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Feb 22, 2017, 12:33 AM
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 1 
 on: Feb 21, 2017, 10:02 AM 
Started by Deva - Last post by Deva
Hi, all. Please read Pluto in the 3rd house/Gemini in the Pluto vol 1.book as it reviews the third house/Gemini archetype. Then, write out in your own words how the egocentric structure of the Soul has actualized the desires of Pluto in the 10th house. In other words,  What type of egocentric structure did the Soul create in order to actualize the core desires symbolized by natal Pluto in the 10th house? Simply, stated the Soul has created an egocentric structure that is founded on the need to collect a diversity of facts, information and data from the external environment. This is reflected by the 3rd house/Gemini/Mercury archetype. The nature of the information that the Soul will want to collect is relative to the core desire to understand how society is structured, the prevailing cultural norms, taboos, customs, etc. and to establish a personal voice of authority within society. In other words, prior to the current life, the Soul has collected a variety of information from the external environment in order to understand how society functions in order to establish a personal voice of authority within that society. The Soul will have an innate ability to communicate this information with others as well. As mentioned previously, the Evolutionary condition of the Soul will determine how these core themes have been expressed. Please review the Evolutionary Conditions of Soul using this link: http://schoolofevolutionaryastrology.com/school/essence-of-ea/the-four-evolutionary-states

Consensus State: In the Consensus State, the Soul will collect information from those in positions of social authority in order to progressively advance within the social strata. In other words, information in used in order to create the necessary knowledge of how to progress to higher levels of social position. For example, the Soul may learn what is required in order to become a certified in an given field, or progress to higher position. The Soul will have an innate capacity to communicate this knowledge with others.

Individuated State: In the Individuated State, The Soul will collect information that is alternative, or outside of the mainstream society. For example, astrology, hypnotherapy, and non-traditional education are all fields that are concerned alternative by the mainstream. This information serves to promote the need to individuate and de-condition from the mainstream society. Liberation from the mainstream society occurs through the collection of alternative information. This information becomes a vehicle through which the Soul establishes a personal voice of authority within the alternative group or movement within society. The Soul will naturally desire to bond with others of like mind who hold this same value and attitude.

Spiritual State: In the Spiritual State, the Soul will collect information that pertains to understanding the structure, or foundation, of spiritualization and evolution through union with the Source. In other words, information of a timeless and universal nature becomes the basis of integration within the societal structure, and the development of a personal voice within society. The Soul will naturally gravitate to various spiritual writings and teachers which communicate principles that are universally experienced and will be true regardless of the passing of time. The Soul will have an innate capacity to communicate this knowledge with others.  As an example of a Soul in this evolutionary state, Yogananda has Pluto in the 10th house, and South Node in the third house. He established a spiritual organization called SRF which spread timeless teachings through various writings and lectures, and also wrote books centered around Divine communion.

Namaste

Deva

 2 
 on: Feb 21, 2017, 07:34 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
USA

Watergate prosecutor: Pig Trump knowledge of Russian election hacking would be an impeachable ‘criminal act’

Elizabeth Preza
Raw Story
20 Feb 2017 at 20:59 ET                  

Former Nixon White House counsel John Dean and Watergate prosecutor Richard Ben-Veniste on Monday spoke with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews about the parallels between Watergate and the 2016 Russian hacking scandal.

Dean discussed the “interesting parallels” between the Russian break-in and Watergate, noting while the methods were different, “they obviously both deal with the DNC and that’s where the comparison comes from.”

Ben-Veniste told Matthews the difference between the two scandals is that “here you’ve got a foreign power, our adversary, the Russians, who are interfering … with our election, our electoral process.”

“So that’s big,” Ben-Veniste added. “The question is, was Mr. Trump or any of his close associates, somehow involved with the Russians during this course of conduct? And if so, then that would be huge.”

“If there was such activity, then this would be a criminal act that would be of the upmost seriousness to this country,” he said.

Comparing Nixon with Donald Trump, Dean said Nixon “worked behind the scenes” to undermine the press, adding “So far, Trump has been right out front” with his criticism of the media.

Ben-Veniste added there’s a difference between Trump and Nixon in terms of preparedness for the job, arguing Nixon was “eminently prepared” to be president of the United States.

“This is on-the-job training for President Trump, and one can only hope he utilizes the vast resources that are available to the President of the United States, and pick people who say ‘No’ to him,” Ben-Veniste said. “This is what was Nixon’s downfall, he surrounded himself with people who catered to his dark side.”

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BUSTED: Pig Trump attorney Michael Cohen caught giving conflicting statements about secret Ukraine deal

Travis Gettys
Raw Story
20 Feb 2017 at 14:10 ET                  

President Donald Trump’s personal attorney offered conflicting explanations about his alleged involvement in back-channel efforts to ease sanctions against Russia.

Michael Cohen, special counsel to the president and a longtime employee of the Trump Organization, admitted to the New York Times that he had delivered sealed plans for settling Russia’s conflict with Ukraine to then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

The newspaper, which first reported on the secret plans, quoted Cohen as saying he left the proposal with Flynn earlier this month and was waiting for a response when the retired general resigned over misleading statements he’d made about his communications with the Russian ambassador.

“Who doesn’t want to help bring about peace?” Cohen told the Times.

Cohen and Felix Sater, a business associate who helped Trump look for deals in Russia, claim they had never spoken to the president about their plans and have no experience in foreign policy.

The pair reportedly met with Ukrainian politician Andrii Artemenko, which Coren acknowledged in a separate interview with the Washington Post, just days before Flynn’s resignation — but he denied taking the sealed envelope to the White House and leaving it with the national security adviser.

“I acknowledge that the brief meeting took place, but emphatically deny discussing this topic or delivering any documents to the White House and/or General Flynn,” Cohen told the Post.

Cohen provided an identically worded statement to Lawnewz disputing the Times reporting on his document delivery.

The Times defended its account of Cohen’s actions, saying the attorney told reporters “in no uncertain terms that he delivered the Ukraine proposal to Michael Flynn’s office at the White House.”

Sater also told Times reporters that Cohen had told him the same thing, according to the newspaper’s deputy managing editor, Matt Purdy.

Cohen’s name comes up in an infamous dossier compiled by a former British spy on Trump’s Russian ties.

According to the unverified dossier, Cohen secretly met with Kremlin officials in Prague during August to “clean up the mess” over former campaign chair Paul Manafort’s ties to the pro-Russia regime in Ukraine.

The dossier claims Cohen helped set up plans to pay off hackers and others involved in an alleged plot to interfere with the U.S. election and quickly move them underground in case Hillary Clinton won.

Cohen has denied the claims, saying his passport shows he was not in Prague and was instead in California visiting a college with his son.

He denied to Lawnewz that he was under investigation by the FBI or any other government authorities.

“It would take any half decent, unbiased journalist 10 minutes to verify the inaccuracies in the dossier,” Cohen told the website.

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REVEALED: Bannon told Germany that US would follow his apocalyptic vision — a week before Pence’s visit

Reuters
21 Feb 2017 at 07:56 ET                  

In the week before U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visited Brussels and pledged America’s “steadfast and enduring” commitment to the European Union, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon met with a German diplomat and delivered a different message, according to people familiar with the talks.

Bannon, these people said, signalled to Germany’s ambassador to Washington that he viewed the EU as a flawed construct and favoured conducting relations with Europe on a bilateral basis.

Three people who were briefed on the meeting spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter. The German government and the ambassador, Peter Wittig, declined to comment, citing the confidentiality of the talks.

A White House official who checked with Bannon in response to a Reuters query confirmed the meeting had taken place but said the account provided to Reuters was inaccurate. “They only spoke for about three minutes and it was just a quick hello,” the official said.

The sources described a longer meeting in which Bannon took the time to spell out his world view. They said his message was similar to the one he delivered to a Vatican conference back in 2014 when he was running the right-wing website Breitbart News.

In those remarks, delivered via Skype, Bannon spoke favourably about European populist movements and described a yearning for nationalism by people who “don’t believe in this kind of pan-European Union.”

Western Europe, he said at the time, was built on a foundation of “strong nationalist movements”, adding: “I think it’s what can see us forward”.

The encounter unsettled people in the German government, in part because some officials had been holding out hope that Bannon might temper his views once in government and offer a more nuanced message on Europe in private.

One source briefed on the meeting said it had confirmed the view that Germany and its European partners must prepare for a policy of “hostility towards the EU”.

A second source expressed concern, based on his contacts with the administration, that there was no appreciation for the EU’s role in ensuring peace and prosperity in post-war Europe.

“There appears to be no understanding in the White House that an unravelling of the EU would have grave consequences,” the source said.

The White House said there was no transcript of the conversation. The sources who had been briefed on it described it as polite and stressed there was no evidence Trump was prepared to go beyond his rhetorical attacks on the EU – he has repeatedly praised Britain’s decision to leave – and take concrete steps to destabilise the bloc.

But anxiety over the White House stance led French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference, to issue unusual calls last week for Pence to affirm during his visit to Europe that the U.S. was not aiming to break up the EU.

