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Archive for November 26th, 2014

Icon of Arab music Sabah dies in Lebanon

Music and film diva Sabah passes away at 87 after a six-decade long career in the entertainment industry.

Last updated: 26 Nov 2014

Al-Nahar newspaper said the Lebanese diva passed away on Wednesday morning at her residence at the age of 87. The Lebanese official news agency confirmed her death, saying she passed away in Beirut.

‎صباح حزين برحيل صباح ..عادت الى ضيعتها وعالبساطة .. راحت الشحرورة وبقيت الأسطورة… الله يرحمك‎
The Shahroura is gone: The legend endure

During her more than 6-decade long career, Sabah, who was born as Jeanette Gergis Al-Feghali, released over 50 albums (3,000 songs) and acted in 98 films.

Today, Lebanon lost a legend. Sabah is gone but she remains in our hearts.Her memory will remain in the minds and hearts of millions.

Nancy Ajram, Lebanese pop singer

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She is reportedly the first Arabic singer who performed at Olympia in Paris, Carnegie Hall in New York, and Piccadilly Theatre in London and Sydney Opera House in Sydney, according to the Beirut-based Daily Star newspaper. The deceased singer was born in Bdadoun, a Lebanese town in the Baabda-Aley province. She is known for her multiple marriages, tying the knot with at least 9 men. She brought out her first song in 1940, while her parallel screen career began three years later in Egypt, the centre of the Arabic film industry. She held Egyptian, Jordanian and US citizenship as well as Lebanese, and continued to perform and make television appearances into her 80s. In Lebanon, she was humorously mocked for refusing to leave the limelight, clinging to youth through surgeries, marriages to younger men and garish outfits. Sabah was nicknamed “Shahroura“, Arabic for “singing bird” and “the Sabbouha,” a diminutive for Sabah (Morning) by millions of fans across the Middle East. Lebanese politician Walid Jumblatt wrote on Twitter: “She was a great singer of a Lebanon that my generation knew, that will never come back”. She told tabloid! in an interview in 2009 that she was still young at heart even in her 80s.

“I always wanted to deliver a message to Lebanese women telling them to stay elegant and fit,” she said. “I was one of the first artists to be known for their elegance. I wore all kinds of dresses and outfits. In one Egyptian movie, for example, I appeared in 70 different outfits. Every woman can look elegant even without spending a lot of money.”

In 2011, a TV drama series, Al Shahroura, based on Sabah’s life, was released with Lebanese singer Carole Samaha playing her.
“Sabah is a legend and her shoes are hard to fill,” Samaha told tabloid! before the series’ premiere. “However, after reading the script, I couldn’t put it down, and realised it would be terrible to turn down such an amazing role. I think this series is a great opportunity to introduce Sabah to younger generations, for them to learn about such a wonderful artist. I hope I make her proud.” Sabah retired in 2010.
Tribute
Dubai International Film Festival (Diff) chairman Abdulhamid Juma paid tribute to Sabah at a press conference announcing the festival’s line-up on Wednesday. Sabah was given the festival’s Lifetime Achievement award in 2010.
 “I don’t know if you’ve heard the sad news that the artist we once honoured, Sabah, has passed away. We send our condolences to her family. The industry will miss her extraordinary talent.”
Some of her best hits are here:
Note 1: Saba7 asked for people to dance dabkeh and be merry during her funeral. She will be officially buried in her home town tomorrow
Note 2: Saba7 had a day long journey to her hometown burying ground in Bdadoun. Along the way, people were waiting to pay the last homage, and the army band of 40 members played her famous song about the army. People danced and listened to her songs while partying according to her wish of feeling happy..
Note:

Spend billions, get trillions: Fixed Fortune of big Corporations

Between 2007 and 2012, over 200 of America’s most politically active corporations spent a combined $5.8 billion on federal lobbying and campaign contributions.

A year-long analysis by the Sunlight Foundation suggests that what they gave pales compared to what those same corporations got: $4.4 trillion in federal business and support.

and  investigations this Nov. 17, 2014

Fixed Fortunes: Biggest corporate political interests spend billions, get trillions

The $4.3 trillion the federal government paid the nation’s 50 million Social Security recipients over the same period, is the result of an unprecedented effort to quantify the less-examined side of the campaign finance equation: Do political donors get something in return for what they give?

Four years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court suggested the answer to that question was NO

Corporate spending to influence federal elections would Not “give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption,” the majority wrote in the landmark Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision.

Sunlight decided to test that premise by examining influence and its potential results on federal decision makers over 6 years, three before the 2010 Citizens United decision and three after.

