Tag Archives: USA

If the 20th Century was America’s Century the 21st looks like being China’s….

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The 21st century belongs to China: Why the new Silk Road threatens to end America’s economic dominance – Beijing is building a trans-Siberian railway system that rivals the Marshall Plan in its ambition and global reach

PEPE ESCOBAR, TOMDISPATCH.COM TUESDAY, FEB 24, 2015 10:15 AM +0000

BEIJING — Seen from the Chinese capital as the Year of the Sheep starts, the malaise affecting the West seems like a mirage in a galaxy far, far away. On the other hand, the China that surrounds you looks all too solid and nothing like the embattled nation you hear about in the Western media, with its falling industrial figures, its real estate bubble, and its looming environmental disasters. Prophecies of doom notwithstanding, as the dogs of austerity and war bark madly in the distance, the Chinese caravan passes by in what President Xi Jinping calls “new normal” mode.

“Slower” economic activity still means a staggeringly impressive annual growth rate of 7% in what is now the globe’s leading economy. Internally, an immensely complex economic restructuring is underway as consumption overtakes investment as the main driver of economic development. At 46.7% of the gross domestic product (GDP), the service economy has pulled ahead of manufacturing, which stands at 44%.

Geopolitically, Russia, India, and China have just sent a powerful message westward: they are busy fine-tuning a complex trilateral strategy for setting up a network of economic corridors the Chinese call “new silk roads” across Eurasia. Beijing is also organizing a maritime version of the same, modeled on the feats of Admiral Zheng He who, in the Ming dynasty, sailed the “western seas” seven times, commanding fleets of more than 200 vessels.

Meanwhile, Moscow and Beijing are at work planning a new high-speed rail remix of the fabled Trans-Siberian Railroad. And Beijing is committed to translating its growing strategic partnership with Russia into crucial financial and economic help, if a sanctions-besieged Moscow, facing a disastrous oil price war, asks for it.

To China’s south, Afghanistan, despite the 13-year American war still being fought there, is fast moving into its economic orbit, while a planned China-Myanmar oil pipeline is seen as a game-changing reconfiguration of the flow of Eurasian energy across what I’ve long called Pipelineistan.

And this is just part of the frenetic action shaping what the Beijing leadership defines as the New Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road of the twenty-first century. We’re talking about a vision of creating a potentially mind-boggling infrastructure, much of it from scratch, that will connect China to Central Asia, the Middle East, and Western Europe. Such a development will include projects that range from upgrading the ancient silk road via Central Asia to developing a Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridor; a China-Pakistan corridor through Kashmir; and a new maritime silk road that will extend from southern China all the way, in reverse Marco Polo fashion, to Venice.

Don’t think of this as the twenty-first-century Chinese equivalent of America’s post-World War II Marshall Plan for Europe, but as something far more ambitious and potentially with a far vaster reach.

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Continue reading If the 20th Century was America’s Century the 21st looks like being China’s….

Is the U.S. Crazy?

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Inquiring minds from around the world want to know By Ann Jones TomDispatch January 11, 2015

Americans who live abroad — more than six million of us worldwide (not counting those who work for the U.S. government) — often face hard questions about our country from people we live among. Europeans, Asians, and Africans ask us to explain everything that baffles them about the increasingly odd and troubling conduct of the United States. Polite people, normally reluctant to risk offending a guest, complain that America’s trigger-happiness, cutthroat free-marketeering, and “exceptionality” have gone on for too long to be considered just an adolescent phase. Which means that we Americans abroad are regularly asked to account for the behavior of our rebranded “homeland,” now conspicuously in decline and increasingly out of step with the rest of the world.

In my long nomadic life, I’ve had the good fortune to live, work, or travel in all but a handful of countries on this planet. I’ve been to both poles and a great many places in between, and nosy as I am, I’ve talked with people all along the way. I still remember a time when to be an American was to be envied. The country where I grew up after World War II seemed to be respected and admired around the world for way too many reasons to go into here.

That’s changed, of course. Even after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, I still met people — in the Middle East, no less — willing to withhold judgment on the U.S. Many thought that the Supreme Court’s installation of George W. Bush as president was a blunder American voters would correct in the election of 2004. His return to office truly spelled the end of America as the world had known it. Bush had started a war, opposed by the entire world, because he wanted to and he could. A majority of Americans supported him. And that was when all the uncomfortable questions really began.

