Month: June, 2016
Donald Trump Vows to Torture: ‘Waterboarding? I Like it a Lot!’
worker | June 30, 2016 | 7:29 pm | Analysis, Donald Trump, political struggle | Comments closed
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Eugene, Oregon, U.S. on May 6, 2016

Donald Trump Vows to Torture: ‘Waterboarding? I Like it a Lot!’

© REUTERS/ Jim Urquhart/File Photo

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Presumptive Republican US presidential nominee Donald Trump has once again affirmed his support for torture, even proclaiming that waterboarding “isn’t tough enough.”

Speaking at his rally in St. Clairsville, Ohio, on Tuesday, Trump asserted that he would be extremely tough on Daesh, also known as IS/Islamic State, and would support torture in an effort to defeat the terrorist group.”We have to fight so viciously and violently because we’re dealing with violent people,” he said.

Trump then dove into specifics, expressing that while he supports waterboarding, he wants to use even harsher tactics.

“What do you think about waterboarding? I like it a lot,” he told the cheering crowd. “I don’t think it’s tough enough.”

Trump has previously expressed his support of torture, vowing during a primary debate to utilize the tactic — and worse.

“I would bring back waterboarding, and I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” Trump said.

Trump’s statements ignore scores of research and studies that show torture is not an effective means for gathering information.

As Sputnik previously reported, a study conducted by Shane O’Mara, a professor of experimental brain research at the University of Dublin’s Trinity College and director of its Institute of Neuroscience, a constant state of stress induced by various torture techniques, from waterboarding to sleep deprivation, creates a negative physiological effect. Torture cause a part of the brain called the hippocampus to shrink and fail, which has an adverse effect on memory and other functions.This consequently causes the victim’s mind to focus only on functions essential to survival, suppressing any other thoughts or emotions.

In a book based on his research, O’Mara argues that any action that causes a victim’s brain to undergo a constant state of stress “destroys the fabric of memory” itself, rendering torture useless.

“It is just about the worst possible means of retrieving information from people’s memories,” the book concludes.

Despite the evidence pointing to torture’s ineffectiveness, polls have shown that two-thirds of the American population believe the practice can be justified at times.

Trump Questions if Bill Begged Lynch to Spare Hillary During Tarmac Meeting
worker | June 30, 2016 | 7:23 pm | Analysis, Hillary Clinton, political struggle | Comments closed
Former President Bill Clinton stands on stage with his wife, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Trump Questions if Bill Begged Lynch to Spare Hillary During Tarmac Meeting

© AP Photo/ Julio Cortez

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Following revelations that former President Bill Clinton met with US Attorney General Loretta Lynch in the midst of his wife’s email investigation, the presumptive Republican nominee seized the opportunity to call foul on his Democratic counterpart.

Lynch has dismissed the controversy, insisting that her brief conversation with Clinton on an airport tarmac in Arizona focused on social issues and small talk unrelated to Hillary Clinton’s email scandal. But that hasn’t prevented criticism from both sides of the aisle.

“I think she should have said, ‘look, I recognize you have a long record of leadership on fighting crime but this is not the time for us to have that conversation. After the election is over, I welcome your advice and input,'” Democratic Senator Chris Coons said.

But, unsurprisingly, no one has been as vocal as presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.

“I think it’s the biggest story, one of the big stories of this month, of this year,” the billionaire told radio host Mike Gallagher, adding that the meeting was “terrible.”

“I’ve been talking about the rigged system, how it’s rigged and, you know, this is terrible…You see a thing like this and even in terms of judgement, how bad of judgement is it for him or for her to do this? I mean, who would do this?”

Trump, however, is facing a new controversy of his own. On Wednesday, a pair of nonpartisan watchdog groups filed a complaint with the US Federal Election Commission, alleging that the real estate mogul’s campaign had violated federal law by seeking contributions from the officials of foreign governments. This involved fundraising emails that were sent to members of Scotland’s National Party, as well as officials in Iceland, Australia, and the UK.

“Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign committee is violating black-letter federal law by sending campaign fundraising emails to foreign nationals,” Paul S. Ryan, deputy executive director of the Campaign Legal Center, said in a statement.

“It is a no-brainer that it violates the law to send fundraising emails to members of a foreign government on their official foreign government email accounts, and yet, that’s exactly what Trump has done repeatedly.”

Africa/Global: Air Pollution Threats & Solutions
worker | June 30, 2016 | 7:19 pm | Africa, Analysis, political struggle | Comments closed

AfricaFocus Bulletin
June 30, 2016 (160630)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

“Around 6.5 million deaths are attributed each year to poor air
quality, making this the world’s fourth-largest threat to human
health, behind high blood pressure, dietary risks and smoking.
Without changes to the way that the world produces and uses energy,
the ruinous toll from air pollution on human life is set to rise.
… Household air pollution, closely linked to a lack of access to
modern energy services, causes around half a million premature
deaths annually in sub-Saharan Africa, where four-fifths of the
population rely on the traditional use of solid biomass for cooking,
and candles and kerosene lamps are extensively used for indoor
lighting.” – International Energy Agency (IEA)

For a version of this Bulletin in html format, more suitable for
printing, go to, and
click on “format for print or mobile.”

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In a scenario based on current and anticipated trends and policies,
the IEA estimates that deaths due to household air pollution in
Africa may decrease by 110,000 by 2040. However, due to economic
growth, urbanization, and automobile emissions, outdoor air
pollution may rise from 300,000 to 450,000 over the same period.
Overall, there will be a deterioration in air quality, unless alternative new policies are
adopted for a “Clean Air Scenario”.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts taken from the executive
summary of the new report, as well as Chapter 2 on the Clean Air
Scenario and Chapter 10 on the situation in sub-Saharan Africa.