We focused on the records of 200 for-profit corporations, all of which had active political action committees and lobbyists in the 2008, 2010 and 2012 election cycles — and were among the top donors to campaign committees registered with the Federal Election Commission.

Their investment in politics was enormous. There were 20,500 paying lobbying clients over the six years we examined.

The 200 companies we tracked accounted for a whopping 26% of the total spent. On average, their PACs, employees and their family members made campaign contributions to 144 sitting members of Congress each cycle.

On average, 144 sitting members of Congress received money from the Fixed Fortune 200 each cycle. Graphic credit: The Sunlight Foundation

After examining 14 million records, including data on campaign contributions, lobbying expenditures, federal budget allocations and spending, we found that, on average, for every dollar spent on influencing politics, the nation’s most politically active corporations received $760 from the government.

The $4.4 trillion total represents two-thirds of the $6.5 trillion that individual taxpayers paid into the federal treasury.

Welcome to the world of “Fixed Fortunes,” a seemingly closed universe where the most persistent and savvy political players not so mysteriously have the ability to attract federal dollars regardless of who is running Washington.

Political change, permanent interests

During the six years we studied, newly elected Democratic majorities took control in the House and Senate.

Two years later, the White House shifted from Republican to Democratic control, and two years after that the GOP came back to take the House.

The collapse of the housing bubble in 2007 led to massive bailout efforts by the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve Board, two massive stimulus bills and the loss of more than eight million jobs.

Congress passed laws that overhauled health care insurance and financial industry regulation. Troops surged in Afghanistan and withdrew from Iraq. There were 16 separate “continuing resolutions” to fund the government, a debt ceiling standoff that caused a downgrade in the nation’s credit rating and a “super committee” to wrestle with the federal budget. As middle class Americans lost ground, the Fixed Fortune 200 got what they needed.

What they needed included loans that helped automakers and banks survive the recent recession while many homeowners went under.

It included full funding and expansion of federal programs started in the 1930s that, year after year, decade after decade, help prop up prices for agribusinesses and secure trade deals for our biggest manufacturers.

It included budget busting emergency measures that funneled extra dollars to everything from defense contractors to public utility companies to financial industry giants. The record suggests that the money corporations spend on political campaigns and Washington lobbying firms is not an unwise investment.

The Fixed Fortune 200 come from a wide range of industries. There are a host of familiar names among them, like Ford Motor Company, McDonald’s and Bank of America, as well as some less famous, like MacAndrews & Forbes, the Carlyle Group and Cerberus Capital Management.

(For the complete list, including what they gave and what they got, click here.)

There are retailers and investment banks, construction and telecommunications firms, health insurers and gun makers, entertainment conglomerates, banks and pharmaceutical manufacturers, among others.

Out of 20,500 paying lobbying clients, the Fixed Fortune 200 accounted for a whopping 26 percent of the total spent. Graphic credit: The Sunlight Foundation

Overall, the Fixed Fortune 200’s PACs, employees and their family members gave $597 million to political committees and disclosed spending $5.2 billion on lobbying. They make this enormous investment in politics in large part because their businesses are inextricably entwined with government decisions — including spending decisions.

Government as business partner

For example, the federal government issued contracts to purchase goods and services that totaled a little more that $3 trillion during the period.

Companies among the top 200 corporate political givers won $1 trillion of that, a third of the total. The Treasury Department managed $410 billion in loans and other assistance issued under the Troubled Asset Relief Program, created by Congress to cope with the 2008 financial crisis; of that amount, $298 million, about 73%, went to 16 firms among the Fixed Fortune 200.

When the Federal Reserve took extraordinary measures in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, it funneled nearly $2.8 trillion through 29 Fixed Fortune firms.

The companies that participated the most in politics got huge returns.

Of the 200 corporations we examined, we could sum the financial rewards for 179.

Of those, 138 received more from the federal government than they spent on politics, 102 of them received more than 10 times what they spent on politics, and 29 received 1,000 times or more from the federal government than they invested in lobbyists or contributed to political committees via their employees, their family members and their PACs.

As for the other 21 companies on our list, while we could not quantify the financial benefits that some received, we were able to identify them. Some examples:

  • Arch Coal lists the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the government corporation that’s the largest public electricity producer, as one of its three biggest customers. TVA does not release data on its coal purchases.
  • Forest City Enterprises does not appear as a landlord in the Government Services Agency’s database of federal rental agreements, though its annual report notes that the U.S. government is the third-biggest customer for its pricey New York City office space.
  • Occidental Petroleum has leases on federal land to extract natural gas, but the government does not release information on how much that gas is withdrawn or how much it is worth.
  • And while the government has so far refused to release information on what retailers get the most purchases via food stamps, Wal-Mart went so far as to acknowledge in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that reductions in the now $78 billion-a-year Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — or food stamps — could have a significant impact on the company’s earnings, which totaled $476 billion in its most recent fiscal year.

