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    Fighting Gag Order, Ferguson Grand Juror Accuses Prosecutor of Mishandling Case and Misleading Public

    Truthout - Thu, 01/08/2015 - 12:25

    A member of the grand jury that declined to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting unarmed African American Michael Brown is suing for the right to speak publicly about the case. The lawsuit accuses Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch of presenting possible charges to the grand jury in a "muddled and untimely manner," and notes the case had a "stronger focus on the victim" than other cases. It also challenges "the implication that all grand jurors believed that there was no support for any charges" against Wilson. The juror is challenging a lifetime ban preventing grand jury members from discussing cases. The grand juror has been identified only as a St. Louis County resident. We are joined by Tony Rothert, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, which is representing the unnamed juror.

    TRANSCRIPT:

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We turn now to Missouri, where a member of the grand jury that declined to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting unarmed African American Michael Brown is suing for the right to speak publicly about the case. The lawsuit accuses Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch of presenting possible charges to the grand jury in a, quote, "muddled and untimely manner," and notes the case had a, quote, "stronger focus on the victim," Michael Brown, than other cases. It also challenges, quote, "the implication that all grand jurors believed that there was no support for any charges" against Wilson. The juror is challenging a lifetime ban preventing a grand jury member from discussing cases. The grand juror has been identified only as a St. Louis County resident and is being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.

    AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, several Missouri residents have filed a bar complaint against Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch and two assistant prosecuting attorneys in the handling of the grand jury. According to the complaint, the prosecutors violated 15 Missouri Rules of Professional Conduct.

    This comes as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund has asked a Missouri judge to convene a new grand jury to consider charges against Officer Darren Wilson. On Monday, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund submitted a letter to St. Louis County Circuit Judge Maura McShane requesting an investigation into the grand jury proceedings that led to the decision not to indict Wilson.

    We go to Kansas City, Missouri, where we’re joined by Tony Rothert, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Missouri. He’s the attorney for the grand juror who’s challenging Missouri’s grand jury secrecy law.

    Welcome to Democracy Now! So, can you lay out for us the law in Missouri that dictates what a grand juror can or cannot do, especially in light of the fact that the prosecutor can speak out all he wants, talking about Bob McCulloch?

    TONY ROTHERT: Right. So, the law in Missouri is the same as it is in most states. Grand jurors are not allowed to speak at all, not about the evidence that they heard, their opinions about the evidence, or the legal counsel they received from the state. And usually, you know, prosecutors don’t speak about what happens in a grand jury, either, at least not in great detail.

    This is an unusual case in that the prosecutor has—he purports to have been transparent, to have released all the evidence and to have released all the transcripts of the hearings before the grand jury. And also the prosecutor has spoken quite a bit about what the grand jurors thought, especially, you know, about particular evidence and overall. And yet the grand jurors themselves, the only people who could contradict the prosecutor’s story that he’s putting out there, the government line on this, are forever banned from speaking.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And in addition to that, the prosecutor has admitted that he knowingly put before the grand jurors witnesses who he believed were not telling the truth or suspected were not telling the truth, an extraordinary admission, it seems to me, for a prosecutor. From what you have seen of the released minutes, what questions does your client have about the public record versus what actually happened in the grand jury?

    TONY ROTHERT: Well, I think the biggest thing that our client—one of the bigger things that this person has to offer is the contrast in how this grand jury proceeding was from other grand jury proceedings. So, this grand jury had been together for several months and heard hundreds of cases. They usually lasted 10 or 15 minutes. And there are many ways in which the Darren Wilson investigation was completely different—not only that it took longer, not only that prosecutors put on witnesses they didn’t believe were telling the truth, but also how the grand jury was instructed about the law, which is, ultimately, very important to what their decision is.

    AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask exactly what happened during the grand jury proceedings. According to the released grand jury documents, the assistant district attorney, Kathi Alizadeh, said to the jurors, quote, "I know this is different than other cases because normally when we’ve charged somebody with an offense, you have the charge in front of you, you can read what the charge is, you can read what maybe the elements are and you don’t have that in this case." Tony Rothert, can you explain the significance of this?

    TONY ROTHERT: So, normally, even from the records we have, we know that when the grand jury—before they start hearing evidence, they know what they’re looking at. They know what the elements of the crime are, so they know what they need to match up to return an indictment. Here, it looks like the grand jury is left in the dark. They weren’t told what the law was until the very end. And in some respects, with regarding self-defense, they were told the law—you know, about an unconstitutional Missouri law. So, it just wasn’t clear to the grand jury, I don’t believe, that—what the law was and what indictments they could return and what evidence they would need to know.

    AMY GOODMAN: So, Tony Rothert, would the grand juror, if the grand juror spoke out—we don’t know if the grand juror is a man or a woman—face a year in prison?

    TONY ROTHERT: Right. So, you know, this person came to us originally with an interest in speaking out and wondering, you know, what would happen to me if I did this. And I think it’s troubling. You know, just before the prosecuting attorney went out and gave an hour-long press conference detailing what the grand jury did, the grand jurors were handed copies of the Missouri laws that make it a misdemeanor offense to speak out about anything, anything that happened as part of a grand jury. So, you know, these folks are afraid, reasonably so, I think, to speak out. Also, just because it’s a peculiar situation, the person who they might contradict is Bob McCulloch, the prosecuting attorney, who would also be the person who has the discretion to decide whether or not to charge them with violating the grand jury secrecy laws.

