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Endless Wars Have Cost Americans $1.6 Trillion, Report Finds

[Font size=3]Endless Wars Have Cost Americans $1.6 Trillion, Report Finds

Post-9/11 military operations are second only to World War II in terms of financial cost—and 'the costs go on.'
by
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Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

http://www.commondreams.org/news/2014/12/23/endless-wars-have-cost-americans-16-trillion-report-finds


[font size=1]The Human Cost of War Exhibition at a downtown mall in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo: Bob Mical/flickr/cc)[/font]

The United States has spent $1.6 trillion on post-9/11 military operations, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, weapons procurement and maintenance, and base support, according to a report (pdf) issued earlier this month by the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

As some analysts point out, that's more money than the U.S. spent on the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Persian Gulf War of 1990-1991 all rolled into one.

According to International Business Times, "the $1.6 trillion estimate, which comes to $14 million per hour since 9/11...is up roughly half a trillion dollars from its 2010 estimate, which found that the post-9/11 military operations are second only to World War II in terms of financial cost."

Of the $1.6 trillion total, CRS specialist Amy Belasco estimates that the funding breaks down as such:

$686 billion (43%) for Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan);
$815 billion (51%) for Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn (Iraq);
$27 billion (2%) for Operation Noble Eagle (providing enhanced security at military bases and military operations related to homeland security);
$81 billion (5%) for war-designated funding not considered directly related to the Afghanistan or Iraq wars.

Continued: http://www.commondreams.org/news/2014/12/23/endless-wars-have-cost-americans-16-trillion-report-finds

Eastern Ukraine: Humanitarian Disaster Looms as Food Aid Blocked

[font size=2]Eastern Ukraine: Humanitarian Disaster Looms as Food Aid Blocked[/font]
Amnesty International
LONDON -

http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2014/12/24/eastern-ukraine-humanitarian-disaster-looms-food-aid-blocked

Pro-Kyiv volunteer battalions are increasingly blocking humanitarian aid into eastern Ukraine in a move which will exacerbate a pending humanitarian crisis in the run up to Christmas and New Year, said Amnesty International.

“As winter sets in, the already desperate situation in eastern Ukraine is being made even worse by the volunteer battalions preventing food aid and medicine from reaching those in need. It is no secret that the region is facing a humanitarian disaster with many already at risk of starvation,” said Denis Krivosheev, acting Director of Europe and Central Asia for Amnesty International.

“These battalions often act like renegade gangs and urgently need to be brought under control. Denying food to people caught up in a conflict is against international law and the perpetrators must be held to account.”

Amnesty International has received information that the pro-Kyiv battalions, which include Dnipro-1 and Aidar, have blocked aid entering territories controlled by the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DNR and LNR).

More:
http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2014/12/24/eastern-ukraine-humanitarian-disaster-looms-food-aid-blocked

The US is still the only developed country that doesn’t guarantee paid maternity leave

The US is still the only developed country that doesn’t guarantee paid maternity leave

The US supreme court is hearing a pregnancy discrimination case that could have far-reaching effects for American women who work through their pregnancies

Jessica Valenti: Why doesn’t the US do more to help pregnant women?


Link to interactive: http://interactive.guim.co.uk/embed/2014/12/2014-12-maternity-leave/

The US supreme court on Wednesday is hearing the case of 42-year-old Peggy Young, who sued her employer, UPS, for pregnancy discrimination. Young claims the shipping company refused to accommodate her pregnancy by giving her a temporary assignment to avoid lifting heavy packages.

But as the case unfolds, the US continues to shirk an even more basic pregnancy accommodation: maternity leave.

The US is the only developed country that doesn’t guarantee paid maternity or parental leave to workers. It’s an often-cited statistic, but one which should continue to shock us.



http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/dec/03/-sp-america-only-developed-country-paid-maternity-leave


War by Media and the Triumph of Propaganda

Secrecy, Surveillance and Censorship
War by Media and the Triumph of Propaganda
by JOHN PILGER

Why has so much journalism succumbed to propaganda? Why are censorship and distortion standard practice? Why is the BBC so often a mouthpiece of rapacious power? Why do the New York Times and the Washington Post deceive their readers?

