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Showing posts from February, 2013

United Arab Emirates spends $1.4 billion at arms show in Abu Dhabi

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- Sales at the IDEX arms show in Abu Dhabi have been brisk as in total about $2.7 billion in defence contracts have been signed by a number of different countries. The International Defence Exhibition or IDEX is the largest arms exhibition in the Middle East. For the past several years the exhibition has been held in the capital of the UAE Abu Dhabi. Sheikh Khalifa Al Nahyan who is President of the UAE and also Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed forces is benefactor of the show. The UAE expenditure of $1.4 billion includes drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV's)The largest deals, which were announced on Tuesday February 19, were for 750 mine-resistant, ambush-protected, all-terrain vehicles from Oshkosh Corp worth $380 million. The number of drones purchased was not announced. The unarmed Predator drones were bought from the privately-owned US firm, General Atomics, and had a price tag of $197 million. The drones are said to be designed so that armaments cannot be added. This …

Bolivia nationalizes Spanish firm that operates Bolivian airports

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Bolivia nationalized the company that runs the three largest airports in Bolivia because the government claims the company did not invest in improving the airports.
Servicios de Aeropuertos Bollivianos SA (Sabsa) is a division of Spain's Abertis Infraestructure SA but Sabsa is also partly owned by Aena Aeropuertos SA based in Madrid. Bolivian president Evo Morales said that the privatization of Sabsa in 1997 was equivalent to "robbery" and "looting". He claimed that since that time the company's profits have been exorbitant and investments "ridiculous".
Since taking office in 2006 Morales has moved to put telecommunication, energy and water industries in the hands of the state. As reported in Digital Journal he took over Spanish power companies the end of last year.
The parent company of Sabsa says that it respects the government's decision but trusts it will receive adequate compensation. The company claims that the government had frozen the…

A rare protest in Singapore against new population plan

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On February 16, a rare protest of about 3,000 people took place in Singapore. They were protesting government plans to increase the population of the city state. Protesters worry that a government plan that would raise the current population from 5.3 million to a high as 6.9 million by 2030 will make already strained public services worse and also push up the cost of living. Singapore has an image of political stability and efficient governance but also is known for attempts by the long-ruling People's Action Party to try to stifle opposition. The party has ruled since 1959. There are also strict regulations on public protests. The main organizer of the protest, Gilbert Goh, said the protest is meant to show the public's displeasure with the population plan that was endorsed by the parliament on February 8 :"They want to tell the government, please reconsider this policy. The turnout is a testimony that this policy is flawed and unpopular on the ground." The governme…

Facebook earns over a billion but ends up with net tax benefits of over $400 million

Facebook manages to get a $429 million net tax refund. The refund is not because Facebook had a loss. Facebook earned almost $1.1 billion in profits during 2012. Corporations are able to claim deductions that are not available to individual filers. In Facebook's case the company is able to deduct executive stock options that are used as part of their compensation:"That tax break reduced Facebook’s federal and state income taxes by $1,033 million in 2012, including refunds of earlier years’ taxes of $451 million." This situation is not unique to Facebook. Many large corporations use stock options to compensate not just executives but other employees. The options allow the holders to buy stocks at favorable prices in the future. When the options are exercised the corporations are able to deduct the difference between what the employee paid for the stock and what it is worth. The employee is required to report this difference as a taxable wage. This article reports that 18…

Environmentalists press Obama to reject Keystone XL pipeline

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While Obama stressed the importance of the environment in his State of the Union speech, environmentalists are pressing him to prove it by rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline.. Already this week, 50 people were arrested while demonstrating against the XL pipeline outside the White House in Washington DC. An even larger rally is planned for this Sunday, Febrruary 17th, in Washington. The rally is billed as being the largest environmental rally in history. The upcoming rally is designed to convince Obama to reject construction of the Keystone XL pipeline that would carry oil from the Alberta tar sands to a port in Texas. While on one side Obama is under pressure from environmentalists to not approve construction, he is under pressure to approve the project from many in Congress and his own party, as well as business interests and big oil companies in particular. Just last month, the Democratic-controlled Senate urged approval, after what was said to be an exhaustive environmental review…

US Senators considering secret court to rule on additions to kill list

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The idea is that a secret court would consider evidence that a suspect should be on a targeted killing list and hence could be attacked by a drone. The court would issue what might be called a "death warrant". The secret drone court would be modeled on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court that was created in 1978. This court approves national security surveillance on US soil. Earlier these decisions had been the prerogative of the president. The court has almost never rejected requests for surveillance warrants although at times they have modified them. The court has also complained at times that evidence presented to the court was not well verified. George Bush carried out surveillance without bothering to go to the court on a number of occasions.. The suggestion of such a court is obviously an attempt to establish some type of legal legitimacy for the drone program by providing judicial oversight that could then be touted as due process. As of now, the d…

Ultra-conservative Egyptian cleric defends sexual attacks on female protesters

Egypt is in turmoil today after a hard-line Muslim cleric on an Egyptian TV station justified sexual assaults against women protesters. Other ultra-conservatives issued fatwas to kill opposition leaders. Cleric Ahmed Mohammed Abdullah on his TV show claimed that attacking women was not a "red line" as some opposition members claim. He asked rhetorically: “Does that apply to these naked women? Nine out of 10 of them are Crusaders (Christians) and the rest are ... widows with no one to rein them in to ensure they remain modest."The cleric continued with a classic blame the victim rant:“They are going there to get raped ....these are devils named women ... They speak with no femininity, no morals, no fear ... Learn from Muslim women, be Muslims.” Views such as this go a long way to explain the violent attacks against women protesters recently. At protests on January 25 to mark the two-year-anniversary of the revolution, at least 19 women were attacked. One had to have sur…