Thursday, August 2, 2012

In Hiroshima's Shadow : The Iran Gamble World War III Billed As A Regional Conflict Plus Other Disturbing News Of The Day!

In Hiroshima's Shadow  : The Iran Gamble World War III Billed As A Regional Conflict Plus Other Disturbing News Of The Day!

August 6, the anniversary of Hiroshima, should be a day of somber reflection, not only on the terrible events of that day in 1945, but also on what they revealed: that humans, in their dedicated quest to extend their capacities for destruction, had finally found a way to approach the ultimate limit.

This year‚ Aug. 6 memorials have special significance. They take place shortly before the 50th anniversary of, "the most dangerous moment in human history," in the words of the historian and John F. Kennedy adviser Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., referring to the Cuban missile crisis.

Graham Allison writes in the current issue of Foreign Affairs that Kennedy, "ordered actions that he knew would increase the risk not only of conventional war but also nuclear war," with a likelihood of perhaps 50 percent, he believed, an estimate that Allison regards as realistic.

Kennedy declared a high-level nuclear alert that authorized, "NATO aircraft with Turkish pilots ... (or others) ... to take off, fly to Moscow, and drop a bomb."

None were more shocked by the discovery of missiles in Cuba than the men in charge of the similar missiles that the U.S. had secretly deployed in Okinawa six months earlier, surely aimed at China, at a moment of elevated regional tensions.

Kennedy took Chairman Nikita Khrushchev, "right to the brink of nuclear war and he looked over the edge and had no stomach for it," according to Gen. David Burchinal, then a high-ranking official in the Pentagon planning staff. One can hardly count on such sanity forever.

Khrushchev accepted a formula that Kennedy devised, ending the crisis just short of war. The formula‚ boldest element, Allison writes, was, "a secret sweetener that promised the withdrawal of U.S. missiles from Turkey within six months after the crisis was resolved." These were obsolete missiles that were being replaced by far more lethal, and invulnerable, Polaris submarines.

In brief, even at high risk of war of unimaginable destruction, it was felt necessary to reinforce the principle that U.S. has the unilateral right to deploy nuclear missiles anywhere, some aimed at China or at the borders of Russia, which had previously placed no missiles outside the USSR. Justifications of course have been offered, but I do not think they withstand analysis.

An accompanying principle is that Cuba had no right to have missiles for defense against what appeared to be an imminent U.S. invasion. The plans for Kennedy‚ terrorist programs, Operation Mongoose, called for, "open revolt and overthrow of the Communist regime," in October 1962, the month of the missile crisis, recognizing that, "final success will require decisive U.S. military intervention."

The terrorist operations against Cuba are commonly dismissed by U.S. commentators as insignificant CIA shenanigans. The victims, not surprisingly, see matters rather differently. We can at last hear their voices in Keith Bolender‚, "Voices from the Other Side: An Oral History of Terrorism Against Cuba."

The events of October 1962 are widely hailed as Kennedy‚ finest hour. Allison offers them as, "a guide for how to defuse conflicts, manage great-power relationships, and make sound decisions about foreign policy in general." In particular, today‚ conflicts with Iran and China.

Disaster was perilously close in 1962, and there has been no shortage of dangerous moments since. In 1973, in the last days of the Arab-Israeli war, Henry Kissinger called a high-level nuclear alert. India and Pakistan have come close to nuclear war. There have been innumerable cases when human intervention aborted nuclear attack only moments before launch after false reports by automated systems. There is much to think about on Aug. 6.

Allison joins many others in regarding Iran‚ nuclear programs as the most severe current crisis, "an even more complex challenge for American policymakers than the Cuban missile crisis," because of the threat of Israeli bombing.

The war against Iran is already well underway, including assassination of scientists and economic pressures that have reached the level of, "undeclared war," in the judgment of the Iran specialist Gary Sick.

Great pride is taken in the sophisticated cyberwar directed against Iran. The Pentagon regards cyberwar as, "an act of war," that authorizes the target, "to respond using traditional military force," The Wall Street Journal reports. With the usual exception: not when the U.S. or an ally is the perpetrator.

The Iran threat has recently been outlined by Gen. Giora Eiland, one of Israel‚ top military planners, described as, "one of the most ingenious and prolific thinkers the (Israeli military) has ever produced."

Of the threats he outlines, the most credible is that, "any confrontation on our borders will take place under an Iranian nuclear umbrella." Israel might therefore be constrained in resorting to force. Eiland agrees with the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence, which also regard deterrence as the major threat that Iran poses.

