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29.04.2018 – Geneva, Switzerland Pressenza Budapest

This post is also available in: Spanish

Abolition 2000 Opportunities

On Saturday the 28th of May, representatives of several anti-nuclear organisations and other individuals gathered together in Geneva for the Abolition 2000 AGM.  In a section of Challenges and Opportunities, Tony Robinson from the Abolition 2000 Coordinating Committee, Pressenza editor, and member of World without Wars and Violence was invited to present a paper on Opportunities.  We republish it here for the benefit of our readers.

I have been invited by the committee to give an overview of what the current opportunities for the Abolition movement are.  Given that our network is a collection of different groups working in different areas and with different priorities, any one person’s overview will be different and in any case the intention here isn’t to define an Abolition 2000 common position, it’s just to put a few ideas on the table that may or may not be useful in our subsequent exchange of views and on our reflections for where to go from here.  We should bear in mind that this subject will also be dealt with in the strategy meeting in New York in two weeks’ time.

Our landscape seems to have changed radically over the last year with the fruition of ICAN’s and others’ efforts to achieve a Ban Treaty.  In legal terms it is an instrument that fills the legal gap it intended to fill and is on the face of it a valuable component in the elimination of nuclear weapons.  Even now, and especially when it comes into force, it will provide an even higher moral ground from which to campaign.

Yet despite this treaty, we are still a long way from elimination, and while ICAN have their hands full for the next year or so bringing the treaty into force, Abolition 2000’s scope is wider than the Ban Treaty and in complementation and cooperation will we be able to advance in all 11 points of our Founding Statement.

In thinking about Opportunities, the first thing to say is that the media are paying more and more attention to nuclear weapons so our cause is gaining more space in the public’s consciousness, especially in western countries.  This is largely due to the Ban Treaty and the Nobel Peace Prize which made even the mainstream media take note, but there are other reasons that more attention is going to the issue.  Rising tensions throughout 2017 in Korea including, nuclear weapons testing, has led to the remarkable pictures yesterday of North and South Korean leaders shaking hands at the border and talking for the first time in years.  The Iran deal is under increasing threat and there are powers in the Middle East who have the resources and are seeking ways to be ready to arm themselves.  Rumours already abound about a Pakistan and Saudi Arabia arms sharing agreement and there are countries in the region seeking to advance in nuclear power, which as we all know is the precursor to nuclear weapons.

So our opportunity is that more and more people know about the problem so starting a conversation should be easier.

But what can we do with this opportunity?

It is a good question and each one of us, from our different field of campaigning and geographical location will give a different answer.

But I wanted to focus my intervention here today on what we can do as an anti-nuclear movement because to me at least it is clear that we have to start to think of ourselves as a movement and not as a network of individual organisations, many of whom are no more than one or two committed activists.  As an anecdote, I remember my first Abolition 2000 AGM in New York in 2009.  I arrived full of excitement at the thought of an enormous hall full with 2000 people (at least one person per organisation in the network, right?)  You can imagine my surprise and slight disappointment at a meeting of “only” 100 people!  This is not a criticism, it is the reality that no one makes any money from being an anti-nuclear activist and it is hard to find committed volunteers who will work for years on a thankless task for no more reward than the spiritual satisfaction of knowing that what one is doing is right, not only for oneself, but for humanity as a whole.

So what are the areas we could advance in?

  1. Geographical scope

Representation in our network is too unequally distributed among western countries.  Where are the Russian peace activists?  Where are the Koreans?  The Indians and Pakistanis?  Where are the African, Latin American and Asians whose regions and populations will be so utterly devastated by a limited nuclear war?  The opportunity to open Abolition 2000 even more in these regions (because it’s not true that we don’t have contacts in these place) is heightened with new awareness of nuclear weapons.

  1. Language diversity

Too much of what we do, in fact nearly all of what we do, is done in English.  It comes with the condition of origin, and is not a criticism, but it is a limitation.  We cannot hope to create a global movement if we do not intentionally try to communicate with the world’s population in their own languages.  We have tried to advance in this over the last year, with a new website which is capable of supporting multiple languages.  A good start was made with French and Spanish, but has since come to a bit of a halt.  This is partly my fault, but even 3 languages is not enough, we should be communicating in all 6 official languages of the UN, plus the languages of all the nuclear weapons states and the languages of the weasel states.

  1. Non-Proliferation Treaty Universality.

For decades, we’ve been coming here to NPT conferences and we hear nations repeat the same tired lines about urging universality.  When this comes from the nuclear weapons states it is cynical and in bad faith.  It is a justification for doing nothing.

Yet, this is a serious problem and maybe we can do something to help.  Can we from Abolition 2000 support efforts for peace in the Middle East?  For peace between India and Pakistan?  For peace in Korea?  We don’t talk about these issues because we don’t have representatives from those places here.  But could we?  Achieving those things would be great in themselves.  The recently disbanded Israeli Disarmament Movement under the drive of Sharon Dolev is promoting a Zone Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Middle East.  What can we do to help her and other such initiatives?

  1. Creating awareness

All of the above in large part comes down to creating awareness in the population as a whole.  I remember as a 15 year old boy watching the film “Threads” and feeling terrified.  What I didn’t know until last year is that more or less at the same time Ronald Reagen was watching “The Day After” and was so shocked by it that he initiated a rapprochement with the Soviet Union that almost led to the end of nuclear weapons in the Reykjavik meetings.  It is down to all of us to continue to raise awareness of the dangers of nuclear weapons by informing the general public as much as possible.  I am convinced that the only politicians who vote to keep nuclear weapons are the ones who have never seen or read the presentations by IPPNW on the nuclear winter and the up the 2 billion human beings who will die as a result of a limited war of 100 bombs.

  1. Expanding our networking.

We may think that our problem is nuclear weapons, but it’s only one symptom of a much bigger systemic problem.  The root of our problem with nuclear weapons is the same root of the problem of discrimination against women, the same root underlying the destruction of the environment, the same root underlying global poverty, human rights violation, gun violence, and many others.

This underlying problem is a disregard for human life.  If we put our society’s values in an order of importance, above the value of human life comes the value of money, power, sex and prestige.  It is this scale of values that allows for the existence of nuclear weapons, that allows for environmental destruction, for violence against women and all the other forms of violence in the world today.  The violence that underlies our world today; the physical, economic and psychological violence in our world today, stems from an inverted scale of values which are frankly anti-humanist.

In this context, part of our work in the anti-nuclear movement is to recognise that we share a common purpose with all those other movements.  And so, part of our work as a movement should be to build relationships with those other movements, so that we can create a common intelligence among us all, and a network of mutual support.