    AMY GOODMAN: Well, Tony Rothert, we’ll certainly continue to follow this, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri. He’s the attorney for the grand juror who’s challenging Missouri’s grand jury secrecy law, speaking to us from Kansas City, Missouri. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

    Charlie Hebdo Shooting: 12 Killed in Attack on French Satirical Magazine Known for Muhammad Cartoons

    Truthout - Thu, 01/08/2015 - 12:11

    At least 12 people have been killed in a shooting attack on a French satirical magazine in Paris. Witnesses say masked gunmen entered the offices of the magazine, Charlie Hebdo, and opened fire. The dead include four cartoonists and two police officers. The magazine Charlie Hebdo has drawn multiple threats for its caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. In 2012, the magazine’s cartoon depicting Muhammad in pornographic poses helped spark protests across the Middle East. The outcry forced France to close embassies and other official sites in 20 countries. Charlie Hebdo has repeatedly claimed it publishes the cartoons as a defender of free expression and against religious extremism. We are joined by two guests: Robert Mahoney, deputy director of the Committee to Protect Journalists; and Tariq Ali, a British-Pakistani political commentator, historian, activist, filmmaker, novelist and an editor of the New Left Review.

    TRANSCRIPT:

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: At least 12 people have been killed in a shooting attack on a French satirical magazine in Paris. Witnesses say masked gunmen entered the offices of the magazine, Charlie Hebdo, and opened fire. According to Agence France-Presse, two of the dead are police officers. A major police operation is underway in Paris—in the Paris area to catch the killers.

    AMY GOODMAN: The magazine Charlie Hebdo has drawn multiple threats for its caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. In 2012, the magazine’s cartoon depicting Muhammad in pornographic poses helped sparked protests across the Middle East. The outcry forced France to close embassies and other official sites in 20 countries.

    Charlie Hebdo has repeatedly claimed it publishes the cartoons as a defender of free expression and against religious extremism. Speaking at the scene of the attack, French President François Hollande said barbaric people had carried out "an attack on free speech."

    We’re joined now by two guests. Robert Mahoney is the deputy director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. And Tariq Ali is with us, the British-Pakistani political commentator, historian, filmmaker, novelist, editor of the New Left Review.

    Let’s go first to Robert Mahoney. What do you know about what’s taken place at this point, Robert?

    ROBERT MAHONEY: Well, at this point, French media is reporting that two masked gunmen attacked the magazine in the heart of Paris, opened fire. We know officially that at least two policemen were killed, but now we’re getting reports that up to four journalists at Charlie Hebdo were killed, including some of their most famous cartoonists.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Robert Mahoney, in terms of attacks on journalists in Europe, this has to be, obviously, the worst of its kind, but could you talk about the climate generally there?

    ROBERT MAHONEY: Yeah, this is unprecedented. I mean, Charlie Hebdo is a satirical magazine that’s been in trouble before. It was firebombed back in 2011 after it published a spoof edition, which it said was, quote, "guest-edited" by the Prophet Muhammad. It has angered sections of the Islamic community in France and beyond. And back in 2006, you may remember the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that were published in Denmark. Well, Charlie Hebdo reprinted those cartoons. So, for the last six years or so, it’s been in the forefront of a battle over freedom of expression with certain sections of Islamist groups.

    AMY GOODMAN: Tariq Ali, you’re in London right now. I mean, this is all unfolding as we speak. Can you talk about the significance of what has happened so far? Again, 12 people shot dead in the offices of Charlie Hebdo, the satirical magazine in Paris.

    TARIQ ALI: Amy, I’ve just been in touch with friends in France, and basically they say that one of the journalists killed is the long-standing cartoonist of Charlie Hebdo, Cabu, the name he signed under. And he is someone who has been active in this magazine for many, many years, and there is no doubt that he was deliberately targeted by the assassins who went to hit him.

    The other thing that has been pointed out is that yesterday the magazine had a tweet which mocked the pretensions of the so-called caliph, the leader of the Islamic State, ISIS, and that that could be another reason.

    Now, there are two things that are worth pointing out. A, that the attacks on the prophet, Muhammad, which they—when they mimicked the Danish magazine, as been pointed out, did cause a lot of offense to Muslim believers all over the world, and when asked, the Danish magazine effectively had said that, no, they would not have published similar attacks against Moses, regardless of what Israel was doing in Palestine. This angered people even further. And the question was then posed: Well, why target the prophet of Islam, when you do not and could not target or do not wish to target Moses for all the mayhem that is going on in Palestine? To which there was no reply. So there is a feeling, effectively, that there is—

    AMY GOODMAN: I’m sure you’re going to be getting a lot of calls, Tariq, but just keep going.

    TARIQ ALI: OK. So, there were a lot of—there was some anger at this targeting that is taking place. And, of course, I emphasize that nothing justifies attacks of this sort on either these or any other journalists. They can be combated verbally. They can be combated with counter-cartoons, etc. But this sort of killing, which started with the fatwa on Salman Rushdie, is unacceptable and doesn’t do the Islamic religion as a whole any favors.