The current escalation of the, "undeclared war," against Iran increases the threat of accidental large-scale war. Some of the dangers were illustrated last month when a U.S. naval vessel, part of the huge deployment in the Gulf, fired on a small fishing boat, killing one Indian crew member and wounding at least three others. It would not take much to set off a major war.

One sensible way to avoid such dread consequences is to pursue, "the goal of establishing in the Middle East a zone free from weapons of mass destruction and all missiles for their delivery and the objective of a global ban on chemical weapons," the wording of Security Council resolution 687 of April 1991, which the U.S. and U.K. invoked in their effort to provide a thin legal cover for their invasion of Iraq 12 years later.

The goal has been an Arab-Iranian objective since 1974, regularly re-endorsed, and by now it has near-unanimous global support, at least formally. An international conference to consider ways to implement such a treaty may take place in December.

August 1st, 2012 11:10 pm
Jason Sattler
If you’re the son or daughter of a billionaire, now is the time to act. Convince your parents to donate millions of dollars to one of the Super PAC’s trying to get Mitt Romney elected.

Here’s the sell: Mom, Dad, Mitt is going to give you millions in tax breaks over his four years in office, according to a new study by the non-partisan Brookings Institute. But don’t just think of yourself. Think of me. I could get billions! Mitt wants to completely eliminate the Estate Tax, which is only paid by one out of 1000 Americans. This would effectively make me as much of a billionaire as you are without me doing anything except being born to the best parents in the world.

Of course, the benefits Mitt is offering to his billionaire donors aren’t limited to billions in tax breaks to them and their kids. There’s also rampant deregulation, potential wars and possibly even a shoe contract.

Meet five of the thirty-two billionaires who are spending big to put Mitt in the White House and who accordingly want big things in return.

Continue Reading >> 1  2  3  4  5  6

Mitt Romney wants to destroy public education in the US and get rid of the Department of Education.

I am not inventing this: you can read all about it in his education white paper entitled “A Chance for Every Child: Mitt Romney’s Plan for Restoring the Promise of American Education” with a forward by Jeb Bush, no less. If you believe that destroying public education as we know it and turning our schools over to the private sector will solve its problems, then this plan is for you.

The central themes of the Romney plan are a rehash of Republican education ideas from the past thirty years. Here’s how Romney is planning to destroy public education:

1. Subsidizing parents who want to send their child to a private or religious school. Romney offers complete support for using taxpayer money to pay for private school vouchers, privately managed charters, for-profit online schools, and almost every other alternative to public schools.

2.  Encouraging the private sector to operate schools. To cut costs, Romney encourages the proliferation of for-profit online universities. Romney’s plan says that no new money is needed because more spending on schools will not fix our problems. However, he proposes to dedicate more taxpayer money to the priorities that he favors, such as vouchers, charter schools, and online schools.

3.  Putting commercial banks in charge of the federal student loan program.  Romney claims that more federal aid leads to higher tuition, so he offers no new federal funding to help students crippled by debt. Instead, Romney would encourage involvement of the private sector by having commercial banks serve as the intermediary for federal student loans. Obama eliminated this approach in 2012 as too costly.

4.  Holding teachers and schools accountable for students’ test scores. Romney also wants more federal money to reward states for “eliminating or reforming teacher tenure and establishing systems that focus on effectiveness in advancing student achievement.” In other words, Romney is willing to hand out money to states if they eliminate due process rights for teachers and if they pay more to teachers whose students get higher scores on  standardized tests and get rid of teacher whose students do not.

5.  Lowering entrance requirements for new teachers. Romney takes a strong stand against certification of teachers, the minimal state-level requirement that future teachers must pass either state or national tests to demonstrate their knowledge and skill, which he considers an unnecessary hurdle.

6.  Eliminating the need to limit class size. Romney apparently believes that class size does not matter (although presumably it mattered to him when he chose a school with small classes for his own children).

7.  Eliminating teachers’ rights. In the vision presented by Romney, public dollars would flow to schools that teach creationism. Anyone could teach, without passing any test of their knowledge and skills and without any professional preparation. Teachers could also be fired for any reason, without any protection of their freedom to teach.

This is all very, very scary for us public school teachers.

