#SettlementExpansion ~~ SAYING THIS BUT MEANING THAT …

Photo © by Bud Korotzer

Photo © by Bud Korotzer

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Be sure to read yesterday’s post

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According to the Israeli watchdog group Who Profits, “In October 2010, in an official letter to Who Profits, Africa-Israel stated: ‘Neither the company nor any of its subsidiaries and/or other companies controlled by the company are presently involved in or has any plans for future involvement in development, construction or building of real estate in settlements in the West Bank.’ However, the company soon after received a 78 million shekel contract to construct the C-Jerusalem project in the settlement neighborhood of Gilo in East Jerusalem.”

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Diamond magnate may be lying about Israel settlement pullout, activists warn

Construction site of Africa Israel housing project in the Gilo settlement, occupied east Jerusalem, 28 August 2013. (Ta’ayush)

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The campaign group Adalah-NY has given a skeptical welcome to reports that Africa Israel, the company controlled by diamond magnate Lev Leviev, has pulled out of all its settlement construction activities in the occupied West Bank.

According to a statement from Adalah-NY, Israel’s Ynet reported this week “that representatives from Africa Israel (AI) and its construction subsidiary Danya Cebus, targets of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, say they will stop building Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, including in Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem.”

But, the statement warns, “this announcement – undoubtedly the result of seven years of pressure generated by Adalah-NY and allied groups worldwide and a sign of the growing strength of the BDS movement – should be greeted with vigilance because Africa Israel has in the past made similar statements that proved to be untrue.”

Lying to Norway

In 2010, Norway’s government excluded Africa Israel and its subsidiaries from eligibility to be included in the portfolio of a state pension fund because of the firm’s role in settlement construction.

In August 2013, the ban was lifted based on assurances from Africa Israel that these activities had stopped.

But video, photographic and documentary evidence emerged that the company was lying and in January this year, based on this evidence, Norway reimposed the exclusion.

Adalah-NY points to another instance of Africa Israel engaging in deception about its practices. In September 2013, the firm told the UK-based Business and Human Rights Resource Centre that the settlement of Gilo built in the occupied West Bank should not be considered a settlement at all.

“Given Africa Israel’s pattern of falsely representing its settlement construction to the public, and even to the Norwegian government, and AI’s disagreement with international law and the international community over the very definition of a settlement,” Adalah-NY says “careful monitoring and review of Africa Israel’s work over a substantial period of time is required before AI’s statements today are accepted as accurate.”

Ongoing ties to colonization

Additionally, according to occupation watchdog Who Profits, Africa Israel “owns 26 percent of Alon Group, which has a monopoly over gas supply to the Gaza Strip, and controls the Blue Square retail chain, which has branches and offices in multiple settlements throughout the occupied territories.”

And, notes Adalah-NY, Africa Israel chair Lev Leviev is co-owner of a separate settlement company, Leader Management and Development, which “owns and operates the Israeli settlement of Zufim, which has been built upon the expropriated, fertile agricultural land of the Palestinian village of Jayyous, as well as the land of neighboring Palestinian villages.”

Adalah-NY, which began its campaign against Africa Israel’s occupation profiteering in 2007, also states that Leviev’s companies have been “involved in human rights abuses and unethical business practices in the diamond industry in Angola and Namibia.”

DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER ~~ SO IS PALESTINE!

Blood diamond mogul Leviev says he won’t build beyond the ‘Green Line’ ….. but which side of the line is he talking about?

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Image created by Gianluca Costantini

Image created by Gianluca Costantini

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Africa Israel has come under a boycott since 2008 because of its operations beyond the Green Line. That same year, UNICEF announced it was cutting ties with Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev, who had sponsored a portion of the UN organization’s activities, because of “his involvement in the building of settlements in the West Bank.”

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Lev Leviev, center, launches a new Africa Israel project (Photo: Courtesy of Africa Israel)
Lev Leviev, center, launches a new Africa Israel project (Photo: Courtesy of Africa Israel)

Business powerhouse Africa Israel: No building beyond Green Line

Sources in company say such investment is not economically viable; move comes after years of boycotts of company due to operations beyond Green Line.

Ofer Petersburg FOR

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Africa Israel Investments staged an event on Sunday to announce a significant expansion of its construction projects in central and West Jerusalem – 935 housing units at an investment of NIS 2.4 billion. The biggest noise, however, came from Oren Hod, CEO of Africa Israel Residences, who surprisingly announced: “We won’t be building beyond the Green Line.”

This change in policy does not apply only to the company’s entrepreneurial arm, Hod’s domain, which hasn’t been significantly active in such areas in any event, but to its executive arm, too, including the Danya Cebus construction firm, which also built for other companies. The decision means that Africa Israel will not participate in new tenders in Pisgat Ze’ev, Har Homa, Gilo and parts of Ramot.

The main reasons behind the Africa Israel decision are believed to be the political and security developments in Jerusalem in recent years, coupled with protests around the world against the company due to construction beyond the Green Line. According to Africa Israel sources, another reason for the decision is that construction in those areas is not economically viable.

Danya Cebus, a subsidiary of Africa Israel, has carried out construction projects in East Jerusalem in the past. Among other places, the company has built in Har Homa, Gilo, Ma’aleh Adumim, Ariel and Adam, and was also responsible for a huge neighborhood, East Matityahu, in Modi’in Illit.

Africa Israel has come under a boycott since 2008 because of its operations beyond the Green Line. That same year, UNICEF announced it was cutting ties with Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev, who had sponsored a portion of the UN organization’s activities, because of “his involvement in the building of settlements in the West Bank.”

Also in 2008, Dubai threatened to sever ties with Leviev’s agents in the diamond trade abroad following demonstrations by the pro-Palestinian Adalah organization. And subsequently, following reports that the British Embassy was planning to lease a property from Africa Israel, a columnist in the Guardian newspaper wrote: “Rewarding Leviev with the contract for our new embassy shows that Her Majesty’s government is not serious about stopping Israeli settlements.”

In 2009, BlackRock UK, one of the world’s preeminent asset management firms, sold all its Africa Israel stock, despite having held a large stake in the company. According to reports, the move came as a result of pressure from the three Norwegian banks that market BlackRock funds. In 2012, New Zealand-government investment funds that turn over investments to the tune of some $20 billion joined the boycott.

In 2011, Adalah-New York demanded that the Fashion Institute of Technology, which was staging an exhibition of British designer Daphne Guinness’ clothing at the FIT’s museum in New York, reject funding from the LVD Foundation, headed by Leviev. “We feel confident that you do not wish to tarnish the good name and the good works of the Fashion Institute of Technology by associating yourself with Lev Leviev’s companies’ human rights violations and questionable business practices,” Adalah-NY wrote in its appeal.

Last January, the Norway’s Finance Ministry announced a boycott of the company and its removal from the investment portfolio of its Government Pension Fund Global after the Norwegian Council of Ethics found that Africa Israel is active in East Jerusalem. The pension fund is managed by the Norwegian central bank and is designed to ensure more efficient and equitable utilization of the Norwegian oil money.

“The decision to exclude Africa Israel and Danya Cebus from the fund stems from their contribution to significant violations of human rights in the framework of a war or conflict by means of building settlements in East Jerusalem,” read the Norwegian announcement.

According to a statement at time from the company, “Africa Israel and its subsidiaries operate in Israel and around the world with the purpose of promoting their business activities in accordance with the law in place in every country in which they operate. In light of this, all we can do is express regret for this decision that pertains to Africa Israel and other large Israeli companies, and wonder how it serves the best interests of the citizens of Norway whose money is managed by this fund.”

As mentioned above, in conjunction with its decision to cease construction activities beyond the Green Line, Africa Israel Residences is expanding its investments in the center and west of the city and is looking for additional land reserves, having recently acquired Mapai House on Jaffa Street where it is planning a 170-apartment high-rise at an investment of NIS 380 million.

Among others, the company will also be erecting two high-end projects – at 7 HaRav Kook Street, which will comprise 131 apartments at an investment of NIS 300 million, HaNevi’im Courtyard, where the company will be selling two-room apartments at NIS 1.82 million and three-room apartments at NIS 2.95 million. The company is also currently marketing its Savyonei Arnona project, with the Savyonei Ramat Sharet project to go on the market soon too. Africa Israel is also moving ahead with the planning of its President’s House hotel project, which will include residential and hotel space.

