The World Bank â€” which has to be applauded for having made the first such attempt â€” started making international comparisons of poverty only about two decades back. For obvious reasons of convenience it developed two simple notions of poverty. The US Treasury being the power behind the institution, and the dollar being the reserve currency by design, the lower poverty line was set at $1 a day per capita. Those below it were considered to be â€œthe poorest of the poorâ€. The upper poverty line was set at $2 a day. Those living on $1â€”2 a day were still poor, but not as badly off. The updated numbers today, corrected for inflation, are $1.08 and $2.15.
The vagaries of purchasing power (dis)parities
However, there was a problem. It was realized that $1 goes much farther in purchasing necessary items of consumption in a poor country compared to a rich one. (Moreover, exchange rates do not take into account nonâ€”traded goods.) Using prevailing exchange rates, Rs.45 can buy more in India than $1 can in America. So unless it was corrected for the lower cost of living in poor countries â€” enabling access to a bigger amount of real goods for the same amount of money â€” this measure of poverty was likely to give an overestimate of the number of poor people living in absolute poverty. To make purchasing power across countries comparable, economists developed what is known as the PPP (purchasing power parity) index. Taking into account the lower cost of living in impoverished countries, a conversion factor is now applied to market exchange rates to calculate what is minimally necessary to survive there.
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Hugo Chavez holds an insurmountable lead in two late November polls - one by Ipsos Venezuela/the AP-Ipsos Poll and the other by Zogby International-University of Miami. Both were released on November 24 and are the most current and reliable data available and are consistent with most independent poll results for months. This is in stark contrast to several fraudulent US National Endowment of Democracy (NED)-financed oligarch-run ones published to create a false perception of public sentiment in preparation for cries of fraud once the election results are in.
This is now standard US operating practice in all developing countries when Washington fears an unacceptable electoral outcome, so it tries to subvert the democratic process by engineering one in its favor. That's how it's playing out in Venezuela now where things are in place to create the myth of what's impossible to achieve in fact to help Washington pull off its scheme to remove the main "threat" to its hegemony in the hemisphere. It's not likely to work any better now than in the failed 2002 coup attempt, but there will be mass-staged street protests that may get violent before it's over proving it.
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A couple of weeks past, a small group of Toronto's citizens observed a grim milestone in Canada's richest city; the marking of a memorial for the 500th Canadian to die homeless on Toronto's cold streets.
Out the windows of my cosy apartment, the first snows of winter fall on famously tepid Victoria. Early in the year to be sure, for a city these last years that rarely sees snow at all. It reminds; we are Canadians afterall, living in a cold country whose climate is not always friendly to human survival. It's a fact easy to forget living here on the mild Pacific coast, and living easy, with a job and the bills paid.
Years ago, during the "good times" in the Eighties, I lived in Toronto, where winter is winter, and the working ethos is roughly summed up as: Sink or Swim! Living downtown, the homeless were a common sight; I would see them, bundles of rags, curled up fetal-like over the ventilation grates of the highrise office towers. The tower's, deserted and ablaze with light, heaters mind the comfort of the machines inside, while its excess warmth helps keep some anonymous indigent alive another night.
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by Linda Milazzo
"Americans can't handle another impeachment." So say the supporters of George W. Bush in their anti-impeachment propaganda.
The truth is Americans CAN handle another impeachment. They CAN handle the truth. In fact, if Americans don't bring Bush and Cheney to justice after the atrocities they've committed, this nation will never reclaim its moral authority. And the people of this nation will be despised for unleashing these dangerous men on the world.
"Americans can't handle another impeachment" isn't a truth. It's a device. Like 'weapons of mass destruction.' 'A mushroom cloud.' 'Gassed his own people.' 'Sought significant quantities of uranium from A-f-r-i-c-a.' These are the sound bytes, the parroted propaganda, which brought us to war. Each is a proven lie, told time and again by well-rehearsed pundits. Verbatim delivery. Robotic form. Repeated ad nauseam by grown-up children of the damned. It sounded good for Nicholson in "A Few Good Men," but rings pretty hollow here. Americans CAN handle and probe for the truth.
There are no â€œaccidentsâ€ in Middle East politics. This weekâ€™s assassination of Lebanese Industry Minister, Pierre Gemayel can only be understood in the context of the ongoing struggle between the competing political forces in the region. Presently, the United States is the big loser in this regard due to its failed campaign in Iraq. The war has severely damaged the perception of US military invincibility and triggered a stunning rejection of Bushâ€™s policies in the in the midterm elections. Now, the political-paradigm in America has shifted and a phased withdrawal of American troops could begin in a matter of months. Needless to say, this is not the outcome that the hawks in Washington or Tel Aviv had in mind.
Could the assassination of Gemayel be an attempt to forestall the impending withdrawal of American forces?