As if that were not enough, Diane Ravitch, writing in The New York Review of Books, notes:

Paradoxically, Romney’s campaign takes credit for the fact that Massachusetts leads the nation in reading and mathematics on the federal tests known as National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

But Romney was not responsible to the state’s academic success, which is owing to reforms that are entirely different from the ones he is now proposing for the country (my italics). Signed into law a full decade before Romney began his tenure as governor in 2003, the Massachusetts Education Reform Act involved a commitment by the state to double state funding of public education from $1.3 billion in 1993 to $2.6 billion by 2000; to provide a minimum foundation budget for every district to meet its needs, to develop strong curricula for subjects such as science, history, the arts, foreign languages, mathematics, and English; to put into effect a testing program based on the curriculum; to expand professional development for teachers; and to test would-be teachers. In the late 1990s – again, before Romney assumed office – the state added new funds for early childhood education.

Candidate Romney should explain how privatizing the way we school our children will further his goal of “restoring the promise of American education.”

Here’s what John Adams had to say about public education (with thanks again to Diane Ravitch):

“The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people, and must be willing to bear the expenses of it.. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.”

Message to candidate Romney from an experienced educator: Restoring American education means supporting public schools, not destroying them.

The Romney campaign may want senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom to stop talking. The man who gave the 2012 campaign “Etch-a-Sketch” strategy has now declared that issues that affect women are simply “shiny objects” that distract voters from more important topics.

Appearing on This Week With George Stephanopolus, Fehrnstrom said, “Mitt Romney is pro-life. He’ll govern as a pro-life president, but you’re going to see the Democrats use all sorts of shiny objects to distract people’s attention from the Obama performance on the economy. This is not a social issue election.”

That will be news not only to the women who have been fighting against abortion restrictions, but to Republicans themselves. Since gaining power in 2011, Republicans across the country have pushed a rash of draconian anti-choice restrictions, including attempting to ban sex-selective abortion restrictions in just the last week.

Romney himself repeatedly has hit on social themes in the election, blasting President Barack Obama for requiring employers to provide birth control as part of preventative coverage — despite having done the same as governor of Massachusetts.

Obama Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter reacted with incredulity to the statement.

“If it’s not a social issue election then why did Mitt Romney just spend the last year campaigning on social issues?” Cutter asked. “These are his positions that he’s taken. Whether it’s giving bosses control over whether female employees can get contraception, being for the so-called personhood amendment that would ban all forms of abortion or telling the American people that he’ll get back to them on whether he supports Lilly Ledbetter, which is an economic issue and it should be a no-brainer, but the governor couldn’t even bring himself to be for that.”

Perhaps most galling is the idea that issues like abortion, fair pay and equal rights are just “shiny objects.” The girl turned away from an Oklahoma hospital after being raped was not a shiny object; she was a hurt, scared person who just wanted to get medical treatment. That care might have included emergency contraception, though, and thanks to so-called “conscience” laws, doctors who don’t believe in birth control don’t have to treat patients.

For the tens of millions of American women who have had abortions, and the hundreds of millions of American men and women who have used contraception, the right to access health services is not a distraction. It is a core right, one as basic as the right to free speech, or freedom of religion. Those aren’t distractions. They’re vital.

Watch the Video:

President Obama has found it difficult to find support for any of his proposals among Republicans on Capitol Hill.  He passed his landmark achievements – health reform legislation and wall street reform – without any help from Democrats. That national health reform law was in part based on the bipartisan law enacted by Mitt Romney in Massachusetts. But it never gained popularity nationally. One Congress watcher, Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute said recently that Republicans are more to fault for the gridlock in Washington than are the Democrats.

“They have tried to sell us this trickle down, tax cut ‘fairy dust’ before. And guess what? It didn’t work then, it will not work now,” Obama said of Romney’s plan to slash rates for corporations and upper-income earners.
“It’s not a plan to create jobs, it’s not a plan to reduce the deficit. It is not a plan to build the middle class. It is not a plan to move the economy forward,” he said.

Romney has argued that extending the current Bush-era tax rates and cutting rates further for the wealthy will spur hiring by small businesses.
“Under President Obama, middle-class Americans have experienced higher unemployment, lower incomes, and greater uncertainty about the future,” said Romney spokesman Ryan Williams.

“Now he is promising to raise taxes on millions of families and small businesses – which is the last thing we should do in a struggling economy,” he said.

The crowd of 2500 here predictably wasn’t having any of Romney’s ideas, booing at the mere mention of his name.

They were equally as vocal in praising the president, affectionately heckling him during his speech and singing him a boisterous rendition of “Happy Birthday.”

Obama turns 51 on Saturday.

“If I had known you guys were going to sing, we would have had a cake. And then I would have blown out the candle, I would have made a wish that probably would have had to do with electoral votes,” he said with a grin. “A win in Florida wouldn’t be a bad birthday present.”

