Posts tagged ‘Middle East’

November 8, 2013

Could Israel Become a Cultural Superpower?

Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli was painted onto a Southwest Airlines plane to promote the 2009 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Photo: Christopher Ebdon / flickr

You don’t have to have a huge army or a major global economy to have influence way beyond your size.

By Benjamin Kerstein in The Tower:

Despite its high international profile, Israel has always been a somewhat provincial county, with a domestic culture largely unknown to outsiders. The classic pieces of Israeli pop culture, such as the comedy group Ha’Gashash Ha’Hiver, Eretz Israel and Mizrahi music, and the classic bourekas movies, remain ubiquitous in Israel—most Israelis can quote lines from them at will—but almost nowhere else. Everyone in the world knows who Brad Pitt is, but no one outside of Israel knows Yehuda Levi, his rough Israeli equivalent. Indeed, when Yair Lapid suddenly emerged as Israel’s newest political star, the global media proved completely ignorant of a man who had been one of Israel’s most famous media personalities for decades. [READ THE REST]

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July 22, 2011

More news behind the headlines

In this edition, the shifting sands of power in the Middle East, the alliance between Iran and North Korea, the politics of India’s oil supply, Vince Cable’s corrupt dealings, and why Mongolia matters.

Is Libya trying to sell off its shipping fleet? – By Robert Zeliger

blog.foreignpolicy.com – How desperate is Muammar Qaddafi to raise cash? According to a new report, the Libyan leader is trying to unload the country’s fleet of 22 shipping vessels as economic sanctions and continued fight.

Why Mongolia Matters « Commentary Magazine

commentarymagazine.com – Our colleague Michael Rubin makes a good case for why we should care about Mongolia as well as why we should reject the realpolitik that would have the United States eschew friendship with small st..

How Saudi Arabia and Qatar Became Friends Again – By Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi

foreignpolicy.com – In the spring of 2006, Qatar’s then energy minister broke his silence on a stalled, multibillion-dollar project to supply Qatari gas to Kuwait. “We have received no clearance from Saudi Arabia” he…

North Korea and Iran increase collaboration on nuclear missile, report claims

telegraph.co.uk – It was capable of manufacturing high strength steel that Iran has been unable to manufacture. Iran has instead relied on carbon fibre materials that are less reliable.”What previously had been a on…

‘India can cope with oil supply halt’

timesofindia.indiatimes.com – NEW DELHI: India has back-up plan to cope with a halt to crude supplies from Iran, oil minister S Jaipal Reddy said, as the Islamic republic upped the ante in an oil payments row and Indian refiner…

Cable flies into controversy with £32m for Westland Business News, Business

independent.co.uk – AgustaWestland has secured a £22m government loan to build the new AW169 helicopter at its Yeovil factory, along with £10m in research and development grants. The funds, announced by the Business…

July 6, 2011

Is OPEC Headed for Collapse?

Opec Organization of the Petroleum Exporting C...

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By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi:

In the comments section of one of my previous articles, a reader asked me whether the collapse of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC — responsible for 40% of the world’s petroleum output) is likely in the near future. Fair question, especially in light of the currently dysfunctional state of the Arab League. Are we really about to witness the end of a monopoly on global oil prices?

In short, it is too difficult to predict either way. I discussed earlier how the  Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC ) is starting to replace the Arab League as an inter-Arab political body and Sunni axis against Iran, shifting the onus of decision-making to the Gulf region. However, some of OPEC’s most prominent members — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, and Kuwait — are also part of the GCC, and it is notable that neither Syria nor Egypt, both of whose states of political turmoil have been responsible for the Arab League’s decline, is a major exporter of petroleum or member of OPEC. Thus, the growing importance of the GCC as opposed to the diminishing relevance of the Arab League is unlikely to have a major impact on OPEC’s future.