In the early fall of 2014, I traveled from my home in Oslo, Norway, through much of Eastern and Central Europe. Everywhere I went in those two months, moments after locals realized I was an American the questions started and, polite as they usually were, most of them had a single underlying theme: Have Americans gone over the edge? Are you crazy? Please explain.

Then recently, I traveled back to the “homeland.” It struck me there that most Americans have no idea just how strange we now seem to much of the world. In my experience, foreign observers are far better informed about us than the average American is about them. This is partly because the “news” in the American media is so parochial and so limited in its views both of how we act and how other countries think — even countries with which we were recently, are currently, or threaten soon to be at war. America’s belligerence alone, not to mention its financial acrobatics, compels the rest of the world to keep close track of us. Who knows, after all, what conflict the Americans may drag you into next, as target or reluctant ally?

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US agrees to end 50 year embargo against Castro’s Cuba

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The Huge Implications of Obama’s Groundbreaking New Approach on Cuba – The White House boldly acts without waiting for Congress By Steven Rosenfeld December 17, 2014

The Obama administration’s Wednesday announcement that it will take steps to end a half-century of diplomatic and economic warfare against Cuba is a very big deal. It has far-reaching implications for the 2016 presidential election, the White House’s ongoing battle with Congress over executive branch authority, and even for the Gulf Coast’s economy, where cities like New Orleans slipped into poverty after losing ties with Havana.

Let’s go through some of the ripples that are going to dominate the discussion in coming days, starting with the predictable opposition from anti-Castro hawks in the Republican and Democratic parties, especially in Florida, which is an increasingly influential state in the emerging 2016 presidential election landscape.

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Noam Chomsky – Reagan Was an ‘Racist’ Who Re-Enslaved African Americans

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The famed scholar blames the drug war for subjugating African Americans By Scott Kaufman December 11, 2014

In an interview with GRITtv’s Laura Flanders (below), linguist and political analyst Noam Chomsky discussed how the events in Ferguson, Missouri and the protests that followed demonstrate just how little race relations in the United States have advanced since the end of the Civil War.

“This is a very racist society,” Chomsky said, “it’s pretty shocking. What’s happened to African-Americans in the last 30 years is similar to what [Douglas Blackmon in Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II] describes happening in the late 19th Century.”

Blackmon’s book describes what he calls the “Age of Neoslavery,” in which newly freed slaves found themselves entangled in a legal system built upon involuntary servitude — which included the selling of black men convicted of crimes like vagrancy and changing employers without receiving permission.

“The constitutional amendments that were supposed to free African-American slaves did something for about 10 years, then there was a North-South compact that granted the former the slave-owning states the right to do whatever they wanted,” he explained. “And what they did was criminalize black life, and that created a kind of slave force. It threw mostly black males into jail, where they became a perfect labor force, much better than slaves.”

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“If you’re a slave owner, you have to pay for — you have to keep your ‘capital’ alive. But if the state does it for you, that’s terrific. No strikes, no disobedience, the perfect labor force. A lot of the American Industrial Revolution in the late 19th, early 20th Century was based on that. It pretty must lasted until World War II.”

Continue reading Noam Chomsky – Reagan Was an ‘Racist’ Who Re-Enslaved African Americans

Torture report: 10 examples of the horror in the CIA’s prisons

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Senate’s 480-page report summary lays out in horrifying detail what happened to detainees in secret torture sites

CIA torture report release: A detainee from Afghanistan is carried on a stretcher before being interrogated by military officials at Camp X-Ray at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

A detainee from Afghanistan is carried on a stretcher before being interrogated by military officials at Camp X-Ray at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba  By Raf Sanchez, Peter Foster,  Washington 6:29AM GMT 10 Dec 2014

 

The Senate report into the CIA’s secret torture programmes is clinical and unsparing.

Over the course of a 480-page summary, it lays out in horrifying detail what was done to detainees in secret torture sites around the world. Here are some of the starkest examples:

Detainees were “rectally fed”

At least five prisoners were forced to ingest food or water through their rectums. One detainee, Majid Khan, went on hunger strike and had a “food tray” of pureed hummus, pasta, nuts and raisins forced into his rectum. Khan apparently tried to kill himself by biting his own veins.

In 2012, he pleaded guilty to terror charges in front of a military court at Guantánamo Bay.