Twitter Suspends Journalist's Account
A journalist criticized NBC over Olympics coverage and was suspended from Twitter, which has partnered with NBC for its coverage.

Here are three things that NBC prevented their public from being able to watch on network television so far this Olympic Games: live footage of the opening ceremony; live footage of Saturday's swimming showdown between Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte; live footage of the USA men's basketball "dream team."

A fourth thing they do not want people to see is the email address of Gary Zenkel, the executive responsible for this shambles. And a fifth thing is my Twitter feed, which over the weekend contained a couple of dozen occasionally uncouth observations about their coverage, several of which were accompanied by the trending hashtag: "#NBCfail."

As a journalist, you know you are doing your job properly when you manage to upset rich, powerful and entitled people who are used to getting their own way. And you know you've really got under their skin when they pursue censorship, the avenue of last resort since time immemorial.

The internet era is meant to be different, though. Thanks to Twitter, and Google and every other medium dedicated to the free exchange of information, the world is supposed to have changed. That's why the Arab Spring happened; it's why Justin Bieber happened. And its why, regardless of its comparative frivolity, NBC's successful attempt to suspend a journalist from a social networking site sets an ugly precedent.

Twitter's guidelines forbid users from publishing what they call "private" information, including "private email addresses". There is plenty of sense in this. But I did not Tweet a private email address. I Tweeted a corporate address for Mr Zenkel, which is widely listed online, and is identical in form to that of tens of thousands of those at NBC.

I was not contacted by NBC or Twitter before my account was suspended. If they had dropped me a line, I might – might! – have quietly deleted the offending Tweet. Instead, they wandered into a PR controversy which has resulted in hundreds of thousands more people being made aware of its existence. Like any right thinking-person, I take the issue of online bullying seriously. I would hate for anyone to come to harm as a result of something I uploaded to the internet. But I'm at a loss to see how a bit of forthright correspondence from a disgruntled public could be anything more than a minor annoyance to a power-broker of Mr Zenkel's lofty status. I'm still awaiting a detailed explanation from Twitter as to why my account was immediately suspended. On the face of it, their reaction seems heavy-handed.

As for Gary Zenkel, he is supposedly a grown-up, with a salary, and ego to match. His TV network has decided to delay broadcasting key Olympic events until Prime Time on the grounds it hopes to make more money from advertising. NBC surely knew viewers would be upset by this. If it now displeases Mr Zenkel to get emails from those rightly-angry customers, then he is surely in the wrong job.

Time is running out for the international community to halt Iran's nuclear programme by peaceful means, the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, told US defence secretary Leon Panetta in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

Sanctions, diplomacy and declarations of a willingness to take military action as a last resort had not yet convinced the Iranians to stop their programme, he said. "However forceful our statements, they have not convinced Iran that we are serious about stopping them. Right now the Iranian regime believes that the international community does not have the will to stop its nuclear programme."

Netanyahu said earlier that although sanctions were hurting the Iranian economy, such measures had "yet to move its nuclear programme even a millimetre backwards".

Panetta is the fourth senior US administration official to visit Israel in recent weeks as concern has mounted in Washington that Netanyahu is preparing the ground for a military strike in the coming months.

In an attempt to reassure Israel – and counter the robust support for military action pledged by presumptive Republican candidate Mitt Romney in Jerusalem earlier this week – Panetta told the prime minister: "We will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, period. We will not allow them to develop a nuclear weapon, and we will exert all options in the effort to ensure that that does not happen."

The question of whether Israel will unilaterally strike against Iran's nuclear sites in the coming months has returned to the fore after a period of relatively dampened speculation. There have also been fresh reports of a split between the Israeli political and security establishments over the merits of early unilateral action, following open opposition to such a move from former security chiefs.

In a series of television interviews as Panetta arrived in Israel from Egypt, Netanyahu said any decision would be taken by the country's political leadership. But, he added, "I have not taken a decision".

Following reports that senior defence officials, including military chief of staff Benny Gantz and Mossad chief Tamir Pardo, were opposed to Israel acting alone, the prime minister said: "In every democracy the decision-maker is the political echelon and the implementer is the professional echelon. That is how it always was and that is how it always will be."

He said Israel had the right to defend itself. "Things that affect our fate, our very existence, we don't entrust to others – not even to our best friends," he said.

Gantz denied that he was behind the reports, saying: "None of these stories was released by me … I tell the political echelon what I have to say, and they listen."