Why are young journalists not taught to understand media agendas and to challenge the high claims and low purpose of fake objectivity? And why are they not taught that the essence of so much of what’s called the mainstream media is not information, but power?

These are urgent questions. The world is facing the prospect of major war, perhaps nuclear war – with the United States clearly determined to isolate and provoke Russia and eventually China. This truth is being turned upside down and inside out by journalists, including those who promoted the lies that led to the bloodbath in Iraq in 2003.

The times we live in are so dangerous and so distorted in public perception that propaganda is no longer, as Edward Bernays called it, an “invisible government”. It is the government. It rules directly without fear of contradiction and its principal aim is the conquest of us: our sense of the world, our ability to separate truth from lies.

The information age is actually a media age. We have war by media; censorship by media; demonology by media; retribution by media; diversion by media – a surreal assembly line of obedient clichés and false assumptions.

Continued:
http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/12/05/war-by-media-and-the-triumph-of-propaganda/


Ukraine Elections Bring Society Closer to Brink of All Out War and Economic Collapse

[Font size="3", face="Georgia,serif"]Ukraine Elections Bring Society Closer to Brink of All Out War and Economic Collapse
by JO and DYLAN MURPHY
CounterPunch
http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/11/04/ukraine-elections-bring-society-closer-to-brink-of-all-out-war-and-economic-collapse/

The parliamentary elections in Ukraine has been lavished with praise by Western politicians and the mainstream media as confirmation of the country’s turn towards democracy and a rejection of Putin’s evil Russian empire. What the media drones and corporate politicians won’t tell you is that these elections represent a disaster for the ordinary people of Ukraine.

Ukraine is bankrupt and its economy is rapidly collapsing. It has been promised billions in aid from the IMF and EU in return for the most vicious austerity measures that will make Greece look like a picnic. Industry and agriculture are suffering steep declines in production while austerity measures will lead to huge cuts in wages and welfare benefits. At the same time the rapid immiserisation of the masses is worsening due to massive price increases in basic foodstuffs and essential utilities such as electricity, gas and water.

All of the capitalist politicians elected to the new Rada have no solution to these devastating economic problems. Their economic programme can be summed up in the slogan; ”Austerity, austerity and yet more austerity.” Capitalism offers an extremely bleak future to the ordinary people of Ukraine.

The election will return a government that is committed to continuing the war against its own people in the rebel held regions of Donetsk and Lugansk. It confirms the splitting up of the country into several parts. Crimea will stay with Russia while the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk which make up Novorossia will continue to fight for their independence, which leaves the rest of Ukraine minus about 15% of its former population.

It would be more accurate to call this election the ”battle of the billionaires”. All of the political parties that got representation in the new Rada are puppets of the different billionaire oligarchs. It is these people who really call the shots in collaboration with their masters in Washington.

There is nothing remotely progressive about the motley collection of ultra-nationalists who will make up the new Rada. Most of the new MP’s are rabidly right wing and ultra hostile to Russia, the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, the trade unions, the Communist Party, the list goes on. It includes an assortment of Holocaust deniers and sympathisers for the Ukrainian Nazis who fought with the SS during World War Two. It would appear that even people wanted by Interpol for inciting terrorism and responsible for the Odessa massacre on 2 May, such as Right Sector fuhrer Dmitry Yarosh, can be elected to the new Rada.



Story continues and includes an Interview with Rozhin Boris
http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/11/04/ukraine-elections-bring-society-closer-to-brink-of-all-out-war-and-economic-collapse/
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The Washington Post's Putinology

[font size=3, face="Georgia,serif"]
The Washington Post's Putinology
By Peter Hart
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting

http://fair.org/blog/2014/10/28/the-washington-posts-putinology/

We're supposed to know by now that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a really bad guy–so bad that anything that he says is further proof of his screeching hostility to the United States.

The Washington Post reported (10/24/14) on a recent Putin speech with this blistering lead sentence:

[blockquote style="width:620px";][font size="2"] “Making clear that the Kremlin has no intention of backing down from the worst Russia/Western crisis since the Cold War, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the United States on Friday of trying to "reshape the whole world" for its benefit, in a fiery speech that was one of the most anti-American of his 15 years as Russia's paramount leader.”[/font]


Fiery anti-Americanism!

