Thursday, May 26, 2016

G-7 In Sync With Japanese Prime Minister Abe's Own Agenda

From left, Eikei Suzuki, governor of Mie Prefecture, European Council President Donald Tusk, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. President Barack Obama, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, participate in a tree planting during a visit at Ise Jingu shrine in Ise, Mie Prefecture, Japan, Thursday, May 26, 2016, as part of the G-7 Summit.

ISE, JAPAN (ASSOCIATED PRESS)— Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and fellow leaders of the Group of Seven advanced economies began their summit Thursday by visiting Ise Shrine, the most hallowed site for Japan's indigenous Shinto religion — one of many aspects of the gathering that dovetail with Abe's long-term diplomatic and political agenda.

As host, to the extent that it can, Abe's government has shaped the G-7 program to showcase his own political and economic platform, taking "leadership in guiding the world by showing the best path forward for peace and prosperity," according to an agenda distributed by the Foreign Ministry.

The leaders started out their program with a visit to Ise (Ee-say) Shrine, a densely forested, austere landmark that is the holiest site in the Shinto religion. Before and during World War II, Japan's militarist government used Shinto to rally the population behind its invasion of wide swaths of Asia. After Japan's defeat, state Shinto was banned, but the conservative prime minister has used it as a way to promote traditional cultural and social values.

The leaders were greeted by Abe and then walked across an arched wooden bridge into the shrine. Abe accompanied U.S. President Barack Obama, who was the last to arrive, and the leaders joined a group of children in a commemorative tree planting ceremony. Abe made a visit a day earlier to the shrine to pray for a good summit.

Japanese officials said the intent was not to conduct any religious formalities at the shrine but to give the leaders a sense of "air, water, nature and atmosphere."

"Ise is the place to present the beauty of nature and the richness of our culture and long tradition," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Yasuhisa Kawamura.

The annual summit brings together the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States. After the shrine visit they were due to hold a working luncheon and then tackle a wide range of global issues, starting with the sluggish global economy.

Many of the issues to be discussed during their two days of talks are linked to Abe's policy priorities. They include maritime security — code for concerns over China's expanding presence in disputed areas of the South China Sea; initiatives on global health, including funding for fighting terrorism and pandemics; and a focus on women's empowerment, which Abe has promoted as "womenomics."

Obama arrived in Japan on Wednesday and had an evening meeting with Abe. After the summit ends on Friday, Obama plans to visit the peace park in Hiroshima, the first sitting U.S. president to visit the city on which the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb in 1945 in the closing days of World War II.

Both in the G-7 meetings and in "outreach" sessions with other countries' leaders on the sidelines of the summit, the agenda includes "quality infrastructure investment." Since taking office in late 2012, Abe has circled the globe, visiting dozens of countries to promote sales of Japanese infrastructure technology, especially coal and gas-fired power plants and bullet trains.

"We think Japan has demonstrated to the rest of the world what quality infrastructure is like," Kawamura said, "and we're very happy to share our experiences and expertise."

The summit is expected, however, to expand support, including development assistance loans, for building roads, power plants and other infrastructure around the world. The Japanese side was seeking a target of $200 billion in financing for such projects.

The leaders have other pressing issues to discuss, especially the migrant crisis facing European nations.

"Those who criticize us should rather think how to increase their assistance because what Europe provides is already massive," Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, calling for G-7 support and leadership. "And honestly speaking, if they don't take the lead in managing this crisis, nobody else will. I will appeal to G-7 leaders to take up this challenge."

Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission president, noted that a possible exit from the European Union by Britain, depending on a June 23 vote, is also hanging over the talks.

"Yes, the general atmosphere of our talks would be better if the U.K. would stay in the European Union," Juncker said.

Japanese officials have highlighted joint efforts on the migrant crisis, corruption and terrorism as other top priorities.

Initiatives Tokyo is proposing include plans to spend about $6 billion on education, training and job creation for 20,000 people in the Middle East, to help promote development and social stability in the region and counter the chronic unemployment and economic disparities that are contributing to extremism and violence, according to a summary of the plans provided by Japan.

On gender issues, Japan plans to help improve schooling conditions for 50,000 girls, mainly in Africa and South Asia, and provide training for 5,000 women in fields such as maternal and child health, it said.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Report: NFL Sought To Influence Study On Brain Injuries

MAY 23, 2016

Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. speaks in Trenton, N.J. Pallone has found that National Football League officials improperly sought to influence a government study on the link between football and brain disease. Pallone's report says the league tried to strong-arm the National Institutes of Health into taking the project away from a researcher that the NFL feared was biased.

WASHINGTON (AP) — National Football League officials improperly sought to influence a government study on the link between football and brain disease, according to a senior House Democrat in a report issued Monday.

New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone says the league tried to strong-arm the National Institutes of Health into taking the project away from a researcher who the NFL feared was biased. The NFL had agreed to donate $30 million to the NIH to fund brain research but backed out after the institutes went ahead with a $16 million grant to prominent Boston University researcher Robert Stern. He's a leading expert on the link between football and brain diseases such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Taxpayers are instead bearing the cost.

The NFL denied Pallone's findings. "The NFL rejects the allegations," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement Monday. The league acknowledged it had raised concerns about the study and a potential conflict of interest involving Stern, but McCarthy said the NFL had communicated its concerns through appropriate channels. It noted that the league stands behind its $30 million promise and that the government ultimately made the decision on funding the study in question.

Some of the members of the NFL's Head, Neck and Spine Committee who opposed Stern had also sought the grant. Critics say the NFL has long downplayed the link between football and brain damage, alleging that an NFL committee on brain injury had long ignored or minimized the link between repetitive head trauma and brain damage.

"This investigation confirms the NFL inappropriately attempted to use its unrestricted gift as leverage to steer funding away from one of its critics," Pallone said. "Since its research agreement with NIH was clear that it could not weigh in on the grant selection process, the NFL should never have tried to influence that process."

Pallone initiated the investigation after ESPN reported that the NFL had backed out of funding the NIH study because of its objections to Stern. Stern has been vocal about the connection between football collisions and brain damage and filed a declaration opposing a settlement between the NFL and former players, fearing that deserving players would not be compensated.

NFL Medical Director Dr. Elliot Pellman emailed the executive director of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, which raises private funding for NIH research, and said the league had significant concerns regarding Boston University "and their ability to be unbiased and collaborative." He asked the FNIH official, Dr. Maria Freire, to "slow down the process until we all have a chance to speak and figure this out."

The NFL's email was forwarded to Dr. Walter Koroshetz of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at the NIH, who was in charge of selecting a recipient for the grant. He responded that there was "lots of history here" and that the NFL's had problems because the research would be "led by the people who first broke the science open, and NFL owners and leadership think of them as the creators of the problem."

Pallone found that NIH officials acted properly in not bending to the NFL's will. NIH policy prohibits donors from influencing which researchers receive grants, a process that relies on peer review.