What is more interesting, however, is the conflict within OPEC between a bloc of states led by Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members, led chiefly by Iran and Venezuela, on the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) decision to tap into “strategic” (or “excess”) stockpiles of petroleum in an attempt to boost output, provide relief for high oil prices, and to stabilize the global economy. The IEA hopes to increase production by around 2 million barrels per day. Following a meeting that resulted in a deadlock at OPEC’s headquarters in Vienna on June 8, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait parted ways with other OPEC members and promised to raise production levels by 1.5 million barrels per day. Indeed, over the past month the Saudis have already increased output by approximately 500,000 barrels per day.

Now, ostensibly, Saudi Arabia is complying with the IEA’s initiative, but John Shimkus plausibly argues for another motive behind the Saudis’ behavior: namely, fear of Iran’s nuclear program, which is probably striving to develop nuclear weapons. As pointed out before, Iran has been at the head of an effort to block release of excess oil reserves. Hence, we should not be surprised if Saudi Arabia and its allies in OPEC might wish to flood the market with their own petroleum in the hope of bringing Iran’s government to the point of bankruptcy and thereby halting the Islamic Republic’s goals for its nuclear program. [READ THE REST]

 

June 10, 2011

Did Kissinger Urge Egypt to Attack Israel?

From the Daily Beast:

A new memoir by CIA officer Jack O’Connell reveals that King Hussein warned Nasser about the 1967 Israel attack and that Kissinger urged Egypt to attack Israel in 1973. But does the record bear this out? Ross Schneiderman investigates.

Whether it’s the expansion of settlements or the status of Jerusalem, the past has always held a central role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So as Palestinian protestscontinued to roil the Jewish state on Sunday, a new book by a former CIA agent in Amman and a trusted adviser to the Jordanian king offers some eye-opening claims about the history of the conflict.

Article - Schneiderman Kissinger HusseinHenry Kissinger and King Hussein in 1973. Credit: AP PhotoAmong them: That the late King Hussein of Jordan warned Egyptian strongman Gamal Abdel Nasser about Israel’s pre-emptive strike in the 1967 war, and that Henry Kissinger, then the U.S. president’s national security adviser, urged Egypt to attack Israel in 1973.

“So much of what’s been done over the past 50 or 60 years in the Middle East has been based on falsehoods,” writes Jack O’Connell, the book’s author, who died last summer.

“Now the time has come to tell the truth about what happened in 1967 and 1973, and beyond.”[…]

April 8, 2011

War in the Middle East: follow the money

From Der Spiegel:

Weapons Sales to the Arab World under Scrutiny

By Benjamin Bidder and Clemens Höges

Bernhard Zand/ DER SPIEGEL

In recent years, Western countries have made a bundle selling arms to Arab despots. But, as with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, some of yesterday’s buyers have become today’s enemies. Now major weapons exporters must seek a new balance between arms profits and human rights.

The revolutions in the Arab world caught British Prime Minister David Cameron off guard. For some time, diplomats had been planning a trip for Cameron that would take him to several countries in the Middle East. In fact, it was meant to be more of a trade mission, with Cameron’s delegation consisting largely of high-level executives from Great Britain’s weapons industry.

But then came the revolutions in Arab countries and the fighting in Libya. Ignoring them was impossible, and Cameron added a six hour stopover in Cairo to his already tight schedule. It was almost exactly a month ago that he visited Tahrir Square in the center of the city, the focal point of mass demonstration which ultimately forced Egypt’s aging leader, Hosni Mubarak, out of office.

“Meeting the young people and the representatives of the groups in Tahrir Square was genuinely inspiring,” Cameron said. “These are people who have risked a huge amount for what they believe in.”

From Egypt, Cameron flew on to Kuwait, where he got down to the real purpose of his trip: selling weapons to Arab autocrats. When members of parliament back home attacked him for this lack of tact, the prime minister insisted there was nothing wrong with such business transactions and that, in any case, his government made weapons buyers pledge to not use them to violate human rights under any circumstances. Great Britain, he said, has “nothing to be ashamed of.”