It's not hard to believe that Putin was highly critical of the US foreign policy, but what precisely did he say? The Post called it "a bitter distillation of Putin's anti-American rhetoric." The Post Karoun Demirjian and Michael Birnbaum reported that the address was an:

[blockquote style="width:620px";][font size="2"] “unsmiling, straightforward worldview that blasted the United States as taking advantage of its powerful post-Cold War position to dictate misguided terms to the rest of the world. Putin faulted the United States for a rise in global terrorism, a resumption of a global arms race and a general worsening of global security.

It never ceases to amaze me how our partners have been guilty of making the same mistakes time and again," Putin said, accusing the United States of breeding terrorists by upsetting the established order in Syria, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan.”
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OK, so fiery anti-Americanism is the belief that the United States desires a unipolar world where it calls the shots. Does anyone doubt US elites think otherwise?

And the US, he thinks, bears some responsibility for fueling the global arms race. The United States is, according to some less than fiery and not particularly anti-American news outlets, the leading supplier of arms in the world ("US Arms Sales Make Up Most of Global Market," New York Times, 8/26/12; "US Doubles Down on Foreign Military Sales," Defense News, 7/19/14).

On the subject of nuclear arms, a key issue in US/Russia relations, the New York Times (9/21/14) recently reported on the US plan to increase its nuclear arsenal–a "nationwide wave of atomic revitalization" that could cost well over a trillion dollars.

And it's hard to argue with Putin's critique of US foreign policy accomplishments in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya; those countries have suffered extreme violence and instability due to US military actions. Would there even be an ISIS without the US invasion of Iraq?

None of that should be mistaken as an endorsement of anything Putin or Russia has done. But if the Post means to show us that a foreign leader is a fiery, bitter anti-American, it might want to make a stronger case.

The news article, though, was nothing compared to the Post's editorial (10/27/14). Under the Web headline "Putinoia on Full Display," the paper blasted Putin for his

[blockquote style="width:620px";][font size=2] “poisonous mix of lies, conspiracy theories, thinly veiled threats of further aggression and, above all, seething resentment toward the United States.”[/font]

Again, that's a pretty serious charge. It's not hard to imagine a politician telling lies; which ones did Putin tell?

The Post doesn't seem to want to tell us. It does say Putin claimed that the United States has:

[blockquote style="width:620px";] “promoted a "unipolar world [that] is simply a means of justifying dictatorship over people and countries." According to Mr. Putin, Washington has created chaos across the world by conspiring to foment revolutions, including what he views as an armed "coup d'etat" in Ukraine.”

Again, the United States does see itself as the world's lone superpower, with a dominant military and an obvious record of attempting to use military force, directly or otherwise, to change the world to its liking (though these efforts are not always successful). In Ukraine, in particular, Washington certainly supported the violent overthrow of an elected government–whether you want to call that a "coup d'etat" or not.

The editorial began with this observation:

[blockquote style="width:620px";] “Anyone wondering what Western leaders have been up against when they try to reason with Vladi­mir Putin need only read the transcript of the Russian ruler's three-hour performance at the annual Valdai conference in Sochi on Friday.”

The thing is, if you're going to say someone is a poisonous liar who traffics in conspiracy theories, then you should show that. That the Post doesn't seem to feel the need to do so either means the evidence isn't there, or that the burden of proof is very low when it comes to official enemies.
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Per the license the only changes made are some mid paragraph link citations and images. Please see the original page at:
http://fair.org/blog/2014/10/28/the-washington-posts-putinology/
You can follow the additional references there.

Democracy Is for Amateurs: Why We Need More Citizen Citizens

I am more and more convinced that citizen panels/commissions are the next evolution in Democracy. Democracy (and Republics) have been an improvement over previous forms of government, but it is still possible, some would argue inevitable, for the government to separate itself from the people, corrupt or stack the deck in the favor of an elite.

Personally it seems to me that Parliaments (more evolved since they allow the citizens to mount new parties if the current ones fail), combined with citizen panel "stewardship", and lessening the professional political class (not eliminating, we will always need specialists), would be the direction to move.

Anyone know of an organization who is focused on advocating for this approach?

This article by The Atlantic goes into this concept:

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Democracy Is for Amateurs: Why We Need More Citizen Citizens

Eric Liu May 11 2012, 9:00 AM ET

America can't afford to leave its government in the hands of professionals.



