Published: Sunday 28 July 2013

“The objective of Sweden's contribution is to help stabilise the situation in Mali.”- Minister for Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt as noted by the APO.

 

Sweden is held up as a welfare state that benefits its people. After all, while the “working class did indeed win very substantial gains in Sweden after World War II. They made Sweden a "good capitalist" nation...[and] did not...abolish capitalism” which is part of the reason for the current unrest. The Guardian notes that “the country...is becoming polarised, and is surrendering more of its public services over to private businesses” and that the “"Nordic model" of progressive politics, low unemployment and a generous social safety net appears to have been singed in the flames.” Taking this all into account, we cannot be mislead to think Sweden is a socialist country as closeted progressive Democrat Bernie Sanders puts it. Per Olsson wrote on socialistworld.net that “what is sometimes called the ‘mixed economy’ in Sweden was never a mix of public and privately owned companies...big monopolies...dominate the economy...the concentration and centralisation of capital probably went further in Sweden than in most other advanced capitalist countries.” All of these factors come into play when one considers how Sweden is helping maintain the imperialist UN-enforced occupation of Mali, after a war that ...

Published: Saturday 6 October 2012
As David Cole, a civil liberties attorney in the US associated with the Center for Constitutional Rights, notes, “The US military is not at war with Wikileaks or with Julian Assange.”

 

An investigative arm of the Pentagon has termed Wikileaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange, currently holed up and claiming asylum in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London for fear he will be deported to Sweden and thence to the US, and his organization, both “enemies” of the United States.

The Age newspaper in Melbourne Australia is reporting that documents obtained through the US Freedom of Information Act from the Pentagon disclose that an investigation by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, a counter-intelligence unit, of a military cyber systems analyst based in Britain who had reportedly expressed support for Wikileaks and had attended a demonstration in support of Assange, refers to the analyst as having been “communicating with the enemy, D-104.” The D-104 classification refers to an article of the US Uniform Military Code of Military Justice which prohibits military personnel from “communicating, corresponding or holding intercourse with the enemy.”

This is pretty dangerous language, referring to an Australian citizen who many consider to be no more than a working journalist who has been receiving information leaked by whistleblowers and disseminating that information to the public. As David Cole, a civil liberties attorney in the US associated with the Center for Constitutional Rights, notes, “The US military is not at war with Wikileaks or with Julian Assange.”

Certainly if a member of the US military were to go to a news organization like the New York Times -- or the Melbourne Age for that matter -- and leak some kind of damaging secret information exposing US military war crimes, it is hard to believe that the military would call that “communicating with the enemy” (though reportedly the Bush/Cheney administration considered, but then dropped the idea of bringing espionage ...

Published: Thursday 20 September 2012
In today’s United States we can ask, if the battered labor movement were not still a progressive force, then why is it so important to Scott Walker and the rest of the 1 percent to destroy the unions?

 

“Why do working class people vote against their own interests?” I’ve heard that question dozens of times from middle class activists trying to navigate the mysteries of social class and politics. I’ve heard it so many times — often more as a complaint than as an honest question — that I’m tempted to retort, “Why do middle class people vote against their own interests?”

After all, the Republican-leaning middle class has been hammered by Republican policies for quite some time. Just to remind us: Corporations are subsidized to export middle class jobs, as well as working class jobs, and consultants from Bain Capital can tell you how. Then there is Republican tax policy, by which the super-rich gain a larger share of the national income at the expense of the middle class. Still, a large part of the middle class votes Republican.

But this column is about working class politics. Let’s start, therefore, by distinguishing between “politics” and “elections.” For at least two big reasons, elections don’t teach us much about the political wants of workers.

In the first place, working class people tend to be deeply cynical about electoral politics. Most believe that the major parties can’t be trusted because of the 1 percent’s control. So a large percentage of working class people don’t bother to vote.

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Published: Tuesday 4 September 2012
“If you want to see what the country would look like without unions, watch re-runs of the Republican convention.”

 

In polite circles in Washington it is common to view unions as a quaint anachronism. They may have made sense back when most workers had little education and worked in factories, but there really is no place for them in a 21st century economy. From this perspective, the sharp decline in union membership that we have seen in the last three decades is simply a natural process, sort of like the development of more powerful computers.

