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Endless austerity in UK budget tailored to big business and wealthy

Julie Hyland  RINF Alternative News UK Chancellor George Osborne’s budget Wednesday was full of the usual sound bites about helping “hard working families”, “savers” and “do-ers.” Described...

UK Budget Damages The Poor, Protects The Rich

Simon Basketter  RINF Alternative News Tory chancellor George Osborne declared today, Wednesday, “The message from this budget is this: You've earned it, you've saved it. This government is...

UK Budget Protects Corrupt Energy Corps

Surprise surprise, as the mainstream media subserviently celebrates the announcement that a pint of beer will now be 1p cheaper, what is seemingly an act of misdirection, George Osborne has gotten away with it again.

UK Budget 2008: What it Means to You

High-polluting vehicles will be hit harder, but incentives for green cars will be introduced and fuel duty rises shelved, announced Chancellor Alistair Darling in...

Yoga in India, juggling in Africa… How else is the EU spending Britain’s foreign...

British taxpayer contributions to the European Union’s collective foreign-aid budget were up by £177 million...

UK’s soldiers and spies face penetrating review amid budget fears

Published time: 21 Jul, 2017 09:59 British military and intelligence agencies will be subjected to...

UKIP says Britain should slash its foreign aid budget

The UK Independence Party (UKIP) is calling for an 80 percent cut to the foreign...

Former colony India’s defense spending to overtake UK war budget

India looks set to outstrip its shrinking ex-colonizer Britain in terms of defense spending within...

Budgeting for Trident nukes robs the vulnerable of welfare – CND

Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons system directs money away from those who need it most, Campaign...
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Video: ‘More money, more fighter jets’: Cameron to increase UK military budget to counter...

UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the country's military budget will be increased to fight Islamic State. The UK may also unite its...

UK Kinship carers at risk of poverty, debt due to budget cuts

A new report says that tens of thousands of kinship carers risk sever poverty, debt and losing their homes as a result of government’s...

UK Conservative budget heralds ever deeper austerity

Via WSWS. This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license. By Julie Hyland Conservative Chancellor George Osborne unveiled his second budget in four...

US budget row can harm UK pension funds

The US government budget row can seriously damage pensions savings for British elderly, a former head of the Saga Group, which provides insurance and...

UK PM claim on military budget rapped

British Prime Minister David Cameron™s claim that the UK has the world™s fourth largest defence budget is œno more than a shallow sound-bite”, a...

UK Treasury hints Scottish budget cuts

Britainâ„¢s Treasury signals Scottish budget cuts.Britainâ„¢s Treasury has signaled major cuts to the Scottish budget for the 2015-16 financial year, after six government departments...

UK ministers warned over budget cuts

British Chancellor Osborne warns cabinet ministers over budget cuts.British Chancellor George Osborne has warned cabinet ministers over spending settlements with the Treasury. Osborne said ministers,...

Slash welfare budget, pour money into security – UK

The UK has proposed slashing welfare funding to divert it to the police and armed forces in the wake of the Woolwich attacks, despite...

UK 2013 budget can’t save poor children

British Chancellor George Osborne’s policies on personal tax allowance will do almost nothing for poor children in the country who are going to be hit by the government’s squeeze on tax credits and benefits, a charity warns.

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) warned that the 2013 budget, delivered by Osborne yesterday, has failed to change the fact that 600,000 more children will be dragged into poverty during the coalition’s time in office.

“The chancellor described it as a budget for families, with children, looking to work hard and aspiring to get on," said Alison Garnham, chief executive of the charity group.

"But most low-income families have very few reasons to be cheerful and plenty to be fearful."

She also argued that the Chancellor’s plans for raising personal tax allowance, from £8,105 to £9,440 next month and to £10,000 from April 2014 will do almost nothing for the parents on the lowest incomes.

"Some don't pay tax anyway, while others keep just 15 percent in every extra £1 because their in-work benefits like housing benefit get withdrawn," she said.

Earlier in March, Britain’s largest unions body the Trades Unions Congress (TUC) announced that over half a million more British children will be pushed “below the breadline” in the next two years as a result of the government’s welfare cuts, tax rises and wage freezes.

MOS/HE

UK civil servants stage mass strike on budget day (PHOTOS)

Published time: March 21, 2013 06:47
Striking members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) picket the Houses of Parliament on budget day, in central London, March 20, 2013 (Reuters / Toby Melville)

A quarter of a million UK civil servants staged a mass walk-out in protest of sweeping budget cuts. Union members claim the government has refused to negotiate on their contested budget and have launched a three-month campaign to push their demands.

The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) has warned that the budget day strikes are just the tip of the iceberg and “the start of a rolling program of walkouts and disruptive action to put pressure on a government."

Striking civil servants marched on number 10 Downing Street voicing their outrage at government cuts to pensions and wage packets, while the PCS held a rally in Westminster during Chancellor George Osborne’s speech.

"Civil and public servants are working harder than ever to provide the services we all rely on but, instead of rewarding them, the government is imposing cuts to their pay, raiding their pensions and trying to rip up their basic working conditions,” said General Secretary of the PCS  Mark Serwotka.

Screenshot taken from Ruptly footage.

The British government criticized the civil servant strike as counterproductive. Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude decried the walk-out as

“futile” and described its impact as

“minimal.” "The public will have been inconvenienced to a very small extent by the strike today," he said to press.

He claimed that only 95,000 staff members took part in the mass walk-out, while the PCS disputes this, putting the total figure at around 250,000.

PCS members who work in customs offices, immigration and job centers are demanding a 5 per cent pay rise.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne unveiled the UK’s 2013 budget on Wednesday, prompting the nation’s growth forecast to be downgraded by more than half over the next year.

Screenshot taken from Ruptly footage.

Screenshot taken from Ruptly footage.

Screenshot taken from Ruptly footage.

May she go? Paying off Brussels while cutting troops could spark Tory rebellion —...

Theresa May could well have just signed her own political death warrant. Putting her signature...

Chancellor makes spectacular gaffe on air (VIDEO) — RT UK News

Published time: 19 Nov, 2017 15:19 As the Tory party struggles to put out the...

New kind of politics, huh? Theresa May’s husband linked to Paradise Papers — RT...

Published time: 17 Nov, 2017 10:24 Edited time: 17 Nov, 2017 10:40 Theresa May’s husband...

Tory austerity is ‘economic murder’ linked to 120,000 deaths – study — RT UK...

Published time: 16 Nov, 2017 12:55 Tory austerity policies may actually be killing people, according...

‘Only a matter of time before Britain’s insecure military bases are attacked’ — RT...

Published time: 15 Nov, 2017 17:22 Edited time: 15 Nov, 2017 17:31 Security concerns raised...

Rees-Mogg resurrects ‘bogus’ claim that Brexit will give hospitals £350mn extra per week —...

Jacob Rees-Mogg has resuscitated the widely debunked pro-Brexit claim that leaving the EU would deliver...

N. Korea could nuke London in 18 months & UK armed forces ‘can’t deal...

A retired military chief has issued a grim warning: Britain’s “broken” army is 20 years...

Tory Brexiteer warns rich to get money out of UK, invest elsewhere in hypocritical...

A senior Tory politician has urged the wealthy to pull their money out of the...

UK Minister Forced to Resign Over Secret Israel Meetings as Questions Continue to Swirl

A British government minister was apparently so dedicated to her work that she spent a “family holiday” in Israel conducting 12 undisclosed meetings with...

Is this justice? Here’s a list of those who HAVE and HAVE NOT been...

Cuts to the UK legal aid system have prompted a Great British backlash after it...

How Britain’s welfare system is actually plunging people further into poverty — RT UK...

Universal Credit is the government’s flagship welfare program - yet there is copious evidence that...

Palestinian envoy to UK slams ‘severe deterioration’ in relations following Priti Patel scandal —...

Published time: 9 Nov, 2017 12:09 Palestine’s ambassador to the UK condemned the “severe deterioration...

US general warns cuts will leave Britain defenseless, veterans say worse to come —...

Published time: 8 Nov, 2017 14:46 Britain must stop cutting its armed forces budget or...

British arms sales to Saudi Arabia jump 500% as coalition seals off Yemen borders...

The sale of UK-made bombs and missiles to Saudi Arabia has leapt by almost 500...

Navy ‘cannibalizing’ ships for parts, leaving vessels out of action — RT UK News

Published time: 1 Nov, 2017 08:30 Edited time: 2 Nov, 2017 08:20 The Royal Navy...

‘Freelance foreign policy’? Tory Minister Priti Patel held undisclosed meetings in Israel — RT...

Published time: 3 Nov, 2017 10:53 Edited time: 4 Nov, 2017 09:11 Tory MP Priti...

Military, media & MPs lash out at Williamson’s MoD promotion — RT UK News

Theresa May is facing a backlash from the military, the media and even her own...

Cash over kids? Cuts mean London police will close stations in face of soaring...

Hundreds of teenagers have been stabbed in Britain’s capital – 74 people killed in 2017...

Will US lawmakers give Trump blank check to nuke North Korea? — RT US...

With the White House asking Congress for a renewed and unrestricted Authorization for Use of Military...

London mayor accuses govt of ‘dragging its feet’ on counter-terrorism — RT UK News

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has hit out at the government for failing to play...

Is austerity leaving Britain wide open to attack? Tories keep dodging the question —...

Published time: 24 Oct, 2017 18:52 The UK government plans to scrap naval ships and...

Boots on the ground? UK anti-ISIS mission stepped up as troops deploy beyond Iraqi...

Published time: 24 Oct, 2017 14:22 UK soldiers will patrol outside their base in Iraq...

RT reports from Moria — RT UK

British aid money is propping up a European migrant camp routinely likened to a prison....

The Balanced Budget

<!-- This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or...

‘Desperate’ Ryanair pleads with pilots to come back amid mass flight cancellations — RT...

Published time: 19 Oct, 2017 13:08 Managers at budget airline Ryanair are pleading with pilots...

Declassified files finally expose failures that allowed Argentine missile to sink British warship —...

Published time: 16 Oct, 2017 12:43 Documents detailing a long list of failings have been...

Warning nation’s defenses under threat as arms giant BAE Systems cuts thousands of jobs...

Published time: 10 Oct, 2017 10:14 Edited time: 11 Oct, 2017 07:43 The UK’s manufacturing...

Prison staff ‘attacked with pool balls’ by rioting inmates — RT UK

Published time: 12 Oct, 2017 09:24 Edited time: 13 Oct, 2017 08:31 Prison staff were...

UK school funding crisis worsens

  ...

Is Brexit dead? Tory rebels turn on May’s Brexit Bill with 300 amendments, 54...

Just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse for Theresa May, they just did. ...

#BoycottRyanair: Budget airline roasted on social media over flight cancellations

Published time: 28 Sep, 2017 14:50 Passengers left stranded by Ryanair’s ongoing flight cancellations have...

Trump Tax "Hoax" Would Blow $5 Trillion Hole In Budget Over Next Decade: Analysis

Trumpcare may be dead again (for a while at least) on Tuesday, but Republicans now want to get serious about what they call "tax...

Masters of War: Senate Defense Budget Set to Exceed One Third of Global Military...

Photo by The U.S. Army | CC BY 2.0 Come you masters of warYou that build all the gunsYou that build the death planesYou that...

NYT Lets Think Tank Funded by Gov’t and Arms Industry Claim Huge US Military...

The New York Times (9/18/17) quoted CSIS’s Anthony Cordesman saying that Sen. John McCain “has lived with underfunding of the military, seen the impact...

Britain will have ‘3rd World’ navy if budget is cut, says ex-first sea lord

Britain could end up with a navy like a “Third World nation” unless ministers commit...

UK territories devastated by Irma ‘too wealthy’ for foreign aid

Published time: 14 Sep, 2017 09:40 Edited time: 15 Sep, 2017 17:56 British territories devastated...

Juncker’s Brexit ‘warning’: What he ACTUALLY said & what the UK media reported

His speech was 6,000 words long – but just five of them made the news...

Juncker’s Brexit ‘warning’: What he ACTUALLY said & what the UK media reported

His speech was 6,000 words long – but just five of them made the news...

UK should stop training Myanmar soldiers amid Rohingya Muslim ‘ethnic cleansing’ – activists

Britain must stop “legitimizing human rights abusers” and halt its training of Myanmar soldiers amid...

UK ‘left vulnerable’ as Tories cut military manpower and machines, warns ex-General

Published time: 7 Sep, 2017 14:15 Deep and damaging budget cuts to the armed forces...

UKIP leadership candidate wants to pay British Indians to leave country

Published time: 18 Aug, 2017 12:45 British Indians and Tanzanians should be paid to leave...

The Story of Charlottesville was Written in Blood in the Ukraine

What is the character of racist right-wing politics today? Is it the crazed white supremacist who plows into an anti-fascist demonstration in Charlottesville, VA...

The Story of Charlottesville Was Written in Blood in the Ukraine

Photo by Sasha Maksymenko | CC BY 2.0 What is the character of racist right-wing politics today? Is it the crazed white supremacist who plows...

GOP's Deja Vu Budget Slashes Social Programs to Fund Tax Cuts for Rich

House Republicans are under fire for their new 10-year budget blueprint, released Tuesday, that proposes increasing military spending by $72.4 billion while slashing more...

Ending austerity could unleash economic shock on Britain, warns budget watchdog

Published time: 14 Jul, 2017 09:29 Ending the Tory program of austerity cuts and increasing...

$700bn Pentagon bill funds US presence in E. Europe & weapons for Ukraine

A Senate committee proposal for the 2018 military budget would further boost Pentagon spending on troops...

UK prepared to retaliate against cyberattackers with troops, airstrikes – Fallon

Britain is prepared to launch military retaliation including sending in troops and airstrikes against foreign...

Security of nuclear weapons threatened by UK military cuts – police chairman

Published time: 15 Jun, 2017 13:26 Budget cuts proposed for the Ministry of Defense’s (MoD)...

Brexit negotiations will start on Monday, UK govt confirms

Britain has announced that Brexit negotiations will begin on June 19, despite earlier speculation they...

Good for British industry? Amber Rudd makes ‘no apology’ for UK arms sales to...

Published time: 31 May, 2017 23:40 Edited time: 31 May, 2017 23:41 Amber Rudd, the...

#TheresaMayGIFs: UK PM’s Q&A performance sends Twitter into sarcasm spree

Published time: 30 May, 2017 01:30 Edited time: 30 May, 2017 01:32 Twitter users took...

US to switch from free military grants to loans for Ukraine & others

The US will scrap many of its sizeable foreign military grants and replace them with loans, the White House’s top finance official has said....

Terrorist attacks caused by foreign wars & police budget cuts – Corbyn

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will go on the offensive on Friday, connecting terrorist attacks at...

UK workers face ‘living standards crisis’ as real wages fall & prices rise

British workers have seen their real-terms pay fall for the first time in three years...

What is in the UK Labour Party’s manifesto?

  ...

The US Way of War Is a Budget-Breaker: Never Has a Society Spent More...

US Air Force Staff Sgt. Joshua Matrine, a crew chief with the 159th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, cleans the canopy on an F-15C Eagle aircraft...

Merkel to UK: Forget ‘illusion’ you’ll keep EU benefits post-Brexit

Britain is harboring “illusions” that it will retain most of its rights and privileges once it leaves the EU, according to German Chancellor Angela...

Trump’s budget cuts could ‘eviscerate’ USAID

The Trump administration’s budget proposal includes cuts of one to two-thirds in funding to the USAID...

Theresa May confirms Britain’s foreign aid budget will remain

Theresa May has confirmed she has no plans to cut the foreign aid budget amid...

UK sent North Korea £4mn in taxpayer-funded aid

Published time: 18 Apr, 2017 09:58 North Korea has received more than £4 million (US$5 million)...

UK schools can’t afford chairs or gym class because of cuts

Budget cuts have meant some schools in Britain are now making children carry their chairs around, holding classes of 64 and selling advertising space...

Right-Wing Foundation, Scary Nuke Maps Drive Narrative on North Korea ‘Threat’

Tensions between the United States and North Korea are making their way back into the news after a series of missile tests and presidential...

Trump’s Budget Assault on the Environment Packs a Wallop

Donald Trump’s first budget makes his antipathy to the environment clear—and his love for fossil fuels and nuclear power even clearer. In addition to slashing...

UK citizens should keep EU benefits post-Brexit, says Europe’s chief negotiator

Brussels's chief Brexit negotiator wants British citizens to continue to enjoy certain EU benefits even...

Hammond’s Budget ‘out of touch with reality’ for millions – Corbyn

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused Tory Chancellor Philip Hammond of setting out a “budget of complacency,” as the upbeat assessment of the UK economy...

Budget predictions: Chancellor to keep purse strings tight in last pre-Brexit financial statement

Chancellor Philip Hammond is expected to keep the strings to the British state purse pretty...

Hammond expected to build up Brexit cushion in budget statement

Published time: 5 Mar, 2017 16:27 The incoming budget statement is expected to announce good news...

1,000 rapists at large as budget cuts leave British police in ‘perilous state’

Published time: 2 Mar, 2017 12:21Edited time: 2 Mar, 2017 15:14 Criminal cases are being shelved...

More govt cuts ordered despite UK public services being at ‘tipping point’

Government departments have been ordered to find extra spending cuts from their day-to-day budget in order to save £3.5bn by 2020. David Gauke, the chief...

Next-generation UK warships have missile launchers… but no missiles

Britain’s advanced £8 billion ($9.9 billion) Type 26 warships are equipped with missile launchers, but lack the missiles for them, it is claimed. With the...

Millions of UK families on brink of poverty, report from leading think tank finds

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UK losing £300mn in aid fraud every year, and doesn’t even know it –...

The UK is losing up to £300 million ($377 million) per year to foreign aid...

Brexit could give £8bn extra spending money to UK government – IFS

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Failing ship engines & glitching drones: ‘Gaping holes’ in UK defense revealed in report

Ships so loud they can be heard 100 miles away, malfunctioning drones, and armored vehicles...

Britain’s foreign aid budget contradicts its national interests – ex-minister

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UK Supreme Court to rule if PM can trigger Brexit without parliamentary permission

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Russia could wipe out Britain on the battlefield ‘in an afternoon,’ says UK...

UK military capacity has been “hollowed out” to such an an extent, that it could...

Royal Navy faces £500m budget black hole after buying ships it doesn’t need

The Royal Navy faces a £500 million ($616 million) shortfall in its annual budget after...

Britain’s foreign aid budget is ‘exporting the dole’ to poor Pakistanis, says Tory MP

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British military secretly planning budget cuts, despite NATO spending pledge

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UK embassies adopt war footing with expanded Defence Attaché scheme

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UK think tank covertly funded by Bahrain royal family – leaked papers

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Autumn Statement exposes £122bn black hole in post-Brexit budget

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Human rights no more? UK to exempt troops from European Convention to stop ‘annoying’...

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BAE to begin work on UK’s multi-billion pound nuclear fleet

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UK spy agencies will be used to combat modern slavery

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Russia could ground UK’s F-35s by killing all 40 pilots – General’s memo

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UK gov’t plan to oppose ‘Russian propaganda’? Pump money into BBC

Among the measures the British government has proposed to counter alleged Russian ‘propaganda and disinformation’...

Obese people & smokers to be barred from routine operations in UK – officials

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Nuclear alert: 130 security breaches at UK atomic facilities in last 5 years

Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC) officers, charged with guarding the UK’s nuclear sites, admit there have...

Trident nuke renewal starving British Armed Forces of vital funding – ex-senior officer

No threat facing the UK is sufficient to justify the country’s nuclear arsenal and its...

UK sends destroyer to fight ISIS in Persian Gulf, despite its previous warm water...

The Royal Navy is sending its lead Daring-class air defense destroyer, the HMS Daring, to...

Royal Navy loses its only repair vessel to ‘sensible & cost-effective’ budget cuts

The Royal Navy’s only vessel capable of repairing British warships on the sea is being offered up for sale by the UK’s Ministry of...

Insect-sized ‘dragonfly drones’ for urban warfare among new £800mn UK tech projects

Tiny drones for urban warfare are among the projects that could soon be funded under...

1 in 3 UK households on brink of homelessness – Shelter

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Trident nuke renewal plan blown out the water by govt’s own watchdog

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‘These Agreements Depend on Secrecy in Order to Pass’ – CounterSpin interviews with Lori...

The July 22, 2016, episode of CounterSpin brought together three classic interviews on corporate trade pacts. This is a lightly edited transcript. ...

Brexit: UK could retain control of migration from EU for up to 7yrs while...

In a major concession from the EU, the UK could be exempted from free-movement rules...

UK’s post-Brexit future with America in old colonial stomping ground Asia, says academic

Britain must tie its fate more closely than ever to the US in the wake...

UK begs US to hurry F-35 deal through, while Royal Navy’s next-gen frigate ‘delayed...

Britain’s next generation of Global Combat Ships are going anywhere but global, amid budgeting problems...
video

Video: Wait for the BANG! UK national debt now £1.7tn, up £200bn/yr: George Osborne...

British Finance Minister George Osborne has abandoned the government's promise to eliminate the budget deficit by 2020, sparking forecasts of more austerity ... Via Youtube

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Scaremonger Alert! UK military to take massive hit if Leave campaign wins: Osborne

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Pacino and Hopkins flop earns less than £100 at UK box office

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Anti-nuke activists begin month-long blockade of atomic facility

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Generous or ‘mugs of the world’? 144% rise in UK aid spending enrages Tories

Tory MPs have rounded on Prime Minister David Cameron after new figures revealed British overseas...

UK Foreign Sec. reportedly tried to court martial top general for criticising military cuts

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UK prisoners “potential assets to be harnessed” for profit

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In pursuit of 2017 budget, Pentagon sees danger everywhere

Citing dangers to US military dominance, the Pentagon’s top civilian and military officials pleaded with Congress...

UK: Millions of low income families will be poorer under welfare reforms

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UK govt squandering £100mns in foreign aid money – MPs

Westminster is squandering hundreds of millions of pounds in foreign aid ring-fenced for humanitarian crises...

Gunboat diplomacy: UK is sending more soldiers to its embassies

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UK ‘behind’ developed world on child inequality – UNICEF

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UK prime minister defends super-rich in statement on Panama Papers revelations

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New British Empire? UK to re-establish military bases east of Suez

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UK Junior doctors dispute at a crossroads

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Budget airline Ryanair tells Brits ‘pay £6,000 to fly home from Brussels’

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video

Video: Richard Murphy on Budget 2016: The Big Lie: Osborne will never balance the...

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1% ‘hoovering up’ UK wealth, workers left struggling – Oxfam

Britain’s “privileged minority” are sucking up money at an astonishing rate while the poor and...

Austerity is an ideological smokescreen for class warfare – UK economists

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Deaths in UK jails hit record highs

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Many UK children go to school hungry

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Cameron Tells Muslim Women: Improve Your English or You May Have to Leave UK

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UK Labour leader urges party not to defy Conservative spending cuts

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UK Chancellor “negotiates” decimation of public services ahead of spending review

By Simon Whelan British Chancellor George Osborne has negotiated cuts with 11 governmental departments, ahead of next week’s spending review. The result will decimate already hard-pressed...

UK government outlines plans for expanding militarism and repression after Paris attacks

By Julie Hyland Prime Minister David Cameron has announced a massive increase in Britain’s military/intelligence apparatus following last week’s terror attacks in Paris. Cameron’s proposals were outlined...

“UK arms sales contribute to corruption”

A newly-conducted study has found that the vast amounts of arms sold with minimal oversight to Middle Eastern and North African states by the...

Osborne call on Labour MPs to vote in favor of govt. budget cuts

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One of the main points which is repeated in most debates is that the austerity measures would continue in the next five years.

