Sunday, November 1, 2015
By STEVEN GREENHOUSE
AMID the global economic turmoil and seesawing markets, millions of Americans have one overriding question: When will my pay increase arrive? The nation’s unemployment rate has fallen substantially since the end of the Great Recession, sliding to 5.1 percent from 10 percent in 2009, but wages haven’t accelerated upward, as many had expected.
In fact, the labor market is a lot softer than a 5.1 percent jobless rate would indicate. For one thing, the percentage of Americans who are working has fallen considerably since the recession began. This disappearance of several million workers — as labor force dropouts they are not factored into the jobless rate — has meant continued labor market weakness, which goes far to explain why wage increases remain so elusive. End of story, many economists say.
But work force experts assert that economists ignore many other factors that help explain America’s stubborn wage stagnation. Outsourcing, offshoring and imports exert a steady downward tug on wages. Labor unions have lost considerable muscle. Many employers have embraced pay-for-performance policies that often mean nice bonuses for the few instead of across-the-board raises for the many.
Peter Cappelli, a professor at the Wharton School of Business, noted, for instance, that many retailers give managers bonuses based on whether they keep their labor budgets below a designated ceiling. “They’re punished to the extent they go over those budgets,” Professor Cappelli said. “If you’re a local manager and you’re thinking, ‘Should we bump up wages,’ it could really hit your bonus. Companies have done this in order to increase the incentive to hang tough on budgets, and it works.”
In recent years, wage increases, before factoring in inflation, have averaged about 2 percent annually. But real, after-inflation wages have remained dismayingly flat since 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, even though real wages did bump up last fall when the drop in oil prices pulled down inflation. (In a minority view, the Heritage Foundation and some other conservative groups say the bureau has underestimated wage increases.)
Many economists don’t expect real wages to pick up until the job market tightens further. Federal Reserve officials hoped wages would begin rising at today’s 5.1 percent, but economists are increasingly saying the rate might need to fall to 4.9 percent or lower to push wages higher (although some fear that inflation will climb if the jobless rate is that low). The only time in the past four decades when after-inflation wages bounded upward was from 1998 to 2001, when the jobless rate fell below 4.5 percent.
Even as business executives urge the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates to prevent inflation, a move that might increase unemployment, Janet L. Yellen, the Fed’s chairwoman, says she might want to let the jobless rate fall below 5 percent. The reason: Only then might hundreds of thousands of discouraged workers or the long-term unemployed finally find jobs.
Ever since the Great Recession battered corporate revenues and profits, many companies have been far tougher in containing fixed costs, including labor expenses. “With the stock market’s wild behavior and what we’ve seen in China, companies continue to hold on to huge amounts of cash and are reluctant to increase their costs in the form of increasing wages,” said Kerry Chou, a senior practice specialist at WorldatWork, a nonprofit human resources association.
Jared Bernstein, a former chief economist for Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., put it another way: “There’s this pervasive norm” among employers “that labor costs must be held down at all costs because maximizing profits is the be-all and end-all.”
He added that the “atomization” of the American workplace — with the use of more temps, subcontractors, part-timers and on-call workers — had reduced companies’ costs and workers’ bargaining power. As a result of all these trends, the share of corporate income going to workers has sunk to its lowest level since 1951. The Economic Policy Institute found that the decline in labor’s share of corporate income since 2000 costs workers $535 billion annually, or $3,770 per worker.
“The labor share has declined more than you would think in light of the tightening of the labor market,” said Lawrence Katz, a Harvard labor economist. “It suggests we’re seeing a decline in worker bargaining power.”
Another important trend depressing pay is that more than ever, companies are paying top dollar to star performers — whether marketing wizards or software programmers — while skimping on paying the many workers without special skills.
Right now the labor market is good if you’re a new graduate of Harvard or Stanford in computer science or a new economics Ph.D. or if you’re coming out with a specialized skill in some health occupation,” Professor Katz said. “The upper 10 percent are probably doing O.K. in the labor market, but typical workers are still facing a lot of difficulties.” As part of this embrace of pay for performance, many companies are giving raises or one-time bonuses only to their best performers, thus helping retain and attract top talent while subtly showing the door to less stellar workers. “The higher performers are attracted to and will stay with organizations that differentiate higher performers,” said Ken Abosch, North American compensation practice leader for Aon Hewitt, a consulting firm. “Low performers are uncomfortable working in environments that emphasize higher performance so they will sort themselves out.”
In a study of 1,200 American companies, Aon Hewitt found that 25 percent overwhelmingly emphasize rewards to high performers and give far less or nothing in raises or bonuses to average or poor performers. “Those 25 percent say, ‘We’re going to give 6 percent to the top performers, 1.5 percent to average performers and we’re not going to give anything to below average,’ ” Mr. Abosch said. Just 10 percent of companies give equal raises spread across the board, Mr. Abosch said. And the remaining companies do something in between — giving somewhat higher raises to top performers and somewhat less to everybody else. Notwithstanding the overall decline in worker leverage, labor efforts like the Fight for 15 and Our Walmart have succeeded in pushing employers to lift some wages. McDonald’s has raised wages at its company-owned restaurants, and Walmart and Target will increase minimum pay to $10 an hour in February. Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles have adopted a $15 minimum wage, while Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has ordered a $15 minimum wage for New York’s fast-food workers.
Such efforts offer hope to those who are eager to lift wages for everyone. “If you increase the bargaining power of workers, they might say, ‘No, we don’t want you just to give more pay just to the top layer,’ ” said Linda Barrington, executive director of the Institute for Compensation Studies at Cornell University. “We want you to share the rewards more evenly.”