    But at the same time, Amy, there is quite an ugly atmosphere of Islamophobia in parts of Europe. We had big demonstrations in Germany by Islamophobes saying that Germany was getting Islamized. The well-known French right-wing novelist Houellebecq has just published a new novel in which the central fact is that by 2020 France will have a Muslim president. From the other side, Edwy Plenel, the publisher of the French investigative online magazine Mediapart, has written a book attacking and announcing Islamophobia very strongly. So, it’s an ugly atmosphere in parts of Europe, and this will play into it, and it just creates a vicious cycle.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Tariq, what has been the response of government leaders in France, Germany and Britain to this rise of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment across the continent?

    TARIQ ALI: Well, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, to her credit, two days ago, denounced these demonstrations and said that targeting ethnic minorities is unacceptable. She meant, of course, in Germany. But to this, then, a newspaper one normally regards as a very right-wing newspaper, the largest newspaper in Germany, Bild-Zeitung, a tabloid newspaper, has also published a public attack on the right and far right for carrying out these demonstrations targeting Muslims and published a letter signed by 50 top politicians and intellectuals, including former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, saying that this sort of behavior is unacceptable. So the German government has come out relatively well on this.

    In France, it is not exactly the same. You have a lot of Islamophobia encouraged by politicians of the far right. You have mainstream politicians then pandering to this and saying, "Yes, there is a problem." In Britain, there’s a big debate now going on on immigration—not on Islam, it has to be said, but on immigration—targeting migrants and saying there are too many migrants here, again started by the far right, and again those pandering to it are people from the mainstream political parties.

    AMY GOODMAN: Can you give us, Robert, a history of the kind of attacks on outlets, newspapers, magazines, that have published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad?

    ROBERT MAHONEY: Well, if you go back to 2006, where the first attacks and death threats were against—

    AMY GOODMAN: Can you come directly onto the telephone? We’re having a problem hearing you.

    ROBERT MAHONEY: I said the first attacks were against Jyllands-Posten, the Danish paper that published a cartoon—

    AMY GOODMAN: Let me go back to Tariq, because we’re having a problem hearing you. Tariq, let me put that question to you: If you can give people a sense of the history of these kind of attacks?

    TARIQ ALI: [inaudible] first big attacks came in the Danish paper, a right-wing conservative paper which, as many of my Danish friends pointed out at the time, during the Second World War had been closely allied to the Third Reich and the Nazis, and that this newspaper was leading this particular form of struggle, supposedly for free speech, but effectively targeting Islam, the Islamic religion and its prophet. This then became a big free speech issue and was mimicked elsewhere, including by Charlie Hebdo in France. Now, the more cynical people in France said the Charlie Hebdo circulation was failing, going down, and they needed to revive it, and the best way to revive it was of course by becoming campaigners for free speech and publishing provocative attacks on Islam as such. So, they, of course, denied it. It became a big free speech issue. And many people said that it was two forms of fundamentalism fighting each other—A, a tiny group of Islamic fundamentalists targeting these magazines, and B, secular fundamentalists trying to provoke and anger people, in general—and that neither was doing anyone a favor.

    AMY GOODMAN: Tariq Ali and Robert Mahoney, we want to thank you for being with us. We’ll continue to bring people the latest as we learn it. At this point what we know is 12 people have been killed, shot dead in the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo’s offices—they have recently published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad—10 journalists and two police, we believe. Reuters is reporting that others have been critically injured. This is in Paris, France. Tariq Ali is the British-Pakistani political commentator, historian, filmmaker, novelist, editor of the New Left Review. And Robert Mahoney is deputy director of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

    This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, we’ll talk about the Ferguson grand jury and a grand juror who wants to speak out. If a grand juror in Missouri speaks out, the person could face up to a year in prison. Stay with us.

    Charlie Hebdo Shooting: 12 Killed in Attack on French Satirical Magazine Known for Muhammad Cartoons

    Truthout - Thu, 01/08/2015 - 12:11

    At least 12 people have been killed in a shooting attack on a French satirical magazine in Paris. Witnesses say masked gunmen entered the offices of the magazine, Charlie Hebdo, and opened fire. The dead include four cartoonists and two police officers. The magazine Charlie Hebdo has drawn multiple threats for its caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. In 2012, the magazine’s cartoon depicting Muhammad in pornographic poses helped spark protests across the Middle East. The outcry forced France to close embassies and other official sites in 20 countries. Charlie Hebdo has repeatedly claimed it publishes the cartoons as a defender of free expression and against religious extremism. We are joined by two guests: Robert Mahoney, deputy director of the Committee to Protect Journalists; and Tariq Ali, a British-Pakistani political commentator, historian, activist, filmmaker, novelist and an editor of the New Left Review.

    TRANSCRIPT:

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: At least 12 people have been killed in a shooting attack on a French satirical magazine in Paris. Witnesses say masked gunmen entered the offices of the magazine, Charlie Hebdo, and opened fire. According to Agence France-Presse, two of the dead are police officers. A major police operation is underway in Paris—in the Paris area to catch the killers.

    AMY GOODMAN: The magazine Charlie Hebdo has drawn multiple threats for its caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. In 2012, the magazine’s cartoon depicting Muhammad in pornographic poses helped sparked protests across the Middle East. The outcry forced France to close embassies and other official sites in 20 countries.