According to Oren Hod, the company is looking for additional projects in the capital as prices have yet to reach their peak level. “In Rishon Lezion West, we are selling for NIS 2.9 million, and the same apartment in Savyonei Arnona is going for NIS 2.4 million.”

 

WHY ISRAELIS SHOULD JOIN THE BOYCOTT FROM WITHIN

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You are not only supporting apartheid, you are supporting the criminal price gouging of foreign companies.

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Procter and Gamble (P&G) reduced the contents of a bottle of Head and Shoulders shampoo by 20-33%. The company, which used to marketing the brand in a 750 ml bottle, halted its marketing of this bottle, and began marketing two different bottles: 500 ml and 600 ml. The new bottles are very similar to the old ones, giving the misleading impression that the price was reduced.

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Food cos raise prices by shrinking packages

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Prices of some items have shot up by double-digit percentages.

Food producers and importers have diminished the size of their packages in order to conceal price hikes and give consumers the misleading impression that prices have fallen, a “Globes” survey has revealed. In some cases, the smaller packages have raised the price to the consumer by double-digit percentages. In other cases, retailers say that consumers bought the product because they did not notice the change in quantity, and believed that the price had fallen.The Neto ME Holdings Ltd. (TASE;NTO) group, which owns the Williger brand, cut the amount of tuna in a four-pack from 160 grams to 140 grams in each can – a 12.5% reduction. The company took advantage of the reduction in the amount of tuna to conceal a 7% price hike. The previous retail price was NIS 15.40 before VAT for 640 grams (4 times 160 grams), while the new retail price is NIS 14.40 before VAT for 560 grams (4 times 140 grams). The price for the retailers therefore jumped 6.9%. The Williger packaging displays the words “lower weight package” in small letters, but the fact that the price rose together with the reduced weight did not appear.

Procter and Gamble (P&G) reduced the contents of a bottle of Head and Shoulders shampoo by 20-33%. The company, which used to marketing the brand in a 750 ml bottle, halted its marketing of this bottle, and began marketing two different bottles: 500 ml and 600 ml. The new bottles are very similar to the old ones, giving the misleading impression that the price was reduced. In addition, while the quantity in the bottle is 33.3% less, the retail price has dropped by only 31.2%, constituting a concealed 2.1% price hike for the retailer, rolled over on to the consumer. A retailer said, “The company retained the same container shape. I estimate that only 5-10% of the consumers noticed that the amount in the container was smaller.”

Procter and Gamble used the same trick in other brands: Pantene and Fairy. The amount of shampoo and softener in a Pantene bottle dropped 20%: from 750 ml to 600 ml. The price to the retailer was cut by the same proportion. A retailer said, “They changed the Pantene bottle, giving the consumer the impression that it was a new container. The consumer didn’t know that they reduced the amount.” The amount of Fairy dish detergent was reduced from 750 ml to 650 ml, a 13.5% reduction, while the price to the retailer was cut in the same proportion. Someone buying the Fairy brand in a smaller container now, however, may not notice that the quantity has been reduced.

Behind the reduction in container sizes lies the companies’ wish to overcome the price barrier, given the drop in consumption. The same retailer told “Globes,” “The price is important in sales. The companies realized that the consumer has barriers: a NIS 10 barrier, a NIS 20 barrier. In order to adapt themselves to the demand and the consumer’s ability to pay, they adapted the container. Making the product smaller is not unfair, as long as the price is cut by the same proportion. The problem here is that no one tells the consumer, and consumers don’t notice it. They think they’re buying at a cheaper price.”

Misleading packaging

The method of raising prices by reducing the container size, or misleading the consumer the same way, is unfortunately not new. As recently revealed in “Globes,” Unilever also reduced the amount of Krembo in a package of Krembo Strauss by 20%, thereby raising the consumer price by 27-30%. Krembo Strauss is the leading brand in the category, and is responsible for almost all its sales. Despite its name, the brand is now fully owned by Unilever, which acquired ownership of the Strauss ice cream company that also owns the Krembo brand.

It appears that this is not a new method for Unilever. Just before the cottage cheese boycott, the company reduced the amount of Deli Pecan breakfast cereal in a package from 450 grams to 400 grams, an 11% reduction. The price to the retailer was cut by only 5%, meaning that the price to the retailers by weight to the retailer was 10% higher.

Furthermore, in December 2012, Unilever raised its price to the retailer back up to NIS 19.80, completing a 12.5% price hike. No less grave is the fact that Unilever did not reduce the package size at all, and 400 grams of Deli Pecan breakfast cereal are still being sold in exactly the same package in which the 500 grams of Branflakes are sold – a misleading package likely to make the consumer think that exactly the same amount is being sold.

Responses

The Neto Group said in response, “Williger is indeed offering a new and cheaper product in a smaller container in response to the global trend and consumer preferences. The drop in the price to the retailer reflects the relative proportion of tuna as a raw material, including elements in making the final product, such as manufacturing, packaging, employee wages, transportation, etc.”

Procter and Gamble said in response, “Over the past year, some of the containers of these products were changed. As required by law, the change in the package size was clearly marked on the container for several months.”

Unilever said in response, “The largest Krembo package with 40 units was replaced by two new packages with 20 units and 32 units in order to expand the variety of the family-sized packages for consumer convenience. The change in the number of units is clearly marked on the packages. In any case, the final consumer price is determined by the retailers.”

 

Source

PHOTO ESSAY ~~ TO LOVE HUMANITY IS TO SAFEGUARD THE ENVIRONMENT

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And the food we eat!

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Large protest at New York’s Union Square against Monsanto and GMO

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Photos © by Bud Korotzer

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Related Report of other demos … FROM

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Global anti-GMO action: People unite against Monsanto dominance

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Over 400 cities worldwide will see millions marching against the US chemical and agricultural company Monsanto in an effort to boycott the use of Genetically Modified Organizms in food production.

Marches are planned in 52 countries in addition to some 47 US states that are jointing in the protest.

Follow RT’s LIVE UPDATES on March Against Monsanto

“MAM supports a sustainable food production system. We must act now to stop GMOs and harmful pesticides,” said Tami Monroe Canal, founder of March Against Monsanto (MAM) in a press release ahead of the global event.

The movement was formed after the 2012 California Proposition 37 on mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food initiative failed, prompting activists to demand a boycott of the GMO in food production.

“Monsanto’s predatory business and corporate agriculture practices threatens their generation’s health, fertility and longevity,” Canal said.

The main aim of the activism is to organize global awareness for the need to protect food supply, local farms and environment. It seeks to promote organic solutions, while “exposing cronyism between big business and the government.”

Activists claim that Monsanto spent hundreds of millions of dollars to “obstruct all labeling attempts”while suppressing all “research containing results not in their favor.”

Birth defects, organ damage, infant mortality, sterility and increased cancer risks are just some of the side-effects GMO is believed to cause.

“That is what the scientists have learned about, that the genetically modified foods will increase allergies that they are going to be less nutritious and that they can possibly or very contain toxins that can make us ill,” Organic Consumers Association’s political director Alexis Baden-Mayer told RT.

GMOs have been partially banned in a number of countries, including Germany, Japan, and Russia but yet in most countries across the globe still feed GMOs to their animals.

Citing the US example, Baden-Mayer told RT that “it is hard to distinguish the company Monsanto from the players in the US government.”

“Most of the genetically modified crops grown in the US, almost all of them end up in factory farms, concentrated in animal feeding operations,” stating that US has enough grassland to pasture and raise“100 percent grass-fed beef” and produce even more grass fed beef than is raised on “modified corn and soy.”

One year ago over 2 million people in 436 cities in 52 countries worldwide marched against the largest producer of genetically engineered seeds.

(TOON) ~~ A LOOK AT BUSH’S LEGACY IN IRAQ

Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff

George W Bush legacy in Iraq

CHUTZPAH OF THE YEAR AWARD GOES TO …

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Walmart Holding Canned Food Drive For Its Own Underpaid Employees
The company has long been plagued by charges that it doesn’t pay its employees a real living wage.
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A Walmart in northeast Ohio is holding a holiday canned food drive — for its own underpaid employees. “Please Donate Food Items Here, so Associates in Need Can Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner,” a sign reads in the employee lounge of a Canton-area Walmart.

