Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Belarus's Isolation Hammers Belarusian Ruble

By William Mauldin

MOSCOW—Belarus's currency continued to fall Monday, bringing its drop against the dollar in recent weeks to more than 50%, as the authoritarian regime of Alexander Lukashenko struggles to plug financial holes after Russia backed away from providing billions of dollars in aid.

The decline of the Belarussian ruble has created a devaluation that some analysts say is sufficient to restore the country's competitiveness on export markets. But the steep drop has destroyed the global purchasing power of Belarussians who saved in rubles, and has jeopardized the future of businesses that depend on dollar or euro imports from international suppliers.

The ruble sank to 6,500 to the dollar over the weekend, from 5,800 on Friday and 5,300 on Thursday, according to a market participant. In recent weeks, the central bank had required that the ruble be traded at or near its official exchange rate, currently pegged at 3,120 to the dollar.

Individual retail customers in theory can buy the dollar for 4,500 Belarussian rubles because the central bank has recommended that banks maintain the level for street-level currency-exchange windows. But in reality, customers often have to wait in long lines at banks until someone disposes of dollars before others can buy them. Some international food and beverage brands have disappeared from shops in Minsk, the capital.

Marina, a 62-year-old retiree, earlier this year switched to saving her pension in dollars rather than Belarussian rubles on the advice of her children. But she said Monday that with the currency regime in such a confused state, she can't really convert her salary to dollars any more, and will instead leave the pension in a local-currency bank account and accept high interest rates as compensation for the risk.

Economists don't expect Belarus's problems to spread to other Eastern European countries because of the small size and isolation of the country's economy. But the increasingly acute financial problems have called into question Belarus's ability to repay its debt and attract new financing.

Last week, Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said Belarus might receive only $1 billion in aid this year, rather than the $2.7 billion loan from a Russia-led group as originally discussed. Mr. Kudrin suggested that Belarus accelerate the privatization of state assets and turn to the International Monetary Fund.

Russia's move was likely motivated by Belarus's reluctance to offer Russia ownership of some of its strategic assets in sectors such as the energy industry, which Russia has previously sought, said Royal Bank of Scotland analyst Timothy Ash said.

The IMF has recently backed a deeper ruble devaluation as a way to boost Belarus's exports, including potash fertilizer and tractors. Belarus devalued its currency by 25% in 2009, fulfilling a requirement of an IMF program, and received a $2.5 billion loan from the fund. This year the central bank has boosted policy interest rates to 13% in hopes of luring domestic depositors.

"Belarus needs to be much more competitive, and this will help in that process," said Charlie Robertson, chief economist at Renaissance Capital, a Moscow-based emerging-markets investment bank.

Belarus's foreign reserves have dwindled this year as Russia increased energy prices and Minsk grappled with increased isolation from Europe as well as from its former Soviet neighbors.

The U.S. and the European Union threatened to expand sanctions against Belarus after a Minsk court sentenced the runner-up in the disputed December presidential election to five years in prison. Moscow has also voiced discontent with the crackdown.

On Monday, a Belarus court gave the wife of the runner-up a two-year suspended prison sentence for taking part in an antigovernment rally, the Associated Press reported.
Source: Wall Street Journal


How Arabs Stole Jewish Property

Jewish Refugees from Jaffa, 1948

As Palestinians mark 'Nakba Day,' history shows Jews were dispossessed of all their assets too after escaping Arab countries between 1944-1964

By Tani Goldstein

The Palestinian people are marking their annual "Nakba Day" on Sunday, commemorating the escape and expulsion of the Palestinians from the State of Israel upon its establishment.

In addition to the uprooting, the Palestinians are protesting against the nationalization and robbery of the property they left behind, while they have been living in poverty in refugee camps.

But there are two sides to every coin.

Between the years 1944 and 1964, some 700,000 Jews moved in the opposite direction, from Arab countries to Israel – and they too were dispossessed of nearly their entire property.

'Better life than in Eastern Europe'Jews have been living in the Middle East since the Babylonian captivity and in North Africa since the Roman era. During the Arab occupation, the majority of world Jews lived in this area.

Since then, the center of the Jewish world moved the Eastern Europe due to immigration, and Jews' conversion to Islam in Arab countries and to Christianity in Europe. In 1940, there were some 16 million Jews in the world, and only 5% of them – 800,000 – lived in Arab countries, mostly in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Iraq and Egypt.

The Jews' situation in Arab countries varied as times changed and depending on the countries they lived in: In some places they integrated into society and were even part of the upper class, in other places they were subject to restrictions, and from time to time they suffered from riots and persecution.