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on climate change and the
environment, and a set of talking points, visit

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor’s note+++++++++++++++++

Energy and Air Pollution

World Energy Outlook Special Report

International Energy Agency, June 2016 / Direct URL:

Executive Summary (excerpts)

Air pollution is a major public health crisis, with many of its root
causes and cures to be found in the energy sector. Around 6.5
million deaths are attributed each year to poor air quality, making
this the world’s fourth-largest threat to human health, behind high
blood pressure, dietary risks and smoking. Without changes to the
way that the world produces and uses energy, the ruinous toll from
air pollution on human life is set to rise.

That is why this World Energy Outlook (WEO) Special Report is
dedicated, for the first time, to the links between energy, air
pollution and health. It sets out in detail the scale, causes and
effects of the problem and the ways in which the energy sector can
contribute to a solution. Energy production and use, mostly from
unregulated, poorly regulated or inefficient fuel combustion, are
the single most important man-made sources of air pollutant
emissions: 85% of particulate matter and almost all of the sulfur
oxides and nitrogen oxides. These three pollutants are responsible
for the most widespread impacts of air pollution, either directly or
once transformed into other pollutants via chemical reactions in the
atmosphere. They are emitted mainly as a result of:

* Poverty: the wood and other solid fuels that more than 2.7 billion
people use for cooking, and kerosene used for lighting (and in some
countries also for cooking), create smoky environments that are
associated with around 3.5 million premature deaths each year. These
effects are felt mostly in developing Asia and sub-Saharan Africa,
where incomplete burning of biomass accounts for more than half of
emissions of particulate matter. Finer particles, whether inhaled
indoors or outdoors, are particularly harmful to health as they can
penetrate deep into the lungs.

* Fossil fuel-intensive development and urbanisation: coal and oil
have powered economic growth in many countries, but their unabated
combustion in power plants, industrial facilities and vehicles is
the main cause of the outdoor pollution linked to around 3 million
premature deaths each year. Coal is responsible for around 60% of
global combustion-related sulfur dioxide emissions – a cause of
respiratory illnesses and a precursor of acid rain. Fuels used for
transport, first and foremost diesel, generate more than half the
nitrogen oxides emitted globally, which can trigger respiratory
problems and the formation of other hazardous particles and
pollutants, including ozone. Cities can easily become pollution
hotspots, as they concentrate people, energy use, construction
activity and traffic. The impact of urban vehicle emissions is
heightened by the fact that they are discharged not from the top of
tall chimneys but directly into the street-level air that
pedestrians breathe.


Chapter 2

Outlook for air pollution : Towards blue skies?


* The IEA has undertaken a first-of-a-kind assessment of the impact
of energy and air pollution policies on air pollutant emissions
through 2040. This World Energy Outlook Special Report finds that
despite a global decline in emissions, existing and planned energy
sector policies are not sufficient to improve air quality: in our
central scenario, premature deaths attributable to outdoor air
pollution increase to 4.5 million in 2040 (from around 3 million
today), while premature deaths due to household air pollution fall
to 2.9 million (from 3.5 million today).

* The global results mask strong regional differences, which stem
from the energy mix and the rigour of energy and air quality
policies. In our central scenario, emissions continue to fall in
industrialised countries, while in China, recent signs of decline
are consolidated. Emissions generally rise in India, Southeast Asia
and Africa, as expected growth in energy demand dwarfs policy
efforts related to air quality. Poor air quality continues to affect
the poorest most adversely: by 2040, 1.8 billion people still have
no access to clean cooking devices (from 2.7 billion today),
exposing mostly women and children to harmful household air
pollution. The policies with the most impact on reducing emissions
include those that increase access to modern energy services in
developing countries, improve energy efficiency, promote fuel
diversification and control air pollutant emissions.

* The outlook for air quality is a policy choice to be made: new
energy and air quality policies can deliver cleaner air. This is why
the IEA proposes the Clean Air Scenario that builds on proven and
pragmatic energy and air quality policies and uses only existing
technologies. Their implementation provides citizens with cleaner
air and better health. In the Clean Air Scenario, premature deaths
from outdoor air pollution fall to 2.8 million in 2040 and from
household air pollution to 1.3 million. The benefits are largest in
developing countries: the share of India’s population exposed to PM
2.5 concentrations above the least stringent WHO target falls to 18%
in 2040 (from 62% today), while in China, it shrinks to 23% (from
56% today) and to almost zero in Indonesia and South Africa.

* Achieving the benefits of the Clean Air Scenario depends upon
implementation of a range of policies: access to clean cooking for
all is essential to reduce the use of inefficient biomass cookstoves
and associated PM 2.5 emissions. Emissions standards – strictly
enforced – in road transport are central to reducing NO X emissions,
in particular in cities. SO 2 emissions are brought down by
controlling emissions and switching fuels in the power sector, and
increasing energy efficiency in the industry sector. The additional
investment needs are not insurmountable: cumulative investment in
the Clean Air Scenario is 7% (or $4.8 trillion) higher than in the
New Policies Scenario. The value of the resultant benefits is
typically many times higher.