There are those who will correctly say that we don’t have enough time to do what we’re doing as it is, but it is equally correct to say we will not eliminate the violence that creates the conditions for nuclear weapons until we understand how that violence manifests and affects all of us working in all those diverse fields of activism, and we will not eliminate that violence until we understand that we can’t do it alone.

So before I finish, I wanted to leave us with one final thought: that violence that exists in our society also exists within us.  When we treat other human beings as objects to be used for our purposes, when we objectify others, when we treat others very differently from how we would like to be treated, we are reflecting in our personal behaviour the violence that exists in our society and which is transmitted to us through our culture and the education we receive.  In this context, while fighting to eliminate nuclear weapons, we should not forget to work on ourselves, we should not forget the Golden Rule of treating others the way we want to be treated, because it is only in a process of simultaneous personal and social change that we will create the future world in which every human being can fully enjoy a dignified life.

I hope these comments are useful, and if not, I hope they haven’t wasted too much time.

27.04.2018 Pressenza London

Hostile environment: the UK government’s draconian immigration policy explained

Erica Consterdine, University of Sussex for The Conversation

Immigration policy under Theresa May’s tenure might be the most draconian in Britain’s history. Never has an administration focused so much time and effort on an anti-migration policy – and one that is failing by all counts at that.

Countless restrictive measures have been placed on almost every migration stream since 2010, when the coalition government set itself a flawed net migration target. This was driven by a Conservative manifesto pledge to reduce annual immigration from hundreds of thousands of people to tens of thousands. Behind the changes to the immigration rules has been an overarching policy to create a “hostile environment”. The public is now seeing the harsh and inhumane implications of this policy, with the Windrush generation, who helped to rebuild post-war Britain, being denied their rights. But what is this hostile environment and where did this policy come from?

The story starts back in 2004, when the Labour government allowed unfettered access to the UK labour market to citizens of the countries in Eastern Europe that had just joined the EU. As the implications of this were borne out over the 2000s, a political opportunity arose to fuse the once separate issues of EU membership and immigration. That opportunity was grasped by the UK Independence Party (UKIP), which positioned itself as the party to end immigration. With UKIP gaining ground, and an anti-immigration stance looking like the winning ticket, the once socially liberal David Cameron became increasingly authoritarian in immigration policy and discourse. That is what led to the infamously flawed net migration target.

Under then home secretary Teresa May’s leadership, every migration stream was restricted in some way. High skilled routes were closed and a cap was placed on the number of Tier 2 visas issued annually. Eligibility criteria were harshly increased. The remaining seasonal schemes were terminated and family reunification was made harder. A swathe of other stringent measures on language requirements, income thresholds, economic resources, working rights and increasing settlement requirements came in across all migration streams.

But it turned out that reducing immigration was not quite as simple as shutting the doors. This is partly because the UK couldn’t restrict the movement of EU citizens (cue Cameron’s referendum and the road to Brexit). But it was also due in large part to the fact that the UK labour market is structurally dependent on migrants. So to dovetail the restrictive policies, May institutionalised the notion of a hostile environment.

Hostile environment: outsourcing controls

May first spoke about creating a hostile environment in 2012 when challenged on why annual net immigration, then running at about 250,000, was not reaching the promised tens of thousands. Her response: “The aim is to create, here in Britain, a really hostile environment for illegal immigrants”. The broad objective is and was to make life as difficult as possible for any irregular migrant – or any migrant the Home Office judged as potentially illegal in lieu of the correct documentation. They would be “encouraged” to leave voluntarily.

The basic idea behind the hostile environment has two components. First, the burden of proof shifted. Any non-British passport holder was assumed to have violated immigration rules until proven otherwise. Deport first, appeal later. Second, knowing that border controls are only one element of immigration control, the policy shifted to internal controls. This meant that migrants must prove their right to reside at every turn. When they sought medical treatment, rented a home, applied for a driving licence or got a job, they faced immigration checks. Immigration control now extends far beyond the border.

This has entailed outsourcing immigration controls to private actors, and dispersing the immigration control remit away from the silo of the Home Office across Whitehall. Both processes mean the Home Office can pursue its draconian policy while placing the onus and liability on others.

While outsourcing controls is not new, the 2014 Act pushed the practice to the limits. It meant that public sector and private workers – from the NHS, to landlords – with little training or knowledge of the immigration system are now enforcers of immigration control.

Immigration Acts

The hostile environment policy was translated in the Immigration Acts of 2014 and 2016 which included myriad measures to prevent people from accessing employment, healthcare, housing, education, banking and other basic services.

The 2014 Act requires private landlords to check the immigration status of tenants and temporary migrants to make contribution to the NHS. Banks must check against a database of known immigration offenders before opening a bank account. The Act created new powers to check the immigration status of driving licence applicants and revoke those of overstayers, and made it easier and quicker to remove those with no rights to reside.

Extending the hostile environment, the government sought to refocus efforts on illegal working and give more power to enforce immigration laws in the 2016 Immigration Act. This introduced new sanctions on illegal workers, prevents irregular migrants from accessing housing, driving licenses and bank accounts, and included new measures to make it easier to remove illegal migrants.

Concerns were raised at the time about the potential for such document checks to lead to discriminatory behaviour from landlords and others. Such concerns have come to bear with the Residential Landlords Association finding that as a result of the “right to rent” checks on tenants, 42% of landlords are now less likely to let to anyone without a British passport.

The ConversationImmigration policies so often have unintended consequences which are not anticipated; New Labour’s managed migration and the political ramifications of that policy for the country is a case in point. When the unintended consequences are British residents harassed daily by the state to prove their belonging, obstructing peoples’ lives to work and have a home, policy has not become hostile but downright authoritarian.

Erica Consterdine, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Immigration Politics & Policy, University of Sussex

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original articl

25.04.2018 Redacción Madrid

This post is also available in: Spanish

Armenia Today. Peaceful demonstrations during 12 days achieve their objective

By Ana María Mahserd /

After 10 days of tension, peaceful popular demonstrations, arrests and violent police actions, the dissident representative Nikol Pashinian and his companions Sasun Mikaelian and Ararad Mirzoian were freed.

Historical Recount

In 2015, being president for 12 years, Serge Sargsyan decides to promote a constitutional change transforming the system to parliamentary and granting special powers to the figure of prime minister.

The vote, still under suspicion of having bribes in between, went in his favor, so at the end of his term, he was immediately proposed in parliament as a candidate for Prime Minister, proposal made by the legislators of his party, the Republican Party.

Two years after that fact, ten days ago a new president in Armenia, Armen Sargsyan (who is not related to the former presidency) and the parliament proposed the appointment as Prime Minister of the outgoing President Serge Sargsyan and the with support of the Federation Revolutionary Armenia (FRA * Tashnagtsutiun).