Kory Lundberg, a Walmart spokesman, says the drive is a positive thing. “This is part of the company’s culture to rally around associates and take care of them when they face extreme hardships,” he said. Indeed, Lundberg is correct that it’s commendable to make an effort to help out those who are in need, especially during the holidays.

A Walmart in northeast Ohio is holding a holiday canned food drive — for its own underpaid employees. “Please Donate Food Items Here, so Associates in Need Can Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner,” a sign reads in the employee lounge of a Canton-area Walmart.

Kory Lundberg, a Walmart spokesman, says the drive is a positive thing. “This is part of the company’s culture to rally around associates and take care of them when they face extreme hardships,” he said. Indeed, Lundberg is correct that it’s commendable to make an effort to help out those who are in need, especially during the holidays.

But the need for a food drive illustrates how difficult it is for Walmart workers to get by on its notoriously low pay. The company has long been plagued by charges that it doesn’t pay its employees a real living wage. In fact, Walmart’s President and CEO, Bill Simon, recently estimated that the majority of its one million associates make less than $25,000 per year, just above the federal poverty line of $23,550 for a family of four. When the Washington DC city council passed a living wage bill requiring Walmart to pay workers a minimum of $12.50 per hour, the chain threatened to shut down its new stores if Mayor Vincent Gray didn’t veto the bill. Gray vetoed the bill.

Walmart’s low wages come at a public cost. Because low-income workers still need housing and health care, taxpayers end up doling out millions in benefits to bridge the gap faced by many of the store’s retail workers. They have also led to strikes at Walmart stores from Seattle to Chicago to Los Angeles in recent weeks.

Even if the canned food drive successfully gathers enough to help out the Canton store’s low-income workers, many of them might not even be able to have the food on Thanksgiving. That’s because Walmart is one of a group of retailers that will open its stores for Black Friday sales beginning at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving afternoon.

But the need for a food drive illustrates how difficult it is for Walmart workers to get by on its notoriously low pay. The company has long been plagued by charges that it doesn’t pay its employees a real living wage. In fact, Walmart’s President and CEO, Bill Simon, recently estimated that the majority of its one million associates make less than $25,000 per year, just above the federal poverty line of $23,550 for a family of four. When the Washington DC city council passed a living wage bill requiring Walmart to pay workers a minimum of $12.50 per hour, the chain threatened to shut down its new stores if Mayor Vincent Gray didn’t veto the bill. Gray vetoed the bill.

Walmart’s low wages come at a public cost. Because low-income workers still need housing and health care, taxpayers end up doling out millions in benefits to bridge the gap faced by many of the store’s retail workers. They have also led to strikes at Walmart stores from Seattle to Chicago to Los Angeles in recent weeks.

Even if the canned food drive successfully gathers enough to help out the Canton store’s low-income workers, many of them might not even be able to have the food on Thanksgiving. That’s because Walmart is one of a group of retailers that will open its stores for Black Friday sales beginning at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving afternoon.

Source

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Runner-Up for the Award this year goes to …

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McDonald’s Advice to Underpaid Employees: Sell Your Christmas Presents For Cash

Their website has another piece of advice for people who are stressed about their meager paychecks: “Quit complaining,” the site suggests. “Stress hormones levels rise by 15 percent after 10 minutes of complaining.”

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Tis the season for holiday spirit: Yule logs, egg nog, festive lights and exchanging gifts with loved ones. If you work for McDonald’s, though, be sure to save those receipts.

McDonald’s McResource Line, a dedicated website run by the world’s largest fast-food chain to provide its 1.8 million employees with financial and health-related tips, offers a full page of advice for “Digging Out From Holiday Debt.” Among their helpful holiday tips: “Selling some of your unwanted possessions on eBay or Craigslist could bring in some quick cash.”

Elsewhere on the site, McDonald’s encourages its employees to break apart food when they eat meals, as “breaking food into pieces often results in eating less and still feeling full.” And if they are struggling to stock their shelves with food in the first place, the company offers assistance for workers applying for food stamps.

McDonald’s corporate officers have a history of offering questionable advice to their low-wage workers. Four months ago, the company partnered with Visa to distribute a sample “budget.” In it, the chain suggested that workers needn’t pay for such frivolous expenses like their heating bills, and factored in a monthly rent of $600. To workers living in New York City (home of 350+ stores) and other expensive metropolises, that number is almost comical.

McDonald’s employees are some of the most underpaid workers in the country. The company’s cashiers and “team members” earn, on average, $7.75 an hour, just 50 cents higher than the federal minimum wage. Responding to rising living costs, many stores have staged walk-outsstrikes and protests, demanding a living wage. In Europe, where the minimum wage for employees is $12, customers pay just pennies more than their American counterparts for the same menu items, while the stores themselves typically bring in higher profit margins than ones in the United States.

Of course, McDonalds has shown little willingness to negotiate higher salaries for their poorest workers even as labor rights groups up the pressure. Instead, their website has another piece of advice for people who are stressed about their meager paychecks: “Quit complaining,” the site suggests. “Stress hormones levels rise by 15 percent after 10 minutes of complaining.”

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ABC NEWS UNLOCKS THE ISRAELI MAFIA LOCKSMITH ‘BUSINESS’

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One person who disagrees with Agababayev is an inside informant identified as “Ben”, who makes it clear that he is afraid of the scary side of notorious locksmith syndicates who consist of recent immigrants recruited from Israel. These folks identify Americans as stupid and from this belief they conduct their enterprise.
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Mike Bronzell Exposes “Mobster” Meni Agababayev of Run Local Locksmith In ABC Nightline Sting – The LOOKOUT

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SOPL Locksmith Mike Bronzell with the help of New York locksmith Ira Cheek of CID Locksmith in Jamaica Queens were shown on ABC Nightline consumer report news series known as “The LOOKOUT”, with investigative news reporter Bill Weir.

Finally, someone provided a news report focused on a key figure named Meni Agababayev (aka Meni Aga) a self proclaimed Israeli Russian “Mobster” actor, who is behind a roving enterprise of  websites identified as Run Local. According to Agababayev, these are successful businesses which he is involved in and which financed his personal movie called MOBSTER!

Special shout out to ABC News program called “The Lookout”. they did a bang up job that was well developed and well delivered. The giant Google map pins were a priceless subliminal message about Google Places. Overall it was refreshing to witness.

One person who disagrees with Agababayev is an inside informant identified as “Ben”, who makes it clear that he is afraid of the scary side of notorious locksmith syndicates who consist of recent immigrants recruited from Israel. These folks identify Americans as stupid and from this belief they conduct their enterprise.

The SOPL has for many years made it very clear to everyone that these individuals are not locksmiths at all, but many news reports and other locksmith associations have continued to identify them as locksmiths. This was being done intentionally to try to link an agenda of forcing licensing upon the hardworking locksmiths, and to demonize home based or mobile locksmiths who have done nothing wrong and are not engaging in such deceptive events.

The fact is, this news report clearly demonstrates how licensing DOES NOT work since the scammers continue to operate in the states which do have require a license such as New Jersey where it was filmed. If it turns out one of these individuals has a license, then it is an even better example! But this is another story so stay tuned for PART 2 of this story!

Licensing has nothing to do with stopping a mobster or anyone from impersonating any trade or consumer service group and locksmiths are not the only ones being misrepresented. Carpet cleaning, towing, garage door services and more are also being targets. Basically any service industry!

In 2006 the SOPL LockRadio program interviewed 2 Israeli locksmiths who shared their experience with this syndicate. Mike Bronzell who stayed the course suffered terrible insults and accusations from many individuals in the locksmith industry and forum discussion groups as he was trying to get people to hear his concerns. I wonder how these individuals feel now? 

Source and more videos and interviews HERE

A MOST HAUNTING PHOTO FROM BANGLADESH

Think of this photo the next time you go shopping for clothes …. LOOK FOR THE UNION LABEL!
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A Final Embrace: The Most Haunting Photograph from Bangladesh

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Taslima Akhter 
April 25, 2013. Two victims amid the rubble of a garment factory building collapse in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Click here to find out more!

Many powerful photographs have been made in the aftermath of the devastating collapse of a garment factory on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh. But one photo, by Bangladeshi photographer Taslima Akhter, has emerged as the most heart wrenching, capturing an entire country’s grief in a single image.