    Charlie Hebdo has repeatedly claimed it publishes the cartoons as a defender of free expression and against religious extremism. Speaking at the scene of the attack, French President François Hollande said barbaric people had carried out "an attack on free speech."

    We’re joined now by two guests. Robert Mahoney is the deputy director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. And Tariq Ali is with us, the British-Pakistani political commentator, historian, filmmaker, novelist, editor of the New Left Review.

    Let’s go first to Robert Mahoney. What do you know about what’s taken place at this point, Robert?

    ROBERT MAHONEY: Well, at this point, French media is reporting that two masked gunmen attacked the magazine in the heart of Paris, opened fire. We know officially that at least two policemen were killed, but now we’re getting reports that up to four journalists at Charlie Hebdo were killed, including some of their most famous cartoonists.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Robert Mahoney, in terms of attacks on journalists in Europe, this has to be, obviously, the worst of its kind, but could you talk about the climate generally there?

    ROBERT MAHONEY: Yeah, this is unprecedented. I mean, Charlie Hebdo is a satirical magazine that’s been in trouble before. It was firebombed back in 2011 after it published a spoof edition, which it said was, quote, "guest-edited" by the Prophet Muhammad. It has angered sections of the Islamic community in France and beyond. And back in 2006, you may remember the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that were published in Denmark. Well, Charlie Hebdo reprinted those cartoons. So, for the last six years or so, it’s been in the forefront of a battle over freedom of expression with certain sections of Islamist groups.

    AMY GOODMAN: Tariq Ali, you’re in London right now. I mean, this is all unfolding as we speak. Can you talk about the significance of what has happened so far? Again, 12 people shot dead in the offices of Charlie Hebdo, the satirical magazine in Paris.

    TARIQ ALI: Amy, I’ve just been in touch with friends in France, and basically they say that one of the journalists killed is the long-standing cartoonist of Charlie Hebdo, Cabu, the name he signed under. And he is someone who has been active in this magazine for many, many years, and there is no doubt that he was deliberately targeted by the assassins who went to hit him.

    The other thing that has been pointed out is that yesterday the magazine had a tweet which mocked the pretensions of the so-called caliph, the leader of the Islamic State, ISIS, and that that could be another reason.

    Now, there are two things that are worth pointing out. A, that the attacks on the prophet, Muhammad, which they—when they mimicked the Danish magazine, as been pointed out, did cause a lot of offense to Muslim believers all over the world, and when asked, the Danish magazine effectively had said that, no, they would not have published similar attacks against Moses, regardless of what Israel was doing in Palestine. This angered people even further. And the question was then posed: Well, why target the prophet of Islam, when you do not and could not target or do not wish to target Moses for all the mayhem that is going on in Palestine? To which there was no reply. So there is a feeling, effectively, that there is—

    AMY GOODMAN: I’m sure you’re going to be getting a lot of calls, Tariq, but just keep going.

    TARIQ ALI: OK. So, there were a lot of—there was some anger at this targeting that is taking place. And, of course, I emphasize that nothing justifies attacks of this sort on either these or any other journalists. They can be combated verbally. They can be combated with counter-cartoons, etc. But this sort of killing, which started with the fatwa on Salman Rushdie, is unacceptable and doesn’t do the Islamic religion as a whole any favors.

    But at the same time, Amy, there is quite an ugly atmosphere of Islamophobia in parts of Europe. We had big demonstrations in Germany by Islamophobes saying that Germany was getting Islamized. The well-known French right-wing novelist Houellebecq has just published a new novel in which the central fact is that by 2020 France will have a Muslim president. From the other side, Edwy Plenel, the publisher of the French investigative online magazine Mediapart, has written a book attacking and announcing Islamophobia very strongly. So, it’s an ugly atmosphere in parts of Europe, and this will play into it, and it just creates a vicious cycle.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Tariq, what has been the response of government leaders in France, Germany and Britain to this rise of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment across the continent?

    TARIQ ALI: Well, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, to her credit, two days ago, denounced these demonstrations and said that targeting ethnic minorities is unacceptable. She meant, of course, in Germany. But to this, then, a newspaper one normally regards as a very right-wing newspaper, the largest newspaper in Germany, Bild-Zeitung, a tabloid newspaper, has also published a public attack on the right and far right for carrying out these demonstrations targeting Muslims and published a letter signed by 50 top politicians and intellectuals, including former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, saying that this sort of behavior is unacceptable. So the German government has come out relatively well on this.

    In France, it is not exactly the same. You have a lot of Islamophobia encouraged by politicians of the far right. You have mainstream politicians then pandering to this and saying, "Yes, there is a problem." In Britain, there’s a big debate now going on on immigration—not on Islam, it has to be said, but on immigration—targeting migrants and saying there are too many migrants here, again started by the far right, and again those pandering to it are people from the mainstream political parties.

    AMY GOODMAN: Can you give us, Robert, a history of the kind of attacks on outlets, newspapers, magazines, that have published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad?

    ROBERT MAHONEY: Well, if you go back to 2006, where the first attacks and death threats were against—

    AMY GOODMAN: Can you come directly onto the telephone? We’re having a problem hearing you.

    ROBERT MAHONEY: I said the first attacks were against Jyllands-Posten, the Danish paper that published a cartoon—

    AMY GOODMAN: Let me go back to Tariq, because we’re having a problem hearing you. Tariq, let me put that question to you: If you can give people a sense of the history of these kind of attacks?

