Don’t Trade Away Our Health

By JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ * – The New York Times

A secretive group met behind closed doors in New York this week. What they decided may lead to higher drug prices for you and hundreds of millions around the world.

Representatives from the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries convened to decide the future of their trade relations in the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership (T.P.P.). Powerful companies appear to have been given influence over the proceedings, even as full access is withheld from many government officials from the partnership countries.

Continue reading

Unraveling the Mystery of Boko Haram

by ERIC DRAITSER* – CounterPunch

The most entertaining mysteries are the ones with compelling protagonists, enigmatic and often surreptitious antagonists, and surprising or shocking conclusions. Indeed, without these essential elements, one is unlikely to read the story at all. However, when it comes to politics and geopolitics, somehow our mass media storytellers – the scores of journalists, military and counter-terrorism ‘experts,’ and establishment mouthpieces – fail to even point us in the right direction. Not only do they not follow the threads of the story, they prefer to pretend they simply aren’t there.

Continue reading

Europe’s Greek Test

Paul Krugman* – The New York Times

In the five years (!) that have passed since the euro crisis began, clear thinking has been in notably short supply. But that fuzziness must now end. Recent events in Greece pose a fundamental challenge for Europe: Can it get past the myths and the moralizing, and deal with reality in a way that respects the Continent’s core values? If not, the whole European project — the attempt to build peace and democracy through shared prosperity — will suffer a terrible, perhaps mortal blow.

Continue reading

CUBA/US: Catching a Glimpse of the Possible Future

By Leonardo Padura*

HAVANA, Jan 2015 (IPS) – All Cubans, on either side of the Florida Straits, but in places like Spain, France or Greenland – where there must be a couple of Cubans – as well felt it was a historic moment that included each and every one of us, when U.S. President Barack Obama announced on Dec. 17 the normalisation of relations after half a century of hostility.

Continue reading

The European Union May Be on the Verge of Collapse

John Feffer – TomDispatch.com.

The complex federal project of the EU has proven fragile in the absence of a strong external threat.

Europe won the Cold War.

Not long after the Berlin Wall fell a quarter of a century ago, the Soviet Union collapsed, the United States squandered its peace dividend in an attempt to maintain global dominance and Europe quietly became more prosperous, more integrated and more of a player in international affairs.

Continue reading

Think Flows, not stocks

Paul Krugman – The New York Times

How should we think about the bargaining that may or may not now take place between the new Greek government and the troika? (No bargaining if the troika basically says no concessions.) Most discussion is framed in terms of what happens to the debt. But as both Daniel Davies and James Galbraith point out — with very different de facto value judgments, but never mind for now — at this point Greek debt, measured as a stock, is not a very meaningful number. After all, the great bulk of the debt is now officially held, the interest rate bears little relationship to market prices, and the interest payments come in part out of funds lent by the creditors. In a sense the debt is an accounting fiction; it’s whatever the governments trying to dictate terms to Greece decide to say it is.
OK, I know it’s not quite that simple — debt as a number has political and psychological importance. But I think it helps clear things up to put all of that aside for a bit and focus on the aspect of the situation that isn’t a matter of definitions: Greece’s primary surplus, the difference between what it takes in via taxes and what it spends on things other than interest.

Continue reading

Tax Haven USA: The Vortex-Shaped Hole in Global Financial Transparency

Naked Capitalism – Posted by Yves Smith

By Nicholas Shaxson. Adapted from a post by the Tax Justice Network.

If people stash their wealth or earn income overseas, that is just fine — as long as their tax authorities get the information they need to tax that wealth or income according to the law, and as long as money laundering and financial crimes can be effectively tracked, and so on. Where there are cross-border barriers to legitimate tax collection, law enforcement and other instruments of democratic societies, then there is an offshore problem.

Continue reading

Alexis Tsipras appoints radical economist to new government

Jon Henley in Athens – The Guardian

Greece set to clash with EU as economics post goes to radical who described austerity measures as ‘fiscal waterboarding’

Greece’s new leftist prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, is set to announce his anti-bailout government, with the post of economics minister – chief negotiator with the country’s international creditors – going to a radical economist who has described austerity programmes as “fiscal waterboarding”.

Continue reading

Ending Greece’s Nightmare

Paul Krugman* – The New York Times

Alexis Tsipras, leader of the left-wing Syriza coalition, is about to become prime minister of Greece. He will be the first European leader elected on an explicit promise to challenge the austerity policies that have prevailed since 2010. And there will, of course, be many people warning him to abandon that promise, to behave “responsibly.”

Continue reading

Islamic Reformation, the Antidote to Terrorism

By Emile Nakhleh*

WASHINGTON, Jan 2015 (IPS) – The horrific terrorist attack on the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo has once again raised the question about violence and Islam. Why is it, some ask, that so much terrorism has been committed in the name of Islam, and why do violent jihadists seek justification of their actions in their religion?

Continue reading

Paris attacks show hypocrisy of West’s outrage

By Noam Chomsky*

After the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo, which killed 12 people including the editor and four other cartoonists, and the murder of four Jews at a kosher supermarket shortly after, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared “a war against terrorism, against jihadism, against radical Islam, against everything that is aimed at breaking fraternity, freedom, solidarity.”

Continue reading

A debt to history?

GillianTett – Financial Times

To some, Germany faces a moral duty to help Greece, given the aid that it has previously enjoyed

As the crucial election looms in Greece later this month, newspapers have been full of pictures of demonstrations (or riots) in Athens. But there is another image hovering in my mind: an elegant dining hall on the shores of Lake Lucerne in Switzerland.

Continue reading

The Oxfam challenge for the Davos brigade

James Moore – The Independent

According to Oxfam, on current trends the richest 1 per cent of the world’s population will have a greater share of its wealth than the remaining 99 per cent within two years.

The figures were released to coincide with the opening of the annual bunfight for the rich and powerful, otherwise known as the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Continue reading