Americaâ€™s effort in Iraq has failed miserably. It has created a security vacuum that is now being filled by armed-militias and resistance movements. The Middle East hasnâ€™t been this volatile since 1948. It has descended into a semi-permanent state of flux in which all the main players are battling for a greater share of regional power. The assassination of Gemayel is just another chapter in this regrettable power-struggle. It puts Lebanon squarely in the gun-sights of regional rivals and increases the probability of another civil war.
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by Chris Cook
They came to this country a few years ago, representatives of a foreign philosophy, proponents of race hatred, and ethnic cleansing, and genocide. Their warped religion is not new, it is the surviving spawn of the seed thought destroyed, the dead kernels believed buried in the ashes of the Third Reich, but its heart is beating still, alive right here in our Canada.
Hiding behind the suffering, the monumental and hideous destruction of European Jewry in the "Good War," today's sophists of the holocaust, buoyed by the same monied interests that lit the fire beneath that awful conflagration, have rallied to accelerate the task of mega-murder. They are organized, respectable, and their message, as odious and terrible as it is, has so far failed to illicit revulsion from the general public.
This past Spring, while Israel, its [sic] citizens safely removed from their outposts in Gaza, began a massive blitzkrieg against Palestinian civilians, barely a mutter of protest was heard in either the halls of power in Ottawa, au contrare, or over the public airwaves. Not surprising perhaps, considering the concentrated nature of Canadian media and constricted nature of Stephen Harper's ruling party, but what is shocking is the mum reaction Israel's ongoing atrocity in Palestine has evoked from the Canadian public.
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If I simply stood anywhere near Boris Berezovsky, Iâ€™m sure my hair would fall out and my skin would turn yellow.
Alexander Litvinenko is simply the last in a long line of stiffs associated with Boris, a line of corpses that stretches back to the mid-nineties. One died from a mysterious nerve toxin applied to the rim of his coffee cup.
If you want to know about Boris Berezovsky, ask former Forbes editor Paul Klebnikov. Except you canâ€™t, because he was blown away in 2004, shortly after writing up Berezovskyâ€™s bullet-ridden bio, â€˜Godfather Of Crimeâ€™.
The Litvinenko case is notable for the disinformation spread by the UKâ€™s press, where the â€˜factsâ€™ have changed daily. Who makes this stuff up? Why, story and pictures supplied by The Godfatherâ€™s PR Firm - one with the sole aim of naming the killer as the Kremlin. Or might that just be a smokescreen for a mafia hit? At the very least, itâ€™s a case of Pottinger calling the kettle black.
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The Democrats' ascendancy within the US Congress could signal the regaining by the public, of its country's direction.
The astounding results of the US Congressional elections of 7 November were undoubtedly a welcome sign of change, not in the American political apparatus, inasmuch as it is in the unmistakable reclamation by the public of its role as the driving force which shapes the nation's political posture.
This having been said, one must not confuse the redefining of the public relevance to political discourse and processes, with the political machination and platforms entrusted with translating the people's will, grievances or aspirations into action. The early signs are not promising however, and suggest that for any practical change to be achieved and consolidated, public awareness and engagement must, for their part, be neither marginalised nor relegated.
Most analyses agree that Iraq was indeed the decisive factor that helped turn the tide against the Republicans and their president, with their tired mantras and slogan-based foreign policy. The decisive outcome of the elections was a resounding message that Americans can no longer operate on the basis of fear alone, and that the people of the United States are no longer self-absorbed and incapable of shaping their overall political outlook on the basis of exterior factors. This time, it was not the economy, but war that wrought an end, even if temporarily, to President George W Bush's administration's expansionist and even imperialist view of the world.
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by William Blum
The good news is that the Republicans lost.
The bad news is that the Democrats won.
The burning issue â€” US withdrawal from Iraq â€” remains as far from resolution as before.
A clear majority of Americans are opposed to the war and almost all of them would be very happy if the US military began the process of leaving Iraq tomorrow, if not today. The rest of the world would breathe a great sigh of relief and their long-running love affair with the storybook place called "America" could begin to come back to life.
A State Department poll conducted in Iraq this past summer dealt with the population's attitude toward the American occupation. Apart from the Kurds â€” who assisted the US military before, during, and after the invasion and occupation, and don't think of themselves as Iraqis â€” most people favored an immediate withdrawal, ranging from 56% to 80% depending on the area.
The State Department report added that majorities in all regions except Kurdish areas said that the departure of coalition forces would make them feel safer and decrease violence.
George W. is on record declaring that if the people of Iraq ask the United States to leave, the US will leave. He also has declared that the Iraqis are "not happy they're occupied. I wouldn't be happy if I were occupied either."
