Monthly Archives: February 2010

California is a greater risk than Greece, warns JP Morgan chief

Jamie Dimon, chairman of JP Morgan Chase, has warned American investors should be more worried about the risk of default of the state of California than of Greece’s current debt woes.

Telegraph | Feb 26, 2010

By James Quinn, US Business Editor in New York

Mr Dimon told investors at the Wall Street bank’s annual meeting that “there could be contagion” if a state the size of California, the biggest of the United States, had problems making debt repayments. “Greece itself would not be an issue for this company, nor would any other country,” said Mr Dimon. “We don’t really foresee the European Union coming apart.” The senior banker said that JP Morgan Chase and other US rivals are largely immune from the European debt crisis, as the risks have largely been hedged.

California however poses more of a risk, given the state’s $20bn (£13.1bn) budget deficit, which Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is desperately trying to reduce.

Earlier this week, the state’s legislature passed bills that will cut the deficit by $2.8bn through budget cuts and other measures. However the former Hollywood film star turned politician is looking for $8.9bn of cuts over the next 16 months, and is also hoping for as much as $7bn of handouts from the federal government.

Earlier this week, John Chiang, the state’s controller, said that if a workable plan to reduce the deficit and increase cash levels is not reached soon, he will have to return to issuing IOU’s, forcing state workers to take additional unpaid leave and potentially freezing spending.

Last summer, California issued $3bn of IOU’s to creditors including residents owed tax refunds as a way of staving off a cash crisis.

“I can’t write checks without money; that’s against the law. My main goal is to keep the state afloat, but I won’t be able to do it without the help of new legislation,” said Mr Chiang.

South America to create new EU-type bloc to defy US

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez led the push for a new bloc

President Calderon of Mexico announced the birth of the new organization

Latin America | 26.02.2010

The 24-strong bloc of Latin American states known as the Rio Group is to join the Caribbean Community to form a new trade body intended to present opposition to US dominance. What can it really hope to achieve?

The Rio Group assertively announced the birth of its successor earlier this week, at a summit in a resort town on Mexico’s Caribbean coast. Mexican President Felipe Calderon declared that a new body had been formed that would represent both the Group of Rio and the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

Going under the provisional name the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELC), the newly announced body specifically excluded the United States and Canada from membership, and intends to consolidate the sometimes tenuous solidarity among the Central and South American states. The exclusion of the two North American powerhouses puts the nascent organization in direct competition with the Organization of American States (OAS), established in 1948, over which the US holds decisive authority.

The declaration is clearly a statement of South America’s new self-assertion, and comes in the wake of provocative times, as fellow Rio Group states rallied around Argentina in its current dispute with Britain over oil-drilling rights off the Falkland Islands.

Nikolaus Werz, political scientist at the University of Rostock, believes that the emergence of the new body will only make Europe’s diplomatic ties with Latin America more complicated. “We need a single point of contact, and this adds another to the long list we already have – the Rio Group, OAS, CARICOM and Unasur,” he told Deutsche Welle.

Almost every Latin American country was represented at the annual summit in Mexico, and together they succeeded in formulating some of the values of the sub-continent. Calderon declared, “We have decided to base an organization on shared values including sovereignty and the non-use of force, including threats of force, international cooperation, ever closer integration of Latin America and the Caribbean and permanent political dialogue.”

Historical rhetoric

There was no shortage of high-flown and defiant rhetoric at the meeting, led predictably by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who spoke of finally throwing off the US-yoke. “Now here, in Mexico, we have created a document, a compromise, the creation of a body of Latin America and the Caribbean, without the USA,” Chavez said at the summit. “Now we can say from Mexico we have revived the dream and project of Bolivar.”

There was a strong sense that the region’s most left-wing, anti-American governments had pioneered the creation of the new organization, which is set to convene for the first time on July 5, 2011, in Caracas, Venezuela. But Werz also suggested that the US’s influence on the sub-continent had waned in recent years anyway. “The OAS failed as it tried to take on certain challenges,” he said. “Other players have increased their presence in South America, notably China, but also the EU.”

In an interview with South American broadcaster Telesur, Bolivian president Evo Morales lent his own weight to the vision of a South American brotherhood united against the US. Morales was among many who recently voiced concern about the huge US military presence now stationed on Haiti and the summit pledged to send a further $25 million (18.5 million euros) to the earthquake-hit country.