    TARIQ ALI: [inaudible] first big attacks came in the Danish paper, a right-wing conservative paper which, as many of my Danish friends pointed out at the time, during the Second World War had been closely allied to the Third Reich and the Nazis, and that this newspaper was leading this particular form of struggle, supposedly for free speech, but effectively targeting Islam, the Islamic religion and its prophet. This then became a big free speech issue and was mimicked elsewhere, including by Charlie Hebdo in France. Now, the more cynical people in France said the Charlie Hebdo circulation was failing, going down, and they needed to revive it, and the best way to revive it was of course by becoming campaigners for free speech and publishing provocative attacks on Islam as such. So, they, of course, denied it. It became a big free speech issue. And many people said that it was two forms of fundamentalism fighting each other—A, a tiny group of Islamic fundamentalists targeting these magazines, and B, secular fundamentalists trying to provoke and anger people, in general—and that neither was doing anyone a favor.

    AMY GOODMAN: Tariq Ali and Robert Mahoney, we want to thank you for being with us. We’ll continue to bring people the latest as we learn it. At this point what we know is 12 people have been killed, shot dead in the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo’s offices—they have recently published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad—10 journalists and two police, we believe. Reuters is reporting that others have been critically injured. This is in Paris, France. Tariq Ali is the British-Pakistani political commentator, historian, filmmaker, novelist, editor of the New Left Review. And Robert Mahoney is deputy director of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

    This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, we’ll talk about the Ferguson grand jury and a grand juror who wants to speak out. If a grand juror in Missouri speaks out, the person could face up to a year in prison. Stay with us.

    The Republican Strategy to Repeal Dodd-Frank

    Truthout - Thu, 01/08/2015 - 11:56

    On January 7, 2015, Day 2 of the new Congress, the House Republicans put their cards on the table with regard to the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reforms. The Republicans will chip away along all possible dimensions, using a combination of legislation and pressure on regulators – with the ultimate goal of relaxing the restrictions that have been placed on the activities of very large banks (such as Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase).

    The initial target is the Volcker Rule, which limits the ability of megabanks to place very large proprietary bets – and their ability to incur massive losses, with big negative consequences for the rest of us. But we should expect the House Republican strategy to be applied more broadly, including all kinds of measures that will reduce capital requirements (i.e., make it easier for the largest banks to fund themselves with relatively more debt and less equity, taking more risk while remaining Too Big To Fail and thus benefiting from larger implicit government subsidies.)

    The repeal of Dodd-Frank will not come in one fell swoop. Rather House Republicans are moving in several stages to reduce the scope of the Volcker Rule and to gut its effectiveness.

    The first step in this direction came on Wednesday, with a bill brought to the floor of the House supposedly to “make technical corrections” to Dodd-Frank. This legislation was not considered in the House Financial Services Committee, and was rushed to the House floor without allowing the usual debate or potential for amendments (formally, there was a “suspension” of House rules).

    Buried in this legislation is Title VIII, which will extend the deadline for one important aspect of Volcker Rule compliance to 2019. (The specific topic is by when big banks should divest themselves of some Collateralized Loan Obligations, CLOs – on how these investments function as internal hedge funds at the largest three banks, see this primer from Better Markets, a pro-reform group.)

    Some very large banks and House Republicans previously asked to extend this deadline for CLO compliance through 2017, and a full extension was actually granted by the Federal Reserve in 2014. (Specifically, in April 2014 the Fed extended the divestment deadline for CLOs to 2017and then, in December 2014, extended the divestment for all covered funds under the Volcker Rule until 2017.)

    Now that Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo already have the extension through 2017, they immediately ask for… an extension through 2019.

    The strategy here is clear: delay for as long as possible. Perhaps the regulators will cave in, again, under pressure. Perhaps the White House will agree to another rollback of Dodd-Frank, for example attached to a spending bill – which is what happened in December 2014. (Remember that government spending is only authorized until September 2015, so there will be plenty of opportunities).

    And perhaps, after November 2016, a Republican president will work with a Republican Congress to eliminate all parts of Dodd-Frank that crimp the style of very large leveraged financial firms.

    On Wednesday, the Republican bill that would have weakened the Volcker Rule actually failed – under the suspension of the rules, it needed two-thirds of all members present in order to pass, and the vote was 276 in favor and 146 against. When enough Democrats hold together, they can make a difference.

    But all of this is just a warm-up. In coming months we should expect: the largest few banks (always masquerading as representing the social interest) will pressure for a change in technical definitions, e.g., what kind of hedge fund they are allowed to own and what it means to “own” something. They will ask for more delays and “clarifications”. And they will argue that lending to some category of firms (“job creators”) should be exempt from any kind of restriction.

    Section 716, which would have forced big banks to keep their derivatives business somewhat separated from their insured deposits, was repealed in December 2014. This measure primarily benefited Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase. At the time, some Democrats – including people close to the White House – said, not to worry, “we’ll always have the Volcker Rule.”

    In fact, the signal from the repeal of Section 716 is that the store is open. The White House had previously said “no” to any proposed repeal of Dodd-Frank, including when attached to a spending bill. This moratorium has clearly been lifted, and the lobbyists are hard at work.

