US economics: One big Ponzi scheme

Wall Street traders represent the elite of the global financial world, but after the collapse of the economy those behind the world’s depression still seem to be doing just fine [GALLO/GETTY]

While Bernie Madoff languishes in jail, bankers continue to profit as the poor lose their homes and hope.

by Danny Schechter

Thank you, Bernie, for breaking your silence – even if you are still clinging to that cover-up mode you adopted since you took the entirety of the blame for your crimes.

What is clear is that ripping off the rich is punished far more severely than ripping off the poor. The lengthy sentence you were given spared countless other greedsters and goniffs from facing the music – what music there is.

In an interview – with a reporter from The New York Times who is writing a book to cash in on a man who has already cashed out – we learn, in the vaguest terms, that Mr M believes the banks he did his crooked business with “should have known” his figures did not figure. Keeping with the deceit that has served him well over the years, he names no names.

That said, how right he may be. There were many who should have known and done something about it. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and other regulators for one. Perhaps The New York Times for another. Remember, it was Madoff’s confession to his sons that started him on his way to his new 12′ x 12′ home from home – in a federal correctional institute, where he may dream of his seized penthouse, homes and yachts – rather than any press expose.

For years, he went undetected by business journalists, who knew – or should have known – what he was up to. There are even questions about the speed with which he was sentenced, preventing him from being tried – a process which, through diligent cross-examination, would have brought us more information on the details of his dirty deals. Continue reading

Toward Palestine’s ‘Mubarak moment’

New elections will not give Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas the credibility he needs, writer says

The slow collapse of Palestinian collective leadership institutions in recent years has reached a crisis amid the ongoing Arab revolutions, the revelations in the Palestine Papers, and the absence of any credible peace process.

The Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA) controlled by Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah faction has attempted to respond to this crisis by calling elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and the PA presidency.

Abbas hopes that elections could restore legitimacy to his leadership. Hamas has rejected such elections in the absence of a reconciliation agreement ending the division that resulted from Fatah’s refusal (along with Israel and the PA’s western sponsors, especially the United States) to accept the result of the last election in 2006, which Hamas decisively won.

But even if such an election were held in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, it does not resolve the crisis of collective leadership faced by the entire Palestinian people, some ten million distributed between those living in the occupied Gaza Strip and West Bank, inside Israel, and the worldwide diaspora.

A house divided

There are numerous reasons to oppose new PA elections, even if Hamas and Fatah were to sort out their differences. The experience since 2006 demonstrates that democracy, governance and normal politics are impossible under Israel’s brutal military occupation. Continue reading

100,000 march as Greece protests turn violent

Greek police clashed with protesters in Athens as around 100,000 workers, pensioners and students marched to parliament to protest against austerity policies aimed at helping the country cope with a huge debt crisis.

Riot police fired rounds of teargas and flash bombs at protesters hurling petrol bombs, choking the main Syntagma Square with smoke and sending crowds of striking protesters running for cover.

The 24-hour strike by public and private sector employees grounded flights, closed schools and paralysed public transport in the first nationwide walkout against cost cuts this year.

In the biggest march since riots in December 2008 brought the country to a standstill for weeks, Greeks marched through the streets of Athens chanting “We are not paying” and “No sacrifice for plutocracy”. Police officially put the figure at 32,000, but eyewitnesses said it was around 100,000. Continue reading

Greece: Two Keratea residents hurt in clashes with police

Anti-landfill protest leads to confrontation with riot officers
Residents of Keratea in southeastern Attica have clashed frequently with police over the last couple of months.

Two people were injured in clashes with police in Keratea, southeast of Athens, on Wednesday.

Locals have been protesting since the start of December against the construction of a waste management center in their area.

This has often led to clashes with police and Wednesday saw a prolonged confrontation between protestors and riot officers who have been drafted in to help guard the site of the proposed facility.

It is not clear how the two local residents, a 65-year-old man and a younger man, were injured.

Thursday February 24, 2011

Libyan east hails “freedom”

REUTERS, Feb. 23, 2011

By Alexander Dziadosz

BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) – Libyans celebrated the liberation of the east of the country from the rule of Muammar Gaddafi, who has vowed to crush the revolt and on Wednesday was trying to assert his grip on the capital Tripoli, in the west.