Of the 200 companies analyzed for Fixed Fortunes, 28 are in what the money in politics research organization the Center for Responsive Politics classifies as the communications and electronics sector, 21 in healthcare, 13 in defense and aerospace, 13 agribusinesses, 11 in energy and natural resources, and 7 in transportation.

The biggest sector, accounting for 48 of the 200, was finance, insurance and real estate, which is consistently the largest source of campaign funds for politicians cycle after cycle.

Congress and the executive branch have paid particular attention to the industry, approving hundreds of billions in aid to help it weather the financial crisis. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve advanced trillions in credit, which the nation’s central bank hoped would trickle down through the rest of the economy.

Companies with the biggest returns on their political investments include three foreign financial service and banking firms, UBS and Credit Suisse Group from Switzerland, and Deutsche Bank of Germany, all of which benefited from the Treasury Department’s taxpayer-financed rescue of American International Group.

Investment banks Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley as well as commercial banks like JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Bank of America also received far more from government than they put into politics: They benefited from the bailouts of the financial industry undertaken by Treasury and the Federal Reserve.

Weapons manufacturers like Boeing and Lockheed Martin, both of which disclosed spending more than $10 million each year on lobbying, also made the list.

So did McKesson, a pharmaceutical wholesaler that is the biggest vendor for Veterans Affairs, and the Carlyle Group, a wealth management firm started by former government insiders who invest in firms that have significant involvement with government, such as defense, telecommunications and health care.

A range of returns

To catalogue the money flowing to and from the Fixed Fortune 200, we examined data on campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures. We compiled and queried a host of government spending records, including spending approved through the normal budgeting process.

We also looked at additional spending measures — extra-budgetary spending on the Global War on Terror, renamed Overseas Contingency Operations in 2009, and emergency or one-time measures like the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. And because the Federal Reserve made use of its power to advance credit to private firms in extraordinary circumstances, we also examined its interventions in the economy.

For every dollar spent influencing politics, the Fixed Fortune 200 received $760 from the government. Graphic credit: The Sunlight Foundation

See our methodology for a complete explanation of how we arrived at these numbers and more.

Some of the gets are harder to quantify. While corporate interests disclose lobbying on federal spending — the budget and appropriations process — more than any other issue, they also seek to influence trade agreements, labor rules, environmental regulation and the Internal Revenue Code.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield has its own provision in the tax code, section 833, that saves its companies an estimated $1 billion a year.

Life insurance companies like New York Life and Pacific Mutual, and their customers, are eligible for tax breaks that save the industry $30 billion a year, with about $3 billion going to the companies and the balance going to their policyholders.

The corporate tax code is full of loopholes and subsidies that companies lobby for to help their bottom lines; Citizens for Tax Justice researched the Securities and Exchange Commission disclosures filed by publicly traded corporations in an effort to determine their effective tax rates; its analysis included 89 members of the group Sunlight examined.

The average effective tax rate of those companies was 17% between 2008 and 2012. Federal law, meanwhile, sets the corporate tax rate at 35 percent.

As far as we can tell, one thing the Fixed Fortune 200 did not do, for the most part, was take advantage of the new opportunities to spend on politics that the Citizens United decision afforded them.

The 200 corporate donors gave just $3 million to super PACs, with the bulk of that amount a single $2.5 million donation from Chevron to the Congressional Leadership PAC, a super PAC that’s been linked to House Speaker John Boehner.

It’s important to note that contributions by these companies to politically active nonprofits (a category that includes the Chamber of Commerce) are impossible to track because of tax laws that allow those entities to shield donors.

Though beyond the scope of our study, which focused on the federal government, it is worth noting that 174 of the 200 corporations won subsidies from state and local governments, according to Good Jobs First, an organization that tracks economic development programs. The Citizens United decision also applies to state election laws, giving corporations the right to speak at the state and local levels as well.

