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Archive for January 29th, 2011

A novel (and somewhat bizarre) view of Brazilian politics #Cablegate 06SAOPAULO360

Posted by Charles II on January 29, 2011

This is an except from a Wikileaked cable. There’s a lot of interesting stuff in there, particularly because we find our (in Washington parlance) good friend Darrell Issa in Brazil in April 2004, engaged in making foreign policy. Go figure. Anyway, there’s this, which I find particularly interesting:

. ¶5. (SBU) [Lebanese Consul General in Sao Paulo Joseph] Sayah and [long-time investment and government relations advisor to the Hariri Family Group Souheil] Yarmout gave a somewhat surprising account of the current influence on the GoB of various elements of the Arab community in Brazil. When asked why the GoB had taken some confusing stands counter to the United States regarding Middle East policy, both men described the MFA (Itamaraty) as being greatly influenced by Syrians in Brazil. They said that for generations, Syrian-Brazilians have become diplomats, while Lebanese immigrants have focused on business. In the past these trends were not noticed because there was no divergence in opinion or interests among the various elements of the greater Arab community in Brazil.

¶6. (SBU) However, with the Syrian pullout from Lebanon and a growing hostility between the two countries fueled by the assassination of Lebanese former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the GoB finds itself behaving almost schizophrenically, both Sayah and Yarmout asserted. The descendents [sic] of Syrians purportedly entrenched in the Brazilian Foreign Ministry have taken public stands in support of Syria, allegedly at times even without the knowledge or authorization of others in the Lula administration. Further, the Arab-Brazil Chamber of Commerce has become extremely influential, and the organization tends to oppose U.S.-led initiatives in the Middle East.

¶3. (U) Brazil’s Lebanese community is the largest expatriate group of Lebanese worldwide. CG Sayah confirmed for Representative Issa that after four generations since large-scale immigration began, Sao Paulo alone is home to some eight million persons of Lebanese descent.

If any of this is true, it’s interesting that the US embassy is discovering it for the first time. My guess is that Sayah and Yarmout are manipulating Issa, who is of Lebanese descent, to get US government support against Hezbollah in favor of Hariri-family interests. But that’s quite a statistic: eight million ethnic Lebanese in Sao Paolo alone?

Posted in Brazil, Conflict in the Middle East, Latin America | Comments Off on A novel (and somewhat bizarre) view of Brazilian politics #Cablegate 06SAOPAULO360

What Happens When a Billionaire Right-Winger Who Hates Social Security Spends Million$ to Undermine It?

Posted by Phoenix Woman on January 29, 2011

What happens when you have a billionaire right-winger (Pete Peterson) who along with other rich right-wingers has had a hate-on for Social Security for several decades and has spent tens of millions on various enterprises (his “Concord Coalition” and “Fiscal Times” come most quickly to mind) in order to destroy it by embedding lies about it into our mainstream media?

You get garbage like this from the AP’s Stephen Ohlemacher: “Sick and getting sicker, Social Security will run at a deficit this year and keep on running in the red until its trust funds are drained by about 2037, congressional budget experts said Wednesday in bleaker-than-previous estimates.”

As economic reporter Joshua Holland says, this is just flat-out wrong:

Is it “sick”? Social Security has $2.5 trillion in T-Bills sitting in a trust fund, is financed through 2037 and if nothing were to change it would still be able to pay out higher benefits than it does today, indefinitely.

Is it getting sicker? Well, the 2000 Social Security Trustees’s report (PDF) projected that the trust fund would run out in … 2037. But the 1997 report (PDF) expected the trust fund to be depleted by 2029 — 8 years earlier than currently projected. So in that sense, it’s “healthier” today than it was 13 years ago.

That’s not the end of the lies being spewed by Ohlemacher. Holland notes the following:

When he says the program is “in the red” what he’s talking about is that current tax revenues being paid into the system have fallen below current benefit payments. Which should be unsurprising with wages stagnating and an unemployment rate of 9.4 percent.

But what’s unsaid is that the Social Security’s revenues aren’t limited to current tax receipts, thanks to the interest earned on those T-Bills in the trust fund. They earned 5.1 percent in 2008, and 4.8 percent in 2009.

When you include that earned interest, as any honest reporter must do, the program has not “gone into the red,” and — if we define “going into the red” as total annual outlays exceeding total income, including interest income — it won’t until at least 2018, according to the Trustees’ latest report (PDF).

Yes, the Trust Fund grew last year, is growing this year, and will continue to grow for several more years, until it reaches a projected $4.2 trillion dollars.

Go read Holland’s entire piece — it’s worth it. And while you’re at it, check out my earlier debunking of the “Social Security must be destroyed in order to save it” myth pushed by the privatizers back when Bush was in office.

(Crossposted to Renaissance Post.)

Posted in Social Security | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Yet Another Climate-Change Denier Myth Shot Down

Posted by Phoenix Woman on January 29, 2011

A new myth making the rounds of the coal-and-oil-industry-bought-and-paid-for climate skeptics, the “volcanoes kick out more carbon than humans ever have” myth, is summarily executed:

According to the U.S. Geological Survey
(USGS), the world’s volcanoes, both on land and undersea, generate about 200 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually, while our automotive and industrial activities cause some 24 billion tons of CO2 emissions every year worldwide. Despite the arguments to the contrary, the facts speak for themselves: Greenhouse gas emissions from volcanoes comprise less than one percent of those generated by today’s human endeavors.

Human Emissions Also Dwarf Volcanoes in Carbon Dioxide Production
Another indication that human emissions dwarf those of volcanoes is the fact that atmospheric CO2 levels, as measured by sampling stations around the world set up by the federally funded Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, have gone up consistently year after year regardless of whether or not there have been major volcanic eruptions in specific years. “If it were true that individual volcanic eruptions dominated human emissions and were causing the rise in carbon dioxide concentrations, then these carbon dioxide records would be full of spikes—one for each eruption,” says Coby Beck, a journalist writing for online environmental news portal “Instead, such records show a smooth and regular trend.”

In fact, the type of sunlight-blocking ash and soot volcanoes kick out is much more likely to cause global cooling, as shown by the dramatic cooling in the aftermath of the Tambora explosion two centuries ago that turned 1816 into “the year without a summer” in the northern hemisphere, where snow fell in June and crop failures were widespread. A more recent, albeit less extreme, example, the Mount Pinatubo eruption in 1991, cooled the earth by half a degree Centigrade for a full year.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

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