Pence obliged on Monday in Brussels, pledging strong ties between the United States and the EU, and making clear his message was shared by the president.

“President Trump and I look forward to working together with you and the European Union to deepen our political and economic partnership,” he said.

But the message did not end the concerns in European capitals.

“We are worried and we should be worried,” Thomas Matussek, senior adviser at Flint Global and a former German ambassador to the Britain and the United Nations, told Reuters.

“No one knows anything at the moment about what sort of decisions will be coming out of Washington. But it is clear that the man on top and the people closest to him feel that it’s the nation state that creates identity and not what they see as an amorphous group of countries like the EU.”

With elections looming in the Netherlands, France and Germany this year, European officials said they hoped Pence, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson could convince Trump to work constructively with the EU.

The worst-case scenario from Europe’s point of view was described by Ischinger in an article published last week, entitled “How Europe should deal with Trump”.

He said that if the U.S. administration actively supported right-wing populists in the looming election campaigns it would trigger a “major transatlantic crisis”.

(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton and Alastair Macdonald in Brussels, Jeff Mason in Washington; editing by Mark John)

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There’s a showdown coming between Pig Trump and the ‘deep state’ — and none of the outcomes are good

Jefferson Morley, AlterNet
21 Feb 2017 at 07:02 ET                  

Ah, listen to that ominous phrase, the “Deep State.”

You hear the words hissing from the fur-lined rat hole of Breitbart. They ring from the pulpit of Greenwald. They sound in the silos of Salon and The Atlantic and Foreign Policy. And over on Twitter, the white nationalists are Jew-baiting the hapless Bill Kristol because he prefers the Deep State to the Trump State.

In other words, the situation is hopeless, but not serious. In a sobering interview with the German daily newspaper Suedeutche Zeitug, Yale history professor Tim Snyder recently suggested that American democracy has less than a year to live. Is it really possible that the Madisonian republic, founded in 1789 and renewed in 1865, is about to die?

Yes, says Michael J. Glennon, professor of international law at the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy at Tufts University.

I turned to Glennon for answers because he has stomped a few grapes in the vineyards of Washington. He worked on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and thought big thoughts at the Brookings Institution before taking refuge in academia.

Glennon is the author of National Security and Double Government, one of the most acute assessments of American government you are ever likely to read. If you need to lose sleep, buy Glennon’s tome. Whether you like President Trump or hate President Trump, Glennon’s book will wake you up to America’s current reality.

Jefferson Morley: Has President Trump exposed the undemocratic character of our “double government”?

Michael Glennon: The façade was crumbling before Trump appeared, but he’s removed the frontage and unveiled the power exercised by the national security bureaucracy.

JM: What do you mean, “the facade was crumbling”?

MG: In earlier U.S. presidencies, that power was largely concealed because it would have undermined the legitimacy of the constitutionally established institutions—the Executive, Congress and the courts—if the public understood the extent to which those three branches had ceded authority over national security to an unelected bureaucracy. So they had an incentive to pretend they were in control.

But the open split between Trump and the intelligence community has made clear that the security managers have an agenda of their own, and pursue it with very few checks. This was concealed from the public during the Obama administration because Obama largely embraced their agenda as his own and when they screwed up, he took responsibility, as had other presidents. Trump is different.

JM: Can/should the Deep State rescue us from Trumpism, as Bill Kristol recently mused?

MG: Bureaucratic checking by the security managers won’t work and is a dangerous idea. It won’t work because, unless the security managers deliver a knockout blow and force Trump out of office within the next few weeks, he’ll use divide-and-conquer tactics to root out the opposition and claim their organizations as his own.

The playbook for dismembering a disliked bureaucracy is widely known to organizational theorists, and it’s only a matter of time before Trump will be able to employ those methods to get control of these agencies. Factions within them will align with Trump to do his bidding and ultimately will come to dominate rival, opposing factions. Trump can then declare victory, as he must do so as to restore public confidence in his own judgment—he is, after all, forced to rely upon their information and analysis in making national security decisions; where else can he look?

At that point the rivalry will cease and the “deep state” will emerge front-and-center as Trump’s overt partner in governance. That’s the more likely scenario.

JM: Sounds positively Putinesque.

MG: An alternative scenario is no more comforting. Under it, a continuing series of leaks and challenges to his authority either drive him from office, through resignation or impeachment, or leave him so enfeebled that he is in effect a ceremonial president taking orders from the security bureaucrats, who operate more or less in plain view.

The managers are in this scenario so widely understood to wear the crown that it’s no longer necessary to hide the fact. Of course, this would represent a very different form of government, and given the historical record of abuse of power by these agencies, there is little reason to believe that their rule would represent a “rescue” in any meaningful sense of the word.

JM: Is it possible to oppose both the Deep State and Trump?

MG: My own sense is that a happy outcome is unlikely and that American democracy is now confronting an abyss. The root of the problem is that, as the result of widespread and pervasive civic, political and historical ignorance, the aspirations of the polity to participate in governance vastly exceeds its capacity to do so responsibly.

In recent days, activism and engagement have spiked, but the base of knowledge needed for effective democratic governance still is not present, and it’s hard to see why or how or when that will change.

If it takes reading 1984 to realize we’ve got a problem, chances are it’s too late to do anything useful about it. I may be wrong, and I hope I am. But the realistic answer, I’m afraid, is that people are waking up too late.

***************

The psychological science behind Pig Trump’s America and the rise of the authoritarian personality

The Conversation
21 Feb 2017 at 08:56 ET  

Since the horror of Hitler’s Holocaust, psychologists have investigated why certain individuals appear more prone to follow orders from authority figures, even if it means that they have to sacrifice humanitarian values while doing so.

Apart from the Nazi regime, this issue is central to military atrocities such as the massacre in My Lai during the Vietnam war, and the systematic abuse of detainees in Abu-Ghraib prison in post-invasion Iraq.

But it also applies to civilian situations such as the recent unethical behaviour of some members of the US border control in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s executive order to ban Muslims entry to the country. Handcuffing a five-year-old child is not what you would necessarily consider “normal” human behaviour. Yet it happened.

While this issue has been debated on and off for decades, scientific research suggests that some people’s personality make-up gives them strong authoritarian and anti-democratic tendencies. That is, they either support or follow orders from authorities even when these orders could harm – or increase the risk of harming – other human beings.

After World War II, leading researchers, including Theodor Adorno and Else Frenkel-Brunswik at the University of California in Berkeley, were interested in understanding how ordinary German people could turn into obedient mass murderers during the Nazi genocide of the Jewish population in Europe.

Using research on ethnocentrism as a starting point and basing their work on clinical studies, they built a questionnaire with the overall aim of mapping the antidemocratic personality. The scale, called the F-scale (F stood for fascism), focused on aspects such as anti-intellectualism, traditional values, superstition, a willingness to submit to authorities and authoritarian aggression. An individual scoring highly on the scale was labelled an “authoritarian personality”.

Unfortunately, the F-scale turned out to be methodologically flawed which limited its use for understanding authoritarianism.

Racist, sexist, aggressive, gullible

In the early 1980s, Bob Altemeyer, a professor at the University of Manitoba, refined the work with the F-scale and came up with a new definition of the authoritarian personality. Altemeyer renamed the authoritarian personality “right-wing authoritarianism” (RWA) and defined it as having three related dimensions. These were: a submission towards authorities, endorsement of aggressive behaviour if sanctioned by authorities, and a high level of conventionalism – that is conforming to old traditions and values.

Among antisocial traits and attitudes investigated in psychology, RWA definitely ranks high up the naughty list. Right-wing authoritarians are, for example, more racist, more discriminatory, more aggressive, more dehumanising, more prejudiced and more sexist than individuals with low RWA. They are also less empathic or altruistic. Another downside is that they tend to think less critically, instead basing their thoughts on what authority figures say and do.

Research findings also suggest that those with high RWA are more likely to follow unethical orders. For example, in a replication of the famous Milgram obedience experiment in a video environment, high RWAs were found to be willing to use more powerful electric shocks to punish their subjects.

Scoring high on RWA is theoretically in line with the anti-democratic personality suggested by Adorno and his colleagues. A plethora of studies shows that people with these traits are more anti-democratic – for example, they tend to support restriction of civil liberties and surveillance, capital punishment, the mandatory detention of asylum seekers and the use of torture in time of war.
Threat to democracy

So can RWA pose a threat for a democratic society? The answer is generally speculative, but at least hypothetically the answer could be yes. Some indications of its potential danger can be found in the following fields of research.

A study on university students has shown that the level of authoritarian attitudes is significantly higher immediately after a terrorist attack than during a non-threatening condition. This supports findings from longitudinal research showing that RWA increase when the world is perceived to be becoming more dangerous.

How such reactions relate to people’s political choices has suddenly become very relevant. Researchers interested in understanding destructive political leadership suggest that one must look at how environmental conditions, the followers and the leader interact with each other. This is what is referred to as the toxic triangle – a society with a high degree of experienced threat, a narcissistic or hate-spreading political leader and followers with unmet needs or antisocial values is at risk of adopting a destructive political course.

