Nearly Half of All Americans Believe “The Federal Government Poses An Immediate Threat To The Rights And Freedoms Of Ordinary Citizens”

Nearly Half of All Americans Believe “The Federal Government Poses An Immediate Threat To The Rights And Freedoms Of Ordinary Citizens”

Painting by Anthony Freda:

new Gallup poll shows that a majority of Americans view the government as too powerful and obtrusive.

The poll found:

  • 59% of Americans now believe the federal government has too much power
  • 46% believe “the federal government poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens”. Only slightly more (51%) disagree with that statement *

* Gallup notes:

One can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

That means that as much as half of Americans may actually agree the government poses a threat.


Danube in danger: toxic timebombs from Soviet years put region at risk

Danube in danger: toxic timebombs from Soviet years put region at risk

String of disasters waiting to happen at sites across great river’s basin, says World Wide Fund for Nature

Environmental workers collect samples from the river Danube as it flows into Romania from Hungary.Environmental workers collect samples from the river Danube as it flows into Romania. Photograph: Daniel Mihailescu/AFP/Getty ImagesFrom the Black Forest to the Black Sea, the Danube meanders for almost 1,800 miles through 10 countries, its course punctuated by areas of great beauty and industrial disasters waiting to happen. 

The torrent of toxic sludge devastating tracts of western Hungary and the risk of heavy metals leaching into the great waterway have highlighted the dangers posed by the rusting heavy industrial plants lining the river’s banks.

In the past decade alone, it has been accosted by Nato bombs, oil spills and cyanide poisoning. The neglect that appears to have been the source of the problem at the Ajka tailings dam has environmentalists worried that there are dozens of other “ticking toxic timebombs” primed to explode and wreak havoc with Europe’s biggest river basin.

“There are a string of disasters waiting to happen at sites across the Danube basin,” said a spokesman for the World Wide Fund for Nature.

The organisation has used EU data and studies to compile lists and maps of pollution hot spots in the Danube area. Hungary has many vulnerable industrial sites but so do SerbiaRomania and Bulgaria.

In Hungary, anxiety is focused on another red sludge reservoir on the banks of the Danube at Almasfuzito, 50 miles north of Budapest. The waste here is similarly produced by turning bauxite into aluminium. Seven pools hold 12m tonnes of hazardous waste, including an estimated 120,000 tonnes of heavy metals.

“The pools have not been covered by clay to block leaking of water,” said the WWF. “The pools are more or less in direct contact with the ground water table and indirectly with the Danube. “An unusually high level of toxic metals as well as fluoride were detected in the monitoring wells several times recently.”

With 83 million people inhabiting the 19 countries that form the Danube basin, the river is the lifeblood and artery of central and south-eastern Europe.

There is no sign yet that the Hungarian calamity has affected the river, with all countries on the Danube monitoring the water’s pH levels every three hours and feeding the information to an office in Vienna for analysis.

“All the results show the water is quite clean,” said Mihaela Popovici, a pollution expert at the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube river (ICPDR) in Vienna. “We’re much more relaxed than we were a few days ago.”

Many of the threats to the river’s health are part of the legacy ofcommunism. Soviet bloc regimes promoted heavy industry including themining of bauxite, uranium and gold and placed large oil refineries along the waterway with scant heed for the environment.

The ICPDR has identified 160 hot spots in the river basin, more than 40 of which are classified as high risk.

Romania occupies a third of the basin, by far the biggest national chunk, and is seen as particularly problematic.

It is home to the most extensive and precious wetlands in Europe, the Danube delta, which is judged especially vulnerable.

The worst Danube disaster occurred in Romania a decade ago when a wall collapsed at a goldmine in the north-west region of Baia Mare, dosing the river with cyanide and heavy metals and poisoning drinking water across the Balkans.

The biggest goldmining project in Europe is underway in Romania, also using cyanide extraction methods.

In May the European parliament voted by a margin of 10-1 for an EU-wide ban on the technology, arguing that this “is the only safe way to protect our water resources and ecosystems against cyanide pollution from mining activities”.