In general, the Muslims treated the Jews much better than in Europe and their economic situation was excellent.

"The average Jew lived much better than the average Muslims, and in fact – much better than the Jews in Eastern Europe" says Yaakov Hajaj, director of the Institute for the Research and Study of Libyan Jewry.

"They could work in whatever they wanted to. Most of them worked in certain fields, some of which were basically under their control: As tailors, shoemakers, goldsmiths, imprinters, spice merchants, grocery store owners, peddlers and even international traders."

"Most Jews and Christians worked in industries that the Muslims banned themselves from working in," says Dr. Zvi Yehuda, director of the Research Institute of Babylonian Jewry.

"The Muslims were strict about not engaging in loan with interest, which included any dealing with silver and gold, and most goldsmiths were Jews. Most seamstresses were Jewish, and so were most tailors later on. As opposed to Europe, the Muslims did not hate the Jews because they dealt with money, and even admired them for that. Goldstein's article continues here..............

See also:

The Forgotton Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries

Jewish Exodus from Arab Lands


The Five Stages of Collapse

By Dmitry Orlov

Elizabeth Kübler-Ross defined the five stages of coming to terms with grief and tragedy as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, and applied it quite successfully to various forms of catastrophic personal loss, such as death of a loved one, sudden end to one's career, and so forth. Several thinkers, notably James Howard Kunstler and, more recently John Michael Greer, have pointed out that the Kübler-Ross model is also quite terrifyingly accurate in reflecting the process by which society as a whole (or at least the informed and thinking parts of it) is reconciling itself to the inevitability of a discontinuous future, with our institutions and life support systems undermined by a combination of resource depletion, catastrophic climate change, and political impotence. But so far, little has been said specifically about the finer structure of these discontinuities. Instead, there is to be found a continuum of subjective judgments, ranging from "a severe and prolonged recession" (the prediction we most often read in the financial press), to Kunstler's "Long Emergency," to the ever-popular "Collapse of Western Civilization," painted with an ever-wider brush-stroke.

For those of us who have already gone through all of the emotional stages of reconciling ourselves to the prospect of social and economic upheaval, it might be helpful to have a more precise terminology that goes beyond such emotionally charged phrases. Defining a taxonomy of collapses might prove to be more than just an intellectual exercise: based on our abilities and circumstances, some of us may be able to specifically plan for a certain stage of collapse as a temporary, or even permanent, stopping point. Even if society at the current stage of socioeconomic complexity will no longer be possible, and even if, as Tainter points in his "Collapse of Complex Societies," there are circumstances in which collapse happens to be the correct adaptive response, it need not automatically cause a population crash, with the survivors disbanding into solitary, feral humans dispersed in the wilderness and subsisting miserably. Collapse can be conceived of as an orderly, organized retreat rather than a rout.  Orlov Continued here.........

About Dmitry Orlov:

Dmitry Orlov was born in Leningrad and immigrated to the United States at the age of 12. He was an eyewitness to the Soviet collapse over several extended visits to his Russian homeland between the late eighties and mid-nineties. He is an engineer who has worked in many fields, including high-energy Physics research, e-commerce and Internet security. Recently, Dmitry has been experimenting with off-grid living and renewable energy by giving up his house and car. Instead, he has been living on a sailboat, sailing it up and down the Eastern Seaboard, and commuting by bicycle. Dmitry believes that, given appropriate technology, we can greatly reduce personal resource consumption while remaining perfectly civilized.

Are We Headed for a Soviet Style Collapse?


"WE ARE EVERYWHERE" - A Message from Iranian Gays. Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transgenders

Matthew Wayne Shepard, 1976-1998
We ARE everywhere, and we are ONE family! LGBT Shi'ih and Sunni Muslims, Baha'is, Africans, Zoroastrians, Atheists, Pagans, Arabs, Christians, Persians, from the Americas, Russians, Tibetans, Jews.....All One.

We need our friends everywhere to pressure their governments and religious authorities to end their relentless persecution against us, and for so-called free nations to stop deporting us when we are trying to flee regimes that are killing us.

We deserve and demand the same equality that all heterosexuals have always enjoyed. We all speak with one voice and one heart.

Mehdi and I wish to dedicate this video to three of our gay brothers who were been murdered by homophobic monsters; Mahmoud Asghari and Ayaz Marhoni (they were executed together in 2005, by hanging, in the city of Mashhad, Iran), and Matthew Shepard, tied to a fence, tortured and murdered in Laramie, Wyoming in 1998 by Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson. 