Chapter 10: Africa (excerpts)


* Africa faces multiple developmental and environmental challenges,
which are rooted in poverty and the source of a grave health burden
on the population. Air pollution from the energy sector is
increasingly a leading risk factor. Household air pollution, closely
linked to a lack of access to modern energy services, causes around
half a million premature deaths annually in sub-Saharan Africa,
where four-fifths of the population rely on the traditional use of
solid biomass for cooking, and candles and kerosene lamps are
extensively used for indoor lighting. Cities are becoming
increasingly choked with vehicles which are unregulated by emission
standards, by the use of back-up generators to mitigate the often
absent or unreliable electricity supply, and the widespread burning
of waste.

* The outlook to 2040 for Africa in the New Policies Scenario
[predicted on the basis of current & anticipated policies] is mixed.
Even though there is a general absence of current policy measures to
mitigate the adverse effects of air quality associated with the
projected 75% rise in energy demand, which means that PM 2.5
emissions in Africa grow by almost a fifth by 2040, improvements in
access to modern energy cause the annual number of premature deaths
attributable to household pollution to decrease by 110 000.

The share of the population relying on traditional cooking methods
falls from 68% today to one-third by 2040, and the share of people
without electricity access falls from 57% to 25%, bringing power to
over one billion more people. Power generation is projected to
almost triple over the period, with renewables (excluding biomass)
providing one-third of generation by 2040, twice today’s share.
Despite some improvements, however, strong population growth leaves
655 million people still without access to clean cooking, and half a
billion people without electricity access, and as a result over 360
000 premature deaths are still attributable to household air
pollution in 2040.

* In the Clean Air Scenario, PM 2.5 emissions fall by more than 80%
in 2040 relative to the New Policies Scenario, largely as a result
of achieving universal access to energy. SO 2 is more than halved
and NO X falls by three quarters relative to the New Policies
Scenario because emission standards in transport, industry and power
generation are introduced.

This means that by 2040, 220 000 deaths are prevented annually from
household air pollution compared with the New Policies Scenario.
Overall primary energy demand decreases by one-quarter compared with
the New Policies Scenario: energy is used more efficiently and the
consumption of all fossil fuels is reduced, and as a result, CO 2
emissions in 2040 fall from 1.8 Gt in the New Policies Scenario to
1.5 Gt in 2040.

The energy and air quality context

Parts of Africa are experiencing relatively strong economic growth.
The economic output of sub-Saharan Africa has doubled since 2000,
but remains below that of Germany, despite the population being more
than ten-times larger. Across the continent as a whole, gross
domestic product per capita has increased by more than one-quarter
over the past decade.

The population of the continent is rapidly growing and urbanising.
Africa is expected to be home to around 22% of the global population
by 2040, compared with 10% in 1971 and 16% today. Africa is today
the world’s most rural continent (with only around 40% of the
population living in urban areas), but it is one of the fastest-
urbanizing world regions – more than half of the population is
expected to live in urban areas by 2040.

Energy demand in Africa has risen by half since 2000 though per-
capita energy demand remains low at about one-third of the global
average. The energy mix is dominated by biomass, which accounts for
almost half of energy demand across Africa and has a share as high
as three-quarters of the total in sub-Saharan Africa (excluding
South Africa). Only one- third of the population of the continent
has access to modern cooking fuels – a low level matched only in
India – with biomass used extensively as a cooking fuel.

Electricity access is also the lowest in the world: around 635
million people, 57% of the population, do not have access to
electricity today. Per-capita electricity consumption in Africa is
one-fifth of the global average, with wide variations by country:
while almost all North Africans have access to electricity, only
one-third has access in sub-Saharan Africa, and this falls to just
17% when looking at the rural population. Nigeria alone has 96
million people without access to electricity. Those who do have
access to electricity experience frequent blackouts – Nigeria
experiences on average 33 power outages every month and rationing
due to inadequate supply and ageing infrastructure (World Bank,

Demand outstrips electricity supply, resulting in the cost of
electricity generation being significantly higher in many African
countries than in other world regions (AfDB, 2013). Industrial
activities are also compromised as a result of high prices. The many
positive efforts to provide electricity access across the continent
have not been sufficient to decrease the number of people without
access to electricity; Africa is the only world region where the
number of people without access to electricity has actually
increased since 2000, despite a significant decrease in numbers in
North African countries and some sub-Saharan countries, including
South Africa, Gabon, Botswana and Ghana.

Fossil fuels dominate the production of electricity, accounting for
more than 80% of total power supply. South Africa, which generates
almost 60% of all the power generated in sub-Saharan Africa, derives
94% of its power from coal. South Africa also accounts for around
25% of total oil consumption in sub-Saharan Africa and Nigeria for
more than 20%, meaning that the remaining 40-plus countries
collectively consume less oil than the Netherlands.

While there has been increasing international focus on delivering
universal clean energy access, such as through the African
Development Bank’s New Deal on Energy for Africa, it is clear from
the UN SE4All tracking that progress falls substantially short of
what is required to attain clean energy access by 2030 (IEA and
World Bank, 2015).

These characteristics – rising energy consumption, concentrating
urban populations and persistent lack of energy access – have
contributed to ever-increasing air pollution, household as well as
outdoor. Around half a million premature deaths can be attributed to
household air pollution in Africa today, a health problem which is
closely related to the lack of access to modern forms of energy. The
traditional use of biomass for cooking causes severe emissions of
particulate matter (PM 2.5 ), as does the use of candles and
kerosene for lighting. Kerosene, used by many households that do not
have access to reliable electricity or alternative solutions, is the
primary lighting fuel in around half of African countries and is
also a grave source of fires and casualties in households (World
Health Organisation, 2016); programmes such as SolarAid, GOGLA and
Lighting Africa are promoting the use of solar lamps to help phase
out the use of these lighting fuels.