There was widespread disagreement of the people, who for 12 days and led by dissenting representatives Nikol Pashinian, took to the streets day and night in Yerevan and different cities of the interior of Armenia to the cry of “take the step, reject Sergig” (Serg diminutive).

The demonstrations were always peaceful on the part of the people, not on the side of the police that attacked without restraint,  military mobilizations appropriate for the defense of the National borders but incoherent for an absolutely peaceful demonstration were seen.

Last Saturday, after a meeting between Sargsian and Pashinian that was televised, during which Pashinian stood firm saying: “The only thing there is to negotiate is your resignation”, the Prime Minister abruptly withdrew at the end of the meeting. A few hours later the dissidents were arrested.

Today, Monday, through the mediation of the deputy prime minister, the detainees were released and after 12 days of nonviolent, peaceful resistance, of the whole town, the prime minister resigned his position, acknowledging his error and accepting the success of the people and the fact that Nikol Pashinian was unable to resolve the issues that plague the country.

We hope and ask for a process of institutional reorganization in Armenia, where justice, coherence and attention to the priority needs of the people prevail.

23.04.2018 Redazione Italia

This post is also available in: Spanish, Italian

Fox in the Henhouse: Why Interest Rates Are Rising
(Image by tsonnews.com)

The Federal Reserve calls itself independent, but it is independent only of government. It marches to the drums of the banks that are its private owners. To prevent another Great Recession or Great Depression, Congress needs to amend the Federal Reserve Act, nationalize the Fed and turn it into a public utility, one that is responsive to the needs of the public and the economy.

 

originally posted by Ellen Brown on Truthdig, 20/04/2018.

 

On March 31 the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate for the sixth time in three years and signaled its intention to raise rates twice more in 2018, aiming for a Fed funds target of 3.5 percent by 2020. LIBOR (the London Interbank Offered Rate) has risen even faster than the Fed funds rate, up to 2.3 percent from just 0.3 percent 2 1/2 years ago. LIBOR is set in London by private agreement of the biggest banks, and the interest on $3.5 trillion globally is linked to it, including $1.2 trillion in consumer mortgages.

Alarmed commentators warn that global debt levels have reached $233 trillion, more than three times global GDP, and that much of that debt is at variable rates pegged either to the Fed’s interbank lending rate or to LIBOR. Raising rates further could push governments, businesses and homeowners over the edge. In its Global Financial Stability report in April 2017, the International Monetary Fund warned that projected interest rises could throw 22 percent of U.S. corporations into default.

Then there is the U.S. federal debt, which has more than doubled since the 2008 financial crisis, shooting up from $9.4 trillion in mid-2008 to over $21 trillion now. Adding to that debt burden, the Fed has announced it will be dumping its government bonds acquired through quantitative easing at the rate of $600 billion annually. It will sell $2.7 trillion in federal securities at the rate of $50 billion monthly beginning in October. Along with a government budget deficit of $1.2 trillion, that’s nearly $2 trillion in new government debt that will need financing annually.

If the Fed follows through with its plans, projections are that by 2027, U.S. taxpayers will owe $1 trillion annually just in interest on the federal debt. That is enough to fund President Trump’s original trillion-dollar infrastructure plan every year. And it is a direct transfer of wealth from the middle class to the wealthy investors holding most of the bonds. Where will this money come from? Even crippling taxes, wholesale privatization of public assets and elimination of social services will not cover the bill.

With so much at stake, why is the Fed increasing interest rates and adding to government debt levels? Its proffered justifications don’t pass the smell test.

‘Faith-Based’ Monetary Policy

In setting interest rates, the Fed relies on a policy tool called the “Phillips curve,” which allegedly shows that as the economy nears full employment, prices rise. The presumption is that workers with good job prospects will demand higher wages, driving prices up. But the Phillips curve has proved virtually useless in predicting inflation, according to the Fed’s own data. Former Fed Chairman Janet Yellen has admitted that the data fail to support the thesis, and so has Fed Governor Lael Brainard. Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari calls the continued reliance on the Phillips curve “faith-based” monetary policy. But the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), which sets monetary policy, is undeterred.

“Full employment” is considered to be 4.7 percent unemployment. When unemployment drops below that, alarm bells sound and the Fed marches into action. The official unemployment figure ignores the great mass of discouraged unemployed who are no longer looking for work, and it includes people working part-time or well below capacity. But the Fed follows models and numbers, and as of this month, the official unemployment rate had dropped to 4.3 percent. Based on its Phillips curve projections, the FOMC is therefore taking steps to aggressively tighten the money supply.

The notion that shrinking the money supply will prevent inflation is based on another controversial model, the monetarist dictum that “inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon”: Inflation is always caused by “too much money chasing too few goods.” That can happen, and it is called “demand-pull” inflation. But much more common historically is “cost-push” inflation: Prices go up because producers’ costs go up. And a major producer cost is the cost of borrowing money. Merchants and manufacturers must borrow in order to pay wages before their products are sold, to build factories, buy equipment and expand. Rather than lowering price inflation, the predictable result of increased interest rates will be to drive consumer prices up, slowing markets and increasing unemployment—another Great Recession. Increasing interest rates is supposed to cool an “overheated” economy by slowing loan growth, but lending is not growing today. Economist Steve Keen has shown that at about 150 percent private debt to GDP, countries and their populations do not take on more debt. Rather, they pay down their debts, contracting the money supply. That is where we are now.

The Fed’s reliance on the Phillips curve does not withstand scrutiny. But rather than abandoning the model, the Fed cites “transitory factors” to explain away inconsistencies in the data. In a December 2017 article in The Hill, Tate Lacey observed that the Fed has been using this excuse since 2012, citing one “transitory factor” after another, from temporary movements in oil prices to declining import prices and dollar strength, to falling energy prices, to changes in wireless plans and prescription drugs. The excuse is wearing thin.

The Fed also claims that the effects of its monetary policies lag behind the reported data, making the current rate hikes necessary to prevent problems in the future. But as Lacey observes, GDP is not a lagging indicator, and it shows that the Fed’s policy is failing. Over the last two years, leading up to and continuing through the Fed’s tightening cycle, nominal GDP growth averaged just over 3 percent, while in the two previous years, nominal GDP grew at more than 4 percent. Thus “the most reliable indicator of the stance of monetary policy, nominal GDP, is already showing the contractionary impact of the Fed’s policy decisions,” says Lacey, “signaling that its plan will result in further monetary tightening, or worse, even recession.”