The Israeli military was prepared for a military strike, he said. "As we see it, 'all options are on the table' is not a slogan, it is a working plan and we are doing it."

Earlier Panetta met his counterpart, Ehud Barak, and toured an Iron Dome battery near Ashkelon, close to the border with Gaza. Israel deploys the weapons against rockets and missiles fired from Gaza.

Panetta denied reports that the purpose of his visit was to share with Israel an operational plan drawn up by the Pentagon to stop the Iranian nuclear programme by force in 18 months, by which time the administration believes it will be at a critical threshold.

Israel's former security chief has censured the country's "messianic" political leadership for talking up the prospects of a military stike on Iran's nuclear programme.

The pair, who are the foremost advocates of military action against Iran's nuclear programme, were "not fit to hold the steering wheel of power", Diskin told a meeting on Friday night.

"My major problem is that I have no faith in the current leadership, which must lead us in an event on the scale of war with Iran or a regional war," he said.

"I don't believe in either the prime minister or the defence minister. I don't believe in a leadership that makes decisions based on messianic feelings. Believe me, I have observed them from up close ... They are not people who I, on a personal level, trust to lead Israel to an event on that scale and carry it off.

"They are misleading the public on the Iran issue. They tell the public that if Israel acts, Iran won't have a nuclear bomb. This is misleading. Actually, many experts say that an Israeli attack would accelerate the Iranian nuclear race."

The super rich, the less than 1 percent of the population who own the lion’s share of the nation’s wealth, go uncounted in most income distribution reports. Even those who purport to study the question regularly overlook the very wealthiest among us. For instance, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, relying on the latest U.S. Census Bureau data, released a report in December 1997 showing that in the last two decades “incomes of the richest fifth increased by 30 percent or nearly $27,000 after adjusting for inflation.” The average income of the top 20 percent was $117,500, or almost 13 times larger than the $9,250 average income of the poorest 20 percent.

But where are the super rich? An average of $117,500 is an upper-middle income, not at all representative of a rich cohort, let alone a super rich one. All such reports about income distribution are based on U.S. Census Bureau surveys that regularly leave Big Money out of the picture.

A few phone calls to the Census Bureau in Washington D.C. revealed that for years the bureau never interviewed anyone who had an income higher than $300,000. Or if interviewed, they were never recorded as above the “reportable upper limit” of $300,000, the top figure allowed by the bureau's computer program.

In 1994, the bureau lifted the upper limit to $1 million. This still excludes the very richest who own the lion’s share of the wealth, the hundreds of billionaires and thousands of multimillionaires who make many times more than $1 million a year. The super rich simply have been computerized out of the picture.

When asked why this procedure was used, an official said that the Census Bureau’s computers could not handle higher amounts. A most improbable excuse, since once the bureau decided to raise the upper limit from $300,000 to $1 million it did so without any difficulty, and it could do so again.

Another reason the official gave was “confidentiality.” Given place coordinates, someone with a very high income might be identified.

Furthermore, he said, high-income respondents usually understate their investment returns by about 40 to 50 percent. Finally, the official argued that since the super rich are so few, they are not likely to show up in a national sample.

But by designating the (decapitated) top 20 percent of the entire nation as the “richest” quintile, the Census Bureau is including millions of people who make as little as $70,000. If you make over $100,000, you are in the top 4 percent.

Now $100,000 is a tidy sum indeed, but it's not super rich — as in Mellon, Morgan, or Murdock. The difference between Michael Eisner, Disney CEO who pocketed $565 million in 1996, and the individuals who average $9,250 is not 13 to 1 — the reported spread between highest and lowest quintiles — but over 61,000 to 1.

Speaking of CEOs, much attention has been given to the top corporate managers who rake in tens of millions of dollars annually in salaries and perks.

But little is said about the tens of billions that these same corporations distribute to the top investor class each year, again that invisible fraction of 1 percent of the population.

Media publicity that focuses exclusively on a handful of greedy top executives conveniently avoids any exposure of the super rich as a class. In fact, reining in the CEOs who cut into the corporate take would well serve the big shareholder's interests.

Two studies that do their best to muddy our understanding of wealth, conducted respectively by the Rand Corporation and the Brookings Institution and widely reported in the major media, found that individuals typically become rich not from inheritance but by maintaining their health and working hard. Most of their savings comes from their earnings and has nothing to do with inherited family wealth, the researchers would have us believe.