Indeed, 7.5 million tonnes (Mt) of PM 2.5 are emitted annually in
Africa today, of which almost three-quarters is from the burning of
biomass indoors. Damage to air quality from these sources affects
mostly the poorest population of Africa: while there is almost no
dependence on the traditional use of solid biomass for cooking in
North Africa, only one-fifth of sub-Saharan Africans have access to
modern cooking fuels, leaving 755 million people to cook with solid
biomass, typically with inefficient stoves in poorly ventilated
spaces without chimneys.

In more than four-fifths of sub-Saharan countries, more than half of
the population relies on solid biomass for cooking, and in half of
these, the share is above 90%. Several countries have implemented
programmes to promote the use of cleaner and more efficient
cookstoves, the prime objective being to reduce the health effects
of pollution from indoor smoke. Kenya aims to eliminate kerosene use
in households by 2022 and improved biomass cookstoves are already
relatively available in urban areas. Kenya has also passed a law
that requires new buildings to be fitted with solar water heating
systems. Strong policies in Senegal have supported a switch to
liquified petroleum gas (LPG) and less than 30% of the urban
population now use solid biomass. Other countries, including Ghana
and Cameroon, have also made commitments to increase the share of
LPG for cooking and are developing related policy measures.

It has to be acknowledged, however, that in general rising incomes
alone have not been sufficient to result in increasing access to
clean cooking fuels and concentrating populations will likely
exacerbate this urgent problem (see Chapter 3 Spotlight), and
moreover, many improved biomass cookstoves on the market today,
though a great improvement on traditional cooking, still produce
enough PM 2.5 to be considered a health hazard.

Deaths in Africa attributed to outdoor pollution, at more than
210,000 per year in 2012 (WHO, 2016a, forthcoming), are less than
half of those attributable to household air pollution. As a result
of limited economic activity, concentrations of outdoor pollution is
low in most areas relative to other world regions, but the emissions
intensity of new economic activity is high. Today the major sources
of outdoor air pollution include old and unregulated vehicles, smoke
from indoor and outdoor cooking with biomass, the unregulated
burning of wood and waste (including the burning of toxic materials,
such as electronics), dust from dirt roads, and coal-fired power
generation, particularly in South Africa. The use of back-up diesel
generators (including an unknown but large number of small
generators in and around residences/apartments) to supplement
inadequate grid- based electricity supply is also a cause of noxious
emissions (IEA, 2014)

Measuring overall outdoor pollution is a major challenge: air
quality monitoring does not exist in most African countries. For
those cities in Africa that are monitored, the annual mean PM 10 and
PM 2.5 emissions exceeded the World Health Organization (WHO) Air
Quality Guidelines levels in almost all cases (WHO, 2016b). A
satellite study suggests that between 2010 and 2012, 32% of West
Africans and 28% of the North African and Middle Eastern populations
are exposed to levels of PM 2.5 exceeding the WHO interim target-1
of 35 µg/m 3 , compared with none of the population of high-income
countries (Donkelaaer van, et al., 2015).

Nitrogen oxides (NO X) emissions in Africa were around 6.4 Mt in
2015, around half from vehicle tailpipe emissions and a quarter from
industry. Sulfur dioxide (SO 2 ) emissions were 5.8 Mt in 2015, 42%
from the industry and transformation sectors and 45% from power
generation, largely as a result of coal combustion in South Africa.
Some efforts have been made across the continent to reduce PM 2.5
emissions mainly through incentivising the use of modern cooking
fuels, such as LPG and natural gas, though pollutant emissions have
risen, as has the number of people without access to clean cooking.

However, South Africa, through the National Environmental Management
Air Quality Act of 2004, is one of the only African countries
comprehensively regulating air quality and setting emissions
standards, imposing limits on new and existing power plants and
industrial installations. Effectively securing compliance remains an
issue in South Africa (as in many parts of the world).

Transport is a major contributor to outdoor air pollution in Africa.
An old and growing vehicle fleet, poor fuel quality and rapid
unplanned urban growth all contribute to increasingly choked cities.
Proper urban planning as well as improving public transport systems
could reduce the number of vehicles on the road. Improving fuel
quality, particularly removing sulfur, is a necessary step towards
the use of improved vehicle technologies that reduce tailpipe
pollution. Leaded gasoline was largely phased out in the 2000s, but
fuel quality remains variable. Despite some regulation, the sulfur
content of diesel remains very high in many countries: in Egypt,
diesel sulfur content is up to 7 000 ppm, over 700 times the level
in Europe.

Only a small number of African refineries have the capacity to
produce low-sulfur fuels and, even though the value of the health
benefits derived from upgrading refineries may far outweigh the
costs, sufficient incentive for investment is lacking. Low quality
fuels not only contribute to tailpipe emissions, but prevent the
adoption of higher vehicle exhaust emissions standards. Such
standards are implemented to a very limited extent: only Nigeria and
South Africa have emissions standards reaching the level of Euro 2
(introduced in Europe in 1996) or beyond. Many countries ban or
place tariffs on the import of older vehicles to discourage the
dumping of outdated and inefficient vehicles, but their low price
remains an attraction. The age and lack of maintenance of vehicles,
weak enforcement of laws in place and variable fuel quality often
means that the gap between test-standards (where they exist) and
real-world operation can be particularly large.


AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication
providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a
particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus
Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at Please
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Brexit and the Ideology of Free Trade
worker | June 29, 2016 | 9:36 pm | Analysis, political struggle, UK | Comments closed

In response to my recent post on ‘Brexit as a rebellion against free trade’, a commentator to the piece raised an important, reasoned question, my response to which I’d like to share more visibly with readers of this blog. The question(s) have to do with the relative effects on wages and jobs between countries jointly involved in a free trade agreement. The question the commentator raised addresses the typical apologists of free trade argument that while some workers wages in some countries may fall due to free trade, workers’ wages in other countries rise. The net effect, according to the apologists’ argument, is that wages overall rise–i.e. wage benefits from free trade in the one region or sector rising more than it falls in the other country or region. This apology is a corollary of the general free trade theory argument that ‘all parties to free trade’ benefit from it. Here is my reply to that important question. First, is an excerpt from the commentator’s question (whose full response can be read at the end of my previous post on ‘Brexit as Working Class Rebellion to Free Trade’). That is followed by my own further comments on free trade and a critique of the apologists who argue free trade always benefits all parties at all times, and wages on net rise from it–declining in one or some country, but rising more in others so that the net effect is positive wage gains throughout the free trade zone.

Commentator’s Statement (excerpt)

“You sum up by saying: “Who benefits in terms of class incomes and interests? As the history of the EU and UK since 1992 shows, bankers and big corporate exporters benefit. Workers from the poor areas get to migrate to the wealthier (US and UK) and thus benefit. But the indigent workers in the former wealthier areas suffer a decline, a leveling.” Can you further give us your thoughts on “workers” or the indigent in the global south? Do you believe that free trade has basically immiserated everyone but the rich (with the exception of ‘poverty alleviation’ in China, which, as is often noted, does not necessarily have to do with free trade as such) in the south? Or would you say that part of its ‘distributional effect’ has been to partly redistribute some of the North’s previously greater working class prosperity to the South. I ask because your post otherwise seems to be saying something that left commentary seems generally to avoid wanting to say: that within the North, at least in part, working class animosity to free trade is legitimately rooted in the fact that “immigrants are taking our jobs.” .

My Response to the Commentator:

First, I’m going to assume his remarks re. ‘north’ and ‘south’ refer to two countries who are participants in a free trade treaty. My response does not assume it is just a question of north-south trade in general, where a free trade treaty is not in effect. Here’s my comment to the question.

“As I noted, free trade is not just about goods and services flows, but money capital flows as well. Read the NAFTA agreement and it’s clear US elite’s emphasized the right to invest directly in Mexico (foreign direct investment rights) and repatriate profits with minimal interference from Mexico’s legal system. As FDI and money flows from the north to the ‘south’, in this case, multinational companies that expand their operations in the ‘south’ often do pay higher wages and some benefits compared to the domestic businesses compensation packages. So wages in this select group of relocated companies (or expanded companies) do rise, but it is a relatively small proportion of the total work force. The booming economies (initially) in the south (say, Central AMerica, as example) from the massive money capital inflows also results in some additional rise in wages. But the wage gains are not significant in terms of longer term; they eventually dissipate and disappear when the business cycle turns down again. This is now evident in central america, again for example, as the money flows into the region reverse and return to the US as capital flight out of the emerging markets. So, yes, there is some wage gain in the south from free trade, but it is not significant as part of the total work force and tends to be temporary and reverses with the next cycle. Yes, defenders of free trade often cite this effect, but don’t provide data that shows how much free trade boosts ‘south’ wages. They typically assume all the change in wages is due to free trade, which of course is nonsense; and they always cherry pick the point in time when the wage increases rise the most and ignore the subsequent wage retreat that also occurs under free trade. Their argument is not an economic but a false moral one: free trade is good overall for workers everywhere because it rises for some in the south. Their data also does not compare the relative gains in the south to the losses in the north (which must include adjustments for price systems to be accurate). That free trade results in wage compression in the north is evident in what is called the ‘export-import wage differential’. THis has been compressing over time due to free trade. It means jobs and wages lost to free trade imports in the US exceed jobs and wages gained from an increase in US exports. The net result is a combined wage (and job) decline in the US. The US decline tends to be permanent, while the south gain tends to be temporary. Is this net US decline greater than the net south gain–in the longer run? is the key question. But I’ve seen no analyses by apologists for free trade to add up the data and evidence. In short, they make an assumption with little or no evidence, or evidence that is selective. That’s not economics, that’s economic ideology, which is what free trade is essentially about.”

Brexit As Working Class Rebellion Against Free Trade (print)
worker | June 29, 2016 | 9:34 pm | Analysis, political struggle, UK | Comments closed

Class, nationalist, and ethnic elements are all involved in the Brexit vote in a complex integration of protest. Press and media emphasize the nationalist and ethnic (immigrant-anti-immigrant) themes but generally avoid discussing or analyzing the event from a class perspective. But that perspective is fundamental. What Brexit represents is a proxy vote against the economic effects of Free Trade, the customs union called the European Union. Free trade deals always benefit corporations and investors. Free trade is not just about goods and services flows between member countries; it is even more about money and capital flows and what is called direct investment. UK corporations benefit from the opportunity to move capital and invest in cheap labor elsewhere in Europe, mostly the newly added members to the EU since 2000, in eastern europe. Free trade also means the unrestricted flow of labor. Once these east european countries were added to the EU treaty, massive inflows of labor to the UK resulted. Just from Poland, more than a million migrated to the UK alone.