Yet, despite all this, and much more, the United States remains, with predictions from Pentagon officials that American forces will be in Iraq for years. Large US military bases are being constructed there; they're not designed as temporary structures. Remember that 61 years after the end of World War II the United States still has major bases in Germany. Fifty-three years after the end of the Korean War the US has tens of thousands of troops in South Korea.
by Paul William Roberts
According to the Iraqi newspaper Al- Quds al-Arabi, James Baker, the Bush familyâ€™s Mr. Fixit , recently met with one of Saddam Husseinâ€™s lawyers in Amman, Jordan, and told him that the former deputy prime minister of Iraq, Tariq Aziz, would be released from detention by December in order to negotiate with the US on behalf of factions of the Iraqi resistance movement still controlled by old Baâ€™ath Party leaders. Sources in Jordan tell me that the first stage of such negotiations has indeed already taken place. Two weeks ago, Aziz was whisked from his jail cell and, along with other representatives of Iraqâ€™s Sunni Resistance, taken for three daysâ€™ of secret discussions in Amman with senior US officials. It is heartening to note that this course of action was advised by the Atlantic Free Press three weeks ago. Aziz and his colleagues are currently discussing Americaâ€™s proposals with the divisional resistance leadership, whose response and counter-offers they will present to Washington early next month.
Jordanâ€™s Crown Prince Hassan tells me, furthermore, that Condoleeza Rice made a personal appeal to the Gulf Cooperation Council last month to act as intermediaries between the US and the armed Sunni resistance, not including Iraqi al-Qaeda leaders. Rice evidently joked during the closed-door meeting that â€œif Donald Rumsfeld could hear me now he would wage war against me fiercer and hotter than he waged in Iraq.â€
The official wing of US Government was represented in Gulf War 2: Retreat from Iraq by George W. Bushâ€™s security adviser, Stephen Hadley, who presented the following proposals regarding the future to Iraqi officials during his recent trip to Baghdad:
- Any initiative towards national reconciliation must now include Iraqi resistance and opposition leaders
- There must be a general amnesty for armed resistance fighters
- There must be a disbanding of militias and death squads
- Any federalist proposals dividing Iraq into three states must be abandoned in favor of a strong centralist authority combined with greater self-rule for local governors
- That oil revenues must be distributed more equitably for the benefit of all Iraqis, including the Sunnis whose region contains little of the resource
by Winter Patriot
According to the BBC, the NYT, CNN, and many other sources, German officials announced on Monday that they had foiled a terrorist plot to blow up a passenger plane.
The story was widely reported, even though nobody was charged in connection with their investigation; in fact five of the six so-called "suspects" were quickly released, and the other is being held on an unrelated matter. Hmmm.
You'd have to think if they had evidence implicating any of the "suspects", they would have kept them around... Wouldn't you?
German police questioned six suspects on Friday over the alleged plot, but five were released on Saturday, the federal prosecutor's office said.
One of those arrested on Friday remains in custody in connection with another investigation, the officials said. Nine apartments were searched on Friday in Rhineland-Palatinate state and Hessen, they added.
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The "War on Terror" represents a horribly, monstrously wrong turn for the United States, Britain, and the world. Like its offshoot, the aggression in Iraq, the Terror War is a strategic disaster of mind-boggling proportions, a moral, political and cultural failure so immense as to be almost unfathomable, an all-corrupting, counterproductive policy of resounding stupidity. We have not even begun to comprehend the scope and depth -- and duration -- of the harm that this reckless, witless, ignorant campaign has wrought. Tyranny, bankruptcy, decay, division, murder, cowardice and deceit -- these have been the hallmarks and the products of the Terror War launched by George W. Bush and Tony Blair, in supposed reaction to the criminal acts of a small gang of cranks.
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Short of an all-out nuclear attack, no enemy of the United States today could have ever damaged the nation as badly as Bush has done with his Terror War. No enemy could have deranged America's core constitutional system as badly as Bush has done, turning the government into a lurid perversion of its founding principles. No enemy could have bled America's treasury as dry has Bush has done; not even World War II or the half-century of Cold War left the nation as bankrupt and debt-ridden as it is today, its economy left completely at the mercy of foreign bondholders. No enemy could have devised a better program for undermining the security, solvency and liberty of the United States than Bush's "War on Terror" has proved to be.
So what should be we thankful for today? (In the public sphere that is; I'm not talking here of personal matters.) Perhaps only this: that we have not yet seen the worst of what Bush's Terror War will inflict upon us, and the world.
Below, Simon Jenkins has more on this theme in the Guardian, taking down Tony Blair's ignorance-riddled fearmongering -- with insights that also apply, in spades, to our own pig-ignorant fear merchants in the White House (and the media, academia, the "think tanks," the politicized churches, etc.).
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