So it’s unsurprising to hear that authoritarianism was found to be one of the factors statistically predicting support for Donald Trump before the recent US election.

Not only this but experimental data suggest that those displaying high RWA are more prone to be supportive of unethical decisions when they are promoted by a socially dominant leader – that is, a leader viewing society as a hierarchy in which domination of inferior groups by superior groups is legitimised.

Researchers in this area have suggested that individuals scoring high on RWA, and other antisocial traits and attitudes, are more likely to choose occupations in which the opportunity to be abusive to others might arise. Based on this reasoning, one could expect that soldiers and police officers should have a higher level of RWA than comparison groups. And this appears to be borne out by research that suggests that both soldiers and border guards have higher levels of RWA in comparison to the rest of the population.

How these findings relate to actual abusive behaviour remains to be investigated in future research. But the idea of having people with these traits guarding a democracy seems to me to be something of a contradiction in terms.

The Conversation

By Magnus Linden, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Lund University

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Pig Trump administration tells world leaders to just ignore what the president says: report

Erin Corbett
Raw Story
20 Feb 2017 at 13:11 ET                  

One month into President Donald Trump’s administration, the divide in his team’s approach to national security and foreign policy issues couldn’t be more clear. The Rachel Maddow blog laid out the ways in which the Trump team has adopted a “Never-Mind-What-Trump-Said” approach to both matters.

In his first address at the CIA headquarters nearly one month ago, Trump bemoaned the United States not taking oil in 2003 after invading Iraq under former President George W. Bush. “The old expression, to the victor belong the spoils. We should’ve kept the oil. But, okay, maybe we’ll have another chance,” Trump said in his speech.

The author of Maddow’s blog, Steve Benen noted how just a few days later, Trump, in an interview with ABC news made the same statement four times. “We should have taken the oil,” he said. On Presidents’ Day, now exactly one month into Trump’s presidency, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited Iraq and said quite the opposite, telling reporters, “We’re not in Iraq to seize anybody’s oil.” This is what Benen refers to as the “Never-Mind-What-Trump-Said” policy.

Even between Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, the same approach is clear. Pence has appeared at odds with Trump’s views on various issues, but has had to clean up the mess while taking a united approach. Last fall, it appeared the two were not on the same page on the matter of climate change, which Trump believes is not man-made, while his vice president took the opposite view, at that time.

Benen commented on Pence’s recent trip to Europe, where he was apparently sent to clear up any confusion between the U.S. and “worried allies.” The Washington Post reported, Pence met with allies to explain, “despite what his boss may say, the United States remains committed to the security of Europe and to the historic transatlantic partnership.”

The Post noted, “Although the vice president repeatedly stressed that he was speaking on behalf of President Trump, the two men indeed seemed as though they were separated by an ocean.”

These various actions that are meant to appear as a united front on behalf of the Trump team, as the president continues to maintain views that seem opposition to his team all contribute to the policy that Benen outlines. However, he writes, “The dirty little secret of the ‘Never-Mind-What-Trump-Said’ approach to foreign policy is that it’s not a sustainable foreign policy at all.”

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Visit to UK by ‘petulant child’ Pig Trump would embarrass the Queen: British lawmakers

International Business Times
21 Feb 2017 at 01:55 ET
February 21, 2017
Vishakha Sonawane

President Donald Trump’s visit to the United Kingdom will cause an embarrassment to Queen Elizabeth II, according to British lawmakers who, on Monday, debated Trump’s state visit later this year. The debate came in response to an online petition that has so far garnered over 1.8 million signatures urging Prime Minister Theresa May to cancel her invitation to the American president.

Trump, 70, was called a “petulant child” and “racist and sexist” during the debate. Labour Party legislator Paul Flynn noted that only two U.S. presidents — George W. Bush and Barack Obama — had ever been invited to state visits to the country. He maintained that it was “completely unprecedented” that Trump was given this invitation within a week of his presidency and described the U.S. president having a “ceaseless incontinence of free speech.”

In order to stress his point, the 82-year-old Flynn quoted a British journalist, who spoke about “pimping out the queen” for Trump. The remark triggered an intervention from the Conservative lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg, who said: “I don’t think it’s in order to talk about pimping out our sovereign.”

David Lammy of Labour Party questioned why Britain should “abandon all its principles” and invite Trump, “because this country is so desperate for a trade deal that we would throw all our own history out the window?”

“We didn’t do this for Kennedy. We didn’t do this for Truman. We didn’t do this for Reagan. But for this man, after seven days, we say, ‘Please come and we will lay on everything because we are so desperate for your company?’” He added: “I am ashamed that it has come to this.”

However, Conservative lawmakers maintained that revoking the invitation would do more harm than good, with Member of Parliament Edward Leigh saying the rescinding the state visit would be "catastrophic" to the trans-Atlantic relationship.

"He is the duly elected president of the United States. ... It would be a disaster if this invitation is rescinded," Leigh said.

According to Rees-Mogg, opponents of Trump's visit were being hypocritical.

"What complaint did the honorable member make when Emperor Hirohito came here?" Rees-Mogg reportedly asked Flynn, referring to the highly controversial 1971 state visit of the Japanese emperor.

The three-hour long debate ended without a formal vote.

May invited Trump for the state visit when she met the U.S. president in the White House last month. The invitation prompted people to start the petition calling for the government to revoke the invitation, because of Trump’s “well documented misogyny and vulgarity," which "would cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen.”

State visits are different from official visits, and leaders of other countries are welcomed with royal and military ceremony. They stay at Buckingham Palace as the monarch’s guests. Both Bush and Obama were invited for state visits several years into their presidency.

*****

CIA veteran and NSC spokesperson scalds ‘deceitful, delusional’ Pig Trump as he quits agency

Tom Boggioni
Raw Story
20 Feb 2017 at 19:23 ET                  

In a blistering piece written for the Washington Post — with accompanying video — a CIA veteran went public with his resignation from the agency saying he could not see himself working for President Donald Trump.

In a rare public admission, analyst Edward Price, who recently served as the spokesperson for the National Security Council, claimed that Trump’s conduct — as well as his treatment of the intelligence agency — forced him to conclude that the newly-elected president is either “deceitful or delusional.”

According to Price, he had made plans to make a career at the agency and has served under Presidents from both parties, but he said Trump presents insurmountable problems.

“I watched in disbelief when, during the third presidential debate, Trump casually cast doubt on the high-confidence conclusion of our 17 intelligence agencies, released that month, that Russia was behind the hacking and release of election-related emails,” Price explained. “On the campaign trail and even as president-elect, Trump routinely referred to the flawed 2002 assessment of Iraq’s weapons programs as proof that the CIA couldn’t be trusted — even though the intelligence community had long ago held itself to account for those mistakes and Trump himself supported the invasion of Iraq.”

According to Price, he was appalled when Trump made his first appearance at CIA headquarters and bragged about his inauguration crowd in front of a memorial for fallen CIA officers.

“Trump’s actions in office have been even more disturbing. His visit to CIA headquarters on his first full day in office, an overture designed to repair relations, was undone by his ego and bluster,” he wrote. “Standing in front of a memorial to the CIA’s fallen officers, he seemed to be addressing the cameras and reporters in the room, rather than the agency personnel in front of them, bragging about his inauguration crowd the previous day. Whether delusional or deceitful, these were not the remarks many of my former colleagues and I wanted to hear from our new commander in chief.”

Price also suggested that the intelligence community will be impacted by the radical changes to the National Security Council where he was once a spokesperson.

“The final straw came late last month, when the White House issued a directive reorganizing the National Security Council, on whose staff I served from 2014 until earlier this year.” Price explained. “Missing from the NSC’s principals committee were the CIA director and the director of national intelligence. Added to the roster: the president’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, who cut his teeth as a media champion of white nationalism.”

 3 
 on: Feb 21, 2017, 07:14 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Far-right populism marches across Europe – but not in Iberia. Why not?

Right-wing extremist parties have seen increasing support across the continent, from France to Finland. But Spain and Portugal have bucked the trend.   


Catarina Fernandes Martins
CS Monitor
February 21, 2017 Lisbon—It's a good time to be a far-right populist in Europe.

Across the continent, radical right parties and politicians are enjoying successes they haven't seen since before the cold war. In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders' Freedom Party looks set to win the most seats in March elections. In Germany, the upstart Alternativ für Deutschland party is flowering. Even in famously egalitarian Scandinavia, right-wing parties like the Sweden Democrats and the Danish People's Party enjoy major support at the polls.

But then there's the Iberian Peninsula.

Portugal has been deemed “an oasis of stability” in the midst of Europe's far-right populism. In neighboring Spain, there’s no looming far-right presence, either. Ever since the two countries put an end to their right-wing dictatorships – that of António de Oliveira Salazar and Marcelo Caetano in Portugal, and of Francisco Franco in Spain – in the 1970s, and even amid the rising nationalist and far-right sentiments sweeping across Europe today, the Iberian Peninsula has steadfastly remained averse to far-right politics.

