Tag Archives: Europe

The Czar vs. the Sultan

Putin and Erdogan see themselves as heirs to proud empires. But fighter jets and tough talk can’t mask imperial decline.

BY JULIA IOFFE

Before Crimea was Russian, or Ukrainian, or even Soviet, it was Turkish. Well, Ottoman. And Russia had already annexed Crimea once before 2014, long before — in 1783. This was after a six-year war with the Turks, in which the Russians essentially wiped out the Ottoman navy. The conflict ended with the Treaty of Kainardrji, signed in 1774, which has come to be seen by historians as the first partition of the Ottoman Empire, the beginning of its long, slow decline. In losing Crimea to Russia, the Ottoman Empire, for the first time ever, lost Muslim subjects to a Christian power. (The Crimean Tatars, who have been especially opposed to Moscow’s newest takeover of the peninsula, are the vestigial limb left behind by the Ottomans, bucking again at its new Russian owner — which has, in turn,cracked down on them.) That war and the treaty that ended it, Bernard Lewis wrote some 200 years later, was “the turning point in the relations between Europe and the Middle East.”

Read more » Foreign Policy
See more » http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/11/25/the-czar-vs-the-sultan-turkey-russia-putin-erdogan-syria-jet-shootdown/?utm_content=buffer210ac&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

No, you are not in Europe, you are very much in Karachi

Burnes Road re-envisioned by architecture students

BY SHAZIA HASAN

KARACHI: Pretty stone buildings with stained glass windows and wooden jharokhas overlooking clean open pathways with roadside restaurants and fruit, sweets and snack kiosks. No traffic, no pollution, just a nice open space to walk or if you feel like it, sit down and relax on benches or enjoy the delicacies on the offer.

No, you are not in Europe, you are very much in Karachi; in fact, this is Burnes Road! This is how fourth year architecture students at the Indus Valley School of Arts and Architecture (IVSAA) changed the food street at Burnes Road, well, at least as a part of their class project, if not in reality.

The presentation given by the students here on Friday saw them working in four groups — research, transportation, facade and streetscape. The aim of the project was to redesign the Burnes Road food street that is 1km long and 72ft in width as a pleasant, vibrant and pedestrian-friendly public space while looking into aspects of environmental improvement there and without losing its flavours.

Read more » DAWN
See more » http://www.dawn.com/news/1219516/

Europe and Russia mission to assess Moon settlement

The European and Russian space agencies are to send a lander to an unexplored area at the Moon’s south pole.

It will be one of a series of missions that prepares for the return of humans to the surface and a possible permanent settlement.

The spacecraft will assess whether there is water and raw materials to make fuel and oxygen.

BBC News has obtained exclusive details of the mission, called Luna 27, which is set for launch in five years’ time.

The mission is one of a series led by the Russian federal space agency, Roscosmos, to go back to the Moon.

Read more » BBC
See more » http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-34504067

The World Is Experiencing the Worst Refugee Crisis Since World War II

By

Hoppers Way in Singleton, Kent, is a quiet suburban cul-de-sac of red-brick detached houses, each with its own garage and driveway. Parked outside No 8, there is often a large white-and-grey camper van—a luxury Swift Kon-tiki 679 model, with a double bed in the back and another over the cab. Singleton is a suburb of Ashford, the last big town on the M20 as it approaches the Channel Tunnel entrance at Folkestone and a stopping point for Eurostar train services between London and the Continent. That makes it a convenient location for the rental business run by Teresa and Stephen Tyrer, who hire out the motor home for £1,000 a week to people wishing to travel to Europe.

Read more » NEW REPUBLIC
See more » http://www.newrepublic.com/article/120553/refugee-crisis-calais-example-world-wide-problem?utm_content=buffer72d7f&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

‘No deal’ with Greece as talks in Brussels fail

The latest round of talks between Greek and EU officials in Brussels has failed to reach an agreement.

A European Commission spokesman said while that progress was made on Sunday, “significant gaps” remained.

Europe wants Greece to make spending cuts worth €2bn (£1.44bn), to secure a deal that will unlock bailout funds.

Greek deputy prime minister Yannis Dragasakis said that Athens was still ready to negotiate with its lenders.

He said Greek government proposals submitted on Sunday had fully covered the fiscal deficit as demanded.

However, Mr Dragasakis added that the EU and IMF still wanted Greece to cut pensions – something Athens has said it would never accept.

The cash-strapped nation is trying to agree a funding deal with the European Union and IMF before the end of June to avoid a default.

Eurozone finance ministers will discuss Greece when they meet on Thursday. The gathering is regarded as Greece’s last chance to strike a deal.

The Commission spokesman said: “President [Jean-Claude] Juncker remains convinced that with stronger reform efforts on the Greek side and political will on all sides, a solution can still be found before the end of the month.”

‘Losing patience’

The talks come as Germany ramps up pressure on Greece. Vice-chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said on Sunday that European nations were losing patience with Greece.

Germany wanted to keep Greece in the eurozone, but writing in Bild he warned that “not only is time running out, but so too is patience across Europe”.

Mr Sigmar is also economy minister and head of junior coalition partners the Social Democrats.

