney after he opened fire with a revolver Saturday. The 33-year-old was the alleged leader of a cell behind a Sept. 19 grenade attack on a kosher grocery in Sarcelles.

Comment: After just 6 months, it is clear that Hollande's "socialist" government has merely continued where Sarkozy left off, in this case renewing the persecution of Muslims under the guise of the fake 'War on Terror'.

Sarkozy's Backers To Use Toulouse Attacks To Steal French Election

Toulouse Attacks: The Official Story of the Death of Mohamed Merah is a Lie

New Sott Report: Toulouse Shootings: Mohamed Merah Sacrificed To Give Sarkozy Election Win?


Che Guevara

The Chávez victory will be felt far beyond Latin America

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© Jorge Silva/ReutersHugo Chávez celebrates his re-election as Venezuelan president.
Popular support for Venezuela's revolution shows the growing space for genuine alternatives in the 21st century.

The transformation of Latin America is one of the decisive changes reshaping the global order. The tide of progressive change that has swept the region over the last decade has brought a string of elected socialist and social-democratic governments to office that have redistributed wealth and power, rejected western neoliberal orthodoxy, and challenged imperial domination. In the process they have started to build the first truly independent South America for 500 years and demonstrated to the rest of the world that there are, after all, economic and social alternatives in the 21st century.

Central to that process has been Hugo Chávez and his Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela. It is Venezuela, sitting on the world's largest proven oil reserves, that has spearheaded the movement of radical change across Latin America and underwritten the regional integration that is key to its renaissance. By doing so, the endlessly vilified Venezuelan leader has earned the enmity of the US and its camp followers, as well as the social and racial elites that have called the shots in Latin America for hundreds of years.

So Chávez's remarkable presidential election victory on Sunday - in which he won 55% of the vote on an 81% turnout after 14 years in power - has a significance far beyond Venezuela, or even Latin America. The stakes were enormous: if his oligarch challenger Henrique Capriles had won, not only would the revolution have come to a juddering halt, triggering privatisations and the axing of social programmes. So would its essential support for continental integration, mass sponsorship of Cuban doctors across the hemisphere - as well as Chávez's plans to reduce oil dependence on the US market.

Western and Latin American media and corporate elites had convinced themselves that they were at last in with a shout, that this election was "too close to call", or even that a failing Venezuelan president, weakened by cancer, would at last be rejected by his own people. Outgoing World Bank president Robert Zoellick crowed that Chávez's days were "numbered", while Barclays let its excitement run away with itself by calling the election for Capriles.

It's all of a piece with the endlessly recycled Orwellian canard that Chávez is some kind ofa dictator and Venezuela a tyranny where elections are rigged and the media muzzled and prostrate. But as opposition leaders concede, Venezuela is by any rational standards a democracy, with exceptionally high levels of participation, its electoral process more fraud-proof than those in Britain or the US, and its media dominated by a vituperatively anti-government private sector. In reality, the greatest threat to Venezuelan democracy came in the form of the abortive US-backed coup of 2002.

Even senior western diplomats in Caracas roll their eyes at the absurdity of the anti-Chávez propaganda in the western media. And in the queues outside polling stations on Sunday, in the opposition stronghold of San Cristóbal near the Colombian border, Capriles voters told me: "This is a democracy." Several claimed that if Chávez won, it wouldn't be because of manipulation of the voting system but the "laziness" and "greed" of their Venezuelans - by which they seemed to mean the appeal of government social programmes.

Which gets to the heart of the reason so many got the Venezuelan election wrong. Despite claims that Latin America's progressive tide is exhausted, leftwing and centre-left governments continue to be re-elected - from Ecuador to Brazil and Bolivia to Argentina - because they have reduced poverty and inequality and taken control of energy resources to benefit the excluded majority.

That is what Chávez has been able to do on a grander scale, using Venezuela's oil income and publicly owned enterprises to slash poverty by half and extreme poverty by 70%, massively expanding access to health and education, sharply boosting the minimum wage and pension provision, halving unemployment, and giving slum communities direct control over social programmes.

To visit any rally or polling station during the election campaign was to be left in no doubt as to who Chávez represents: the poor, the non-white, the young, the disabled - in other words, the dispossessed majority who have again returned him to power. Euphoria at the result among the poor was palpable: in the foothills of the Andes on Monday groups of red-shirted hillside farmers chanted and waved flags at any passerby.

Of course there is also no shortage of government failures and weaknesses which the opposition was able to target: from runaway violent crime to corruption, lack of delivery and economic diversification, and over-dependence on one man's charismatic leadership. And the US-financed opposition campaign was a much more sophisticated affair than in the past. Capriles presented himself as "centre-left", despite his hard right background, and promised to maintain some Chavista social programmes.

But even so, the Venezuelan president ended up almost 11 points ahead. And the opposition's attempt to triangulate to the left only underlines the success of Chávez in changing Venezuela's society and political terms of trade. He has shown himself to be the most electorally successful radical left leader in history. His re-election now gives him the chance to ensure Venezuela's transformation is deep enough to survive him, to overcome the administration's failures and help entrench the process of change across the continent.