In the pre-2008, when economic conditions were strong and economic growth and job creation the rule, the immigration’s effect on jobs and wages of native UK workers was not a major concern. But with the crash of 2008, and, more importantly, the UK austerity measures that followed, cutting benefits and reducing jobs and wages, the immigration effect created the perception (and some reality) that immigrants were responsible for the reduced jobs, stagnant wages, and declining social services. Immigrant labor, of course, is supported by business since it means availability of lower wages. But working class UK see it as directly impacting wages, jobs, and social service benefits. THis is partly true, and partly not.

So Brexit becomes a proxy vote for all the discontent with the UK austerity, benefit cuts, poor quality job creation and wage stagnation. But that economic condition and discontent is not just a consequence of the austerity policies of the elites. It is also a consequence of the Free Trade effects that permit the accelerated immigration that contributes to the economic effects, and the Free Trade that shifts UK investment and better paying manufacturing jobs elsewhere in the EU.

So Free Trade is behind the immigration and job and wage deterioration which is behind the Brexit proxy vote. The anti-immigration sentiment and the anti-Free Trade sentiment are two sides of the same coin. That is true in the USA with the Trump candidacy, as well as in the UK with the Brexit vote. Trump is vehemently anti-immigrant and simultaneously says he’s against the US free trade deals. This is a powerful political message that Hillary ignores at her peril. She cannot tip-toe around this issue, but she will, required by her big corporation campaign contributors.

Another ‘lesson’ of the UK Brexit vote is that the discontent seething within the populations of Europe, US and Japan today is not accurately registered by traditional polls. This is true in the US today as it was in the UK yesterday.

The Brexit vote cannot be understood without understanding its origins in three elements: the combined effects of Free Trade (the EU), the economic crash of 2008-09, which Europe has not really recovered from having fallen into a double dip recession 2011-13 and a nearly stagnant recovery after, and the austerity measures imposed by UK elites (and in Europe) since 2013.
These developments have combined to create the economic discontent for which Brexit is the proxy. Free Trade plus Austerity plus economic recovery only for investors, bankers, and big corporations is the formula for Brexit.

Where the Brexit vote was strongest was clearly in the midlands and central England-Wales section of the country, its working class and industrial base. Where the vote preferred staying in the EU, was the non-working class areas of London and south England, as well as Scotland and Northern Ireland. Scotland is dependent on oil exports to the EU and thus tightly linked to the trade. Northern Ireland’s economy is tied largely to Scotland and to the other EU economy, Ireland. So their vote was not surprising. Also the immigration effects were far less in these regions than in the English industrial heartland.

Some would argue that the UK has recovered better than most economies since 2013. But a closer look at the elements of that recovery shows it has been centered largely in southern England and in the London metro area. It has been based on a construction-housing boom and the inflow of money capital from abroad, including from China investment in UK infrastructure in London and elsewhere. The UK also struck a major deal with China to have London as the financial center for trading the Yuan currency globally. Money capital and investment concentrated on housing-construction produced a property asset boom, which was weakening before the Brexit. It will now collapse, I predict, by at least 20% or more. The UK’s tentative recovery is thus now over, and was slipping even before the vote.

Also frequently reported is that wages had been rising in the UK. This is an ‘average’ indicator, which is true. But the average has been pulled up by the rising salaries and wages of the middle class professionals and other elements of the work force in the London-South who had benefited by the property-construction boom of recent years. Working class areas just east of London voted strongly for Brexit.

Another theme worth a comment is the Labor Party’s leadership vote for remaining in the EU. What this represents is the further decline of traditional social democratic parties throughout Europe. These parties in recent decades have increasingly aligned themselves with the Neoliberal corporate offensive. That’s true whether the SPD in Germany, the Socialist parties in France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Greece, or elsewhere. As these parties have abdicated their traditional support for working class interests, it has opened opportunities for other parties–both right and left–to speak to those interests. Thus we find right wing parties growing in Austria, France (which will likely win next year’s national election in France), Italy, Netherlands, and Scandinavia. Hungary and Poland’s right turn should also be viewed from this perspective. So should Podemos in Spain, Five Star movement in Italy, and the pre-August 2015 Syriza in Greece.

Farther left more marxist-oriented socialist parties are meanwhile in disarray. In general they fail to understand the working class rebellion against free trade element at the core of the recent Brexit vote. They are led by the capitalist media to view the vote as an anti-immigrant, xenophobic, nationalist, right wing dominated development. So they in a number of instances recommended staying in the EU. The justification was to protect the better EU mandated social regulations. Or they argue, incredulously, that remaining in the free trade regime of the EU would centralize the influence of capitalist elements but that would eventually mean a stronger working class movement as a consequence as well. It amounts to an argument to support free trade and neoliberalism in the short run because it theoretically might lead to a stronger working class challenge to neoliberalism in the longer run. That is intellectual and illogical nonsense, of course. Wherever the resistance to free trade exists it should be supported, since Free Trade is a core element of Neoliberalism and its policies that have been devastating working class interests for decades now. One cannot be ‘for’ Free Trade (i.e. remain in the EU) and not be for Neoliberalism at the same time–which means against working class interests.