But no EU ban has yet been decided.

Despite the alarm about the environmental risks, experts say things are improving. Until 2004 only two Danube states, Germany and Austria, were in the EU. The figure is now eight, meaning that stiffer European regulations and standards governing mining safety, industrial plant licensing and pollution are in force.

“It’s good to have better regulations but implementation is always a problem. That’s what we’ve seen in Hungary,” said Andreas Beckmann, Danube project co-ordinator at the WWF.

He said there had been huge progress in improving environmental disaster zones across the region since the collapse of communism in 1989.

“Many areas were also left relatively untouched. If there are great wildernesses left in Europe, they are in the east not the west.”

Mazar-e Sharif Commandos Make First “Hearts and Minds” Visit to Orphanage

[Look for more of these face-building missions in the Mazar-e Sharif area, as Special Forces operating out of new $100 million Special Forces Center start to build their “good-guy” reputation in the area.]

Commandos, special forces assess orphanage in Mazar-e Sharif

ISAF Joint Command

Courtesy Story

KABUL, Afghanistan – Soldiers from 2nd Company, 5th Commando Kandak and U.S. special forces conducted a medical assessment of an orphanage in Mazar-e Sharif, Balkh province, Tuesday, to determine the needs of the orphanage and patients.

The orphanage is home to more than 30 children and also acts as a women’s shelter, housing an additional 20 women.

The visit represents the first by Afghan or U.S. forces and the children showed their surprise by swarming around the soldiers.

“None of these children has father figures in their lives,” said a special forces non-commissioned officer that assisted with the assessment. “The commandos were great with them – they sat down to share snacks and played a game of volleyball.”

In addition to handing out volleyballs, the commandos passed out backpacks, crayons, notebooks, and other school supplies.

During medical screening, it was determined that the majority of the 20 patients seen by medics suffer from poor nutrition, along with a variety of other ailments. Medical personnel provided medical aid to the patients as necessary as well as advice on preventative medical practices.

After the medical assessment, the partnered-force looked at other basic necessities of the orphanage and discovered that the attic that holds the living quarter’s water supply has numerous broken windows, allowing doves to nest along the pipes. Force members noted the required materials so they could fix the attic in a future visit.

“The well water tested clean, but the attic area that the main water is held will need to be cleaned up,” said the NCO, who will lead follow-on operational trips to the orphanage.

Future visits to the orphanage will include medical supplies, additional doctors and winter clothing for the women and children.

Russia and Venezuela strike nuclear power station deal

[Further proof that the “reset” has either failed outright, or it was always just B.S. to amuse the peasant class.]

Russia and Venezuela strike nuclear power station deal

Hugo Chávez says he wants to cut oil reliance, while Moscow asserts Venezuela’s right to ‘full range of energy choices’

Hugo Chavez and Dmitry Medvedev after a signing ceremony in MoscowHugo Chavez and Dmitry Medvedev, the Venezuelan and Russian presidents, after a signing ceremony in Moscow. Photograph: Yuri Kochetkov/EPARussia has agreed to help Venezuela build its first nuclear power station in a move likely to raise concerns in Washington about increasingly close cooperation between Moscow and Caracas.

President Dmitry Medvedev announced the move at the end of a two-day visit to Moscow by Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chávez. The Venezuelan economy is overwhelmingly reliant on oil and Chávez has said he wants nuclear power to diversify energy supply.

Medvedev has implicitly acknowledged the deal is likely to be unpopular with the US but defended Venezuela’s right to seek access to peaceful nuclear technology. The station is likely to be built over the next 10-15 years. Its cost has not yet been revealed.

“An agreement has just been signed on co-operation in the atomic sphere. I don’t know who will shudder at this,” Medvedev told a press conference after his talks with Chávez. “The president [of Venezuela] said there will be countries in which this will provoke different emotions. But I want to say specially that our intentions are absolutely pure and open.” Russia wanted Venezuela to have a “full range of energy choices”.