Part of the reason why may be the two countries' own histories – their respective experiences with their own far-right dictators and their remoteness from the immigration that is agitating the right wing in much of Europe. But there may also be more broadly applicable lessons within the Iberian political systems, which have proven better able to integrate protest parties than other Western governments.

Far-right parties do exist on the Iberian Peninsula, but their presence – and more significantly, their political power – is negligible. That may be due in part to the lack of concern in Spain and Portugal over one of European populists' main concerns: Muslim immigration.

Both Portuguese and Spanish citizens have responded supportively to the current refugee crisis, welcoming refugees fleeing Mideast violence. A BBC World Service poll found Spain the most welcoming of all countries, with 84 percent of the population agreeing to take in Syrian refugees. While most Europeans place immigration in the top two causes for concern in their countries, a Eurobarometer survey showed Portuguese rank immigration among their lowest concerns.

Similarly, the only Portuguese party that has recently made anti-immigration speeches, the National Renovator Party, gathered only 0.5 percent of the vote in a national election. In Spain, the right is largely grouped within the conservative Popular Party. And while the PP does have a stronger position on some immigration issues, it hasn’t indulged in racist rhetoric.

Even in the recent past, when Islamic terrorists targeted Spain in 2004, killing almost 200 people and injuring some 2,000 more, Islamophobia didn't surge. Some suggest that the country's long and painful history of vicious political violence and the resulting moderating response from the political elite might have helped tamp down far-right reaction then.

“Spaniards have had to deal with terrorist attacks by the [Basque] separatist organization ETA. The Spanish public opinion slowly learned not to descend into a spiral of rhetorical and political violence,"  says Spanish political scientist Miguel Ángel Simón. "The major parties paved the way when they signed the Antiterrorism Pact in December 2000. In it, they agreed not to use terrorism as a political weapon. The same philosophy determined a new agreement against radical Islamist terrorism, after 2004."

The peculiar legacy of the recent brutal fascist dictatorships in Iberia might also help explain these countries’ tolerance for foreigners, says Xavier Casals, a Spanish historian of the far right. “The fascist dictatorships in Portugal had a Catholic base, which promoted an egalitarian worldview, instead of a racist one,” he says. In particular, the Portuguese dictatorship promoted equality between its European population and those who lived in its colonies. That policy may have helped mitigate the sort of distrust of outsiders affecting other European countries today, Mr. Casals says.

Of course, neither Spain nor Portugal has experienced the sort of influx of refugees that Germany and other countries did last year, so there is little evidence how the two countries might in practice tolerate immigrants. Iberia has traditionally exported emigrants far more than it has welcomed foreigners. In the 1950s and 1960s, millions of Portuguese and Spanish moved abroad in search of better lives. In the past five years, record youth unemployment has caused many young people in both countries to follow suit.

“We can’t say what would happen in Portugal if there were refugees camping in Lisbon’s main squares,” says António Costa Pinto, of the University of Lisbon's Institute of Social Sciences.
More voice for 'protest parties'

The absence of far-right parties may not simply be a result of political substance, though. Some argue that it's also a side effect of the political systems of Spain and Portugal, which makes their parliaments more accessible to "protest" parties – and helps temper their rhetoric.

“It’s very hard for a party that gathers 4 percent of the vote to have a seat in the US Congress, but that’s possible in both Portugal and Spain,” says Mr. Costa Pinto. "For years, there wasn’t a single National Front MP in the French parliament despite the fact that this party gathered 16 percent of the vote."

“In the Portuguese and the Spanish parliaments there are radical parties, but because they’re integrated to the system, they don’t sound or act so radical,” Mr. Costa Pinto adds. “No one wants to hear this, but integration is key. Integrating the more radical political parties diminishes their ‘against the elites’ appeal, and bulletproofs the system against electors’ revolts. To integrate the far right might be a risk, but it’s a risk inherent to any democracy.”

Mr. Ángel Simón is less confident about the opportunity cost of this approach.

“It’s not clear whether an integration strategy works better than ostracism. More-open electoral systems favor integration, but increase the risk of normalization. Jean Marie Le Pen [the founder of France's National Front] has always said that the real battle was the battle for the ideas," he says. "Normalization can open the door for this kind of parties to put forward their political agendas."

 4 
 on: Feb 21, 2017, 07:11 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Marine Le Pen's Front National headquarters raided by police

French far-right party dismisses police search as ‘media operation whose goal is to disturb course of presidential campaign’

Kim Willsher in Paris
AFP
Monday 20 February 2017 18.08 GMT

French police searched the headquarters of Marine Le Pen’s far-right Front National on Monday evening as part of an official investigation into “fake” jobs involving the misuse of European Union funds to pay for a bodyguard and an assistant in Paris.

Brussels investigators claim Le Pen paid her bodyguard, Thierry Légier, more than €41,500 (£35,350) between October and December 2011, by falsely claiming he was an EU parliamentary assistant. She is also accused of paying nearly €298,000 between December 2010 and 2016 to her France-based assistant Catherine Griset.

To qualify as a parliamentary assistant, the person needs to be physically working in one of the European parliament’s three offices in Brussels, Strasbourg or Luxembourg and be resident near that workplace.

The European anti-fraud office (Olaf) has insisted Le Pen, 48, a frontrunner in France’s presidential campaign, repay the money, a total of €340,000. She has refused and is currently having it deducted from her MEP’s salary.

An FN statement claimed Monday’s raids were an attempt to “disturb the smooth running of the presidential campaign and to sink Marine Le Pen at the moment her campaign is making strides with voting intentions”.

French investigators opened a preliminary inquiry for fraud in December following Olaf’s claims and Monday’s raids on the FN officers were part of their search for evidence.

Her refusal to repay the money by the end of January deadline meant her MEP pay will be halved to around €3,000 from this month and most of her allowances and expenses frozen. In total she is expected to lose around €7,000 a month.

Le Pen said she refused to “submit to persecution”.

“I formally contest this unilateral and illegal decision taken by political opponents ... without proof and without waiting for a judgment from the court action I have started,” Le Pen told Reuters.

An opinion poll on Monday put Le Pen seven points clear of the centrist outsider Emmanuel Macron and his conservative rival François Fillon, who are tied on 20%, in the first round. But the Front National leader would lose to both Macron and Fillon in the May 7 run-off, the poll predicted, by margins of 16 and 12 points respectively.

Three other FN members of the European parliament, including Le Pen’s father and party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, have been ordered by the European court to reimburse around €600,000 of allegedly misused money.

Le Pen père has been told to repay €320,000 of salary and benefits, Bruno Gollnisch, a former academic convicted of Holocaust denial, €275,984, and MEP Mylène Troszczynski, €56,500. All three deny any wrongdoing and had challenged the reimbursement demand saying it would leave them unable to carry out their MEP duties. Last week, the court rejected their appeal and ruled the recovery of the money should go ahead.

Marine Le Pen is the second French presidential contender under investigation in “fake” jobs scandals. Centre right candidate François Fillon is facing accusations over claims he paid his British wife Penelope around €830,000 as a parliamentary assistant for more than a decade, and also paid his two eldest children Marie and Charles a total of €84,000 as assistants while he was a senator. French MPs and senators are allowed to employ family members, as long as the person is genuinely employed. Anti-fraud police are now looking into what, if anything, Penelope Fillon did.

After the Fillon scandal broke in January, Fillon said he would stand down if he was charged with an offence. However, last week, after the financial court refused to drop the case, Fillon appeared to backtrack on this pledge, saying he would continue to run and allow the “universal electorate” to decide.

Monday’s raids on the FN offices at Nanterre, just outside Paris, came as Le Pen was trying to raise her international profile with a two-day visit to Lebanon, where she reiterated her pro-Syria regime stance. Le Pen, who is running on an anti-immigration, anti-European platform said the only “viable and workable solution” to the Syrian civil war was the choice of either Bashar al-Assad or Islamic State.

“I clearly explained that in the political picture, the least bad option is the politically realistic one. It appears that Bashar al-Assad is evidently the most reassuring solution for France,” she said.

Associated Press reported that a summary of Le Pen’s meeting with the Lebanese prime minister, Saad Hariri, showed he had objected to what he saw as Le Pen’s stigmatisation of Muslims.

“Muslims are the first victims [of terrorism],” he was reported as saying adding that moderate Muslims were the “first bulwark against extremism”.

“The worst mistake would be the amalgam between Islam and Muslims on one hand and terrorism on the other,” he added, according to AP.

Le Pen was the second French presidential candidate to travel to Lebanon, following former Socialist minister Emmanuel Macron’s visit in January.

 5 
 on: Feb 21, 2017, 07:05 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Is Finland’s basic universal income a solution to automation, fewer jobs and lower wages?

Both left and right are promoting the idea of a basic wage for everyone, currently on trial, as a solution to the new world of work

Sonia Sodha
AFP
21 February 2017 07.00 GMT

When he got the letter after Christmas saying he was entitled to an unconditional income of €560 (£478) a month, Mika Ruusunen couldn’t believe his luck. “At first I thought it was a joke. I had to read it many times. I looked for any evidence it might be false.”