“Obviously we had a 5 year coalition government where at least some of the extreme right-wing policies of the conservative party was controlled and managed by the Lib Dems. What we are likely to see is that the austerity measures now are taking a full speed,” London-based commentator Shabbir Razvi told Press TV.

He blamed the Conservatives politicians for not briefing the nations over the budgets allocated for various fields saying:” What we have is that austerity measures will continue unabated and really what this reflects is that Britain is very much a democracy, or a form of democracy, which can be bought by money.”

According to Razvi, at the end of last year, the electoral commission found that Tories received the largest amount of donations at 8 billion, the bulk of which came from financial associates in banks, different industries and business.

The analyst said the Tories are now going to follow the agenda of big corporations, big businesses saying what big corporations want is to create a sort of jargon and euphemistically it is called to create a competitive environment.

“What the multinational corporations want is that vast majority of the people in the UK to be working at a very minimum wage so that the corporations make bigger and bigger profits and at the same time cuts and the privatization of the national health service, cuts and the privatization of the police service, the fire service, and so on,” he noted.

 He then referred to the relatively low turnout in the general elections saying out of the 45 million people who were eligible for vote, only 30 million voted.

“That means the largest party that didn’t participate in the elections was the non-voters and the conservative party only got 35 percent of the popular vote, he said.

Razvi slammed the form of democracy in the UK saying that it appears that the form of democracy that is being practiced in the UK, the mother of all democracies, is not really quite democratic as it is run by big businesses, big media tycoons, and the rich and the wealthy.

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Ukraine’s New President

Ukraine's New President

by Stephen Lendman

He's like his predecessor. Coup-appointed. In his case anointed. By electoral rubber-stamping. 

He's anti-democratic. Fascist. Mega-crook. Neoliberal. Confrontational. Militant. Belligerent. Bellicose. Criminal.

Opposite what Ukrainians deserve. Straightaway he OK'd full-scale war without mercy. More on this below.

Russia wants Eastern Ukrainian military aggression halted. Obama wants it continued. He congratulated Ukrainians.

"(F)or making their voices heard," he said. For "the efforts of the Ukrainian government to conduct these elections in the face (of) provocations and violence," he claimed.

"This election is another important step forward in the efforts of the Ukrainian government to unify the country and reach out to all of its citizens to ensure their concerns are addressed and aspirations met," he said.

He ludicrously called Ukraine's fascist regime "democra(tic)." One fascist regime praised another's sham process. 

John Kerry did the same way. He called Ukraine's illegitimate election "historic."

"The successful conduct of these elections reaffirms Ukraine's commitment to the democratic process," he said. 

"The United States will continue to work with the people of Ukraine and the newly elected president to build on this victory for democracy."

At the same time, he condemned what he called "Russia's occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea."

He finds new ways to shame the office he holds. He's headed toward becoming America's worst ever Secretary of State. Obama exceeds the worst of his predecessors. 

Poroshenko is Washington's man in Kiev. He's billionaire oligarch. He made his money the old-fashioned way. He stole it.

He cut deals. He greased palms. He entered politics. For good reasons. For power. 

For better connections. For friends in high places. For business opportunities. To avoid prosecution. 

Ukrainian pols have immunity. As long as they're part of the system.

In 1998, Poroshenko entered politics. He won a Verkhovna Rada (parliament) seat. Initially he was a United Social Democratic Party of Ukraine member .

In 2000, he created a so-called independent Solidarity party. In 2001, he helped create the Party of Regions.

In 2001, he joined Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine Bloc opposition faction. In 2002 parliamentary elections, it won the largest popular vote share.

Poroshenko won a seat. He headed parliament's budget committee. He was accused of "misplacing" around 47 million hrynias (nearly $9 million).

In 2004, he broke ranks with other Party of Regions members. He help bankroll Orange Revolution plotters. 

Viktor Yanukovyh was illegitimately ousted. Viktor Yushchenko replaced him. Washington backed him.

Poroshenko was appointed National Security and Defense Council Secretary. In 2005, he was accused of corruption. It stemmed from state enterprise privatizations.

Friends in high places got all charges dropped. In March 2006, he retained his Verkhovna Rada seat. He chaired its Finance and Banking Committee.

In 2009, he was reappointed National Security and Defense Council Secretary.

From 2009 - 2010, he was Foreign Affairs Minister. In 2012, he was Trade and Economic Development Minister. 

From 2007 - 2012, he headed Ukraine's National Bank Council. In 2012, he returned to parliament. He did so as an independent member.

From November 2013  through February's coup, he helped bankroll Kiev putschists.

On March 29, 2014, he announced he'd run for president. On May 25, he was elected with about a 54.4% majority.

He supports joining NATO. Not now. He favors later. "(S)o as not to ruin the country," he said.

His business interests include food, automotive, shipping, and media. Bodgan Corporation is a leading Ukrainian car and bus manufacturer.

Roshen Confectionery Corporation earned Poroshenko the "Chocolate King" nickname. 

It's the world's 18th largest confectionery producer. Its products include chocolate and jelly sweets, caramel, chocolate, biscuits, waffles and cakes.

It's most famous for its Kiev Vechirniy chocolate candy and cakes. Overall, it produces about 200 confectionery products. Its output is around 410,000 tons annually.

English language 5 Kanal television channel features news and other programming. It broadcasts to Ukraine, Europe and Canada.

Leninska Kuznya shipyard produces river ships, industrial ones, small fishing vessels, self-propelled barges, related products and various military equipment.

Ukraine's changing of the guard changed nothing. Fascism defeated democracy. Full-scale war without mercy continues.

Scores of Donetsk area deaths were reported. According to its People's Republic Prime Minister Aleksandr Boroday:

"We’ve lost more than 50 self-defense fighters. Many of the casualties are a result of two Kamaz trucks having been shelled by the Ukrainian army." 

"The trucks were driving the wounded from the battlefield near the airport. Around 15 people died there."

"Two of our Kamaz trucks were fired at from the air and from an ambush on the ground."

They displayed medical assistance service flags. It didn't matter. 

"Shooting the wounded runs contrary to all international conventions." It's a war crime. So is aggressive war without mercy.

Self-defense fighters "were wounded. The car was driving them from a battlefield. First snipers shot the driver." 

"Then they fired point-blank at the rest from a shoulder-launcher." 

"The survivors were then gunned down by Right Sector militants. No one in the truck survived."

Ukrainian National Guard forces attacked an ambulance. It was transporting wounded self-defense fighters from Donetsk airport.

According to Donetsk People's Governor Pavel Gurarev, Ukrainian forces crossed the line.

"The junta has finally and irrevocably taken the path of crimes against humanity," he said. 

"Battle continues at the Putilov Bridge. The Right Sector fire mortar shells at anything that moves. Massive civilian casualties" followed.

Fighting continued Monday night into Tuesday morning. Helicopter gunships and warplanes are involved.

Ukrainian troops suffered losses. According to Boroday:

"They were on the offensive. That's why their losses have not been that big." 

"We intercept their conversations. They are demoralized, and are counting on breaking through from the airport."

Two Ukrainian military helicopters were shot down.

Fighting raged elsewhere in Donetsk. Residential areas were attacked. At least three civilians were killed. Others were wounded.

Donetsk People's Republic's (DNR) press service reported about 200 May 26 and 27 deaths. 

They include freedom fighters and civilians. One regime sniper shot a woman. 

She was at a railway terminal. Two other civilians there were killed. A child was wounded.

The terminal was set ablaze. Apparently from shell fire. Everyone inside was evacuated.

DNR's press service issued a report, stating: "Attention! We urgently need doctors, volunteers, donors."

Fighting rages in Mariupol. People's Republic of Donetsk headquarters there was targeted.

Attackers were either Right Sector thugs or foreign mercenaries. They wore unmarked black uniforms. No casualty count information was announced.

Sergey Lavrov issued a statement. He denounced ongoing hostilities. He wants them halted.

"Immediately stopping the use of the army against the population and ending any violence by all sides is the top priority task and 'endurance test' for the Kiev authorities," he said.

"We will firmly insist on it, and we will insist on the implementation of all other principles of the adopted Geneva statement."

"(I)t is absolutely necessary to immediately implement the agreements reached in the Geneva statement of April 17 and stop any violence."

Poroshenko wants to visit Russia by around mid-June. As long as hostilities continue, he's persona non grata.

"A Russian trip of Poroshenko is not being considered or discussed by diplomatic or any other channels," said Lavrov.

"As to the recent events, let me remind you that Poroshenko made a promise to unite the country in his election campaign." 

"He said yesterday his first trip would be made to Donbas but they have a real war there so far."

"He said that the so-called counterterrorist operation should be rapidly brought to an end, but suggested that should be done through intensification."

"If there are plans to suppress resistance in the southeast by the army powered with heavy armaments, the National Guard, Right Sector and their ilk before (his) inauguration…so that he comes to Donbas as a victor, I do not think that will create a good environment for the cordial welcome to the Donetsk region."

"The military operations must be stopped immediately," Lavrov stressed.

"We hope he will act in the interests of the Ukrainian people as a whole. If this is the case, he will find a serious and reliable partner in Russia."

At the same time, Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov said it's "too early" to invite Poroshenko to Moscow.

It's unclear whether Putin intends to congratulate him. If hostilities continue, most likely he'll condemn him.

On May 27, a Kremlin press office statement said:

"Putin has emphasized the necessity of immediately stopping the tactical punitive operation in southeastern regions and introducing peaceful dialogue between Kiev and representatives of the regions."

Fighting continues. It rages. More intensively than earlier. Until "self-defense units are neutralized," according to Kiev putschists.

It doesn't surprise. Fascist regimes operate this way. Ukraine is Europe's worst. 

Its most dangerous. Its most lawless. Its most ruthless. Poroshenko's election changed nothing.

It bears repeating. On Sunday, fascism won. Democracy lost. So did Ukrainians. What follows remains to be seen.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."


Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 


http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour 

Media Scoundrels on Sham Ukrainian Elections

Media Scoundrels on Sham Ukrainian Elections

by Stephen Lendman

Their comments didn't surprise. They supported sham Ukrainian elections. Throughout the run-up, voting and aftermath.

They endorse sham US ones. They pretend fantasy democracy is real. They do it every time. Unapologetically. With a straight face. 

The New York Times headlined "Election of President Seen as Beginning to Repairing Ukraine," saying:

Some Ukrainians called Sunday's election "the triumphant culmination of six months of protests and at times violent upheaval."

The Times claimed many people believe Ukraine is different than earlier. With "systemic government reforms." With "more on the way."

Citing unnamed "analysts" claiming unidentified "civic activists, combined with pressure from… International Monetary Fund demand(s) in exchange for…emergency financing…set Ukraine on a course…past…post-Soviet…corruption and mismanagement."

Unnamed "experts" were cited. "(I)mportant changes" were made, they claimed. Raising gas prices, The Times noted. It called it a step "experts" urged for years. 

Fact: Most Ukrainians are impoverished. 

Fact: Many deeply. 

Fact: Millions more heading for destitution.

Fact: IMF loan sharks demand bankers get paid first.

Fact: Then other major investors.

Fact: Debt service matters most.

Fact: Force-fed austerity is mandated.

Fact: When Ukrainians need help most of all.

Fact: Residual amounts pay depleted bureaucrat ranks. 

Fact: Those not sacked get poverty or sub-poverty wages.

Fact: Without benefits, hugely reduced ones, or too few to matter.

Fact: With virtually nothing for ordinary Ukrainians longterm.

Fact: Kiev putschists increased gas prices 50% starting May 1.

Fact: Ukraine's national oil and gas company Naftogaz hiked them 40% more beginning July 1. 

Fact: It promised further stiff increases ahead.

Fact: At the same time, Ukraine's central bank began limiting currency interventions. 

Fact: Since January 1, Ukraine's hryvnia currency lost over one-fourth of its dollar value. 

Fact: It may end up worthless.

Fact: Expect more deterioration ahead.

Fact: Pensioner income was halved.

Fact: It went from $160 to $80 dollars monthly.

Fact: Other social benefit cuts were made.

Fact: Across-the-board.

Fact: More coming.

Fact: Ordinary Ukrainians are hit hardest.

Fact: Kommersant-Ukraine (K-U) obtained an internal document.

Fact: "The Finance Ministry has prepared a plan for optimizing budget expenditures, which implies budget sequestration is to be in force before the end of March," said K-U. 

Fact: "For this purpose, in particular, it has been proposed to reduce capital costs, eliminate tax schemes and preferences and to cut social benefits, for example, 50 percent of pensions to working pensioners."

Fact: At the same time, plans are to plunder Ukraine.

Fact: Hollow out its economy.

Fact: Sell its state enterprises at fire sale prices.

Fact: Sack growing thousands of its workers.

Fact: Eliminate its trade unions altogether.

Fact: Crack down hard on nonbelievers.

Fact: A race to the bottom defines official policy.

Fact: Hunger and homelessness are increasing.

Fact: So is human misery.

Fact: Popular needs don't matter.

Fact: Fascist regimes operate this way.

Fact: Don't expect Times correspondents, contributors or editors to explain.

Fact: Editorial policy defends the indefensible.

Washington Post editors bash Putin irresponsibly. "Will the West move the goalposts again for" him they asked?

Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel "warned that disruption of Ukraine's election by Russia would trigger a tough new round of sanctions by the West."

They expanded "what (they) meant by 'disruption…' " They said it's "not just whether "Moscow's agents tried to stop voting, but whether the government of Vladimir Putin tried to prevent such interference."

Voting included "substantial disruption(s)." In "two (Eastern) provinces…"

"(W)here Moscow's agents tried to stop voting," they claimed.

Where Vladimir Putin did nothing "to prevent such interference," they said.

"(N)o voting (was) possible" in most Donetsk and Lugansk districts.

"Ukrainian security forces (were) ambushed." Kiev "election commissions (were) abducted and threatened."

"There's little question among Ukrainian government officials and Western diplomats in Kiev that Russia is backing the separatists and has done nothing to stop their interference."

"Yet US and German officials…again (moved) the goalposts." They "justif(ied) retreat by (saying voting) will proceed smoothly in the rest of the country."

Noting Putin "hinted he would accept the results. The bottom line is that Mr. Putin could come out of the election having kept alive the separatist movement…"

"(W)ithout suffering economic consequences." Giving "Moscow de facto suzerainty over the eastern provinces…"

"(A) power to block any move by Ukraine toward the West."

WaPo called it "lapse of Western resolve."

Fact: It bears repeating.

Fact: Ukraine's sham electoral process was farcical.

Fact: It had no legitimacy whatever.

Fact: So-called Eastern Ukrainian "substantial disruption(s)" reflect freedom fighting in action.

Fact: For fundamental human and civil rights everyone deserves.

Fact: For what warrants universal support.

Fact: So-called "Moscow agents" don't exist.

Fact: Ukrainian freedom fighters acted on their own volition.

Fact: No evidence suggested otherwise.

Fact: None whatever.

Fact: They're not separatists.

Fact: They're not militants.

Fact: They're ordinary people wanting to live free.

Fact: Most Donetsk and Lugansk residents reject Kiev putschists.

Fact: They refused to vote.

Fact: Ballot choices excluded democratic ones.

Fact: Fascists or sympathizers alone competed.

Fact: Putin "hinted" nothing.

Fact: He was clear and unequivocal.

Fact: "We understand that the people of Ukraine want their country to emerge from this crisis," he said.

Fact: "We will treat their choice with respect."

Fact: "We are today working with those people who control the government, and after the election we will of course work with the newly elected authorities."

Fact: He urged peaceful conflict resolution.

Fact: He stressed "constructive dialogue." 

Fact: He made no demands or ultimatums.

Fact: He urged mutual respect.

Fact: He supports unity.

Fact: He opposes separatism.

Fact: He has no Ukrainian territorial ambitions.

Fact: Or anywhere else.

Fact: Claims about him wanting Russia's empire restored don't wash.

Fact: He called making them "a tool in the (anti-Russian) information war."

Fact: "People are trying to label us as such, that we're trying to restore the empire, the Soviet Union, to bring everybody under our influence. But this is totally inaccurate," he said.

Fact: Ukrainian security forces wage war without mercy.

Fact: On ordinary Donestsk and Lugansk civilians.

Fact: Notions of heavily armed troops being "ambushed" are sheer nonsense.

Fact: Or claims about "threaten(ing)" and "abduct(ing)" them.

Fact: Or saying Putin backs separatists and does nothing to stop them.

Fact: Or suggesting he's in any way involved.

Fact: So-called goalpost retreat claims reflect WaPo editors neocon credentials.

Fact: They're militantly hardline.

Fact: They support war.

Fact: They deplore peace.

Fact: They reject diplomatic conflict resolutions.

Fact: They prefer belligerent ones.

The Wall Street Journal headlined "Ukraine Seeks to Regain Stability as Voters Head to the Polls."

"In Donetsk, hundreds of heavily armed pro-Russia rebels paraded in front of a crowd of about 2,000 to underscore the power they hold there," it said.

"The rebel insurgency has left dozens of people dead and transformed much of the country's southeast into a conflict zone."

Fact: Journal comments were milder than their usual militancy.

Fact: Perhaps a Monday editorial follow-up will talk tough. Perhaps it'll make up for what its election day report lacked.

Fact: So-called "heavily armed pro-Russia rebels" use hand-held light ones.

Fact: They're no match against Ukrainian tanks, APCs, artillery, mortars, attack helicopters and fixed wing warplanes.

Fact: They reject fascist rule.

Fact: Most prefer Ukrainian unity.

Fact: They want local autonomy.

Fact: They want Ukraine federalized.

Fact: They want the right to elect their own officials.

Fact: They reject having them appointed.

Fact: Doing so denies their democratic rights.

Fact: Washington bears full responsibility.

Fact: It turned their regions into conflict zones.

Fact: It elevated illegitimate fascist putschists to power.

Fact: They launched war without mercy.

Fact: They did so against freedom-fighting Ukrainians.

Fact: They acted at Obama's behest.

Fact: Don't expect Journal correspondents, contributors or editors to explain.

Fact: They in lockstep with longstanding US policy.

Fact: Imperial lawlessness reflects it.

Fact: Ukraine is in the eye of the storm.

Fact: It's Obama's latest imperial trophy.

Fact: Holding it is another matter entirely.

Fact: Ukrainian freedom fighters may have final say.

Fact: Perhaps if they stay the course.

Fact: If their will to win remains indomitable.

Fact: If growing thousands more Ukrainians join them.

Fact: If freedom fighting protests spread nationwide.

Fact: If they're sustained.

Fact: Organized people can beat organized money.

Fact: Perhaps Ukrainian freedom fighters will become role models.

Fact: Perhaps for activists everywhere.

Fact: Perhaps they'll inspire resistance too strong to beat.

Fact: Perhaps real change is possible.

It bears repeating. The fullness of time will tell.


Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."


Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 


http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour 

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Ukrainians Denied Democracy

Ukrainians Denied Democracy

by Stephen Lendman

Claiming otherwise doesn't wash. Moscow called Kiev events "an illegitimate fascist coup and a military seizure of power." Western-supported putschists seized it.

At the same time, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urges deescalating crisis conditions. It's completely possible, he said.

It requires replacing putschists with democratic governance. It involved instituting responsible policies. Ones that protect fundamental legal rights and freedoms of all Ukrainians. Ones that guarantee them.

Russia is on the right side of history. It promised help. It set four conditions. It wants legitimate Crimean independence recognized.

It wants Ukrainian democratic constitutional reform. It wants Eastern Ukraine's crisis conditions resolved responsibly. It wants Russian speakers' rights guaranteed.

Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said:

"If Ukraine fulfills these four conditions, then Russia will be able to propose further steps on additional help both on financial and gas issues."

He urged deescalating Eastern Ukrainian crisis conditions peacefully. He said doing so "without discrimination against Russian-speaking population, without victims and bloodshed" is fundamental.

He stressed holding legitimate May presidential elections. Early indications suggest they'll be polar opposite.

Moscow rejects Kiev putschists. It wants legitimate governance "with which one may negotiate," said Siluanov. Vladimir Putin addressed 18 EU leaders. He did so by letter. He did it responsibly.

He called for urgent cooperation. He said Ukraine's gas debt reached a "critical" level. It's been unpaid for three months. He wants addressing it prioritized. 

At issue is cutting off supplies. Gazprom wants advance payments going forward. Putin's letter was forthright. Ukraine's economy is "plummeting," he said.

Its industrial and construction sectors "declin(ed) sharply." Conditions head from bad to worse.

"Its budget deficit is mounting," said Putin. "The condition of its currency system is becoming more and more deplorable." 

"The negative trade balance is accompanied by the flight of capital from the country. Ukraine's economy is steadfastly heading towards a default, a halt in production and skyrocketing unemployment."

Russia and EU nations are major Ukraine trading partners. They agreed to consult on ways to develop its economy.

"(A)ll attempts on Russia's part to begin real consultations failed to produce any results," said Putin.

Plundering Ukraine for profit takes precedence. Western nations plan unrestrained looting. Corporate interests matter most. Human needs don't count.

Washington wants Russia shut out entirely. Western partners share blame. They want unfettered freedom to control Ukraine their way.

They want their interests alone served. Putin said they "want to unilaterally blame Russia for the consequences of Ukraine's economic crisis."

"Right from day one of Ukraine's existence as an independent state, Russia has supported the stability of the Ukrainian economy by supplying it with natural gas at cut-rate prices."

(U)ninterrupted transit through" its territory was guaranteed. Russia fulfilled its contractual obligations. It did so "to the letter and spirit" of what was agreed on.

It "granted Ukraine a whole string of unprecedented privileges and discounts on the price of natural gas," Putin added.

From 2009 to today, they total $17 billion. Plus "another 18.4 billion US dollars incurred by the Ukrainian side as a minimal take-or-pay fine."

Russia subsidized Ukraine's economy. It provided $34.4 billion since 2009. It helped preserve "stability and credibility." It saved jobs.

"No other country provided such support except Russia," said Putin. "What about European partners?"

They deny support. They "talk about a declaration of intent." Actions don't follow promises. EU nations take full advantage.

They want Ukrainian resources. They want its "raw foodstuffs, metal(s) and mineral(s)." They want free market access on their own terms. They want it for their own products and services.

They want unlimited profits. They want them at Ukraine's expense. They created a huge trade imbalance. It exceeds $10 billion. It's two-thirds of Ukraine's 2013 deficit.

It negatively affects Ukraine's ability to fulfill "its contractual obligations to pay for deliveries of natural gas supplied by Russia," said Putin.

Moscow won't "unilaterally bear the burden of supporting Ukraine's economy by way of providing discounts and forgiving debts…"

Ukraine's unpaid gas Gazprom debt grows monthly. In November/December 2013, it was $1.451.1 billion.

"(I)n February 2014, it increased by a further 260.3 million and in March by another 526.1 million US dollars."

Gazprom deserves payment. It intends "switch(ing) over to advance payment for gas delivery, and in the event of further violation of the conditions of payment, will completely or partially cease gas deliveries," said Putin.

"In other words, only the volume of natural gas will be delivered to Ukraine as was paid for one month in advance of delivery."

It's "an extreme measure." It's coming. Businesses don't provide products or services free. For sure, not Western ones.

"In order to guarantee uninterrupted transit, it will be necessary, in the nearest future, to supply 11.5 billion cubic meters of gas that will be pumped into Ukraine's underground storage facilities, and this will require a payment of about 5 billion US dollars," said Putin.

EU nations "unilaterally withdr(ew) from the concerted efforts to resolve" Ukraine's crisis responsibly. They shut out Russia entirely. It leaves "no alternative," Putin stressed.