Barry Wilner in New York contributed to this report.

Obama Lifts Decades-Old Arms Ban In His 1st Visit To Vietnam

U.S. President Barack Obama, left, and Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang shake hands at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam, Monday, May 23, 2016. The president is on a weeklong trip to Asia as part of his effort to pay more attention to the region and boost economic and security cooperation.

HANOI, VIETNAM (AP) — U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday lifted a half-century-old ban on selling arms to Vietnam, looking to bolster a government seen as a crucial, though flawed partner in a region that he has tried to place at the center of his foreign policy legacy.

Obama announced the full removal of the embargo at a news conference where he vowed to leave behind the troubled history between the former war enemies and embrace a new era with a young, increasingly prosperous nation. Obama steered clear of harsh condemnation of what critics see as Vietnam's abysmal treatment of dissidents, describing instead modest progress on rights in the one-party state. Activists said his decision to lift the embargo destroyed the best U.S. leverage for pushing Vietnam on abuse.

"At this stage, both sides have established a level of trust and cooperation, including between our militaries, that is reflective of common interests and mutual respect," Obama said. "This change will ensure that Vietnam has access to the equipment it needs to defend itself and removes a lingering vestige of the Cold War."

Obama also has more current motivations. His move was the latest step in a yearslong and uneven effort to counter China's influence in Asia. Obama's push to deepen defense ties with a neighbor was certain to be eyed with suspicion in Beijing, which has bristled at U.S. engagement in the region and warned officials not to take sides in the heated territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Obama claimed the move had nothing to do with China, but made clear the U.S. was aligned with the smaller nations like Vietnam. The United States and Vietnam have mutual concerns about maritime issues and the importance of maintaining freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, he said. While Washington doesn't take sides, he said, it does support a diplomatic resolution based on "international norms" and "not based on who's the bigger party and can throw around their weight a little bit more," a reference to China.

China outwardly lauded the lifting of a U.S. arms embargo, saying it hoped "normal and friendly" relations between the U.S. and Vietnam are conducive to regional stability. A spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said bans are a product of the Cold War and shouldn't have existed.

China itself remains under a weapons embargo imposed by the U.S. and European Union following 1989's bloody military crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations centered on Beijing's Tiananmen Square. For Vietnam, lifting the arms embargo was a psychological boost for its leaders. The United States partially lifted the ban in 2014, but Vietnam has pushed for full access as it tries to deal with China's land reclamation and military construction in nearby seas.

It was unclear whether striking the ban would quickly result in a boost in arms sales. Obama said that each deal would be reviewed case by case and evaluated based on the equipment's potential use. But there would no longer be a ban based on "ideological division," he said.

"There's been modest progress on some of the areas that we've identified as a concern," Obama said, adding that the U.S. "will continue to speak out on behalf of human rights we believe are universal."

Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang embraced the chance to enter a new era in U.S-Vietnamese relations. He praised the expansion in security and trade ties between "former enemies turned friends" and, standing next to Obama before reporters, called for more U.S. investment.

Ahead of the visit, in what was seen as a goodwill gesture, Vietnam granted early release from prison to a prominent dissident Catholic priest. Some U.S. lawmakers and activists had urged the president to press the communist leadership for greater freedoms before lifting the arms sale embargo. Vietnam holds about 100 political prisoners and there have been more detentions this year. In March, seven bloggers and activists were sentenced for "abusing democratic freedoms" and "spreading anti-state propaganda." Hanoi says that only lawbreakers are punished.

"In one fell swoop, President Obama has jettisoned what remained of U.S. leverage to improve human rights in Vietnam — and (has) basically gotten nothing for it," Phil Robertson, with Human Rights Watch, said.

Obama's arrival in Hanoi late Sunday made him the third sitting president to visit the country since the end of the war. The trip comes four decades after the fall of Saigon, now called Ho Chi Minh City, and two decades after President Bill Clinton restored relations with the nation.

Obama also made the case for stronger commercial and economic ties, including approval of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement that is stalled in Congress and facing strong opposition from the 2016 presidential candidates. The deal, which includes Vietnam, would tear down trade barriers and encourage investment between the countries that signed it.

Critics worry it would cost jobs by exposing American workers to low-wage competition from countries such as Vietnam. Obama and Quang earlier attended a signing ceremony touting a series of new commercial deals between U.S. and Vietnamese companies valued at more than $16 billion. The deals included U.S. engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney's plans to sell 135 advanced engines to Vietnamese air carrier Vietjet, and Boeing's plans to sell 100 aircraft to the airline.

Obama's agenda also included separate meetings with Vietnam's prime minister, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, and with the Communist Party general secretary, Nguyen Phu Trong. At a luncheon for officials, the president offered thanks for all who came before to "help our nations reconcile." He singled out U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who served in the Vietnam War, for special mention. He said veterans on both sides had showed "hearts can change and peace is possible."

Later Monday, Obama had dinner with CNN personality Anthony Bourdain, whose "Parts Unknown" food travelogue is one of the network's most popular nonfiction series. Bourdain was to discuss the purpose of Obama's trip to Asia and his interest in the people, food and culture of Vietnam.

A huge crowd gathered outside the restaurant and cheered when Obama came out.

AP writer Nancy Benac contributed to this story.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Nigeria, You Win! Your Development Plan May Be The 'Best In History'

NPR, MAY 20, 2016

Lariat Alhassan had lots of great paint to sell but no office where she could meet clients. And then she heard an ad on the radio that seemed too good to be true.

In 2011, Lariat Alhassan had a business in Abuja, Nigeria. Larclux Paint was the name. She sold house paint. And industrial paint. Textured paint. Paint that fills in cracks in your walls. It was a paint company. But a really small one.

"The employee I had was just me. I was the production manager. I was the marketer. I was delivery person. I was everything," says Alhassan, laughing. "Except the security."

That was the company. A woman in her late 20s and a security guard watching over a factory space she rented to make the paint.

Customers liked her paint. They would try it out, and say "This seems great. I'd like to place a big order. We'll come to your office to sign the papers," she recalls. And that is when things would get awkward.

"I kept telling them, no, no, no. You call me and whenever you want, I'll be there. I will just be there," she says.

She didn't have an office. Just her car. At this point the clients would often just back out. She couldn't afford an office without more clients. She couldn't get more clients without an office. She felt trapped. Stuck.

That was back in 2011. And then one day, she was at home listening to some music on the radio, when these ads came on. It seemed as if the radio was talking right to her, she recalled. It was for some sort of program to help small businesses.

"It may be small today but it won't be after You Win! the youth enterprise and innovation competition," said one ad. (You can hear it in the episode of Planet Money.)

The government was having a nationwide contest to give out US$58 million to young Nigerians trying to start or grow a small business,no experience necessary. Almost no strings attached. Just go to the website and sign up, said the ad.