Britain, though, has exported over €100 million ($142 million) in weapons to Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi in the last two years alone. Included in those shipments are sniper rifles that may currently be in use against the Libyan opposition. Furthermore, Gadhafi’s terror police are British-trained. Indeed, British officials were forced to hastily revoke 50 arms export licenses to Libya and Bahrain.

Friends of Convenience

Cameron now finds himself in a tight spot shared by many Western politicians. Policies that seemed fine prior to the revolutions are now questionable. Regional paradigms are shifting and, at a time when populations are throwing off the yoke of oppression, Realpolitik is a poor guide to Western policy.

Until recently, the West had been arming despots in the Arab world with a series of ever-larger, billion-dollar deals that served to stabilize their regimes. Some are close allies when it comes to Iran and al-Qaida, making questions about human rights and democracy secondary.

In addition, many of the region’s potentates were convenient partners for the West: They had their people more or less under control, and some provided oil. Even Gadhafi proved useful by keeping poor African refugees out of Europe. Likewise, many of the rulers bought whatever the West’s defense industry put up for sale.

The Ascent of German Arms

This was certainly also the case with Germany’s defense industry. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), though it still lags far behind the United States and Russia, Germany has become the world’s third-largest weapons exporter in recent years.

Indeed, SIPRI statistics show that, over the last decade, the German defense industry’s share of the global arms market has doubled to 11 percent. In 2008, the total value of these arms sales amounted to just under €6 billion. Germany primarily supplies high-tech items, such as submarines and military electronics. German defense corporations — such as EADS, Rheinmetall and Heckler & Koch — together employ roughly 80,000 people.

German military wares are so good that even Russia has become a reliable customer. Although Russia’s own products are perfectly suited for guerilla warfare in Africa, Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov admits that they no longer meet “modern requirements.”

For this reason, Russia plans to order military hardware worth nearly €500 billion by 2020, including many items from the West. The Russian army would like to replace its T-90 tanks for the German Leopard 2, and Rheinmetall is to provide armored plating for other Russian vehicles. Even Russia’s mobile military camps will soon be “made in Germany.” Kärcher Futuretech, a company based in Winnenden, near Stuttgart, manufactures the finest in field kitchens and water purification systems.[…]

From Le Monde Diplo:

by Samir Aita
[…] Monarchies in the Arab world have been absolute, and life-long presidents (with hereditary office) ruled the republics, because they created a supreme power above both state and post-independence institutions (1). They set up and controlled their own security services to ensure that their powers would endure; the services escaped parliamentary or government supervision, and their members could reprimand a minister and impose decisions. It costs money to run such services, and the clientelist networks of one-party states. The funds derive not from public budgets, as do those for the police and the army, but from different sources of revenue. (The New York Times recently reported that Muammar Gaddafi had demanded in 2009 that oil firms operating in Libya should contribute to the $1.5bn he had promised to pay in compensation for the Lockerbie terrorist murders – or lose their licences. Many paid. And Gaddafi’s immediate cash holdings of billions of dollars are thought to be funding his mercenaries and supporters to defend him.)

read more »

March 16, 2011

Arming the dictators: How the west profiteers from anti-democracy actions in the Middle East

In its broadest sense, the arms industry encom...

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Saudi Arabia uses UK-made armoured vehicles in Bahrain crackdown on democracy protesters

Saudi Arabia has sent scores of UK-made armoured personnel carriers into Bahrain to aid the government’s bloody suppression of pro-democracy protesters. The armoured vehicles, marketed as Tacticas, were manufactured by BAE Systems Land Systems Division in Newcastle Upon Tyne with final assembly taking place in Belgium (Jane’s Armour and Artillery 2009-10 pp. 664)

The Saudi Arabia National Guard (SANG) ordered 261 of the vehicles in 2006 for delivery in 2008. Saudi forces entered Bahrain in a convoy of the Tacticas on 13 March, at the invitation of the Bahrain’s ruling al-Khalifa family. It seems that the Saudi forces are being held in reserve, leaving the front-line repression of protesters by Bahrain’s military and security forces.