Chávez’s visit is his ninth to Moscow and the first stop on a 12-day European tour that includes visits to Belarus and, for the first time, Ukraine – now once again within Moscow’s sphere of influence. On previous occasions, Chávez has bought billions of dollars worth of military hardware from Russia including submarines, helicopters and attack aircraft. Both leaders have reaffirmed their plans to continue military-technical co-operation.

Viktor Semyonov, an economist at Moscow’s Institute of Latin American Studies, said it was logical for Venezuela to seek civilian nuclear technology since its economy was even more dependent on oil than Russia’s. Russia was already building a nuclear power station in Iran and holding talks with other Latin American countries, including Brazil and Argentina.

“We are a country that exports nuclear technology around the world. Venezuela’s economy is 94 or even 95% made up of oil. Russia’s is 65%, which is already a lot. They (the Venezuelans) want to widen their sources of energy so they are less dependent on it,” Semyonov said.

Speaking in Moscow on Thursday night, Chávez offered assurances that Venezuela had no interest in building a nuclear weapon and only wanted peaceful nuclear technology. He described the collapse of the Soviet Union a “catastrophe” and launched a familiar attack on the United States, denigrating it as a “Yankee empire”.

Chávez went for a spin in a Lada car, causing miles of gridlock on Moscow’s traffic-clogged streets. Before heading to the airport Chávez handed Medevedev several gifts. They included three bars of chocolate, banana jam and a tin of cocoa.

“Helicopter Ben” Bernanke Revs-Up for Further Emergency Measures

[“Strategy of tension” even applied to Fed’s monetary policy:

“He acknowledged, with greater candor than Fed officials have normally used, the tension between the two parts of the Fed’s dual mandate: promoting price stability and maximum employment.”

This is a clear signal that the bankers understand that the stimulus failed to correct anything other than short-term balance sheets.]

Bernanke Signals Intent to Further Spur Economy

Kevin Lorenzi/Bloomberg News

Ben S. Bernanke, the Fed chairman, in Pittsburgh on Wednesday. He said Friday that the central bank was poised to take steps to help fight unemployment.


BOSTON — The Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, sent a clear signal on Friday that the central bank was poised to take additional steps to try to fight persistently low inflation and high unemployment.

“Given the committee’s objectives, there would appear — all else being equal — to be a case for further action,” he said in a detailed speech at a gathering of economists here.

Mr. Bernanke noted that “unconventional policies have costs and limitations that must be taken into account in judging whether and how aggressively they should be used.” But he suggested that the Fed was prepared to manage the risks associated with the most powerful tool remaining in the Fed’s arsenal of weapons to stimulate the economy: vast new purchases of government debt to lower long-term interest rates.

As Mr. Bernanke sent an unmistakable message to the markets that the Fed was prepared to wander into uncharted territory, he tried to anticipate and address potential criticism.

“One disadvantage of asset purchases relative to conventional monetary policy is that we have much less experience in judging the economic effects of this policy instrument, which makes it challenging to determine the appropriate quantity and pace of purchases and to communicate this policy response to the public,” he said.

Mr. Bernanke addressed a criticism of new asset purchases, that they would “reduce public confidence in the Fed’s ability to execute a smooth exit from its accommodative policies at the appropriate time.” Such a reduction in confidence, “even if unjustified,” could lead to an undesirable increase in inflation expectations, he said.

For now, inflation appears remote. As Mr. Bernanke spoke, the government released the September figures for the consumer price indexshowing a rise of only 0.1 percent from the previous month. The core index, excluding energy and food, was flat.

Mr. Bernanke’s comments in Boston strongly suggested that the Federal Open Market Committee, which sets monetary policy, is likely to take new steps at its next meeting, on Nov. 2-3.

The Fed’s balance sheet has nearly tripled, to about $2.3 trillion, since the financial crisis of 2008. Most of the increase can be attributed to the Fed’s purchases of $1.7 trillion in mortgage-related securities and Treasury securities in 2009-10. The Fed has tested a number of technical tools to drain the large pool of bank reserves that it created in order to purchase those securities.