Nonetheless, opinion polls show that majorities of Americans generally trust governments in their city halls, township boards and state capitals. That doesn’t compare well to the mere 19% of Americans who trust their federal government. Frustration with Washington runs high for any number of reasons, but consider:

  • Two-thirds of Americans believe corporations pay too little in taxes and that they should pay more, but tax reform stalls in Congress year after year;
  • Prominent politicians from both parties have criticized corporate welfare programs that benefit big business for more than two decades, but not one of those programs has been repealed;
  • The president and Congress ended a reduction in payroll taxes that benefited wage earners in January 2013 but extended business tax breaks for insurers, energy companies and other corporations;
  • Federal bailouts returned financial industry firms that started the crisis to profitability, while middle class income and net worth of the middle class fell.

More than 7 years after Washington passed the first measures to stimulate the economy as the housing bubble started to burst, more and more Americans are living on less and less, without as much savings and other assets to fall back on in hard times.

Washington policies that have restored corporate profits and made the stock market boom have left much of the country behind. Perhaps that’s why a whole host of polls, from networks and news organizations and nonprofit groups, show large majorities of Americans, year after year, saying that the country is on the wrong track.

In its Citizens United decision, the court took for granted that “favoritism and influence” are inherent in electoral democracy and that “democracy is premised on responsiveness” of politicians to those who support them. We found ample evidence of that.

“The appearance of influence or access,” the court said, “will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy.”

It appears that the electorate — who stayed away from the polls this year in droves — might not agree.

Is Iran Nuclear issue close to resolution? What is the price for the Middle-East?

Better, in what ways will the Middle-East enjoy a reprieve from this global onslaught to destabilize the region?

The news are that an accord has been reached and negotiation will resume the next year, 9 months from now.

In the mean time, Iran will get back $700 million a month from its frozen money in the US and European Sates.

Actually the embargo will be maintained, simply because the US refuses to restart another process in the UN given that Russia and China will veto any new resolution.

The Iranian people are suffering from this embargo since they are unable to purchase original spare parts for their cars and vehicles, and are doomed to buy parts from China and experience higher car accidents and fatalities on the roads.

The US expect from Iran to play its responsibilities as the police power in that region. Like what?

Fight ISIS? But it is already efficiently fighting ISIS by coming to the rescue of the Kurds in Irbil before the US got engaged in the air, and Iran is the main supporter of the Iraqi people and government, and the main supporter of the Syrian government, and the main power checking Al Qaeda in Yemen and preventing Al Qaeda to have a foothold in Oman, and keeping Dubai floating economically by importing almost everything from Dubai…

And preventing Israel from another foolish preemptive war on Lebanon by supporting Hezbollah

And Iran is the main power that’s doing its best to maintain the territorial integrity of the States in the Middle-East while Israel and the US are intent on subdividing them even further

 Jamil Berry posted on FB

L’Iran connaitra ce soir si feu vert y aura ou pas pour son nucléaire.

Des émissaires décideurs du monde entier seront présents . L’Iran est en passe de regagner de l’Amérique ses responsabilités de gendarme du proche orient.

Israel voit ceci d’un mauvais oeil ( le nucléaire iranien est un prétexte insuffisant ) car Israel risque de perdre l’exclusivité de sa relation du ” premier de la classe ” avec les USA .

De l’argent Européen initialement destiné au Fatah ( corrompu , d’éfroqué et sans programme , ira à Gaza , remis à l’honneur depuis l’opération de Tsahal dite ” tout ça pour ça ” de juillet dernier .

Au Suède il y a eu un vote parlementaire pour un État Palestinien souverain ,

En Angleterre aussi .

L’Assemblée Nationale en France les suivra très vraisemblablement le 2 Décembre .

Les choses bougent . La carte des partitions résultant de Sykes Picot est déjà rendue caduque par Daech qui a aboli les frontières entre l’Irak et la Syrie et veut aller de l’avant pour fonder un Sunnistan où il compte tuer tous les Chiites .

Ceci n’empêche pas une guerre Sunno- Sunnite en Libye entre les deux principales formations rivales, de même qu’en Palestine entre le Fatah soutenu par les Saoudiens et Hamas soutenu par le Qatar.

Sans oublier les graves dissensions entre Saoudiens et Qataris. Ce qui donnera comme je le pense son nucléaire ce soir à l’Iran ,c’est cette apparition de coalition perverse Salafo-Sioniste d’un côté ,et l’absence de guerres Chiito-Chiites de l’autre . P

uis il y a la naissance de ces égorgeurs venus de l’aube de la sauvagerie qui n’ont en tête que de couper des têtes chiites , pour par la suite faire la peau à Israel .