Shahidul Alam, Bangladeshi photographer, writer and founder of Pathshala, the South Asian Institute of Photography, said of the photo: “This image, while deeply disturbing, is also hauntingly beautiful. An embrace in death, its tenderness rises above the rubble to touch us where we are most vulnerable. By making it personal, it refuses to let go. This is a photograph that will torment us in our dreams. Quietly it tells us. Never again.”

Akhter writes for LightBox about the photograph, which appears in this week’s TIME International alongside an essay by David Von Drehle.

I have been asked many questions about the photograph of the couple embracing in the aftermath of the collapse. I have tried desperately, but have yet to find any clues about them. I don’t know who they are or what their relationship is with each other.

I spent the entire day the building collapsed on the scene, watching as injured garment workers were being rescued from the rubble. I remember the frightened eyes of relatives — I was exhausted both mentally and physically. Around 2 a.m., I found a couple embracing each other in the rubble. The lower parts of their bodies were buried under the concrete. The blood from the eyes of the man ran like a tear. When I saw the couple, I couldn’t believe it. I felt like I knew them — they felt very close to me. I looked at who they were in their last moments as they stood together and tried to save each other — to save their beloved lives.

Every time I look back to this photo, I feel uncomfortable — it haunts me. It’s as if they are saying to me, we are not a number — not only cheap labor and cheap lives. We are human beings like you. Our life is precious like yours, and our dreams are precious too.

They are witnesses in this cruel history of workers being killed. The death toll is now more than 750. What a harsh situation we are in, where human beings are treated only as numbers.

This photo is haunting me all the time. If the people responsible don’t receive the highest level of punishment, we will see this type of tragedy again. There will be no relief from these horrific feelings. I’ve felt a tremendous pressure and pain over the past two weeks surrounded by dead bodies. As a witness to this cruelty, I feel the urge to share this pain with everyone. That’s why I want this photo to be seen.


Taslima Akhter is a Bangladeshi photographer and activist.

Source

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ISLAMOPHOBIA ~~ THE NEXT GENERATION

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How to perpetuate the hatred and the ignorance ….
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Greeting card turns children’s “Muslim” doll into “Terrorist” doll

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By Ahmed Rehab

We missed the humor:  CAIR-Chicago spotted this troubling greeting card (pictured below) in a local store.

The card features a photo of a Muslim doll with aHijab (headscarf) that many Muslim women wear out of religious observance. The The talking bubbles placed on top of the doll’s photo read, “The Talking Doll, Pull string for message, if you dare,” and “She’ll Love You To Death! She’ll Blow Your Brains Out!” The inside of the card reads “Hope your birthday is a BLOW OUT!”

 

The card is produced by NobleWorks Inc. with credit for its design given to “Ron Kanfi” according to the company’s website, http://www.nobleworkcards.com. The motto of the company printed under their logo on the back of the card is “modern cards for modern people.”

Notice that nothing identifies this doll as a terrorist in the minds of the card designers other than that she wears a Hijab. Moreover, she – like many Muslim girl who choose to wear the Hijab – is a smiling, non-threatening normal-looking female wearing a pink Hijab and a flower-patterned dress. The unmistakable message behind the “humor” is that even the most peaceful looking Muslims are synonymous and exchangeable with terrorists.

 

To make matters more disturbing, the card is based on an actual doll designed by Desi Doll Company (www.desidollcompany.com) called “Aamina, the Muslim Doll.” The doll teaches kids religious greetings and sayings in Arabic with messages like “Assalamu Alaikum is the Muslim greeting, and it means peace be upon you” and “Let’s play together insha’Allah, insha’Allah means if God wills it.”

The entrepreneurial mother of three who left a cushy job to found this company in the hopes of better teaching her kids Urdu and Arabic probably could not have fathomed that a benign and even laudable endeavor could be twisted into such a bigoted excuse from humor to by another entrepreneur who does not seem as concerned with the message he would be conveying to his own children, let alone hers.

From the company website:

My name is Farzana Rahman and I am the founder of The Desi Doll Company. I am mother to our daughter Zahrah and twin boys, Sami and Zain; my inspiration. It all started when my daughter was 2 ½ years old and I was trying to find toys that would help her to speak her mother tongue, Urdu. Failing to find anything, I embarked upon designing a talking Urdu doll myself.

It wasn’t long before I realized that there was a lack of language toys for the “Desi “ languages, ie. Languages spoken in the Indian sub continent – and so the project became to design a doll that was able to speak several languages. This was a huge project! And after 2 years working on and off the project I realized I couldn’t focus on this whilst working as well.

It was only after I had my twin boys in November 2006, that I decided to swap the world of Investment banking for Toy Design and manufacturing.

Realizing that the language dolls was technically a very complex project and would take some time; I decided, in the mean time, to launch our Arabic/English talking dolls, Aamina and Yousuf , which went from design concept to shops in just 5 months, just in time for Eid 2008.

 

Islamophobic generalizations and negative stereotypes often hit those who are most visibly perceived as Muslim, and women wearing the Hijab are often the group hit the hardest.

Many Muslim women around the world, certainly in the US, choose to wear the Hijab as a free-willed expression of modesty and self-respect. For them, it is a message that men should address their minds and not their bodies.

And yet all too often, they have to watch themselves being portrayed as oppressed and submissive on cable network talk shows, movies, and documentaries. While on the street, they have to deal with dirty looks, jeering, or in extreme cases, even physical assault, as has been documented by several cases reported to CAIR.

Most recently, conservative right wing commentator Ann Coulter claimed on FOX News that wearing the Hijab ought to be an imprisonable offense.

I recall walking in the mall with my younger sister who chose to wear the Hijab at 18 (my older sister has not of yet); not so used to the attention, I asked her, “why are people looking at you like that?” She said “what people, I don’t even notice it anymore.”

The case of the greeting card is particularly repulsive given the sobering realization that even the  innocence of our young girls and their toys are not spared. After posting an image of the card on a social network, a mother of an 8 year old contacted me telling me how upset she is. “My daughter loves the Aamina doll, she takes it with her everywhere. You press its hands and feet and it says the sweetest things. I am appalled.”

The greeting card is not the first time the pink-scarf clad, smiling doll has been used to represent terrorism. Act For America, cited by the SPLC, CAIR, and the ADL as a hate group, posted the below image on its wordpress blog with the message, “The latest toy has hit the shops… A talking Muslim doll. Nobody knows what the hell it says, because no one has the guts to pull the cord.” NobleWorks Cards is however the first company that is profiting from this blatant stereotyping.

 There are those who will claim Muslims do not have a sense of humor. But one would like to think humor comes with (even a minimal degree of ) intelligence. The notion that a doll, that looks like any other doll that any little girl in the world would play with, can be presented as a terrorist doll simply and only because it is a “Muslim” doll or because it has a “Muslim scarf” on its head is not what defines “funny” for a lot of people, but bigoted, ugly, idiotic, moronic, etc.

Contact the makers of the greetings card and let them know that you do NOT think that stereotyping Muslim women and girls is OK. Ask them if they would get a chuckle out of their daughters growing up exposed to messaging that criminalizes their basic identity for profit. (CAIR-Chicago has written an official letter to the company sharing its concerns.)

As always, be firm and polite.

NobleWorks Cards: 1-855-267-3163

He Who Eats Mud (local Chicago store that is selling the card): (773) 525-0616

You can contact CAIR-Chicago at 312-212-1520 or at info@cairchicago.org

Update: NobleWorks Card company also sells the “Shiite Pet Funny Greeting Card.” It pictures a scruffy bearded parody of a Chia Pet with the captions “This gift is the Bomb” and “Thrives in the Dark.” Shiism is a sect of Islam practiced peacefully by tens of millions of people around the world.

FROM

PROTESTS AGAINST GOOGLE TO CONTINUE

Join NYACT for our next action outside the Google offices on:

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013 from 5:00 – 7:00pm.
111 8th Avenue, New York, NY


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Photo credit: BUD KOROTZER/DESERTPEACE

What is this about?

Cornell NYC Tech, a partnership of Cornell University and The Technion –  Israel Institute of Technology, has today started classes in 22,000 sq ft (with an option to expand to 58, 000 sq ft) of office space donated by Google (for free) for a one-year Masters of Engineering degree in Computer Science.  This space will be used until 2017, when the first building of the permanent campus on Roosevelt Island (in the East River, between the UES and Queens) will be ready.