    The House Republican rhetoric will be “technical fixes” and “job creation”. But the reality is that they are determined to strip away all meaningful restrictions imposed on Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, and other megabanks – and to roll-back Dodd-Frank as far as possible, until it becomes meaningless or they are finally able to repeal it completely.

    The Republican Strategy to Repeal Dodd-Frank

    Truthout - Thu, 01/08/2015 - 11:56

    On January 7, 2015, Day 2 of the new Congress, the House Republicans put their cards on the table with regard to the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reforms. The Republicans will chip away along all possible dimensions, using a combination of legislation and pressure on regulators – with the ultimate goal of relaxing the restrictions that have been placed on the activities of very large banks (such as Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase).

    The initial target is the Volcker Rule, which limits the ability of megabanks to place very large proprietary bets – and their ability to incur massive losses, with big negative consequences for the rest of us. But we should expect the House Republican strategy to be applied more broadly, including all kinds of measures that will reduce capital requirements (i.e., make it easier for the largest banks to fund themselves with relatively more debt and less equity, taking more risk while remaining Too Big To Fail and thus benefiting from larger implicit government subsidies.)

    The repeal of Dodd-Frank will not come in one fell swoop. Rather House Republicans are moving in several stages to reduce the scope of the Volcker Rule and to gut its effectiveness.

    The first step in this direction came on Wednesday, with a bill brought to the floor of the House supposedly to “make technical corrections” to Dodd-Frank. This legislation was not considered in the House Financial Services Committee, and was rushed to the House floor without allowing the usual debate or potential for amendments (formally, there was a “suspension” of House rules).

    Buried in this legislation is Title VIII, which will extend the deadline for one important aspect of Volcker Rule compliance to 2019. (The specific topic is by when big banks should divest themselves of some Collateralized Loan Obligations, CLOs – on how these investments function as internal hedge funds at the largest three banks, see this primer from Better Markets, a pro-reform group.)

    Some very large banks and House Republicans previously asked to extend this deadline for CLO compliance through 2017, and a full extension was actually granted by the Federal Reserve in 2014. (Specifically, in April 2014 the Fed extended the divestment deadline for CLOs to 2017and then, in December 2014, extended the divestment for all covered funds under the Volcker Rule until 2017.)

    Now that Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo already have the extension through 2017, they immediately ask for… an extension through 2019.

    The strategy here is clear: delay for as long as possible. Perhaps the regulators will cave in, again, under pressure. Perhaps the White House will agree to another rollback of Dodd-Frank, for example attached to a spending bill – which is what happened in December 2014. (Remember that government spending is only authorized until September 2015, so there will be plenty of opportunities).

    And perhaps, after November 2016, a Republican president will work with a Republican Congress to eliminate all parts of Dodd-Frank that crimp the style of very large leveraged financial firms.

    On Wednesday, the Republican bill that would have weakened the Volcker Rule actually failed – under the suspension of the rules, it needed two-thirds of all members present in order to pass, and the vote was 276 in favor and 146 against. When enough Democrats hold together, they can make a difference.

    But all of this is just a warm-up. In coming months we should expect: the largest few banks (always masquerading as representing the social interest) will pressure for a change in technical definitions, e.g., what kind of hedge fund they are allowed to own and what it means to “own” something. They will ask for more delays and “clarifications”. And they will argue that lending to some category of firms (“job creators”) should be exempt from any kind of restriction.

    Section 716, which would have forced big banks to keep their derivatives business somewhat separated from their insured deposits, was repealed in December 2014. This measure primarily benefited Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase. At the time, some Democrats – including people close to the White House – said, not to worry, “we’ll always have the Volcker Rule.”

    In fact, the signal from the repeal of Section 716 is that the store is open. The White House had previously said “no” to any proposed repeal of Dodd-Frank, including when attached to a spending bill. This moratorium has clearly been lifted, and the lobbyists are hard at work.

    The House Republican rhetoric will be “technical fixes” and “job creation”. But the reality is that they are determined to strip away all meaningful restrictions imposed on Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, and other megabanks – and to roll-back Dodd-Frank as far as possible, until it becomes meaningless or they are finally able to repeal it completely.

    Peter Linebaugh: Who Owns the Commons? An 800 Year Fight for Public Goods

    Truthout - Thu, 01/08/2015 - 11:49

    This year marks the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, and this week's show marks that occasion with a discussion on the rights of the commons with author Peter Linebaugh. We also visit a community center in Caracas, and hear from youth voices about life and revolution in Venezuela.

    We join the radical arts collective Otro Beta in Caracas, Venezuela to learn about the work, and what they have to say to the people of the United States.

    Peter Linebaugh: Who Owns the Commons? An 800 Year Fight for Public Goods

    Truthout - Thu, 01/08/2015 - 11:49

    This year marks the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, and this week's show marks that occasion with a discussion on the rights of the commons with author Peter Linebaugh. We also visit a community center in Caracas, and hear from youth voices about life and revolution in Venezuela.

    We join the radical arts collective Otro Beta in Caracas, Venezuela to learn about the work, and what they have to say to the people of the United States.

    Tilting at Turbines

    Truthout - Thu, 01/08/2015 - 11:40

    A row of 20 windmills in the waters just outside Copenhagen, Denmark. (Photo: Peter Kirkeskov Rasmussen / Flickr)

    United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and several of John D. Rockefeller’s heirs have some investment advice for you.