Saudi Arabia has been a major market for market for UK arms since the 1960s. The majority of contracts have been through the controversial Al-Yamamah arms deals of the mid-1980s, and their successor, the Salam Project, which involved arms giant BAE Systems (formmerly British Aerospace). However, the Tactica purchase was not part of either package but a separate contract with SANG.

Bahrain is also a market for UK arms. In the first nine months of 2010, the UK approved export licenses for over £5 million worth of arms including tear gas and crowd control ammunition, equipment for the use of aircraft cannons, assault rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles and sub-machine guns. In response to an earlier crackdown on 18 February 2011 the UK government revoked 24 individual licences and 20 open licences to Bahrain.[…]

Arms made in Newcastle used by Saudis to suppress protests

Saudi Arabia has sent scores of UK-made armoured personnel carriers into Bahrain to aid the government’s bloody suppression of pro-democracy protesters. The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has criticised the UK government for allowing the sale of the armoured vehicles, made by BAE Systems.

The vehicles, marketed as Tacticas, were manufactured by BAE Systems Land Systems Division in Newcastle-upon-Tyne with final assembly taking place in Belgium.[…]

Britain reviewing crowd control weapons exports, says Hague

Britain is reviewing its arms exports to the Middle East and north Africa, which have included crowd control weapons and small arms to Bahrain and Libya, the foreign secretary, William Hague, said on Wednesday.

Exports recently cleared for export to Bahrain include more than 100 assault rifles, over 50 sub-machine guns, stun grenades, tear gas ammunition, riot control agents, and components for “military devices for initiating explosives”, according to the latest official figures.

The Guardian reported last month that the British government had approved the sale to Libya of a wide range of equipment for use against civilians, including teargas and “crowd control ammunition”, as well as sniper rifles.

Export licences increased significantly and were valued at more than £200m over the first nine months of last year, according to figures compiled by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills for the Foreign Office.[…]

Bahrain Crisis: Is U.S. Military Assistance Hindering Democracy?

The increasingly violent crackdown on anti-government protesters in Bahrain has rekindled debate over whether U.S. military aid is being used to crush popular uprisings.

The Obama administration launched an investigation last week into the possibility that U.S. arms and training money were used by Bahraini security forces in violent crackdowns on protesters. The outcome of that probe is not yet known, but the Bahrain situation is stirring up uncomfortable questions about the effectiveness of military aid and to what extent U.S. assistance undermines emerging democracies, said Marine Corps Lt. Col. Christopher L. Naler, a federal executive fellow at The Brookings Institution, in Washington, D.C….

His own research revealed some troubling numbers. Between 2006 and 2011, annual U.S. assistance to Bahrain ranged from $5 million to $18 million. And even though the U.S. government can choose to allocate the aid to non-military programs, in this case it earmarked every penny to the security sector, Naler said. “This is one that caught me by surprise.” […]

Britain under fire for selling arms to Bahrain

The British Government has been heavily criticised for allowing arms sales to a number of Arab governments that have cracked down on pro-democracy protests in recent weeks, killing scores of people and injuring thousands more in demonstrations across the region….

David Cameron and other leading Conservative cabinet ministers have long standing ties to Bahrain. A year before last May’s General Election, the then Leader of the Opposition received a “gift of a fountain pen and half suite cufflinks and studs, provided by His Majesty Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa,” the King of Bahrain. The present is listed in the Register of MPs’ interests. Defence Secretary Liam Fox registered travel expenses worth £1,400 paid for by the Bahrain government….

Denis MacShane said that the idea of civilians dying because of British manufactured arms made him feel “physically sick”. “With the protests spreading across the Middle East, I am very concerned that once Britain is going to be caught on the wrong side of history again, defending the indefensible,” he said.

