News Items from the Internet

Military Spending

Tom Hastings ( sent the article “Ready to rumble for jobs, not war and more weapons?” by Judith Le Blanc in which she says that something is missing in the news reporting on the debt ceiling deal struck on August 2 by Congress and the President, calling for close to $1 trillion in cuts in discretionary programs over the next decade. The deal exempts spending on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, even though war costs are one of the biggest factors driving up the national debt by over a trillion dollars. She points out that caps have been set for “security and non-security” spending, but the security category lumps together the Pentagon with the State Department, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, and nuclear weapons systems. Without a grassroots rumble, says Le Blanc, the ax won’t fall on the Pentagon or weapons of mass destruction, it will land on veteran’s benefits or diplomatic efforts. forwarded information from Medea Benjamin, citing a “fact sheet” released by the White House, which states that the recent deal to raise the national debt ceiling “puts us on track to cut $350 billion from the defense budget over 10 years.” But, Benjamin points out, the cuts for 2012 are virtually nothing. Security spending will be capped at $684 billion in 2012, a decline of less than 1 percent from this year.


Also, these so-called deep military cuts (if they even happen) merely mean cutting defense by 3 percent a year when it has grown at a rate of 9 percent over the last decade. And, of course, official budget numbers don’t tell the whole story. Economist Robert Higgs estimates the yearly total spent on the military is $1 trillion or more, with over half of the federal income tax going to the military. The tragic irony is that debt caused in large part by foreign military adventures is being used to further a class war at home, even as the bloodshed continues in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and beyond.




Protests in Chile emailed news of major protests against Chile’s Pinera, citing expensive education and increasing inequality. Tens of thousands of teachers, students, parents, and labor activists marched in downtown Santiago for the fifth time. The peaceful protest came apart when a group of hooded youths hurled sticks and rocks at riot police near the presidential palace of La Moneda. Police said some 60,000 people marched; organizers put the number closer to 150,000. Either way, the recent wave of student protests is the largest since democracy was restored in Chile in 1990 after 17 years of military dictatorship. Protests also occurred in Chile’s other main cities, including Arica, Valparaiso and Concepcion, and hundreds marched in solidarity in Argentina, where there is a large population of Chilean college students. Unions representing public workers and copper miners announced they would join the students, a sign that the social upheaval against Pinera—in power since March 2010, and with a 26 percent approval rating—is broadening.


Students want the state to take over the public school system where 90 percent of the country’s 3.5 million students are educated. While Chile has the highest per capita income of any country in Latin America, the Andean nation also has one of the most skewed income disparities in the region.


Protests in Britain

From comes the article “Burning Britain” by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed. It concerns the rioting, looting, and plunder that started in Tottenham on Saturday, August 6 and by August 10 had spread throughout the capital. Shops were broken into, properties vandalized, and flats and vehicles set alight by gangs of mostly young men in Croydon, Clapham, Brix- ton, Hackney, Camden, Lewisham, Peckham, Newham, East Ham, Ilford, Enfield, Woolwich, Ealing, Colliers Wood, Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, and Nottingham. Described by witnesses as a “war- zone,” these were the worst riots to hit London in decades. Police brutality—the killing of Mark Duggan—almost certainly played a role in sparking the initial rage. The vast majority of perpetrators were young people, both men and women although mostly men. Young people in Britain have been hit hardest by the impact of recession. Unemployment in the UK is now at 2.49 million, having risen steadily over the last decade with 1.46 million claiming job- seekers allowance. Across the country, just under a million 16-24 year olds are unemployed.


There is an unmistakable race dimension to the class inequality. Black and ethnic minority groups face the brunt of the economic crisis. According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 70 percent of those in income poverty in inner London are from minority ethnic groups, as are 50 percent in outer London.


Protests in Israel

News of a quarter of a million Israelis marching August 6 for economic reform comes from The biggest demonstration took place in Tel Aviv where around 300,000 people marched from Habima Square, near the tent city on Rothschild Boulevard, to the Kirya defense compound on Kaplan Street. Protesters chanted “The people demand social justice” and “An entire generation demands a future.” A number of signs read, “Resign, Egypt is here.”


This marked the third consecutive week a rally had been held in Tel Aviv. More than 20,000 people took part in the protest in Jerusalem. Smaller demonstrations occurred in towns throughout the country, including Kiryat Shmona (3,000 protesters), Hod Hasharon (1,000 protesters), Modi’in (5,000 protesters), Ashkelon (more than 500 protesters), Dimona (around 200 protesters), and Eilat (1,000 protesters). Around 1,000 protesters blocked the Shomrim Junction in the Jezreel Valley. The rally was held under the slogan, “The northern periphery is awakening.” The demonstrators, in under a month, had grown from a cluster of student tent-squatters into a diffuse, countrywide mobilization.


While Israel projects growth of 4.8 percent this year at a time of economic stagnation in many Western countries, and has relatively low unemployment of 5.7 percent, business cartels and wage disparities have kept many citizens from feeling the benefit. “The People Demand Social Justice” read one of the march banners. Said Stav Shafir, one of the protest leaders, “We are going to keep protesting, we want solutions, we want real willingness by the government to work with the people and answer our demands. Until then, we will be here.”