Alhassan thought it was too good to be true.

"I just wanted to make sure I was safe and I wasn't going to be conned" she said.

But it was no scam. The government really was giving away millions of dollars. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, was the finance minister for Nigeria at the time. Her team set up the program. It was part of a massive nationwide plan to boost youth employment. About half of the young people didn't have jobs, according to the World Bank.

"Everyone wants to run something, start their own business. Be their own boss," says Iweala. "But the entrepreneurs often operate in an informal way. A lot of them are young people. And they want to expand their businesses but don't know how."

This is a problem around the world: How to get a small business to become a medium-size business that can become a big business. Because if you can figure out how to do that ... you can make a dent in all kinds of other problems: unemployment, poverty. You name it. But in the developing world, small businesses rarely take off like that.

One problem is just money. In someplace like the United States, if you have a two-person paint company and need to rent out office space or warehouse space, you can just take out a small business loan.

In the developing world, in places like Nigeria, it is very hard to get that kind of loan.When a whole business is just a person with a trunk full of supplies, it is hard for lenders, like a bank or the government, to tell the good businesses from the bad ones. It is risky making those kinds of loans. So d small businesspeople can't get loans.

The idea that Iweala and her team came up with to boost employment took all of this into account. It was a massive business contest the likes of which nobody in Nigeria had seen before. The amount of money they wanted to give away per person — roughly $50,000 — was out-of-this-world high. About 25 or 30 times the average annual income for a Nigerian at the time.

Iweala shopped the idea around the Nigerian government. People had all sorts of questions. How is the government going to decide which people to give the money to? And how will they make sure people don't divert the funds to some other use?

Iweala and her team's solution was to ask the entrants to submit a business plan: a few sheets of paper with an idea, maybe a chart or two, a budget. The government would read them all, pick the best ones and hand out the money.

Not everyone in the government was convinced that could work. Iweala remembers her colleagues saying things like, "These people have never written business plans."It's one thing if you say you're going to invite 40 people, 50. But we're talking [about] thousands."

But Goodluck Jonathan, the president of Nigeria at the time, liked the idea right away. He gave it the greenlight.

There were still problems to confront. How do you pull something like this off in Nigeria — a country where trust in government is notoriously low.

People outside the government, the people who would to apply to the contest, also needed convincing. "They said, 'Oh we've had so many government programs,' and 'It starts with promises and at the end of the day it's never implemented,' "says Iweala.

Then there was the worry that people running the contest would just give the money to friends and family. "That was the even bigger skepticism," says Iweala.

So Iweala's team had to make sure it was really clear how winners were getting picked ... and who was doing the picking. For the initial review of applications they lined up graders from a local business school. And all the names of the applicants were removed before grading.

About 24,000 people applied to the contest, which was also supported by other federal ministries, the World Bank, the U.K.'s Department for International Development and Nigeria's private sector.

For the second round, the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers was brought in to do part of the scoring. And the British Plymouth Business School did quality assurance. The applicants knew all of these checks and balances were in place, which upped their trust.

But that still left the hard question, how to score it Who were the best candidates to get the money? Was it the very best, or would that be wasted money because those people might succeed anyway and not need the money? And how could you tell the difference between the 1,200th and the 1,201st candidate in any meaningful way?

This is where they reached out to a researcher at the World Bank. "I typically come in when people have an idea and they want to know if it will work," says David McKenzie.

At this point, in mid-2011, Iweala wanted to launch the program in two months. McKenzie met with a few team members in the cafe of the J building at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. to hash out ways to grade the entrants and measure the results.

One idea was to just rank every entry and pick the best. From his research, McKenzie suggested a different course of action: Pick the winners somewhat randomly Sure you can look at the business plans and pick out the very best. And the very worst. Those are usually obvious. But after you have the outliers, he argued, just make it luck of the draw. It'll save a lot of trouble.

Plus if you do it randomly, you can measure the impact of winning by looking at the control group of non-winners, says McKenzie.

That was the plan.

They gave the contest the name: the YouWiN! Competition. And in late 2011, they started getting the word out. With ads, lots and lots of ads – in print, on TV and on the radio.

And that's how Alhassan, the paint seller, came to hear an ad for YouWiN! coming out of her bedside radio that day.

"Lots of people did not believe it," she says. But after hearing it a second and a third time, she said to herself: "Lariat, why don't you pick up this opportunity? Try. Try, and see if it will work out for you."

She took out her old laptop, plugged in her modem and went online and applied. A little while later she was one of the 6,000 invited to the next round. Where everyone would write their business plans.

The government provided some help. The applicants were invited to four day trainings held around the country. When Alhassan describes it, she said it felt like thousands of people packing into something like a concert hall. There were all kinds of applicants: A baker without enough machinery. A chicken farmer thinking of expanding to catfish and snails. Someone trying to start a computer school. Musicians. Dentists. People will all kinds of business plans.

"Boy it was intense. From morning to evening," says Alhassan. But they did get lunch. "And breakfast," she says, laughing.

Then she was asked to take what she just learned and write up a formal business plan. This was the real test. The real competition.

She sent it in and went home to wait. A little while later she got an email. Congratulations, it said.

"I felt I couldn't even control my emotions. I started jumping on my bed," she says. "My sister said what is wrong with you, have you won the lottery? I said yes. Yes. Yes."

Alhassan got 10 million Naira, for her business — equivalent to $65,000.

She brought on marketers. Salespeople. She bought them a car to get around, to get the word out. She got a truck for deliveries so it wasn't all out of her own trunk anymore. And she rented a proper office and a showroom. She decorated it with furniture she could be proud of.

"I can confidently say [to customers] now, 'Please come to my office. You can come here. What time? I'll be ready for you. I'll be waiting for you," she says.

Well, you might look at this and say, of course she was able to do this. She was given $65,000 — and it wasn't even a loan.

The real question is how her business does down the road — and all the other businesses as well, from the dentists to the chicken farmer who wants to expand into catfish. Was it worth it for the government? Did it create jobs?

The World Bank analyzed the YouWiN! Competition impact over three years and published a report a few months ago.

The report looked at the 1,200 winners of the contest and found they had created 7,000 jobs, real jobs that stuck around three years later. The competition cost $60 million to run. So that means each job cost about $8,500 to create, a way cheaper investment than any other program studied in the report.

Chris Blattman, an economist at Columbia University who researches poverty and global development, thinks the results are pretty remarkable.

"I remember reading it [and] my eyes [kept] kind of popping out of my head," he says. The thing that stood out to him most was that the winners, as a group, seemed to use the money pretty well. They didn't waste it. He says it was easier than expected to find small businesses that could use a big pile of cash to grow. Maybe way more people are constrained by not having enough capital than we think.

Nigeria has had two more rounds of the YouWiN! Competition. The latest round had more than 100,000 applicants and 1,500 winners.