But the father of two was not the victim of a scam. He has been selected to take part in an experiment being run by the Finnish government, in which 2,000 unemployed people between the ages of 25 and 58 will receive a guaranteed sum – a “basic income” – of €560 a month for two years. It replaces their unemployment benefit, but they will continue to receive it whether or not they find work. The government hopes it will encourage the unemployed to take on part-time work without worrying about losing their benefits.

Ruusunen lives in Kangasala, a half-hour bus ride from where we meet in Tampere, the country’s second city, known as the “Manchester of Finland”. Like its namesake, the signs of the 19th-century wealth generated by the industrial revolution are strikingly visible.

Today, the Finnish economy continues to struggle in the wake of the financial crisis, which hit just as communications giant Nokia’s star was starting to wane. This left Ruusunen, who lost his job as a baker two years ago, struggling to find work. He was unemployed when participants for the basic income pilot were randomly selected, but had started a paid IT apprenticeship by the time he got the letter.

“For me, it’s like free money on top of my earnings – it’s a bonus,” he tells me. But he thinks the basic income will make a big difference to others who are unemployed, especially those who are entrepreneurially minded. “If someone wants to start their own business, you don’t get unemployment benefits even if you don’t have any income for six months. You have to have savings, otherwise it’s not possible.”

Juha Järvinen, another participant in the pilot scheme who lives in western Finland, agrees the benefits system holds the unemployed back. He has been unemployed for five years since his business collapsed. “I have done a lot for free – wedding videos, making web pages – because I’ve liked it. But before a basic income I would get into trouble if I got any money for that work.”

Finland’s experiment is a variation on the idea of a universal basic income: an unconditional income paid by the government to all citizens, whether or not they’re in work. The Finns have long been perceived to be at the cutting edge of social innovation, so this is a fitting setting for the first national experiment of its kind.

But the idea of the basic income has captured a zeitgeist extending far beyond the borders of Scandinavia. Enthusiasts include Silicon Valley’s Elon Musk, former Clinton labour secretary Robert Reich, Benoît Hamon, the French socialist presidential candidate, and South Korean presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung. On Friday, Glasgow city council commissioned a feasibility study for its own basic income pilot.

The basic income is a big idea with a pedigree. It owes its roots to Thomas Paine, the 18th-century radical, who in 1797 proposed paying all 21-year-olds a £15 grant funded through a tax on landowners. Since then it has captured the imagination of many a philosopher, but until the past couple of years never gained much political traction beyond the fringes.

So what explains the sudden jump this centuries-old idea has made from political fringes to the mainstream?

An idea whose time has come?

There is now a growing band of politicians, entrepreneurs and policy strategists who argue that a basic income could potentially hold the solution to some of the big problems of our time. Some of these new converts have alighted upon the basic income as an answer to our fragmenting welfare state. They point to the increasingly precarious nature of today’s labour market for those in low-paid, low-skilled work: growing wage inequality, an increasing number of part-time and temporary jobs, and rogue employers routinely getting away with exploitative practices.

This grim reality collides with an increasingly punitive welfare state. Our welfare system was originally designed as a contributory system of unemployment insurance, in which workers put in during the good times, and took out during temporary periods of unemployment. But a big chunk of welfare spending now goes on permanently supporting people in jobs that don’t pay enough to support their families. As the contributory principle has been eroded, politicians have sought to create a new sense of legitimacy by loading the system with sanctions that dock jobseeker benefits for minor transgressions.

Anthony Painter, a director at the RSA thinktank, paints a picture that will be familiar to viewers of Ken Loach’s film, I, Daniel Blake. “You are late for a jobcentre appointment – so you get a sanction. You’re on a college course the jobcentre doesn’t think appropriate, so you get a sanction. Your benefits are paid late, so you face debt, rent arrears and the food bank. That’s the reality for millions on low or no pay – they are surrounded by tripwires with little chance of escape.”

Painter thinks a universal basic income of just under £4,000 a year could change all that. By itself, it wouldn’t be enough to take someone out of poverty, but it could give them the flexibility to retrain or the breathing room to wait to take a job that has prospects rather than being forced into taking the first vacancy that comes along.

The Finnish government shares Painter’s thinking. “The social security system has become complex over time, and needs simplification,” Pirkko Mattila, the minister for social affairs and health, tells me. She hopes participants in the Finnish pilot will find it easier to take short-term jobs and start their own businesses.

Marjukka Turunen, the civil servant implementing the pilot, points to the bureaucracy and uncertainty involved in declaring temporary income. “If you have a part-time job you have to apply for your benefit every four weeks,” she says. “You might have lots of different employers, and you’ll need to wait to get payslips from all of them. Then it takes another one or two weeks to process your payment. You don’t know how much you’ll get and when, which means you can’t plan ahead.”

A second set of basic income converts articulate a grander case, grounded not so much in the breakdown of the current welfare state, but in a world where the rise of robots means many of us will no longer have to work. We will be free to enjoy lives of leisure – but without work, we will all need a source of income.

This view has become fashionable in the wake of a series of headline-grabbing estimates about the proportion of jobs susceptible to automation. In 2013 Carl Frey and Michael Osborne at the Oxford Martin School predicted that 47% of jobs in the US were at risk of being automated “relatively soon, perhaps the next decade or two”. They foresaw innovations such as driverless technology replacing jobs such as driving a taxi, road haulage and dispatch driving.

These predictions have led some mainstream thinkers, such as Robert Reich, to warn that a future bereft of jobs may be looming. “Imagine a little gadget called an i-Everything,” Reich wrote last September. “This little machine will be able to do everything you want and give you everything you need.” He argued that, with fewer jobs, resources will need to be redistributed from those who own the technology of the future to the rest of us who want to buy it. According to Reich, a universal basic income “will almost certainly be part of the answer”.

In some quarters, then, a basic income is developing a reputation as the aspirin of the public policy world: a wonder drug that fixes multiple problems, from issues with the benefits system to replacing the jobs some argue will disappear from our lives. What’s the catch?
Who will pay for a universal basic income?

The most obvious one is expense: it’s not cheap to pay every citizen an unconditional income. Even incremental proposals cost sums that would raise eyebrows in Whitehall. Painter estimates his proposal for a basic annual income of just under £4,000 would cost around £18bn a year, and that’s after scrapping the personal tax allowance to help pay for it. That’s the equivalent of a 3p rise in the basic rate of income tax. The state would still need to keep paying housing and disability benefits on top of that. Make it more generous, and the costs escalate rapidly.

The expense is only a problem as long as the public are reluctant to pay for it. Polling that shows support for the idea of a basic income – one poll in Europe suggested 64% of adults back the idea – invariably fails to ask voters whether they would be prepared to countenance the sort of tax levels needed to fund it. A basic income would therefore require a fundamental shift in our politics: leaders who are comfortable advocating unpopular tax rises. A proposal for an undetermined level of basic income was rejected by 78% of Swiss voters in a referendum last year, although that may partly be explained by the fact that campaigners were calling for a very generous income level of £1,765 a month.

It’s not just the expense: critics warn that a universal basic income is unlikely to deliver the benefits its advocates claim. “The current [benefits] system is draconian, but it doesn’t need to be,” points out Declan Gaffney, an expert on social security who recently gave evidence to the Commons work and pensions select committee on basic income. “It would be disingenuous to use its problems as a bully pulpit for basic income.” He has also highlighted the risk that removing the obligation for those on benefits to look for work might encourage some people to drift into long-term worklessness.

More fundamentally, many labour market economists have challenged the notion that robots will steal our jobs. Jobs have disappeared throughout history as a result of technological advance: you would be hard-pressed to find many washerwomen since washing machines became ubiquitous. But the economy has always created new jobs to replace the ones that disappear.

Predictions about the end of work are hardly new. In 1891, Oscar Wilde wrote about a world where machines did all the work in his essay The Soul of Man Under Socialism. John Maynard Keynes predicted back in the 1930s that technology would allow us all to cut down to a 15-hour working week.

“I’m old enough to remember exactly the same arguments about the end of work being made 30 years ago – then it was about de-industrialisation, now it is about automation,” says Gaffney. “The lesson from that period is not that we should pay people to stay out of the labour market. It is don’t park people when they lose their jobs. If you expect large-scale job destruction, you need to put policies in place to support people into new jobs. That didn’t happen in the 1980s to the extent it should. As a result, a lot of people who lost jobs never worked again.”

Peter Nolan, professor of work at Leicester University and director of the Centre for Sustainable Work and Employment Futures, says the end-of-work thesis is based on unrealistic assumptions about the private sector. “Many predictions about the number of jobs that will be automated in coming years are based on what’s technologically possible, not evidence about the extent to which and how companies will choose to deploy technology,” he says.

“It’s wrong to move straight from talking about automation to the need for a basic income, without talking about what is happening in the workplace and how we address that. Our work has produced quite a significant body of evidence that some industries are combining advances in technology with degraded work and conditions.”