Read more » BBC
See more » http://www.bbc.com/news/business-33125801

Piketty Says EU Politics Risks Driving Greece Out of Euro

 and 

Thomas Piketty, the French economist whose 2013 book on wealth inequality became an international bestseller, said he sees a risk of politicians in the European Union forcing Greece out of the euro area.
“The attitude of a number of people in Brussels and Berlin looks like: push Greece out,” Piketty said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Paris.
Greece, Europe’s most-indebted state, is negotiating with euro-area countries and the International Monetary Fund on the terms of its 240 billion-euro ($259 billion) rescue. The standoff, which has left Greece dependent upon European Central BANK LOANS, risks leading to a default within weeks and its potential exit from the euro area.

Read more » Bloomberg
See more » http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-08/piketty-says-eu-politics-risks-driving-greece-out-of-euro

Top UK business leaders back Tony Blair’s warning over possible EU exit

Business for New Europe says vote to quit could force some companies based in Britain to leave UK and delay investment due to uncertainty

By 

A business group backed by the bosses of some of Britain’s biggest companies has thrown its weight behind Tony Blair’s warning about the effects of a referendumon the UK’s membership of the European Union.

Business for New Europe (BNE) said a vote to quit the EU could force some companies that use Britain as a European base to leave the UK. The group warned that businesses will hold back on investment in Britain because of the uncertainty created by the prospect of the referendum.

Business leaders on BNE’s advisory council include Sir Michael Rake, the chairman of BT, Chris Gibson-Smith, the chairman of the London Stock Exchange, and Sir Philip Hampton, the chairman of Royal Bank of Scotland. BNE is non-partisan and campaigns for Britain to stay in a less bureaucratic EU.

Blair said in a speech on Tuesday that the prospect of Britain leaving the EU would cast a “pall of unpredictability” over the economy, threatening jobs and investment. He warned that a vote to quit the EU would cause the worst instability and anxiety for business since the second world war.

David Cameron has promised to call a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU by 2017 if the Conservatives form a government after next month’s election. He has pledged to renegotiate the terms of the UK’s membership before the referendum.

Read more » the guardian
See more » http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/apr/07/british-business-leaders-back-tony-blair-warning-over-possible-eu-exit

Greece looks to China and Russia for help but cannot get around its euro zone partners

Running out of room

ALEXIS TSIPRAS, the Greek prime minister, and his radical Syriza party are beginning to feel the heat. Two months of bluster by Greece’s first left-wing government have failed to produce the results it wanted. Those include an injection of fresh cash from the country’s current €172 billion ($185 billion) bail-out programme, and a new deal with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that would allow Athens, not its creditors, to decide on future economic reforms.

Greece’s eurozone partners are still waiting for Athens to come up with details, promised two weeks ago, on the country’s deteriorating public finances. Mr Tsipras has promised Greek voters that Syriza has banned the hated “troika” of bail-out monitors (from the European Commission, the IMF and the European Central Bank) from Athens. To protect that political narrative, a team of mid-level officials from the three institutions sits ensconced in a four-star Athens hotel, gathering information by exchanging e-mails with their finance ministry counterparts. The ministry itself is strictly off-limits. “This system works quite well,” claims Dimitris Mardas, the budget minister. The visitors disagree, complaining about delays and inaccurate replies that could be avoided if they were allowed to meet Greek colleagues face-to-face.

Continue reading Greece looks to China and Russia for help but cannot get around its euro zone partners

Marches for ‘Bread, Work, Homes and Dignity’ Converge on Madrid – End w/Police Repression

BY

Madrid, March 21, 2015. Coinciding with the first anniversary of the massive March for Dignity last March 22, 10’s of thousands of people have returned this Saturday the streets of Madrid to demand ‘bread, work, shelter and dignity‘.

The protest was organized by over 300 social groups and 9 Dignity Marches converged on Plaza Colon in Madrid from virtually every corner of Spain shortly after noon today.

The main reason for the protest was once again unemployment, affordable housing, social rights and democratic freedoms, rejection of austerity cuts, corruption and privatization of once public services. Also banners against the free trade agreement between the European Union and the United States (TTIP, for its acronym in English) were seen.

Read more » http://revolution-news.com/marches-for-bread-work-homes-and-dignity-converge-on-madrid-end-wpolice-repression/

Europe may become irrelevant due to short-sighted policies – Gorbachev

Western policies toward Russia championed by Washington have led to the current crisis, and if the confrontation continues, Europe will be weakened and become irrelevant, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev warns.

Speaking to a forum in Berlin amid the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, he called on western leaders to de-escalate tensions and meet Russia halfway to mend the current rift.

Read more » http://rt.com/news/203475-gorbachev-speech-berlin-wall/

Russia’s ‘Dark’ Warplanes Are Spooking Europe

Russian military aircraft with their transponders turned off have had several close calls with civilian planes

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Two Russian bombers, flying with their transponders turned off to avoid detection, swooped so close to the Irish coast that Dublin’s control tower delayed the takeoff of one passenger plane and ordered another to alter its route to steer clear of the bombers. The Feb. 18 incident, disclosed last week by the Irish government, was only the latest in an alarming series of close calls with Russian warplanes in the skies over Europe.

In December, a Russian military intelligence plane nearly collided with an SAS passenger jet over southern Sweden, according to the Swedish air force chief. Earlier in the year, a Russian plane flew close to another SAS jet that had just taken off from Copenhagen. Russia has denied that its aircraft were dangerously close to either plane.