The bottom line is that right wing forces in both the EU and the US have locked onto the connection between free trade discontent, immigration, and the austerity and lack of economic recovery for all since 2009. They have developed an ideological formulation that argues immigration is the cause of the economic conditions. Mainstream capitalist parties, like the Republicans and Democrats in the US are unable to confront this formulation which has great appeal to working class elements. They cannot confront it without abandoning their capitalist campaign contributors or a center-piece (free trade) of their neoliberal policies. Social-Democratic parties, aligning with their erstwhile traditional capitalist party opponents, offer no alternative. And too many farther left traditional Marxist parties support Free Trade by hiding behind the absurd notion that a stronger, more centralized capitalist system will eventually lead to a stronger, more centralized working class opposition.

Whatever political party formations come out of the growing rebellion against free trade, endless austerity policies, and declining economic conditions for working class elements, they will have to reformulate the connections between immigration, free trade, and those conditions.

Free Trade benefits corporations, investors and bankers on both sides of the ‘trade’ exchange. The benefits of free trade accrue to them. For working classes, free trade means a ‘leveling’ of wages, jobs and benefits. It thus means workers from lower paid regions experience a rise in wages and benefits, but those in the formerly higher paid regions experience a decline. That’s what’s been happening in the UK, as well as the US and north America.

Free Trade is the ‘holy grail’ of mainstream economics. It assumes that free trade raises all boats. Both countries benefit. But what that economic ideology does not go on to explain is that how does that benefit get distributed within each of the countries involved in the free trade? Who benefits in terms of class incomes and interests? As the history of the EU and UK since 1992 shows, bankers and big corporate exporters benefit. Workers from the poor areas get to migrate to the wealthier (US and UK) and thus benefit. But the indigent workers in the former wealthier areas suffer a decline, a leveling. These effects have been exacerbated by the elite policies of austerity and the free money for bankers and investors central bank policies since 2009.

So workers see their wages stagnant or decline, their social benefits cut, their jobs or higher paid jobs leave, while they see immigrants entering and increasing competition for jobs. They hear (and often believe) that the immigrants are responsible for the reduction of benefits and social services that are in fact caused by the associated austerity policies. They see investors, bankers, professionals and a few fortunate 10% of their work force doing well, with incomes accelerating, while their incomes decline. In the UK, the focus and solution is seen as exiting the EU free trade zone. In the US, however, it’s not possible for a given ‘state’ to leave the USA, as it is for a ‘state’ like the UK to leave the EU. And there are no national referenda possible constitutionally in the US.

The solution in the US is not to build a wall to keep immigrants out, but to tear down the Free Trade wall that has been erected by US neoliberal policies in order to keep US jobs in. Trumpism has come up with a reactionary solution to the free trade-immigration-economic nexus that has significant political appeal. He proposes stopping labor flows, but proposes nothing concrete about stopping the cross-country flows of money, capital and investment that are at the heart of free trade.