He points to several examples of sectors where the end-of-work thesis simply isn’t playing out. In the logistics sector, companies are using technology not to replace warehouse staff and couriers, but to put them under increasing surveillance to control their working patterns, reducing employee autonomy, skill and dignity. Wrist-based technology allows bosses to monitor activity minute-by-minute, including bathroom breaks.

In the East Midlands, garment manufacturing has, after a long period of decline and moving production abroad, started to grow again. But Nolan’s centre found that three-quarters of these jobs pay around £3 an hour, less than half the minimum wage. As a result of a lack of minimum wage enforcement, companies in the UK are, under the radar, returning to the sweatshop-style labour of the past. Nolan argues that we should be focusing on properly enforcing minimum wage legislation and improving employment conditions through regulation.

Some argue there is even a risk a basic income could facilitate this sort of exploitation. Unscrupulous employers might further embrace precarious employment models, in the knowledge that everyone is getting a basic income to tide them over. This is what worries Antti Jauhiainen, the founder of Parecon Finland, a radical economic thinktank in Helsinki. “I think CEOs in the Silicon Valley tech industry recognise a basic income could be good for them because it would allow a platform like Uber to keep payments to drivers low,” he says.

And why is Silicon Valley fronting up the case for a basic income while some of its biggest success stories – Apple and Facebook – go to all lengths necessary to massively reduce their tax bills? It’s hard not to feel that in doing so the tech sector is passing the buck on to the state while ignoring its own responsibilities to the societies from which it profits.

Jauhiainen is a supporter of basic income in principle. But he thinks it is significant the Finnish pilot has been introduced by a centre-right government that has embraced austerity. “In the current political climate, it could turn bad,” he says.

The Finnish left are divided on the pilot: some see it as a step in the right direction towards a universal basic income. But Finnish unions have historically opposed it, fearing it will eat into their collective bargaining power, and that it may be a way for the right to scrap minimum-wage requirements.

These fears that the basic income could be used as a tool for the right’s own ends are far from baseless. American libertarians such as Charles Murray have long argued that a basic income could be used to do away with the welfare state altogether. In Britain, the way in which Conservative chancellors have steadily delivered tax cuts that disproportionately help more affluent families, while cutting the means-tested benefits relied on by those in the greatest financial need, should sound a note of caution.
Is basic income an idea that can save the left?

Unions in the UK are much more enthusiastic, perhaps because they have less to lose than their Finnish counterparts which have retained greater collective bargaining power. Becca Kirkpatrick is a community organiser and chairs Unison’s West Midlands community branch. One reason she is attracted to a basic income is because of her own experience as a part-time carer. “If I had a basic income, I could invest a lot more into supporting my younger sister, who is disabled,” she says.

Kirkpatrick won her branch’s backing for the idea, and Unison West Midlands is asking candidates for West Midlands mayor to commit to piloting a basic income.

Nikki Dancey, branch secretary for the GMB in Berkshire and North Hampshire, is another grassroots union member involved in the campaign. “A basic income could offer enough financial security to encourage workers to stand up for themselves at work, strengthening the union movement,” she says.

The basic income has now been endorsed by the TUC, the GMB and Unite. “The left and the unions have taken a hammering in recent years, and what we need now is a big win. Universal basic income has the potential to be that win,” says Dancey.

Others on the left agree. John McDonnell, Labour’s shadow chancellor, has previously made welcoming noises about a basic income. Earlier this month he announced he was setting up a working group to look at the idea. Since it lost power in 2010, the Labour party has been in search of an answer to the de-industrialisation, growing wage inequality and economic insecurity that proved fertile territory for the Brexit campaign. Ed Miliband’s responsible capitalism was roundly rejected by voters at the ballot box in 2015. Perhaps, then, it is worth trying something new.

Jon Cruddas, the MP for Dagenham and Rainham, is a passionate dissenter. I spoke to him last year for a Radio 4 programme on the basic income. “I don’t see [Sports Direct owner] Mike Ashley moving into a post-work world or automating his mass factories in the West and East Midlands,” he said. “Where is the evidence of this? We’re seeing more and more degraded work.”

Cruddas worries that basic income risks distracting the left from its age-old mission to improve the quality of work. “The left has not resolved the question of giving people a genuine voice at work so as to enact a more dignified workplace.

“But that does not mean you absolve yourself for trying to find the answers to this by embracing a form of futurology that owes more to Arthur C Clarke than Karl Marx. I see this as an abdication of the political struggle across the left. I find that tragic.”

Cruddas is surely right that any account of the intertwined struggle for economic and political power seems missing from these new left accounts that advocate for a basic income on the basis of the end of work. It’s hard to envisage the robot owners of the future paying the rest of us a basic income when today’s tech giants do everything in their power to avoid paying tax. Ditch the idea that work should pay decently, and what remains for the left? There’s no contest between the science fiction of Arthur C Clarke and the class struggle of Karl Marx: the left abandons Marx at its peril.

For Mika Ruusunen in Tampere, though, a basic income helps him make sense of our changing world. “We now have more freelancing, part-time jobs and people with multiple jobs than ever before,” he says. “I see a basic income as a natural reaction to our changing economic culture.”

But, given divisions on the left in the UK, and a lack of interest from politicians of the right, basic income-supporting trade unionists such as Becca Kirkpatrick could face a long fight ahead.

NO-STRINGS CASH – FROM PRINCIPLE TO PRACTICE

The idea of the universal basic income is that the government pays every adult citizen the basic cost of living. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, in work or unemployed – everyone gets the same amount. There are no strings attached.

After years spent on the margins of political thought, the universal basic income has, over the past year, gained traction among mainstream thinktanks and some in the Labour party. It has also been backed by Silicon Valley, including, last week, Tesla founder Elon Musk.

Trials of UBI are taking place around the world, including in the Netherlands, Italy and Finland. In the UK, the Scottish government is considering pilot schemes in Glasgow and Fife.

Supporters of UBI say that as technology changes the world of work, the current benefits system is becoming irrelevant. A universal basic income could, they argue, protect the increasing numbers working in an insecure labour market and moving between zero-hours contracts and part-time jobs.

 6 
 on: Feb 21, 2017, 07:01 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Famine looms in four countries as aid system struggles to cope, experts warn

Campaigners say tens of millions in urgent need in Yemen, South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia are in hands of an overwhelmed, outdated humanitarian network

Karen McVeigh and Ben Quinn
AFP
Sunday 12 February 2017 10.38 GMT

Famine is looming in four different countries, threatening unprecedented levels of hunger and a global crisis that is already stretching the aid and humanitarian system like never before, experts and insiders warn.

Tens of millions of people in need of food aid in Yemen, South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia are at the mercy not only of an overwhelmed aid system but also the protracted, mainly conflict-driven crises in their own countries, the humanitarian leaders say.

While the generosity of donors has risen sixfold over the past 20 years, unprecedented levels of humanitarian suffering have overtaken financial support. Donor funding reached a record high last year but only half of the requirements were met, according to the UN’s humanitarian chief, Stephen O’Brien.

Gareth Owen, humanitarian director of Save the Children, said: “The potential this year is we may have four famines looming, which is a truly scary thought and will stretch our resources. We are at a critical moment.”

Owen, who has 25 years’ experience working in the Horn of Africa, said the situation there bears comparison with Somalia before the famine that killed 260,000 people between 2010 and 2012.

“Right now, in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, there are 12 million people affected [by food insecurity]. These three countries together look as bad as Somalia in 2011. If you add South Sudan on top of that, with that conflict, and Nigeria, you have millions more. And Yemen has 18 million people. That’s creating this real concern that we are facing a major crisis that we have not seen before.”

The UN has launched a $2.1bn (£1.6bn) appeal for Yemen this year, its largest ever for the country. It is requesting a record $22.2bn overall in 2017, an increase on the $22.1bn asked for in 2016.

Mark Goldring, the CEO of Oxfam, said that while he believes the increased donations mean more vulnerable people than ever are being reached, it is no longer enough.

“If we look back over the last 20 years, funds have increased sixfold, so within that there is a positive story that we are reaching many of the people in need,” said Goldring. “But neither the funding nor the capacity is enough.”

Oxfam’s policy adviser, Debbie Hillier, described the humanitarian system as “medieval”, likening the appeal procedure to someone whose house was burning down having to raise money to pay the fire brigade to extinguish it.

Goldring shares Hillier’s belief that reform is crucial. “We can’t carry on relying on individual appeal after appeal, because they are time-bound and partial – they play to what’s in the news.”

The complexity of the current humanitarian crises also play a part, Goldring said. The potential famine areas flagged up in January by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, a US-based agency, are conflict-related.

According to Goldring, aid workers are struggling to reach people due to security constraints in these countries. He contrasted the situation last year in Ethiopia with the potential famines in conflict zones like Yemen.

“Last year I went to Ethiopia at the height of the food shortage. I was told in terms of food and crops that it was worse than the famine of 1985. But in terms of supplies it was much, much [better]. That’s because the government and the international system was working better.