Over the past year, Russian military aircraft have probed and sometimes violated the borders of European nations’ airspace more than 100 times, according to NATO. In most of these instances the Russians have turned off their transponders, electronic devices that commercial jets are required to use to make it easy to track them. Operating without the devices, known as “flying dark,” poses a serious risk to civilian air traffic, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at a press conference in December.

Read more » Bloomberg
See more » http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-03-09/russia-s-dark-warplanes-are-spooking-europe?hootPostID=376535ce1bcfd0c34becbd39be56022d

The pro-worker, pro-growth experiment in Greece is under threat

By 

While the wealthiest 85 individuals on the planet own more wealth than the bottom half of the world’s population – and when the top 1% will soon own more wealth than the bottom 99% – the people of Greece and the anti-austerity party, Syriza, they elected to lead them are struggling to rebuild their economy so that ordinary people there can live with a shred of dignity and security.

But powerful international interests are putting the pro-growth, pro-worker experiment in progressive democracy currently underway in grave danger.

Greece is on the verge of leaving the Eurozone rather than accept a continuation of the reduced government spending measures imposed on it by the union’s other 18 members in exchange for a credit package that expires at the end of February; talks in Brussels broke down on Monday after the Syriza negotiators refused to break the party’s promises to the Greek people by accepting more punishing austerity. The German government, the European Commission and the European Central Bank (ECB) all seem intent on bringing the new government to heel, regardless of the people for whom German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble claims to feel sorry.

The real concern, apparently, is that democracy may go too far for austerity advocates to continue imposing their economic ideology from a distance: in Spain, Portugal, Finland and elsewhere, the patience of citizens is wearing thin as a growing number of them awaken to the stark reality that, while the very rich get much richer, the austerity programs their governments dutifully implemented are the cause rather than the cure for what ails their economies.

If Syriza succeeds in rolling back the EU-mandated measures, it could encourage dissident political movements in other parts of Europe; the right-wing governments in Europe’s periphery are terrified of a Greek success at the negotiating table.

Syriza’s recent electoral success was a clear indictment of the budget-strangling policies that left Greece mired in a depression for the last five years. Back at the beginning, money that should have been used to protect Greek families and rebuild Greek communities was instead used to protect the holders of Greek government debt – mainly French and German banks.

Read more » The Guardian
Learn more » http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/feb/17/the-pro-worker-pro-growth-experiment-in-greece-is-under-threat

 

Netanyahu says European Jews should immigrate to Israel

 

Israeli prime minister pushes plan encouraging Jews to “come home” in wake of deadly attack on Copenhagen synagogue.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for “massive immigration” of European Jews to Israel following the shooting attack outside a Copenhagen synagogue that killed a Danish Jew.

Netanyahu said the government on Sunday will discuss a $46M plan to encourage Jewish immigration from France, Belgium and Ukraine.

“This wave of attacks is expected to continue,” Netanyahu said at the start of a cabinet meeting. “Jews deserve security in every country, but we say to our Jewish brothers and sisters, Israel is your home.”

Read more » Aljazeera
Learn more » http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/02/netanyahu-european-jews-immigrate-israel-150215105904162.html

Vigils held across Europe in support of Charlie Hebdo, press freedom

Thousands gathered for rallies in French cities, standing in solidarity with victims of the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris that killed 12 on Wednesday. At the biggest rally, in Paris, people lit candles and held up their pens to support press freedom.

Paris witnessed a large rally on Place de la République, which is located close to the office of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

Masked gunmen stormed the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday morning. Ten journalists and two policemen were killed. Police said that three gunmen carried out the assault. They are still at large, while Paris is on high alert.

Read more » http://rt.com/news/220671-rally-europe-france-shooting/

Ebola reaches Europe for the first time: Spanish nurse tests positive for virus after treating African patient

By Jorge Sainz, Associated Press

MADRID, Spain — In what is the first reported incident of Ebola transmission outside Africa, a Spanish nurse who treated a missionary for the disease at a Madrid hospital tested positive for the disease, Spain’s health minister said Monday.

The female nurse was part of the medical team that treated a 69-year-old Spanish priest who died in a hospital last month after being flown back from Sierra Leone, where he was posted, Health Minister Ana Mato said.

The woman went to the Alcorcon hospital in the Madrid suburbs with a fever and was placed in isolation. Mato said the infection was confirmed by two tests and that the nurse was admitted to a hospital on Sunday.

Read more » National Post
http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/10/06/ebola-reaches-europe-for-the-first-time-spanish-nurse-tests-virus-after-treating-africa-patient/

China plans super collider

Proposals for two accelerators could see country become collider capital of the world.

By Elizabeth Gibney

For decades, Europe and the United States have led the way when it comes to high-energy particle colliders. But a proposal by China that is quietly gathering momentum has raised the possibility that the country could soon position itself at the forefront of particle physics.

Scientists at the Institute of High Energy Physics (IHEP) in Beijing, working with international collaborators, are planning to build a ‘Higgs factory’ by 2028 — a 52-kilometre underground ring that would smash together electrons and positrons. Collisions of these fundamental particles would allow the Higgs boson to be studied with greater precision than at the much smaller Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, Europe’s particle-physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland.

Physicists say that the proposed US$3-billion machine is within technological grasp and is considered conservative in scope and cost. But China hopes that it would also be a stepping stone to a next-generation collider — a super proton–proton collider — in the same tunnel.