J’espère que la sagesse mondiale s’exprimera ce soir pour le bénéfice de tous les peuples de la région .
( Jamil BERRY )

Worse than USA Ferguson town uprising? Palestinian Kafr Kanna village intifada

Ferguson town is back in its uprising after jury of 9 whites and 3 blacks voted the policeman innocent.

Seraj Assi and Lawrence McMahon posted:

Palestinian town of Kafr Kanna isn’t Ferguson, it’s much worse

Imagine that at the peak of the Ferguson protests, President Obama — or any other American official — had issued a formal statement threatening to revoke the citizenship of African Americans who chose not to keep their mouths shut.

 

Arab youth clash with Israeli riot police in Kafr Kanna, Israel, November 8, 2014. The protests took place after an Arab man from the village was shot and killed by Israeli policemen. (Photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli police shot dead a young Arab citizen in the town of Kafr Kanna in the lower Galilee this past week.

Numerous reports have suggested that the victim, Kheir Hamdan, was shot simply because he was an Arab.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seemingly conceded the same conclusion when, prior to any investigation whatsoever into the incident, he issued a statement scolding Arab youth.

In the meantime, local journalists rushed to compare Kafr Kanna to Ferguson, Missouri, invoking the shooting of African-American teenager Michael Brown as a parallel example of a racial divide.

Kafr Kanna is not Ferguson, and here is why:

1. The conflict between the Palestinian minority of Israel and the State is not truly an American-style “civil rights” struggle. Arabs in Israel cannot be classified as second-class citizens when senior Israeli officials, including Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, continue to portray them as enemies from within, a demographic time bomb, and a fifth column population.

2. While the Palestinians in Israel experience exclusion and brutality just as African Americans do, they also face — to use a popular phrase — an existential threat.

3. The so-called Liberman Plan, named after the foreign minister, proposes transferring territory in Israel populated by Arabs to the Palestinian Authority in exchange for territory in the West Bank populated by Israeli settlers. Liberman grumbles that it makes no sense to create a Palestinian state devoid of Jews while Israel has turned into a bi-national state with over 20% Palestinians.

In other words, the Israeli foreign minister wants an Israel completely devoid of Arabs.

This week, Netanyahu echoed the Liberman Plan.

In response to the shooting and the protests it sparked, the prime minister publicly challenged Arab protestors to go and live under Palestinian rule in the West Bank and Gaza. To justify his position, he invoked what he described as their lack of loyalty to the State of Israel.

In a radical move, Netanyahu also ordered his interior minister to look into whether Israel could strip citizenship from those Arabs who dared to speak out in support of a Palestinian state.

Before Netanyahu, Liberman had already proposed loyalty tests for the Arab minority, threatening to deny citizenship to those who failed. Of course, there is no chance whatsoever that similar statements would ever be directed at Jewish citizens.

Now imagine, for comparison, that at the peak of the Ferguson protests, U.S. President Barack Obama—or any other American official—had issued a formal statement threatening to revoke the citizenship of African Americans who chose not to keep their mouths shut. There are plenty of reasons why such a scenario is unimaginable. Even at moments of great racial tension in America, nobody is going to threaten the citizenship clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

American history may be littered with both white-sponsored and black-sponsored “Back to Africa” movements, but in the year 2014, they don’t hold much sway in either the White House or Congress.

In Israel, though, these are the exact sort of measures that authorities are debating, right here and right now.

This brings us to the key difference, namely Israel’s self-definition as a “Jewish democratic state.”

Naturally, and regardless of what happened in Kafr Kanna, a state cannot be both Jewish and democratic, unless by “democracy” you mean an exclusively “Jewish democracy.” Israel’s basic laws and policies are predicated on Jewish exclusiveness and privilege.

In other words, Israel is a democracy, but it is a democracy for — if not exclusively of — its majority Jewish population. It should come as no surprise, then, that many in the Arab community view their Israeli “citizenship” as a mere political fiction.

And when the State of Israel kills its Palestinian citizens in cold blood, one is left to wonder exactly what moral mandate it has to demand their unconditional loyalty.

Seraj Assi is a Palestinian citizen of Israel. He is currently a PhD candidate in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Georgetown University, Washington DC.

Lawrence McMahon is a historian-cum-labor union staffer living in Baltimore. He is a Ph.D. candidate in history at Georgetown taking a hiatus from his dissertation, working as editorial assistant for the flagship quarterly publication of a major U.S. labor union.

Related:
The difference between Israel’s violent, racist cops and America’s
How police lied about the deadly shooting of Khir Hamdan
PHOTOS: Protests in northern Israel after police kill Arab man
PHOTOS: Tear gas not the only thing connecting Ferguson and Palestine


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