This year I'll wrap up a decade as a trustee of the Seattle Public Library. Our board of five citizens has unusual authority. Appointed by the mayor, we are an independent operating body. The city council gives us a line in the budget, but how we spend those funds, on what programs, in what allocations across which neighborhoods, with what kinds of popular input, and under what policies -- all such decisions rest in the hands of our citizen board.

There's something very American about such a volunteer body. We celebrate the "citizen scientist" or "citizen diplomat" or "citizen soldier" on the idea that while the job -- scientist, diplomat, soldier -- requires professional expertise, amateurs who care can also step in and contribute. Indeed, this is something of a golden age for amateurs. With big data and social media amplifying their wisdom, crowds of amateurs are remaking astronomy, finance, biochemistry and other fields.

But not so much the field called democracy. The work of democratic life -- solving shared problems, shaping plans, pushing for change, making grievances heard -- has become ever more professionalized over the last generation. Money has gained outsize and self-compounding power in elections. A welter of lobbyists, regulators, consultants, bankrollers, wonks-for-hire, and "smart-ALECs" has crowded amateurs out of the daily work of self-government at every level. Bodies like the library board are the exception.

What we need today are more citizen citizens. Both the left and the right are coming to see this. It is the thread that connects the anti-elite 99 percent movement with the anti-elite Tea Party. It also animates an emerging web of civic-minded techies who want to "hack" citizenship and government.

Why is government in America so hack-worthy now? There is a giant literature on how interest groups have captured our politics, with touchstones texts by Mancur Olson, Jonathan Rauch, and Francis Fukuyama. The message of these studies is depressingly simple: democratic institutions tend toward what Rauch calls "demosclerosis" -- encrustation by a million little constituencies who clog the arteries of government and make it impossible for the state to move or adapt.


Full story:
http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/05/democracy-is-for-amateurs-why-we-need-more-citizen-citizens/256818/

WSWS: Right-wing nationalist parties dominate Ukrainian parliamentary elections

Right-wing nationalist parties dominate Ukrainian parliamentary elections
By Andrea Peters
27 October 2014

Parliamentary elections in Ukraine Sunday delivered victories to a number of right-wing nationalist parties in a vote that was boycotted by the vast majority of the electorate in the country’s east. Exit polls indicate that the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s president, obtained 23 percent of ballots cast, followed by the People’s Front of current Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, which garnered upwards of 21 percent. Trailing behind these two blocs was the Self Help Party, which reportedly got just over 13 percent of the vote.

Polls closed at 8:00 pm local time, and as of this writing, turnout is estimated at about 40 percent, with large differences between the east and west of the country. If accurate, this would represent a major decline in the overall level of voter participation compared to previous elections. In Ukraine’s 2012 parliamentary race, 57.4 percent of eligible voters cast ballots, according to data available from the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.

It is estimated that between three and five million eligible voters concentrated in the east and southeast of the country—between ten and twenty percent of the total electorate—did not participate in the elections. Elections were not held in Donetsk or the Luhansk People’s Republic, which declared the October 26 vote a “farce” and scheduled their own votes for early November.

Even in areas under the central government’s control, turnout was low in regions with widespread popular hostility towards the Kiev regime. The Central Election Committee estimated voter participation in the southwestern city of Odessa at just 13.2 percent, and in Donetsk and Luhansk at 14.6 and 13.1 percent respectively. In May, dozens were killed in Odessa when pro-Kiev fascist forces trapped anti-government protesters in the local trade union building, massacring them and then setting the building alight.

President Poroshenko has said he is prepared to form a government with the all of the “parties of the Maidan,” referring to those political forces that backed the right-wing coup that ousted former President Viktor Yanukovych last February. In addition to his own bloc, the People’s Front, and the Self Help Party, this includes the far-right Radical Party of Oleh Lyaschko, the ultra-nationalist Svoboda Party, and the Fatherland Party of oligarch Yulia Tymoshenko, which respectively won 6.4 percent, 6.3 percent, and 5.6 percent of the vote, according to early estimates.