Read more » nature international weekly magazine
http://www.nature.com/news/china-plans-super-collider-1.15603

“Are we finished? The answer is no.” – Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank says

Draghi Unveils Historic Measures to Counter Deflation Threat

Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank (ECB), reacts whilst speaking at a news conference where he unveiled historic measures to face down inflation in Frankfurt, Germany, on Thursday, June 5, 2014.

Bloomberg News reported:

The ECB today cut its deposit rate to minus 0.1 percent, becoming the first major central bank to take one of its main rates negative. In a bid to get credit flowing to parts of the economy that need it, the ECB also opened a 400-billion-euro ($542 billion) liquidity channel tied to bank lending and officials will start work on an asset-purchase plan. While conceding that rates are at the lower bound “for all practical purposes,” he signaled the the ECB is willing to act again.

“We think it’s a significant package,” Draghi told reporters in Frankfurt. “Are we finished? The answer is no.”

Courtesy: Bloomberg

Stalin-Mao roles reversed as Putin visits China seeking investment

Stalin-Mao Roles Reverse as Putin Courts China Investment

By Stepan Kravchenko and Henry Meyer

China, which relied on Soviet aid during the era of Joseph Stalinand Mao Zedong, has turned the tables as Russian PresidentVladimir Putin visits Shanghai.

The Russian leader starts a two-day visit to China today, seeking to complete an agreement on natural gas supplies to the world’s second-largest economy, held up for more than a decade because of a debate over the price. The contract is “nearly finalized,” Putin told Chinese media in aninterview published yesterday.

Putin is looking to cement ties with China as the conflict in Ukraine alienates him from the U.S. and its European allies. The relationship with China, Russia’s biggest trading partner after the two-way volume surged sevenfold in the past decade to $94 billion last year, is becoming even more important as escalating sanctions threaten to tip the economy into recession.

“As Russia’s relations with the West deteriorate, its ties with China will need to grow stronger,” Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, said by e-mail. “Beijing, rather than Moscow, will be the senior power.”

That role reversal is underscored by the disparity of the two countries’ economic development during the past 35 years. In 1979, as Deng Xiaoping started an economic overhaul, China’s output was 40 percent of the Soviet Russian Republic’s — the present-day Russian Federation, according to astudy published this year by the Center for European Reform. By 2010, China’s economy had become four times the size of Russia’s, it said.

Read more » Bloomberg
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-05-19/stalin-mao-roles-reverse-as-cold-shouldered-putin-courts-chinese.html

I Wear the Badge of Socialist With Honor

The full text of the new Seattle city council member’s inauguration speech.

By Kshama Sawant

Editor’s note: At a ceremonial swearing-in on Monday, Kshama Sawant became Seattle’s first socialist city council member in almost a century. The full text of her inauguration speech is below.

My brothers and sisters,

Thank you for your presence here today.

This city has made glittering fortunes for the super wealthy and for the major corporations that dominate Seattle’s landscape. At the same time, the lives of working people, the unemployed and the poor grow more difficult by the day. The cost of housing skyrockets, and education and healthcare become inaccessible.

This is not unique to Seattle. Shamefully, in this, the richest country in human history, fifty million of our people—one in six—live in poverty. Around the world, billions do not have access to clean water and basic sanitation and children die every day from malnutrition.

This is the reality of international capitalism. This is the product of the gigantic casino of speculation created by the highway robbers on Wall Street. In this system the market is God, and everything is sacrificed on the altar of profit. Capitalism has failed the 99%.

Despite recent talk of economic growth, it has only been a recovery for the richest 1%, while the rest of us are falling ever farther behind.

Continue reading I Wear the Badge of Socialist With Honor

McDowell County, USA Has Close to Haiti’s Life Expectancy: Welcome to Third World America

Many Americans, especially in the South, can look forward to dying far younger than their counterparts in Japan, Australia, New Zealand and much of Europe.

The Affordable Care Act is merely a small step in the direction of universal healthcare. One need only look at the data on life expectancy among Americans to realize how badly health care reform is needed in the United States. People in much of Europe are, on the whole, outliving residents of the U.S., which in some places, is looking more and more like a Third World country when it comes to life expectancy.

Read more » AlterNet
http://www.alternet.org/corporate-accountability-and-workplace/mcdowell-county-usa-has-close-haitis-life-expectancy-welcome

India Ready To Launch First Mars Mission

By Ryan W. Neal, International Business Times

India has begun a countdown towards the launch of its first spacecraft bound for Mars. The Indian Space Research Organization will launch a Mars Orbiter Mission probe named Mangalyaan in the next few weeks.

Mangalyaan recently arrived at the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota and will be loaded onto a launch vehicle that is just about ready for takeoff. Mangalyaan will orbit Mars and take photographs of the Martian surface and search for signs of methane in the Mars atmosphere. An array of senors aboard Mangalyaan will explore morphology and mineralogy of the Mars surface.

The Indian mission to Mars has a launch window between Oct. 28 and Nov. 19, which will get Mangalyaan to Mars in September 2014. It will orbit Mars for about six to 10 months.

If successful, India will become just the fourth nation to reach mars, along with the former Soviet Union, Europe and the US. Japan and China have both attempted Mars missions and failed.

