Posts

Showing posts from November, 2012

Russian minimum wage leaves over a million working Russians below the poverty line

Image
More than a million Russians receive a monthly wage equivalent to $148 U.S. which is well below the poverty line in Russia of $220. Most of these workers are in the public sector. According to the Public Health and Social Development Ministry 650,000 of the 1.3 million Russians who receive the minimum wage work in the public sector. Next year the minimum wage which employers must pay workers is to be increased by 13%. This will bring the wage up to $170 a month, still well below the poverty line of $220 a month. The Russian minimum wage is far below that in many developed countries. Luxembourg, Netherlands and Belgium top minimum wage lists at minimums of over $1500 a month. However, Kygryzstan is far below Russia at $24 a month. In 2011 the number in poverty in Russia increased by 2.3 million over 2010 and in total were 22.9 million according to the Russian Federal Statistics Agency. Many critics claim that the official statistics understate the real poverty levels in Russia. Offici…

Federal inspectors told to ignore contamination except in Japan-bound meat

Image
According to documents obtained by CTV News, Canadian meat inspectors were told to "ignore" contamination on carcasses for domestic consumption but to inspect meat bound for Japan extra carefully. According to memos sent to inspectors at XL Foods, the plant subject recently to Canada's largest ever beef recall, federal meat inspectors were told to give extra scrutiny for visible and intestinal contamination of the carcasses if the meat was bound for Japan but the contamination could be ignored for meat bound for Canadian consumers. A memo issued on Sept. 12, 2008 reads: “Our number 1 priority is to ensure this standard is met with Japan eligible carcasses.When stationed at this position, ensure that non Japan eligible carcasses are not inspected for spinal cord/dura-mater, OCD [other carcass defects] and minor ingesta (Ignore them).” The memo was sent again to inspectors in 20010 and 2011. The memo said that contaminants would be detected later in the process. However, th…

U.S. negotiating to keep 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after 2014

Image
Reports in U.S media indicate that Obama intends to keep around 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan after the supposed withdrawal date at the end of 2014. A report in the Wall Street Journal cites anonymous U.S. officials who claim that the U.S. is negotiating with the Afghan government to keep about 10,000 troops in the country even after the scheduled withdrawal date of 2014. This was widely expected, as the general principle was embodied in the Strategic Partnership Agreement signed on May 2, 2012 between the U.S. and Afghanistan. The officials said that the numbers were in accord with recommendations of the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan General John Allen. Obama's choice as successor to Allen, General Joe Dunford, has strongly supported keeping the occupation going after 2014: “To accomplish this objective. ..the primary missions of the US military in Afghanistan should be to (1) train, advise, and assist the ANSF; (2) provide support to civilian agencies, and (3) conduct co…

Protests continue in Jordan

Image
Protests have been ongoing in Jordan over the past few days. The protests were about fuel price hikes but there are also demands for political reforms. This week protests in Jordan turned violent, killing one person and injuring 75, including over 50 police.The prime minister Abdullah Ensour claimed that the fragile state of government finances forced him to raise prices for heating and cooking gas by over 50% and also some oil derivatives by up to 28%. Ensour noted that on taking office last month, he discovered foreign currnecy reserves had shrunk by half to $10 billion. Poverty and unemployment were at alarming rates: "Economic indicators were alarming, the situation was dangerous and there were projections that it would impossible to navigate the ship in safe waters." The Jordanian deficit had reached a record high of $3 billion as debts grew by 20% during 2012. Ensour claimed that the removal of most state subsidies on fuel and gas products would prevent the government…

General Joe Dunford says U.S. troops will stay in Afghanistan long after 2014

Image
Obama's choice for next commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, General Joe Dunford, told the Senate on Thursday (Nov. 15) that he sees U.S. troops staying in Afghanistan long after 2014 when all U.S. troops are supposedly to depart. Dunford told U.S. senators: “In my view our overall objective in Afghanistan after 2014 will be to sustain our hard-won security gains after 2014 so that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists. To accomplish this objective, the primary missions of the U.S. military in Afghanistan should be to (1) train, advise, and assist the ANSF; (2) provide support to civilian agencies, and (3) conduct counter-terrorism operations. This mission set will include force protection for our brave young men and women and, as available, the provision of in extremis support for our Afghan forces.” As the enclosed video from a year ago shows, it was clear even back then that the U.S was not going to withdraw all troops after 2014. On July the 4th this …