“With these tools in hand, I am confident that the F.O.M.C. will be able to tighten monetary conditions when warranted, even if the balance sheet remains considerably larger than normal at that time,” Mr. Bernanke said.

Mr. Bernanke also weighed one other tool the Fed could take: communicating that it intends to keep short-term interest rates at nearly zero for even longer than the markets now expect. (The Fed has been saying since March 2009 that the benchmark federal funds rate, at which banks lend to each other overnight, would remain “exceptionally low” for “an extended period.”) Changing the statement could help lower longer-term rates.

“A potential drawback of using the F.O.M.C.’s statement this way is that, at least without a more comprehensive framework in place, it may be difficult to convey the committee’s policy intentions with sufficient precision and conditionality,” Mr. Bernanke said, hinting that that strategy was not his favored approach.

Mr. Bernanke used his speech to plant himself firmly on the side of those who view the high unemployment rate — 9.6 percent — as an outcome of the sharp contraction in economic demand that accompanied the financial crisis, rather than structural factors like a mismatch between workers’ skills and the skills required by employers.

Disappointing some Wall Street analysts, Mr. Bernanke did not reveal details of the magnitude and pace of any new debt purchases — a strategy known as quantitative easing.

Instead, and in line with his background as a professor who taught at Stanford and Princeton until he joined the government in 2002, Mr. Bernanke outlined the intellectual case for new action.

He acknowledged, with greater candor than Fed officials have normally used, the tension between the two parts of the Fed’s dual mandate: promoting price stability and maximum employment.

“Whereas monetary policy makers clearly have the ability to determine the inflation rate in the long run, they have little or no control over the longer-run sustainable unemployment rate, which is primarily determined by demographic and structural factors, not by monetary policy,” Mr. Bernanke said.

Therefore, Mr. Bernanke seemed to frame his argument for new actions more in terms of preventing inflation from getting too low than in terms of improving the job market quickly.

“In light of the recent decline in inflation, the degree of slack in the economy, and the relative stability of inflation expectations, it is reasonable to forecast that underlying inflation — setting aside the inevitable short-run volatility — will be less than the mandate-consistent inflation rate,” Mr. Bernanke said. That rate is commonly believed to be nearly 2 percent, though the Fed does not have an official inflation target.

Mr. Bernanke’s speech followed signals from within the Fed that for all its previous steps to get the economy back on track, new action was needed.

Minutes of the Fed’s most recent policy making meeting, released this week, showed the members divided between those with the view that the Fed should act “unless the pace of economic recovery strengthened,” and others who thought action was merited “only if the outlook worsened and the odds of deflation increased materially.”

The minutes of the meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee, held Sept. 21, indicated that several officials “consider it appropriate to take action soon,” given persistently high unemployment and uncomfortably low inflation.

But other officials “saw merit in accumulating further information before reaching a decision,” according to the minutes.

Israel endangers Obama’s peace plan

Israel endangers Obama’s peace plan


U.S. President Barack Obama, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the White House in Washington, on September 1.
APU.S. President Barack Obama, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the White House in Washington, on September 1.

As a result of the recent Israeli moves, the plan conceived by Barack Obama to achieve independent Palestinian statehood lies in tatters.

Israel has with rapid speed mounted a ruthless political offensive to dominate its future direct negotiations with Palestinians. The latest round of talks, which began in September, is about achieving a two-state solution — the emergence of Palestine as a nation-state co-existing with its Israeli neighbour.

But as a result of the recent Israeli moves, the 12-month plan conceived by President Barack Obama, to achieve independent Palestinian statehood — following direct talks between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas — lies in tatters. In fact, there is now a real danger that the negotiations, which began in Washington with much fanfare, may be on the verge of collapse.