The Foreign Office policy to date chimes with a determination at the top of government to put commercial interests at the heart of British foreign policy. Within weeks of entering Downing Street last year, David Cameron embarked on one of Britain’s biggest ever trade delegations, to India, during which the two governments announced a deal between BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and Indian aerospace group Hindustan Aeronautics to supply 57 Hawk trainer jets….

Britain’s ingrained position in the Middle Eastern arms market is further underlined by the expected presence of at least 92 British companies at a pan-Middle East arms fair, scheduled to be opened in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. The chairman of the IDEX event, Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, a member of the Abu Dhabi ruling family, and the chairman Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company, says on its website: “Over the recent years significant investment in resources and facilities at our host venue… have enabled IDEX to sustain its reputation as the largest defence exhibition in the Middle East and North Africa region.”[…]

German arms used to crush protests in Bahrain: MP

German weapons are being used to suppress peaceful protests in Bahrain, said a senior legislator of the opposition party The Left (Die Linke) here Wednesday.

Addressing the German parliament during a live debate on the upheavals in the Arab world, Wolfgang Gehrcke pointed out that part of the weapons deployed by Bahrain’s security forces against anti-government protesters were supplied by Germany.

The foreign policy spokesman of The Left party called for an ‘immediate end’ to the delivery of German arms to the Bahraini regime. Germany’s overall arms export to the Near-and Middle East hovers around 1.1 billion euros and includes other recipient countries like Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. In 2009, the United Arab Emirates was among the three leading recipients of German weapons, according to the latest report released by the German government.

The tiny Persian Gulf sheikdom was ranked second after the US in terms of total German arms exports last year which stood at 5.04 billion euros. Germany sold around 540.7 million euros worth of military hardware to the UAE, among them radar and steering systems, torpedoes, simulators, missiles, hand grenades, armored vehicles, tank spare parts, automatic cannons. amphibious vehicles and trucks.

Meanwhile, another Persian Gulf country, Saudi Arabia, was listed sixth in the overall export of German weaponry with 167.9 million euros.[…]

February 28, 2011

Dirty money: Britain, Libya and the arms trade

This is NOT OK

CAAT say:

The UK has sold tear gas, crowd control ammunition and fire arms to Bahrain and Libya in the last year. While UK weapons are used against civilians, a UK government departmentand David Cameron are promoting weapons sales in the Middle East. This is NOT OK.

Can you be more on top of the events than this, a mere several weeks after the revolution began in Libya:

Liam Fox, the defence secretary, has said Britain’s arms sales policy is under review following the Libyan regime’s violence against its own people.

Fox said that Muammar Gaddafi was “a liability” and that all pressure possible should be applied to ensure the Libyan leader goes, as David Cameron called on him to do on Sunday.

Carl Packman on William Hague:

First he made the government look foolish by repeating the unsubstantiable claim that Gaddafi had fled to Venezuela.

Then amid all the media attention on Cameron’s trip to the Middle East with arms dealers, and the Mirror story that the wife of an ex-Middle East arms dealer, old chum of Jonathan Aitken, had donated £300,000 to the Tories, David Cameron has to get up and apologise for the delays to the Government’s efforts to rescue British nationals stranded in Libya.

James Forsyth for the Mail has today said the “Government has resembled little more than a budget airline”.

EUObserver write:

As dead bodies pile up on the streets of Tripoli and blocked phone lines hamper the EU evacuation effort, the latest EU figures show that EU countries just two years ago granted over €160 million of export licences to Libya for small arms and electronic jamming equipment.

The Union’s latest report on arms exports, out in January and covering 2009, says that EU countries granted €343.7 million worth of Libya licences two years before the massacre. Figures for actual shipments are incomplete.