The mission will cap off a successful year for ISRO. In 2013, India debuted environmental and communications satellites and a successful unmanned mission to the moon.

Mangalyaan will be joined by NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) orbital probe. Representatives of NASA told Space.com that having a diverse set of vantage points and sensors will contribute to a more complete understanding of the Martian geology and climate.

Courtesy: http://socialreader.com/me/content/U6xgl

Gibraltar visit for Royal Navy warship is routine, says MoD

Gibraltar visit for Royal Navy warship is routine, says MoD

A Royal Navy warship is to pay a “routine” visit to Gibraltar, the UK government has said, amid a continuing row with Spain over border checks.

Relations between Gibraltar and Spain have deteriorated in recent weeks.

But the Ministry of Defence said the visit was “long-planned” and one of many “regular and routine deployments”.

HMS Westminster, accompanied by two auxiliary ships, makes up part of a task force which is destined for the Middle East.

‘Granted permission’

Other warships in the task force will visit ports in Portugal, Spain, Turkey, and Malta. “Gibraltar is a strategic base for UK defence and as such Royal Navy ships visit its waters throughout the year as part of a range of regular and routine deployments,” an MoD spokesman said.

Spain’s foreign ministry agreed that the visit was “routine”, adding that the UK government had asked for permission to stop over at the Rota naval base, which is near the Strait of Gibraltar in south-west Spain.

Read more » BBC
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23624715

The Twilight of American Empire?

By John Feffer, co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus

As people near retirement age, they enter the twilight years. Sometimes, they rebel against retirement. They want to keep working. They‘re not interested in shuffling out of their office never to return. And if they’re in fact the owner of the workplace, conflicts often ensue. Those who have power rarely want to give up that power.

The United States is relatively young as a country. It is even younger as the “leader of the free world.” But for at least three decades, reports have circulated that the American empire has entered its twilight years, perhaps even its dotage.

The U.S. government itself cautioned us to scale back our expectations in the late 1970s when President Jimmy Carter called on Americans to cut back on consumerism and adjust to an age of diminishing expectations. Then, after the Reagan rebound, we were warned by Yale professor Paul Kennedy of imperial overstretch in the late 1980s. The Clinton years saved us from bankruptcy and the George W. Bush administration again reasserted American power in the world.

But now, the United States has again sunk into economic malaise and the wars of the last decade have left the country badly bruised. Historian Alfred McCoy believes the U.S. empire won‘t make it until 2025. Norwegian sociologist Johan Galtung pulls the horizon a little closer to 2025. It’s also possible that the empire already ended and somebody forgot to make the announcement. In 2011, Standard and Poor‘s removed the United States from its list of risk-free borrowers, putting us below Canada and Australia. That could very well have been the death knell.

Predicting the end of American empire is complicated by the fact that the United States is not a traditional empire. It does not try to maintain territorial control over distant lands (though many residents of Hawai’i and Guam might disagree). It doesn‘t practice a straightforward policy of pillaging overseas possessions for their material wealth. It practices a form of consensual give-and-take with its allies in Europe and Asia.

But the American Goliath does straddle the globe militarily, with hundreds and hundreds of military bases and Special Forces operating in 71 countries. The United States remains number one in the dubious categories of overall military spending and overall military exports.

Economically, the United States attempts to use the size of its economy to negotiate favorable deals with smaller countries (think: NAFTA) and often defines its national security priorities by their proximity to valuable natural resources (think: oil). It wields disproportionate influence in international economic organizations like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Culturally, Hollywood and the music industry and the television studios all set the standard for cool around the world. English is the world language, and the dollar (for now) is the world currency.

This is, in other words, an empire of consent. Other governments ask for our military bases (though often over the objections of their citizens). Other governments want to trade with the United States. No one makes people watch Avatar or Titanic, the top-grossing movies worldwide. No one forces consumers at gunpoint to eat at McDonald’s or drink Coca-Cola. It‘s true that Washington does what it can to tilt the playing field – through export subsidies, diplomatic arm-twisting, and the occasional show of force. And it can be a very lonely world for those countries, like North Korea, that consistently defy the United States. But this still remains a much more complex set of relationships than Pax Romana or Pax Brittanica.

However one defines U.S. power, though, a fundamental shift is clearly taking place in the world. China is slated to surpass the United States as the world’s largest economy as early as 2016. According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, many people already believe that China has done so. Indeed, if measured by purchasing power, China nosed past the United States a couple years ago.

It‘s not just China. The other celebrated members of the BRICS – Brazil, India, Russia, South Africa – are more quietly building up their economic and geopolitical power. Then there’s MIST – Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, and Turkey – another group of rising powers. The proliferation of other groupings – the Next 11, CIVETS – all testifies to the transformation of world power.

Meanwhile, the United States is behaving like a country desperately trying to maintain its edge. It has proclaimed a “Pacific pivot” even though it doesn‘t have the resources to execute any significant shift from the Middle East to Asia. It has attempted to maintain unsustainable levels of military spending at a time of serious budget constraints. It has tried to maintain a surveillance state in the face of considerable challenges from both individuals and organizations. Detroit has gone bankrupt; bridges have collapsed in Washington state and Arizona; thousands in New York and New Jersey are still homeless after last year’s Hurricane Sandy; gun violence annually claims tens of thousands of lives.