There is evidence that suggests otherwise, most notably that many other wealthy countries still have very high rates of unionization. The share of the workforce represented by unions is 80 percent or higher in many European countries. While some may want to attribute the eurozone crisis to factors such as high unionization rates (as opposed to inept central bankers) they face the problem that non-eurozone countries like Denmark and Sweden seem to be doing just fine. In Denmark 80 percent of the workforce is represented by a union and in Sweden the share is 91 percent. According to the most recent OECD data, their unemployment rates are both 7.8 percent. That isn’t great, but it’s still half a percentage point below ours. And, both countries are able to borrow at the same or lower interest rates than the U.S. Clearly, high unionization rates have not led to catastrophe. 

But many still view Europe as being fundamentally different than the United States. And of course they don’t speak English in Denmark and Sweden, or at least not as a first language. This is why it is useful to look at Canada, a country that is culturally and economically very similar to the United States, and a place ...

Published: Sunday 19 August 2012
Published: Saturday 18 August 2012
“What this astonishing incendiary reaction by the British Foreign Office to Assange’s grant of asylum by Ecuador makes abundantly clear is that Assange and his Wikileaks organization are truly feared by Britain and the U.S.”

The concerted and orchestrated campaign to capture Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and ultimately to hand him over to the tender mercies of a kangaroo court in the US, where he would likely be tried for spying and other possibly capital offenses, continues as Britain threatens the Ecuadoran Embassy with a police assault.

According to the newspaper the Australian, a News Corp. property and Australian flagship of media baron Rupert Murdoch, Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino says he and the Ecuadoran ambassador received a written message yesterday from the British Foreign Office warning that Britain might send police to “assault” the country’s embassy and forcibly remove Assange so as to hand him over to Sweden to face questioning on several controversial sexual assault claims made by women there.

Although the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, passed in 1961 and signed by Britain, Sweden and the US, along with nearly every country in the world, clearly grants embassies the status of being considered the official territory of the country represented by the embassy, thus putting them beyond all laws of the host country, Britain is citing a 1987 UK law that states that when a foreign nation ''ceases to use land for the purposes of its mission or exclusively for the purposes of a consular post,'' the Vienna Convention no longer applies, and the building is no longer beyond the reach of British police.

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Published: Wednesday 13 June 2012
It happens that Romneycare was less conservative than Obamacare because it did little to confront rising health care costs.

For now, let's drop the talk about wanting a liberal America or a conservative America. What we truly need is a modern America. No country can be modern spending twice what its rich competitors do on health care while leaving millions without any coverage.

If the U.S. Supreme Court declares the essential "individual mandate" in the federal Affordable Care Act unconstitutional — or Republicans throw out the reforms — then it's back to the past, back to the economy-dragging health care mess we've been calling a "system."

Republicans say that Americans don't want top-down government control of their health care. But what we have now is top-down corporate control of health care. Insurers, drugmakers, sellers of expensive equipment, hospital executives, labs, home-health-care services, and others unnamed prosper by exploiting the chaos in our health care system.

They get other payers (be they private or government) to purchase $50 drugs when $10 drugs are just as effective. They make more money if patients have to be readmitted into the hospital. They profit from pushing surgery, when careful watching or less invasive therapy might do the trick at far lower cost and risk. They casually order CT scans without much thought to the expense or the patients' exposure to radiation.

The motives are undoubtedly mixed. Some providers see opportunity in siphoning the poorly regulated Niagara of health care dollars into their pockets. Many doctors prescribe far more tests and surgery than do their colleagues, either out of habit or fear of being sued. (Republicans are right about the need for tort reform to curb litigation against responsible doctors.)

Here's the point of an individual mandate requiring the uninsured to obtain coverage. The reforms call for state-run health-insurance exchanges, where the uncovered can find affordable health plans.

The plans can't remain solvent if ...

Published: Thursday 31 May 2012
“This week’s developments bear crucially on the public’s right to know, and why whistle-blowers must be protected.”