As good as the first round was, 7,000 new jobs is still a small number in a country of 170 million people. It's clearly not going to solve the problem of unemployment.

But Blattman says, these results are extremely promising. So promising he wrote a euphoric blog post in October with the title: "Is This The Most Effective Development Program In History?"

But is it?

He stresses the question mark at the end of the title. It may not really be the best in history, he says, but he's quick to add: "It's probably the best I've seen so far. In history, it's the best one we've measured."

That's something, considering that in so many cases of job creation programs, nobody measures the results at all.

Big thanks to Jeff Mosenkis at the Institute for Poverty Action for all the help behind the scenes on this story.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Oil Prices Rise As Turmoil In Nigeria Adds To Global Supply Disruptions

MAY 20, 2018

SINGAPORE (REUTERS): Oil prices rose in early trading on Friday as turmoil in Nigeria, shale bankruptcies in the United States and crisis in Venezuela all contributed to tightening supplies.

Despite this, brimming inventories across the world were preventing supply shortfalls and sharper price spikes, traders said.

International Brent crude futures LCOc1 were trading at $49.10 per barrel at 0128 GMT, up 29 cents or 0.59 percent from their last settlement.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures CLc1 was up 39 cents, or 0.81 percent, at $48.55 a barrel.

ANZ bank said that unexpected supply disruptions across the world, excluding output falls in the United States, amounted to around 2.5 million barrels of daily production, virtually erasing a production overhang that had pulled down prices by over 70 percent between 2014 and early 2016.

"The supply disruptions inflicting the oil market continue to ratchet up... As these issues linger, we expect an increasing supply risk premium will price into the market," the bank said.

Nigeria's oil production showed further signs of strain on Thursday as intruders blocked access to Exxon Mobil's terminal exporting Qua Iboe, the country's largest crude stream.

Libyan output has also been hit by internal conflict.

Militant activity in the oil-rich Niger Delta has taken out some 500,000 barrels per day of crude oil production from other companies in Nigeria, pushing oil output in Africa's largest-producing nation to more than 22-year lows.

In North America, U.S. crude oil output has fallen 8.79 million barrels per day (bpd), down from a peak of more than 9.6 million bpd last year, as a wave of bankruptcies hits producers.

In Canada, production has also been cut as wildfires forced closures of around 1 million barrels in daily production, although output is gradually returning.

In South America, output from OPEC-member Venezuela is also stalling as its state-owned oil company PDVSA struggles with a cash squeeze amid a deep political and economic crisis.

Venezuelan crude oil output fell to around 2.53 million bpd in the first quarter of 2016 compared with 2.72 million bpd in the same quarter of last year, data from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) showed.

Despite the disruptions oil supplies to customers are not at risk, thanks to ongoing high output in the Middle East and Russia, and because of brimming oil inventories across the world, including the United States and Asia.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Radical ‘Avengers’ Threaten New Insurgency In Nigeria's Oil-Producing Delta

MAY 19, 2016

They call themselves the Niger Delta Avengers. Little is known about the new radical group that has claimed a series of pipeline bombings in Nigeria’s oil-producing region this year and evaded gunboats and soldiers trawling swamps and villages.

Their attacks have driven Nigerian oil output to near a 22-year low and, if the violence escalates into another insurgency in the restive area, it could cripple production in a country facing a growing economic crisis.

President Muhammadu Buhari has said he will crush the militants, but a wide-scale conflict could stretch security forces already battling a northern rebellion by hardline Sunni Muslim group Boko Haram.

Militancy has been rife over the past decade in the Delta, a southern region which is one of the country’s poorest areas despite generating 70 percent of state income.

Violence has increased sharply this year - most of it claimed by the “Avengers” - after Buhari scaled back an amnesty deal with rebel groups, which had ended a 2004-2009 insurgency.

Under the deal, more state cash was channelled to the region for job training and militant groups were handed contracts to protect the pipelines they once bombed. But Buhari cut the budget allocated to the plan by about 70 percent and cancelled the contracts, citing corruption and mismanagement of funds.

The “Avengers” have carried out a string of attacks since February that reduced Nigerian oil output by at least 300,000 barrels a day of output, and shut down two refineries and a major export terminal.

On Thursday the group emailed journalists a statement saying it was fighting for an independent Delta and would step up its attacks unless oil firms left the region within two weeks.

“If at the end of the ultimatum you are still operating, we will blow up all the locations,” it said. “It will be bloody. So just shut down your operations and leave.”

“To international oil companies, this is just the beginning and you have not seen anything yet. We will make you suffer,” it said.

Authorities have no hard facts about the group - such as its size, bases or leadership, Nigeria-based diplomats say.

Diplomats and security experts say it has shown a level of sophistication not seen since the peak of the 2004-2009 insurgency, which halved Nigeria’s oil output. They say it must be getting help from sympathetic oil workers in identifying the pipelines to cause maximum damage.

“Its scary. Their demands are impossible to meet so there will be probably more attacks,” said a security expert, asking not to be named.

In February the group claimed an attack on an undersea pipeline that forced Shell to shut a 250,000 barrels a day Forcados terminal. Last week, it took credit for blasting a Chevron platform, shutting the Warri and Kaduna refineries. Power outages across Nigeria worsened as gas supplies were also affected.

There have been other smaller attacks and this week another explosion, which bore the hallmarks of the group, closed Shell’s Bonny Light export programme.

The group mainly communicates via Twitter, with the location tracker switched off, and on its website.

Its members describe themselves there as “young, well travelled” and mostly educated in eastern Europe.

Given the lack of intelligence about the militants, the army launched a wide-ranging hunt across the Delta this week, sending gunboats into mosquito-infested creeks and searching villages in the middle of the night.

But some residents say such a heavy-handed military approach stokes dissent in the Delta where many complain of poverty despite sitting on much of Nigeria’s energy wealth. They say some villagers help militants to hide in the hard-to-access swamps.

“The military came at 12.30am with two gunboats ... they went from house to house. Many ran into the bush,” said Godspower Gbenekemam, chief of the Gbaramatu area.

“The military stayed on until about 5.30 am, during which nobody was able to move out,” he said. “We are not part of the people blowing up pipelines. We do not know them so the military should leave our community alone.”

Alagoa Morris, an environmental activist based in the Delta, said unless soldiers acted with restraint, more people would join the militants, with a risk of “the Niger Delta returning to another round of full-scale militancy”.

Big Guns, Big Bucks: U.S. Arms Sales To Libya And Nigeria Are Wrong

MAY 19, 2016

Announcements of American government willingness to sell arms to two questionable clients — one of three governments claiming legitimacy in war-torn Libya and the corrupt and incompetent military of Nigeria — raise serious questions about what is going on in Washington in the final months of President Barack Obama’s administration.

Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that the United States was willing to provide arms to one of the three governments claiming power in Libya. Libya has fallen into chaos since a passel of rebels, the United States, European ex-colonial powers France, Italy and the United Kingdom, and a few Middle Eastern states overthrew Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. He had been in power since 1969.

At present in Libya there are three governments. One is based in Tobruk in the east of the country. It is dominated by Gen. Khalifa Haftar, an ex-CIA asset whose current relationship with the United States is not clear. A second government is based in Tripoli, the former capital. A third, recently baptized and currently protected by the international community, was brought to Tripoli and installed in hypothetical power.

It is this third government that Washington has now indicated its willingness to arm, ostensibly to provide it means to exercise authority over the other two putative governments, including disarming or incorporating them and the numerous other armed militias operating in Libya.

To provide arms to this regime is simply to inject more arms into an already weapons-rich environment. Providing it arms and the supply and training components that inevitably go with such sales is also to put money into the hands of U.S. arms producers and the contractors who go with the weapons concerned.

The second, perhaps even more dubious proposed sales are of 12 A-29 Super Tucano attack aircraft, manufactured by Sierra Nevada Corp. of Florida to Nigeria. The ostensible purpose of this sale is to help Nigeria fight Boko Haram, which has operated for several years in the northeast of Nigeria. Boko Haram is certainly bad news. Its banner is one of Islamic extremism. Its most noteworthy crime was the kidnapping of some 276 Nigerian girls from a school in Chibok in 2014. It claims adherence to the Islamic State, although it is not clear that Boko Haram and the leadership of the IS are even pen pals and share more than a loose common theology.

Nigeria is, and has been for years, one of the most corrupt states on Earth. What its governments have been particularly adept at is taking the country’s very substantial oil wealth and not using it to meet the still basically poor country’s needs. It has been doing marginally better under a new president, an ex-general, Muhammadu Buhari, a U.S. Army War College graduate elected in reasonably democratic elections in 2015. Mr. Buhari has been saying some of the right things, but has yet to make any profound changes in how Nigeria operates. Why the United States should enter into an arms relationship with Nigeria on the basis of a conflict that basically has nothing to do with America is hard to understand.

Both the Libya and Nigeria proposed arms sales should not be pursued further. One has to wonder whether Washington politicians are not courting large contributions from America’s arms industry in this campaign year.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

[BUKOLA SARAKI]: Fantastically Wealthy

THE NATION, MAY 16, 2016

There is no question that Senate President Bukola Saraki is rich. But there are certainly questions arising from his prosperity-status. When an individual is stinking rich, the wealth may well be stinking. Or, put differently, when an individual is filthy rich, the wealth may well be filthy.

Saraki’s lawyer, Paul Erokoro (SAN), reportedly described him as “extremely rich”. Erokoro made Saraki’s riches public during his ongoing trial for alleged false assets declaration before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Abuja. Saraki didn’t need to become Kwara State governor in 2003 to make mega money, his lawyer argued. He was already rolling in money by the time he became a governor, his legal representative stressed.

It is thought-provoking that Erokoro, based on the asset declaration form Saraki submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) in 2003, reportedly “said he needed to point out that his client was very rich before he became Kwara State governor to erase the wrong impression created by the prosecution that, he could not have acquired the property he claimed to have, without obtaining loans from banks”.

A report said: “He said he had $22 million US dollars, about 12 million pounds, 2.6m Euro and about N4 billion in cash in his various accounts.” Apart from “the liquid asset,” the report stated: “Saraki said he also possessed landed property estimated at N2 billion and 15 vehicles valued at about N263.4m”.

The report continued: “He gave details of the vehicles he acquired as at 2003 to include: Mercedes X320, valued at N16m; Mercedes X500 worth N20m; Mercedes G500, valued at N6m; Mercedes V220 worth 2m and Ferrari456GT, valued at N25m.”

It also said: “Others are: Navigator, N15m, MN240 worth N8.5m; Peugeot 406, valued at N2.9m; Mercedes CLK 320 worth N9m; Mercedes E320 valued at N11m; Mercedes G500 bullet proof, worth N45m; Mercedes X500; Lexus jeep bullet proof, valued at N30m and Lincoln Navigator bullet proof worth N25m.”

Indeed, this is a rich collection of vehicles, and the logical question should be how Saraki acquired the vehicles, or how he acquired the capacity to acquire the vehicles.

The report added: “The lawyer was however silent on the source of his client’s wealth and how he came about all the property and cash he claimed to have possessed before he became governor in 2003.” Silence will not answer the loud questions Saraki needs to answer to clarify his claims: How did Saraki come to be so rich? What super explanations can explain Saraki’s super wealth?

It is noteworthy that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said its findings “showed that the defendant/applicant abused his office, while he was the governor of Kwara State and was involved in various acts of corruption as the governor of the state”. The anti-graft agency also said: “The defendant/applicant borrowed huge sums of money running into billions from commercial banks, particularly Guaranty Trust Bank, and used the proceeds of the loan to acquire several landed properties in Lagos, Abuja and London, while he was the governor of Kwara State”.

Consequently, Saraki is facing charges “ranging from anticipatory declaration of assets to making false declaration of assets in forms” he had filed with the Code of Conduct Bureau while he was governor of Kwara State. Saraki was also “accused of failing to declare some assets he acquired while in office as governor, acquiring assets beyond his legitimate earnings, and accused of operating foreign accounts while being a public officer”.

It is important to note that the EFCC said: ”Asset declaration form is not just any document. The person declaring his assets is expected to go before a high court judge to swear an oath. They swear to affidavit, so it is believed that all he swore to, and appended his signature to is the truth.” If so, it may well be that Saraki is yet to tell the whole truth, meaning that he would need to say how he made so much which enabled him to acquire so much.

It is relevant to consider Saraki’s trajectory before his trial. His profile said: ”Abubakar Bukola Saraki was born on 19 December 1962 to the family of Olusola Saraki, a senator (1979 – 1983) and a one- time Senate Leader of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and his mother Florence Morenike Saraki. He attended King’s College, Lagos from 1973 to 1978, and Cheltenham College, Cheltenham, London, from 1979 to 1981 for his High School Certificate. He then studied at the London Hospital Medical College of the University of London, from 1982 to 1987, when he obtained his M.B.B.S (London). He worked as a medical officer at Rush Green Hospital, Essex, from 1988 to 1989. He was a director of Societe Generale Bank (Nig) Ltd from 1990 to 2000.”

The biographical account also said: “In 2000, President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed Saraki as Special Assistant to the President on Budget…In 2003, he ran for the office of governor of Kwara State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and won. He was sworn into office in May 2003. He ran again for re-election in 2007 and won his second term. He was first elected to the Senate in April 2011, representing the Kwara Central senatorial district, and re-elected in the March 2015 elections… After his re-election in the 2015 general elections, Saraki was on 9 June 2015 elected unopposed as President of the Senate by an across the party alliance comprising PDP and APC Senators.”