And on the issues where the world truly needs leadership – global warming, global poverty, global militarism – the United States is either out to lunch or very much part of the problem.

An aging chief executive who resists calls for retirement will often whip out their trump card: apr?s moi, le deluge! In other words, if the top person goes, whatever their vices might be, the organization will collapse because no one else can provide effective leadership.

John Feffer is co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus (www.fpif.org) at the Institute for Policy Studies. His articles and books can be found at http://www.johnfeffer.com. His latest book is Crusade 2.0 (City Lights, 2012).

The views presented in this column are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Hankyoreh.

Please direct questions or comments to [englishhani@hani.co.kr]

Courtesy: the hankyoreh
http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_editorial/597923.html

Hauling New Treasure Along the Silk Road

By

AZAMAT KULYENOV, a 26-year-old train driver, slid the black-knobbed throttle forward, and the 1,800-ton express freight train, nearly a half-mile long, began rolling west across the vast, deserted grasslands of eastern Kazakhstan, leaving the Chinese border behind.

Dispatchers in the Kazakh border town of Dostyk gave this train priority over all other traffic, including passenger trains. Specially trained guards rode on board. Later in the trip, as the train traveled across desolate Eurasian steppes, guards toting AK-47 military assault rifles boarded the locomotive to keep watch for bandits who might try to drive alongside and rob the train. Sometimes, the guards would even sit on top of the steel shipping containers.

The train roughly follows the fabled Silk Road, the ancient route linking China and Europe that was used to transport spices, gems and, of course, silks before falling into disuse six centuries ago. Now the overland route is being resurrected for a new precious cargo: several million laptop computers and accessories made each year in China and bound for customers in European cities like London, Paris, Berlin and Rome.

Hewlett-Packard, the Silicon Valley electronics company, has pioneered the revival of a route famous in the West since the Roman Empire. For the last two years, the company has shipped laptops and accessories to stores in Europe with increasing frequency aboard express trains that cross Central Asia at a clip of 50 miles an hour. Initially an experiment run in summer months, H.P. is now dispatching trains on the nearly 7,000-mile route at least once a week, and up to three times a week when demand warrants. H.P. plans to ship by rail throughout the coming winter, having taken elaborate measures to protect the cargo from temperatures that can drop to 40 degrees below zero.

Though the route still accounts for just a small fraction of manufacturers’ overall shipments from China to Europe, other companies are starting to follow H.P.’s example. Chinese authorities announced on Wednesday the first of six long freight trains this year from Zhengzhou, a manufacturing center in central China, to Hamburg, Germany, following much the same route across western China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus and Poland as the H.P. trains. The authorities said they planned 50 trains on the route next year, hauling $1 billion worth of goods; the first train this month is carrying $1.5 million worth of tires, shoes and clothes, while the trains are to bring back German electronics, construction machinery, vehicles, auto parts and medical equipment.

DHL announced on June 20 that it had begun weekly express freight train service from Chengdu in western China across Kazakhstan and ultimately to Poland. Some of H.P.’s rivals in the electronics industry are in various stages of starting to use the route for exports from China, freight executives said.

The Silk Road was never a single route, but a web of paths taken by caravans of camels and horses that began around 120 B.C., when Xi’an in west-central China — best known for its terra cotta warriors — was China’s capital. The caravans started across the deserts of western China, traveled through the mountain ranges along China’s western borders with what are now Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and then journeyed across the sparsely populated steppes of Central Asia to the Caspian Sea and beyond.

These routes flourished through the Dark Ages and the early medieval period in Europe. But as maritime navigation expanded in the 1300s and 1400s, and as China’s political center shifted east to Beijing, China’s economic activity also moved toward the coast.

Today, the economic geography is changing again. Labor costs in China’s eastern cities have surged in the last decade, so manufacturers are trying to reduce costs by moving production west to the nation’s interior. Trucking products from the new inland factories to coastal ports is costly and slow. High oil prices have made airfreight exorbitantly expensive and prompted the world’s container shipping lines to reduce sharply the speed of their vessels.

Slow steaming cuts oil consumption, but the resulting delays have infuriated shippers of high-value electronics goods like H.P’s. Such delays drive up their costs and make it harder to respond quickly to changes in consumer demand in distant markets.

Read more » The New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/21/business/global/hauling-new-treasure-along-the-silk-road.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0

The relentless crisis — Lal Khan

Occupy Islamabad LahoreThe huge bubbles of speculative investment in housing, InfoTech, petroleum products and others sectors have now burst

After the 2008 crash of the world economy, there was an unprecedented turbulence in the world markets and economies. In the advanced capitalist economies most regimes, social-democratic or conservative, carried through severe austerity and cuts that started the process of dismantling the welfare state, mainly in Europe. All those gains achieved through intense struggle by the working classes of these countries were being reversed. Still the US and European economies could not come out of the recession after five years of brutal recipes to put the burden of the crisis of capitalism onto the shoulders of the working masses. There is a seething revulsion against the ruling classes. A popular catchphrase doing the rounds in Europe say it all: “Bankers are slightly less popular than paedophiles and serial killers.”

The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries, the so-called emerging economies that were expected to give a new lease of life to capitalism with high growth rates, have failed to do so. Their growth rates shrank and the nature of the socioeconomic development in these countries, where the tasks of the bourgeois revolution have not been accomplished, have resulted in severe social contradictions that have now begun to explode on the political plane. Instability, uncertainty and disillusionment are now stalking these lands. The eruption of mass revolts from Turkey to Brazil are thus not accidental. They reflect a growing discontent and a sense of revulsion amongst the masses who are being inflicted by the severe trauma of this crisis that is crushing their livelihood.