President Obama Says It’s Time To Stop Subsidizing Israeli Defense Industry
worker | June 29, 2016 | 9:31 pm | Analysis, political struggle | Comments closed
It’s time for Israel to fund its own military and stop killing American jobs with a “special relationship” subsidizing its defense industry.
America has what are called “special relationships” with a few nations and although that designation typically applies to the United Kingdom, there is another foreign nation that enjoys a “really special relationship” with America. It is fairly well-known that America doles out a significant amount of taxpayer money to many foreign nations in the form of defense aid, but no country enjoys more taxpayer largesse than Israel.
However, unlike every other country reaping hundreds-of-millions, and indeed billions, of taxpayer dollars for defense, only Israel is allowed to spend the billions it receives every year to subsidize its own defense sector. Any and all other governments receiving American aid for defense has to spend it on American-made weapons, but because of the “special relationship” with America, Israel uses American aid to bolster its own defense industry and President Barack Obama wants that atrocity to come to an abrupt end. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is of a different mindset and doesn’t like the idea of America ending its subsidies that create jobs and economic benefit to Israelis at the expense of American jobs and its economy.
As America and Israel are in the process of completing an agreement to continue giving billions of American tax dollars annually to Israel for defense, the last obstacle to a deal extending to 2029 is what is known as the “offshore procurement” provision. It is a provision President Barack Obama says has to end because it is nothing more than American taxpayers subsidizing Israel’s defense sector. As the agreement has been, and is now, Israel gets to spend a whopping 26% of the American “gifts” at home to enrich its defense industry and create Israeli jobs. Israel is the only nation on Earth America has “that” special arrangement with and  Benjamin Netanyahu demands that it stays in place.
Under President Obama, U.S. military aid to Israel is more than any other president in U.S.  history and still, Republicans scream perpetually that the President “throws Israel under the bus” with every foreign policy decision he makes. Of course what Republicans and Netanyahu really object to is not the President’s generosity to Israel, but his resistance to allowing Israel to set American foreign policy, but that’s another story.
America already gives Israel too much defense money, but the least the ingrates should do is abide by the same conditions as every other military aid recipient and spend those tens-of-billions buying American-made arms. In fact, earlier this month National Security Adviser Susan Rice said, “Even in these days of belt tightening, we are prepared to sign the single largest military assistance package — with any country — in American history.”  And she noted that the gifts to Israel’s economy and jobs “comprises more than 50 percent of the total U.S. military aid budget.”  It is noteworthy that a little over a fourth of that 50 percent creates jobs and economic growth for Israel at the expense of American defense jobs.
The President’s hard line on ending the taxpayer-funded subsidies for a foreign country’s defense industry is a reflection of the concern among no small number of American defense companies and it is a valid concern. They rightly complain that America is unwittingly or not aiding foreign competitors vying for sales in the international arms market. A former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs during the W. Bush administration (2007-2009), Mary Beth Long, said it was long past time to “rethink Israel’s offshore procurement exception.”
Ms. Long believes:
“America has a strategic and moral obligation to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge,” what she said is a defense concept that requires America to “sell Israel more advanced defense technology than its regional rivals receive. The information sharing, the tactics, techniques and procedures, the things we have learned from the Israelis particularly as to asymmetric confrontation, and their visibility into the region is absolutely critical to our national security.”
But, she also concluded that the special relationship regarding military aid has gone off the rails in recent years. She continued:
“It doesn’t make sense for Israel to come back and ask for supplemental projects if they can’t make the case of why they didn’t spend their own budget and the normal $3 billion in [American] aid on a critical item. If it’s critical, and therefore we have to subsidize it, then why didn’t you find your own money for this?”
The “this” Long referred to is America’s “special appropriation” for Israel’s Iron Dome rocket and missile defense system. While she was working at the defense department, Ms. Long opposed creation of yet another “independent aid program” for Iron Dome.  But because she was in the minority and didn’t like the idea of American tax dollars completely supporting Israel’s defense, she lost that battle.
America has “gifted” over $1 billion extra since 2010 to increase Israel’s “Iron Dome” defense systems, and that is in addition to the annual billions America gave Israel in military aid. President Obama opposed the extra gifts at the time they were first demanded by Israel and remarked that Israel should find its own money for Iron Dome; especially when America’s economy was still reeling from the 2008 financial crisis.
No matter how much many Americans oppose giving any military aid to other countries whether we have a “special relationship” or not, as long as that money has to be spent “buying American arms,” at least it was beneficial to America’s economy and created American jobs. There are many Americans that believe in supporting Israel as an ally, but they also believe the tens-of-billions of dollars would be better spent on Veterans and currently-enlisted military personnel; many of whom are dependent on food stamps just to feed their families.
Some Americans wouldn’t object at all to giving military aid to Israel, even though it is subsidizing Israeli jobs and industry if the nation would keep its nasty Prime Minister’s nose out of American foreign policy and stop its atrocities against Palestinians. For no small number of Americans, though, it is abominable to hand over billions to Israel while nearly a quarter of American children live in dire poverty, over 1.7 million Veterans depend on vanishing food stamps, and the nation’s infrastructure is crumbling.
President Obama is right in holding up negotiations for even more military aid to Israel until that “special procurement” program is ended because it is one thing to help defend America’s allies, but it is abominable that that “help” is enriching a foreign nation’s defense industry at American taxpayers’ expense. It is time for Israel to support its own defense and for America to stop killing Americans’ jobs because of a “special relationship” that only benefits Israel and subsidizes its defense industry.
Russian diplomats harassed by US, not other way around – Moscow on Wash Post article
worker | June 29, 2016 | 9:17 pm | Analysis, political struggle, Russia | Comments closed

Russian Embassy in Washington. © Larry Downing
It’s the Russian diplomats who are being pressured, not the other way around, the Foreign Ministry said, blasting a Washington Post article that claimed Russia harasses US diplomatic staff at home and all across Europe.

“The Washington Post has published an article on alleged harassment of US diplomats in Russia and in other countries. But, on the contrary, the pressure is increasing on Russian diplomats,” Maria Zakharova, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said Tuesday.

According to the spokeswoman, Washington is “constantly coming up with new restrictions against our diplomats, who constantly face provocations from the FBI and the CIA.”

She stressed that “unacceptable measures” are being applied against them, including “psychological pressure in the presence of their families.”

“There even had been cases when such actions were carried out in the presence of pregnant wives of our diplomats,” she added.

“Instead of receiving our signal, identifying the problem and creating conditions to improve our relations, they (the US) flip everything upside down” by releasing the publication, she added.

On Monday, the Washington Post published an article, entitled, “Russia is harassing US diplomats all over Europe.”

The author of the piece claimed that instances of Russian pressure included breaking into the homes of American embassy staff, rearranging furniture there and even killing a family dog.

Zakharova slammed the article by the US paper as a perfect example of “propaganda,” adding that it was “obviously played up.”

“This publication is shallow, this publication does not reflect the real picture, it was prepared hastily, it was prepared by hearsay,” she stressed.

The main expert in the article is the former US ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul, who Zakharova called “unfit for [his] profession” who now talks about the hardships of working in Moscow after failing on the job.

“McFaul failed [in] his diplomatic mission in Moscow, and possibly it was his efforts that contributed to the worsening of bilateral relations,” she said.

Zakharova said that despite the pressure Moscow is ready to work with Washington to improve relations.

“Our counterparts should make up their mind as to what is it they want in reality: to develop relations, or at least, not to make them worse, or cook [up] more such publications,” she said.

In May, the US Senate Intelligence Committee passed The 2017 Intelligence Authorization Bill, which among other measures, proposes restrictions on travel by Russian diplomats in the US.

READ MORE: Reviving the Cold War? Senate intelligence bill ‘targets Russian spies, diplomats’

The legislation would require the FBI to investigate all requests by US-based Russian diplomats to travel outside his or her official post, in order to ensure the diplomats have properly notified the US government of their travel plans.

The Senate is to vote on the proposal later in summer, with Moscow saying that it will respond with mirror-like measures to restrictions on its diplomatic staff.

“As it worsens relations with Russia, Washington makes the working conditions for its diplomats worse, too,” Zakharova said.

“We do hope that we will achieve constructive relations with the United States. We are prepared for that,” she added.