“There will be hunger in Kenya, but it won’t compare to the level of suffering in Somalia.”
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In South Sudan, which UN investigators have warned is on the brink of genocide, the government remains one of the biggest impediments towards famine being declared. All factions in the country’s civil war have been accused of using hunger as a weapon of war, and humanitarian groups complain that attacks on aid workers and bureaucratic interference are preventing supplies reaching tens of thousands of people. Results from the latest situation analysis by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification – the body that provides evidence to governments to enable them to declare a famine – are due to be published in the next two weeks.

Sara Pantuliano, managing director at the Overseas Development Institute, said the aid system needs a complete overhaul to respond to the needs of a changing world.

“What is scandalous is that we are in 2017 and we still have to think about a famine where we should be able to manage things so that we don’t get into that situation,” said Pantuliano.

She said 80% of the situations where humanitarians work are “protracted and predictable”, yet the models are designed for an immediate crisis (pdf).

A joint Unicef-World Food Programme study in 2014 concluded that increased investment in risk-prone areas could reduce humanitarian response costs by more than 50%.

“We are definitely seeing an increase in the level and magnitude of need,” said Pantuliano. “But it’s also because the system is ineffective and doesn’t use resources in a timely way. Very often the response is too late.

“We know where we might end up in June if the response is not dramatic, and enough.”

Humanitarian groups have warned there is only a small window in which to avoid a repeat of the 2011 famine in Somalia, where hundreds of thousands of people starved to death after a slow response from donors.

Toby Lanzer, the UN’s senior humanitarian representative in Africa’s Sahel region, said: “It’s fair to say that today there really are more mega-crises, if you want to call them that, than we have had to deal with before. Donor purses are very stretched and at the same time you have publics, whether it is here in Britain or elsewhere, who are thinking: ‘This Syria thing has been going on forever, we are paying and my A&E [service] in Burnley is not working that well.’

“On the one hand you have these crises, a public that is more reticent and you also have a press in Britain that does not understand the nuances of why aid makes a lot of sense.”

Another factor in the mix for increasingly complex humanitarian crises is the lack of reporting on the ground. Yemen and South Sudan, for instance, appear at the top of a list of most dangerous countries for journalists, according to Reporters Without Borders.

While the food security situation in Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen is being monitored by the Disasters Emergency Committee, an organisation that coordinates disaster response on behalf of 13 British charities, it is running an emergency appeal for only one, Yemen.

“The DEC has built up a good reputation with the public, so if we launch an appeal they know that something bad is happening,” said Saleh Saaed, the head of the organisation.

So far, the other three crises do not meet DEC’s criteria – unmet humanitarian need on a large scale, DEC members on the ground in the country concerned, and public sympathy, which the organisation acknowledges is difficult to measure. However, media coverage offers a useful proxy, according to Saeed.

“Sadly, although they are covered [by the media] it is not sustained enough to appeal to the British public,” said Saeed.

The Yemen appeal, which has raised £17m since its launch in December, followed strong broadcast reporting from BBC’s Fergal Keane, Channel 4’s Krishnan Guru-Murthy and others from inside the country.

Saaed acknowledged the difficulties of the current system of appeals, describing it as “chicken and egg”.

“Everyone knows if we responded in a better resourced way and earlier on, we could reduce the suffering and save lives and it would be cheaper,” said Saeed. “As a global community we haven’t been able to tackle this issue of how do you address famine? How do you get the resources before it’s too late?”

 7 
 on: Feb 21, 2017, 06:58 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Cucumber seeds and beekeeping kits: the new ways of fighting famine

A complex – and innovative – aid operation to save millions of lives in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria is under way, but success hinges on donors meeting the $5.6bn cost

Ben Quinn
AFP
Tuesday 21 February 2017 08.24 GMT

Step out of Juba’s makeshift tented terminal and you’ll see them lined up along the tarmac as far as the eye can see: hulking white cargo planes stamped with the acronyms of UN aid agencies and NGOs.

But the fleets of aircraft that dominate the airport of South Sudan’s capital are just one part of a complex and sophisticated humanitarian response to famine, which was declared in parts of the country’s north on Monday and looms simultaneously in three other countries for the first time in modern history.

Aid these days for countries like Yemen, Somalia, Nigeria and South Sudan - where eight airdrops of food are planned on Tuesday to some of the country’s worst affected communities - means far more than just sacks of grain being trucked out to remote areas. The material being delivered today includes highly nutritious “super cereals”, seeds and tools for fishermen and farmers, even boat engines, irrigation pipes and beekeeping kits.

Non-food aid, too, is increasingly prominent, with cash transfers delivered via credit cards for use in local markets and tracked by aid planners.

For those at the centre of masterminding a massive food distribution push already under way, however, the difference between success and failure hinges on whether donors will stump up the more than $5.6bn (£4.5bn) requested to tackle food insecurity in the four countries.

“There are a huge number of crises in the world, and to have four countries on the brink of famine at the same time is unprecedented,” says Denise Brown, director of emergencies at the World Food Programme (WFP), the word’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger.

“We have never seen that before and with all of these crises, they are protracted situations and they require significant financing. The international community has got to find a way of stepping up to manage this situation until political solutions are found,” she adds.

A veteran of Somalia’s 2011 famine, which claimed the lives of more than a quarter of a million people, one of Brown’s priorities is scaling up its food assistance caseload for the country to reach 2.5 million people, up from 500,000.

On Tuesday, Save the Children, warned that the crisis in Somalia could be worse than 2011. An estimated 363,000 children are already malnourished, and the organisation’s staff have recently been seeing a significant increase in severe cases coming through the doors of their clinics.

While Somalia is receiving more cash transfers, food aid is also being stored in huge warehouses in Mogadishu after being shipped north from the Kenyan port of Mombasa with guards armed against the continued threat of pirates.

For South Sudan, where access to various parts of the country continues to be denied to aid groups amid government offensives against rebels, the response is a blended one. Airdrops have been under way for some time using large Soviet-designed Iluyshin II-76 cargo planes flying out from Ethiopia or Uganda, often piloted by Ukrainians. In the first two weeks of February, 77 airdrops were made.

Both South Sudan, where 100,000 people are facing starvation, and Somalia are receiving basic foodstocks – tending towards sorghum, pulses and vegetable oil in the former with rice and enriched oil going to the latter – both are also getting large quantities of the two main kinds of specialised nutrition products.

One is super cereal, a fortified blend of maize and soy flour aimed at young children and other vulnerable groups such as pregnant and nursing women. The other range of products are the peanut-based pastes designed to prevent malnutrition and treat starving children such as Plumpy’sup and Plumpy’nut, dubbed one of the 21st century’s true superfoods.

Brown says that though Plumpy’sup is usually given to children under the age of two, WFP’s distributions have been expanded to include all children under five in north-eastern Nigeria due to the severity of the situation there.

While air drops are not taking place in Nigeria, teams of specialists are being helicoptered into remote areas, where they remain for up to a week assessing levels of malnutrition before food is sent in on trucks, being careful to avoid the ongoing offensive by Nigerian security forces against Boko Haram.

At least 70% of the food being distributed comes from local markets, according to Brown, although the plan is to move more towards cash transfers, a form of aid that has recently come under attack in the UK.

Nigeria was among the first countries where an emergency response in a conflict setting was launched with cash. The technology used is Scope (System of Cash Operations): people are given electronic cards, on which they register their information and fingerprints. In the same way as a debit card, it connects to the database to confirm the individual’s identity. When they are used in a shop, the sum spent is deducted from the balance on the card.

In Yemen, aid efforts have been complicated by the bitter conflict pitting the Saudi-led coalition of Gulf countries and the government against Houthi rebels; the country imported 90% of its food even before the conflict. While making airdrops of food, Saudi forces have also been allegedly targeting warehouses and factories storing and processing foodstuffs.

WFP has been shipping in 70% of its food through Hodeidah port and about 30% through Aden.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has been trucking in 35,000 “livelihood assistance kits” tailored to the needs of different groups. Fishing communities get sets containing an ice-box, boat engine and a GPS/fish finder, while farmers get kits with irrigation pipes and bags of cucumber seeds. Beekeeping and dairy kits are also on offer.

The response in all four countries comes amid warnings that efforts are being severely hampered by the lack of funding. The percentage of funds given by donors so far to this year’s global humanitarian appeals amount to 0.9% for South Sudan, 1.7% for Somalia, 1.8% for Nigeria, and 2% for Yemen.

Reluctant to criticise donors, the WFP uses a system of historical trend analysis, which enables it to estimate in advance how generous – or stingy – donor countries are likely to be.

However, the UN refugees agency, one of the 120 organisations in need of funding from the overall humanitarian response plan for Yemen, has gone on the record to warn that its operations in the state are facing a critical shortfall in funding as conditions deteriorate further.

Even before this year’s appeals pick up, funding for all four crises from last year remain low. The Nigerian appeal is only 52% funded, for Somalia the figure is 54% and for Yemen 57%. South Sudan’s appeal received 85%.