It seems as if happiness has become elusive for the ordinary people in the advanced capitalist countries, not to speak of the oppressed working classes of the underdeveloped world.

After the Second World War, even if the revolutions were defeated in several European countries mainly due to the betrayals of the leaders of the Social Democratic and Communist parties, yet the upswing enabled these traditional leaders of the mass organisations to carry out reforms. Reforms are always introduced from above to stop revolution from below, but at least at that stage capitalism in the developed countries had the capacity to create a social welfare state. In Britain, education became free and the Labour Party introduced a health system where even foreign visitors could get treatment at a minimal cost.

People had hope for a better future and that created a blissful atmosphere and relatively prosperous societies. Now that optimism in life in Europe seems to have evaporated. People have lost hope in a future that promises only a grim life. A social malaise has set in. It is astonishing that this situation has developed in the aftermath of the collapse of the USSR, Eastern European Socialism and the capitalist restoration in China. After these events the bourgeoisie gained access to a huge market of more than two billion. At that time in the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, there was euphoria amongst the strategists of capital. The bourgeoisie on a world scale were dizzy with success. Yet it has turned out to be a hoax.

Dialectally it turned into its opposite and today we see capitalism mired in its most severe crisis, unprecedented in its 200-years history. This exposes the historical redundancy and the organic sickness of capitalism. Even with such a massive expansion of the market, it has failed to develop society and improve the living standards of the working class even in the advanced countries. The growth we saw in the last 20 to 30 years was through a greater labour intensive mechanism where all or most members of the household were working, many workers working overtime and of course, a gigantic expansion of credit.

The huge bubbles of speculative investment in housing, InfoTech, petroleum products and others sectors have now burst. But what triggered the crash of 2008 was the overextension of credit that accumulated in the corporate sector and through personal loans in the previous three decades. The banking default in 2007 led to the sovereign default in 2010. Ever since the economies of most European countries and the US have been reeling from a chronic crisis with no end in sight.

According to the Financial Times, it could take at least 20 years to solve the European crisis! It goes on to say, “Europe raises the spectre of an ungovernable world.” The usually boastful The Economist had to concede, “The way to recovery is long and dark.” If these most staunch strategists and spokespersons of capitalism are in such gloom, the reality of this system’s recovery must be much starker.

In the immediate aftermath of the 2008 crash, there was a sense of shock amongst the workers of the advanced capitalist countries. However, as various regimes embarked upon severe austerity programmes, retaliation began to emerge from the workers and the youth. The revolution in Tunisia that ignited the Arab revolution in the spring of 2011 took its inspiration from the mass demonstrations and protests in France in the autumn of 2010. The lightning strikes of the students in Britain in December of that year also had a huge impact on the youth, especially in Egypt. After the Arab Spring we saw the European summer with mass protests not seen in two decades in most countries of Europe. Then we saw the American Autumn with the sudden rise of the Occupy Wall Street Movement in the US with huge implications worldwide.

These movements also had important repercussions on the political plane. After 19 general strikes we saw the collapse of the traditional political party of the workers in Greece, PASOK. The meteoric rise of SYRIZA in Greece also shows that the working classes at a certain point can overcome the burden of their traditions and move ahead to a more radical solution.

Read more » Daily Times
http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=20137\21\story_21-7-2013_pg3_5

Europe’s Tax on Financial Trades Is a Risky Bet

By Mark Buchanan

Millions of Europeans are about to become the subjects of a vast social experiment. What’s troubling is how little anyone understands about where it might lead.

A total of 11 European Union member states — including France, Germany, Italy and Spain, but not the U.K. — plan to introduce a small tax on financial transactions by the beginning of 2014. Financial institutions will pay 0.1 percent on all stock and bond trades, and 0.01 percent on derivatives. Although taxes that are at least crudely similar exist in about 40 nations around the world, the European measure will be the first introduced on such a large scale.

The idea of a financial transactions tax goes back to the economist John Maynard Keynes. In the 1930s, he argued that speculation on assets drives market instability and suggested that an appropriate levy could deter it. If small enough, the tax would have a negligible effect on long-term stock investors, who trade infrequently and focus on real economic factors in making their decisions. It would primarily deter short-term speculators who buy and sell frequently in response to temporary market movements.

The idea makes intuitive sense and could, in principle, help channel investment to productive economic activity. There’s much debate, though, over whether it can work in reality. Well- known economists such as Joseph Stiglitz and Larry Summers have supported a transactions tax. Others of equal prominence have countered that it would be likely to lower equity prices, drive trading across borders and possibly increase market volatility.

Continue reading Europe’s Tax on Financial Trades Is a Risky Bet

What we can learn from Turkey

Smokers’ Corner: Cold Turkey

By Nadeem F. Paracha

I’ve twice been to Turkey in the last three years. My second trip there coincided with the 2011 election. Recently I have come across various conservative and pro-establishment personalities, politicians and media men in Pakistan praising the Turkish model of democracy and economics.

For example, Imran Khan just returned from Turkey and sounded extremely impressed by that country’s people and politics.