Cornell University and Mayor Bloomberg have stated that Cornell needed The Technion to win the bid for the new campus, due to The Technion’s history of spawning start-up companies.  The Technion is bringing no money to the partnership, while Mayor Bloomberg is giving $100 million of our tax money and free land on Roosevelt Island.  The project was fast-tracked without proper consultation with NY residents (including those on Roosevelt Island who will be especially impacted while construction takes place till 2037) or Cornell Faculty, who by Cornell’s own by-laws should be consulted about partnerships of this type.

The Technion is complicit in Israel’s violations of international law and the rights of Palestinians, specifically by designing military weapons and developing technologies that are used to drive Palestinians off their land, repress demonstrations for their rights, and carry out attacks against people in Lebanon, Gaza, and elsewhere.  The Technion also practices institutional discrimination against Palestinian students by severely restricting their freedom of speech and assembly, and rewarding Jewish students who, unlike most Palestinians, perform compulsory military service in Israel.  This is in direct contrast to Cornell University’s founding values of universalism and inclusion embodied in the university’s motto “any person any study”.

New Yorkers Against the Cornell-Technion Partnership (NYACT) are asking that Google not support this partnership, and that Cornell University and the City of New York ends their collaboration with The Technion, in line with the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment, and sanction of Israel.

From

PALESTINIANS TO PAY FOR GOOGLE’S FREE WI-FI IN NEW YORK NEIGHBOURHOOD

Photo © by Bud Korotzer
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Just where is the Palestinian connection?
Perhaps after you read THIS post from the other day you will see …
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Google has been working with New York to foster a technology hotbed in the city. Last year it agreed to donate office space to Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology for an engineering school while the institutions build a permanent home on Roosevelt Island.
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The following report from Bloomberg’s Businessweek gives the details;
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Google to Offer Free Wi-Fi in Chelsea

By Sarah Frier and Henry Goldman

Google Inc. (GOOG), the world’s biggest Internet-search company, plans to offer free wireless Internet access in parts of New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, creating the largest public outdoor network in the city.

The Wi-Fi network, which doesn’t require a password, is available today, Google said in a statement. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other officials attended an event to announce the service in Chelsea, where Google has offices.

Google has been working with New York to foster a technology hotbed in the city. Last year it agreed to donate office space to Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology for an engineering school while the institutions build a permanent home on Roosevelt Island.

“New York is determined to become the world’s leading digital city, and universal access to high-speed Internet is one of the core building blocks of that vision,” Bloomberg said at the Manhattan news conference. “Free Wi-Fi across this part of Chelsea takes us another step closer to that goal.”

Google also benefits from wider access to the Internet, which it uses to deliver services to customers and advertisers.

The new network is part of an effort to cultivate Silicon Alley, a concentration of startups in Manhattan. Wi-Fi will be available to thousands of New Yorkers between Gansevoort Street and 19th Street from 8th Avenue to the West Side Highway, according to a statement.

“We all know New York’s next job-growth engine is the tech industry,” Schumer said at the event. “This is the future.”

‘Digital Divide’

The project with Google is a small step in a city that has a long way to go before it can boast about its Wi-Fi service, said Gale Brewer, who heads the City Council’s Government Operations Committee and has advocated for free Internet service for more than 10 years. Thick walls in older buildings will prevent Wi-Fi signals from penetrating inside, she said.

“The city’s digital divide is growing, with people packing libraries to use computers because they can’t afford $50 subscription fees for Internet at home,” the councilwoman said. “We have citywide service for first responders; we should be able to create a firewall for use by civilians and provide this service citywide.”

Pilot Program

The network will cost $115,000 to build and $45,000 a year to maintain. Google will cover two-thirds of those costs, with Chelsea Improvement Co., a nonprofit neighborhood development group, paying the rest. The service will be operated as a pilot program for two years, said Dan Biederman, Chelsea Improvement’s president.

The service will be free of advertising except for a message that Google is the provider, said George Townley, director of information systems for Chelsea Improvement.

Google has been hosting a free Wi-Fi network in its home town of Mountain View, California, since 2006. Last year, it introduced a fiber network in the Kansas City, Missouri, area to deliver connections the company says are 100 times faster than typical high-speed Internet lines.

New York would like to extend Wi-Fi to all neighborhoods eventually, said the mayor, who is the founder and majority shareholder of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.

GE PROFITS FROM THE DEVASTATION OF GAZA // NEW YORKERS COMMEMORATE THOSE KILLED

“GE engines have been used in Israeli Helicopters and F16s to inflict indiscriminate violence against Palestinians in Gaza, resulting in death and destruction.”
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We received the following release from Jews Say No!

IN COMMEMORATION OF THOSE KILLED IN ASSAULT IN GAZA

New York, NY, November 26, 2012: This morning, over 50 New Yorkers braved the chilly rain for a solemn march in front of the iconic General Electric Building at the heart of Rockefeller Plaza in commemoration of those killed by the assault on Gaza that ended in a cease fire on November 21st.  Surrounded by preparations for the holiday season, the protesters, accompanied by the haunting music of the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, read the names and ages of all the people killed in the assault in the mic check style popularized by the Occupy Movement.  The protesters called for divestment from General Electric, which provides the Israeli military with the engines for the F-16s and Apache helicopters used in the recent aerial bombardments of Gaza.

Riham Barghouti from Adalah-NY, explains: “Our protest against General Electric is a direct response to the call by Palestinian civil society to redouble our boycott, divestment and sanctions efforts in response to Israel’s latest attack on Gaza.  GE, and a number of other United States companies, are complicit in Israeli violations of international law and Palestinian human rights and as such must be held accountable by people of conscience.”

General Electric is also in the portfolio of pension-fund provider TIAA-CREF, which the growing national We Divest campaign is calling on to divest from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation. 

Rebecca Vilkomerson, the director of Jewish Voice for Peace, said, “It was very moving to read the name of each person killed in the assault on Gaza and thus highlight the human cost of Israel’s policies.” 

“GE engines have been used in Israeli Helicopters and F16s to inflict indiscriminate violence against Palestinians in Gaza, resulting in death and destruction. As American Jews, we believe it is critically important to participate in the movement for justice in Palestine/Israel and join in the boycott of all GE products,” asserted Ray Wofsy of Jews Say No! 

Israel still controls the air space, commerce, and water and electricity supplies in Gaza, as well as outlets to the Mediterranean Sea.  This siege of Gaza is condemned by a majority of the world’s nations. Notwithstanding that the U.S. is obliged to uphold principles of international law, it contributes $3 billion from our tax money every year to support the Israeli military and to perpetuate the unlawful siege of Gaza. 

The latest Israeli assault on Gaza left at least 170 Palestinians dead and 1000 injured, and six Israelis dead and dozens injured. Gaza’s infrastructure was extensively damaged.   

The protest was cosponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace-NY, Adalah-NY, Jews Say No!, NYU Students for Justice in Palestine, Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine, Granny Peace Brigade, Women In Black Union Square, Peace Action of New York State.

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Photos © by Bud Korotzer

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Names of the dead worn by the protesters …

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SAVING THE EARTH FOR THE PEOPLE ~~ NOT THE CORPORATIONS

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It was cold, it was raining …. BUT despite it all, scores of people gathered in front of a ‘BP’ gas station to celebrate Earth Day and to protest the destruction of our environment by the likes of ‘BP’ and other corporations. The event was organised by the Occupy Wall Street Movement.
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The ‘Defenders of the Environment’ then marched through the city streets to Union Square Park, led by the Rude Mechanical Orchestra playing We Shall Overcome.

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Commentary by and Photos © by Bud Korotzer

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Another demo took place at Grand Central Station

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TAX DAY PROTESTS IN NEW YORK CITY

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Led by a marching band we paraded through the theatre district on 42nd St. as well as other mid town streets, from 44th to the General Post Office on 33rd. The GPO was the destination of those mailing their tax returns at the last minute.
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War Resisters League leaflets were distributed along the way to large numbers of people enjoying the sights and sounds of Times Square in summer temperatures in mid April.

At the GPO itself, the Grannies Peace Brigade entertained with their sarcastic songs of using the taxes of the 99% to wage war while cutting necessary social services …. followed by street dancing when the band began to play a polka.

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There was another large protest group a block away from the GPO, led by the Tax Dodgers…

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There were other protest groups in different parts of the city. 