Pressure is meanwhile building ahead of a major international conference being hosted by Nigeria, Norway and Germany in Oslo on Friday to focus attention on and increase the financial support for the crisis in north-eastern Nigeria and the wider Lake Chad Basin region.

Jamie Drummond, co-founder of campaigning organisation One, said: “We cannot afford another half-hearted response as witnessed last year.

“Donors need to move faster and be better coordinated. Lack-lustre support will have disastrous consequences for the millions in need this year, and in the long-term.”

A statement from One, and endorsed by 16 NGOs including Médecins Sans Frontières, Oxfam and the International Rescue Committee, said that governments, the UN, NGOs and donors had all been slow to acknowledge the scale of what was described as Africa’s biggest humanitarian and protection crisis.

 8 
 on: Feb 21, 2017, 06:54 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Climate scepticism is a far-right badge of honour – even in sweltering Australia

Paul Mason

It’s up to progressives to fight back against this idiocy-promoting rhetoric and save the Earth
Australians are quickly finding out where anti-climate science rhetoric gets you, with more devastating bushfires and a longer fire season.

Monday 20 February 2017 18.14 GMT
AFP

It hits you in the face and clings to you. It makes tall buildings whine as their air conditioning plants struggle to cope. It makes the streets deserted and the ice-cold salons of corner pubs get crowded with people who don’t like beer. It is the Aussie heatwave: and it is no joke.

Temperatures in the western suburbs of Sydney, far from the upmarket beachside glamour, reached 47C (117F) last week, topping the 44C I experienced there the week before. For reference, if it reached 47C in the middle of the Sahara desert, that would be an unusually hot day.

For Sydney, 2017 was the hottest January on record. This after 2016 was declared the world’s hottest year on record. Climate change, even in some developed societies, is becoming climate disruption – and according to a UN report, one of the biggest disruptions may only now be getting under way.

El Niño, a temperature change in the Pacific ocean that happens cyclically, may have begun interacting with the long-term process of global warming, with catastrophic results.

Can we afford to tackle climate change?

Let’s start by admitting the science is not conclusive. El Niño disrupts the normal pattern by which warm water flows westwards across the Pacific, pulling the wind in the same direction; it creates storms off South America and droughts – together with extreme temperatures – in places such as Australia. It is an irregular cycle, lasting between two and seven years, and therefore can only be theorised using models.

Some of these models predict that, because of climate change, El Niño will happen with increased frequency – possibly double. Others predict the effects will become more devastating, due to the way the sub-systems within El Niño react with each other as the air and sea warm.

What cannot be disputed is that the most recent El Niño in 2015/16 contributed to the extreme weather patterns of the past 18 months, hiking global temperatures that were already setting records. (Although, such is the level of rising, both 2015 and 2016 would have still been the hottest ever without El Niño.) Sixty million people were “severely affected” according to the UN, while 23 countries – some of which no longer aid recipients – had to call for urgent humanitarian aid. The catastrophe prompted the head of the World Meteorological Association to warn: “This naturally occurring El Niño event and human-induced climate change may interact and modify each other in ways that we have never before experienced.”

The warning was enough to prompt the UN to issue a global action plan, with early warning systems, beefed-up aid networks and disaster relief preparation, and calls for developing countries to “climate proof” their economic plans.

Compare all this – the science, the modelling, the economic foresight and the attempt to design multilateral blueprint – with the actions of the jackass who runs Australia’s finance ministry.

Scott Morrison barged into the parliament chamber to wave a lump of coal at the Labor and Green opposition benches, taunting them: “Don’t be afraid, don’t be scared. It’s coal. It was dug up by men and women who work in the electorate of those who sit opposite.” Coal, argues the Australian conservative government, has given the economy “competitive energy advantage for more than 100 years”. Labor and the Greens had called, after the Paris climate accord, for an orderly shutdown of the coal-fired power stations that produce 60% of the country’s energy.

The Aussie culture war over coal is being fuelled by the resurgence of the white-supremacist One Nation party, led by Pauline Hanson, which is pressuring mainstream conservatives to drop commitments to the Paris accord and, instead, launch a “royal commission into the corruption of climate science”, which its members believe is a money-making scam.

All over the world, know-nothing xenophobes are claiming – without evidence – that climate science is rigged. Their goal is to defend coal-burning energy, promote fracking, suppress the development of renewable energies and shatter the multilateral Paris agreement of 2015.

Opposition to climate science has become not just the badge of honour for far-right politicians like Ukip’s Paul Nuttall. It has become the central tenet of their appeal to unreason.

People facing increased fuel bills, new taxes on methane-producing cattle farms, dimmer light bulbs and the arrival of wind and wave technologies in traditional landscapes will naturally ask: is this really needed? Their inner idiot wishes it were not. For most of us, the inner rationalist is strong enough to counteract that wish.

What distinguishes the core of the rightwing populist electorate is its gullibility to idiocy-promoting rhetoric against climate science. They want to be harangued by a leader who tells them their racism is rational, in the same way they want leaders who tell them the science behind climate change is bunk.

Well, in Australia, people are quickly finding out where such rhetoric gets you: more devastating bushfires; a longer fire season; more extreme hot days; longer droughts. And an energy grid so overloaded with demands from air conditioning systems that it is struggling to cope.

And, iIf the pessimists among climate scientists are right, and the general rise in temperature has begun to destabilise and accentuate the El Niño effects, this is just the start.

The world is reeling from the election victory of Donald Trump, who has called climate science a hoax. Dutch voters look set to reward Geert Wilders, whose one-page election programme promises “no more money for development, windmills, art, innovation or broadcasting”, with first place in the election. In France, 27% of voters are currently backing the Front National, a party determined to take the country out of the Paris accord, which it sees as “a communist project”.

The struggle against the nationalist right must, in all countries, combine careful listening to the social and cultural grievances of those on its periphery with relentless stigmatisation of the idiocy, selfishness and racism of the leaders and political activists at its core.

It’s time to overcome queasiness and restraint. We, the liberal and progressive people of the world, are at war with the far right to save the earth. The extreme temperatures and climate-related disasters of the past 24 months mean this is not some abstract struggle about science or values: it’s about the immediate fate of 60 million people still recovering from a disaster.

 9 
 on: Feb 21, 2017, 06:51 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
EDF faces £1m a day bill to keep French nuclear reactor offline

Prolonged closure at Flamanville plant after fire damage piles further financial pressure on state-owned energy firm

Adam Vaughan
Guardian
Tuesday 21 February 2017 07.00 GMT

The prolonged closure of a major French atomic reactor after an explosion this month probably costs EDF at least £1m a day, according to experts.

The nuclear plant operator, which will spend £18bn building the UK’s first new nuclear power station in a generation, shut unit 1 at its Flamanville plant after a fire broke out in the turbine hall.

The company initially estimated it would switch on the reactor within a week, but later pushed the date to the end of March. Work begins this week on replacing damaged equipment.

The unexpectedly long closure adds to the financial pressure on EDF, which last week reported a 6.7% decline in core earnings to €16.4bn (£14bn) in 2016. Closures of its French nuclear plants last year, partly for safety checks, have already cost the 85% state-owned company an estimated €1.3bn.

Prof Neil C Hyatt, head of nuclear materials chemistry at the University of Sheffield, said the lost revenue from the reactor closure in Normandy could be £1m per day.

“Bringing a nuclear power plant back online after an unscheduled outage is a complex task and EDF will want to ensure that all parts of the system are working safely and effectively. A short delay to complete the necessary checks is to be expected, given that the outage was unplanned,” he said.

Another expert said the cost of closure could be up to £1.8m per day, depending on energy market prices, and questioned why there was a delay.

“It took operator EDF almost a week to progressively correct the original outage estimate from one day to 50 days. EDF has provided no information as to why the outage time went from a few days to seven weeks,” said Mycle Schneider, a nuclear energy consultant based in Paris.

The 1.3GW reactor at Flamanville is one of a dozen of EDF’s French nuclear fleet currently offline, which the company said was usual for this time of the year.

It did not say why the restart date for the reactor had been revised four times, or why it had jumped from a few days to more than six weeks.

John Large, a nuclear consultant who has advised the UK government, said initial reports that the fire was in a ventilator suggested the offline reactor would be back online within a week or two. Replacing such parts should be relatively straightforward, he said.

He added that the plant’s continued closure would also add to headaches at the French grid operator RTE, which warned of power cuts at the start of winter due to nuclear outages. “The continuing impact on the grid is likely to be significant, especially if a cold snap develops,” Large said.

A second reactor at the plant is still supplying electricity to the French grid. EDF said: “Work on recommissioning the affected equipment has started this week and should last several weeks, with reconnection to the grid planned for the end of March.”

 10 
 on: Feb 21, 2017, 06:47 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Setting tails wagging: the costumed pups of the Rio dog carnival

Yasuyoshi Chiba
Guardian
Monday 20 February 2017 07.00 GMT

Click to see all: https://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2017/feb/20/setting-tails-wagging-the-costumed-pups-of-the-rio-dog-carnival

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