This background gives no clue as to how Saraki could have made what he claims to have made before he became a governor. Perhaps more important than how much an individual has, the question of how such an individual came to have so much should be beyond a shadow of a doubt. The clarification of the sources of personal wealth is so crucial that it must not be a subject of speculation.

Saraki currently belongs to the All Progressives Congress (APC) which he joined from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but his Senate presidency is seriously imperiled, following an understandable backlash occasioned by his opportunistic subversion of his party’s calculations for the federal legislature. He may yet learn that party supremacy is supreme.

In the final analysis, an individual’s fantastic wealth cannot be left to the public imagination for explanation. This is the reality Saraki must face.

Oklahoma Trial Set In Death Of 'Cathouse' HBO Star, 3 Others

SUNDAY, MAY 15, 2016

Denny Phillips is led from an Oklahoma County Courtroom in Oklahoma City. Jury selection is scheduled to begin May 16 in the trial of Phillips and Russell Hogshooter, who are charged in the November 2009 death of Brooke Phillips, who had worked for a legal Nevada brothel featured on HBO, and multiple other people.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — It's been almost seven years since the bodies of a prostitute featured on the HBO reality series "Cathouse" and three other people were discovered inside a burning one-story brick Oklahoma City home that authorities later said was the center of a drug distribution and prostitution ring.

Come Monday, jury selection begins in the trial of two men who prosecutors say were involved in the Nov. 9, 2009, deaths of TV celebrity Brooke Phillips, Milagros Barrera, Jennifer Lynn Ermey and Casey Mark Barrientos.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Denny Edward Phillips and Russell Lee Hogshooter on six counts of first-degree murder — Brooke Phillips and Barrera were both 22 and pregnant — and one count of conspiracy. The men have pleaded not guilty.

Brooke Phillips, who wasn't related to Denny Phillips, was among the employees featured on the cable network's show about the Moonlite BunnyRanch, a legal brothel near Carson City, Nevada. "There's lasting memory," business owner Dennis Hof said. "We just loved this girl. This was a girl with no drugs, didn't drink hardly at all. It's totally mindboggling. This girl who didn't do any drugs got killed because she was in a drug house."

All of the victims were repeatedly shot and their bodies were set on fire. Phillips and 25-year-old Ermey were also repeatedly stabbed. Prosecutors allege that Barrientos, 32, was the target of the attack and that the women were killed to eliminate witnesses.

Two other men entered guilty pleas and are serving prison time for their roles in the deaths. Denny Phillips' defense attorney, Bill Smith, said he expects the trial to last up to six weeks but declined further comment. Defense attorneys for 38-year-old Hogshooter did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

Hof and others who worked with Brooke Phillips at the Moonlite BunnyRanch said the upcoming trial revives memories of her and the shock they felt when they learned of her violent death. "It's the saddest day in BunnyRanch history," he said. "That sad day just keeps going on. It just doesn't go away."

Phillips, known professionally as Hayden Brooks, was "very outgoing," Hof said, and "loved to have fun." A co-worker, professionally known as Caressa Kisses, said she trained Phillips and worked alongside her the entire time she worked at the Moonlite BunnyRanch. Phillips was at the legal brothel for about two years and left about two months before she died.

"She just glowed beauty and radiated love," said Caressa, 29, who became emotional as she remembered Phillips' life. "She was a very beautiful girl. She was absolutely passionate about life." Caressa said she "got sick" when she learned how Phillips had died. "She left a safe place where she was loved," she added.

Testimony during earlier hearings revealed that Denny Phillips, 37, and one of the men who pleaded guilty were allegedly involved in illegal drug sales with Barrientos. Denny Phillips' former girlfriend, Karine Sanders, testified the men became upset with the amount of money they were receiving for their work and came up with a scheme to kill him.

Phillips was already serving a seven-year federal prison sentence on charges related to a 2010 shootout when he was charged in the deaths.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Washington To Create Federal Agency To Counter “Foreign Propaganda”: How Long Before They Target The Alternative Media?


Washington and their Main-Stream Media (MSM) propaganda machine is now interested in creating an agency to counter foreign “propaganda”. The irony is that Washington and what Dr. Paul Craig Roberts calls the “Presstitute” media is pure propaganda and now they want to fight the so called “propaganda” with propaganda. Now that is funny. According to RT News:

The bill, H.R. 5181, the ‘Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act of 2016’ is a companion bill to S.2692 introduced back in March. According to Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) who coauthored the bill alongside Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA), H.R. 5181, seeks to incorporate a “whole-of-government approach without the bureaucratic restrictions,” which will set up innovative partnerships to combat information warfare with “organizations that have experience in countering foreign propaganda.”

This has been in the works for some time. Congressman Kinzinger (R-IL) wants (now get ready for this) “the free flow of truthful information” is laughable. RT News quoted what Kinzinger said:

As Russia continues to spew its disinformation and false narratives, they undermine the United States and its interests in places like Ukraine, while also breeding further instability in these countries,” Kinzinger said. “At a time when countries like Russia and China are engaging in hybrid warfare campaigns, the United States has a unique opportunity to respond to foreign manipulation by encouraging the free flow of truthful information. This can further prevent conflict and ensure future stability,” the congressman added

According to a March 17th article by the Voice of America (VOA) (a CIA sponsored news organization who is funded by the U.S. government along with Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty) “U.S. Senators Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, and Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, have introduced a bill aimed at countering propaganda from Russia, China and other countries.” What is interesting is that under the new legislation ‘Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act’ not only counters foreign propaganda but they will “help” local communities in those same countries to protect themselves from their own government’s media manipulation. This means more funding for the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and other Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) who already manipulate populations within countries they are trying to destabilize with U.S. propaganda. According to the VOA report:

According to its sponsors, the legislation — called the “Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act” — is aimed at improving the ability of the United States to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation, and help local communities in other countries protect themselves from manipulation from abroad.

Speaking during a conference Wednesday at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based research institute, Portman said he believes the U.S. is not making sufficient efforts to counter “destabilizing” foreign propaganda and disinformation

Senator Portman is a hypocrite because what the U.S. has done abroad with their NGOs is to destabilize governments they want to remove from power such as to what happened in the Ukraine. Now Ecuador is on the radar for regime change since Venezuela is in an economic crises and the political crisis in Brazil with the possible removal of its democratically elected President Dilma Rousseff. The VOA report mentions RT News and CCTV:

While much of the public discussion of these issues is focused on the urgent need to counter extremist messaging, and I understand that, I think it is equally important to address the extremely sophisticated, comprehensive and long-term efforts by nation states to manipulate and control information in order to achieve their national objectives, often at the expense of U.S. allies; our interests, our values,” Portman said. “These countries spend vast sums of money on advanced broadcast and digital media capabilities, targeted campaigns, funding of foreign political movements, and other efforts to influence key audiences and populations.”