Lying between Egypt and Tunisia, where a wave of Arab unrest has unseated two veteran presidents, the desert nation of six million which Gaddafi has ruled for 41 years seemed split in two, trapping thousands of foreign workers, jeopardizing oil exports and raising fears of tribal conflict and civil war.

The United States, which once branded Gaddafi a “mad dog” but had joined European powers in reconciliation to exploit Libya’s oil wealth, said it might impose sanctions to help end violence which one European minister said may have killed 1,000. Continue reading

Saudi Arabia watching Bahrain unrest

Michael Birnbaum, Washington Post
February 23, 2011

MANAMA, BAHRAIN — The morning after tens of thousands of demonstrators turned out in Bahrain’s capital to demand that King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa make democratic concessions or step aside, the monarch boarded a plane Wednesday to pay his respects to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, who had returned home after months abroad for medical treatments.

The trip – unexpected given the major problems Hamad faces in Bahrain – underscored the extent of Saudi Arabia’s sway over the teardrop-shaped island off its eastern shore, analysts said. Hamad often makes the journey after the Saudi king has been away for an extended period.

But this time, what happens in tiny Bahrain might have outsize repercussions in its giant neighbor, analysts said. The Shiite-led protesters in Bahrain are demanding that their Sunni royal family grant them equal rights and an equal voice, and Saudi Arabia is worried their campaign might give ideas to its own large Shiite minority.

In a sign of its concerns, the Saudi government announced Wednesday that it will pump $10.7 billion into a fund that gives interest-free loans to citizens and that government workers will receive a 15 per cent wage hike, among other measures. Bahrain also pumped cash to households just before its protests erupted last week. Continue reading

Philippines: An agreement by government and CPP-NDF to end the People’s War in 18 months

[Is the Communist Party of the Philippines-NDF is about to join the Prachanda-led forces in Nepal in bringing an end to people’s war and adopting the “peaceful road” strategy?–a strategy which, in other countries, a number of formerly revolutionary parties have proclaimed when becoming parliamentary parties.  While the CPP-NDF has not yet, to our knowledge, spoken directly to this, this article from the Manila Standard raises the question to a public and prominent level. — Frontlines ed.]

Manila Standard Today, February 23, 2011

Govt, Reds target peace treaty by June 2012

by Joyce Pangco Pañares

THE government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front have agreed to sign a final peace agreement by June 2012 to end the communists’ 40-year insurgency.

In a joint communique, government chief negotiator Alexander Padilla and his NDF counterpart, Luis Jalandoni, said both sides agreed to finish drafting agreements on socio-economic, political and constitutional reforms, and on ending hostilities and the disposition of forces, within 18 months.

The two sides issued the statement after a week-long negotiation in Oslo that ended a six-year impasse after talks bogged down in 2004.

Padilla described the talks as “difficult, frank and candid.” Continue reading

Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi vows not to resign, denounces protesters as ‘greasy rats’

McClatchy Tribune, Wednesday, February 23, 2011

n.2.23.WIRE-MidEastUnrest.jpgCAIRO — A defiant Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi vowed Tuesday not to resign and denounced the anti-government protesters who have challenged his regime as “greasy rats” and “drug-fueled mice” who deserve to be executed.

“These gangs are cockroaches,” he said. “They’re nothing. They’re not 1 percent of the Libyan people.”

In a lengthy address on state TV, Gadhafi, who has ruled since 1969, stood in the ruins of a barracks in Tripoli that was bombed by U.S. warplanes in 1986. He waved his fist and shouted, vowing to die a martyr and urging his supporters to rise up to help the military crush the popular uprising.

The U.N. Security Council called an emergency meeting as Libya descended into further chaos Tuesday amid reports that Gadhafi’s regime used warplanes, helicopter gunships and foreign mercenaries against mounting anti-government demonstrations, witnesses and diplomats said. Continue reading

US: Attacks on unions spark class struggle

New York Times, February 22, 2011

Thousands March on Capitols as Union Turmoil Spreads


COLUMBUS, Ohio — First Wisconsin. Now Ohio and Indiana.