 

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s protracted effort to fight extradition to Sweden suffered a body blow this week. Britain’s Supreme Court upheld the arrest warrant, issued in December 2010. After the court announced its split 5-2 decision, the justices surprised many legal observers by granting Assange’s lawyers an opportunity to challenge their decision—the first such reconsideration since the high-profile British extradition case from more than a decade ago against former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. The decision came almost two years to the day after Pvt. Bradley Manning was arrested in Iraq for allegedly leaking hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. government documents to WikiLeaks. The cases remind us that all too often whistle-blowers suffer, while war criminals walk.

Assange has not been charged with any crime, yet he has been under house arrest in England for close to two years, ever since a “European Arrest Warrant” was issued by Sweden (importantly, by a prosecutor, not by a judge). Hoping to question Assange, the prosecutor issued the warrant for suspicion of rape, unlawful coercion and sexual molestation. Assange offered to meet the Swedish authorities in their embassy in London, or in Scotland Yard, but was refused.

Assange and his supporters allege that the warrant is part of an attempt by the U.S. government to imprison him, or even execute him, and to shut down WikiLeaks. In April 2010, WikiLeaks released a U.S. military video that it named “Collateral Murder,” with graphic video showing an Apache helicopter unit killing of at least 12 ...

Published: Wednesday 21 March 2012
Published: Tuesday 6 December 2011
Assange and his lawyers have 14 days to file a request for review by the Supreme Court.

Julian Assange, founder of the whistle-blowing WikiLeaks website, is free to ask Britain's highest court to decide whether he should be extradited to Sweden on allegations of sexual assault, judges ruled Monday.

A lower court said that Assange could apply directly to Britain's Supreme Court to hear his controversial case. The 40-year-old Australian has been battling extradition to Stockholm, the Swedish capital, since a judge ruled in February that he should be sent there to face accusations of raping and molesting two women.

Assange and his lawyers have 14 days to file a request for review by the Supreme Court. If it refuses to hear the matter, Assange would be extradited within days of the decision. If it accepts, the case would likely come before the court sometime next spring, the BBC reported.

Assange denies any misconduct and insists his relations with the women in separate sexual encounters in August 2010 were consensual. He argues that the allegations against him are politically motivated, a pretext to ship him onward for prosecution in the United States, where the Obama administration has roundly condemned him for leaking thousands of diplomatic documents on his website.

He surrendered to police in London in December of last year after Sweden issued a warrant for his arrest. He has spent almost the entire time since then under "mansion arrest," living on a supporter's sprawling country estate outside London but forced to wear an electronic tag, abide by a curfew and check in with police daily.

Last month, judges on Britain's High Court upheld the earlier ruling approving Assange's extradition. On Monday, the justices said he would not be allowed to pursue his case any further through the normal appeals process but could apply directly to the Supreme Court for a hearing, on the basis that general principles worthy of the court's scrutiny were at stake.

Those principles deal with ...

Published: Tuesday 6 December 2011
“Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Germany are the top countries to fight climate change, but experts said they could not award any country with the top three rankings, as no nation was doing enough to prevent climate change.”

Sweden, the United Kingdom and Germany are the top countries to fight climate change, according to the 2012 Climate Change Performance Index, whose results were published at the United Nations climate change summit today.
 

Sweden, the country with the lowest emission levels of 50,600 tons of CO2 emissions, according to the latest data from the United States Energy Information Administration (EIA), and good emission trends worldwide, was ranked 4th. 
 

Experts said they could not award any country with the top three rankings, as no nation was doing enough to prevent climate change. 
 

The three lowest-ranking countries are Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan and Iran. The index is compiled each year by environmental lobby organization Germanwatch and the Climate Action Network (CAN), which evaluate and compare the climate protection performance of the 58 countries worldwide which are together responsible for more than 90 percent of global energy-related CO2-emissions
 

"This year’s results signify that although globally emissions are still growing, none of the big emitters make the real shifts that are needed," said CAN Europe director Wendel Trio. "None of them is considered as doing enough." 
 

Sweden’s climate policy was not ambitious enough, while the UK, ranked 5th, had recently shown worrying signs. It had failed to tighten up its carbon budgets, while Germany’s emission levels remained too high for a placement higher than rank 6. 
 

"The average grades for the national and international policies are weak," said Germanwatch researcher Jan Burck, one of the authors of the ...

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