Follow the Money

If the Phillips curve, the inflation rate and loan growth don’t explain the push for higher interest rates, what does? The answer was suggested in an April 12 Bloomberg article by Yalman Onaran, titled “Surging LIBOR, Once a Red Flag, Is Now a Cash Machine for Banks.” He wrote:

The largest U.S. lenders could each make at least $1 billion in additional pretax profit in 2018 from a jump in the London interbank offered rate for dollars, based on data disclosed by the companies. That’s because customers who take out loans are forced to pay more as Libor rises while the banks’ own cost of credit has mostly held steady.

During the 2008 crisis, high LIBOR rates meant capital markets were frozen, since the banks’ borrowing rates were too high for them to turn a profit. But U.S. banks are not dependent on the short-term overseas markets the way they were a decade ago. They are funding much of their operations through deposits, and the average rate paid by the largest U.S. banks on their deposits climbed only about 0.1 percent last year, despite a 0.75 percent rise in the Fed funds rate. Most banks don’t reveal how much of their lending is at variable rates or indexed to LIBOR, but Onaran comments:

JPMorgan Chase & Co., the biggest U.S. bank, said in its 2017 annual report that $122 billion of wholesale loans were at variable rates. Assuming those were all indexed to Libor, the 1.19 percentage-point increase in the rate in the past year would mean $1.45 billion in additional income.

Raising the Fed funds rate can be the same sort of cash cow for U.S. banks. According to a December 2016 Wall Street Journal article titled “Banks’ Interest-Rate Dreams Coming True”:

While struggling with ultralow interest rates, major banks have also been publishing regular updates on how well they would do if interest rates suddenly surged upward. … Bank of America … says a 1-percentage-point rise in short-term rates would add $3.29 billion. … [A] back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests an incremental $2.9 billion of extra pretax income in 2017, or 11.5% of the bank’s expected 2016 pretax profit. …

As observed in an April 12 article on Seeking Alpha:

About half of mortgages are … adjusting rate mortgages [ARMs] with trigger points that allow for automatic rate increases, often at much more than the official rate rise. …

One can see why the financial sector is keen for rate rises as they have mined the economy with exploding rate loans and need the consumer to get caught in the minefield.

Even a modest rise in interest rates will send large flows of money to the banking sector. This will be cost-push inflationary as finance is a part of almost everything we do, and the cost of business and living will rise because of it for no gain.

Cost-push inflation will drive up the consumer price index, ostensibly justifying further increases in the interest rate, in a self-fulfilling prophecy in which the FOMC will say: “We tried—we just couldn’t keep up with the CPI.”

A Closer Look at the FOMC

The FOMC is composed of the Federal Reserve’s seven-member Board of Governors, the president of the New York Fed and four presidents from the other 11 Federal Reserve Banks on a rotating basis. All 12 Federal Reserve Banks are corporations, the stock of which is 100 percent owned by the banks in their districts; and New York is the district of Wall Street. The Board of Governors currently has four vacancies, leaving the member banks in majority control of the FOMC. Wall Street calls the shots, and Wall Street stands to make a bundle off rising interest rates.

The Federal Reserve calls itself independent, but it is independent only of government. It marches to the drums of the banks that are its private owners. To prevent another Great Recession or Great Depression, Congress needs to amend the Federal Reserve Act, nationalize the Fed and turn it into a public utility, one that is responsive to the needs of the public and the economy.

23.04.2018 Redazione Italia

This post is also available in: Spanish

Fox in the Henhouse: Why Interest Rates Are Rising
(Image by tsonnews.com)

The Federal Reserve calls itself independent, but it is independent only of government. It marches to the drums of the banks that are its private owners. To prevent another Great Recession or Great Depression, Congress needs to amend the Federal Reserve Act, nationalize the Fed and turn it into a public utility, one that is responsive to the needs of the public and the economy.

 

originally posted by Ellen Brown on Truthdig, 20/04/2018.

 

On March 31 the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate for the sixth time in three years and signaled its intention to raise rates twice more in 2018, aiming for a Fed funds target of 3.5 percent by 2020. LIBOR (the London Interbank Offered Rate) has risen even faster than the Fed funds rate, up to 2.3 percent from just 0.3 percent 2 1/2 years ago. LIBOR is set in London by private agreement of the biggest banks, and the interest on $3.5 trillion globally is linked to it, including $1.2 trillion in consumer mortgages.

Alarmed commentators warn that global debt levels have reached $233 trillion, more than three times global GDP, and that much of that debt is at variable rates pegged either to the Fed’s interbank lending rate or to LIBOR. Raising rates further could push governments, businesses and homeowners over the edge. In its Global Financial Stability report in April 2017, the International Monetary Fund warned that projected interest rises could throw 22 percent of U.S. corporations into default.

Then there is the U.S. federal debt, which has more than doubled since the 2008 financial crisis, shooting up from $9.4 trillion in mid-2008 to over $21 trillion now. Adding to that debt burden, the Fed has announced it will be dumping its government bonds acquired through quantitative easing at the rate of $600 billion annually. It will sell $2.7 trillion in federal securities at the rate of $50 billion monthly beginning in October. Along with a government budget deficit of $1.2 trillion, that’s nearly $2 trillion in new government debt that will need financing annually.

If the Fed follows through with its plans, projections are that by 2027, U.S. taxpayers will owe $1 trillion annually just in interest on the federal debt. That is enough to fund President Trump’s original trillion-dollar infrastructure plan every year. And it is a direct transfer of wealth from the middle class to the wealthy investors holding most of the bonds. Where will this money come from? Even crippling taxes, wholesale privatization of public assets and elimination of social services will not cover the bill.

With so much at stake, why is the Fed increasing interest rates and adding to government debt levels? Its proffered justifications don’t pass the smell test.

‘Faith-Based’ Monetary Policy

In setting interest rates, the Fed relies on a policy tool called the “Phillips curve,” which allegedly shows that as the economy nears full employment, prices rise. The presumption is that workers with good job prospects will demand higher wages, driving prices up. But the Phillips curve has proved virtually useless in predicting inflation, according to the Fed’s own data. Former Fed Chairman Janet Yellen has admitted that the data fail to support the thesis, and so has Fed Governor Lael Brainard. Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari calls the continued reliance on the Phillips curve “faith-based” monetary policy. But the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), which sets monetary policy, is undeterred.

“Full employment” is considered to be 4.7 percent unemployment. When unemployment drops below that, alarm bells sound and the Fed marches into action. The official unemployment figure ignores the great mass of discouraged unemployed who are no longer looking for work, and it includes people working part-time or well below capacity. But the Fed follows models and numbers, and as of this month, the official unemployment rate had dropped to 4.3 percent. Based on its Phillips curve projections, the FOMC is therefore taking steps to aggressively tighten the money supply.