Resolving things requires "consultations…without delay," he said. He urged them "at the level of ministers of economics, finances and energy…"

At issue is stabilizing Ukraine's economy. It's ensuring uninterrupted Russian natural gas deliveries.

Doing so requires fulfilling contractual obligation terms to the letter. Putin emphasized Russia's considerable "investments, contributions and expenditures…"

It "shouldered" the burden "alone" long enough. It's time for Western nations to step up to the plate and help.

"(O)nly such an approach can lead to success," Putin stressed. He did so forthrightly. He showed responsible leadership.

He shames his Western counterparts. Major ones lack legitimacy altogether. Especially Obama. Hegemonic US ambitions trample on fundamental freedoms.

White House press secretary Jay Carney's comment didn't surprise." He outrageously said "(w)e've made clear in the past that it is wholly inappropriate to use energy exports to achieve diplomatic or geopolitical objectives."

Maybe he wants Russian gas supplied free. Maybe he supports what he'd denounce if US corporations were affected.

Angela Merkel got Putin's message. She responded differently, saying:

"(T)here there are many reasons to seriously take into account this message…and for Europe to deliver a joint European response" straightaway.

She and other EU foreign ministers plan meeting on Monday. Other talks will involve Russia, Washington, and Ukraine.

"When we take all these steps, we can be sure that we have reached a joined response for the countries that encounter this problem because they get natural gas from Gazprom," she said.

"We want to be good clients, but it means that we can base ourselves on the supplies, and Ukraine knows this and should understand it," she added.

It remains to be seen what follows. Putin showed extraordinary patience. He deserves praise, not irresponsible treatment.

Instead endures unconscionable bashing. He's vilified for doing the right thing.

Sohrab Ahmari is a Wall Street Journal Europe editorial page writer. He substitutes lies for truth. On April 11, he headlined "Waking Up to the Russian Threat."

None whatever exists. He lied claiming otherwise. He called NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen "one of Europe's most serious thinkers on defense matters."

He's a convenient US stooge. He supports Pentagon policy. He's an unindicted war criminal. He spoke to Ahmari. His comments didn't surprise.

He lied saying Putin wants "to restore Russian greatness by re-establishing a sphere of influence in the former Soviet space."

His strategy, said Ahmari, involves "(d)estabilizing Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus."

According to Rasmussen, "(i)ts in Russia's interest to see frozen, protracted conflicts in the region, such as in South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia, Transnistria in Moldova, and Crimea."

He's alarmed, he said. "(W)e have seen an incredible development of (Russia's military) to act determinedly and rapidly."

He ignored US-NATO's aggression against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. He was silent about its killing machine. 

He said nothing about its responsibility for millions of deaths. Their corpses bear testimony to lawless US-led NATO policy. Ahmari didn't challenge Rasmussen responsibly.

He lied claiming 40,000 Russian troops are massed on Ukraine's border. Calling them an imminent threat rings hollow. 

Rasmussen's claims are polar opposite truth. He expressed concern about increased Russian military spending. It's a tiny fraction of NATO member expenditures. 

Moscow isn't belligerent. It poses no threat. Putin prioritizes peace and stability. US-led NATO threatens humanity.

Not according to Rasmussen. He bashed Putin irresponsibly. He considers NATO a threat. "He can't seriously" think so, Rasmussen said. 

"We have never had an intention to attack Russia," he claimed. He left unexplained why NATO wants all former Russian republics and Warsaw Pact countries incorporated into its alliance.

Why it's deploying hostile forces close to Russia's borders. Why it irresponsibly lies about its threat. Why it's poised perhaps to strike belligerently if it chooses.

Rasmussen lied claiming NATO members and others on Europe's periphery share basic people-friendly values.

They include "individual liberty, democracy, the rule of law and on top of that economic opportunities, because our community of nations also represents economic freedom," he said.

He turned truth on its head saying so. He's militantly anti-Russian. He lied claiming otherwise. 

Ahmari let him comment without challenge. Doing so showed complicity with NATO lawlessness. 

It showed support for war. It showed disdain for peace. It showed contempt for growing thousands across Eastern Ukraine.

They're protesting for fundamental rights too important to sacrifice. They continue in Kharkov (Ukraine's second largest city), Donetsk (its largest industrial city), Dnepropetrovsk, Lugansk, Odessa and Nikolayev.

They spread to Slavyansk and elsewhere. Government and police headquarters buildings were seized.

Activists reject Kiev putschists. They urged local authorities join them. What's ongoing is spreading. 

Maybe Western Ukrainians will rally the same way. Obama's new imperial trophy looks insecure. It may slip-slide away. 

His entire tenure reflects failure. It reflects lawlessness writ large. 

Mass protests reflect people power. Ordinary Ukrainians want better. They deserve it. They're putting their bodies on the line responsibly. 

They're role models for freedom fighters everywhere. Resisting tyranny is a universal right. It's a moral obligation. 

Ukrainian protesters take their role seriously. Perhaps others may follow. Defeating hegemonic ruthlessness depends on it. Hopefully activism will grow when most needed.

A Final Comment

On Saturday, Chicago activists held a Ukraine teach-in. Speakers included Stop NATO's Rick Rozoff, Anti-War Committee member Holly Kent-Payne, and International Action Center's Sara Flounders, among others.

Advance information expressed outrage over US hegemonic ambitions. Anti-Russian sentiment exceeds the worst of Cold War days. Putin is public enemy number one.

Obama ousted Ukraine's democratic government. He elevated illegitimate putschist fascists to power.

He sanctioned Moscow for rejecting them. He did so for embracing lawful Crimean reunification. 

He deployed US military forces close to Russia's borders. He did it belligerently. He risks a potential East/West confrontation. 

He threatens global conflict. Stopping him is top priority. Ordinary people have power to do it.

Protests work when sustained. The more disruptive the better. Jefferson's opposition to John Adams' repressive 1978 Alien and Sedition Acts is relevant. He commented saying:

"A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles." 

Ordinary people have power when they use it. Collective defiance works when sustained. It's essential for real democracy.

Eastern Ukrainians can teach Americans a thing or two. They deserve worldwide support. Humanity stands to benefit. It needs all the help it can get.


Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 


http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

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Yatsenyuk Comes to Washington

Yatsenyuk Comes to Washington

by Stephen Lendman

Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland calls him Yats. He's coming to Washington.

He'll arrive on Wednesday. He'll meet his new boss. He'll do so at the White House. He'll get marching orders. He'll learn more about Obama's plans for Ukraine. More on his visit below.

He's Ukraine's illegitimate prime minister. He serves its xenophobic, ultranationalist, neo-Nazi, hate-mongering, anti-Semitic, coup d'etat regime. A rogue's gallery of societal misfits runs it.

He's a natural. He's super-rich. He's a former central banker/economy/foreign minister and parliament (Verkhovna Rada) speaker. 

He betrayed his people. He sold out for greater wealth and power. He's a Batkivshchya/All-Ukrainian Union (Fatherland) leader.

Billionaire mega-thief Yulia Tymoshenko heads it. She was imprisoned for embezzlement and serious "abuse of public office."

Charges included illegally diverting $425 million meant for environmental projects into pension funds. A second case involved stealing around $130 million for personal use. 

Putschists freed her. They did so lawlessly. She was an illegimate Orange Revolution prime minister. 

She has presidential aspirations. She may head Ukraine's illegitimate government after sham May elections.

Yatsenyuk's job is serving Western bankers. Paying them comes first. Ukrainians bear the burden. 

Force-fed austerity is planned. IMF larceny features it. Harder than ever hard times loom. 

Ukraine heads toward becoming another Greece. One zombie country will replicate another. Economic crisis conditions already exist. Plans call for tougher times on the backs of ordinary people.

Inflation alone harms them. Since January, Ukraine's currency (the hryvnia) declined 20%. Everything imported costs more.

Capital flight hammered Ukraine's foreign exchange. It's down to about $12 billion or less. It's dwindling at the rate of about $4 billion a week. It won't last the month without aid.

It's needed. It comes with onerous strings. It includes longterm debt entrapment. 

Getting it demands mass layoffs, huge social benefit cuts, privatizing state enterprises at fire sale prices, and letting Western corporations plunder Ukrainian resources freely.

Economist Jack Rasmus believes Ukraine's currency collapse is virtually certain. At least $20 billion in aid may be needed "well before May 1," he said.

Ukraine's current debt is about $80 billion. By summer, it'll top $100 billion, says Rasmus. 

Deepening black hole indebtedness entraps Ukraine. No end to its financial crisis looms. 

It bears repeating. Ordinary people will bear the burden. Disaster awaits them. Greater than ever basket case conditions are certain.

According to Rasmus, Ukrainian aid won't come in amounts needed. Nothing beyond "superficial promises and token" short-run injections ahead of May elections.

Longer-term watch out. Ukraine's economy will be much worse off than now. It's currency will be near-worthless. Rampant inflation will destroy it.

Lost social benefits will create enormous pain and suffering. Western bankers and other corporate predators "will have a field day," says Rasmus.

They'll buy up everything in sight on the cheap. They'll rape and pillage Ukraine freely. They'll steal its resources. They'll exploit its people.

They'll operate freely for bottom line interests. They'll turn Ukraine into a dystopian wasteland.

Ukrainians have a rude awakening coming. They don't know what's planned. Wait until they lose pensions, other social benefits, and vital subsidies needed to offset high oil, gas and food prices.

Wait until they'll left high and dry on their own. Ukraine is one of Europe's poorest countries. Western diktats assure harder than ever hard times.

On Sunday, Yatsenyuk announced plans to visit Washington. "I am going to the United states to hold top-level meetings on resolving the situation unfolding in our bilateral and multilateral relations," he said.

He announced it a day after vowing never to give up "a centimeter" of Ukraine to Russia.

"This is our land," he said. "Our fathers and grandfathers have spilled their blood for this land." 

"And we won't budge a single centimeter from (it). Let Russia and its president know this."

On March 9, a "Statement by the (White House) Press Secretary on the Visit of Prime Minister Yaysenyuk of Ukraine" said:

"President Obama will welcome Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk of Ukraine to the White House on March 12."  

"The visit will highlight the strong support of the United States for the people of Ukraine, who have demonstrated inspiring courage and resilience through recent times of crisis."  

"The President and Prime Minister Yatsenyuk will discuss how to find a peaceful resolution to Russia's ongoing military intervention in Crimea that would respect Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity."  

"They will also discuss support the international community can provide to help Ukraine confront its economic challenges, and the importance of uniting Ukraine and working to fulfill the aspirations of the Ukrainian people as they prepare for May presidential elections."

Deputy national security advisor Tony Blinken added:

"What we've seen is (Obama) mobilizing the international community in support of Ukraine to isolate Russia for its actions in Ukraine, and to reassure our allies and partners."

Fact check

Washington plans call for: 

  • destroying Ukrainian sovereignty; 

  • controlling its regime; 

  • plundering its resources; 

  • exploiting its people;

  • incorporating it into NATO;

  • establishing new US bases; and 

  • installing long-range nuclear-armed missiles along its 1,400 km border with Russia targeting its heartland.

Obama bears full responsibility for installing Ukrainian putschists in power. EU partners share it. Regime change plans were hatched in Washington and Brussels.

Russia didn't invade Crimea. Claims otherwise don't wash. No military intervention occurred. 

Washington spurns Ukrainian sovereignty and integrity. Russia respects what Western countries disdain.

US officials and Yatsenyuk will discuss plans to rape and pillage Ukraine. Aspirations of its people don't matter. Exploiting them to pay bankers looms. 

They'll have no say in upcoming elections. Power brokers will decide things. America works the same way.

Monied interests alone matter. They have big plans for Ukraine. Carving it up for profit looms.

Yatsenyuk lied claiming Russia invaded Ukraine. He called it "a declaration of war." Ukraine is on the verge of "disaster," he added. Policies he has in mind assure it.

On Monday, Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov said preparations to join Russia are well under way.

On March 16, Crimeans will decide by referendum. Public sentiment strongly favors it.

Aksyonov said Russian law will be instituted within about two months. Its ruble will replace Ukraine's hryvnia.

Russian will be the official language. Tartar community members were promised senior positions in a new Crimean government.

Crimea's Supreme Council chairman Vladimir Konstantinov said polls show "over 80%" of Crimeans favor "accession to Russia."

Weeks earlier it was 75%, he added. He attributed sentiment increase to actions by Kiev putschists.

Itar Tass said Sevastapol made Russian its official language. Over 70% of its residents speak it. Administration chief Dmitry Belik signed a resolution stating:

"In line with norms of international law, taking into account that the Russian language is native for the overwhelming majority of the city’s population, the Sevastopol city state administration rules to use it as the official language in all state document circulation."

Pro-Russian sentiment is strong throughout much of eastern and southern Ukraine. Public demonstrations express it. 

Kiev putschists target them. Russia's Foreign Ministry expressed outrage. It issued a statement denouncing "actions of militants of the so-called Right Sector amid utter connivance of the new authorities as they call themselves."

"Things have come to such a point that on March 8, well-equipped people in masks and with firearms opened fire at peaceful protestors in Kharkiv," he added. 

"People have been injured. The Dnipropetrovsk police have detained seven Russian reporters and attributed it to the fact that they were interested solely in 'certain provocative subjects.' "

Press freedom is targeted. It's comprised. It's denied. Kiev fascists won't tolerate it. They want their message alone getting out.

They "do not allow Russian citizens into Ukraine in violation of all existing bilateral agreements, virtually having blocked border cooperation." 

"The shy silence of our Western partners, human rights organizations and foreign mass media outlets is surprising." 

"A question emerges - where is the notorious objectivity and commitment to democracy?" 

High-minded Western hypocrites are nowhere in sight. Russia rejects illegitimate Kiev putschists. Putin respects the right of Crimeans to decide their own future.

On Sunday, he discussed ongoing Ukrainian events with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

A Kremlin press service statement said:

Putin "underlined in particular that the steps taken by Crimea's legitimate authorities are based on international law and aimed at guaranteeing the legitimate interests of the peninsula's population."

He expressed concern about illegitimate Kiev putschists. They escalated pressure on Crimea.

They blocked its treasury's electronic system. They froze its accounts. They increased security forces on its borders.

Crimean Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Temirgaliyev reacted saying actions taken won't affect planned policies.

Russian accounts are being opened. Frozen ones won't be used.

On Saturday, Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin in charge of defense expressed alarm over US/NATO "overt threats."

On Facebook, he said:

"A hope that after the overt threats by the US and NATO, nobody will doubt the necessity of rearming our army and fleet and of reviving our defense industry and military science."

His comment followed Washington threatening sanctions, suspending military exchanges, deploying additional warplanes to the region, and showing the flag in the Black Sea.

Neocons infesting Washington threaten world peace. Russia knows forewarned is forearmed to act defensively.

A Final Comment

Media scoundrel Russia bashing continues relentlessly. Jim Thomas is Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments vice president and director of studies.

It's a hard-right think tank. It specializes in US defense policy. Neocon former CIA head James Woolsey is a board member. So are likeminded ideologues.

Wall Street Journal editors gave Thomas featured op-ed space. He took full advantage headlining "How to Put Military Pressure on Russia."

He lied claiming Russia seized Crimea. He called it "a wake-up call for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization."

He said the "absence of serious thinking about (its) territorial defense mission...prov(ed) catnip for Vladimir Putin."

It bears repeating what previous articles stressed. NATO is a killing machine. Its mission is offense, not defense. Don't expect right-wing ideologues like Thomas to explain.

He urges hardball tactics. "Sanctions, skipping the G-8 summit in Sochi, hitting Russian oligarchs in their pocketbooks, isolating Russia in international forums - all these options are legitimate responses to Mr. Putin's land grab in the sovereign state of Ukraine.

Washington and complicit EU partners alone bear full responsibility for land-grabbing. Doing so created the greatest geopolitical crisis since WW II. Their recklessness threatens global war.

Toughness Thomas urges perhaps makes it more possible. He recommended more lunatic fringe ideas.

Abandon NATO's 1997 NATO-Russia so-called Three Nos, he said. They were "shorthand" for NATO declaring "no intentions, no plans, and no reason" to station nuclear forces in new member states.

Thomas urges doing it. He wants nuclear missiles on Russia's borders. He wants them targeting it heartland. 

He wants what no responsible official would contemplate. He may get what he wants.

He wants Polish warplanes "capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear weapons so they could participate in NATO's nuclear mission."

He wants nuclear weapons positioned in locations close to Russia's borders. He wants greater NATO "conventional force" regional deployments.

"The time has come for the US and other NATO allies to consider permanently stationing forces in Poland and Romania as well as the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to back up their words of strategic solidarity," he said.

He wants NATO providing Ukraine with military aid - "especially if Russia escalates the crisis in Crimea or deploys its forces into other eastern Ukrainian provinces."

He wants stepped up action to oust Syria's Assad. He wants heavy-handed US/EU reprisals against Russia overall.

He wants Moscow treated as a strategic enemy. It's time to act aggressively, he urges. 

Imagine giving feature op-ed space to this type lunacy. Don't ask Journal editors to explain.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.


http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

US Private Military Contractors in Ukraine?

US Private Military Contractors in Ukraine?

by Stephen Lendman

Reports suggest their presence in Eastern Ukraine. Perhaps Washington deployed Academi (formerly Xe Services/Blackwater USA) forces.

Jeremy Scahill's book titled "Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army" described the organization.

He called it a "shadowy mercenary company (employing) some of the most feared professional killers in the world accustomed to operating without worry of legal consequences (and) largely off the congressional radar."

It has "remarkable power and protection (within) the US war apparatus." It's well funded. It operates extrajudicially. 

It's unaccountable. It's licensed to kill, terrorize, destroy and destabilize. It takes full advantage wherever its forces are deployed.

Other private military contractors operate the same way. They're mercenaries. They're well-paid. They're well-trained. They're guns for hire. More on them below.

Washington bears full responsibility for ousting Ukraine's democratically elected government. EU partners share it. 

Neo-Nazi putschists were installed. They have no legitimacy whatever. So-called May 25 elections are scheduled. They'll be sham ones when held. 

The battle for Ukraine's soul continues. Expect hard times to get much harder. More on this below.

Most Crimeans reject Kiev putschists. They do so for good reason. On March 16, they'll choose their future. Popular sentiment suggests they'll join Russia.

Maybe by mid-April. According to Crimea's Supreme Council Speaker Vladmir Konstantinov:

"The transition from one jurisdiction to the other is a complicated process, but I think in the case of a favorable outcome of the referendum, the Crimeans will be able to feel as citizens of another country within a month."

They'll benefit in ways Ukraine denies them. Grigory Ioffe is Crimea's parliament first deputy chair. He called the March 16 referendum "historic."

It'll be "very democratic and open," he said. It'll fully comply with Ukraine's constitution and international law. Independent observers and foreign media are welcome.

Over 2.2 million ballots will be printed. About 1,250 voting stations will be ready. Russians comprise about 60% of Crimea's population, Ukrainians around 25% and Tatars 12%.

Sevastopol hosts most of Russia's Black Sea Fleet. It holds special status. It's not officially part of Crimea. 

Its residents will vote in the March 16 referendum. They'll decide if they want to become part of Russia.

On March 8, Itar Tass headlined "Sevastopol to join Russia after referendum - city administration head" Dmitry Belik.

"We will hold one referendum with the rest of Crimea," he said. Constitutional changes will be made separately, he added.

Two referendum questions will be asked:

(1) "Do you support reunification of Sevastopol with Russia as its constituent member?"

(2) "Do you support the restoration of the Constitution of 1992 and Sevastopol's to Ukraine?"

On March 8, Belik addressed an International Women's Day rally.

"The salaries of public sector employees, medical and social workers will be preserved at their current level as a minimum or maybe even increased," he said. 

"We are now working in close contact with Russian officials over a new social system for the city."

He thanked Putin and Russia's parliament for their support.

On March 8, Crimean Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov swore in the first group of self-defense forces. He called doing so a "historic event."

On March 16, they'll be deployed to assure things go peacefully. "The Armed Forces of the Republic of Crimea have been created for defense, not for offense," Aksyonov stressed.

They want all Crimeans protected. Many eastern Ukrainians reject Kiev putschists. Mass rallies were held in Donetsk and Lugansk. 

Residents want their own referendum. They want the right to declare independence or join Russia. 

Donetsk residents oppose Kiev appointing billionaire oligarch Sergey Taruta governor. They appointed their own "people's governor," Pavel Gubarev. He supports unification with Russia.

On March 6, he was arrested. On Saturday, hundreds of city residents rallied for his release. Tensions remain high.

Last week, Donetsk's administration headquarters changed hands several times. Videos began circulating. They're disturbing. 

They showed several hundred unidentified well-armed men in military-style uniforms without insignia. 

Russia's Rossiya 1 television believes they're Washington-enlisted Academi mercenaries. 

Similar reports are circulating. London's Daily Mail headlined "Has Blackwater been deployed to Ukraine? Notorious US mercenaries 'seen on the streets of flashpoint city' as Russia claims 300 hired guns have arrived in the country."

Videos circulated. Donetsk residents were heard shouting "Blackwater! Blackwater!" Armed mercenaries were visible.

Interfax cited a Russian diplomat in Kiev, saying:

"These are soldiers of fortune proficient in combat operations. Most of them had operated under private contracts in Iraq, Afghanistan and other states. Most (came) from the United States."

Days earlier, Russian media said 300 "strong" men arrived at Kiev's Boryspil airport. They carried military-style bags.

On March 4, Voltairenet headlined "US mercenaries deployed in Southern Ukraine."

Russian political scientist Alexander Dugin was cited. He said Academi Greystone Limited mercenaries were sent to Ukraine.

They arrived "in groups." They wore civilian attire. They carried "bulky packs." From Kiev, "apparently" they went to "Odessa." It's in southern Ukraine.

On March 2, Before Its News.com (BIT) headlined 300 Blackwater Mercs Land in Ukraine?"

"According to our Ukrainian friends…charter flights began arriving...(S)trong young men in ordinary civilian clothes" disembarked.

BIT called them Greystone Limited mercenaries. "The only question is...who pays" them? "Who do you think?"

"Certainly not" Kiev putschists. Washington's dirty hands are involved.

Kiev-controlled Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) forces joined them. They conducted hit-and-run operations. 

They arrested Gubarev. City authorities lawlessly charged him with attempting to seize power. Other activists were arrested.

Late Saturday, Donetsk residents attempted to storm local SSU headquarters. They demanded Gubarev's release.

They toppled a truck carrying arrested activists. Donetsk security forces arrived. Resident shouted "Do you remember those you're protecting? Those who mistreated you in Kiev?"

Lugansk is another hotbed of pro-Russian sentiment. Thousands rallied. They waved Russian flags. They chanted "Russia! Ukraine! Belarus! Together!"

They chose their own people's governor, Aleksandr Kharitonov. They confronted pro-Kiev elements earlier. They don't trust city police. They have their own self-defense forces.

Kharkov is Ukraine's second largest city. It's in eastern Ukraine. So are Donetsk and Lugansk. They're near Russia's border.

Kharkov residents held their own anti-Kiev rallies. Lots more in eastern Ukraine are likely. It bears repeating. The battle for Ukraine's soul continues.

Washington employs thousands private military contractors (PMCs). They're mercenaries. They're hired guns.

Peter Dale Scott once said they're "authorized to commit violence in the the name of their employers." They're "predatory bandits."

They're "uncontrollable subordinates…representing...public power (in) remote places."

They operate extrajudicially. They're unrestricted by US, international, or local governments' laws. They're free from civil or criminal accountability.