Prisoner dies of suspected hypothermia

In November 2002, the suspected Afghan militant Gul Rahman was being held at “the Salt Pit”, a secret US prison in Afghanistan. Rahman was stripped naked below the waist, chained, and made to sit on a bare concrete floor. He was found dead the next day of suspected hypothermia.

26 of 119 prisoners were wrongfully held

Among the people who were wrongly held was Nazar Ali, “an ‘intellectually challenged’ individual whose taped crying was used as leverage against his family member”.

Continue reading Torture report: 10 examples of the horror in the CIA’s prisons

Er… I don’t want to worry anyone here but ‘Leader of the free world’ America seems like one huge conspiracy theory at the moment – the only issue is they are all True!!!!

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Now they’re trying to steal 2016: The demented GOP schemes to rewire the Electoral College and elect a Tea Party president – Republicans know they can’t win the popular vote. You won’t believe sick schemes they’ve launched to get around it by PAUL ROSENBERG SATURDAY, DEC 6, 2014 01:15

Republicans have only won the popular vote for president once in the last 25 years, a steep decline in their fortunes from the period from 1972 to 1988, when they won the popular vote every time but one–1976, the aftermath of Watergate. Add to that massive policy failures and demographic trends against them, and the motivations to cheat are overwhelming.

Voter suppression seemed promising at first—and it’s helpful in many downticket races—but it’s not going to be enough to secure the White House. So they’ve been working on another idea as well—make the popular vote totally irrelevant by leaving red states just as they are, with statewide winners getting all the electoral votes, while making electoral votes more or less proportional in as many blue states as possible—many of which the GOP controls at the state level. If they can rewrite the rules fast enough, they could even win in 2016, with no more votes than Mitt Romney received.

Republicans have been fiddling with various Electoral College schemes since at least 2011 (in Michigan and Pennsylvania), with an upsurge of interest in early 2013, following Romney’s disappointing loss. “How Romney Could Have Won: A changed system would mean changed results” was the title of a January 2013 National Review story, capturing the mood at the time. Romney needn’t have won a single additional popular vote, you see. Just divvy up Electoral College votes by congressional district, and voilà! President, President Romney, Mr. 47 Percent! “[F]or those frustrated over 2012’s results,” the story concluded, “it might be worth thinking about whether it’s time to overhaul the system itself.”

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The buzz faded rather quickly, but now, post-midterm elections, it seems to be staging a modest comeback—and the GOP’s sheer desperation means it would be foolish to ignore this ongoing threat to our democracy. Renewed talk of rewrite schemes actually began even before the midterm election, according to a late-October story by Michigan political columnist Susan J. Demas, and a watered-down scheme emerged after the election, she reported, which would give most of the electoral votes to the statewide winner, but give some to the loser as well. “It’s like a participation trophy in pre-school tee-ball,” Demas wrote, “only Michigan is trying to build up the self-esteem of Republican wannabe leaders of the free world.”

Continue reading Er… I don’t want to worry anyone here but ‘Leader of the free world’ America seems like one huge conspiracy theory at the moment – the only issue is they are all True!!!!

Margaret Mead on the Root of Racism and the Liability of Law Enforcement by Maria Popova

“The more complex a society becomes, the more fully the law must take into account the diversity of the people who live in it… It is a matter in which the whole society is involved.”

On her ascent to fame as the world’s best-known and most influential cultural anthropologist, Margaret Mead became one of modern history’s greatest academic celebrities. As she toured the world to give university lectures, public talks, and presentations at various institutions, she brought with her the essential tools of anthropology — the art of looking, coupled with a great capacity for listening, for asking and answering questions. In 1963, Redbook Magazine began publishing Mead’s answers to the best questions she had received from audiences over her extensive career.

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After Mead’s death in late 1978, her partner of a quarter-century, the anthropologist and Redbook editor Rhoda Metraux, collected the best of these questions and answers in Margaret Mead: Some Personal Views  — a compendium of Mead’s timeless insight into the human condition, bearing remarkably timely relevance to contemporary culture and public life even today. Many of Mead’s views — particularly her beliefs on equal parenting and the fluidity of human sexuality — were decades ahead of her time, but one particular subject stuns with its prescience half a century later, in the heartbreaking aftermath of Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, and Eric Garner: Mead’s piercing wisdom on the root of racism and the liability of law enforcement.

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Continue reading Margaret Mead on the Root of Racism and the Liability of Law Enforcement by Maria Popova