The notion that shrinking the money supply will prevent inflation is based on another controversial model, the monetarist dictum that “inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon”: Inflation is always caused by “too much money chasing too few goods.” That can happen, and it is called “demand-pull” inflation. But much more common historically is “cost-push” inflation: Prices go up because producers’ costs go up. And a major producer cost is the cost of borrowing money. Merchants and manufacturers must borrow in order to pay wages before their products are sold, to build factories, buy equipment and expand. Rather than lowering price inflation, the predictable result of increased interest rates will be to drive consumer prices up, slowing markets and increasing unemployment—another Great Recession. Increasing interest rates is supposed to cool an “overheated” economy by slowing loan growth, but lending is not growing today. Economist Steve Keen has shown that at about 150 percent private debt to GDP, countries and their populations do not take on more debt. Rather, they pay down their debts, contracting the money supply. That is where we are now.

The Fed’s reliance on the Phillips curve does not withstand scrutiny. But rather than abandoning the model, the Fed cites “transitory factors” to explain away inconsistencies in the data. In a December 2017 article in The Hill, Tate Lacey observed that the Fed has been using this excuse since 2012, citing one “transitory factor” after another, from temporary movements in oil prices to declining import prices and dollar strength, to falling energy prices, to changes in wireless plans and prescription drugs. The excuse is wearing thin.

The Fed also claims that the effects of its monetary policies lag behind the reported data, making the current rate hikes necessary to prevent problems in the future. But as Lacey observes, GDP is not a lagging indicator, and it shows that the Fed’s policy is failing. Over the last two years, leading up to and continuing through the Fed’s tightening cycle, nominal GDP growth averaged just over 3 percent, while in the two previous years, nominal GDP grew at more than 4 percent. Thus “the most reliable indicator of the stance of monetary policy, nominal GDP, is already showing the contractionary impact of the Fed’s policy decisions,” says Lacey, “signaling that its plan will result in further monetary tightening, or worse, even recession.”

Follow the Money

If the Phillips curve, the inflation rate and loan growth don’t explain the push for higher interest rates, what does? The answer was suggested in an April 12 Bloomberg article by Yalman Onaran, titled “Surging LIBOR, Once a Red Flag, Is Now a Cash Machine for Banks.” He wrote:

The largest U.S. lenders could each make at least $1 billion in additional pretax profit in 2018 from a jump in the London interbank offered rate for dollars, based on data disclosed by the companies. That’s because customers who take out loans are forced to pay more as Libor rises while the banks’ own cost of credit has mostly held steady.

During the 2008 crisis, high LIBOR rates meant capital markets were frozen, since the banks’ borrowing rates were too high for them to turn a profit. But U.S. banks are not dependent on the short-term overseas markets the way they were a decade ago. They are funding much of their operations through deposits, and the average rate paid by the largest U.S. banks on their deposits climbed only about 0.1 percent last year, despite a 0.75 percent rise in the Fed funds rate. Most banks don’t reveal how much of their lending is at variable rates or indexed to LIBOR, but Onaran comments:

JPMorgan Chase & Co., the biggest U.S. bank, said in its 2017 annual report that $122 billion of wholesale loans were at variable rates. Assuming those were all indexed to Libor, the 1.19 percentage-point increase in the rate in the past year would mean $1.45 billion in additional income.

Raising the Fed funds rate can be the same sort of cash cow for U.S. banks. According to a December 2016 Wall Street Journal article titled “Banks’ Interest-Rate Dreams Coming True”:

While struggling with ultralow interest rates, major banks have also been publishing regular updates on how well they would do if interest rates suddenly surged upward. … Bank of America … says a 1-percentage-point rise in short-term rates would add $3.29 billion. … [A] back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests an incremental $2.9 billion of extra pretax income in 2017, or 11.5% of the bank’s expected 2016 pretax profit. …

As observed in an April 12 article on Seeking Alpha:

About half of mortgages are … adjusting rate mortgages [ARMs] with trigger points that allow for automatic rate increases, often at much more than the official rate rise. …

One can see why the financial sector is keen for rate rises as they have mined the economy with exploding rate loans and need the consumer to get caught in the minefield.

Even a modest rise in interest rates will send large flows of money to the banking sector. This will be cost-push inflationary as finance is a part of almost everything we do, and the cost of business and living will rise because of it for no gain.

Cost-push inflation will drive up the consumer price index, ostensibly justifying further increases in the interest rate, in a self-fulfilling prophecy in which the FOMC will say: “We tried—we just couldn’t keep up with the CPI.”

A Closer Look at the FOMC

The FOMC is composed of the Federal Reserve’s seven-member Board of Governors, the president of the New York Fed and four presidents from the other 11 Federal Reserve Banks on a rotating basis. All 12 Federal Reserve Banks are corporations, the stock of which is 100 percent owned by the banks in their districts; and New York is the district of Wall Street. The Board of Governors currently has four vacancies, leaving the member banks in majority control of the FOMC. Wall Street calls the shots, and Wall Street stands to make a bundle off rising interest rates.

The Federal Reserve calls itself independent, but it is independent only of government. It marches to the drums of the banks that are its private owners. To prevent another Great Recession or Great Depression, Congress needs to amend the Federal Reserve Act, nationalize the Fed and turn it into a public utility, one that is responsive to the needs of the public and the economy.

22.04.2018 – Geneva, Switzerland Reaching Critical Will

NPT 2018: Focus on what really matters

Another round of preparatory meetings ahead of the 2020 NPT Review Conference kicks off in Geneva tomorrow, Monday 23rd April.  The people at Reaching Critical Will are, as always, providing excellent coverage throughout.  We republish their first editorial here for the benefit of Pressenza readers.

Since states parties to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) last met in 2017, there have been changes on the nuclear disarmament landscape.

Most notable is the adoption in July 2017 of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which outlaws the development, possession, use, and threat of use of nuclear weapons. This Treaty is the outcome of years of discussion on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and the recognition that the only way to prevent these weapons from being used is to prohibit and eliminate them. Two-thirds of UN member states adopted the Treaty and momentum continues to build as more states sign and ratify it—more are expected to do so imminently.

Nuclear-armed states or those that include nuclear weapons in their security doctrines continue to view the TPNW as distracting or even damaging to the disarmament community and international security. In their strange calculus, more nuclear weapons make our world safer. They have argued that the Treaty and its proponents have created divisions in the international community and that the TPNW challenges the NPT.

This is inaccurate. Divided and differing views about nuclear weapons have always existed. What has changed in the last year is that states and other actors have at last given voice to their collective dissatisfaction by developing a new legal instrument that delegitimises nuclear weapons and makes them illegal, in order to fill a gap in international law and complement the NPT.[1] Let’s not forget that the NPT itself sets out both the rationale and obligation to ban nuclear weapons and highlights the catastrophic consequences of the use of nuclear weapons as motivation for preventing proliferation and achieving disarmament.  This is also a primary motivation of the TPNW.  As stipulated in article VI of the NPT, it is the responsibility of all states to make progress towards negotiations on nuclear disarmament. Any step towards the categorical prohibition of nuclear weapons is consistent with the NPT and constitutes an “effective measure” such as referred to in article VI. Several states and civil society look forward to seeing the positive interplay between the NPT and TPNW unfold, such as with other agreements that reinforce NPT provisions.