“A union of Latin American countries is the weapon against imperialism. It is necessary to create a regional body that excludes the United States and Canada,” Morales said. “Where there are US military bases that do not respect democracy, where there is political empire with his blackmailers, with its constraints, there is no development for that country, and especially there is no social peace.”

But the summit also revealed the many tensions likely to threaten the prospective new bloc. The project nearly ran aground this week on the continuing conflict between neighboring Venezuala and Colombia. Colombia is considered a close ally of the US, and Venezuela often perceives itself under threat.

Jamaican head of state Bruce Golding admitted that such tensions were unlikely to go away overnight. “In the past, there were too many occasions where we fought one another. But we still had to live in the same part of the world. I hope that we find ways in the new community to talk about what divides us with the aim of achieving unity.”

Doubts over South American strength

But doubts have also been voiced about the strength and belligerence of the proposed body when it actually comes into being. Few specifics have been revealed about its structure, much of which is yet to be decided, and Rafael Fernandez de Castro, Calderon’s top foreign policy advisor, told the Miami Herald newspaper that the new organization will have neither a building or a permanent staff, and would operate according to a “flexible” program of summits – in other words, CELC would convene either every one or two years.

On top of this, the six nations that have been chosen to draw up the new body’s mission statement – Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela – are mainly countries with no interest in antagonizing the US. The fact that US-friendly Chile takes over the two-year presidency of the Group of Rio in March is unlikely to sharpen tensions within the Americas either.

Indian law would make criticizing GM crops an imprisonable offense

Criticising GM crops may land you in jail

expressbuzz.com | Feb 26, 2010

by Imran Khan

BANGALORE: Criticising Genetically Modified (GM) products could land you in jail — if the draconian draft Biotechnology Regulatory Authority Bill (BRAB) of 2009, which will be tabled in the current session of the parliament by the UPA government, is passed.

In an unprecedented muzzle on the right to freedom of speech of the citizen, Chapter 13 section 63 of the draft bill says, “Whoever, without any evidence or scientific record misleads the public about the safety of the organisms and products…shall be punished with imprisonment for a term that shall not be less than six months but which may extend to one year and with fine which may extend to two lakh rupees or with both.” The BRAI Bill drafted by the department of bio-technology under the Ministry of Science and Technology comes on the heels of a moratorium on Bt Brinjal announced by the Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh.

“What they are doing is much worse than what Hitler or Mussolini did. Through this bill, they want to take absolute authority. They are behaving like a vendor instead of a regulator,” Pushpa M Bhargava, a member of the Supreme Court appointed Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) said.

There are also other provisions in this bill which are disconcerting.

Article 27 (1) of the bill seeks to keep the information related to the research, approval and science of the GM Products out of the purview of the Right to Information ( RTI) Act.

In other words, farmers, NGO’s and Environmental groups that have been on the forefront of the campaign against BT Brinjal and other genetically modified crops, can longer obtain information about it.

Not only that, the three member experts of the Department of Biotechnology will override any existing legislation about GM technology in the states.

The draft bill also states that the BRAI will set up its own appellate tribunal which will have the jurisdiction to hear arguments on the issues concerning biotechnology. In case of any disputes, petitioners can only approach the Supreme Court of India.

“The BRAI bill is more draconian than what the nation faced during the Emergency ‘’ says Devinder Sharma, writer and Food Policy Analyst. “If the Bill was already in force, I would have been in jail.

Jairam Ramesh too would have been in jail for challenging the health and environmental claims of the company developing Bt Brinjal,” he said. The bill demonstrates the extraordinary hold the multinational companies have over the UPA government, he added. Kavitha Kurugunti of Kheti Virasat Mission said that this bill is just a way to silence the voices who are opposed to GM technology.

British government apologizes for shipping thousands of children abroad into forced labor and abuse

Program sent children to colonies such as Canada and Australia in first half of 1900s, where many were abused or forced into labour.

Mr. Brown said the country is sorry for the “shameful” and “misguided” child migrant program of the 1920 to 1960s, in which an estimated 150,000 British children were sent to distant colonies.

Globe and Mail | Feb 25, 2010

by Sarah Boesveld

In September of 1898, British city boy Al DeBeau was shipped to Canada and shuttled from farm to farm, not knowing where he was or why he was there.

