Showing posts from March 18, 2016

The Rationale Behind Russia’s Withdrawal From Syria

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[A couple of good potential reasons for Putin's entry and sudden exit from the war in Syria. *RON*]
By Robert Berke, Naked Capitalism, Posted by Yves Smith17 March 2016

Robert Berke, an energy financial analyst with experience as a government consultant to the State of Alaska. Originally published at OilPrice

As reported around the world, Russia’s decision to greatly reduce its military presence in Syria, coming as it did with little warning, has left the world struggling for explanations.

After having rescued the Syrian Government’s position in Syria from certain defeat and securing a partial truce along with the onset of an imminent peace conference, the partial withdrawal is seen by many as a message to the Assad government to not take Russia’s military aid for granted, and to be more flexible in the upcoming peace negotiations.

If we assume that all wars are essentially trade wars grown large, and in the Middle East, they almost always invo…

The Very Existence of the NSA Is Illegal

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["...the National Security Agency soon will begin providing local law enforcement with data on American citizens intercepted without probable cause and without a warrant. This data has nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism... The problem with that is there is a federal law that prohibits the military from having any role in domestic policy. It’s called the Posse Comitatus Act... It’s just simply illegal. It’s the use of the military in law enforcement. It’s an act of war against the American people." *RON*]

By John Kiriakou, Reader Supported News, 15 March 16

John Kiriakou is an Associate Fellow with the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC. He is a former CIA counterterrorism operations officer and former senior investigator for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The Washington Post reported last week that the National Security Agency soon would begin providing local law enforcement with data on American citizens interce…

Vaccine refusal linked to recent U.S. measles outbreak, study suggests

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['Phenomenon of vaccine refusal' increases risk of measles among everyone. *RON*]

By Justin Li, CBC News, 15 March 2016
Measles, a disease that was considered eliminated 16 years ago in the U.S., has made a comeback in which a "substantial proportion" of the cases are associated with vaccine refusal, a study suggests.

The study, recently published in the March 15 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, says "the phenomenon of vaccine refusal" increases the risk for measles among individuals who are not vaccinated or refuse to get vaccinated, and also among those who are already fully vaccinated.

Trump presidency rated among top 10 global risks: EIU

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[In terms of destabilizing the global economy Donald Trump becoming President was rated as an equivalent threat to "rising jihadi terrorism" because unlike traditional presidential front-runners the candidate has little or no policy substance to back up his shoot-from-the-hip-style pronouncements. *RON*]
BBC World News, 17 March 2016

Donald Trump winning the US presidency is considered one of the top 10 risks facing the world, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

The research firm warns he could disrupt the global economy and heighten political and security risks in the US.

However, it does not expect Mr Trump to defeat Hillary Clinton who it sees as "his most likely Democratic contender".

He is rated as riskier than Britain leaving the European Union or an armed clash in the South China Sea.

China encountering a "hard landing" or sharp economic slowdown and Russia's interventions in Ukraine and Syria prece…

Thirteen Years for Two Joints

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[Justice and the American War on Drugs. *RON*]

By Krishna Andavolu, Vice, 16 March 2016

More than half of Americans believe that marijuana should be legal in the United States, according to a Gallup poll from October 2015. With 58 percent in favor, legalization is enjoying the highest support ever reported (up from 34 percent in 2001). Still, draconian sentencing laws surrounding marijuana have led to the imprisonment of millions of American citizens, many of whom are still serving time for possessing small amounts of weed for personal use.

One of those citizens is Bernard Noble, a father and aspiring restaurateur from New Orleans who was stopped by police and nabbed for possession of two joints in 2010. In keeping with Louisiana's habitual offenders law, Noble, who had two prior cocaine possession charges and a prior marijuana possession charge (he admits that he was a coke addict in the 90s), was sentenced to a staggering 13 and 1/3 years in …

That's Gross: the Four Worlds of Income Inequality

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[Maps of the world, showing countries colour coded by income quartiles. A bit of a surprise to me how badly Ukraine is doing. Plus there is just a speck of green (wealthiest quartile) in Africa, and that in a major-league kleptocracy. *RON*]
by Frank Jacobs, Big Think, 17 March 2016

Do you remember the Third World? That's the Cold War term devised by the West (the First World, obviously) for those countries unaligned with either itself or the Communist bloc (the Second World). There also used to be a Fourth World – the term for underprivileged groups within the First World.

And then of course the Soviet Union collapsed, taking with it to the dustbin of history this neat numerical subdivision of the world.

But here's another way to quarter the world. Based on World Bank data, Global Finance magazine recently subdivided the world into four income groups.

Low-income countries have an annual per capita Gross National Income (GNI) of no more than…