The reason why you might now be hearing more and more Pakistanis singing praises of Turkey is due to the fact that a determined political party with an Islamist background has been winning elections and forming governments there ever since 2001.

It is a good sign that to some of our conservatives the Turkish social and political model now seems more charming to emulate than the puritanical authoritarianism of certain oil-rich Arab states. However, the fact is they may really be over-romanticising their Turkish experience. Either they haven’t understood the dynamics of Turkey’s political and social milieus, or they are only seeing what they want to see: i.e. a conservative Islamist party at the helm in what was supposed to be a secular country.

Only recently I heard a TV commentator suggest that Turkish prime minister, Recep Erdogan’s AK Party, has been winning elections due to its popularity among the rural and semi-rural Turks. This is a rather simplistic understanding of what is actually a complex consensus that the AK Party has struck with almost all sections of Turkish society.

Erdogan’s multiple electoral successes have more to do with his emphasis on economic growth, reform and his all-out efforts to help Turkey become part of the European Union (EU) than on the usual stern moralistic and anti-West stances that most Islamist parties are stuck with in most Muslim countries. During my trip to Istanbul when the campaigning for the 2011 elections was in full swing, not even once did I hear Erdogan (whose wife adorns a hijab) mention the word Islam.

Continue reading What we can learn from Turkey

Capitalism Becomes Questionable – by Richard D. Wolff

The depth and length of the global crisis are now clear to millions. In the sixth year since it started in late 2007, no end is in sight. Unemployment rates are now less than halfway back from their recession peak to where they were in 2007. Over 20 million are without work, millions more limited to part-time work, millions have been foreclosed out of their homes. Those who retain jobs suffer declining real wages, fewer benefits, reduced job security, and more work. This year of “austerity” began with an increase in the payroll tax rate for over 150 million wage-and-salary earners from 4.2 to 6.2 per cent (a 48% increase from 2012) — a far more significant tax event than the trivial — but wildly hyped — increase of taxes on those earning over $450,000 annually from 35 to 39.6 per cent (a 13% increase from 2012). Austerity deepens as Republicans and Democrats negotiate merely details of their agreements to cut government spending on social programs helping working people.

Between the crisis and today’s austerity policies lie the bailouts — a bought government’s program to aid mega-finance and other large corporations with unlimited funds unmatched by anything comparable for the mass of working people and smaller businesses. The bailouts worked for them, for the large corporations who secured them for themselves. For that reason, “recovery” blessed them while it bypassed everyone else. Now austerity policies shift onto the general population major portions of the costs of the crisis and the bailouts. The situation is so bad and US government complicity with capitalists at the people’s expense so exposed that the capitalist system is becoming questionable. Criticism challenges the last half-century’s treatment of capitalism as the absolutely best possible economic system, beyond any need for discussion or debate, justifiably implanted around the world by military force, etc.

First of all, this deep and long crisis undermines decades of confident assurances and predictions that another deep capitalist depression was no longer likely or even possible. Capitalism’s inherent instability overwhelmed and thus proved the futility of efforts to prevent its crises. Moreover, both conventional and extraordinary monetary and fiscal policies failed repeatedly to bring Europe, Japan, and the US out of the crisis. Central banks, international agencies, and national executives charged with economic responsibilities have, since 2007, spoken with assurance and met often, posed for media photos, puffed and threatened, made a few last-minute, stop-gap agreements, resolved to meet again and do more at the next meeting. However, the crisis continued for most people. In many places it has gotten much worse. All this challenges glib notions that capitalism’s highest authorities have the system “under control.”

Implicitly, at first, millions of people began to question whether capitalism does still “deliver the goods” as its defenders so long insisted. In the US, declining economic conditions for parents coupled with rising school debts and declining job prospects for their children suggest rather that capitalism “delivers the bads.” The widening inequalities of wealth and income that contributed to the crisis have in turn been further aggravated by it.

Continue reading Capitalism Becomes Questionable – by Richard D. Wolff

JOINT PRESS RELEASE BY MAJOR SINDHI DIASPORA ORGANIZATIONS IN SUPPORT OF SINDH NATIONALIST PARTIES UNIFIED DECLARATION OF 13th SEPTEMBER 2012.

Press release: We the undersigned Sindhi Diaspora Organizations (SDOs) that represent the most educated, progressive and economically stable section of Sindh Civil Society and who continue to maintain deep and robust socio-economic and political relations with Sindh

REJECT outright the recently promulgated Sindh Governor Ordinances that attempt to divide Sindh .

This thievery , gerrymandering and trickery by the MQM aided by PPP through obscure back room dealings between the MQM and the PPP in blatant disrespect of the recent parliamenatry decision taken by the Sindh National Assembly restoring the Comissionerate system to Sindh as a whole, STANDS condemned by ALL Sindhis at home and abroad.

We the Diaspora members of the Sindhi nation , who are forced to live abroad due to lack of opportunities and freedoms in our own resource rich motherland will defy all and any attempts to introduce Military Rule or Civil Government Rule through Ordinances or Armed Threats

We , the Sindhi nation will never allow our homeland to be divided politically, administratively, geographically or militarily.

Sindhi Association of North America, SANA

World Sindhi Institute, WSI, USA-Canada,

World Sindhi Congress, WSC, UK-USA, Europe

Sindhi Sangat of Middle East.