Full Story:
http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/10/27/elec-o27.html

The Neocons — Masters of Chaos

The Neocons — Masters of Chaos
October 17, 2014
America’s neoconservatives, by stirring up trouble in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, are creating risks for the world’s economy that are surfacing now in the turbulent stock markets, threatening another global recession, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

http://consortiumnews.com/2014/10/17/the-neocons-masters-of-chaos/

If you’re nervously watching the stock market gyrations and worrying about your declining portfolio or pension fund, part of the blame should go to America’s neocons who continue to be masters of chaos, endangering the world’s economy by instigating geopolitical confrontations in the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

Of course, there are other factors pushing Europe’s economy to the brink of a triple-dip recession and threatening to stop America’s fragile recovery, too. But the neocons’ “regime change” strategies, which have unleashed violence and confrontations across Iraq, Syria, Libya, Iran and most recently Ukraine, have added to the economic uncertainty.

This neocon destabilization of the world economy began with the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 under President George W. Bush who squandered some $1 trillion on the bloody folly. But the neocons’ strategies have continued through their still-pervasive influence in Official Washington during President Barack Obama’s administration.

The neocons and their “liberal interventionist” junior partners have kept the “regime change” pot boiling with the Western-orchestrated overthrow and killing of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the proxy civil war in Syria to oust Bashar al-Assad, the costly economic embargoes against Iran, and the U.S.-backed coup that ousted Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych last February.


Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland during a press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, Ukraine, on Feb. 7, 2014. (U.S. State Department photo)


Continued:
http://consortiumnews.com/2014/10/17/the-neocons-masters-of-chaos/

Ukraine's former President &Prime Minister to formalize and strengthen alliance with Neo-Nazi groups

Things in Ukraine are getting incredibly ominous.

Yes, this is a shocking headline but this is what is happening. There are no longer any doubts that the new Ukrainian leadership wasn't allied with Svoboda and Right sector (Neo Nazi groups) as a "necessary temporary situation", but is so aligned with them that they are taking part of the "fatherhood" party and binding with Svoboda and Right sector to create a larger, more powerful coalition.

Facism, having been emboldened from the recent coup in Ukraine, is growing significantly there as the country further splits politically. This is only one strong front for Facism there, there are also other parties such as PM Lyashko's "Radical Party, which has been growing in influence as well; (Lyashko is the Parlimentary member that Amnesty International warned on):

Link to Amnesty's info:
Impunity reigns for abductions and ill-treatment by pro-Kyiv vigilantes in eastern Ukraine
http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/Impunity-reigns-for-abductions-ill-treatment-eastern-Ukraine-06-08-2014


There was always a problem with the new government that came into power in Kiev having brought in Neo-Nazi "commanders" into the executive branch and in many other positions in government. But they claim all along was that it wasn't a significant thing, and not demonstrative of the major personalities involved.

But this is clear evidence that not only was is it a considerable problem, but power players in the existing government are going to actually **increase** the prominence of these groups by forming a parliamentary collation and running together in the elections. This is a serious development and needs to be exposed.

From the Kyiv Post:

Turchynov, Avakov, Parubiy and commanders of special battalions included in military council of People's Front


http://www.kyivpost.com/content/ukraine/turchynov-avakov-parubiy-and-commanders-of-special-battalions-included-in-military-council-of-peoples-front-364326.html

Parubiy is one of the heads of "Svoboda". This alliance also includes Andriy Biletsky, the head of the “Azov” battalion, the most openly fascist of the paramilitary battalions. Biletsky is also the leader of the Social-National Assembly of Ukraine and it’s paramilitary wing Patriot of Ukraine, (essentially the most violent and militant of the neo-nazi groups in Ukraine).


From wikipedia: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patriot_of_Ukraine)

"The Patriot of Ukraine (Ukrainian: Патріо́т Украї́ни is a Ukrainian nationalist organization with racist and neo-Nazi political beliefs. It constitutes a paramilitary wing of the Social-National Assembly of Ukraine (S.N.A.), an assemblage of neo-Nazi organizations and groups founded in 2008 that share the social-national ideology and agree upon building a social-national state in Ukraine. Both the “Patriot of Ukraine” and the S.N.A. engage in political violence against minorities and their political opponents. The leader of the “Patriot of Ukraine” and of the Social-National Assembly is Andriy Biletsky."





Here is a picture of the collation meeting. (Notice the banner in the background).
The former President and PM in the foreground.







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