In typical social-science fashion, they prefigured their findings by limiting the scope of their data. Both studies failed to note that achieving a high income is itself in large part due to inherited advantages. Those coming from upper-strata households have a far better opportunity to maintain their health and develop their performance, attend superior schools, and achieve the advanced professional training, contacts, and influence needed to land the higher paying positions.

More importantly, both the Rand and Brookings studies fail to include the super rich, those who sit on immense and largely inherited fortunes. Instead, the investigators concentrate on upper-middle-class professionals and managers, most of whom earn in the $100,000 to $300,000 range — which indicates that the researchers have no idea how rich the very rich really are.

When pressed on this point, they explain that there is a shortage of data on the very rich.

Being such a tiny percentage, “they’re an extremely difficult part of the population to survey,” pleads Rand economist James P. Smith, offering the same excuse given by the Census Bureau officials. That Smith finds the super rich difficult to survey should not cause us to overlook the fact that their existence refutes his findings about self-earned wealth.

 He seems to admit as much when he says, "This [study] shouldn't be taken as a statement that the Rockefellers didn’t give to their kids and the Kennedys didn't give to their kids." (New York Times, July 7, 1995) Indeed, most of the really big money is inherited — and by a portion of the population that is so minuscule as to be judged statistically inaccessible.

The higher one goes up the income scale, the greater the rate of capital accumulation. Economist Paul Krugman notes that not only have the top 20 percent grown more affluent compared with everyone below, the top 5 percent have grown richer compared with the next 15 percent.

The top one percent have become richer compared with the next 4 percent.

And the top 0.25 percent have grown richer than the next 0.75 percent.

That top 0.25 owns more wealth than the other 99 percent combined.

It has been estimated that if children’s play blocks represented $1,000 each, over 98 percent of us would have incomes represented by piles of blocks that went not more than a few yards off the ground, while the top one percent would stack many times higher than the Eiffel Tower.

Marx's prediction about the growing gap between rich and poor still haunts the land — and the entire planet.

The growing concentration of wealth creates still more poverty. As some few get ever richer, more people fall deeper into destitution, finding it increasingly difficult to emerge from it.

The same pattern holds throughout much of the world. For years now, as the wealth of the few has been growing, the number of poor has been increasing at a faster rate than the earth's population. A rising tide sinks many boats.

To grasp the true extent of wealth and income inequality in the United States, we should stop treating the “top quintile” — the upper-middle class — as the "richest" cohort in the country.

But to do that, we need to look beyond the Census Bureau's cooked statistics. We need to catch sight of that tiny, stratospheric apex that owns most of the world.

Michael Parenti is the author of Against Empire, Dirty Truths, America Besieged, and most recently, History as Mystery, all published by City Lights Books.

The problems at Knight Capital Group, one of the largest firms that buys and sells stocks to provide liquidity to the markets, emerged at the beginning of trading.

Heavy computer-based trading caused a rush of orders for dozens of stocks, ranging from well-known bellwethers like General Electric to tiny Wizzard Software Corp, whose shares soared to $14.76 after closing the previous day at $3.50. The NYSE has canceled trades in six particularly volatile issues.

The trading glitches are the latest in a series of market snafus that have hurt retail investors' confidence, including the botched Facebook initial public offering, the 2010 'flash crash' in which nearly $1 trillion in market value disappeared in minutes, and the failed public offering of BATS Global Markets, a rival to the NYSE and the Nasdaq.

The exact nature of the technology issues were unclear. The the magnitude and fallout for Knight, which was forced to tell clients to send orders elsewhere, and for the broader market were also unknown. Knight's stock plunged nearly 33 percent to $6.94, a nine-year closing low for the stock.

Knight Capital issued a terse statement acknowledging the trading errors, but company officials were not available for further comment.

'This morning, a technology issue occurred in Knight's market-making unit related to the routing of shares of approximately 150 stocks to the NYSE,' Knight said in the statement.

Observers said the problem highlighted the weaknesses in the market that remain two years after the Flash Crash. 'The structure that we have in place is so complicated and intertwined, that all of these entanglements have created real issues in the marketplace,' said Christopher Nagy, a consultant to exchanges and brokerages.

Heavy buy orders in some stocks sent prices soaring, while others plunged. Many of the names were lesser-known issues such as Molycorp, a stock that usually averages about 2.65 million shares daily but which saw volume of more than 5.7 million shares in the first 45 minutes of trading, bouncing between $17.50 and $14.35 in that period.

The mood at the Knight Capital booth on the NYSE trading floor was somber, with worried traders taking numerous phone calls as well as answering questions from NYSE officials who were making inquiries on the floor.