With the UK’s Associated Press agency reporting on Tuesday (22 February) that the streets of Tripoli “are littered with the bodies of scores of protesters shot dead by security forces,” the EU report notes that Malta in 2009 granted licences and actually shipped €79.7 million of small arms to the regime. Belgium granted €18 million of licences and Bulgaria €3.7 million.

On electronic jamming, Germany led with €43.2 million of permits. The UK granted €20.7 million worth and Italy €1 million.

EU officials on Monday told this website that Libyan jamming of mobile phone, internet and GPS services is hampering attempts to get the 5,000 or so EU citizens still in Libya to safety. The EU’s ambassador in Tunis, who is also responsible for Libya, is trying to co-ordinate evacuations by calling EU embassies in Tripoli on landlines. But many of these are also down.

Amid widespread reports that the Libyan airforce is bombing and shooting opposition activists, Italy led the sale of what the arms industry calls “big ticket items.”

Italy granted €107.7 million of licences for military aircraft, including assault craft, and associated equipment. France granted €17.5 million worth and Portugal €14.5 million. Portugal also granted €4.6 million of permits for drones.

[…] Paul Holtom, an arms control expert with the Swedish NGO Sipri said that Russia is Libya’s main arms supplier. The EU gold rush began after the UN lifted its arms embargo in 2003, with senior British, French and Italian officials jetting in and out of Tripoli in delegations with arms and oil industry executives.

[…] Belgium in 2009 in response to NGO complaints overturned a licence for FN Herstal to supply €11.5 million of small arms – including 367 rifles, 367 handguns, 50 “luxury” pistols and 22,000 grenades – for Gaddafi’s elite army and police units.

The UK in 2008 blocked York Guns from shipping 130,000 Kalashnikovs to Libya because it feared they would be resold to warlords in Sudan.

The same year Romania gave the green light to sell Gaddafi 100,000 of the guns, however. And UK premier David Cameron on his current Middle East tour opted to bring Ian King, the CEO of top British arms firm BAe Systems, as part of his delegation, as well as executives from UK weapons firms Rolls Royce and Thales.

Here is Russia’s role in the trade:

Russia could lose almost $4.0 billion in arms export contracts to Libya after Moscow joined other world powers in slapping an arms embargo on Moamer Kadhafi’s regime, a report said on Sunday.

The Interfax news agency quoted a military source as saying that Russia had a swelling order book for contracts from Libya worth $2.0 billion while negotiations had been in progress for deals worth $1.8 billion more.

Here is some information about British arming of the un-democratic government of Bahrain:

Alistair Burt went on to detail some of the licenses granted in recent months.

“In the last nine months we have approved a range of licences for Bahrain. These include two single export licences for 250 tear gas cartridges to the Bahrain Defence Force and National Security Agency that were for trial/evaluation purposes.

“In addition there are a number of open individual export licences that have been approved. One of these includes equipment that can be used for riot control. The approval of these applications were judged to be consistent with the criteria at the time and followed precedents set by previous governments. As with all export licences for Bahrain, these are being urgently reviewed.”

Oddly enough, the defence industry says: “Anarchy in the Middle East benefits no-one”.

More from the Campaign Against the Arms Trade:

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February 17, 2011

News from other parts of the Middle East

This post focuses on the ever-growing power of Chinese economic imperialism in the Middle East, but also the rising soft power of South Korea. It looks at the impact of the unrest in the region on the big oil countries, showing how oil has sustained authoritarian governments, which are fearing the changes. Labour conflict remains rife in the region, including the growing militancy of the hyper-exploited migrant workers from South Asia. Even Israel is seeing an upswing in labour militancy, with  a general strike a real possibility. 

read more »

January 10, 2011

Essential reading on world affairs

Rising powers: China’s hard and soft power

Robert Gates Clarifies China’s Stealth Capabilities

The newest big oil company: China?