Under Article 47 of the 1977 Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions:

"A mercenary is any person who:

(a) is specially recruited locally or abroad in order to fight in an armed conflict;

(b) does, in fact, take a direct part in the hostilities:

(c) is motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain and, in fact, is promised, by or on behalf of a Party to the conflict, material compensation substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar ranks and functions in the armed forces of the Party;

(d) is neither a national of a Party to the conflict nor a resident of territory controlled by a Party to the conflict;

(e) is not a member of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict; and

(f) has not been sent by a State which is not a Party to the conflict on official duty as a member of its armed forces."

Washington substitutes them for Pentagon forces. At multiples more in cost. Using them gives US authorities cover for whatever crimes they commit. Doing so avoids accountability.

They're an integral part of America's imperial agenda. Apparently they're operating in Ukraine. Perhaps hundreds will increase to thousands. 

Maybe in other Ukrainian cities. Maybe covertly in Crimea. If not now, maybe later. Expect East/West tensions to escalate. Expect the risk for open conflict to increase.

A Final Comment

US-backed putschists usurping power in Kiev was phase one. Next comes forced-fed austerity. IMF and other Western loans demand it.

Neo-Nazis in charge presented what they have in mind. Looting Ukraine began. Pensioner income was halved. It went from $160 to $80 dollars monthly.

Expect other social benefits slashed. Expect it across-the-board. Ordinary people will be hardest hit. Kommersant-Ukraine (K-U) obtained an internal document.

"The Finance Ministry has prepared a plan for optimizing budget expenditures, which implies budget sequestration is to be in force before the end of March," said K-U. 

"For this purpose, in particular, it has been proposed to reduce capital costs, eliminate tax schemes and preferences and to cut social benefits, for example, 50 percent of pensions to working pensioners."

Putschists intend depriving ordinary Ukrainians to pay bankers. They're doing it straightaway.

Expect much greater pain and suffering. Expect mass layoffs. Expect deepening poverty. Expect predatory Western corporations taking full advantage.

Expect higher energy and food prices. In February, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported the highest increase in a basket of food commodities since mid-2012. A statement said:

"The figures were released amid news reports of spikes in wheat and corn prices in response to recent developments in Ukraine, though the February increase in the Index cannot be entirely attributed to those events."

Ordinary anti-Yanukovych Ukrainians may yearn for his return. They supported criminal elements. They did it unwittingly. How they'll react going forward remains to be seen.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.


http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

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Britain’s annual military budget is a massive £39 billion, which is the fourth largest in the world and the country is planning to replace its Trident nuclear weapons system at a cost the Stop the War Coalition estimates to reach £100 billion.

The government is also providing subsidies to 55,000 arms trade jobs that amount to a dizzying £700 million a year while the NHS is facing 56,000 job cuts due to austerity measures.

This is while the government is cutting vital public services including the National Health Service “efficiency savings” by £20 billion in three years, social housing by £4 billion, sickness benefits by £2 billion and Mental health services and youth services by £150 million and £200 million, respectively.

“Demilitarize” campaigners now want convey the message to the parliament that the billions of pounds spent on the military can be better used on education, development and health services.

Their action is part of a global initiative calling for a shift of the international military spending, which stood at £1.15 trillion in 2011, to fund human needs.

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AMR/HE

UK police and armed forces to face cuts of ‘more than £1.6 billion’

Published time: March 23, 2013 09:34
AFP Photo/Justin Tallis

The UK Ministry of Defence and Home Office will face further budgetary cuts, according to UK’s Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander. He declares any public outrage will be ignored. The move foreshadows additional defense layoffs.

The slashes to the departments’ finances are due in 2015-16, and follow three years of existing cuts. The news emerged in the fallout from Wednesday’s budget statement, which planned 11.5 billion pounds (US$17.5 billion) of further broad-scale cuts for 2015-16; on Saturday, Alexander told the Telegraph that the MoD and HO would share the weight.

An independent auditor warned that the MoD could lose more than 1.6 billion pounds ($2.4 billion) from its 32-billion-pound ($48.7 billion) budget for 2015-16, according to the newspaper. These reductions would almost certainly lead to an accompanying fresh round of lay-offs.

Alexander, a Liberal Democrat MP also warned that no amount of public outrage at the further cuts would influence the measures.

“It has no effect on the decisions I will make, or the view that I will take on the right balance. The idea that having a great public campaign will influence the outcome, that’s just wrong,”
he said.

Earlier this month, UK Defense Secretary Phillip Hammond cautioned that “any further reduction in the defense budget would fall on the level of activity that we were able to carry out.”

 British Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander (AFP Photo/Carl Court)

Tensions have flared as Conservative politicians, who currently head the ruling coalition with the Liberal Democrat party, have voiced their support for continuing to slash Britain’s welfare budget, citing small falls in unemployment, instead of continuing to target the defense budget.

The group has come to be known as the ‘National Union of Ministers’, and is led by Home Secretary Theresa May. They demand that ‘ring-fenced’ spending be ended, which immunizes some departments from further cuts. These protected departments include the NHS and Department for International Development (DFID).

Alexander reiterated that the NHS, schools and international development would be ring-fenced when asked whether the Home Office and Ministry of Defence would be protected from further cuts, adding:  


“We will work through the details, but every department, including the ones you mention, will have to make savings.”
On the same day, it was announced that a supposed ‘cost-cutting’ NHS scheme to remotely monitor housebound patients will cost three times as much as expected.  

An anonymous Conservative source told the newspaper in February that there was

“a real concern that the Lib Dems want to protect the benefits culture at the expense of our troops.” This January, British PM David Cameron was forced to admit that military spending would not rise until after 2016, despite previous assertions that no more cuts would be made to MoD.

AFP Photo/Leon Neal

In February, Cameron announced that he would be “very open” to the idea of diverting billions of pounds from the foreign aid budget (Department for International Development) to the military.

A decision to increase the DFID budget to 12 billion pounds by the next election stirred uproar amongst opponents of cuts to other departments’ services. However, this diversion of funding has induced criticism, with head of policy at major UK-based charity Oxfam, Mark Lawson, saying Britain's aid money should go to

“schools, not soldiers.” Following Wednesday’s budget, Fitch global ratings agency said that the UK faced the

“heightened probability of a downgrade” towards the close of April. Moody’s downgraded the UK around a month ago, making it the first of the three major agencies to do so, in the process stripping the country of its AAA rating.

UK tax rises likely after 2015 election

Tax rises of up to £9 billion could be imposed on British households and businesses after the next general election in 2015, a leading economic forecaster has warned.

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), British Chancellor George Osborne’s fourth budget, presented this week, had paved the way for bigger tax increases after 2015 general election.

"That is after an election and it is much more possible that a future government will prefer to increase taxes instead,” said Rowena Crawford of the IFS.

This comes as he estimated tax rises, equal to 2 percent in the basic rate of income tax, could drag more British people into poverty.

In his speech at the House of Commons on Budget Day, Osborne said Britain’s economy will grow less this year and the next as the country is bracing itself for drastic austerity cuts.

The Chancellor warned the country’s growth would halve this year to 0.6 percent from the 1.2 percent.

Earlier in February, credit ratings agency Moody’s downgraded the British government’s bond rating from the top AAA to AA1 due to Britain’s rising debt and slowing growth.

There are speculations that Britain could face its second credit downgrade as a result of the country’s sluggish recovery.

MOS/HE

Budget 2013: George Osborne Accused Of Fiddling The Books To Save Face

George Osborne has been sharply criticised by the director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) for shifting spending into next year in order to avoid political embarrassment.

Paul Johnson said the chancellor wasted civil servants' time by asking them to find a way to allow him to say he will be able to bring borrowing in this year below last year's total - down from £121 billion to £120.9 billion.

"There is every indication that the numbers have been carefully managed with a close eye on the headline borrowing figures for this year. It is unlikely that this has led either to an economically optimal allocation of spending across years or to a good use of time by officials and ministers," Johnson said.

Speaking at a post-Budget briefing in central London on Thursday, Johnson said: "The truth is that borrowing is the same this year as it was last year and it will be the same next year as this year. Because of that, this year's precedent suggests that there must be a risk that effort will be expended again next year to shift spending into 2014-15."

Johnson said the borrowing figures were "desperately disappointing" for Osborne, who would now have to borrow £70bn more in 2013-15 than he had originally hoped.

The IFS also warned that Wednesday's Budget could lead to "severe" public spending cuts and possible tax rises after the next election in 2015.

The economic forecaster said that given healthcare, schools and international development were protected from spending cuts the outlook for other departments was "grim".

"While the overall spending envelope has not been increased since the eye wateringly tight one implied by the Autumn Statement, nearly £5bn of additional spending on capital, childcare and social care has been committed to. That leaves even less for everything else," Johnson said.

The economic forecaster said the chancellor's decision to cancel the rise in fuel duty and increase the income tax allowance threshold and cut corporation tax meant he would be spending a "remarkable" £24bn a year on those changes by 2016-17.

"That would be a big investment at any time. In the current fiscal climate this is a striking investment in an arrow range of priority areas," he said.

Osborne was defended by former Tory chancellor Norman Lamont, who told HuffPost UK he did not believe there had been a "fiddling of the accounts" as Treasury officials "don’t let you get away with" such "tricks".

Related on HuffPost:

WATCH: The Hidden Message In George Osborne’s Budget Speech

George Osborne delivered his Budget to the House of Commons on Wednesday - but close analysis of his speech reveals some shocking new policies. Just take a look, above. (Created for HuffPost UK Comedy by David Schneider, Robin Flavell and Handface.) ...

At A Glance Guide To The Budget

Follow George Osborne's Budget 2013 live here with our 'At A Glance' guide to all the big decisions on the economy.

George Osborne started by saying:

"Today, I’m going to level with people about the difficult economic circumstances we still face and the hard decisions required to deal with them.

"It is taking longer than anyone hoped, but we must hold to the right track. And by setting free the aspirations of the nation, we will get there.

"This is a Budget for those who aspire to own their own home; who aspire to get their first job; or start their own business; A Budget for those who want to save for their retirement and provide for their children.

"It is a Budget for our Aspiration Nation."

On the ECONOMY Osborne says:

  • Compared to this time last year, the OBR now expect 600,000 more jobs in 2013 – and there will be 60,000 fewer people claiming unemployment benefit.
  • We’ve seen more people in work than ever before – including a record number of women.
  • A quarter of a million fewer workless households than two years ago.
    • The employment rate has been growing faster than in the US and three times as fast as in Germany.
    • And the unemployment rate is lower than when we came to office.
      • Deficit has fallen from 11.2 per cent of GDP in 2009-10, to a forecast of 7.4 per cent this year.
        • Public sector net debt is forecast to be 75.9 per cent of GDP this year.

        Osborne adds:

        "Ask the British people and they’ll tell you: our problem as a country is not that we’re taxed too little but that the government spends too much.

        "I agree with them. So the tax cuts in this Budget aren’t borrowed; they are paid for. That’s our way – and it’s the only responsible way to lower taxes."

        He added: "When money is short, we make no excuses for the rigorous financial management we have run across Whitehall."

        TAX
        From 2014, there will be no income tax at all on the first £10,000 of your salary.

        HOUSING

        • Help to Buy. Equity loan worth up to 20 per cent of the value of a new build home – to anyone looking to move up the housing ladder.
        • You put down a five per cent deposit from your savings, and the government will loan you a further 20 per cent.
        • The loan is interest free for the first five years. It is repaid when the home is sold.
        • Only constraint will be that the home can’t be worth more than £600,000 – but this covers well over 90 per cent of all homes.
        • Help families who want a mortgage for any home they’re buying, old or new, but who cannot begin to afford the kind of deposits.
        • A new Mortgage Guarantee. This will be available to lenders to help them provide more mortgages to people who can’t afford a big deposit.
        • Offering guarantees sufficient to support £130 billion of mortgages.
        • It will be available from start of 2014 – and run for three years.

        BUSINESS

        • Employment Allowance will work by taking the first two thousand pounds off the employer National Insurance bill of every company.
        • 450,000 small businesses – one third of all employers in the country - will pay no jobs tax at all.
        • Increase by fivefold the value of government procurement budgets spent through the Small Business Research Initiative.
        • Introducing capital gains tax relief for sales of businesses to their employees.
        • Double to £10,000 the size of the loans that employers can offer tax free to pay for items such as season tickets for commuters.
        • Increasing the rate of the above the line R & D credit to 10 per cent.
        • Abolish the schedule 19 tax which is only payable by UK domiciled funds.
        • Abolishing altogether stamp duty on shares traded on growth markets such as AIM.
        • Reduce the main rate of corporation tax by another 1 per cent.
        • Increasing the Bank Levy rate next year to 0.142 per cent.

        HEALTH

        • Budgets will remain protected – "because our promise to our NHS is a promise we will keep."

        EDUCATION

        • Budgets will remain protected

        LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND POLICE

        • Local government and police allocations for 2013-14 have already been set out and will not be affected

        ARMED FORCES

        • Exempt our military from changes to progression pay
        • Further awards from the LIBOR banking fines have gone to good military causes

        TRANSPORT

        • Boost our infrastructure plans by £3 billion a year from 2015-16

        ENERGY

        • I am introducing a generous new tax regime, including a shale gas field allowance, to promote early investment.

        TAX AVOIDANCE

        • New rules to stop the abuse of partnership rules, corporate tax losses and offshore employment intermediaries.
        • First ever General Anti-Abuse Rule.
        • Name and shame the promoters of tax avoidance scheme.

        PENSIONS

        • Flat rate pension accessible to everyone and worth £144 a week.
        • Bringing forward the introduction of the new Single Tier Pension to 2016.
        • Ex-gratia payments of £5,000 to those Equitable Life policyholders; and we’ll make an extra £5,000 available to those on the lowest incomes who are on pension credit.
        • Protect savings above £72,000, and we’ll raise the threshold for the means test on residential care from just over £23,000 to £118,000.

        DUTY

        • Cancelling this September’s fuel duty increase altogether.
        • Scrap the beer duty escalator altogether. And instead of the 3p rise in beer duty tax planned for this year I am cancelling it altogether.
        • Cut beer duty by 1p. "We’re taking a penny off a pint."

        A croaky Osborne finishes:

        "We understand that the way to restore our economic prosperity is to energise the aspirations of the British people.

        "If you want to own your own home;
        "If you want help with your childcare bills;
        "If you want to start your own business;
        "Or give someone a job;
        "If you want to save for your retirement;
        "And leave your home to your children;
        "If you want to work hard and get on;
        we are on your side.

        "This is a Budget that doesn’t duck our nation’s problems.

        "It confronts them head on.

        "It is a Budget for an aspiration nation.

        "It is a Budget for a Britain that wants to be prosperous, solvent and free.

        "And I commend it to the House."

Budget: Childcare Boost For Working Families

Working families could be paid up to £1,200 per child under a new Government childcare support scheme.

More than two million families could eventually benefit from the tax-free plans set out ahead of the Budget.

Up to £1,200 would be paid for each child annually - to a maximum of 20% of total childcare costs.

But the scheme, which will replace the existing employer supported childcare programme (ESC) will not come into effect until late 2015, after the next general election.

To qualify, both parents, or one parent in the case of lone parent families, will have to be in work and each must be earning less than £150,000 a year.

Initially the measures will cover children up to five years old, but the level of support will build up "over time" to include children under 12.

Ministers say to start with, 1.3 million families will benefit, compared to 450,000 under ESC, eventually rising to around 2.5 million.

The Government is set to invest £1.4bn in the plans - half-funded by abolishing the current childcare vouchers scheme and with the rest of the cash diverted from other departments.

Under the current scheme, parents get vouchers worth up to £55 a week, deducted from their salary before tax is paid.

Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced in their January mid-term review that they would act to help working families with childcare costs.

Ministers have already announced plans to let childminders look after more children, which they hope will reduce costs and make more nursery places available.

Britain has some of the most expensive childcare costs in the world - with fees rising at more than twice the rate of inflation, according to the Daycare Trust .

A report by the trust recently found that a place at the UK's most expensive nursery cost £42,000 - some 25% more than a place at a top public school such as Charterhouse, which charges £30,574 a year.

UK among worst for wage drops across EU

Published time: March 04, 2013 12:31

British one pound coins (AFP Photo/Ben Stansall)

Britain has suffered one of its the biggest drops in median pay over the last two years, recent figures have revealed. Out of the EU's 27 member-states, only the Netherlands, Cyprus and Greece performed worse than the UK.

So-called 'real wages,' taking into account inflation, plunged 3.2 percent between fall 2010 and 2012. The latest analysis, commissioned by Labour Party, puts Britain as seeing the fourth-worst decline in median pay across the eurozone – ranking 24th out of the EU's 27 nations.

According to Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls MP, the UK figures demonstrate “just how far Britain is falling behind the rest of Europe under this Government.”

"Urgent action is needed in the Budget to kick-start our stagnant economy and help people on middle and low incomes struggling with the rising cost of living," Huffington Post quoted MP Balls as saying.

The recession makes yet a stronger impact when compared to Bulgaria and Romania which proved to be Europe’s champions, with Bulgarians and Romanians celebrating 12 and 6 percent rises in wages, respectively.

According to Eurostat data, real wages in France have gone up by 0.2 percent, and Germany saw a healthy 2.4 percent increase. Sweden and the Czech Republic both boasted gains of 3.4 and 3.3 percent, respectively.

Across the EU, an average pay decline of 0.7percent was reported: Italy suffered a 2.2 percent drop, Spain a 1.1 percent plunge and Ireland a modest 0.2 percent fall.

Ukip MEP Defects To Tories

UK Independence Party MEP Marta Andreasen has revealed she is defecting to the Tories. Less than a week before the Eastleigh by-election, former party treasurer Marta Andreasen launched an excoriating attack on Nigel Farage's leadership, saying he tre...

Andrew Mitchell Tells Ministers To Justify Aid Budget

The government needs to do more to justify increasing foreign aid at a time when a poll shows more than three quarters of the public want it cut, Andrew Mitchell has warned. The ex-international development secretary warned voters would increasingly b...

John Major Tells Tory EU ‘Rebels’ To Be Quiet, Warns Against UK Exit

John Major has warned eurosceptic Tory MPs to keep quiet, arguing they are damaging David Cameron's negotiating position in Brussels as he tries to repatriate powers ahead of a 2017 referendum.

The former prime minister, whose time as leader of the Conservative Party was characterised by deep splits over Europe, said the in/out ballot promised by Cameron was a necessary "gamble" for both the country and the party.

"The relationship with Europe has poisoned British politics for too long, distracted parliament from other issues, and come close to destroying the Conservative Party. It is time to resolve the matter," he said.

"I favour this referendum because I simply don't believe we can go on on as we are, year after year, prime minister after prime minster going to Europe being pushed by people to negotiate a victory equivalent to Waterloo," he said.

In a strongly pro-EU speech given at the Chatham House foreign policy think-tank in central London on Thursday afternoon, Sir John said that while the EU was far from perfect, to leave would be to "jump into a void".

But the former prime minister, who negotiated Britain's opt out from the single currency during the Maastricht negotiations in 1991, warned the "aggressive" stance taken towards the EU by some Conservative MPs was damaging and should be ignored by Cameron.

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"Rebellion is addictive, and some members may be getting a taste for it," he said. "I learned twenty years ago that the parliamentary party includes irreconcilables who are prepared to bring down any government or any prime minister in support of their opposition to the EU.

"Members with Conservative heads and Ukip hearts cannot be placated. Whatever is offered to them will be insufficient. They will demand more. They will only be satisfied by withdrawal. It is, therefore, essential for the prime minister to rally the persuadable majority of the parliamentary party."

Sir John said that if other EU leaders believe Cameron has been forced to the negotiation table by anti-EU MPs he would be seen to be "acting under political duress, rather than principle and conviction" – and his hand will be weakened. He added: "The truly well-meaning will give him advice in private."

His intervention can be seen as a rebuke to many backbench Tory MPs who believe their decision to rebel against the prime minister in a Commons vote in which they demanded Cameron seek a cut in the EU budget actually strengthened the UK's negotiating position.

Sir John also rejected calls for a deal to be done with Ukip in advance of the 2015 general election. "I don't think we can or should do a deal with Ukip," he said. "The leadership of Ukip have a policy which is against the UK national interest, they want us to leave the European Union ... we can not make common cause with Ukip."

Sir John said he did not have a "shred of doubt" that he British interest in the short and long term was better served by being inside the EU.

He said: "Being inside the EU can often be frustrating; but outside, we would be at a serious competitive disadvantage. The tens of thousands of UK companies who trade with the European Union should think long and hard about the consequences of exit. So should their employees, numbered in millions. To leave, would be a jump into a void.

Sir John also said Cameron should overrule Nick Clegg and appoint appoint a "lead negotiator" within cabinet to be his "personal emissary" to European capitals as he tries to renegotiate Britain's membership of the the EU. He said it was vital the appointee be personally close to the prime minister, but shied away from suggesting a name.

Related on HuffPost:

How Congress Could Fix Its Budget Woes, Permanently

As Congress struggles through one budget crisis after another, it is becoming increasingly evident that austerity doesn't work. We cannot possibly pay off a $16 trillion debt by tightening our belts, slashing public services, and raising taxes. Historically, when the deficit has been reduced, the money supply has been reduced along with it, throwing the economy into recession. After a thorough analysis of statistics from dozens of countries forced to apply austerity plans by the World Bank and IMF, former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz called austerity plans a “suicide pact.” 

Congress already has in its hands the power to solve the nation’s budget challenges – today and permanently. But it has been artificially constrained from using that power by misguided economic dogma, dogma generated by the interests it serves.  We have bought into the idea that there is not enough money to feed and house our population, rebuild our roads and bridges, or fund our most important programs -- that there is no alternative but to slash budgets and deficits if we are to survive. We have a mountain of critical work to do, improving our schools, rebuilding our infrastructure, pursuing our research goals, and so forth. And with millions of unemployed and underemployed, the people are there to do it. What we don’t have, we are told, is just the money to bring workers and resources together.

But we do have it.  Or we could.

Money today is simply a legal agreement between parties. Nothing backs it but “the full faith and credit of the United States.” The United States could issue its credit directly to fund its own budget, just as our forebears did in the American colonies and as Abraham Lincoln did in the Civil War.

Any serious discussion of this alternative has long been taboo among economists and politicians. But in a landmark speech on February 6, 2013, Adair Turner, chairman of Britain’s Financial Services Authority, broke the taboo with a historic speech recommending that approach. According to a February 7th article in Reuters, Turner is one of the most influential financial policy makers in the world.  His recommendation was supported by a 75-page paper explaining why handing out newly-created money to citizens and governments could solve economic woes globally and would not lead to hyperinflation.

Our Money Exists Only at the Will and Pleasure of Banks

Government-issued money would work because it addresses the problem at its source. Today, we have no permanent money supply. People and governments are drowning in debt because our money comes into existence only as a debt to banks at interest. As Robert Hemphill of the Atlanta Federal Reserve observed in the 1930s:

We are completely dependent on the commercial banks. Someone has to borrow every dollar we have in circulation, cash or credit.  If the banks create ample synthetic money, we are prosperous; if not, we starve.

In the U.S. monetary system, the only money that is not borrowed from banks is the “base money” or “monetary base” created by the Treasury and the Federal Reserve (the Fed). The Treasury creates only the tiny portion consisting of coins. All of the rest is created by the Fed.

Despite its name, the Fed is at best only quasi-federal; and most of the money it creates is electronic rather than paper. We the people have no access to this money, which is not tur ned over to the government or the people but goes directly into the reserve accounts of private banks at the Fed.