    They want you, your college or alma mater, your local firefighters’ pension fund, and all other investors — big and small — to adopt a new financial strategy.

    They’re calling for everyone to shed their oil, gas, and coal assets while actively investing in solar and wind power, along with other climate-friendly industries.

    Are they tilting at windmills?

    Sagging oil prices have been dragging down shares in solar and wind power companies since the middle of 2014. After rising early in the year, most renewable energy stocks fell by December 31. They underperformed the Dow Jones Industrial average, which climbed 7.5 percent.

    But dirty-energy industries fared worse. Coal and fracking stocks plunged more than 20 percent.

    Renewable-energy stocks slumped because many investors wrongly assume that cheap oil will sap demand for solar panels and wind turbines.

    For one thing, solar power is on fire. New installations go online every three minutes, and the sun’s rays are fueling more than a third of the electric power installed last year across the country.

    Wind energy is also flourishing after growing 26.2 percent a year for nearly two decades worldwide. Those modernistic turbines now boost grids in many of the most conservative and oil-rich corners of the United States, including TexasNorth Dakota, and Oklahoma.

    While climate concerns do help, market forces are driving this surge.

    Generating a kilowatt of solar energy today costs less than 1 percent of what it cost in 1977Both wind and solar are becoming increasingly competitive against dirtier energy options. And on average, US homeowners can bank on saving $20,000 or more within two decades of sticking solar panels on their roofs.

    “It isn’t often we have an opportunity to both do well and do good,” Wallace Global Fund executive director Ellen Dorsey wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

    Yet that’s the case today for people and institutions which, like Wallace, divested from oil, coal, and gas over the past two years — and then channeled money into wind, solar, energy efficiency, and other climate solutions.

    The Guggenheim Solar exchange-traded fund (ETF) zoomed up 128 percent in 2013, while the First Trust ISE Global Wind Energy ETF jumped 65 percent. These renewable-energy benchmarks blew past the Dow’s 26.5 percent gain that bull-market year.

    Even with last year’s decline, solar shares increased 118 percent and wind stocks gained 46.5 percent over the course of 2013 and 2014, outshining the Dow’s cumulative 36 percent rise. In contrast, standard oil and gas stocks inched up 11 percent, fracking shares sank 3 percent, and coal shares plummeted 42 percent during that period.

    Of course, the market has foolishly snubbed the immense promise of wind and solar power before. Many individual stocks in these industries fizzled between 2010 and 2012, and they remain far below levels seen prior to the 2008 crash.

    But I think the past two years say more than the previous five about how the stock market will treat these industries from now on.

    While renewable energy remains vulnerable to volatility as governments phase subsidies in and out, it’s poised for massive growth.

    Consider this: Thanks partly to China’s efforts to stamp out smog by closing coal-fired power plants, solar power alone may fuel half the global grid by 2050, according to the International Energy Agency. That would mark a major transformation from its global market share today of under 1 percent worldwide and less than 2 percent in the United States.

    What about wind? It generates about 5.5 percent of America’s electricity and has plenty of room to grow.

    Wall Street will eventually accept renewable power’s full potential. In the meantime, you can do well by doing good by heeding that call from Ban, Tutu, and the Rockefellers.

    Tilting at Turbines

    Truthout - Thu, 01/08/2015 - 11:40

    A row of 20 windmills in the waters just outside Copenhagen, Denmark. (Photo: Peter Kirkeskov Rasmussen / Flickr)

    United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and several of John D. Rockefeller’s heirs have some investment advice for you.

    They want you, your college or alma mater, your local firefighters’ pension fund, and all other investors — big and small — to adopt a new financial strategy.

    They’re calling for everyone to shed their oil, gas, and coal assets while actively investing in solar and wind power, along with other climate-friendly industries.

    Are they tilting at windmills?

    Sagging oil prices have been dragging down shares in solar and wind power companies since the middle of 2014. After rising early in the year, most renewable energy stocks fell by December 31. They underperformed the Dow Jones Industrial average, which climbed 7.5 percent.

    But dirty-energy industries fared worse. Coal and fracking stocks plunged more than 20 percent.

    Renewable-energy stocks slumped because many investors wrongly assume that cheap oil will sap demand for solar panels and wind turbines.

    For one thing, solar power is on fire. New installations go online every three minutes, and the sun’s rays are fueling more than a third of the electric power installed last year across the country.

    Wind energy is also flourishing after growing 26.2 percent a year for nearly two decades worldwide. Those modernistic turbines now boost grids in many of the most conservative and oil-rich corners of the United States, including TexasNorth Dakota, and Oklahoma.

    While climate concerns do help, market forces are driving this surge.

    Generating a kilowatt of solar energy today costs less than 1 percent of what it cost in 1977Both wind and solar are becoming increasingly competitive against dirtier energy options. And on average, US homeowners can bank on saving $20,000 or more within two decades of sticking solar panels on their roofs.

    “It isn’t often we have an opportunity to both do well and do good,” Wallace Global Fund executive director Ellen Dorsey wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

    Yet that’s the case today for people and institutions which, like Wallace, divested from oil, coal, and gas over the past two years — and then channeled money into wind, solar, energy efficiency, and other climate solutions.