The immediate problem, of course, is Tel Aviv’s decision not to extend the expired 10-month construction freeze on Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Apart from the West Bank, Israel occupied Gaza and East Jerusalem during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

Faced with Israel’s obduracy and backed by the 22-nation Arab League, the Palestinians have now given the Americans a month’s notice to rescue talks by persuading Tel Aviv not to re-start settlement activity in the West Bank. Else, they said, they would have no option other than retracting from the already battered two-state peace process. The Americans have accepted the ultimatum. They are, however, well aware that President Abbas’ threats cannot always be taken at their face value.

While the revival of West Bank settlements is the immediate provocation, there is plenty happening within the Israeli political circles that bodes ill for the future of a fruitful dialogue. The crux of the problem lies in two issues. Israel’s fierce fixation with dismissing anything that could even remotely question its Jewish majority status is a key impediment. Its perception of what it would take to safeguard national security is the second major stumbling block. In trying to achieve both objectives — a Jewish majority status in perpetuity and foolproof security — Israel is giving the Palestinians very little which they can sell to their domestic audience as a fair deal. As a result, the peace talks — which, in any case, had to traverse a web of minefields — are in deep trouble, though not quite dead as yet.

What is happening in Israel that offends Palestinians so much? For starters, they are deeply troubled by its assertion that it does not want within its borders Palestinians, in numbers that are large enough to challenge its Jewish majority status. The Israelis argue that there could be a huge influx into the country if an agreement on the “right of return” is reached with the Palestinians. This would mean allowing those Palestinians displaced during the 1948 and 1967 wars the right to return to their homes in Israel. The war-displaced Palestinians can be found all over the world, but a large number reside in shabby refugee settlements in West Asia, especially Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

Because of Isreael’s paranoia over demographics, and also to keep the ultra-right flock together, Prime Minister Netanyahu has announced that he would be inclined to meet the demand to freeze West Bank settlements for a longer period, provided the Palestinians formally recognise Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. The Palestinians obviously have not taken the bait for, recognising Israel as a Jewish state would, in effect, mean relinquishing the right of around four million Palestinians to return to their homeland. On the contrary, they have stressed that the freeze over the settlements cannot be linked with any other issue. The former Palestinian Foreign Minister, Nabil Shaath, has, in fact, asserted that Israel should not only halt settlements in the occupied West Bank but also extend the moratorium to East Jerusalem as well. The Palestinians view East Jerusalem as their future capital. However, Israel did not cover this area under its 10-month settlement freeze, which expired in late September.

In recent weeks, there have been several indications of the Israelis considering removal from their territory a large number of Palestinians who have acquired Israeli nationality in order to preserve their country’s Jewish majority status. The mercurial Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman’s recent address at the United Nations was the first major indication that Israel was looking seriously at this possibility. He shocked many when he officially proposed that a population-territory swap be part of a final Israeli peace deal with the Palestinians. Under his plan, part of the Palestinian Arab population should be shifted to the future Palestinian state. In exchange, Israelis who vacate their settlements as part of the peace deal should be brought inside Israel, thus reinforcing the country’s Jewish character.

As resentment mounted against Mr. Lieberman’s proposals, which would inevitably involve extensive displacement and migration of people from their homes, an apparently embarrassed Mr. Netanyahu distanced himself from his Foreign Minister’s remarks. Nevertheless, subsequent developments in Israel suggest that the idea of an Arab and Israeli population-territory swap has not been abandoned. In fact, the Netanyahu administration may be actively preparing to implement some of the measures, which were part of Mr. Lieberman’s acerbic narrative.

The Israel Prisons Service, for instance, carried out a mock exercise in early October to detain a large number of Arabs following staged riots. According to Israel Radio, the drill was undertaken under the assumption that civil disturbances erupted following a deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians over population swaps. Another aspect of this exercise was to arrest and send to prison people on board aid ships, thwarted by the Israeli forces in their bid to reach the Palestinians on the Gaza coastline. Obviously, the Israelis are preparing for more Mavi Marmara-type incidents. The deck of the Gaza-bound Turkish aid ship became a battleground for Israeli commandos and pro-Palestinian activists on May 31.