It goes there and it stays there. Except for the small amount of “vault cash” available for withdrawal from commercial banks, bank reserves do not leave the doors of the central bank. According to Peter Stella, former head of the Central Banking and Monetary and Foreign Exchange Operations Divisions at the International Monetary Fund:

[I]n a modern monetary system – fiat money, floating exchange rate world – there is absolutely no correlation between bank reserves and lending. . . . [B]anks do not lend “reserves”. . . .

Whether commercial banks let the reserves they have acquired through QE sit “idle” or lend them out in the internet bank market 10,000 times in one day among themselves, the aggregate reserves at the central bank at the end of that day will be the same.

Banks do not lend their reserves to us, but they do lend them to each other. The reserves are what they need to clear checks between banks. Reserves move from one reserve account to another; but the total money in bank reserve accounts remains unchanged, unless the Fed itself issues new money or extinguishes it.

The base money to which we have no access includes that created on a computer screen through “quantitative easing” (QE), which now exceeds $3 trillion. That explains why QE has not driven the economy into hyperinflation, as the deficit hawks have long predicted; and why it has not created jobs, as was its purported mission. The Fed’s QE money simply does not get into the circulating money supply at all.

What we the people have in our bank accounts is a mere reflection of the base money that is the exclusive domain of the bankers’ club. Banks borrow from the Fed and each other at near-zero rates, then lend this money to us at 4% or 8% or 30%, depending on what the market will bear.  Like in a house of mirrors, the Fed’s “base money” gets multiplied over and over whenever “bank credit” is deposited and relent; and that illusory house of mirrors is what we call our money supply.

We Need “Quantitative Easing” for the People

The quantitative easing engaged in by central banks today is not what UK Professor Richard Werner intended when he invented the term. Werner advised the Japanese in the 1990s, when they were caught in a spiral of “debt deflation” like the one we are struggling with now. What he had in mind was credit creation by the central bank for productive purposes in the real, physical economy. But like central banks now, the Bank of Japan simply directed its QE firehose at the banks. Werner complains:

[A]ll QE is doing is to help banks increase the liquidity of their portfolios by getting rid of longer-dated and slightly less liquid assets and raising cash. . . . Reserve expansion is a standard monetarist policy and required no new label.

The QE he recommended was more along the lines of the money-printing engaged in by the American settlers in colonial times and by Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War. The colonists’ paper scrip and Lincoln’s “greenbacks” consisted, not of bank loans, but of paper receipts from the government acknowledging goods and services delivered to the government. The receipts circulated as money in the economy, and in the colonies they were accepted in the payment of taxes. 

The best of these models was in Benjamin Franklin’s colony of Pennsylvania, where government-issued money got into the economy by way of loans issued by a publicly-owned bank. Except for an excise tax on liquor, the government was funded entirely without taxes; there was no government debt; and price inflation did not result. In 1938, Dr. Richard A. Lester, an economist at Princeton University, wrote, “The price level during the 52 years prior to the American Revolution and while Pennsylvania was on a paper standard was more stable than the American price level has been during any succeeding fifty-year period.” 

The Inflation Conundrum

The threat of price inflation is the excuse invariably used for discouraging this sort of “irresponsible” monetary policy today, based on the Milton Friedman dictum that “inflation is everywhere and always a monetary phenomenon.” When the quantity of money goes up, says the theory, more money will be chasing fewer goods, driving prices up. 

What it overlooks is the supply side of the equation. As long as workers are sitting idle and materials are available, increased “demand” will put workers to work creating more “supply.” Supply will rise along with demand, and prices will remain stable. 

True, today these additional workers might be in China or they might be robots. But the principle still holds: if we want the increased supply necessary to satisfy the needs of the people and the economy, more money must first be injected into the economy.  Demand drives supply.  People must have money in their pockets before they can shop, stimulating increased production.  Production doesn’t need as many human workers as it once did. To get enough money in the economy to drive the needed supply, it might be time to issue a national dividend divided equally among the people.

Increased demand will drive up prices only when the economy hits full productive capacitys. It is at that point, and not before, that taxes may need to be levied—not to fund the federal budget, but to prevent “overheating” and keep prices stable. Overheating in the current economy could be a long time coming, however, since according to the Fed’s figures, $4 trillion needs to be added into the money supply just to get it back to where it was in 2008.

Taxes might be avoided altogether, if excess funds were pulled out with fees charged for various government services. A good place to start might be with banking services rendered by publicly-owned banks that returned their profits to the public.

The Road to Prosperity

The Federal Reserve has lavished over $13 trillion in computer-generated bail-out money on the banks, and still the economy is flagging and the debt ceiling refuses to go away. If this money had been pumped into the real economy instead of into the black hole of the private banking system, we might have a thriving economy today.

We are waking up from the long night of our delusion. We do not need to follow the prevailing economic orthodoxies, which have consistently failed and are not corroborated by empirical data.  We need a permanent money supply, and the money must come from somewhere. It is the right and duty of government to provide a money supply that is adequate and sustainable.

It is also the duty of government to provide the public services necessary for a secure and prosperous life for its people. As Thomas Edison observed in the 1920s, if the government can issue a dollar bond, it can issue a dollar bill. Both are backed by “the full faith and credit of the United States.” The government can pay for all the services its people need and eliminate budget crises permanently, simply by issuing the dollars to pay for them, debt-free and interest-free.

Ellen Brown

Ellen Brown developed her research skills as an attorney practicing civil litigation in Los Angeles. In Web of Debt, her latest of eleven books, she turns those skills to an analysis of the Federal Reserve and “the money trust.” She shows how this private cartel has usurped the power to create money from the people themselves, and how we the people can get it back. She is president of the Public Banking Institute, http://PublicBankingInstitute. org , and has websites at http://WebofDebt.com and http://EllenBrown.com

How Congress Could Fix Its Budget Woes, Permanently

As Congress struggles through one budget crisis after another, it is becoming increasingly evident that austerity doesn't work. We cannot possibly pay off a $16 trillion debt by tightening our belts, slashing public services, and raising taxes. Historically, when the deficit has been reduced, the money supply has been reduced along with it, throwing the economy into recession. After a thorough analysis of statistics from dozens of countries forced to apply austerity plans by the World Bank and IMF, former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz called austerity plans a “suicide pact.” 

Congress already has in its hands the power to solve the nation’s budget challenges – today and permanently. But it has been artificially constrained from using that power by misguided economic dogma, dogma generated by the interests it serves.  We have bought into the idea that there is not enough money to feed and house our population, rebuild our roads and bridges, or fund our most important programs -- that there is no alternative but to slash budgets and deficits if we are to survive. We have a mountain of critical work to do, improving our schools, rebuilding our infrastructure, pursuing our research goals, and so forth. And with millions of unemployed and underemployed, the people are there to do it. What we don’t have, we are told, is just the money to bring workers and resources together.

But we do have it.  Or we could.

Money today is simply a legal agreement between parties. Nothing backs it but “the full faith and credit of the United States.” The United States could issue its credit directly to fund its own budget, just as our forebears did in the American colonies and as Abraham Lincoln did in the Civil War.

Any serious discussion of this alternative has long been taboo among economists and politicians. But in a landmark speech on February 6, 2013, Adair Turner, chairman of Britain’s Financial Services Authority, broke the taboo with a historic speech recommending that approach. According to a February 7th article in Reuters, Turner is one of the most influential financial policy makers in the world.  His recommendation was supported by a 75-page paper explaining why handing out newly-created money to citizens and governments could solve economic woes globally and would not lead to hyperinflation.

Our Money Exists Only at the Will and Pleasure of Banks

Government-issued money would work because it addresses the problem at its source. Today, we have no permanent money supply. People and governments are drowning in debt because our money comes into existence only as a debt to banks at interest. As Robert Hemphill of the Atlanta Federal Reserve observed in the 1930s:

We are completely dependent on the commercial banks. Someone has to borrow every dollar we have in circulation, cash or credit.  If the banks create ample synthetic money, we are prosperous; if not, we starve.

In the U.S. monetary system, the only money that is not borrowed from banks is the “base money” or “monetary base” created by the Treasury and the Federal Reserve (the Fed). The Treasury creates only the tiny portion consisting of coins. All of the rest is created by the Fed.

Despite its name, the Fed is at best only quasi-federal; and most of the money it creates is electronic rather than paper. We the people have no access to this money, which is not tur ned over to the government or the people but goes directly into the reserve accounts of private banks at the Fed.

It goes there and it stays there. Except for the small amount of “vault cash” available for withdrawal from commercial banks, bank reserves do not leave the doors of the central bank. According to Peter Stella, former head of the Central Banking and Monetary and Foreign Exchange Operations Divisions at the International Monetary Fund:

[I]n a modern monetary system – fiat money, floating exchange rate world – there is absolutely no correlation between bank reserves and lending. . . . [B]anks do not lend “reserves”. . . .

Whether commercial banks let the reserves they have acquired through QE sit “idle” or lend them out in the internet bank market 10,000 times in one day among themselves, the aggregate reserves at the central bank at the end of that day will be the same.

Banks do not lend their reserves to us, but they do lend them to each other. The reserves are what they need to clear checks between banks. Reserves move from one reserve account to another; but the total money in bank reserve accounts remains unchanged, unless the Fed itself issues new money or extinguishes it.

The base money to which we have no access includes that created on a computer screen through “quantitative easing” (QE), which now exceeds $3 trillion. That explains why QE has not driven the economy into hyperinflation, as the deficit hawks have long predicted; and why it has not created jobs, as was its purported mission. The Fed’s QE money simply does not get into the circulating money supply at all.

What we the people have in our bank accounts is a mere reflection of the base money that is the exclusive domain of the bankers’ club. Banks borrow from the Fed and each other at near-zero rates, then lend this money to us at 4% or 8% or 30%, depending on what the market will bear.  Like in a house of mirrors, the Fed’s “base money” gets multiplied over and over whenever “bank credit” is deposited and relent; and that illusory house of mirrors is what we call our money supply.

We Need “Quantitative Easing” for the People

The quantitative easing engaged in by central banks today is not what UK Professor Richard Werner intended when he invented the term. Werner advised the Japanese in the 1990s, when they were caught in a spiral of “debt deflation” like the one we are struggling with now. What he had in mind was credit creation by the central bank for productive purposes in the real, physical economy. But like central banks now, the Bank of Japan simply directed its QE firehose at the banks. Werner complains:

[A]ll QE is doing is to help banks increase the liquidity of their portfolios by getting rid of longer-dated and slightly less liquid assets and raising cash. . . . Reserve expansion is a standard monetarist policy and required no new label.

The QE he recommended was more along the lines of the money-printing engaged in by the American settlers in colonial times and by Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War. The colonists’ paper scrip and Lincoln’s “greenbacks” consisted, not of bank loans, but of paper receipts from the government acknowledging goods and services delivered to the government. The receipts circulated as money in the economy, and in the colonies they were accepted in the payment of taxes. 

The best of these models was in Benjamin Franklin’s colony of Pennsylvania, where government-issued money got into the economy by way of loans issued by a publicly-owned bank. Except for an excise tax on liquor, the government was funded entirely without taxes; there was no government debt; and price inflation did not result. In 1938, Dr. Richard A. Lester, an economist at Princeton University, wrote, “The price level during the 52 years prior to the American Revolution and while Pennsylvania was on a paper standard was more stable than the American price level has been during any succeeding fifty-year period.” 

The Inflation Conundrum

The threat of price inflation is the excuse invariably used for discouraging this sort of “irresponsible” monetary policy today, based on the Milton Friedman dictum that “inflation is everywhere and always a monetary phenomenon.” When the quantity of money goes up, says the theory, more money will be chasing fewer goods, driving prices up. 

What it overlooks is the supply side of the equation. As long as workers are sitting idle and materials are available, increased “demand” will put workers to work creating more “supply.” Supply will rise along with demand, and prices will remain stable. 

True, today these additional workers might be in China or they might be robots. But the principle still holds: if we want the increased supply necessary to satisfy the needs of the people and the economy, more money must first be injected into the economy.  Demand drives supply.  People must have money in their pockets before they can shop, stimulating increased production.  Production doesn’t need as many human workers as it once did. To get enough money in the economy to drive the needed supply, it might be time to issue a national dividend divided equally among the people.

Increased demand will drive up prices only when the economy hits full productive capacitys. It is at that point, and not before, that taxes may need to be levied—not to fund the federal budget, but to prevent “overheating” and keep prices stable. Overheating in the current economy could be a long time coming, however, since according to the Fed’s figures, $4 trillion needs to be added into the money supply just to get it back to where it was in 2008.

Taxes might be avoided altogether, if excess funds were pulled out with fees charged for various government services. A good place to start might be with banking services rendered by publicly-owned banks that returned their profits to the public.

The Road to Prosperity

The Federal Reserve has lavished over $13 trillion in computer-generated bail-out money on the banks, and still the economy is flagging and the debt ceiling refuses to go away. If this money had been pumped into the real economy instead of into the black hole of the private banking system, we might have a thriving economy today.

We are waking up from the long night of our delusion. We do not need to follow the prevailing economic orthodoxies, which have consistently failed and are not corroborated by empirical data.  We need a permanent money supply, and the money must come from somewhere. It is the right and duty of government to provide a money supply that is adequate and sustainable.

It is also the duty of government to provide the public services necessary for a secure and prosperous life for its people. As Thomas Edison observed in the 1920s, if the government can issue a dollar bond, it can issue a dollar bill. Both are backed by “the full faith and credit of the United States.” The government can pay for all the services its people need and eliminate budget crises permanently, simply by issuing the dollars to pay for them, debt-free and interest-free.

Ellen Brown

Ellen Brown developed her research skills as an attorney practicing civil litigation in Los Angeles. In Web of Debt, her latest of eleven books, she turns those skills to an analysis of the Federal Reserve and “the money trust.” She shows how this private cartel has usurped the power to create money from the people themselves, and how we the people can get it back. She is president of the Public Banking Institute, http://PublicBankingInstitute. org , and has websites at http://WebofDebt.com and http://EllenBrown.com

Cameron Condemns MEPs For ‘Secret’ EU Budget Vote

David Cameron has challenged Ed Miliband over whether Labour MEPs will vote against a cut in the EU Budget, amid fears the European Parliament may veto the deal. Last week European leaders agreed to cut the EU's budget for the next seven years to 908b...

Liam Fox Calls For Further Cuts To Welfare Budget

Chancellor George Osborne should announce further cuts to the welfare budget and the civil service, former Cabinet minister Liam Fox said as he indicated he would like to return to frontline politics.

Dr Fox, a standard-bearer for the Tory right, called for deeper reductions in public spending and tax cuts for businesses as he identified economic growth as the key factor if the Tories are to win the next election.

"We need to get a firmer grip on spending. One of the biggest rises in our budget is the interest we are paying on our debt. That has risen from just over £40 billion, it will rise to almost £60 billion by the next general election," he told Sky News' Murnaghan programme

"That means that we are paying more in debt interest than we are spending on defence and overseas aid and the foreign office all combined."

liam fox

Liam Fox called for tax cuts to boost businesses

He said Mr Osborne should target the welfare budget and the size of Whitehall as areas for spending cuts.But he also called for a package of tax cuts to boost business.

"Cutting taxes on business I think is key to get more people into work, I personally would like to see capital gains tax taken down to get more activity into the economy. We need to be creative: if we are creative we get growth, if we get growth we get re-election.

Fox acknowledged there had been "muttering" about David Cameron's leadership but insisted the Prime Minister had silenced his critics over Europe.

He praised Mr Cameron's announcement that a Tory government would offer an in/out referendum on membership of the European Union, which he claimed had blunted the threat to the Tories posed by the UK Independence Party (Ukip).

"What would be the point in a general election of voting for a party like Ukip ... when the Conservatives will promise and deliver a referendum if we are elected, and voting for a party like Ukip can only increase the chance of Labour being re-elected and they will deny the voters a choice," he said.

Asked if he would take a post in the government if Mr Cameron offered it, Dr Fox said anyone offered the chance to serve their country "ought to say yes".

Questions about Mr Cameron's leadership have been asked in recent weeks after reports that backbencher Adam Afriyie was being touted as a potential successor.

Asked on Sky News' Murnaghan programme if Mr Afriyie was a "stalking horse" acting as cover for his own leadership challenge, the former Cabinet minister said: "I've been in Parliament for nearly 21 years and I can never remember a time in all 21 years when there wasn't muttering going on about whoever was the party leader at the time or prime minister at the time.

"Party leaders have to get over that and go ahead and do what they believe to be correct. The Prime Minister got a great victory for the UK at the EU summit this week, which of course all those defeatists said would not be possible.

"He went in, negotiated hard, showed considerable diplomatic skill and got a great outcome for the United Kingdom."

Dr Fox quit the government over his controversial relationship with self-styled adviser Adam Werritty but indicated he would accept an offer of a return to the ministerial ranks from Mr Cameron.

"That's not a question for me, that's a question for the Prime Minister and I'm sure he will have his view on that.

"If anyone was asked by a prime minister if you are willing to serve your country I think they ought to say yes."

The End of Squatting in the UK?

Calls from within government to fully criminalise squatting gather momentum. It could have serious implications for political occupations, and will it backfire on the government's plans to reduce its welfare budget?

TRANSCRIPT:

Hassan Ghani

As Britain's economists speculate over the prospects of a triple-dip recession, the future looks bleak for those already struggling to make ends meet.

Across England, the cost of renting is going up, house repossessions are on the rise, and particularly here in London more and more people are finding themselves homeless. One path out of that is squatting, but that is now under serious threat.

Tens of thousands of people have been squatting in empty buildings across the UK for many many years. But last year the government criminalised squatting in residential buildings, and now it's considering doing the same for commercial buildings. Mike Wetherly is a Member of Parliament whose been campaigning to make this happen.

Mike Weatherly, Member of Parliament, Conservative Party

"I'm no fan of empty buildings either, and I think we ought to do various things to encourage empty buildings to be put back into use. What I don't want to see is vulnerable people, and these are often very vulnerable people, drug addicts and alcohol and so on, going into these vulnerable properties, commercial ones which have been abandoned, are unsafe, they don't have sanitation, they don't have electricity. The local authorities should be looking after homeless people.

Now, some squatters have got nothing to do with homelessness, they are basically anarchists who just want to have rent-free accommodation, they're well educated and web savvy. I don't mind people having alternative views on life, and they can live the way they want to, but what they can't do is just take what doesn't belong to them and rob people of their own property."

Hassan Ghani

It's true that many in Britain do see squatters as a scourge on society, that threaten to steal their property and land. It's an image perpetuated by much of the media. So we decided to visit some squats in London and find out what they're like for ourselves.

Leon, Squatter at Rochester Square

"Welcome to One Rochester Square"

Hassan Ghani

Rochester Square is nestled in a residential neighbourhood of North London. The rare green space lay unused for years until the squatters arrived six months ago.

Leon, Squatter at Rochester Square

"We've got six rooms in the main area, and one room at the back of the kitchen. The kitchen is built in a way that all our water that we use for cleaning our clothes and cleaning our dishes is recycled back round to the toilet and used also as water to flush the toilet, saving about 70 litres a day. We have a bike workshop, where two people who are amateur bike mechanics work on fixing people's bikes, and building up new ones from spare parts.

When we arrived, there were alcohol bottles, there were hypodermic needles, there was pornography, so when we came we did a lot of cleaning up. We've tried to contact the owner, tried to show him what we've done. Unfortunately he only wanted to deal with us through his solicitor and hasn't come down to his site, to have a look at what we've done here, which is a bit unfortunate.

If you look up you can see that most of the wood is rotting, and this is what happens if you don't take care of a place."

Pete, Squatter at Rochester Square

"We have to be very careful to separate media scare stories, because there is a campaign of right wing media vilification against squatters, from the fact."

Hassan Ghani

Pete is a masters student and a part time teacher. He says that all the squatters he knows think carefully before choosing to occupy a space.

Pete, Squatter at Rochester Square

"Squatters tend to go for places which have been left empty for a very long time anyway. And if they find that this place has just been sold, or if its to become somebody's home, they're not going to squat it. A) because the legislation which existed even before the new law meant that they would be evicted very rapidly anyway as a consequence, and B) because squatters are not in the business of taking people's homes, they're in the process of putting a temporary shelter over their heads.

I wonder if many landlords didn't just talk to the squatters, as rational individuals, and they'd be able to see that actually they're not just druggies who're going to tear the place apart, but can actually improve the place."

Hassan Ghani

And he says squatters, like wider society, are composed of a diverse range of people.

Pete, Squatter at Rochester Square

"I used to believe that squatters were a subculture of people who were anarchists, and didn't work, and all had mohicans. And then I learned, actually, that they're just people. And that many of the people who were serving me food in a restaraunt, or many people in healthcare, are squatters. People who are providing essential services are squatters. They are a very diverse range of poeple. They're just people on low incomes, and they're just finding a solution to the fact that this is an incredibly expensive city to live in, and property ownership is getting more and more concentrated into fewer and fewer hands."

Hassan Ghani

London is among the most expensive places to live in the world. Ana previously rented a room in private accommodation, but even that cost her half her earnings each month. She now lives in the garden squat.

Ana, Squatter at Rochester Square

"If I'm working and I need to pay the rent, I will use more than 50% of that money to pay the rent, plus feeding, plus transportation, and basically that will mean that I will be living to pay my housing, and I don't believe that that's fair. Housing, food and health are a human right. So many people without houses, so many houses without people - why?"

Hassan Ghani

While filming at the squat, we stumbled into a gathering of neighbourhood residents, who'd come to voice their opinions on its use. And we were surprised to find that overall they were supportive of the squatters, telling us the space had previously been a den of crime.

Will, Local Resident

"If somebody owns land then what they do with it, and this is a privately owned space, it should be to a degree up to them. But if there's no action taking place, and that continues for a significant number of years, then those decisions need to be made by somebody else who's more capable. Especially because this is such a significant area of land, we're not talking about a small garden space in the middle of a few other houses, this is maybe even ten thousand square foot in the very centre of a very built up area, in very central London.

There's certain times when I feel very strongly that squatters shouldn't get into private properties, and there's certain times when I think 'go for it', I'm really pleased to see that unused spaces in central London are being used, especially when they're being used as productively as this. However, I've seen people's properties damaged in a number of unpleasant ways by people who don't have the same moral code, I guess."

Hassan Ghani

The squatters, however, have been served a notice of eviction. Their efforts to convince the local authorities to buy the land from the landlord, so that it can be used by the local community, have so far failed.

The next squat we went to see was quite different. An industrial building in south London, the Colorama squat was previously a printing workshop. It too lay abandoned for several years, until squatters arrived. It now serves as a multi purpose hall downstairs, and accommodation for squatters upstairs.

Tom, Squatter at 'Colorama'

"It was in a really really bad state, it was a complete wreck when we first moved in. I came on the second day and it took a lot of work to make it livable, and also so we could hold events here. We've got a free shop, we've got free events, free music, free movies, an info-shop, a library, for people who want to read up and access that kind of stuff. And we've got a lot of people from the community turn up, we've got families and kids running around here. We also get squatting networks, which is a very broad range of people, political types, people who are squatting just to have a roof over their heads, and the neighbourhood."

Hassan Ghani

Tom was homeless until he found this squat. He says he doesn't want to be dependent on the welfare state, and that squatting has given him the motivation and the independence he needs to change his life.

Tom, Squatter at 'Colorama'

"Before I came here I was homeless for eight months, so I had nowhere else to live. Without squatting I would have been on the streets, there was no way I could afford to live. And it's the same with a lot of people here, people who squat out of necessity. This place gives you motivation, I had no motivation, I was homeless because of the rent, and this place has given me motivation, it's given me order, it's given me structure."

Hassan Ghani

Listening to Tom it's clear that for him squatting is more than just about necessity, he has some very strong views on what he sees as serious inequality in society.