    The Guggenheim Solar exchange-traded fund (ETF) zoomed up 128 percent in 2013, while the First Trust ISE Global Wind Energy ETF jumped 65 percent. These renewable-energy benchmarks blew past the Dow’s 26.5 percent gain that bull-market year.

    Even with last year’s decline, solar shares increased 118 percent and wind stocks gained 46.5 percent over the course of 2013 and 2014, outshining the Dow’s cumulative 36 percent rise. In contrast, standard oil and gas stocks inched up 11 percent, fracking shares sank 3 percent, and coal shares plummeted 42 percent during that period.

    Of course, the market has foolishly snubbed the immense promise of wind and solar power before. Many individual stocks in these industries fizzled between 2010 and 2012, and they remain far below levels seen prior to the 2008 crash.

    But I think the past two years say more than the previous five about how the stock market will treat these industries from now on.

    While renewable energy remains vulnerable to volatility as governments phase subsidies in and out, it’s poised for massive growth.

    Consider this: Thanks partly to China’s efforts to stamp out smog by closing coal-fired power plants, solar power alone may fuel half the global grid by 2050, according to the International Energy Agency. That would mark a major transformation from its global market share today of under 1 percent worldwide and less than 2 percent in the United States.

    What about wind? It generates about 5.5 percent of America’s electricity and has plenty of room to grow.

    Wall Street will eventually accept renewable power’s full potential. In the meantime, you can do well by doing good by heeding that call from Ban, Tutu, and the Rockefellers.

    Saving the ICC from African thugtators

    2014-12-18 - http://hiiraanweyn.net/2014/12/05/icc-drops-uhuru-kenyatta-charges-for-kenya-ethnic-violence/When an African president accused of multiple crimes against humanity walks out of court by orchestrating an unprecedented and audacious obstruction of justice, it is not just a flagrant denial of justice to the thousands of victims. It is an outrage against all humanity. It is an affront to the rule of law. It is the triumph of injustice.

    Kenya Security Bill tramples on basic rights

    Lawmakers should reject amendments 2014-12-18 - http://www.africanexecutive.com/modules/magazine/articles.php?article=5985The hastily drafted security bill infringes on many basic rights and freedoms protected in Kenya’s constitution and international human rights law. The authorities need to focus on how Kenyan security agencies have long violated human rights with impunity, and not empower these forces further.

    An advisory on the Security Laws (Ammendment) Bill 2004

    2014-12-18 - http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=1057237&page=2The Kenya government is pushing a raft of changes to security laws that if enacted would return the country to the dark days of dictatorship. An analysis of the Bill by the country’s statutory human rights body reveals that the proposed changes are momentous and seek to amend the Bill of Rights without a referendum and fundamentally alter the principles of criminal justice.

    The government knows best

    2014-12-18 - http://westfm.co.ke/index-page-news-bid-12070.htmToday, barely four years after it was inaugurated with much pomp and ceremony, Kenya’s new constitution is being undone. The Security Amendment Bill introduced in Parliament last week portends the return of the all-powerful, unchecked executive and its intrusion into almost every facet of Kenyans’ lives.

    Do you know it's Christmas?

    2014-12-18 - http://www.skibbereeneagle.ie/uncategorized/band-aid-30-bono-hand-god/Sir Bob Geldof, this is 2014. Your time is up. Go away. Africa does not need stereotype-spewing, self-serving White saviours.

    All that glitters is not gold

    The Rusty Radiator Awards have a bitter aftertaste 2014-12-18 - https://storify.com/saih/rusty-radiator-who-wants-to-be-a-volunteer While campaigns such as the Golden and Rusty Radiator Awards raise awareness of Western development organizations’ unjust views of the global South, they do not go far enough. Critiques of cliché media representation must be coupled with critiques of fundamentally unbalanced power structures.

    The pope and poverty

    2014-12-18 - http://communitytable.com/257470/michelechollow/pope-francis-on-animals/ Regardless of one’s religious persuasions, Pope Francis’ views on poverty are quite progressive. He insists that as long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world's problems. Inequality is the root of social ills.

    Lewis Hamilton: A study in courage presiding over a race to the real end

    2014-12-18 - https://smirror.co.uk Hamilton is a brilliant racer and a bona fide daredevil, already a legend. But in a world where so many people live in darkness starved of fuel, and oil extraction has caused so much suffering to communities, global warming and environmental activists must question motor sports: the misuse of fuel for the sole purpose of going fast.

    Agricultural international cooperation in Africa

    Opportunities and challenges for inclusive growth and sustainable development 2014-12-18 - http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/education-building-blocks/literacy/literacy-prizes/2010/malawi/ The narrative of“Africa is rising” has been echoing all over the world. A high-level international conference in China discussed what that really means and the role of agriculture and foreign stakeholders to create sustainable development that serves the African people.

    Call for papers: Towards the 8th Pan African Congress

    2014-12-18 The 8th Pan African Congress has been rescheduled to March 2015. Writers, researchers, academics and everyone else interested are invited to send in articles covering a broad range of themes.

    ‘Public security’ means the president’s misuse of power to violate rights and entrench sectarian rule

    2014-12-18 There is no doubt in Kenya that the Jubilee Administration is hell-bent on eroding the democratic gains achieved in the country through many years of blood and tears. Uhuru Kenyatta must not be allowed to establish a new dictatorship.
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