The child, who had come from an orphanage in Britain, was backhanded in the face for not knowing how to “slop the pigs” and sent away from other farms for being too small. In fact, he endured dark periods for most of his life, his family said, before dying in 1979.

Now, more than a century later, the British government has said it is sorry.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologized Wednesday to the tens of thousands of poor British children shipped to former colonies such as Canada and Australia, where instead of a better life many suffered harsh conditions, neglect and abuse.

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Mr. Brown said the country is sorry for the “shameful” and “misguided” child migrant program of the 1920 to 1960s, in which an estimated 150,000 British children were sent to distant colonies. “We are sorry they were allowed to be sent away when at their most vulnerable. We are sorry that instead of caring for them, this country turned its back,” he told the House of Commons.

Canadian officials have yet to apologize for accepting 100,000 British young people, harbouring them in harsh conditions and running spotty inspections.

“I’m not ready to say, ‘No they will not make the gesture,’ but my sense of the current government is that it’s unlikely to,” said Kenneth Bagnell, author of  The Little Immigrants: The Orphans Who Came to Canada .

Many of the migrants have died and the rest are very old, Mr. Bagnell said, and their families are not organized to campaign for an apology.

The programs were meant to ease pressure on British social services, provide children with a fresh start and supply the empire with a sturdy supply of white workers. But many children ended up in institutions where they were physically and sexually abused, or, like Mr. DeBeau, were sent to work as farm labourers.

“An apology any time is a good thing. I know that it affected my grandfather a lot. He had a very tough upbringing,” said Jeff Adams, Mr. DeBeau’s Calgary-based grandson.

Mr. Brown’s statement came after Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd issued a similar apology at a November gathering in Canberra attended by tearful former child migrants. About 7,000 survivors of the migration program still live in Australia.

The migrants were sent off when they were as young as three years old to foster homes, state-run orphanages and religious institutions in Australia and Canada. Many were falsely told they were orphans and sent without the consent of their parents, Mr. Brown said.

Mr. Brown later met with a group of around 60 former child migrants in central London, where he was greeted with cheers and applause.

Harold Haig, of the International Association of Former Child Migrants and their Families, said the apology was long awaited.

“For us the apology is a moment in history where there can be reconciliation between the government, the nation and the child migrants,” he said.

Cold War: Moscow Brushes Off Record Snow

Russians walk in heavy snow near St Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow

Sky News | Feb 25, 2010

by Amanda Walker

When other countries complain about snow, Russians scoff. Living here it’s easy to see why.

Moscow has not seen snow like this since the Cold War days of 44 years ago. Four days of blizzards have dumped 67cm of it across the capital.

An army of 5,500 street cleaners using an array of snow clearing contraptions has been despatched to clear roads and paths. They are an effective force: over the past few days they have cleared two million cubic metres of snow.

Mini snow mountains line the streets and pavements. Huge icicles hang threateningly high from the Soviet-era buildings.

Lada wheels spin in the slush and Muscovites slip and slide their way to work. But this is business as usual and there’s very little grumbling.

Sergei is shovelling snow in a mini digger: “I’ve never seen snow like this. It’s extraordinary – we’re working 24 hours to beat it,” he says.

Moscow is permanently jammed with traffic – but the number of cars on the road is said to have fallen by a third since the latest smothering.

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Some owners have given up on the daily task of clearing blanketed cars. Some lie forgotten on the roadside, hidden in snow and unrecognisable – not to be revealed until the thaw.

What is on the ground isn’t the only hazard – it pays well to look up now and again. Dollops of snow have a habit of falling from a great height on unsuspecting passers-by.It is a miracle people aren’t killed this way – much of the “snow” is really packed ice.

Aside from the daily grind – there is fun to be had. The hilly parts of Moscow make for convenient slopes for the experienced and beginners. Snowboarders perform tricks while classes of children receive tuition.

One boarder tells us: “The last four days brought a ridiculous amount of snow to Moscow and that is very good for those who ski and do other winter sports. We are very happy.”

Moscow is almost proud of its unrelenting winters – and any city which thinks it can do better is a mere pretender.

Six more Britons had identities stolen by ‘Mossad assassins’

Six more Britons, including a 23-year-old woman, have discovered their identities were stolen by an alleged Mossad hit squad in the murder of a Hamas leader last month.