Alarmed at the conduct of this exercise, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) has written to Mr. Netanyahu, seeking his clarification on whether transfers of Israeli Arab citizens to the Palestinian Authority is part of a peace agreement that has already been discussed, or whether it is on the agenda of future talks. “The holding of such a drill testifies to the fact that thoughts of transfer, called by such names as the exchange of territories or the exchange of populations, are not merely an election slogan or the personal fantasy of certain politicians and ministers but a subject for discussion on the agenda of the government and of those who are behind holding the exercise in this form,” ACRI wrote.

The Israeli Arabs, too, appear to be in the line of fire yet again as Israel recently adopted fresh measures to reinforce its Jewish national identity. Under the proposed amendment to the citizenship law, which the cabinet has passed, it would be imperative on non-Jewish immigrants to pledge under oath their loyalty to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. The liberal Israeli dailyHaaretz slammed the bill in its editorial as “discriminatory and exclusionary.”

Israel’s sweeping proposals to keep out security threats emerging from its eastern borders have also upset the Palestinians greatly. Israel wants to establish an extensive security presence in the Jordan valley, a thinly populated stretch of barren land, which has the town of Jericho as its famous landmark. Its security experts have argued that Israel needs to dominate the area in order to stop weapon smuggling and infiltration by terrorists from neighbouring Jordan. Israeli vigilance is also perceived as necessary to prevent missile launches that could target Israeli mainland, including Jerusalem which is not too far away, from this area. Besides, Israel fears that terrorists, armed with anti-aircraft weaponry, can target its airliners overflying this area.

The Palestinians, on the other hand, consider the Jordan valley an area of prime importance to a future Palestinian state. Given its thin population profile, the area would be ideal for building new cities and settling a large number of Palestinians who are expected to return to their homeland once it is reborn. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has already broken ground for an agro-industrial Park south of Jericho, and aired his ambition to turn this hot wind-swept area, steeped in its Biblical past, into a major industrial hub. Resenting the proposed Israeli military deployments in the Jordan valley, but responding positively to Israel’s perceived security threat, President Abbas has offered to host NATO forces there once independence is achieved.

Israel’s refusal to extend the settlement freeze has deeply embarrassed President Obama, who has publicly exhorted it to stall West Bank construction for some more time. But with the Netanyahu administration refusing to budge from its maximalist positions, and President Obama unwilling to exercise Washington’s leverage over Israel to force it to change course, a rare opportunity for a meaningful and fair dialogue between the Israelis and the Palestinians may once again rapidly slip from grasp.

Zionist Govt. Approves Bid-Taking for 249 New Condos

Netanyahu Approves Tenders for 240 Settlements Sparking Palestinian Anger

15/10/2010 Despite global opposition to Israel’s settlement projects, Tel Aviv invited tenders to build 240 new settlement units in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved building of the new units in Pisgat Zeev and Ramot late on Thursday, Israeli media reported on Friday.

The Housing and Construction Ministry, along with the Israel Lands Administration, released its list of 3,500 newly approved tenders set for construction across the country.

The Palestinians on Friday lashed out at the Israeli plan, accusing Israel of trying “to kill” every opportunity to revive “peace talks”. “We call upon the US administration to hold the Israeli government responsible for the collapse of the negotiations and the peace process as a result of this government’s insistence on killing every opportunity for resuming negotiations,” chief negotiator Saeb Erakat told AFP.

Erakat said the decision was “a clear answer to all international efforts, particularly US efforts to resume negotiations” which are facing imminent collapse over Israeli settlement building after the expiry of a building ban two weeks ago.

The move comes as the United States has failed to pressure Israel to extend its partial freeze on settlement activities in the occupied West Bank and East al-Quds (Jerusalem).

Israel resumed expansion of its occupation through settlement construction just hours after the expiry of the freeze. The latest round of the direct talks, which were re-launched on September 2 in Washington, ended without any progress.