Republicans should flee the U.S. to Canada

Writing in Foreign Policy, Naheed Mustafa, invites disgruntled Republicans, Real Americans as he calls them, to come to Canada. Mustfa lists the reasons why Canada would be an appropriate refuge for those fleeing another Obama term in the U.S. Mustafa understands that losing one's traditional power is scary and losing to a "coalition of minorities" is scary, even though he personally sees the key difference between Democrats and Republicans as being public relations. As a Canadian, he feels it is his duty to help. Canadians are, Mustafa claims, just like that. His solution is for disgruntled, fearful Republicans to flee to the Great White North. As you can see from the enclosed video, the flight phenomenon also took place when Obama first won. Mustafa realized that Canada at first blush seems the last place to flee. Honduras with its right wing ruling class opposed to reforms would seem more natural and Real Americans would be protected by U.S. marines based near the cap…

Japanese protest deployment of Osprey aircraft in Okinawa

Thousands of protesters gathered yesterday (November 4) to protest deployment of U.S. Osprey military aircraft to Okinawa. The Ospreys were deployed to the island last month in spite of local opposition after 2 crashes elsewhere.
The Tokyo protests are happening as anti-American sentiment is running high in Japan after two recent incidents. A U.S. airman was arrested for an alleged assault on a teenage boy in Okinawa. A recent Digital Journal report describes the incident in which a drunk U.S. airman allegedly assaulted a 13 year old boy after breaking into his home. The boy was asleep at the time. This incident happened after a curfew was imposed on the 52,000 U.S. troops deployed on the island. The curfew was imposed because of the arrest of two airmen for the alleged rape of a local woman. The protesters chanted: "Ospreys out! Marine Corps out!"
The Japanese government agreed to the deployment of the Ospreys just at a time when relations with China too are strained over 

Stephen Harper in India with two of our own armoured vehicles

Stephen Harper, the Canadian Prime Minister, shipped two armoured cars to India for the use of himself and his entourage, including an armoured Cadillac. While visiting the city of Agra, Harper was driven around in a black Sport Utility Vehicle with Ontario licence plates. No doubt this would be a novelty in India! When he arrived in New Delhi, he was transferred to a black armoured Cadillac sedan. When reporters asked about the reason for shipping these armoured vehicles to India for the visit, the Prime Minister's Office referred them to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Spokesperson, Cpl. Lucy Shorey responded with a statement: "The deployment of RCMP resources are dictated by operational requirements, including public and officer safety considerations, and a threat assessment of the events/environments.For security reasons, details on the security plans will not be discussed." The prime minister has also used his own vehicles in visits to Haiti and Afghanistan. How…

Friends of Syria meeting planned in Qatar to choose new Syrian rebel representatives

The U.S. and allies plan a conference on Syria in Qatar next week. Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, claims that the Syrian National Council can no longer be considered the leaders of the opposition. The leaders are the fighters inside the country. The U.S. is withdrawing support for the Syrian National Council and wants to groom a new leadership that will represent those within Syria fighting on the front lines. At the same time, the U.S. worries about extremists whom Clinton accuses of trying to hijack the revolution. There is a conference to be convened in Qatar next week, where no doubt deals will be made to form a new group of leaders to replace Assad once his regime is overthrown. After the U.S. election, one can expect more western intervention in Syria. The most immediate move may be be to provide the opposition with higher powered weapons so that they can neutralize Assad's vast air superiority. There is little doubt that arms are already being smuggled into the countr…

Documents indicate Libyan police may have been involved in planning Benghazi consulate attack

Writing in Foreign Policy, reporters maintain that six weeks after the attack on the compound where the U.S. ambassador was killed, there are still sensitive documents to be found that shed light on the attack. The circumstances surrounding the attack on the Benghazi consulate and associated "safe house" are becoming more and more mind-boggling. An earlier Digital Journal article explores some of the issues with the White House response. Now, an article in Foreign Policy by Harald Doornbos and Jenan Moussa, raises even more troubling questions. The reporters visited the fire-ravaged compound where Chris Stevens and another foreign service officer died on Sept. 11. When they visited on Oct. 26, they found that the compound still contained sensitive documents, including drafts of two letters that indicate that the compound was under "surveillance" by the Libyan police, and that the Libyan government had not met requests for additional security. That these documents …

U.S. voting machines open to hacking, rigging. System lacks transparency.

Image
The chief of Russia's Central Election Commission, Vladimir Churov, ranks the U.S. electoral system as one of the worst in the world. The west is quite familiar with criticism by western observers of elections in other parts of the world but now the United States is also being criticized by the head of the Russian Central Election Commission. In an article in a Russian news outlet, Vladimir Churov claims that the U.S. voting system lacks transparency. International observers are allowed only in a few states in the U.S. including North Dakota, South Dakota, New Mexico, and Missouri, and D.C. In all other states, the governors have the final say over whether OSCE monitors are allowed. Churov maintains that even in states where they are allowed, observers have sometimes been barred from entering polling stations. This lack of transparency, Churov argues, leaves the way open for manipulation and fraud. Churov next turns to the issue of voting machines. Voting machines have been an is…