I am my Iranian brothers and sisters.  I love all of you!
~Madison Reed

The Murder of Gay Teens Mahmoud and Ayaz:  (ExecutedToday.com)

Shariah 101-Homosexuals are murdered under Islamic Law-where are the Human Rights groups and Gays?


The Conscious Army - Love is the New Religion

This film was created to inspire participation in a GLOBAL Awakening that has the potential to change the world. This event is the SOLAR WAVE. This event takes place at Equinox and Solstice Sunrises. WHY, You ask? Because the fate of our planet, and the quality of life for all living things is in our hands. PARADISE is in OUR HANDS!

More at http://www.kachina.net/~alunajoy/solarwave.html
See also: http://www.thebigglow.com/


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Pakistan's Supreme Court acts to protect transgenders, recognizing them as a third gender

 by Dawood Ahmed

In the wake of the much criticised Mukhtar Mai decision handed down a couple of weeks ago, a significant judgment by the Supreme Court of Pakistan has sadly gone unnoticed; on April 25, the court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhury, directed NADRA to issue national identity cards to transgenders (commonly known as hijras in South Asia) with a specific gender category of ‘khwaja sira’ instead of the rather inappropriate ‘male’ and ‘female’.

Despite centuries of existence in the subcontinent, eunuchs are subject to discrimination at every level of not only Pakistani, but much of South Asian society. They are ostracised, forced to live in segregated ghettos and are often reduced to begging, prostitution and derogatory entertainment to earn a living. A lack of understanding of their identity and the failure of the education system to inform people of their plight, has ensured that this vicious cycle of discrimination has continued unabated.

Fortunately however, the Supreme Court has quietly been instigating a subtle but important human rights revolution for the eunuch community over the past couple of years: for example, in different decisions, it has ordered the police to stop harassing them and prompted the government to ensure that they are recognised as a third sex on surveys. As such, the decision given last week is simply a continuation of a policy of creative jurisprudence that merits praise for at least a few different reasons.

Firstly, recognition of a third gender for these eunuchs is the first step towards providing them with individual identity and dignity that is necessary for them to be able to maximise their social and economic worth in society. This symbolic autonomy could, in the long term, translate not only into financial and social gain for them but for society generally by allowing them to engage in more productive forms of employment through gradual de-stigmatisation. Also, by providing them with absolutely basic human rights in the form of sexual identity, the court has demonstrated that their status is not a source of embarrassment, but is in fact very much worthy of official recognition – rather than merge them into a category they did not belong to, they have been given a space of their own.

Dawood's story continues here


Thursday, May 5, 2011

American citizen Josh Vandiver and his husband Henry Velandia need our help NOW!

U.S. Immigration is due to deport the Venezuelan husband of American Citizen Josh Velandia, tomorrow
Henry Velandia and Josh Vandiver

Josh Vandiver and his Venezuelan husband Henry Velandia need people to call Homeland Security's message line 202-282-8495 and leave messages for Secretary Janet Napolitano, calling on a moratorium on the deportations of the foreign partners of gay Americans.  Your message can be like this:

"Hi, I am (YOUR NAME) calling from (YOUR CITY), and this message is for Secretary Janet Napolitano. I am calling to ask for an immediate moratorium on deportations of loving LGBT married couples. I am incredibly disappointed that your office has done nothing to halt the impending deportation of Henry Velandia, married to American citizen Josh Vandiver. And he could be deported tomorrow!”

Hurry, because Henry may be deported tomorrow.  If he is deported, he will be banned from re-entry to the the United States for at least 10 years.  This wholesale, religious ideology motivated and inspired malicious attack against bi-national gay couples must be stopped!  President Obama definitely has the power to do this, and he definitely knows that we are being harmed by the indefensible and unconstitutional "DOMA" (Defense of Marriage Act) law, drafted 15 years ago by U.S. Representative Bob Barr and urged by President Clinton for political gain.  In other words, they were willing to harm gay Americans for political gain.  Now former Republican and now Libertarian Representative Bob Barr (Georgia) has admitted that DOMA was a big mistake, and should not be enforced pending its repeal by Congress.

Thank you,

Madison Reed

Latest:  Henry Velandia's Deportation Proceeding Adjourned, AG Holder's Decision Cited As Reason

Sign a Petition to Stop Henry's deportation (Our signatures helped!!  His deportation has been delayed.    Yaaayy!!!!)
Join Us: Rally Tomorrow at Newark Immigration Court to Stop The Deportation of Henry Velandia 
Same-Sex couple faces deportation dilemma (VIDEO: msnbc.msn.com)