Many on the floor were aware that the problematic trades were coming from Knight.  – Reuters

By Times of Israel staff

August 02, 2012 "Times of Israel" -- The former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy, who told The Times of Israel in an interview in March that there would be “nothing else left” but a resort to force if the diplomatic track with Iran did not quickly produce a breakthrough, hinted Thursday that the moment of truth on Iran’s nuclear drive was now imminent.

“If I were an Iranian, I would be very fearful of the next 12 weeks,” Halevy, who is also a former national security adviser and ambassador, told The New York Times.

In an Israel Radio interview later Thursday, he added that Israel’s threats of military action had a certain “credibility” and “seriousness.” He said the Iranian nuclear issue, and the Syrian issue, were the key regional concerns, and reiterated that “If I were an Iranian, I would be very fearful of the next 12 weeks.”

The New York Times report, focusing on Wednesday’s talks here by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, said there was “feverish speculation” in Israel that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “will act in September or early October.”

Apart from Netanyahu’s concern that Israel’s military option would “soon” become redundant, the paper cited several other reasons “for the potential timing.” Among them, it said, was the fact that “Israel does not like to fight wars in winter.” Also, Netanyahu “feels that he will have less leverage if President Obama is reelected” while, were Mitt Romney to win the November elections, “the new president would be unlikely to want to take on a big military action early in his term.”

Still, Thursday’s article continued, “a number of administration officials say they remain hopeful that Israel has no imminent plans to attack and may be willing to let the United States take the lead in any future military strike, which they say would not occur until next year at the earliest.”

The New York Times further reported that administration officials say “Israeli officials are less confrontational in private” and that Netanyahu “understands the consequences of military action for Israel, the United States and the region. They say they know he has to maintain the credibility of his threat to keep up pressure on the United States to continue with sanctions and the development of military plans.”

In his interview with The Times of Israel in late March, Halevy said that if the then-upcoming international talks with Iran on thwarting its nuclear program did not quickly produce a breakthrough, there will be “nothing else left” but a resort to force.

He also said he had “no doubt that for the past few years Israel has been readying its capabilities to meet the Iranians if necessary by force.

It was “tragic,” Halevy added at the time, that “I don’t see any great effort being made” by the P5+1 group — the five UN Security Council permanent members and Germany — to prepare urgently and effectively for those talks. The lights “should be burning through the night” to get a strategy together, he said. “The number one thing the world should be doing [on Iran] is investing enormous preparation into the P5+1 confrontation, because this is really the ‘Last Train to San Fernando.’”

Iran, he predicted, would doubtless try to play for time in the talks. The international community, therefore, needed to be ready with its strategy and tactics, and to be represented by “a very high-level, experienced, wise and creative negotiator.”

For the international community, said Halevy, “there’s no time for, you know, ‘Let’s meet again in two or three months, let’s do our homework, let’s not rush things, let’s look at it, and so forth.’” Rather, he said, “there has to be a breakthrough… If there is no breakthrough, it means to say that the talks have failed.”

Asked if, by a breakthrough, he meant Iran announcing the suspension of its nuclear program, Halevy demurred. “I don’t want to say ‘Iran suspending the program.’ I don’t believe that everything will become public overnight.” But it would need to be clear, he said, “that there is a serious negotiation… They don’t have to spell it all out, but it has to be clear.”

Halevy said he did see signs of greater potential international coordination over Iran. He was encouraged by the growing consensus on tackling Syria, notably including Russia and China, which he said could also be reflected in a coordinated strategy on Iran. He also noted that the priority for the ayatollahs’ regime in Iran is “survival” at all costs.

Nonetheless, if the negotiations fail, “there’s nothing else left” but a resort to force, he said.

Perhaps, it was put to Halevy, Israel could live with a nuclear weapons-capable Iran? Halevy responded: “I don’t think that we should countenance that as long as we can do what we can to remove it. I don’t accept the notion that Israel is destructible. But I think that if Iran retains a nuclear capability, life here is going to be very tough for a very long period to come. Israel will not disappear, but Israel will go through a period which I would not like it to go through.”

Asked whether he believed the Israeli government wanted a diplomatic solution, he answered: “I’m not sure every Israeli wants a diplomatic solution… I’m not sure that the government is entirely behind this support for a diplomatic solution.”