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Commentary by and Photos © by Bud Korotzer

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IT’S NATURAL FOR CRIMINALS TO SUPPORT CRIMINALS

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The phrase ‘Birds of a feather flock together’ never had more of a meaning as in the case of the Adelson’s support of Netanyahu and Gingrich. The following should not come as any great surprise to too many people; The casino company owned by American billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has been under federal investigation for the last year for alleged bribery of foreign officials, ABC News reported over the weekend.
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According to ABC, Sands casinos was allegedly cooperating with Chinese organized crime groups, known as triads, who allegedly organized high stakes gambling and sex junkets.
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Interesting, no? Surprising, no?? Just shows to go’ya what zionism is  ….. ORGANISED CRIME!
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So the following should also not surprise too many; Several months ago, Adelson contributed $5 million to Winning Our Future, a pro-Gingrich super PAC. More recently, Adelson’s wife gave another $5 million to the same super PAC, providing a major lift to the former House Speaker’s campaign.
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The HaAretz report dealing with this can be read HERE
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Report: Adelson under criminal investigation for alleged bribery of foreign officials

American billionaire, close ally of Netanyahu, and main donor to Gingrich’s campaign has been under federal investigation for his casino empire’s alleged involvement in a corruption scandal in China, ABC reports.

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All of the above brings back a nursery rhyme from my childhood…
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Here’s another video, one that shows exactly what you support when you support zionism….

LOOK INTO MY EYES AND TELL ME WHAT YOU SEE ….
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DEMAND THAT YOUR GOVERNMENT STOP SUPPORTING THESE INHUMANE POLICIES. DON’T SUPPORT CRIMINALS OR THOSE THAT SUPPORT THEM!

A MUSICAL INTERLUDE (WITH APOLOGIES TO GEORGE FREDERIC HANDEL)

 HALLELUJAH CORPORATIONS
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The 1% praise corporate greed…..
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A CHRISTMAS MESSAGE FROM THE 1%

The following is both thought provoking and revolting at the same time. It demonstrates the contempt that the 1% has for the rest of us….
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Capitalists “are not the scourge that they are too often made out to be” and the wealthy aren’t “a monolithic, selfish and unfeeling lot,” Cooperman wrote. They make products that “fill store shelves at Christmas…”
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A Christmas Message From America’s Rich

By Matt Taibbi

t seems America’s bankers are tired of all the abuse. They’ve decided to speak out.

True, they’re doing it from behind the ropeline, in front of friendly crowds at industry conferences and country clubs, meaning they don’t have to look the rest of America in the eye when they call us all imbeciles and complain that they shouldn’t have to apologize for being so successful.

But while they haven’t yet deigned to talk to protesting America face to face, they are willing to scribble out some complaints on notes and send them downstairs on silver trays. Courtesy of a remarkable story by Max Abelson at Bloomberg, we now get to hear some of those choice comments.

Home Depot co-founder Bernard Marcus, for instance, is not worried about OWS:

“Who gives a crap about some imbecile?” Marcus said. “Are you kidding me?”

Former New York gubernatorial candidate Tom Golisano, the billionaire owner of the billing firm Paychex, offered his wisdom while his half-his-age tennis champion girlfriend hung on his arm:

“If I hear a politician use the term ‘paying your fair share’ one more time, I’m going to vomit,” said Golisano, who turned 70 last month, celebrating the birthday with girlfriend Monica Seles, the former tennis star who won nine Grand Slam singles titles.

Then there’s Leon Cooperman, the former chief of Goldman Sachs’s money-management unit, who said he was urged to speak out by his fellow golfers. His message was a version of Wall Street’s increasingly popular If-you-people-want-a-job, then-you’ll-shut-the-fuck-up rhetorical line:

Cooperman, 68, said in an interview that he can’t walk through the dining room of St. Andrews Country Club in Boca Raton, Florida, without being thanked for speaking up. At least four people expressed their gratitude on Dec. 5 while he was eating an egg-white omelet, he said.

“You’ll get more out of me,” the billionaire said, “if you treat me with respect.”

Finally, there is this from Blackstone CEO Steven Schwarzman:

Asked if he were willing to pay more taxes in a Nov. 30 interview with Bloomberg Television, Blackstone Group LP CEO Stephen Schwarzman spoke about lower-income U.S. families who pay no income tax.

“You have to have skin in the game,” said Schwarzman, 64. “I’m not saying how much people should do. But we should all be part of the system.”

There are obviously a great many things that one could say about this remarkable collection of quotes. One could even, if one wanted, simply savor them alone, without commentary, like lumps of fresh caviar, or raw oysters.

But out of Abelson’s collection of doleful woe-is-us complaints from the offended rich, the one that deserves the most attention is Schwarzman’s line about lower-income folks lacking “skin in the game.” This incredible statement gets right to the heart of why these people suck.

Why? It’s not because Schwarzman is factually wrong about lower-income people having no “skin in the game,” ignoring the fact that everyone pays sales taxes, and most everyone pays payroll taxes, and of course there are property taxes for even the lowliest subprime mortgage holders, and so on.

It’s not even because Schwarzman probably himself pays close to zero in income tax – as a private equity chief, he doesn’t pay income tax but tax on carried interest, which carries a maximum 15% tax rate, half the rate of a New York City firefighter.

The real issue has to do with the context of Schwarzman’s quote. The Blackstone billionaire, remember, is one of the more uniquely abhorrent, self-congratulating jerks in the entire world – a man who famously symbolized the excesses of the crisis era when, just as the rest of America was heading into a recession, he threw himself a $5 million birthday party, featuring private performances by Rod Stewart and Patti Labelle, to celebrate an IPO that made him $677 million in a matter of days (within a year, incidentally, the investors who bought that stock would lose three-fourths of their investments).

So that IPO birthday boy is now standing up and insisting, with a straight face, that America’s problem is that compared to taxpaying billionaires like himself, poor people are not invested enough in our society’s future. Apparently, we’d all be in much better shape if the poor were as motivated as Steven Schwarzman is to make America a better place.

But it seems to me that if you’re broke enough that you’re not paying any income tax, you’ve got nothing but skin in the game. You’ve got it all riding on how well America works.

You can’t afford private security: you need to depend on the police. You can’t afford private health care: Medicare is all you have. You get arrested, you’re not hiring Davis, Polk to get you out of jail: you rely on a public defender to negotiate a court system you’d better pray deals with everyone from the same deck. And you can’t hire landscapers to manicure your lawn and trim your trees: you need the garbage man to come on time and you need the city to patch the potholes in your street.

And in the bigger picture, of course, you need the state and the private sector both to be functioning well enough to provide you with regular work, and a safe place to raise your children, and clean water and clean air.

The entire ethos of modern Wall Street, on the other hand, is complete indifference to all of these matters. The very rich on today’s Wall Street are now so rich that they buy their own social infrastructure. They hire private security, they live on gated mansions on islands and other tax havens, and most notably, they buy their own justice and their own government.

An ordinary person who has a problem that needs fixing puts a letter in the mail to his congressman and sends it to stand in a line in some DC mailroom with thousands of others, waiting for a response.

But citizens of the stateless archipelago where people like Schwarzman live spend millions a year lobbying and donating to political campaigns so that they can jump the line. They don’t need to make sure the government is fulfilling its customer-service obligations, because they buy special access to the government, and get the special service and the metaphorical comped bottle of VIP-room Cristal afforded to select customers.

Want to lower the capital reserve requirements for investment banks? Then-Goldman CEO Hank Paulson takes a meeting with SEC chief Bill Donaldson, and gets it done. Want to kill an attempt to erase the carried interest tax break? Guys like Schwarzman, and Apollo’s Leon Black, and Carlyle’s David Rubenstein, they just show up in Washington at Max Baucus’s doorstep, and they get it killed.

Some of these people take that VIP-room idea a step further. J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon – the man the New York Times once called “Obama’s favorite banker” – had an excellent method of guaranteeing that the Federal Reserve system’s doors would always be open to him. What he did was, he served as the Chairman of the Board of the New York Fed.

And in 2008, in that moonlighting capacity, he orchestrated a deal in which the Fed provided $29 billion in assistance to help his own bank, Chase, buy up the teetering investment firm Bear Stearns. You read that right: Jamie Dimon helped give himself a bailoutWho needs to worry about good government, when you arethe government?