Global food crisis: feeding rebellion

Frontline Tunisia

Governments Around the World Struggle with Surging Food Prices

11 dead in Tunisia rioting

Unrest spreads to Algeria

Big oil and corporate corruption

Climate Change Skeptics are Stooges for Big Oil

Big oil’s intriguing resurgence

2011: The Arctic vs Big Oil

Big Gas Find Sparks a Frenzy in Israel

China remains world’s biggest car producer and market for second year

Blood for oil: Saudi’s hard power

Saudi Arabia’s Terror: What Hillary Clinton Knows

Saudi Arabia: Taliban Lite (With U.S. Complicity)

ANALYSIS: Saudi Arabia and Pakistan

Labour on the march

Israel port strike settled as workers win 6% pay increase, big gains for new workers, more vacation and sick days

Alta Gracia, Dominica: How One Tiny Factory Is Challenging the Sweatshop Norm

Workers strike in UAE after labour riot

The bosses strike back

Labor lawyer imprisoned in Xi’an for organizing against corrupt privatization of state enterprises

Kraft Foods Employee In Colombia Killed By Gunman, Says Union

Recent worker deaths in the Bangladeshi garment industry from police repression and from a factory fire

And even under “actually existing socialism”, the workers are fucked over

Cubans fret as massive job cuts get under way

Venezuela: Fifty-one year-old welder and leader of Sintraferrominera ironworkers union, has spent over a year in prison

October 4, 2010

Blog round up

Lady Poverty: Poverty and abundance

Large-scale commodity production gives us a sense of material abundance. So much stuff! We call ourselves “developed” because we have advanced so much further than the “developing” or “underdeveloped” world in terms of the things we can buy. In other parts of the world, and at other times in history, consumer options have been much more limited. Nevertheless, individuals in any society are vulnerable anytime things like food, shelter and medicine are treated as commodities, not rights.

Poverty in an advanced consumer society can look a lot different than poverty in an early- or semi-capitalist one. [READ THE REST]

Harry’s Place: The Islamic Republic’s corporate enablers

The Guardian reports:

Shell, the Anglo-Dutch oil giant, paid the state-owned Iranian oil company at least $1.5bn (£0.94bn) for crude oil this summer, increasing its business with Tehran as the international community implemented some of the toughest sanctions yet aimed at constricting the Islamic republic’s economy and its lifeline oil business.[…]

Now I realize there is some dispute among opponents of the regime over the effectiveness of economic sanctions on Iran. But it’s hard for me to grasp how pouring one-and-a-half billion dollars into the coffers of the Iranian government does anything other than strengthen the regime– not only in its nuclear program but also in its ability to brutalize and repress its political opponents, to keep a lid on wider opposition through state subsidies and to supply weapons to the likes of Hezbollah.

Shell Oil’s reputation for responsible and ethical behavior is already pretty lousy, and they may figure that doing business with Iran won’t make it much worse. But I have to believe that they– like other companies– would be susceptible to worldwide pressure to stop funding the Iranian regime.

Earlier this year the telecom giant Nokia-Siemens Networks got around to admitting a “share of the blame for Iran’s brutal crackdown on anti-government demonstrators last year after selling mobile phone surveillance to the authoritarian regime.”[…]

Arguing the World: Partial Readings: The World Has Changed

Poverty Rising

The 2009 census data unveiled a few weeks ago revealed a troubling, if unsurprising, fact: one in seven Americans is now below the poverty line—and when the number of those now sharing homes is included, the figures are even starker. There is one glimmer of hope amid the grim news: senior citizens have actually seen a rise in income—a testament to the effectiveness of Social Security as an anti-poverty program. The safety net for families with children, especially those with single mothers, has proved far less effective; and a new Pew study illuminates the dire economic straits in which former prison inmates and their families find themselves. The effects have been exacerbated by rising incarceration rates: “1 in every 28 children (3.6 percent) has a parent incarcerated, up from 1 in 125 just 25 years ago. Two-thirds of these children’s parents were incarcerated for non-violent offenses.”