According to the Ohio Republican, the scale of spending on the U.S. government’s Voice of America, and that of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which is funded by the U.S. Congress, is dwarfed by the money spent on RT, a Kremlin-funded satellite TV channel, and the Chinese government’s CCTV

Senator Portman also mentioned the importance of restructuring U.S. counter-propaganda under a single government agency “Surprisingly,” he said, “there is currently no single U.S. governmental agency or department charged with the national level development, integration and synchronization of whole-of-government strategies to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation.” Senator Murphy (D-Conn) said “The simple suggestion in our bill is to have an umbrella strategy that unites all of the different agencies that are playing roles, so that we can have a coordinated strategy.” In other words, the MSM will operate under one umbrella run by the U.S. government (although the MSM has followed Washington’s script for a very long time) to produce propaganda. Who would be leading the new agency?

Under the bill, a new Center for Information Analysis and Response would play the coordinating role. This center, Portman said, would be led by the U.S. State Department, but with the “active participation” of the Department of Defense, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (which oversees VOA and RFE/RL, among others), “the intelligence community and other relevant agencies.”

The bill also would set up an Information Access Fund, which would assist in the training of local journalists, as well as award grants and contracts to non-government and civil society organizations, research centers, private sector companies, media organizations and other experts outside the U.S. government that have experience in identifying and analyzing disinformation methods used by foreign governments

So which organizations and experts would be involved? Of course the NED, USAID as mentioned earlier, but you can add the International Republican Institute (IRI), Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Amnesty International, the Open Society Foundation, the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR), National Democratic Institute(NDI), CBS, ABC, PBS, the BBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the LA Times and the list goes on. What is laughable is what Senator Murphy said “This fund, said Murphy, would “simply seek to seed good information efforts — telling the truth, telling counter-narratives to the Russian story, to the Chinese propaganda stories all around the world.” Telling the truth? The MSM has lost credibility for the lies they have been pushing on the public. According to the Associated Press (AP):

Trust in the news media is being eroded by perceptions of inaccuracy and bias, fueled in part by Americans’ skepticism about what they read on social media. Just 6 percent of people say they have a lot of confidence in the media, putting the news industry about equal to Congress and well below the public’s view of other institutions

With Washington’s new agenda, the remaining 6 percent (it’s amazing the MSM stills gets that much!) who still trust the media will be reduced to less than 1 percent. It won’t be long before they also target the alternative media. This is good news because Washington and their MSM presstitutes realize that they lost the information war and that is positive news.

The Great Leap Backward: America’s Illegal Wars On The World

Can we face it in this election season? America is a weapons factory, the White House a war room, and the president the manager of the neoliberal conspiracy to recolonize the planet. It exports war and mass poverty. On the economic front, usurious neoliberalism; on the military front, illegal wars. These are the trenches of America’s battle for world domination in the 21st century.

If not stopped, it will be a short century.

Since 1945, America’s Manifest Destiny, posing as the Free World’s Crusade against the Red Menace, has claimed 20 to 30 million lives worldwide and bombed one-third of the earth’s people. In the 19thcentury, America exterminated another kind of “red menace,” writing and shredding treaties, stealing lands, massacring, and herding Native populations into concentration camps (“Indian reservations”), in the name of civilizing the “savages.” By 1890, with the massacre of Lakota at Wounded Knee, the frontier land grab—internal imperialism– was over. There was a world to conquer, and America trained its exceptionally covetous eye on Cuba and the Philippines.

American external imperialism was born.

Then, something utterly dreadful happened in 1917—a successful social revolution in Russia, the second major after the French in 1789, to try to redistribute the wealth of the few to the advantage of the many. The rulers of the world—US, Britain, France and sundry acolytes—put aside their differences and united to stem the awful threat of popular democracy rising and spreading. They invaded Russia, fomented a civil war, funding and arming the counter-revolutionary forces, failed, and tried again in 1939. But Hitler’s war of extermination on the USSR ended in a spectacular victory for Moscow.

For a while, after 1945, the US had to behave as a civilized country, formally. It claimed that the USSR had a barbarian, all-conquering ideology, rooted in terror, disappearances, murder, and torture. By contrast, the US was the shining city on the hill, the beacon of hope for a “the free world.” Its shrine was the United Nations; its holy writ was international law; its first principle was the inviolability of the sovereignty of nations.

All this was rubbish, of course. It was an apartheid society. It nuked Japan not once but twice, deliberately selecting civilian targets. It shielded from justice top Nazi criminals to absorb them as partners in intelligence structures. It conducted virtual “show trials” against dissidents during the hysteria of the McCarthy congressional hearings, seeding the country with a harvest of fear. It waged a genocidal war on Vietnam to prevent independence and unification. It assassinated African independence leaders and bestowed fascist dictators on Latin America. It softly occupied Western Europe, tied it to itself through military “cooperation” in NATO, and it waged psy-op war on its opposition parties. Behind the civilized fa├žade was a ruthless effort to take out the Soviet Union and crush self-determination in the colonial world.

By hook and by crook, the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, and America went berserk with triumphalism. Now, at last, the conquest of the world, interrupted in 1917, could resume. The global frontier reopened and America’s identity would be regenerated through violence, which had delivered the American West to the European invaders in the 19th century. The benign mask dropped. Behind it came a rider on a pale horse. According to the ideologically exulted, history had ended, ideologies had died, and the messianic mission of the US to become the steward of God’s property on earth could be fulfilled.

The “civilizing mission” was afoot.

A cabal of neo-conservative policy wonks first sketched what I call the Great Leap Backward into lawlessness as a revival of the myth of the frontier in the 1990s. “The Plan for a New American Century” (PNAC) envisaged the 21st century as a unilateralist drive to entrench American values globally—what the PNAC ideologues call “freedom and democracy”—through preemptive wars and regime change. This frenzied delirium of US military domination turned into official foreign policy with the Bush Doctrine after 9/11, but it was the Clinton administration’s Doctrine of Humanitarian Warfare before 9/11, that shut the door on the prohibition of aggressive wars by the UN Charter, remaking the map of the world into a borderless American hunting reserve by removing the principle of sovereignty and replacing it with “right to protect” (R2P)—or humanitarian pretext for use of force.

Clinton’s doctrine was an act of supreme, even witty, exploitation of liberal principles and commitment to policies of human rights. It was how the liberal left was induced to embrace war and imperialism as the means of defending human rights. The Carnegie Endowment cooked up the doctrine in 1992. Its report, “Changing Our Ways: America’s Role in the New World,” urged “a new principle of international relations: the destruction or displacement of groups of people within states can justify international intervention.” The report recommended that the US use NATO as the enforcer. It must be noted, too, that the principle of “humanitarian war” has no authority in international law. The Charter of the United Nations sought to outlaw war by making it impossible for unilateral interventions in the business of sovereign states by self-appointed guardians of human rights. The reason behind the proscription was not heartlessness but the consciousness that WW II had been the result of serial violations of sovereignty by Germany, Italy, and Japan—by militarist imperialism, in other words.