It’s really the areas where there has been no change that states parties should focus on most.  Many of the challenges and priorities facing this review cycle are found in unfulfilled commitments, actions not taken, and political deadlock.[2]  The action plan from the 2010 NPT Review Conference remains only partially implemented. Only five of 22 action points on disarmament actions saw substantial forward movement. The non-nuclear-armed states parties who maintain a doctrine of “extended nuclear deterrence” have shown no signs of movement towards diminishing the role of nuclear weapons in their military concepts. Many, in fact, have become even more resolute in their defence of nuclear weapons as legitimate and necessary. All nuclear-armed states parties are “modernising”’ and in some cases expanding their arsenals of warheads and delivery systems.

The longstanding, unresolved issue of a nuclear weapon free zone in the Middle East is a priority for states parties. Progress has been stilted yet it will be challenging to progress that issue at this conference, given the uncertain future of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The next deadline for the United States to recertify the deal and waive its sanctions on Iran is just a week after the end of the PrepCom. It’s no secret that the current US administration does not see value in the JCPOA, despite the efforts of other partners to ensure it continues to hold. The collapse of the JCPOA would, in the immediate term, put an end to the controls it established on Iran’s nuclear programme but more broadly, impact regional stability, complicating the potential for progress on relevant NPT commitments.[3] There are warnings of a nuclear crisis.

This may also, in turn, influence upcoming talks between the leaders of the US and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), in the sense that the DPRK may re-consider its newfound support for denuclearisation and trust in the international community.[4] The still tenuous yet improving relationships between DPRK and South Korea, and DPRK and the US, as well steps toward ending testing and development are extremely welcome and to be encouraged. Yet they are also very fragile. It is anticipated that there could be a ripple effect into the conference room from the inter-Korean summit on 27 April.

Between what has changed and what remains the same, what is constant is achieving nuclear disarmament now, amidst rising tensions and increasingly aggressive use of force around the world, is more important than ever.

[1] See, Preventing Collapse: the NPT and a ban on nuclear weapons, Reaching Critical Will, April 2013.

[2] For further information, see 2018 NPT Briefing Book, Reaching Critical Will of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, March 2018.

[3] “‘It will not be very pleasant,’ Iran warns, if Trump sabotages nuclear deal”, The Guardian, 22 April 2018.

[4] David E. Sanger, “How Trump’s Disdain for the Iran Deal Makes a North Korea Pact Even Harder”, New York Times, 22 March 2018.

 

20.04.2018 Pressenza London

Stephen Lawrence: his death changed British law forever but trust in police has yet to recover
(Image by Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust Facebooks page)

Benjamin Bowling, King’s College London for The Conversation

The story of Stephen Lawrence, the teenager murdered in 1993 is distressing, infuriating and inspiring.

Distressing because of the horrific way he died, stabbed by a gang of attackers on a London street, and frustrating because of the ineptitude of the investigation that followed. Locals to the area started reporting names of a group of suspects to the police within hours but that information was not acted upon. There were indications of corruption, and the police treated the family with distrust and disrespect. Investigative failures weakened the case so that prosecutions failed, the suspects were able to treat the process with contempt and the family faced injustice at every turn. Only two of the five suspects have been convicted, and even that took decades.

But the family’s dignity and courage is inspiring. Their determination eventually brought about not only justice for Stephen, but also far-reaching change in the British criminal justice system and beyond.

I vividly recall reading reports of the Stephen Lawrence murder. I had just completed my research on violent racism and the news of yet another racist murder in southeast London made for depressing reading.

I was struck by the similarity with dozens of previous murders – a poor initial response from police, who denied a racist motive, incompetence in the investigation, a family ripped apart by grief, but also frustrated by their experiences of being patronised by the police. The pattern was so familiar, I have to admit, that I did not expect this to be the case that would attract the support of Nelson Mandela and the Daily Mail alike. I didn’t think it would lead to a public inquiry that would bring racism and policing to the centre of British politics.

A wake-up call

The murder of Lawrence opened the eyes of the British public to the reality of violent racism. Of course, most people of colour were aware of the danger. In the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, the experience of casual racist epithets – “black bastard”, “go back to your own country” and much worse – was widespread. In my experience, it was often absorbed without retaliation out of fear that the words would be backed with violence. Certain parts of London were avoided, especially when the National Front or British National Party were on the march, or even just on match days when violent racists mingled with football crowds. But this was far from the experience of most British people, especially Daily Mail readers.

Aside from the murder itself, the most shocking was the surveillance evidence. The suspects had been secretly filmed acting out stabbing movements and talking in a way that revealed the depth of their hatred for black and Asian people. I think that the case educated the public on the meaning of racism and ended the tendency to deny that racism was a problem in British society. It helped to create an environment that made explicit racism socially unacceptable.

Police reform

The 1999 Lawrence inquiry, chaired by judge William Macpherson, established that racism was also a problem in the British police service. In evidence to the inquiry, numerous senior police officers admitted the problem. The Black Police Association in particular provided overwhelming evidence that racism was part of the police culture of the 1990s and that this contributed to shaping police practice on the street.

Macpherson also went well beyond the view, established by fellow judge Leslie Scarman in his report on the Brixton riots a generation earlier, that this was a problem of a few bad apples. This was “institutional racism”. Racial stereotyping and conscious and unconscious prejudices were shaping routine police practices. Police were failing to respond to racist attacks on one hand, and, on the other, were overusing their stop and search powers. They had left the black community feeling over-policed and under-protected.

The Lawrence inquiry made recommendations that changed the definition of a racist attack and led to fundamental improvements in homicide investigations. It led to new discipline procedures in the police and even brought about the abolition of the double jeopardy rule that prevented people from being tried for the same crime twice. That’s how two of Lawrence’s killers were finally brought to justice.

Crucially, the inquiry also resulted in the police and other public services being brought within the ambit of the Race Relations Act for the first time, ending decades of lawful impunity.

Through these recommendations, the inquiry paved the way to a fundamental restructuring of policing and the means by which it can be held to account.

But did the murder of Stephen Lawrence constitute the “watershed in attitudes towards racism, a catalyst for permanent and irrevocable change”, as anticipated by then home secretary Jack Straw when the inquiry was published?

It did establish beyond doubt that racism was a problem needing urgent action. And it did accelerate the move towards an acceptance of diversity at all levels of British society.