Dimon, incidentally, is another one of those bankers who’s complaining now about the unfair criticism. “Acting like everyone who’s been successful is bad and because you’re rich you’re bad, I don’t understand it,” he recently said, at an investor’s conference.

Hmm. Is Dimon right? Do people hate him just because he’s rich and successful? That really would be unfair. Maybe we should ask the people of Jefferson County, Alabama, what they think.

That particular locality is now in bankruptcy proceedings primarily because Dimon’s bank, Chase, used middlemen to bribe local officials – literally bribe, with cash and watches and new suits – to sign on to a series of onerous interest-rate swap deals that vastly expanded the county’s debt burden.

Essentially, Jamie Dimon handed Birmingham, Alabama a Chase credit card and then bribed its local officials to run up a gigantic balance, leaving future residents and those residents’ children with the bill. As a result, the citizens of Jefferson County will now be making payments to Chase until the end of time.

Do you think Jamie Dimon would have done that deal if he lived in Jefferson County? Put it this way: if he was trying to support two kids on $30,000 a year, and lived in a Birmingham neighborhood full of people in the same boat, would he sign off on a deal that jacked up everyone’s sewer bills 400% for the next thirty years?

Doubtful. But then again, people like Jamie Dimon aren’t really citizens of any country. They live in their own gated archipelago, and the rest of the world is a dumping ground.

Just look at how Chase behaved in Greece, for example.

Having seen how well interest-rate swaps worked for Jefferson County, Alabama, Chase “helped” Greece mask its debt problem for years by selling a similar series of swaps to the Greek government. The bank then turned around and worked with banks like Goldman, Sachs to create a thing called the iTraxx SovX Western Europe index, which allowed investors to bet against Greek debt.

In other words, Chase knowingly larded up the nation of Greece with a crippling future debt burden, then turned around and helped the world bet against Greek debt.

Does a citizen of Greece do that deal? Forget that: does a human being do that deal?

Operations like the Greek swap/short index maneuver were easy money for banks like Goldman and Chase – hell, it’s a no-lose play, like cutting a car’s brake lines and then betting on the driver to crash – but they helped create the monstrous European debt problem that this very minute is threatening to send the entire world economy into collapse, which would result in who knows what horrors. At minimum, millions might lose their jobs and benefits and homes. Millions more will be ruined financially.

But why should Chase and Goldman care what happens to those people? Do they have any skin in that game?

Of course not. We’re talking about banks that not only didn’t warn the citizens of Greece about their future debt disaster, they actively traded on that information, to make money for themselves.

People like Dimon, and Schwarzman, and John Paulson, and all of the rest of them who think the “imbeciles” on the streets are simply full of reasonless class anger, they don’t get it. Nobody hates them for being successful. And not that this needs repeating, but nobody even minds that they are rich.

What makes people furious is that they have stopped being citizens.

Most of us 99-percenters couldn’t even let our dogs leave a dump on the sidewalk without feeling ashamed before our neighbors. It’s called having a conscience: even though there are plenty of things most of us could get away with doing, we just don’t do them, because, well, we live here. Most of us wouldn’t take a million dollars to swindle the local school system, or put our next door neighbors out on the street with a robosigned foreclosure, or steal the life’s savings of some old pensioner down the block by selling him a bunch of worthless securities.

But our Too-Big-To-Fail banks unhesitatingly take billions in bailout money and then turn right around and finance the export of jobs to new locations in China and India. They defraud the pension funds of state workers into buying billions of their crap mortgage assets. They take zero-interest loans from the state and then lend that same money back to us at interest. Or, like Chase, they bribe the politicians serving countries and states and cities and even school boards to take on crippling debt deals.

Nobody with real skin in the game, who had any kind of stake in our collective future, would do any of those things. Or, if a person did do those things, you’d at least expect him to have enough shame not to whine to a Bloomberg reporter when the rest of us complained about it.

But these people don’t have shame. What they have, in the place where most of us have shame, are extra sets of balls. Just listen to Cooperman, the former Goldman exec from that country club in Boca. According to Cooperman, the rich do contribute to society:

Capitalists “are not the scourge that they are too often made out to be” and the wealthy aren’t “a monolithic, selfish and unfeeling lot,” Cooperman wrote. They make products that “fill store shelves at Christmas…”

Unbelievable. Merry Christmas, bankers. And good luck getting that message out.

 

Taken FROM

LATEST HAPPENINGS AT O W S ___ IN PHOTOS

‘You can’t evict an idea whose time has come’
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Commentary by Chippy Dee
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A day of activism was capped last night by a huge demonstration in Foley Sq. that overflowed into neighboring streets.  It was the biggest demonstration in NYC since the protests before the Iraq war about a decade ago.  Numbers of participants are being calculated in the tens of thousands.  The participants included every age, ethnicity and race.  It included unions, students, retirees, community groups, and the unemployed. While the concentration was on serious issues – economic justice, restoring democracy by the people taking control of our government away from corporations, creating jobs, and ending the wars so that the killing would stop and the billions of dollars they are costing could be spent here for the benefit the American people – spirits were very high because of the degree of solidary in the huge crowd.

 

After a rally at Foley Sq., a very large plaza surrounded by courthouses, symbols of the judicial power of the federal, state, and city governments, the mass of people started moving towards the Brooklyn Bridge.  Being thoroughly fenced in like cattle by police barricades for several hours, in an emancipating move they began knocking down the barricades surrounding them as they moved forward.  They then circled City Hall and began entering the walkway across the one mile span of the bridge chanting, “Whose bridge?  Our bridge!”.  The Rude Mechanical Orchestra provided musical accompaniment. The crowd was so large that when the front of the group crossed the bridge and then returned to the Manhattan side, a 2 mile walk, there were still participants leaving Foley Sq. who had not yet reached the bridge to make the crossing.  Meanwhile,someone with a portable projector projected “99%  OCCUPY TOGETHER” on several buildings, including City Hall.

 

While this event was planned in advance to mark the 2 month anniversary of the occupy movement, it is unlikely that it would have been this large if Bloomberg had not destroyed the encampment with such brutality at Zuccotti Park (now named Liberty Park).  It was universally seen as a cruel act by the 1% against the 99%.  This historic demonstration was meant to show that, as some signs said,  ‘You can’t evict an idea whose time has come’.

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Photos © by Bud Korotzer

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SHACKLED FREEDOM AT OCCUPY WALL STREET

Police arrest Occupy Wall Street protesters as they staged a sit-down at Goldman Sachs headquarters on Thursday in New York. (AP / Bebeto Matthews)
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Finding Freedom in Handcuffs
by Chris Hedges

Faces appeared to me moments before the New York City police arrested us Thursday in front of Goldman Sachs. They were not the faces of the smug Goldman Sachs employees, who peered at us through the revolving glass doors and lobby windows, a pathetic collection of middle-aged fraternity and sorority members. They were not the faces of the blue-uniformed police with their dangling cords of white and black plastic handcuffs, or the thuggish Goldman Sachs security personnel, whose buzz cuts and dead eyes reminded me of the East German secret police, the Stasi. They were not the faces of the demonstrators around me, the ones with massive student debts and no jobs, the ones whose broken dreams weigh them down like a cross, the ones whose anger and betrayal triggered the street demonstrations and occupations for justice. They were not the faces of the onlookers—the construction workers, who seemed cheered by the march on Goldman Sachs, or the suited businessmen who did not. They were faraway faces. They were the faces of children dying. They were tiny, confused, bewildered faces I had seen in the southern Sudan, Gaza and the slums of Brazzaville, Nairobi, Cairo and Delhi and the wars I covered. They were faces with large, glassy eyes, above bloated bellies. They were the small faces of children convulsed by the ravages of starvation and disease.

I carry these faces. They do not leave me. I look at my own children and cannot forget them, these other children who never had a chance. War brings with it a host of horrors, including famine, but the worst is always the human detritus that war and famine leave behind, the small, frail bodies whose tangled limbs and vacant eyes condemn us all. The wealthy and the powerful, the ones behind the glass at Goldman Sachs, laughed and snapped pictures of us as if we were a brief and odd lunchtime diversion from commodities trading, from hoarding and profit, from this collective sickness of money worship, as if we were creatures in a cage, which in fact we soon were.