Tom, Squatter at 'Colorama'

"My dad worked forty odd years in a factory, for nothing. He had no money whatsoever. He worked his entire life, and he was a clever bloke. The people who had the privilege, had the ability to go and get that kind of stuff, that's what was given to them by birth, by their education.

Hassan Ghani

"If you can't squat in buildings like this anymore, where does that leave you?"

Tom

"Either in prison, or homeless."

Hassan Ghani

We arrived at Colorama on a Thursday, when they have their weekly people's kitchen. They open their doors to the public and provide freshly cooked meals to anyone who comes in, donations are welcome but not necessary.

So, who pays for all this food then, you might wonder. Well, we were invited to meet two squatters just after midnight, in sub-zero temperatures, to find out.

It all looks a bit unhygienic, piling through the bins of a supermarket. But these two have built up experience of where to go and what to look for, and they seem to be wearing appropriate clothing. Some of the food they find is actually quite expensive in the stores, but all of it has been thrown out, even though much of it is still edible. On this night we found plenty of fruit and vegetables, almost too much to carry, in perfect condition. Many squatters live on this supply of food which would otherwise end up in landfill. Another example, they say, of how society is wasting its resources

Laura, Squatter at 'Colorama'

"I think it's totally fine to eat the food we find in the bins, because most of it's actually quite nice. You just wash it, chop it up, cook it, and it's totally fine to eat. Most employees will understand, because they see everyday that they have to throw away vast amounts of food, and most of them will realise that it's actually a really stupid thing to do, you could just give it to people who are in need of food. Sometimes they're not allowed to give food to us, or sometimes they have to shoo us away, we're not allowed to enter the premises, and sometimes they even build like big fences, electric wires, and put padlocks in front of the bins, just because they don't want people to get food, they want people to buy stuff, this is how capitalism works. I think it's such a waste of resources, throwing food away."

Hassan Ghani

We've got one last squat to visit. This is one that critics like Mike Weatherley would possibly approve of. It's based in an abandoned pub in North London. Nathan showed us around - he lives here with up to sixteen others, spread across several floors. He says the building has been empty for around ten years, and although they moved in without asking anyone, when the landlord finally turned up and met them, he was impressed in the way they'd maintained the property, and let them stay if they agreed to leave when he wanted it back.

Nathan, Squatter

"Before we moved in, the garden was full of sewage. The whole place was derelict. We've redecorated all in here, so it looked nothing like this. It looked a real state. We've had to sort out the plumbing..."

Hassan Ghani

I asked him if he thought that other squatters who occupied a building against the landlord's wishes were essentially stealing that property.

Nathan Squatter

"I don't think it's necessarily stealing, because the idea of squatting isn't that you nick something from someone, you don't want to permanently deprive someone of a place. If a place is empty, you want to be able to utilise it to give other people a home, create more homes, if it genuinely is empty. So I'm not talking about going into a building stopping people from doing work on their home, or they've just gone on holiday, or they popped to the shops and you're in there, because that thing doesn't happen, nobody really wants to do that because A) you deprive someone of a home, and second you're going to be out on the streets because they're going to get a court order and the police are going to drag you out. There are obviously people who squat buildings that are in use, and I don't think that should be done, but you can do your homework, you can research a building and find out if it is unused and the planning permission on it and everything.

In the UK there's 700 thousand empty properties, and there's an estimated half a million hidden homeless. Squat's are a great social safety net. The fact that there's so many vulnerable people in squats goes to show how much the system is failing them, outside of squat society. I think rather than come down on the squatters, maybe we should come down on the inequality within society. There are people in this house who work, and yet still have to squat to be able to get by. More and more people are struggling just to be able to get by, because they're paying so much in rent. If the possibility was accessible to not squat, I think most people would not squat."

Hassan Ghani

"There isn't a problem when the landlord and the squatters come to an agreement, and that's probably a way forward. But a lot of the time, when the landlord and the bailiffs come to evict them, the squatters don't let the bailiffs, in, they physically stop them from getting in."

Nathan, Squatter

"When someone's got bailiffs on you, I think it's come to a point where the owner has not engaged with you at all to be able to talk with you, to come to an agreement, and they're forcing you out the property. There's a place just down the road here, it's been empty for I think seven years. It's been squatted three or four times, and each time they get the bailiffs in and evict people. And then it stands empty. You're just going to leave the building empty for another five years, can we not just stay in here until you use it? And they just force them out into the street. I can understand why people would want to resist and hold their home."

Hassan Ghani

But that's not how supporters of criminalising squatting see it.

Mike Weatherley, Member of Parliament, Conservative Party

"These buildings aren't being wasted, they belong to somebody. If I don't drive my car for a year, that doesn't give a squatter a right to drive my car, or if someone's not using their property which they've bought. So it does belong to somebody, and they are stealing something that doesn't belong to them. Anything that they say about making the premises better or improving it, is actually false. They don't run round the hoover before they leave. I've seen open fires in these, some of these buildings have been destroyed, and there is a lot of drug taking and anti-social behaviour associated with a lot of squats, not all squats, but a lot of squats. And if you talk to some of the residents that I do, that are around squats, they are very disturbed about the squats. There's late night parties, there's music, there's all sorts of people coming and going through the night, and they don't really like that type of intrusion into their lives."

Hassan Ghani

It is true that some squatters occupy buildings or land for political reasons, such as the campaign to stop a new runway at Heathrow airport, or others who object to way wealth is distributed and society is organised. But should they be imprisoned for doing so? And as for anti-social squatters:

Nathan, Squatter

"There's a whole range of squatters and squats. Just as in society you've got nice people and you've got dickheads. It's the same in the squat community, you've got the same thing. The majority of people are quite understanding. Whenever anyone goes into a home, they want to create a home, they don't want to go into a place and destroy it, because then it's shit to live there. You obviously want to make it your home to live there, so you want to keep it nice, and make it comfortable. But then there are other people who are party crews, and they like to open up a building and throw parties once in a while, and often sometimes too often. But then again, when I was a student I had more complaints from the neighbours than I do now. (When you were a student living in rented accommodation?) Yeah.

Pete, Squatter at Rochester Square

"There are cases of squats that are bad. It would be absolutely short-sighted of me to sit here and say that all squatting is good, that's not the case. But there's no evidence to suggest that squatters are any more anti-social than any other sector of the housing population. I've lived in private rented accommodation with incredible violent anti-social people, who take drugs, and listen to loud music, and are bad neighbours. Many of the most community minded people I've known are squatters.

Hassan Ghani

The squats we visited certainly seemed to be well organised, and as far as we could tell, responsible within their respective communities. But with residential squatting already criminalised, with a penalty of up to six months in prison, and squatting in commercial buildings probably next, something is going to have to change.

Pete, Squatter at Rochester Square

"The average rent in London is over £1300. There are 80 thousand empty buildings in this city, many of those are registered in tax-havens. We've got lots of companies which are absentee landlords, leaving buildings empty and speculating on them, and that's the crime. The conservative government has decided to legislate in favour of landlords to the point where it says that the right to own private property, even if you own lots and lots of buildings, and keep them empty for 20, 30 years, is so much more important than the human right to have a temporary shelter over your head, that they're willing to throw people who do the latter into prisons."

Mike Weatherley, Member of Parliament, Conservative Party

"We should do other things to encourage empty properties back into use, but that doesn't mean that we should then say 'well it's a free-for-all for everybody to go and take what doesn't belong to them'."

Hassan Ghani

Perhaps the most important question is where do these people go next, if squatting in empty commercial buildings also becomes a criminal act. Statistics show that 40% of homeless people are squatters at some point. At a time when the government is trying reduce its welfare budget, the last thing it needs is more people on low or no income joining the queue for housing benefits. Is it on route to scoring an own goal? Hassan Ghani, for the Real News, London.

European Union Leaders Agree Historic Budget Cut, But MEPs May Veto Deal

European leaders have agreed a cut in the EU budget after German chancellor Angela Merkel sided with David Cameron's demand that Brussels tighten its belt, however the European Parliament may veto the deal.

When the 27-way summit finally got under way, the opening bid presented to the leaders for agreement amounted to a budget proposal of 913 billion euros (£778 billion) for 2014-2020.

On Friday afternoon, after all night negotiations, leaders finally agreed 908bn euro budget - a cut of five billion euros.

Speaking after an agreement was reached, the prime minister said he had done a "good deal" for Britain and had worked with other European leaders to secure the cut.

"We wanted to cut this credit card," he said. "On any fair way of looking at it, that is exactly what we have done."

"We worked hard with the Dutch, Danes, Swedes and Angela [Merkel] to make sure Europe's taxpayers got a good deal," he said.

It has also been reported that Merkel sided with Cameron against French President Francois Hollande on the budget. "We had some debates and discussions," the prime minister acknowledged.

European Council president Herman Van Rompuy announced the deal had been done with a Tweet.


Herman Van Rompuy
Deal done! #euco has agreed on #MFF for the rest of the decade. Worth waiting for.

The settlement will allow Cameron to claim that his basic demands that Europe at least nods towards the austerity being endured by national treasuries have been met.

In October Labour joined with eurosceptic Tories in a Commons vote to demand the prime minister argue for a real-terms cut in the EU's long-term budget during the negotiations.

Tory Douglas Carswell, one of the more eurosceptic MPs and not a huge fan of the prime minister, welcomed the deal by declaring "three hearty cheers" to Cameron.

"Under pressure from the taxpayer, MPs instructed ministers not to hand over extra amounts of money. And ministers appear to have responded by securing a deal that does precisely that," he said.

And Rochester and Strood MP Mark Reckless, who led the rebellion in the Commons over the budget, offered his congratulations in a video message posted on You Tube.

"His [Cameron's] diplomats, his permanent representative in Brussels, the Liberal Democrats all said the best we could hope for was a freeze," he said.

"By passing my amendment, Parliament voted to strengthen that negotiating mandate and demand a cut. With Parliament behind him, the Prime Minister has delivered at the EU council today."

However even though the overall budget for the next seven years may come down, the UK's contribution could actually increase.

Ukip leader Nigel Farage dismissed the deal: "Shaving a few pence off our daily contribution is inconsequential; the question now is why are we paying anything at all?"


Nigel Farage

Clearly a huge victory for David Cameron: looks like he's managed to increase the UK contributions!

Even if the terms are endorsed at the summit, the deal must run the gauntlet of the European Parliament, which now looks likely to call a secret ballot.

Parliament President Martin Schulz confirmed last night that he intended deploying the rarely used procedure.

If so, by allowing MEPs to vote anonymously, the move will effectively stop EU leaders galvanising their own members of the Parliament to support the budget deal.

European Parliament officials said it looked certain the bid to call a secret ballot would be backed, as required, by one fifth of MEPs, with a secret vote held within three months.

Jean Lambert MEP: Why Cuts in the EU Budget Are Just Another Austerity Measure That Will Hit the Poorest Hardest

However, Tory MEP Martin Callanan condemned the idea as a "highly cynical and unaccountable act" on one of the Parliament's most important ever votes.

Callanan, leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists group, said others had to be able to see how their representatives voted on their behalf.

"If MEPs want to reject an agreement made by their own prime ministers then they should have the courage of their convictions and not try to cower behind a procedural technicality.

"The European Parliament must be accountable to its voters which it cannot be if MEPs connive to hide their voting record on an issue that they should be judged on at the ballot box. This is not some small vote; it is one of the most important decisions of the entire legislature."

He added: "This kind of behaviour brings the EU and politicians into disrepute. My group will argue for a roll call vote on any deal reached so that all MEPs can stand on the doorsteps in their constituencies and explain why they cannot support their prime minister."

Related on HuffPost:

The End of Squatting in the UK?

Context: As yet there are no context links for this item.

Transcript

Hassan Ghani

As Britain’s economists speculate over the prospects of a triple-dip recession, the future looks bleak for those already struggling to make ends meet.Across England, the cost of renting is going up, house repossessions are on the rise, and particularly here in London more and more people are finding themselves homeless. One path out of that is squatting, but that is now under serious threat.Tens of thousands of people have been squatting in empty buildings across the UK for many many years. But last year the government criminalised squatting in residential buildings, and now it’s considering doing the same for commercial buildings. Mike Wetherly is a Member of Parliament whose been campaigning to make this happen.Mike Weatherly, Member of Parliament, Conservative Party“I’m no fan of empty buildings either, and I think we ought to do various things to encourage empty buildings to be put back into use. What I don’t want to see is vulnerable people, and these are often very vulnerable people, drug addicts and alcohol and so on, going into these vulnerable properties, commercial ones which have been abandoned, are unsafe, they don’t have sanitation, they don’t have electricity. The local authorities should be looking after homeless people.Now, some squatters have got nothing to do with homelessness, they are basically anarchists who just want to have rent-free accommodation, they’re well educated and web savvy. I don’t mind people having alternative views on life, and they can live the way they want to, but what they can’t do is just take what doesn’t belong to them and rob people of their own property.”Hassan GhaniIt’s true that many in Britain do see squatters as a scourge on society, that threaten to steal their property and land. It’s an image perpetuated by much of the media. So we decided to visit some squats in London and find out what they’re like for ourselves.Leon, Squatter at Rochester Square“Welcome to One Rochester Square”Hassan GhaniRochester Square is nestled in a residential neighbourhood of North London. The rare green space lay unused for years until the squatters arrived six months ago.Leon, Squatter at Rochester Square“We’ve got six rooms in the main area, and one room at the back of the kitchen. The kitchen is built in a way that all our water that we use for cleaning our clothes and cleaning our dishes is recycled back round to the toilet and used also as water to flush the toilet, saving about 70 litres a day. We have a bike workshop, where two people who are amateur bike mechanics work on fixing people’s bikes, and building up new ones from spare parts.When we arrived, there were alcohol bottles, there were hypodermic needles, there was pornography, so when we came we did a lot of cleaning up. We’ve tried to contact the owner, tried to show him what we’ve done. Unfortunately he only wanted to deal with us through his solicitor and hasn’t come down to his site, to have a look at what we’ve done here, which is a bit unfortunate.If you look up you can see that most of the wood is rotting, and this is what happens if you don’t take care of a place.”Pete, Squatter at Rochester Square“We have to be very careful to separate media scare stories, because there is a campaign of right wing media vilification against squatters, from the fact.”Hassan GhaniPete is a masters student and a part time teacher. He says that all the squatters he knows think carefully before choosing to occupy a space.Pete, Squatter at Rochester Square“Squatters tend to go for places which have been left empty for a very long time anyway. And if they find that this place has just been sold, or if its to become somebody’s home, they’re not going to squat it. A) because the legislation which existed even before the new law meant that they would be evicted very rapidly anyway as a consequence, and B) because squatters are not in the business of taking people’s homes, they’re in the process of putting a temporary shelter over their heads.I wonder if many landlords didn’t just talk to the squatters, as rational individuals, and they’d be able to see that actually they’re not just druggies who’re going to tear the place apart, but can actually improve the place.”Hassan GhaniAnd he says squatters, like wider society, are composed of a diverse range of people.Pete, Squatter at Rochester Square“I used to believe that squatters were a subculture of people who were anarchists, and didn’t work, and all had mohicans. And then I learned, actually, that they’re just people. And that many of the people who were serving me food in a restaraunt, or many people in healthcare, are squatters. People who are providing essential services are squatters. They are a very diverse range of poeple. They’re just people on low incomes, and they’re just finding a solution to the fact that this is an incredibly expensive city to live in, and property ownership is getting more and more concentrated into fewer and fewer hands.”Hassan GhaniLondon is among the most expensive places to live in the world. Ana previously rented a room in private accommodation, but even that cost her half her earnings each month. She now lives in the garden squat.Ana, Squatter at Rochester Square“If I’m working and I need to pay the rent, I will use more than 50% of that money to pay the rent, plus feeding, plus transportation, and basically that will mean that I will be living to pay my housing, and I don’t believe that that’s fair. Housing, food and health are a human right. So many people without houses, so many houses without people - why?”Hassan GhaniWhile filming at the squat, we stumbled into a gathering of neighbourhood residents, who’d come to voice their opinions on its use. And we were surprised to find that overall they were supportive of the squatters, telling us the space had previously been a den of crime.Will, Local Resident“If somebody owns land then what they do with it, and this is a privately owned space, it should be to a degree up to them. But if there’s no action taking place, and that continues for a significant number of years, then those decisions need to be made by somebody else who’s more capable. Especially because this is such a significant area of land, we’re not talking about a small garden space in the middle of a few other houses, this is maybe even ten thousand square foot in the very centre of a very built up area, in very central London.There’s certain times when I feel very strongly that squatters shouldn’t get into private properties, and there’s certain times when I think ‘go for it’, I’m really pleased to see that unused spaces in central London are being used, especially when they’re being used as productively as this. However, I’ve seen people’s properties damaged in a number of unpleasant ways by people who don’t have the same moral code, I guess.”Hassan GhaniThe squatters, however, have been served a notice of eviction. Their efforts to convince the local authorities to buy the land from the landlord, so that it can be used by the local community, have so far failed.The next squat we went to see was quite different. An industrial building in south London, the Colorama squat was previously a printing workshop. It too lay abandoned for several years, until squatters arrived. It now serves as a multi purpose hall downstairs, and accommodation for squatters upstairs.Tom, Squatter at ‘Colorama’“It was in a really really bad state, it was a complete wreck when we first moved in. I came on the second day and it took a lot of work to make it livable, and also so we could hold events here. We’ve got a free shop, we’ve got free events, free music, free movies, an info-shop, a library, for people who want to read up and access that kind of stuff. And we’ve got a lot of people from the community turn up, we’ve got families and kids running around here. We also get squatting networks, which is a very broad range of people, political types, people who are squatting just to have a roof over their heads, and the neighbourhood.”Hassan GhaniTom was homeless until he found this squat. He says he doesn’t want to be dependent on the welfare state, and that squatting has given him the motivation and the independence he needs to change his life.Tom, Squatter at ‘Colorama’“Before I came here I was homeless for eight months, so I had nowhere else to live. Without squatting I would have been on the streets, there was no way I could afford to live. And it’s the same with a lot of people here, people who squat out of necessity. This place gives you motivation, I had no motivation, I was homeless because of the rent, and this place has given me motivation, it’s given me order, it’s given me structure.”Hassan GhaniListening to Tom it’s clear that for him squatting is more than just about necessity, he has some very strong views on what he sees as serious inequality in society.Tom, Squatter at ‘Colorama’“My dad worked forty odd years in a factory, for nothing. He had no money whatsoever. He worked his entire life, and he was a clever bloke. The people who had the privilege, had the ability to go and get that kind of stuff, that’s what was given to them by birth, by their education.Hassan Ghani“If you can’t squat in buildings like this anymore, where does that leave you?”Tom“Either in prison, or homeless.”Hassan GhaniWe arrived at Colorama on a Thursday, when they have their weekly people’s kitchen. They open their doors to the public and provide freshly cooked meals to anyone who comes in, donations are welcome but not necessary.So, who pays for all this food then, you might wonder. Well, we were invited to meet two squatters just after midnight, in sub-zero temperatures, to find out.It all looks a bit unhygienic, piling through the bins of a supermarket. But these two have built up experience of where to go and what to look for, and they seem to be wearing appropriate clothing. Some of the food they find is actually quite expensive in the stores, but all of it has been thrown out, even though much of it is still edible. On this night we found plenty of fruit and vegetables, almost too much to carry, in perfect condition. Many squatters live on this supply of food which would otherwise end up in landfill. Another example, they say, of how society is wasting its resourcesLaura, Squatter at ‘Colorama’“I think it’s totally fine to eat the food we find in the bins, because most of it’s actually quite nice. You just wash it, chop it up, cook it, and it’s totally fine to eat. Most employees will understand, because they see everyday that they have to throw away vast amounts of food, and most of them will realise that it’s actually a really stupid thing to do, you could just give it to people who are in need of food. Sometimes they’re not allowed to give food to us, or sometimes they have to shoo us away, we’re not allowed to enter the premises, and sometimes they even build like big fences, electric wires, and put padlocks in front of the bins, just because they don’t want people to get food, they want people to buy stuff, this is how capitalism works. I think it’s such a waste of resources, throwing food away.”Hassan GhaniWe’ve got one last squat to visit. This is one that critics like Mike Weatherley would possibly approve of. It’s based in an abandoned pub in North London. Nathan showed us around - he lives here with up to sixteen others, spread across several floors. He says the building has been empty for around ten years, and although they moved in without asking anyone, when the landlord finally turned up and met them, he was impressed in the way they’d maintained the property, and let them stay if they agreed to leave when he wanted it back.Nathan, Squatter“Before we moved in, the garden was full of sewage. The whole place was derelict. We’ve redecorated all in here, so it looked nothing like this. It looked a real state. We’ve had to sort out the plumbing...”Hassan GhaniI asked him if he thought that other squatters who occupied a building against the landlord's wishes were essentially stealing that property.Nathan Squatter“I don’t think it’s necessarily stealing, because the idea of squatting isn’t that you nick something from someone, you don’t want to permanently deprive someone of a place. If a place is empty, you want to be able to utilise it to give other people a home, create more homes, if it genuinely is empty. So I’m not talking about going into a building stopping people from doing work on their home, or they’ve just gone on holiday, or they popped to the shops and you’re in there, because that thing doesn’t happen, nobody really wants to do that because A) you deprive someone of a home, and second you’re going to be out on the streets because they’re going to get a court order and the police are going to drag you out. There are obviously people who squat buildings that are in use, and I don’t think that should be done, but you can do your homework, you can research a building and find out if it is unused and the planning permission on it and everything.In the UK there’s 700 thousand empty properties, and there’s an estimated half a million hidden homeless. Squat’s are a great social safety net. The fact that there’s so many vulnerable people in squats goes to show how much the system is failing them, outside of squat society. I think rather than come down on the squatters, maybe we should come down on the inequality within society. There are people in this house who work, and yet still have to squat to be able to get by. More and more people are struggling just to be able to get by, because they’re paying so much in rent. If the possibility was accessible to not squat, I think most people would not squat.”Hassan Ghani“There isn’t a problem when the landlord and the squatters come to an agreement, and that’s probably a way forward. But a lot of the time, when the landlord and the bailiffs come to evict them, the squatters don’t let the bailiffs, in, they physically stop them from getting in.”Nathan, Squatter“When someone’s got bailiffs on you, I think it’s come to a point where the owner has not engaged with you at all to be able to talk with you, to come to an agreement, and they’re forcing you out the property. There’s a place just down the road here, it’s been empty for I think seven years. It’s been squatted three or four times, and each time they get the bailiffs in and evict people. And then it stands empty. You’re just going to leave the building empty for another five years, can we not just stay in here until you use it? And they just force them out into the street. I can understand why people would want to resist and hold their home.”Hassan GhaniBut that’s not how supporters of criminalising squatting see it.Mike Weatherley, Member of Parliament, Conservative Party“These buildings aren’t being wasted, they belong to somebody. If I don’t drive my car for a year, that doesn’t give a squatter a right to drive my car, or if someone’s not using their property which they’ve bought. So it does belong to somebody, and they are stealing something that doesn’t belong to them. Anything that they say about making the premises better or improving it, is actually false. They don’t run round the hoover before they leave. I’ve seen open fires in these, some of these buildings have been destroyed, and there is a lot of drug taking and anti-social behaviour associated with a lot of squats, not all squats, but a lot of squats. And if you talk to some of the residents that I do, that are around squats, they are very disturbed about the squats. There’s late night parties, there’s music, there’s all sorts of people coming and going through the night, and they don’t really like that type of intrusion into their lives.”Hassan GhaniIt is true that some squatters occupy buildings or land for political reasons, such as the campaign to stop a new runway at Heathrow airport, or others who object to way wealth is distributed and society is organised. But should they be imprisoned for doing so? And as for anti-social squatters:Nathan, Squatter“There’s a whole range of squatters and squats. Just as in society you’ve got nice people and you’ve got dickheads. It’s the same in the squat community, you’ve got the same thing. The majority of people are quite understanding. Whenever anyone goes into a home, they want to create a home, they don’t want to go into a place and destroy it, because then it’s shit to live there. You obviously want to make it your home to live there, so you want to keep it nice, and make it comfortable. But then there are other people who are party crews, and they like to open up a building and throw parties once in a while, and often sometimes too often. But then again, when I was a student I had more complaints from the neighbours than I do now. (When you were a student living in rented accommodation?) Yeah.Pete, Squatter at Rochester Square“There are cases of squats that are bad. It would be absolutely short-sighted of me to sit here and say that all squatting is good, that’s not the case. But there’s no evidence to suggest that squatters are any more anti-social than any other sector of the housing population. I’ve lived in private rented accommodation with incredible violent anti-social people, who take drugs, and listen to loud music, and are bad neighbours. Many of the most community minded people I’ve known are squatters.Hassan GhaniThe squats we visited certainly seemed to be well organised, and as far as we could tell, responsible within their respective communities. But with residential squatting already criminalised, with a penalty of up to six months in prison, and squatting in commercial buildings probably next, something is going to have to change.Pete, Squatter at Rochester Square“The average rent in London is over £1300. There are 80 thousand empty buildings in this city, many of those are registered in tax-havens. We’ve got lots of companies which are absentee landlords, leaving buildings empty and speculating on them, and that’s the crime. The conservative government has decided to legislate in favour of landlords to the point where it says that the right to own private property, even if you own lots and lots of buildings, and keep them empty for 20, 30 years, is so much more important than the human right to have a temporary shelter over your head, that they’re willing to throw people who do the latter into prisons.”Mike Weatherley, Member of Parliament, Conservative Party“We should do other things to encourage empty properties back into use, but that doesn’t mean that we should then say ‘well it’s a free-for-all for everybody to go and take what doesn’t belong to them’.”Hassan GhaniPerhaps the most important question is where do these people go next, if squatting in empty commercial buildings also becomes a criminal act. Statistics show that 40% of homeless people are squatters at some point. At a time when the government is trying reduce its welfare budget, the last thing it needs is more people on low or no income joining the queue for housing benefits. Is it on route to scoring an own goal? Hassan Ghani, for the Real News, London.