In other ways, however, the problems of racism, violence and inequality were already too deeply entrenched. These are serious and remain unsolved. I have worked on numerous cases where racist stereotyping has led to unnecessary and unlawful use of stop and search powers, and the individual cases are backed up by statistical evidence of disproportionality and discrimination – continuing institutionalised racism in policing.

And the catastrophic loss of confidence in the police that was well documented in the Lawrence inquiry after years of neglect of, and often overt hostility towards, the black community, lies behind the cycle of violence that is currently manifest in the persistence of knife crime in British cities.

The ConversationThe challenge facing the police service today is to show that it exists to serve all sections of society, not through the failed aggressive enforcement practices of the past, but through painstaking efforts to build trust and demonstrate fairness and respect in every encounter with the public.

Benjamin Bowling, Professor of Criminology & Criminal Justice, King’s College London

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

19.04.2018 Redazione Italia

This post is also available in: Italian

Syria and Press Propaganda
(Image by Black Agenda Report)
By Margareth Kimberley, Black Agenda Report, 18/04/2018
Originally posted here

“Trump protects himself with war as Democrats and the rest of the ruling elite support his militarism.”

It is difficult for Americans to find out what is happening in their country and around the world. That is because corporate media outlets have nearly complete control over what they see and hear and because those interests are closely allied with the state. The promise of the internet, the hoped for level playing field for communication and information gathering, is also under corporate control. It is now part of a well coordinated censorship effort and attack against left wing sites such as Black Agenda Report.

The lies which allowed the United States, France and Britain to attack Syria are presented without contradiction. The people with knowledge and expertise who can counter these narratives are disappeared from access to newspapers or television stations. The close relationship between the deep state, the corporate media, and the establishment elite at home and abroad continues without hindrance.

“British prime minister Theresa May refused to allow a parliamentary vote on the Syrian missile strike.”

Donald Trump may be labeled a fascist but he attacked Syria with the help of France and Britain. Apparently every leader of a “free world” country is also a fascist. They certainly behave that way as they trample on the rights of millions of people. Far from being the “civilized” nations that Trump referred to in his televised address, these three countries are among the most criminal that have ever existed. They all grew rich on the slave trade, indigenous genocides, the plantation economies in the Americas, and the theft of resources all over the world. Now they run roughshod over their own people. British prime minister Theresa May refused to allow a parliamentary vote on the Syrian missile strike and showed the hollowness of claims that hers is a democratic nation. The same can be said of her partners in crime.

France impoverished Haiti with nearly 100 years of theft, murdered Algerians in the streets of Paris and keeps its former African colonies financially dependent. Former president Nicolas Sarkozy took millions of dollars from Muammar Gaddafi and then had him murdered, just like a mob boss would do. Now they have connived with the help of press propagandists in all three countries to fool millions of people as they try to continue their gangsterish aggression against Syria.

“Sarkozy took millions of dollars from Muammar Gaddafi and then had him murdered, just like a mob boss would do.”

If even mediocre journalists were allowed to report freely on this issue the crime would be obvious. Consider the timeline of events. On March 4, former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter are poisoned with a chemical agent in Britain. The British government immediately blames Russia, which has no motive to harm a former spy they swapped eight years earlier. Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman arrives in London for an official visit on March 7. On March 12 French president Emmanuel Macron states that France will attack Syria if any chemical weapons are used there. The next day the Russian military claims to have evidence that a chemical attack will be carried out against Syrian civilians as a pretext for war. On March 16 France warns French journalists to leave Syria. Mohammed bin Salman arrives in Washington on March 19. On April 8 he goes to Paris for yet another official visit. That same day Saudi funded jihadist groups and the White Helmets, who were created by a British intelligence officer, claim that a chemical weapons attack occurred in the city of Douma. On April 14 the United States, France and Britain join in the missile strike.

“They have connived with the help of press propagandists in all three countries to fool millions of people.”

The aggressors are very transparent. The plot was carried out in the open. But because they have a compliant media behind them they have no reason to worry. No journalist asked why Sergei Skripal and his daughter are in effect held hostage and denied access to Russian officials as a treaty between the two countries demands. No one questions a strangely worded statement allegedly from Yulia Skripal but issued by the London Metropolitan Police in which she said she didn’t want help from her government or contact with her own relatives.

Why shouldn’t Mohammed bin Salman openly plan with presidents and prime ministers? Who will question him? The New York Times and MSNBC and the Washington Post and the BBC and AFP certainly will not. We will probably never know the name of the person or persons who poisoned the Skripals but common sense tells us that the intended murders were ordered by someone with a motive to create a pretext for war.

“The plot was carried out in the open.”

The actual air strike was limited because of back channel negotiations between these countries. The danger may look like Kabuki theater but no one should assume that the peril is over. The criminals in Washington, London and Paris may yet go too far and provoke a major hot war.

All three heads of state have their own concerns. Macron was put into power to kill off his country’s welfare state and any remnants of left politics. May is struggling with Brexit negotiations and cruel austerity measures that have made her so unpopular she actively avoids voters. Trump may be impeached but he protects himself with war as Democrats and the rest of the ruling elite support his militarism.

Regardless of individual rationales these three people pose a threat to the entire planet. They are aided and abetted by corporate media who act as scribes and present war propaganda as fact. The Nuremberg trials after World War II established that planning aggressive war is a crime and so is the propaganda that promotes it. May, Trump and Macron are guilty but so-called journalists are as well. The criminals could not commit their dirty deeds without their help.

 

19.04.2018 Redazione Italia

This post is also available in: Italian

Syria and Press Propaganda
(Image by Black Agenda Report)
By Margareth Kimberley, Black Agenda Report, 18/04/2018
Originally posted here

“Trump protects himself with war as Democrats and the rest of the ruling elite support his militarism.”

It is difficult for Americans to find out what is happening in their country and around the world. That is because corporate media outlets have nearly complete control over what they see and hear and because those interests are closely allied with the state. The promise of the internet, the hoped for level playing field for communication and information gathering, is also under corporate control. It is now part of a well coordinated censorship effort and attack against left wing sites such as Black Agenda Report.

The lies which allowed the United States, France and Britain to attack Syria are presented without contradiction. The people with knowledge and expertise who can counter these narratives are disappeared from access to newspapers or television stations. The close relationship between the deep state, the corporate media, and the establishment elite at home and abroad continues without hindrance.

“British prime minister Theresa May refused to allow a parliamentary vote on the Syrian missile strike.”