The bell tolled for the UN and the old order in the 1999 Kosovo War. The bi-partisan effort to dismantle the architecture of the post war’s legal order played out there. With the Kosovo War, the Clinton administration launched the first humanitarian war and set the precedent for waging war without Security Council clearance of many to follow by both Republican and Democrat administrations. The Clintonites who used NATO to bomb Serbia to protect ethnic Albanians in Kosovo from non-existing Serbian genocide may or may not have appreciated the fact that Hitler had used the pretext of R2P—humanitarian intervention—to launch WW II by claiming to protect German minorities in Poland, but they certainly knew that the monopoly on use of force rested with the UN’s Security Council. This monopoly was secured after WW II precisely to prevent unilateral attacks on sovereign states through bogus claims of altruistic interventions, such as Hitler had championed and pursued. Ironically for critics of the Soviet leader, it was Stalin who insisted at the Yalta Conference that if the USSR were to join the United Nations a veto in the Security Council was a must to insure that any war would be a multilateral consensus and a multilateral action.

As the Clintonites understood, the postwar legal authority for peacekeeping and the prevention of war entrusted to the UN Security Council posed a colossal obstacle to the pursuit of American world domination. For the vision of PNAC and the Carnegie Endowment to become reality, the United Nations, the guarantor of sovereignty, had to go. In the run-up to the Kosovo War, the Clintonites fatally and deliberately destabilized the United Nations, substituting the uncooperative UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali with the subservient NATO shill, Kofi Annan. Annan obligingly opined that in the matter of war and peace, UN Security Council resolutions were not the only way to skin a country– especially one chosen by the US for remaking, partitioning, or regime changing, a cynic might add.

So now we live in a dangerous world. Once again, since the 1930s, the world is being stalked by an expansionist power answering to no law but its own unilateral, humanitarian vigilantism. The Kosovo precedent has spun out of control. Libya smolders in the ashes of NATO bombs, dropped to prevent “genocide”; Syria fights for survival under attack by genocidal terrorist groups, armed, trained and funded by genocide preventers grouped in the NATO alliance and the Gulf partners; Afghanistan languishes in a permanent state of war, present ten thousand American troops which bomb hospitals to promote human rights; in Iraq, the humanitarians are back, after twenty-five years of humanitarian failure. And in Ukraine, Nazi patriots are promoting American democratic and humanitarian values by shelling Donbass daily. I hesitate to mention Africa, where humanitarian Special Forces are watering the fields where terrorists sprout like mushrooms after rain—in Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, Kenya.

Then there is Yemen, perhaps the most callous, vicious, and careless humanitarian crime of a litany of crimes against humanity in the Middle East. The US government has recently admitted deploying troops to Yemen. The Pentagon claims that the deployment will assist Saudi Arabia (“the Arab coalition”) to fight al-Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula. Can a sentient being meet such a grotesque claim with anything but infernal laughter? Help Saudi Arabia to fight its own creature? Are we stupid yet?

$4 trillion dollars later, spent on the War-on-Terror/Humanitarian-R2P, the pattern of military destabilization of sovereign states proceeds apace, one recalcitrant, independent country at a time in the Middle East and North Africa. For the rest of the world, the surrender of sovereignty is sought by means of economic globalization through trade pacts—TTP, TTIP, etc.—that virtually abolish the constitution of states, including our own. Spearheading the economic effort to control the periphery and the entire world is the so-called “Washington Consensus.”

It hugs the market-fundamentalist idea that global neoliberalism and core finance capital’s economic control of the planet by means of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) is the option to poverty and social chaos.

Neither military nor economic war on the sovereignty of nations has yielded anything close to a stable, prosperous, and peaceful world. It had delivered death, destruction, debt, market crises, tidal waves of refugees and displaced persons, and concentrated masses of wealth in a few but powerful hands. What the poet W.H. Auden called “the international wrong,” which he named “imperialism” in his poem “September 1939,” is the crisis that stares out of the mirror of the past into our faces, and it bodes war, war, and more war, for that is where imperialism drives.

In this scenario, no potential presidential candidate—even establishment-party dissenter—who does not call for both the end of the bi-partisan “Washington Consensus” and the end of bipartisan militarist aggression can reverse the totality of the “international wrong” or stem the domestic descent into social brutalization. If none calls this foreign policy debacle “imperialism,” elections will be a sleepwalker’s exercise. Nothing will change. Except, almost certainly, for the worse.

Luciana Bohne is co-founder of Film Criticism, a journal of cinema studies, and teaches at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania. She can be reached at:

Equatorial Guinea, Gabon Expelling Central African Migrants

VOA NEWS, MAY 14, 2016

KIOSSI, CAMEROON—Several hundred people from Central African nations are stranded in southern Cameroon after being expelled from neighboring Equatorial Guinea and Gabon this month.

Equatorial Guinea and Gabon say they are expelling foreigners who do not have proper identification papers.

The majority of those being expelled are economic migrants from around Central Africa. They complain that authorities in those two countries ransacked their homes, seized their money and deposited them on the border at Kiossi.

Some had only just arrived in those countries while others had been living there for years.

Bakari Zhouli, a 45-year old engineer from Chad, says his documents were taken and he is stuck.

He says he is surprised that the government of Equatorial Guinea is chasing out the people who helped to transform many parts of their country from mere foot paths, forests and abandoned cocoa plantations into a developing country. He says he helped transform the capital, Bata, in the 15 years he was there.

Gabon and Equatorial Guinea say they are expelling foreigners who do not have proper identification papers for security reasons, saying some migrants are engaged in illegal mining and criminal activities.

Felix Nguele Nguele, governor of Cameroon's southern region, says the government is investigating.

"We insisted that forces of law and order should have information on who was expelled and why he was expelled. We took an assessment of all the control posts on the borders and equally sent a team to the field to try to sensitize all stakeholders," said Nguele.

Most of the people now stranded in Cameroon said they went to Gabon and Equatorial Guinea looking for work. The oil-producing nations have long been destinations for economic migrants.

Nchama Theodoro is senior adviser to the governor of Woleu-Ntem, one of Equatorial Guinea's nine administrative provinces. He says the global drop in price of oil and other commodities is taking a toll and many companies are having to lay off workers.

He says central African states should be able to provide opportunities for their young people who instead see Equatorial Guinea as the solution to their problems. He says Equatorial Guinea is helping to build Africa’s workforce by allowing people to come and work freely, but that cannot be the only solution to unemployment.

The International Monetary Fund said earlier this month that the rate of economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa is expected to slow to a 16-year low. Central Africa is feeling the slump with countries reporting record increases in debt.

Hundreds of Cameroonians have returned home after being expelled from Gabon.