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EU budget: Leaders try to thrash out deal

David Cameron and other European leaders are preparing to meet in Brussels to try to reach a settlement on the European Union's long-term budget.

They are under pressure after talks last November collapsed when Britain, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands demanded deeper cuts from 2014-2020.

European Council president Herman Van Rompuy is trying to broker a deal between the Commission and European Parliament, who want spending to rise, and restive member states.

The meeting is the first summit since Mr Cameron promised British voters an in-out referendum on EU membership after 2015 if he stays in power.

He has vowed to seek a fresh settlement with Brussels to get a "better deal for Britain", and insisted radical reforms would benefit the whole group.

But other countries have warned that the UK cannot "cherry pick" and this week French leader Francois Hollande declared there can be no "a la carte Europe".

Mr Cameron is among those arguing that it is unedifying for the EU to increase its budget when countries are pushing through austerity measures at home.

Downing Street has made clear that his position has not changed and he stands ready to block any new deal if it does not amount to a real-terms freeze.

The UK has highlighted major potential savings, including cuts to the administration budget and a 50bn euro project called "Connecting Europe" designed to improve infrastructure, energy and digital links.

A senior diplomatic source insisted Britain is not isolated and that only Belgium and Luxembourg, where many Eurocrats live, support a proposed increase in administration costs.

But there are significant disagreements between the net contributors and net receiver countries over how the EU budget should apportion its finances.

France has declared that the UK should have to give up some of its rebate - worth £5bn a year to the Treasury - to stand any chance of securing a freeze in spending.

President Francois Hollande said on Wednesday: "There are those who want to see cuts, others - possibly the same - who want guarantees on their own rebate.

"I have been told a solution cannot happen with Britain. But why should one country decide for 26 others? Indeed, we could have agreed at the last European summit."

But the diplomatic source said changing the rebate was a non-starter and suggested Mr Hollande was "playing to the gallery".

Margaret Thatcher negotiated the rebate in 1984 because other countries, and particularly France, benefit disproportionately from the Common Agricultural Policy.

The European Council's last proposal was for a budget limit of 973 billion euros (£840bn) over seven years but the UK, Germany and other countries want this to be closer to 950 billion euros (£820bn).

Ahead of the summit, Mr Van Rompuy insisted the available deal amounted to a "real-terms freeze" - effectively challenging Mr Cameron to take what is on offer.

Failure to agree this week could lead to a considerable delay because officials will then want to wait until after German national elections in September and European Parliament elections next year.

This could stall a decision until 2015, meaning funding to help boost poorer regions in the UK might be held up as well as money for research and educational projects.

Existing spending levels would be rolled over month by month until a budget deal is done - which would effectively freeze spending for the foreseeable future.

‘This is the sort of thing Mugabe would do’ – UKIP head Farage lambasts...

A view of the Berlaymont building, headquarters of the European Union Commission (AFP Photo)

(34.1Mb) embed video

As Eurozone leaders lock horns in Brussels over the proposed trillion-euro budget deal, speculation is rife the EU is set to invest millions in a PR campaign against online critics, looking to infiltrate social media sites to silence doubters.

"The words 'legal' and 'European Union' don’t fit together. Nothing matters here, there are no rules" - says the UK Independence Party's Nigel Farage of the European Parliament’s plan to spend huge sums of taxpayer money on social network smear campaigns against those who speak out against it.

Meanwhile, EU leaders gathered in Brussels on Thursday for a two-day summit, where they are attempting to reach a consensus on the nearly €1 trillion budget deal to support agriculture, transportation, research projects and infrastructure in the Eurozone. Already the talks appear to be on shaky ground, with British PM David Cameron – the strongest supporter of budget cuts – threatening to pull out if the figure doesn’t go down, while France’s President Francois Hollande expressed displeasure with Britain’s general relationship with the Union and strongly advocated agricultural spending, on which many southern member-states depend. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has stressed that a deal on the thorny issue remains a long way off.


The leaders had already failed to see eye to eye in November, which raises the stakes, seeing as a repeat failure would force the EU to use provisional annual budgets. If no deal is reached during this summit a decision may be stalled until 2015 when the UK is set to hold a critical referendum on EU membership.

But whilst leaders in Brussels spar over the budget, the European Parliament has reportedly been busy planning to dish out €2 million to aid an online campaign to skew public opinion in its favor. Allegations that funds may be pumped into defending the EU on social networking sites were originally made by British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph. Nigel Farage of the UK’s Independence Party likened the move to madness. He believes this is a sign of fear and the Eurozone’s utter denial of economic and political realities. He expanded on his views in an interview for RT. 


RT: Some EU officials will be turned into secret agents with a trolling mission on the internet? As a member of the European Parliament, tell us how realistic is this?


Nigel Farage:
It’s serious. The organization of the European Parliament, which decides how resources are spent, they decided that they’re going to train in-house staff in the run-up to the European elections of 2014…trained them to go online, look at Facebook, Twitter and other social media and to “correct” any misapprehensions that may exist about the European Union. The fact that it’s the Parliament using taxpayers’ money to do this says a lot about EU institutions. The whole point about Parliaments is that the person who sits in the Chair of the Parliament – he’s the Speaker in Westminster; he’s the Chairman in other Parliaments around the world … all other staff is supposed to be neutral; they are not supposed to take any political position at all. And the fact that the EU Parliament has decided it will spend money, time and resources on doing this shows you, frankly, that they are no better than a ‘banana republic’. This is the sort of thing Mugabe would do. I think many people outside will be shocked by it. Having worked there myself for 13 years, I’m not surprised at all. They are really scared that from north to south, from east to west, citizens are saying “We’ve never voted for this thing to become the United States of Europe. We’ve never asked for the majority of our laws to be made somewhere else and we want to do something about it.” So, they are scared and they are fighting back.


RT: Moral reprehension aside, is this behavior even legal?


Nigel Farage: The words “legal” and “European Union” don’t fit together. Nothing matters here, there are no rules. Do you know the Lisbon Treaty – after the electors ditched the European Constitution? It forbade the bailouts of Eurozone countries, and yet, five Eurozone countries have now received bailouts. What we have here is a fanatical belief that we have to build a European structure, a state with its own army, police force, own treasury – and to hell with what the peoples of Europe think, we’re going to do it anyway. And of course they’ve got a flag, an anthem and they are fanatical – and, I believe, the most dangerous people we’ve seen in Europe in 70 years.


RT: But wouldn’t it make more sense to tackle the root problem instead of trying to spend taxpayers’ money, as you mentioned, sit there on social media websites and try to change people’s minds that way?


Nigel Farage: You can spend trillions of Euros trying to tackle the root problem. And the problem is, economically, that the Eurozone cannot – and will not – ever work. There’s no point in attempting to do that. This is a misconstruction. The economics are wrong, the politics are wrong. And instead of admitting defeat, what they are going to try and do is sully the name of people like me, who have called into question their legitimacy.  And I think that what is going to happen in the next couple of years is that the war of words that takes place within the European Union is going to get very bitter and very nasty indeed.

EU Budget Deal Is ‘Difficult’ But ‘Doable’

David Cameron arrived in Brussels for marathon EU budget talks this afternoon insisting the negotiations were "going to be difficult" but a deal was "doable".

The prime minister is adamant there would be no deal unless the cost of running Europe for the rest of the decade comes down.

Downing Street said on Thursday morning there were "like minded" countries in Northern Europe, including Germany, the Netherlands, and Denmark who wanted to see a reduction in costs.

On the table is a seven-year budget plan the prime minister has warned he will flatly reject unless he sees savings which show the EU is sharing the pain of the austerity measures being taken back home.

He walked into the summit building with a curt declaration amounting to a direct challenge to those warning that the EU must have a big enough budget to foster jobs and growth and meet the costs of policies requested by EU leaders themselves.

"The numbers are much too high. They need to come down - and if they don't come down there won't be a deal," said the prime minister.

He added: "The European Union should not be immune to the sorts of pressure we have to reduce spending, find efficiencies and spend wisely - what we are all doing."

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As he arrived, the official summit start time was put back to give more time for behind-the scenes efforts to reach a compromise - although there was little sign that gaps have closed since a first round of budget talks collapsed last November.

On that occasion Cameron and other major contributors to the EU kitty rejected a cut from a planned spending package of about one thousand billion euros (£860bn) for 2014-2020 to about £756bn.

Today German chancellor Angela Merkel arrived for the latest effort to reach a deal admitting that national positions remained "far apart".

And French president Francois Hollande went in saying compromise was needed, but making plain cuts in EU agriculture spending - from which France benefits hugely - were not on his negotiating agenda.

"We must not weaken the (EU) economy." he said. "I am here for agreement, if a deal is reasonable. Europe must find compromise, but must maintain growth and solidarity."

Spending cuts targets for the UK include the farm budget - which absorbs 40% of the entire annual European budget, mostly in the form of direct subsidies to farmers - and administration costs for running the EU institutions.

Cameron has warned that the public will not understand if the EU maintains a budget - paid for by the Treasuries of the 27 member states - which does not reflect the kind of belt-tightening being imposed at national level.

But his call for cuts in the size of the well-heeled EU civil service have irritated Brussels, with Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso insisting that the EU budget holds the hope of fostering jobs and growth at a time of austerity for the benefit of all.

Since the last budget talks broke down Cameron has made his pitch for "a new settlement" between the UK and the rest of the EU, with the repatriation of powers and, ultimately a referendum on whether to stay in the EU or leave.

The development has done nothing to improve the chances of Cameron getting the scale of financial cutbacks at EU level that he is demanding - although British officials in Brussels insist the attitude towards Britain has not been damaged.

Before the summit got under way Barroso said all of the EU had to be ready to negotiate "in a spirit of responsibility".

"Further delays will send out a very negative message at this time of fragile economic recovery. The risk is that positions will harden and will be even more difficult to overcome."

But the 27-way negotiation was pushed back further this afternoon, with a second delay announced while efforts continue to avoid an embarrassing stalemate when the leaders finally get together later.

EU summit to hammer out austerity budget and tough cuts

David Cameron speaks during a press conference at the EU Headquarters (AFP Photo / John Thys)

David Cameron speaks during a press conference at the EU Headquarters (AFP Photo / John Thys)

EU leaders are to make another attempt to agree on a harshly reduced budget at the summit in Brussels. However, the EU parliament says it is ready to reject a deal that cuts spending on employment and growth.

The two day meeting in Brussels starting on Thursday is expected to be heated, as some member states consider the EU budget to be too high at a time of austerity. It remains a major division as last November the 27 states failed to reach a compromise at a similar summit.

The budget for the years 2014-2020 totals about €1 trillion ($1.35 trillion), and while the UK and several other wealthy northern member states are calling for bigger cuts, poorer eastern and southern countries want to ensure continued EU financial support.

On Tuesday UK Prime Minister’s spokesman said that David Cameron will not accept a deal on the EU budget in Brussels unless it freezes or cuts European spending.

The EU Commission had originally wanted a budget ceiling of €1.025 trillion ($1.4 trillion) for 2014-2020, a 5% increase. In November that was revised down to €973 billion at the expense of administrative costs, and later further to €943 billion. But according to a EU spokesman, more severe cuts would leave the Commission unable to do its job, just as it is being called on to do more and more as the EU integrates more deeply in response to the financial crisis.

On Wednesday the European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, who chairs the summit in Brussels, said that "for the first time ever – there will be a real terms cut compared to the current budget."

However, parliamentary leaders, meeting in Strasbourg, emphasized they would reject any plan that undermines the role of the EU.

According to a senior EU official, though Van Rompuy is proposing an overall cut, some items within his proposed budget will grow, including an effort to combat youth unemployment. Speaking to AP on condition of anonymity he added that spending on programs meant to ensure future prosperity, such as research and development, education and innovation, will also grow in real terms.

UK Deficit To Be £64bn Above Osborne’s 2015 Target

The UK will borrow £64bn more than expected by 2015 despite Chancellor George Osborne's repeated attempts to control the country's deficit, a report warned today.

As a result, spending on services like the police, defence, transport and justice could be cut by a third by 2017/18 under current Government spending plans, .

The plans suggest 1.2 million job losses in the public sector by that date, 300,000 more than predicted by the Government's official forecasters, according to the Green Budget published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

The respected economic think-tank said Chancellor George Osborne's failure to hit deficit reduction targets means tax rises or "substantial" additional cuts in welfare benefits are likely after the 2015 general election to avoid "hard to contemplate" cuts in Whitehall budgets.

The fiscal position may force the Chancellor to raid pensioner benefits, the NHS, schools or overseas aid, hitherto protected from cuts, said the report.

"Over the last 30 years, tax rises announced in the year after a general election have averaged £7.5 billion," said the IFS.

"Considering this trend, and in the context of the current fiscal situation, further tax rises following the next election would not be surprising."

With the public finances failing to come into balance as quickly as Osborne had hoped, IFS director Paul Johnson questioned whether the Chancellor can continue to shield the NHS, schools and overseas aid from cuts.

The Government has said it will continue to protect these three areas from cuts in the spending review for 2015/16, now being negotiated.

But Johnson said extending the protection further would mean spending on other departments - like the Home Office, Defence and Environment - falling by a third by 2017/18.

If the budget for defence equipment was protected, as Prime Minister David Cameron has suggested, that figure would rise to 35%.

Whitehall departments have so far relied heavily on job losses to meet the Chancellor's austerity demands, and if they continued to do so at the same rate, 1.2 million public sector jobs could go by 2017/18, compared with the 900,000 forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility, said the IFS.

Johnson said: "As economic performance and forecasts have worsened, the Chancellor has followed a dual strategy. He is allowing borrowing to increase substantially in this Parliament - allowing the automatic stabilisers to work - whilst promising another dramatic dose of public spending cuts in the next Parliament.

"The effects of concentrating all those cuts on currently unprotected areas of public service spending look hard to contemplate. A more likely scenario perhaps is that other choices will be made after the next election.

"Taxes could rise, hitherto protected elements of public spending, like the NHS and pensions, could be hit, or the date at which we reach fiscal balance will be pushed further out."

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "The IFS is right. If the Government does not change course then there could be well over a million job losses in the public sector and savage cuts to vital services.

"This is the direct consequence of austerity policies that have shrunk the economy and cut living standards for millions.

"Even policies designed to boost investment are failing; now we learn that the Bank of England's lending boost has failed to help business and instead gone to mortgages.

"The Chancellor needs a budget for growth, jobs and families. His medicine is failing to cure the patient, and has toxic side effects. As the IMF now recognises, it's time for a new approach."

UK nuclear waste cost, £67.5b & running

The British government has so far spent a whopping £67.5 billion to clean up “hazardous nuclear waste” in “outdated facilities” with little efficiency while the clean-up costs are still rising.

The House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee said in a report that the clean-up process in the Sellafield nuclear waste treatment site in Cumbria is already over budget with several deadlines missed.

The report further highlighted the inefficiency of Sellafield and the government’s failure to tackle the piled up nuclear waste stored there.

Meanwhile, Cumbria County Council refused to authorize a new underground nuclear waste storage facility in the area last week.

"Over decades, successive governments have failed to get to grips with this critical problem, to the point where the total lifetime cost of decommissioning the site has now reached £67.5 billion, and there's no indication of when that cost will stop rising," chair of the committee Margaret Hodge said.

"Furthermore, now that Cumbria County Council has ruled out West Cumbria as the site of the proposed geological disposal facility, a solution to the problem of long-term storage of the waste is as far away as ever,” she added.

The committee also warned that 12 of the total 14 ongoing projects at Sellafield are behind schedule while five of them are over budget.

It added despite the situation at Sellafield, the government is still paying the private companies, running the plant, generously.

The report said top executives at the plant have been paid “huge salaries” of an average £690,000 and up to £1.2 million raising concerns that the government is paying them a “reward for failure”.

The government is currently spending a handsome £1.5 billion of the taxpayer money a year on the plant.

AMR/HE

Gazprom bills Ukraine $7bn

Gazprom (RIA Novosti / Mikhail Mokrushin)

Gazprom (RIA Novosti / Mikhail Mokrushin)

Russia and Ukraine are again involved in an energy dispute, after Gazprom accused Naftogas of importing less gas in 2012. Experts worry a “full-blown trade war between Russia and Ukraine” may emerge “over this issue.”

Gazprom sent Ukraine a $7bn bill for failing to meet the import requirements stipulated in the 2009 contract, the Financial Times (FT) reports.

In 2012 Ukraine bought 32.9bn cubic metres of Russian gas, with Naftogas importing 24.9bn and Ostchem Holding – the other gas supplier to Ukraine – the remaining 8bn cubic meters. Gazprom insists that under a 2009 contract Ukraine should buy 52bn cubic metres of Russian gas a year, with the possibility of it being reduced by 20% – to 42bn cubic metres. The lower volumes are linked to the ‘take it or pay it’ clause in the contract, which means Ukraine needs to pay for a set minimum of 42bn cubic metres of gas whether the country uses it or not.

Ukraine says the requirement should be lowered to 33bn cubic metres, provided there is enough warning, since Ostchem Holding began sharing gas importing responsibility with Naftogas in April 2011, according to Kommersant daily.

Neither Gazprom nor Naftogas has so far given any detail on whether Ostchem coming to the market changed the terms of the gas deal between Russia and Ukraine.

The bill, that exceeds 4% of the country’s GDP, comes at a time when Ukraine is already struggling to pay about $10bn of external sovereign debt due to mature this year.

Gazprom’s demand also casts a shadow on the developments of the $15bn IMF bailout package that Ukraine is striving to get to patch up its budget holes. An IMF mission is scheduled to arrive in Kiev on Tuesday.

Naftogaz told Kommersant newspaper it wasn’t going to pay the bill.“We perceive that as an element of pressure on Ukraine at a time of continuing negotiations to set up a gas transport consortium and cut gas prices for Ukraine. This way Gazprom seeks to forge better terms for creating the consortium on the base of the Ukrainian gas pipeline network,” the paper quotes its sources as saying.

The current claim by Gazprom may have a political context, experts agree. The Russian gas major will try to escape court hearings and is simply producing formal requirements to strengthen its position in negotiations on gas prices for Ukraine, as well as some other issues, according to Dmitry Marunich, head of the Kiev Institute for Energy Strategy. In 2010 Ukraine imported 36bn cubic metres of gas, while Gazprom remained silent, Marunich said.

Also, a contract between Gazprom and Naftogas “stipulates distribution of gas supplies by quarters” and “the absence of claims to the quarterly results allowed them to think that there was an agreement between the parties,” added Michael Korchyomkin, a head at East European Gas Analysis.

Should Ukraine choose to go to an international court, Gazprom is highly likely to lose, as it was the case with German RWE, when the Russian monopoly wanted to sue for $500mn for a purchase shortage under take –or –pay clause, added Vitaly Kruykov from IFD – Kapital.

Gazprom experts in Ukraine point to the country’s effort to cut its dependence on Russian gas. Among the current alternatives are German gas delivered through Poland, with extraction of shale gas also being in the pipeline.

The most recent case of Ukraine diversifying its energy ties was a deal with Royal Dutch Shell – Europe’s biggest oil company. They agreed to section products developed at Yuzovsky field in the Kharkov and Donetsk regions. Ukraine hopes to get at least 10bn cubic meters of gas from the field, with the prime cost of $250 per thousand cubic meters.

“Clearly, Kiev angered Moscow by signing the gas shale deal with Shell,” as the FT quotes Timothy Ash, head of emerging market research at Standard Bank. “The Russians are now expected to play real hardball with Ukraine. Things look set to get very testy. The dangers are now building of a full-blown trade war between Russia and Ukraine over this issue.”

Poland ‘Happy To Take UK’s Place At EU Table’

Poland has said it would be happy to usurp the United Kingdom as a leading member of the European Union if the British government chooses to negotiate looser ties with Brussels or exit the bloc entirely.

On Thursday Polish foreign minister Radosław Sikorski said David Cameron’s promise to hold a referendum on EU membership meant the UK was now a “a country under special care”.

Sikorski observed that Britain’s position as part of a effective ruling triumvirate within the EU alongside France and Germany had been put under threat by Cameron’s speech.

He said that while Britain was welcome to “take what belongs to it and run back to its island”; Poland saw greater European integration as being in its “vested national interest”.

“In order for this to happen, we need closer ties with the EU, not looser,” Sikorski said.

"We have to continue our reforms and become a member of the euro zone. And once that happens, at the end of the current decade, we can join this group, of three or five states, which has the most to say in the European Union.”

SEE ALSO: United States Says Britain Must Stay In The EU

Poland has historically been one of the United Kingdom’s closest allies within the EU. However strains emerged over the recent Budget negotiations, in which Cameron urged a cut in expenditure.

“If you ask me if people in Poland have noticed that Britain wants to cut the European budget by €200bn, where Germany is in favour of a more ambitious budget, I’m forced to tell you, yes they’ve noticed,” Sikorski told the Financial Times in November added.

A senior Polish foreign ministry official told the same paper: “The budget is simply the latest problem with the UK. Our roads have been diverging for some time.”

Sikorski, who studied at Oxford in the 1980s around the same time as Cameron, is said to be an Anglophile who wakes up the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme every morning.

Also on HuffPost:

David Cameron Accused Of Misleading Claim That UK’s Debt Is Falling

David Cameron has been accused of misleading voters after claiming the government was “paying down Britain’s debt”.