By Haim Baram

August 02, 2012 "Information Clearing House" --  In rare moments of lucidity, even the mythological “average Israeli” feels that our less than splendid isolation is intolerable. We are constantly brainwashed by our establishment, and the endless bombardments combining biblical rhetoric, alarmist prophesies and demagogic evocations of the holocaust confuse even the elitist circles, despite their liberal self-image and professed Western outlook. This increasingly pervasive syndrome can partially account for our sheepish acquiesce with the rampant rumours and speculations about the forthcoming Israeli attack on Iran.

The consequences of such aggression are abundantly clear for most educated Israelis, even right-wingers. Yet, the current mood dictates certain apathy, very untypical in saner epochs. What has happened to our judgement, critical faculties and rebellious propensities? How can one reconcile the complete loss of faith with our institutions including the IDF with the fatalistic acceptance of our fate? There is no clear cut explanation, only pessimistic theories and general air of resignation, unprecedented in our country’s history.

In every political discussion one hears well-connected politicians and commentators list the most likely scenarios and the conclusions are normally somber. The prevalent assessments fail to grasp the logic behind the almost inevitable aggression. The nuclear capabilities of Iran are likely to remain intact; the retaliation by the Iranians is bound to be harsh; the attack on Iranian territory will unite the entire Moslem world against Israel; there will be no international sympathy towards Israel even in the terrible case of death to thousands of people here; most Americans will interpret, and not without reason, the Israeli operation as an attempt by Binyamin Netanyahu to subvert the relatively liberal regime in Washington and to help the reactionary Republican party in its election campaign.

The Israeli Prime-Minister is regarded here, almost universally, as a Republican hack, with vested interests in the victory of the hard-core right-wingers in the US. Actually, he has built his entire career as an Israeli politician on the premise, that White House policies, which do not fully concur with the interest of Israel’s right-wing government, can be subverted and finally even eradicated by the US congress, supposedly under the influence of the pro-Likud lobby in Washington.

There is an element of conceit here that has turned Netanyahu into the scourge of American liberals, a foe of the Democrats and a staunch ally of the worst war-mongers and neo-liberals in the American political arena. The South-American leftist, arguably forming a very potent ideological, social and political powerbase in Latin-America, brand official Israel as an enemy, and not without cause. Millions in Brazil, Argentina and the entire spectrum of opinion in Central America will castigate Israel as an aggressor if the Netanyahu regime attack Iran.

But even their reaction will be dwarfed but the gathering storm in the Moslem world. The wealthy and conservative sector of the US Jewry and their allies in Alabama and Texas are unlikely to shield the Israelis from the popular international wrath.

The left in Israel, our allies the Arab citizens and the entire peace camp here need the world to save the region from the planned, senseless attack on Iran which could well deteriorate into a future nuclear war. As we cannot rely on our cabinet ministers, some of them baying for blood, we must call upon governments, NGOs and political movements worldwide to help us to prevent the Netanyahu lunacy before the PM unleashes his fury on the denizens of the Middle-East, including us, the Israelis.

Haim Baram is an Israeli writer and broadcaster. He was (with Major-General Matti Peled, Uri Avnery and Dr. Ya'akov Arnon) a founding member of the Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace (ICIPP). He was a member of the Israel Committee for Mordechai Vanunu.

By Reuters

US and allied officials acknowledged that officials of Saudi Arabia and Qatar were discussing whether surface-to-air missiles might help Syrian rebels bring down Russian-made helicopters and other aircraft the Syrian army was using to move troops between trouble spots. 

NBC News reported that the rebel Free Syrian Army had obtained nearly two dozen of the weapons, which were delivered to them via neighbouring Turkey, whose moderate Islamist government has been demanding Assad’s departure with increasing vehemence.

Indications are that the US government, which has said it opposes arming the rebels, is not responsible for the delivery of the missiles.

But some US government sources have been saying for weeks that Arab governments seeking to oust Assad, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have been pressing for such missiles, also known as MANPADs, for man-portable air-defence systems, to be supplied to the rebels.

In recent days, air operations against the rebels by Syrian government forces appear to have been stepped up, particularly around the contested city of Aleppo, making the rebels’ need for MANPADs more urgent.

Precisely what kind of MANPADs have been delivered to Syrian rebels is unclear and NBC News did not provide details. Such weapons range from the primitive to highly sophisticated.

And even if the rebels do have the weapons, it is unclear whether they have the training to operate them effectively against Assad’s air forces in the immediate future.

Some conservative US lawmakers, such as Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have criticized the administration of President Barack Obama for moving too slowly to assist the rebels and have suggested the US government become directly involved in arming Assad’s opponents.

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