Donald Trump may be labeled a fascist but he attacked Syria with the help of France and Britain. Apparently every leader of a “free world” country is also a fascist. They certainly behave that way as they trample on the rights of millions of people. Far from being the “civilized” nations that Trump referred to in his televised address, these three countries are among the most criminal that have ever existed. They all grew rich on the slave trade, indigenous genocides, the plantation economies in the Americas, and the theft of resources all over the world. Now they run roughshod over their own people. British prime minister Theresa May refused to allow a parliamentary vote on the Syrian missile strike and showed the hollowness of claims that hers is a democratic nation. The same can be said of her partners in crime.

France impoverished Haiti with nearly 100 years of theft, murdered Algerians in the streets of Paris and keeps its former African colonies financially dependent. Former president Nicolas Sarkozy took millions of dollars from Muammar Gaddafi and then had him murdered, just like a mob boss would do. Now they have connived with the help of press propagandists in all three countries to fool millions of people as they try to continue their gangsterish aggression against Syria.

“Sarkozy took millions of dollars from Muammar Gaddafi and then had him murdered, just like a mob boss would do.”

If even mediocre journalists were allowed to report freely on this issue the crime would be obvious. Consider the timeline of events. On March 4, former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter are poisoned with a chemical agent in Britain. The British government immediately blames Russia, which has no motive to harm a former spy they swapped eight years earlier. Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman arrives in London for an official visit on March 7. On March 12 French president Emmanuel Macron states that France will attack Syria if any chemical weapons are used there. The next day the Russian military claims to have evidence that a chemical attack will be carried out against Syrian civilians as a pretext for war. On March 16 France warns French journalists to leave Syria. Mohammed bin Salman arrives in Washington on March 19. On April 8 he goes to Paris for yet another official visit. That same day Saudi funded jihadist groups and the White Helmets, who were created by a British intelligence officer, claim that a chemical weapons attack occurred in the city of Douma. On April 14 the United States, France and Britain join in the missile strike.

“They have connived with the help of press propagandists in all three countries to fool millions of people.”

The aggressors are very transparent. The plot was carried out in the open. But because they have a compliant media behind them they have no reason to worry. No journalist asked why Sergei Skripal and his daughter are in effect held hostage and denied access to Russian officials as a treaty between the two countries demands. No one questions a strangely worded statement allegedly from Yulia Skripal but issued by the London Metropolitan Police in which she said she didn’t want help from her government or contact with her own relatives.

Why shouldn’t Mohammed bin Salman openly plan with presidents and prime ministers? Who will question him? The New York Times and MSNBC and the Washington Post and the BBC and AFP certainly will not. We will probably never know the name of the person or persons who poisoned the Skripals but common sense tells us that the intended murders were ordered by someone with a motive to create a pretext for war.

“The plot was carried out in the open.”

The actual air strike was limited because of back channel negotiations between these countries. The danger may look like Kabuki theater but no one should assume that the peril is over. The criminals in Washington, London and Paris may yet go too far and provoke a major hot war.

All three heads of state have their own concerns. Macron was put into power to kill off his country’s welfare state and any remnants of left politics. May is struggling with Brexit negotiations and cruel austerity measures that have made her so unpopular she actively avoids voters. Trump may be impeached but he protects himself with war as Democrats and the rest of the ruling elite support his militarism.

Regardless of individual rationales these three people pose a threat to the entire planet. They are aided and abetted by corporate media who act as scribes and present war propaganda as fact. The Nuremberg trials after World War II established that planning aggressive war is a crime and so is the propaganda that promotes it. May, Trump and Macron are guilty but so-called journalists are as well. The criminals could not commit their dirty deeds without their help.

17.04.2018 – Geneva UN News Centre

This post is also available in: Italian

UN human rights experts condemn killings of Palestinians near Gaza fence by Israeli security forces
U

 UN human rights experts have condemned the continued use of firearms, including live ammunition, by Israeli security forces against mostly unarmed Palestinian protesters and observers for a third straight week near the fence between occupied Gaza and Israel.

The United Nations and its independent human rights experts, along with the International Criminal Court, have expressed grave concern about the Israeli security forces’ use of force, and called for the violence to stop. Israel has pledged to conduct an investigation into the security forces’ response to the protests.

“Despite Israel’s commitment to investigate the events of the past few weeks, security forces continue to use live ammunition and rubber bullets against the protesters, killing and wounding dozens of mostly unarmed protesters, women, men and children alike,” said the UN experts.

”We express our outrage over these shootings that may have resulted in unlawful killings and the incomprehensibly high number of injuries sustained.”

At least 28 Palestinians have been killed and more than 1600 wounded by Israeli security forces during a series of demonstrations that began on 30 March and are set to continue until 15 May. The participants are protesting their forced evictions and displacement since 1948 and calling for an end to the 11-year blockade on Gaza. Among those killed were three children and a journalist, who was wearing clearly visible insignia identifying him as a member of the press. Six other journalists have so far been wounded.

The experts reiterated Israel’s obligation as occupying power to uphold international human rights law and international humanitarian law, emphasising that in the context of law enforcement, security forces may only resort to lethal force when faced with a situation involving an imminent threat to life or risk of serious injury.

“No evidence has emerged showing that such a situation occurred during the demonstrations that would make the lethal force used legal,” they said.

“The freedoms of association, assembly, and expression are all fundamental rights under international human rights law. These rights are to be given broad protection, and can only be restricted in narrow and exceptional circumstances. Israel must fully observe these rights, and ensure that their approaches to crowd control and demonstrations are in strict accordance with international law.”

Referring to a recent statement issued by the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Ms. Fatou Bensouda, the experts said that the deadly use of force against demonstrators could constitute crimes under the Rome Statute.

The UN experts pointed out that the deaths and injuries since 30 March by the Israeli security forces appeared to be in breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), The Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (1990) and the prohibitions in the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 against wilful killings and the serious injury of the protected population.

The experts reiterated their call on the international community, through the United Nations, to establish an independent commission to investigate the events of the past three weeks.

“While Israel’s announcement that it will launch a probe is welcome, we are concerned that the planned probe may lack the independence, impartiality and effectiveness required by the international law,” they said. “Coupled with reports that some Israeli officials have suggested the purpose of the investigation is to avoid scrutiny from the international community and the ICC, we believe an independent investigation is the only way to truly address what has happened in Gaza, and to prevent its recurrence.

“Accountability is imperative when the fatal shooting of demonstrators, by security forces has occurred,” the experts said. “If Israel will not take credible and effective steps to investigate, and indeed, where it has congratulated its military forces for their use of force, then the international community must fill the investigatory void to ensure respect for international law.

“Finally, we call for an immediate end to the 11-year-old comprehensive blockade on Gaza, which is imposing untold suffering on the population. We cannot continue to ignore this collective punishment of the people of Gaza, and the undeniable human rights impacts of the blockade,” added the experts. “Collective punishment is prohibited under international law, and there must be international accountability for such actions.”

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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