During a Conservative Party political broadcast on Wednesday evening, the prime minister said voters wanted to know the “facts” about the country’s finances.

“So though this government has had to make some difficult decisions, we are making progress. We are paying down Britain’s debts,” he said.

However Labour are pointing to figures from the Office for National Statistics published this week which showed that the national debt has risen from £811.3 billion (55.3% GDP) in the second quarter of 2010, to £1,111.4 billion at the end of December 2012 (70.7% GDP).

Rachel Reeves, Labour’s shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, has today written to Andrew Dilnot, the chair of the UK Statistics Authority to ask for clarity.

"This suggests that the Conservative Party may be attempting to deliberately mislead the public about these statistics and the Government’s record,” she said.

On Thursday morning the prime minister’s official spokesperson acknowledged that debt as a percentage of GDP “has risen” since the election, adding that the deficit had been reduced “by a quarter”.

“The government is taking measures to bring debt under control,” he said. “The point the prime minister is making is the prime minister’s government is taking tough decisions to deal with the economic crisis the government inherited.”

“The government’s policy is for the debt as a percentage of GDP to be falling in 2016/17.”

However the spokesperson denied that Cameron had misspoken in his broadcast. Asked if the prime minister understood the difference between the debt and the deficit, he said: “Yes, he does”.

The UK’s national debt is the total amount of money the country owes historically. The budget deficit, in contrast, is the amount added to that debt each year: the difference between what the government spends and what it receives in revenue.

IMF Chief Economist Says the UK Should ‘Slow’ Austerity

The IMF's chief economist has suggested that Britain should tone down its austerity plans to help the struggling economy.Olivier Blanchard said the Budget in March would be a good time for Chancellor George Osborne to "take stock" of his plan A. The c...

The Road Forward: UK Politicians Try To Claim Obama As Their Own

LONDON -- In March 2012, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne jetted off to the United States for a series of meetings at the White House.

“They should use the trip to ask President Obama for some economic advice,” Ed Balls, the Labour Party’s shadow chancellor, said at the time. “While Britain’s economy has stalled and unemployment has reached a 17-year high, the U.S. economy is strengthening and the jobless rate has come down to a three-year low.“

Since the formation of the Conservative-led coalition in May 2010, Tory and Labour politicians have tried to claim Obama, and his economic approach, as their own -- for political reasons (the U.S. president is very popular with the British public) as well as economic ones (the U.S. economy has been growing much faster than the UK’s). To be economically credible in Westminster, it seems, is to be aligned with Barack Obama.

But for how much longer?

In speeches, interviews and press releases, Balls has repeatedly invoked Obama, and the latter’s fiscal stimulus and delayed austerity, in order to loudly denounce Cameron and Osborne’s fiscal strategy.

Meanwhile, the Tory claim on Obama is growing increasingly difficult to sustain, says David Blanchflower, professor of economics at Dartmouth College and a former member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee. “Obama's view [on austerity] is ‘later is better than sooner,’ while Osborne thinks ‘sooner is better than later,’” he told The Huffington Post UK. “The evidence suggests Osborne is wrong.”

Blanchflower says “the proof is in the pudding”: Since the coalition’s cuts-laden Spending Review in October 2010, the UK economy has grown by an anaemic 0.6 percent, compared to a much healthier 3.4 percent in the U.S. Despite the looming row over the debt ceiling, the IMF forecasts 2.1 percent growth for the U.S. in 2013 and just 1.1 percent for the UK.

In response, the Conservatives have stressed the president’s stance on the importance of reducing the deficit and balancing the budget by 2018. During Obama’s state visit to the UK in May 2011, Tory spin doctors even briefed the press that the leader of the free world would offer an implicit endorsement of the coalition’s deficit reduction plan.

They were left disappointed. Answering a question on the UK’s deficit reduction efforts at a joint press conference with Cameron, the U.S. president stressed that "every country is different" and highlighted the way that "concerted action" by the UK and the U.S. had "yanked the world economy out of recession" -- a pretty clear nod to the previous Labour government's fiscal stimulus.

However, the Obama administration has a record of mixed messages on the UK’s austerity measures. On a visit to London in February 2011, for example, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said that he was "very impressed” with George Osborne’s fiscal plan, and said his British counterpart had been handed "problems not created by this government." His Tory hosts were delighted.

So will Obama’s reelection help or hinder Osborne and Co., between now and the next election in 2015? The chancellor’s biographer, Janan Ganesh, has argued that the election of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan would have shifted “the international debate rightward, leaving the UK looking less like an austere outlier.”

“The U.S. is taking a more Keynesian approach to things,” admitted Tory MP Brooks Newmark, who sits on the Commons Treasury Select Committee. “So it’s not surprising that Balls admires it … [but] the shape of the U.S. economy is structurally very different to the UK economy.”

Newmark, one of the few Conservative politicians to have publicly backed Romney, views America’s national debt as “unsustainable” and -- contradicting those Tories who argue that the coalition is on the same page, fiscally, as the Obama administration -- thinks the president isn’t “cutting hard enough or deep enough.” This despite recent reports suggesting the U.S. is on pace to experience more austerity than most of Europe in 2013.

Senior Labour figures, who had been petrified by the prospect of a victory for the Romney-Ryan austerity ticket, breathed a sigh of relief on the morning of Nov. 7 -- and then promptly set about spinning the president’s reelection as an endorsement for their own fiscal strategy.

"Obama's win proved that voters will back a balanced and pro-jobs and growth economic policy,” a source close to the shadow chancellor told HuffPost UK. “A victory for Romney would have been a victory for the austerity-and-tax-cuts-for-the-rich approach that David Cameron and George Osborne have been cheerleaders for.”

But senior Tories haven’t given up on Obama -- yet. In a column for the Times of London, published the week after Obama’s victory, Osborne praised the president’s “hard fought campaign." He noted how “the incumbent government was re-elected despite a historically weak economic recovery” and claimed Obama had “made up lost ground once he stopped talking about stimulus and instead said ‘our debt has grown so large that we could do real damage to the economy if we don't begin a process now to get our fiscal house in order.’” He added: “Here in Britain, the [Labour] Opposition are a million miles from understanding this crucial truth.”

Not all of Osborne’s Conservative colleagues agree with his approach. “I don’t think the British public sees the U.S. economy as a success story,” a senior Tory minister told HuffPost UK. Thus, Obama’s fiscal decisions, adds the minister, “don’t matter a jot to our message on the economy."

Yet if the U.S. economy continues to motor ahead of the UK’s, expect to hear more from Balls about how the coalition’s cuts have failed and how Obama’s much slower, more moderate approach to deficit reduction should be the model for Britain.

"If we're completely honest, there's not a huge amount of distance between the U.S. and UK economies,” said Will Straw, associate director at the left-leaning Institute for Public Policy Research. “Despite what we’re led to believe, all major parties [Labour, Conservative, Democrat, Republican] favour some form of austerity to reduce deficits. The debate is about the pace and the balance between spending cuts and tax rises.” On this, Straw said, “there’s little doubt that Obama is closer to Labour.”

The Labour leadership wants Obama to firmly resist the push from congressional Republicans to cut spending ahead of the looming debt ceiling deadline, and to continue to advocate a Labour-style 2:1 ratio of (delayed) spending cuts to tax increases. Cameron and Osborne, on the other hand, are keen for Obama to focus his rhetoric, if not his policies, on deficit reduction, balancing the books and cutting the debt.

Both sides will continue to scour the president's statements, and his budget proposals, over the next four years for ammunition to use against their opponents here at home.

Yet, as Blanchflower notes, “the [U.S.] evidence suggests that if you delay austerity … then outcomes are better.”

This article is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post that closely examines the most pressing challenges facing President Obama in his second term. To read other posts in the series, click here.

Open Letter to Mark Duke, CEO of Walmart: Take the Lead on Raising Minimum...

Mike Duke, CEO
Walmart Corporation
Bentonville, Arkansas

Dear Mr. Duke,

Walmart, your gigantic company, is increasingly being challenged by your workers, government prosecutors, civil lawsuits, communities (that do not want a Walmart), taxpayers learning about your drain on government services and corporate welfare, and small businesses and groups working with unions such as SEIU and UFCW. Thus far, Walmart is successfully playing rope-a-dope, conceding little while expecting to wear down its opposition.

Wal-Mart workers rallied outside a store in Pico Rivera, California. (Photo: Jonathan Alcorn/Reuters) But you and your Board of Directors know what most shoppers and other people do not know – namely that these pressures are only going to increase. There is one policy announcement by your company that can “roll back” many of these pressures and relieve adverse public relations.

Walmart has about one million workers, give or take, in the U.S. who are making less per hour, adjusted for inflation, than workers made in 1968. This is remarkable for another reason – today’s Walmart worker, due to automation and other efficiencies, does the work of two Walmart workers from 40 years ago. A federal minimum wage, inflation-adjusted from 1968, would be $10.50 today. The present federal minimum wage is $7.25 – the lowest in major Western countries. In Western Europe and Ontario, where you have operations, you must currently adhere to minimum wages of $10.50 or more.

If you were to announce that Walmart is raising the wages of your one million laborers to $10.50, you would have a decisive impact on the momentum that is building this year for Congress to lift 30 million American workers to the level of workers in 1968, inflation adjusted. Imagine 30 million workers trying to pay their bills with wages below those of 1968, inflation adjusted, when, back then, overall worker productivity was half what it is today.

Raising your workers’ wages to a $10.50 minimum would cost your company less than $2 billion (deductible) on U.S. sales of more than $313 billion. Fewer Walmart workers would have to go on varieties of government relief. Some of that $2 billion would go to social security, and Medicare with more going back into purchases at Walmart. Employee turnover would diminish. If Walmart joins with many civic, charitable groups and unions to press Congress for legislation to catch up with 1968 for 30 million American workers, good things will happen. You and your fellow executives will feel better. Your public relations will improve. So will our economy.

Members of Congress, economists, workers and reporters know you can do this. After all, Walmart has to meet numerous safety nets in countries of Western Europe beyond a higher minimum wage, such as weeks of paid vacation and paid sick leave. Also, your top executives in Europe are paid far less than your $11,000 an hour plus benefits and perks.

Walmart watchers know that Walmart officials are worried about damaging disclosures, about Walmart problems such as foreign bribery in Mexico, which may become more numerous. Last year, during the Black Friday demonstrations, some of your workers and their supporters, raised the civil rights issue of Walmart’s retaliation for workers publically complaining about workplace harassment – pay, fair schedules and affordable health care. Such protests are only going to intensify in the future.

At a productive meeting with your government relations people in Washington, D.C. last year, I told them that Walmart was one billionaire away from a serious unionization drive, and I referred them to my political fiction book “Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!” for a detailed step-by-step strategy that only awaits funding from one or two very rich, people.

You need to do something authentic that people can relate to – seventy percent of the people in polls support an inflation-adjusted minimum wage. So did Rick Santorum and even Mitt Romney, until he waffled during the primaries.

Your announcements this week about hiring 100,000 veterans in the next five years is less than what meets the eye. Twenty-thousand veterans hired each year is a tiny fraction of your workforce and if you are not doing that already, given your huge number of employees (1.4 million) and large annual turnovers, you should be ashamed.

Veterans would have to take a 50 percent or more pay cut from their military salaries – housing and food allowances, health care and other benefits – to work for Walmart. Indeed, the Congressional Budget Office recently estimated that the average active-duty service member receives Army benefits and compensation worth $99,000, which is much more than the prospect of a Walmart job paying less than $20,000 coupled with very limited health insurance.

Should you wish to discuss Walmart taking the lead in raising the minimum wage for its workers to catch up with 1968, please call me. It is better to anticipate than have to react to the looming dark clouds on Walmart’s horizon. Thank you for your considered response.

Sincerely yours,

Ralph Nader
P.O. Box 19312
Washington, DC 20036
 

Ralph Nader

Republicans Won’t Deal On Budget Because There’s No Political Gain In It

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A couple of articles out this week lay out the reasons for Republicans' whinging about not dealing with the White House anymore on anything, never, no how.

First, there's Jonathan Chait's analysis of the current stonewalling strategy; namely, not one penny more of revenue from anywhere no matter what, but plenty of cut, cut, cut. And absolutely no deal. Here's the paragraph that caught my eye, though:

So, step one: Block any compromise to reduce the deficit. Step two: Blame Obama for failing to reduce the deficit. I actually think this plan can work.

This may sound like a cynical strategy. And it is. But it’s not a purely cynical strategy. It reflects an important intellectual development on the right. Capretta is advocating not just the classic no-taxes-ever approach that has defined the party for years, but also its newer (or newly fervent) belief in privatizing health-care services.

Aha, and that follows what I'm seeing on a state level.

Rick Scott's little song and dance was the first salvo. Scott, as you'll recall, decided he would turn down the Medicaid expansion dollars from the federal government because he's crazy. But after hospitals lobbied him hard, he went to Kathleen Sibelius looking for a deal that went like this: Let me privatize all Medicaid services and I'll take your Medicaid dollars.

What a guy. And that leads me to this article in the New York Times on Wednesday, addressing the differences in care between for-profit providers and not-for-profit providers.

Writing about his colleagues’ research in his 1988 book “The Nonprofit Economy,” the economist Burton Weisbrod provided a straightforward explanation: “differences in the pursuit of profit.” Sedatives are cheap, Mr. Weisbrod noted. “Less expensive than, say, giving special attention to more active patients who need to be kept busy.”

This behavior was hardly surprising. Hospitals run for profit are also less likely than nonprofit and government-run institutions to offer services like home health care and psychiatric emergency care, which are not as profitable as open-heart surgery.

A shareholder might even applaud the creativity with which profit-seeking institutions go about seeking profit. But the consequences of this pursuit might not be so great for other stakeholders in the system — patients, for instance. One study found that patients’ mortality rates spiked when nonprofit hospitals switched to become profit-making, and their staff levels declined.

These profit-maximizing tactics point to a troubling conflict of interest that goes beyond the private delivery of health care. They raise a broader, more important question: How much should we rely on the private sector to satisfy broad social needs?From health to pensions to education, the United States relies on private enterprise more than pretty much every other advanced, industrial nation to provide essential social services. The government pays Medicare Advantage plans to deliver health care to aging Americans. It provides a tax break to encourage employers to cover workers under 65.

It's a little amazing to think this even has to be said, but apparently it does. If you're chasing a bottom line, it's likely that services will suffer while profits are padded, and nowhere is that more evident than health care. A simple comparison of the administrative costs between Medicare and private insurance plans proves that. Medicare averages around 7 percent annually, while private insurers "struggle" to keep theirs below 20 percent.

So if I'm right, Republicans have decided that they will not participate in any budget negotiation that actually reduces the deficit because while they happen to agree that health costs will be the primary driver of future deficits, their answer is simply to privatize those costs, continue to drive up the deficit while loading up the pockets of their corporate for-profit cronies.

If this is, in fact, their strategy then we can expect bandaid solutions to deadlines. When this continuing resolution runs out Republicans will submit yet another budget privatizing Medicare, signed with a Paul Ryan flourish. The Senate will, of course, reject anything that looks like that, and the House will not approve any Senate amendments changing that, which means they'll just go on approving the continuing resolution for short periods of time.

Siege mentality with a privatized chaser. The only answer to this is to get ahead of the message now, to keep hammering home how disgusting and odious privatizing Medicare and giving Granny a voucher would be, and to make Republicans own it. They can't be allowed to hand this off to Democrats, which means pushing Democrats to quit thinking there is some bipartisan answer to this. There isn't.

Then in 2014, boot their asses out of office. Just like that.

MoD Overspends Equipment Budget By £6.5bn

The Ministry of Defence has overspent its equipment budget by £6.5bn and some of its major orders are likely to be delivered 39 years late.

The National Audit Office (NAO), in its latest report into the MoD's spending, has revealed that the 16 most costly projects, which originally totalled £56.5bn when they were approved and should have taken 159 years to deliver between them, now have a combined price tag of £61.1bn and will not be ready for a total of 195 years.

However, the good news is things are improving. This year’s overspend is "only" £468m and most of that is due to the rising cost of fuel, though the NAO report author Tim Banfield said the defence buyers could do better.

He said: "What we see is too much turbulence in the projects, there's too much change, so if you look at the 16 projects this year that we are covering, 14 of them have got some change in cost or timescales in the last year.

"If you are the MoD trying to budget well, getting that kind of uncertainty and movement makes it very difficult to plan in the long term."

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the huge "blackhole" is a legacy of the MoD ordering during the last Labour Government.

He described a "conspiracy of optimism" between the MoD and contractors in the past and is adamant the current plans are "fully funded".

Mr Hammond likens balancing the defence budget to "turning round a supertanker".

"These are huge projects often delivered over periods of five, 10 even 15 years, often they've got legacies of poor management and financial control and getting this straight is a big task, but it’s happening," he said.

The real big ticket items include £17bn for more Typhoon fighter jets, £12bn for transport aircraft, including refuelling tankers and £5.3bn for the two new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers.

The NAO says that delivery delays in air refuelling aircraft means there is likely to be too few to go around in the next three years, though Mr Hammond said he is already taking steps to prolong the life of the current air tankers by another six months to plug the gap.

The NAO has acknowledged that the lead time for some of these projects is so great and the costs difficult to accurately assess, but nevertheless thinks the MoD could get better at it.

It cites one smaller project for a communications system designed for troops in Afghanistan, which costs £32m but not will be ready until all UK forces are back home.

Finally flying colors: Yury Dolgoruky nuclear sub joins Russian Navy

Nuclear submarine &quot;Yuri Dolgoruky&quot; undergoing sea trials. (RIA Novosti)

Nuclear submarine "Yuri Dolgoruky" undergoing sea trials. (RIA Novosti)

After years of sea trials and missile test launches, the Borei class nuclear-powered submarine Yury Dolgoruky is officially becoming part of the Russian Navy. The sub and its siblings are to be part of Russia’s nuclear deterrence shield.

­The official ceremony of raising the Russian Navy colors on the submarine is to occur on Thursday. Yury Dolgoruky is the lead vessel of the Borei family, the most modern nuclear-powered strategic submarines made in Russia.

Commenting on the news on Twitter, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who is known for his saber-rattling, tongue-in-the-cheek rhetoric, posted: “Tremble, bourgeoisie! You’re done with!”

The submarine was commissioned in 1996 at a shipyard in Severodvinsk. It endured several years of budget restraints and design changes, after the intercontinental ballistic missile Bark, which was slated to become its prime armament, was scrapped. Its reactor was finally launched in 2008.

Between 2009 and 2012 the submarine was involved in both sea trial and test-firing of the Bulava missile, which was the replacement for the Bark. It was expected to enter service back in 2011, but the deadline was eventually postponed by a year. In December 2012 the Navy officially accepted the submarine as ready to take combat missions.

Russia has commissioned three submarines of the Borei class. Yury Dolgoruky’s sister boats, Aleksandr Nevsky and Vladimir Monomakh have been in construction since 2004 and 2006 respectively. Nevsky has been undergoing sea trials since October 2012 while Monomakh has been put on water in late December 2012.

In May 2012 the Navy has also contracted development of an upgraded version of the Borei class submarine, which will carry 20 ICBMs, compared to the regular version’s 16. It will also have improved characteristics, such as reduced noise, better measurability and more advanced weapon controls. The keel of the lead advanced vessel, Knyaz Vladimir, was laid down in July 2012, with four more submarines expected to be built.

Cyber attack threat: UK armed forces warned

The UK's armed forces are now so dependent on information and communication technology that they could be a "fatally compromised" by sustained cyber attacks.

The Defence Select Committee has produced a report that questions the military's contingency plans and urges the Government to do more to address the threat.

"It is our view that cyber security is a sufficiently urgent, significant and complex activity to warrant increased ministerial attention," said committee chairman James Arbuthnot MP.

"The Government needs to put in place - as it has not yet done - mechanisms, people, education, skills, thinking and policies which take into account both the opportunities and the vulnerabilities which cyberspace presents."

Cabinet Secretary Francis Maude is the minister responsible for cyber security but the report recommends that more ministers should engage and take on responsibility.

"Unless we have a really vigorous approach to defending against the sort of cyber attacks that are developing at a rather quick rate day by day minute by minute second by second, unless we have a really vigorous approach we are at risk of our armed forces as well as the whole of the rest of the government infrastructure being compromised," Mr Arbuthnot told Sky News.

Dr Andrew Murrison, the Minister for International Security Strategy, has defended the Government's efforts.

He said: "There's no complacency and we will continue in a very rapidly evolving field to make sure we do absolutely everything to reduce the chance of there being a significant attack here."

GCHQ, the Government's communications headquarters, is considered a world leader.

Under the Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2010, £650m was allocated to a new cyber security programme.

It showed significant recognition of the threat but in truth no budget can ever be big enough. According to the Boston Consulting Group, the UK is the best prepared country to face a cyber-attack.

But countries like Israel, China and the United States are well advanced and are bettering their systems at a quicker pace.

Major General Jonathan Shaw, the former head of the Defence Cyber Security Programme, told Sky News that the UK competes favourably.

He said: "The way that British government is organised and the security side is actually extremely effective at coping with threats.

"It's a very collegiate atmosphere and the ability of GCHQ to spread their knowledge across government actually gives us a real advantage over someone like the United States which has a much more stove pipe government system."

What is not known is how offensive the UK's strategy is. The Government is clear about the threat it faces but declines to speak about any aggressive action it takes against states regarded as hostile.

The Defence Select Committee's report should be seen as an attempt to reinvigorate the military and government's efforts not as an outright criticism of what has been done.

Bankrupt retailers increasing in UK

British retailers suffered a bruising in 2012 with 194 bankruptcy filings.

A new survey has found that more retail companies gone into administration in the UK in 2012 compared with the previous year, marking a six-percent increase, local media report.

The research by global auditing firm Deloitte found that a total of 194 retailers fell into bankruptcy in 2012 compared with 183 in 2011 and 165 in 2010, British media reported.

“These figures are a stark reminder of the difficulties which continue to face the high street,” said Lee Manning, restructuring services partner at Deloitte.

Manning predicted that the retail sector would face more distress situation next year because household budgets are getting more constrained and the sector is facing structural challenges.

Big retails firms entering administration last year included Peacocks, La Senza, Blacks, Game, Clinton Cards, JJB Sports and Comet, according to reports.

“There will always be a need for physical retail space but at present, too many retailers have too many stores and 2013 is likely to be marked by further closure programs, both within and outside of formal insolvency processes,” Manning stated.

Other sectors beside retail which underwent notable increases in insolvencies include financial services, up from 30 to 47, and the mining and energy sector, up from 22 to 28, the survey showed.

MOL/HSN/HE

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The Biggest Threat to World Peace Is NATO

Eric Zuesse On November 8th, Britain’s Daily Mail bannered “NATO tells Europe to prepare for 'rapid deployment’:” and sub-headed “Defence chiefs say roads, bridges and...

With History of Domestic Violence, Texas Gunman Fits Mass Shooter Profile

The gunman who killed 26 people and injured 20 at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas on Sunday had been accused of domestic...

400,000 more children will grow up in poverty if Tory tax & welfare policies...

Nearly half a million children across the UK will be living in poverty within the...

For NYT, Making the Democrats Safe for the Oligarchy Is Literally Job One

by Jim Naureckas Reviewing The Family, a history of the owners of the New York Times, veteran Times reporter John L. Hess (Extra!, 1–2/00) summarized...

Trump’s Hate-Iran Campaign

Eric Zuesse On October 19th, the far-right Foundation for Defense of Democracy (FDD) held a “National Security Summit” which featured as speakers both Donald Trump’s...