Telegraph | Feb 25, 2010

By Richard Spencer in Dubai and Aislinn Laing

Police in Dubai now say 12 cloned British passports were used in the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, as the total number of suspects rose to 26.

One of the Britons whose passport was faked was named as Gabriella Barney, originally from Bury, Lancs, who is thought to have moved to Israel as a child.

She was one of six women who have now named in connection with the assassination of Mr Mabhouh, who was found dead in his hotel room on Jan 20.

The Foreign Office said the photographs and signatures on the newly-released passports did not match those of the Britons whose names and dates of birth were held on file.

The mother of one of the Britons named, Mark Sklar, 30, told The Daily Telegraph her son, who now lives in Israel, had never been to Dubai.

Rachel Sklar, who lives in Staines, Middlesex, said: “He’s just a normal guy. I think he’ll be quite worried by this.”

The other Britons whose passports were used were Roy Cannon, 62, Stephen Drake, 54, Philip Carr, 35, and Daniel Schnur, 32.

Police revealed new details about the murder including fresh CCTV footage of the hit squad in action.

It showed the suspects in various locations across the city, including the airport and hotels, in similar positions to those shown in the original footage. Some were posing as couples as they entered and left hotels.

It also emerged that one of the assassins used a credit card issued by the Nationwide Building Society and two used cards issued by the British firm IDT Finance – where Mr Sklar works.

Another 13 suspects used credit cards issued by the same American bank, Metabank, to book flights and hotel rooms.

The six Britons were among 15 newly-identified suspects, who also carried French, Irish and Australian passports.

One of the Australian men whose passport was cloned, Adam Korman, 34, said from his home in Tel Aviv: “I am shocked, it’s identity theft – simply unbelievable.

“I have been frightened and shocked since receiving the news. It’s irresponsible and a violation of human and individual rights to do such a thing.”

Mr Mabhouh was given an electric shock and then smothered with a pillow while staying at the Al Bustan Rotana Hotel near Dubai Airport. He is thought to have been lured there from his home in Syria on the pretence of buying arms for Hamas.

Police also gave more information about the movements of the assassination squad.

They said the team flew in from four European locations – Zurich, Rome, Paris and Frankfurt – before leaving after the killing, in some cases within minutes.

The suspects scattered across the world in destinations included Hong Kong, Doha, Amsterdam, Paris, Bangkok and Frankfurt, with a number reuniting in Zurich.

In an bizarre twist, it emerged two of the suspects, both using Australian passports, fled by boat to Iran, a sworn enemy of Israel.

It heightened suspicions Mr Mabhouh may have been betrayed by someone he considered an ally. Police have already arrested two Palestinians, said to be members of Hamas’s rival Fatah, as suspects and a member of Hamas has been detained in Syria, accused of helping the assassins.

Britain, France, Ireland and Germany have already called in Israeli ambassadors, angered by the use of their nationals’ passports in the operation.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We believe that passport details were fraudulently used as in the previous cases. We are seeking to contact these other six as we did before to offer consular assistance.”

Mass-immigration into Britain part of secret government program to deliberately change ethnic composition of the country

At last we know the truth: Labour despises anyone who loves Britain, its values and its history

Daily Mail | Feb 24, 2010

Of all the issues of concern to the public, immigration is possibly the most explosive – and the one about which the most lies are continuing to be told.

During the period that Labour has been in office, mass immigration has simply changed the face of Britain. The total number of immigrants since 1997 is pushing three million.

Ministers claim that immigration policy has been driven principally to help the economy. They have always denied that they actually set out deliberately to change the ethnic composition of the country.

Well, now we know for a certainty that this is not true. The Government embarked on a policy of mass immigration to change Britain into a multicultural society – and they kept this momentous aim secret from the people whose votes they sought.

Worse still, they did this knowing that it ran directly counter to the wishes of those voters, whose concerns about immigration they dismissed as racist; and they further concealed official warnings that large-scale immigration would bring about significant increases in crime.

The truth about this scandal was first blurted out last October by Andrew Neather, a former Labour Party speechwriter.

He wrote that until the new points-based system limiting foreign workers was introduced in 2008 – in response to increasing public uproar – government policy for the previous eight years had been aimed at promoting mass immigration.

The ‘driving political purpose’ of this policy, wrote Neather, was ‘to make the UK truly multicultural’ – and one subsidiary motivation was ‘to rub the Right’s nose in diversity and render their arguments out of date’.