On Strike

News of a strike at Verizon on August 9 came from Steve Early at The contract for 45,000 employees expired at midnight Saturday August 6 after the company and the workers were unable to come to terms on such issues as health- care costs and pensions. Several hundred strikers demonstrated outside the company’s headquarters in lower Manhattan, most wearing red shirts and chanting, “Union busting, it’s disgusting.” Early reported that: “This Verizon work stoppage is the sixth strike in the last 28 years by some of the telephone workers involved. They’ve been in the forefront of resisting health-care cost-shifting and other concession demands since private sector employers first went on the offensive after the air traffic controllers’ strike was defeated in 1981. If a company that made nearly $20 billion over the last 4 years can claim that it needs give-backs, then every other unionized firm in America will be clamoring for them even more aggressively than they are now. So there’s a lot at stake here and not just for 45,000 members of the CWA and IBEW who walked out on Saturday night.”


Denouncing the Deal sent a report from the New York Metro chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) —an 18,000-member national organization—in which they denounced the federal debt ceiling deal signed by President Obama. “Politicians who say Medicare and Social Security are spared cuts are not being honest,” said Dr. Oliver Fein, chair of PNHP-NY Metro. “Plans to cut these vital programs are simply being delayed until later in the year. Balancing the books by cutting programs that help the sick and the elderly is unconscionable.”


The Budget Control Act includes a 2 percent across-the-board cut to Medicare, which will be triggered automatically unless Congress accepts a budget reduction plan by a 12-member “Super- committee” before December 23. Since Medicare has a 3 percent overhead, compared with 17-28 percent for private health insurance, advocates for a universal, affordable health care system have long pushed for a public insurance system based on an improved version of Medicare for everyone. Fein added, “An effective social program like Medicare is not the cause of our economic problem; it is the solution. Medi- care is a government- funded program that is much more efficiently run than its private counterpart. It prioritizes people’s needs instead of private profits. This approach is the basis for a healthy society, both physically and fiscally.”


“It’s not only about what is in this bill, since so much is still up in the air, but the larger political environment that allowed the conversations surrounding this bill to be possible,” said Elizabeth Rosenthal, a dermatologist and PNHP-NY Metro Board member. “Doctors have to advocate for their patients, and we can’t remain silent when the foundation of our social safety net is being dismantled. This is a life and death issue.”


The Murdoch Media Scandal forwarded the article, “Murdoch: This scandal has exposed the scale of elite corruption” by Seumas Milne, from the July 20 issue of the Guardian (UK). It seems that, in response to the outrage over the Murdock media scandal, Prime Minister David Cameron has uged getting the whole business into perspective, echoing Rupert Murdoch’s insistence that his competitors had got up “this hysteria.” Cameron chided Ed Miliband for “chasing conspiracy theories” and claimed it was really former Prime Minister Gordon Brown who had been in the pocket of the global media billionaire. Meanwhile, News International pundits, and others with their own reasons to stem the flood of revelations, have been insisting that the political clout of Murdoch’s corporate colossus has been exaggerated. The hyper-regulated BBC is the real media monopoly, they say…. This is a “frenzy that has grown out of control,” the Daily Mail complained.


But the real frenzy isn’t the exposure of the scandal—it’s the scale of corruption, collusion, and cover-up between News International, politicians, and police that the scandal has revealed. As the cast of hacking victims, bloggers, and blackmailers has lengthened, and the details of the payments and job-swapping between News International, the government, and Scotland Yard become more complex, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture that has now emerged.


Murdoch’s overweening political influence has long been recognized, from well before Tony Blair flew to Australia in 1995 to pay public homage at Murdoch’s corporate court. The fear that those who crossed him would be given the full tabloid treatment over their personal misdemeanors, real or imagined, has proved to be a powerful Mafia-like racket.


The Soprano-style is deeply embedded in the Murdoch dynasty. When New Labour culture secretary Tessa Jowell broke up with her husband in 2006 as he faced corruption charges (he was later cleared), News International was hacking into the couple’s phone.


But Murdoch is a case apart, not only because of his commanding position in both print and satellite TV, but because of the crucial part he played in cementing Margaret Thatcher’s political power and then shaping a whole era of New Labour/Tory neoliberal consensus that delivered enfeebled unions, privatization, and the Iraq war. His role in breaking the print unions at Wapping in the 1980s by sacking 5,000 mostly low-paid workers is still hailed in parts of the media as a brave blow for quality journalism. It was nothing of the kind. Over those years, News International has used its grip on the political class to rewrite media regulations in its own image. As we now know, it also suborned politicians and the police and operated as a freelance security service—not to expose the abuse of power, but to carry it out.


Nevertheless, the scandal could also create a powerful opportunity to weaken the unaccountable corporate power that has dominated the British press and move toward a freer, more diverse media. Labor leaders have been attacked by News International journalists for calling for a break up of the Murdoch empire and for putting limits on media concentration. Sooner or later, pressure for change will become unstoppable.

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