A glass tower filled with people carefully selected for the polish and self-assurance that come with having been formed in institutions of privilege, whose primary attributes are a lack of consciousness, a penchant for deception and an incapacity for empathy or remorse. The curious onlookers behind the windows and we, arms locked in a circle on the concrete outside, did not speak the same language. Profit. Globalization. War. National security. These are the words they use to justify the snuffing out of tiny lives, acts of radical evil. Goldman Sachs’ commodities index is the most heavily traded in the world. Those who trade it have, by buying up and hoarding commodities futures, doubled and tripled the costs of wheat, rice and corn. Hundreds of millions of poor across the globe are going hungry to feed this mania for profit. The technical jargon, learned in business schools and on trading floors, effectively mask the reality of what is happening—murder. These are words designed to make systems operate, even systems of death, with a cold neutrality. Peace, love and all sane affirmative speech in temples like Goldman Sachs are, as W.H. Auden understood, “soiled, profaned, debased to a horrid mechanical screech.”

We seemed to have lost, at least until the advent of the Occupy Wall Street movement, not only all personal responsibility but all capacity for personal judgment. Corporate culture absolves all of responsibility. This is part of its appeal. It relieves all from moral choice. There is an unequivocal acceptance of ruling principles such as unregulated capitalism and globalization as a kind of natural law. The steady march of corporate capitalism requires a passive acceptance of new laws and demolished regulations, of bailouts in the trillions of dollars and the systematic looting of public funds, of lies and deceit. The corporate culture, epitomized by Goldman Sachs, has seeped into our classrooms, our newsrooms, our entertainment systems and our consciousness. This corporate culture has stripped us of the right to express ourselves outside of the narrowly accepted confines of the established political order. It has turned us into compliant consumers. We are forced to surrender our voice. These corporate machines, like fraternities and sororities, also haze new recruits in company rituals, force them to adopt an unrelenting cheerfulness, a childish optimism and obsequiousness to authority. These corporate rituals, bolstered by retreats and training seminars, by grueling days that sometimes end with initiates curled up under their desks to sleep, ensure that only the most morally supine remain. The strong and independent are weeded out early so only the unquestioning advance upward. Corporate culture serves a faceless system. It is, as Hannah Arendt writes, “the rule of nobody and for this very reason perhaps the least human and most cruel form of rulership.”

Our political class, and its courtiers on the airwaves, insists that if we refuse to comply, if we step outside of the Democratic Party, if we rebel, we will make things worse. This game of accepting the lesser evil enables the steady erosion of justice and corporate plundering. It enables corporations to harvest the nation and finally the global economy, reconfiguring the world into neofeudalism, one of masters and serfs. This game goes on until there is hardly any action carried out by the power elite that is not a crime. It goes on until corporate predators, who long ago decided the nation and the planet were not worth salvaging, seize the last drops of wealth. It goes on until moral acts, such as calling for those inside the corporate headquarters of Goldman Sachs to be tried, see you jailed, and the crimes of financial fraud and perjury are upheld as lawful and rewarded by the courts, the U.S. Treasury and the Congress. And all this is done so a handful of rapacious, immoral plutocrats like Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs who sucks down about $250,000 a day and who lied to the U.S. Congress as well as his investors and the public, can use their dirty money to retreat into their own Forbidden City or Versailles while their underlings, basking in the arrogance of power, snap amusing photos of the rabble outside their gates being hauled away by the police and company goons.

It is vital that the occupation movements direct attention away from their encampments and tent cities, beset with the usual problems of hastily formed open societies where no one is turned away. Attention must be directed through street protests, civil disobedience and occupations toward the institutions that are carrying out the assaults against the 99 percent. Banks, insurance companies, courts where families are being foreclosed from their homes, city offices that put these homes up for auction, schools, libraries and firehouses that are being closed, and corporations such as General Electric that funnel taxpayer dollars into useless weapons systems and do not pay taxes, as well as propaganda outlets such as the New York Post and its evil twin, Fox News, which have unleashed a vicious propaganda war against us, all need to be targeted, shut down and occupied. Goldman Sachs is the poster child of all that is wrong with global capitalism, but there are many other companies whose degradation and destruction of human life are no less egregious.

It is always the respectable classes, the polished Ivy League graduates, the prep school boys and girls who grew up in Greenwich, Conn., or Short Hills, N.J., who are the most susceptible to evil. To be intelligent, as many are at least in a narrow, analytical way, is morally neutral. These respectable citizens are inculcated in their elitist enclaves with “values” and “norms,” including pious acts of charity used to justify their privilege, and a belief in the innate goodness of American power. They are trained to pay deference to systems of authority. They are taught to believe in their own goodness, unable to see or comprehend—and are perhaps indifferent to—the cruelty inflicted on others by the exclusive systems they serve. And as norms mutate and change, as the world is steadily transformed by corporate forces into one of a small cabal of predators and a vast herd of human prey, these elites seamlessly replace one set of “values” with another. These elites obey the rules. They make the system work. And they are rewarded for this. In return, they do not question.

Those who resist—the doubters, outcasts, renegades, skeptics and rebels—rarely come from the elite. They ask different questions. They seek something else—a life of meaning. They have grasped Immanuel Kant’s dictum, “If justice perishes, human life on Earth has lost its meaning.” And in their search they come to the conclusion that, as Socrates said, it is better to suffer wrong than to do wrong. This conclusion is rational, yet cannot be rationally defended. It makes a leap into the moral, which is beyond rational thought. It refuses to place a monetary value on human life. It acknowledges human life, indeed all life, as sacred. And this is why, as Arendt points out, the only morally reliable people when the chips are down are not those who say “this is wrong,” or “this should not be done,” but those who say “I can’t.”

There are streaks in my lungs, traces of the tuberculosis that I picked up around hundreds of dying Sudanese during the famine I covered as a foreign correspondent. I was strong and privileged and fought off the disease. They were not and did not. The bodies, most of them children, were dumped into hastily dug mass graves. The scars I carry within me are the whispers of these dead. They are the faint marks of those who never had a chance to become men or women, to fall in love and have children of their own. I carried these scars to the doors of Goldman Sachs. I had returned to living. Those whose last breaths had marked my lungs had not. I placed myself at the feet of these commodity traders to call for justice because the dead, and those who are dying in slums and refugee camps across the planet, could not make this journey. I see their faces. They haunt me in the day and come to me in the dark. They force me to remember. They make me choose sides. As the metal handcuffs were fastened around my wrists I thought of them, as I often think of them, and I said to myself: “Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty I am free at last.”

Editor’s note: Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges, an activist, an author and a member of a reporting team that won a 2002 Pulitzer Prize, wrote this article after he was released from custody following his arrest last Thursday. He and about 15 other participants in the Occupy Wall Street movement were detained as they protested outside the global headquarters of Goldman Sachs in lower Manhattan.

 

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A Photo Essay of the ‘Tribunal’ can be seen HERE

CORPORATIONS AND BANKS WIN ROUND ONE AS WIKILEAKS GETS SILENCED

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The corporations and banks, currently being protested by the Occupy Wall St. movement, have launched a financial blockade on the
whistle-blower website, WikiLeaks.

The corporations and banks, apparently, don’t like the rabble hearing the truth. Especially if it’s about them or the the diplomats they own.

WikiLeaks is going to stop publishing secrets and may go dark all together with no funds to continue operations due to the blockade.

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 WikiLeaks will have to stop publishing secret cables and devote itself to fund-raising if it is unable to end a financial “blockade” by U.S. firms such as Visa and MasterCard by the end of the year, founder Julian Assange said on Monday.

After releasing tens of thousands of confidential U.S. government cables, WikiLeaks needs $3.5 million over the next year to continue operating, Assange said.

Visa and MasterCard stopped processing donations for WikiLeaks in December 2010 after the United States criticized the organization’s release of thousands of sensitive U.S. diplomatic cables from its embassies all over the world.

In the 24 hours before credit card donations were blocked, the organization said it had received $135,000. Now, it is receiving on average about 7,000 euros ($9,700)a month.

Assange said there were no lawful grounds for the blockade by Bank of America Corp, Visa Inc, MasterCard Inc, eBay Inc unit PayPal and Western Union Co, which he said had cost Wikileaks 95 percent of its revenue.

“If WikiLeaks does not find a way to remove this blockade, given our current levels of expenditure, we will simply not be able to continue by the turn of the year,” Assange told a news conference.

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