Ministers, however, went to great lengths to keep their real intentions secret from the public – with, said Neather, a ‘ paranoia’ that these would reach the media – since they knew their core white working-class voters would react very badly.

Accordingly, a report about immigration by a government advisory unit, which formed the core of a landmark speech in 2000 announcing the loosening of border controls, went through several drafts before it was finally published – and the Government’s true intentions about changing Britain into a multicultural society were removed from the final version.

After revealing all this, Neather subsequently tried to backtrack, saying that his views had been twisted out of all recognition by the media. They hadn’t been.

Nevertheless, Jack Straw, who was Home Secretary at the time the immigration policy was changed, said he had read press reports of Neather’s remarks with incredulity since they were ‘the reverse of the truth’.

Now we know, however, that they were indeed the truth. We know this only because details of the advisory unit’s report which were excised from the final published version – just as Neather said – have been emerging into the public domain through Freedom of Information requests.

The pressure group MigrationWatch obtained an early draft which revealed that the Government’s intention was to encourage mass immigration for ‘social objectives’ – in other words, to produce a more ethnically diverse society – but that on no fewer than six occasions this phrase was excised from the final version, published some three months later.

Now we further discover, from what was removed from seemingly another early draft, that the aim was not just to implement this policy of mass immigration without the knowledge or consent of the British people.

It was done in the full knowledge that the people actually wanted immigration reduced.

And we also discover that those who expressed such concerns were dismissed with utter contempt as racists – and it was further suggested that ministers should manipulate public opinion in an attempt to change people’s attitudes.

Well, they have certainly tried to do that by hanging the disgusting label of ‘racism’ round the neck of anyone who dares voice such concerns.

Thus the eminent and decent Labour MP Frank Field found himself smeared as a racist for daring to suggest that the rate of immigration should be reduced.

What bullying arrogance. The real prejudice is surely to believe that opposition to mass migration can never be based on any reasonable objection.

The implications of this covert policy are quite staggering. Ministers deliberately set out to change the cultural and ethnic identity of this country in secret.

They did this mainly because they hated what Britain was, a largely homogeneous society rooted in 1,000 years of history. They therefore set out to replace it by a totally new kind of multicultural society – and one in which the vast majority of newcomers could be expected to vote Labour.

They set out to destroy the right of the British people to live in a society defined by a common history, religion, law, language and traditions. They set out to destroy for ever what it means to be culturally British and to put another ‘multicultural’ identity in its place.

And they then had the gall to declare that to have love for or pride in that authentic British identity, and to want to protect and uphold it, was racist.

So the very deepest feelings of people for their country were damned as bigotry, for which crime they were to have their noses rubbed in mass immigration until they changed their attitudes.

What an appalling abuse of power. Yet even now they are denying that this is what they did. Yesterday, the Immigration Minister Phil Woolas blustered that the advisory unit report had not been accepted by ministers at the time.

But the fact is that mass immigration actually happened. The only thing ministers hadn’t accepted was that the truth about their intentions should be revealed to the public.

Surreally, Mr Woolas further claims that the Government has brought immigration down.

But the reductions he is talking about have taken place on the separate issue of asylum. The impact of the Government’s new points scheme upon the record rate of immigration growth has been negligible.

The truth is that these early drafts of the advisory unit’s report have blown open one of the greatest political scandals of the Labour years. At no stage did Labour’s election manifestos make any reference to a policy of mass immigration nor the party’s aim of creating a multicultural society.

What we have been subjected to is a deliberate deception of the voters and a gross abuse of democracy.

There could scarcely be a more profound abuse of the democratic process than to set out to destroy a nation’s demographic and cultural identity through a conscious deception of the people of that nation. It is an act of collective national treachery.

Now we face imminently another General Election. And now we know that in their hearts, Labour politicians hold the great mass of the public, many of them their own voters, in total contempt as racist bigots – all for wanting to live in a country whose identity they share.

There could hardly be a more worthy issue for the Conservative Party to leap upon. Yet their response is muted through their own visceral terror of appearing racist.

The resulting despair over the refusal of the mainstream parties to address this issue threatens to drive many into the arms of the truly racist British National Party.

If that happens, the fault will lie not just with Labour’s ideological malice and mendacity, but with the spinelessness of an entire political class.