Battles with public employees’ unions spread on Tuesday, with Republican-dominated Legislatures pressing bills that would weaken collective bargaining and thousands of pro-union protesters marching on Capitol buildings in Columbus and Indianapolis.

After a week of upheaval in Madison, Wis., where the thumping din of protesters has turned almost celebratory, the battle moved to Ohio, where the Legislature held hearings on a bill that would effectively end collective bargaining for state workers and drastically reduce it for local government employees like police officers and firefighters.

Several thousand pro-union protesters filled a main hall of the state courthouse in Columbus and gathered in a large crowd outside, chanting “Kill the bill,” waving signs and playing drums and bagpipes. There were no official estimates, but the numbers appeared to be smaller than those in Madison last week. One Democratic state legislator put the figure at 15,000. Continue reading

Algeria braces for more protests

Oil-rich country on high alert as opposition groups mobilise for weekend of rallies and gatherings calling for democracy

Friday 18 February 2011

Algerian riot police in Annaba, during last weekend's protests. Photograph: Moh Ali/AP

Protesters against Algeria‘s military regime are to hold further pro-democracy demonstrations on Saturday, despite the government’s promise to end the state of emergency that has gripped the country for 19 years.

The oil-rich Maghreb state has used its powerful security services to prevent it from being swept up in the tide of popular uprisings across the Arab world.

Last weekend, 30,000 police saturated the capital, Algiers, to prevent 2,000 people from demonstrating. Riot police blocked off roads, and harassed, beat and arrested hundreds of people who had gathered.

The government swiftly announced it would soon relax the emergency powers in place since 1992, which prevent public demonstrations. It has also promised new measures to ease unemployment and the housing crisis – symbols of the extreme social inequalities of a nation whose vast oil and gas riches are concentrated in the hands of a military oligarchy. Continue reading

Hundreds protest police violence in Syria

Feb 18, 2011, Beirut – Hundreds of Syrians protested police violence after traffic wardens reportedly beat up a young man in Damascus, a Syrian opposition website reported Friday.
The Dubai-based also posted a video of the protest, which it said took place on Thursday. The crowd chanted: ‘The Syrian people will not be humiliated.’
The protesters demanded that the interior minister begin an inquiry into the beating. They blocked traffic for three hours, forcing the minister to come to the spot and talk to the victim’s family. Opposition groups have been calling on Syrians to protest what they call the ‘oppressive regime’ of Syrian President Bashar al Assad.  Pro-democracy uprisings have swept the Arab world, starting in Tunisia and then Egypt.

Raw footage of demonstration in Damascus, Syria

Yemen: Protesters can topple Saleh: Yemeni analyst

February 17, 2011
euronews spoke with Abdullah Al Fakih, a political science professor at Sanaa University, who believes Yemen’s anti-government protesters could topple President Saleh.
Al Fakih described the demonstrations as “a popular youth movement.”  “It began with protests calling for the overthrow of President Ali Abdallah Saleh. This movement progressively became larger, spreading across the country,” he told euronews in a telephone interview.

Bahrain troops shoot at protesters: ex MP

Thousands attend Bahrain protest funerals

February 18, 2011
Thousands of people have attended the funerals of those killed in yesterday’s security crackdown in Bahrain. At least four people died and more than 230 others were wounded when riot police drove activists from a makeshift camp in Pearl Square in the centre of the capital Manama. Earlier, in the village of Sintra, where some of the victims’ funerals were held, the anger against the level of force used by authorities was palpable.
MANAMA, Feb 18 (Reuters) – Bahraini troops shot at protesters near Pearl Square on Friday and wounded many, a former Shi’ite lawmaker said, a day after police forcibly cleared a protest camp from the traffic circle in Manama.

Jalal Firooz, of the Wefaq bloc that resigned from parliament on Thursday, said demonstrators had been elsewhere in the city, marking the death of a protester killed earlier this week when riot police had fired tear gas at them. Continue reading

Libya’s deadly ‘day of rage’

February 17, 2011
Deadly attacks on peaceful protests – that is what eyewitnesses are reporting from all over Libya.

The country’s “day of rage” has left at least 24 people dead, according to Human Rights Watch.

Despite media restrictions in Libya – reports of protests and violence have emerged on the internet.

Al Jazeera’s Caroline Malone reports.