Venezuela's revolution doesn't offer a political model that can be directly transplanted elsewhere, not least because oil revenues allow it to target resources on the poor without seriously attacking the interests of the wealthy. But its innovative social programmes, experiments in direct democracy and success in bringing resources under public control offer lessons to anyone interested in social justice and new forms of socialist politics in the rest of the world.

For all their problems and weaknesses, Venezuela and its Latin American allies have demonstrated that it's no longer necessary to accept a failed economic model, as many social democrats in Europe still do. They have shown it's possible to be both genuinely progressive and popular. Cynicism and media-fuelled ignorance have prevented many who would naturally identify with Latin America's transformation from recognising its significance. But Chávez's re-election has now ensured that the process will continue - and that the space for 21st-century alternatives will grow.

Dollars

Former British Ambassador Craig Murray: I vote for shooting bankers

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Not content with focusing public ire on those social spongers who have the temerity to be unemployed or disabled, government has scored a great populist coup, and caused great rejoicing in the land of the tabloids, by decreeing that it is quite acceptable to kill burglars with machine guns, rocket propelled grenade launchers, tactical nuclear weapons or any of the other items the British householder keeps by them for such an emergency.

But if a burglar were to strip my home of its entire contents, it would not reach a tenth in value of the money that is going to be taken from me in taxation by government for the rest of my life to fund the bank bailouts in which my cash was given to reckless and incompetent bankers to cover their gambling losses.

Not only have they taken all my money, the majority of the money I shall be paying to cover it for the rest of my life, will consist of interest to the bankers because the government borrowed at interest from the bankers the money it then gave gratis to the bankers to bail them out.

Calculator

Uncounted: The new math of American elections


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UNCOUNTED is an explosive new documentary that shows how the election fraud that changed the outcome of the 2004 election led to even greater fraud in 2006 - and now looms as an unbridled threat to the outcome of the 2008 election. This controversial feature length film by Emmy award-winning director David Earnhardt examines in factual, logical, and yet startling terms how easy it is to change election outcomes and undermine election integrity across the U.S. Noted computer programmers, statisticians, journalists, and experienced election officials provide the irrefutable proof.

UNCOUNTED shares well documented stories about the spine-chilling disregard for the right to vote in America. In Florida, computer programmer Clint Curtis is directed by his boss to create software that will "flip" votes from one candidate to another. In Utah, County Clerk Bruce Funk is locked out of his office for raising questions about security flaws in electronic voting machines. Californian Steve Heller gets convicted of a felony after he leaks secret documents detailing illegal activities committed by a major voting machine company. And Tennessee entrepreneur, Athan Gibbs, finds verifiable voting a hard sell in America and dies before his dream of honest elections can be realized.

Comment: But it's OK now, right? Obama won the next elections, then things got better... only they didn't. Things got much worse. The fraud at the heart of U.S. democracy begins way before voting day, when the candidates are carefully selected to give Americans the illusion of choice. You have no choice. They own you.


War Whore

US, Israel plan joint strikes on Iran

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Natanz nuclear facility
The US and Israel are considering a joint "surgical strike" against Iran's nuclear facilities, according to an article by David Rothkopf in Foreign Policy magazine cited in the Israeli media.

It is yet another indication that detailed planning for another criminal war of aggression is underway. Rothkopf, who served under the Democratic administration of President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, cited sources "close to the discussions" now taking place between Washington and Tel Aviv.

Rothkopf is well-placed to know. Currently Foreign Policy's CEO and editor at large, he has also headed Kissinger Associates, the international advisory firm founded and chaired by former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

Making clear that the United States would play the main role in an attack, Rothkopf added that Israel did not have the resources to attack the enrichment plants at Natanz and Fordow, which are buried deep underground. Israeli planes are reportedly incapable of firing bunker-busting missiles. Consequently, such a mission had to involve the US, either operating on its own or with Israel and others.

Stormtrooper

End of Empire: The Discrediting of U.S. Military Power

US empire
© Unknown
Americans lived in a "victory culture" for much of the twentieth century. You could say that we experienced an almost 75-year stretch of triumphalism -- think of it as the real "American Century" -- from World War I to the end of the Cold War, with time off for a destructive stalemate in Korea and a defeat in Vietnam too shocking to absorb or shake off.

When the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991, it all seemed so obvious. Fate had clearly dealt Washington a royal flush. It was victory with a capital V. The United States was, after all, the last standing superpower, after centuries of unceasing great power rivalries on the planet. It had a military beyond compare and no enemy, hardly a "rogue state," on the horizon. It was almost unnerving, such clear sailing into a dominant future, but a moment for the ages nonetheless. Within a decade, pundits in Washington were hailing us as "the dominant power in the world, more dominant than any since Rome."

And here's the odd thing: in a sense, little has changed since then and yet everything seems different. Think of it as the American imperial paradox: everywhere there are now "threats" against our well-being which seem to demand action and yet nowhere are there commensurate enemies to go with them. Everywhere the U.S. military still reigns supreme by almost any measure you might care to apply; and yet -- in case the paradox has escaped you -- nowhere can it achieve its goals, however modest.

At one level, the American situation should simply take your breath away. Never before in modern history had there been an arms race of only one or a great power confrontation of only one. And at least in military terms, just as the neoconservatives imagined in those early years of the twenty-first century, the United States remains the "sole superpower" or even "hyperpower" of planet Earth.