People have taken to the streets in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province to denounce a death sentence by the country's top court against the prominent Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr Baqr al-Nimr.
The protesters marched down the streets of the town of Awamiyah in the Qatif region on Thursday, condemning the decision by the Saudi Supreme Court.
The demonstrators pledged to continue their campaign until the death verdict is overturned.
On October 25, the Saudi court upheld a death sentence issued against the cleric last year. The execution warrant will be sent to Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to be approved and then carried out.
The execution of the Shia cleric can be carried out by the Interior Ministry without any prior warning if the Saudi king signs the order.
Sheikh Nimr was attacked and arrested in Qatif in July 2012, and has been charged with undermining the kingdom’s security, making anti-government speeches, and defending political prisoners. He has denied the accusations.
In a Monday letter to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Zeid Al Hussein, the Islamic Human Rights Commission called for exerting pressure on Riyadh to revoke the death sentence and release the cleric immediately.
Nimr “was detained on trumped up charges of apostasy and terrorism after leading anti-government protests in the country. He has been severely tortured in detention,” the letter read.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has also called on Saudi Arabia to halt Nimr’s execution.
Speaking at the UN headquarters in New York on Wednesday, Ban’s spokesmen, Stephane Dujarric, said that during a phone call, the UN chief has asked King Salman to overturn the death sentence against the Shia cleric.
Peaceful demonstrations erupted in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province in February 2011, with protesters demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to widespread discrimination against the people of the oil-rich region. Several people have been killed and many others injured or arrested during the rallies.
International rights bodies, including Amnesty International, have criticized Saudi Arabia for its grim human rights record.
Only a week after Veterans Today exposed Germany’s deal to trade submarines for Israeli nuclear weapons and the related transaction, tactical nukes for Saudi Arabia as well, Saudi Arabia may well have used one of these weapons in Yemen.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has documented nearly 50 clandestine nuclear explosions since 1945.
In lieu of soil samples and closer photographic evidence of the blast site, and based on the cover story, a “scud missile site” being used, the initial assumption that this is a nuclear explosion is not out of line, Veterns Today reported.
You see, Scud B missiles, such as those Yemen acquired with the help of the Bush family, from North Korea in 2002 use unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) as fuel:
Unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) (1,1-dimethylhydrazine) is a chemical compound with the formula H2NN(CH3)2. It is a colourless liquid, with a sharp, fishy, ammoniacal smell typical for organicamines. Samples turn yellowish on exposure to air and absorb oxygen and carbon dioxide. It mixes completely with water, ethanol, and kerosene. In concentration between 2.5% and 95% in air, its vapors are flammable. It is not sensitive to shock. Symmetrical dimethylhydrazine (CH3NHNH(CH3)) is also known but is not as useful.
The initial explosion from the Saudi weapon and the billowing pristine white cloud afterward are indicative of a lie, you see Scud fuel burns yellow and brown, the vapor trails on launch unwholesome and ugly.
North Korean Scuds
A 2002 article by Peter Symonds
In the midst of Washington’s efforts to ratchet up its “weapons of mass destruction” rhetoric and establish a pretext for war against Iraq, a peculiar episode took place this week in the Arabian Sea.
On Monday, two Spanish warships, which form part of a US-led anti-terrorist naval task force, intercepted in international waters a North Korean freighter, the So San, heading towards the Middle East. According to Spanish and US officials, the ship, which was about 1,000km from the Horn of Africa, was unflagged, its identification markings had been painted over and it failed to stop when challenged.
The Spanish frigate Navarra fired three bursts of warning shots at the vessel. Snipers shot out cables crisscrossing the deck, enabling a helicopter to hover and land a boarding party of armed marines who seized the ship. A search uncovered 15 medium-range Scud missiles packed under bags of cement, along with conventional high explosive warheads and drums of fuel.
The Spanish were ordered directly by President George W. Bush to “stand down” and allow the delivery of the North Korean Scud missiles, brokered by Prescott Bush and Company, his uncle.
Before that happened, Vice President Cheney went to Bush, advising him to try to spin the event as a provable WMD provocation by Saddam. However, Yemen, who had placed the order for the missiles nearly two years before, demanded delivery and the White House had to scramble to cover its lies to the press.
In any case, the Saudi’s did not hit Scud missiles. The explosions are “primary” only with no secondaries, which at a missile facility would have been several, fueled missiles, fuel storage facilities, fuel trucks and warheads, popping off for some time, each leaving a telltale plume of nasty looking smoke as complex petrochemical tend to do.
With control of the press and easy availability of low to moderate output tactical nuclear weapons, some with obscure and nearly non-existent radiation signatures,
From a Veterans Today interview between Senior Editor, Gordon Duff and Science Editor and Nuclear Physicist and former IAEA inspector, Jeff Smith:
Gordon: If Germany and Japan have covert nuclear weapons programs, what is the IAEA’s secret list, you know, other than Israel? What nations were sold stolen nuclear pits taken from the Pantex facility?
Jeff Smith: Most likely there are several other countries that are involved in this nuclear conspiracy including the Ukraine, Koreas N and S, Taiwan, India, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, Saudi, ETC. It starts to put the context on the stolen US nuclear pits and just how big the operation was or is and why they took out Roland Carnaby in Houston. Israel is the open back door (the elephant in the room) to getting around IAEA NNP. They bribe everybody with small tactical nukes to keep them in line and vote against the Palestinians.
Gordon: You say Israel uses tactical nukes as party favors? Who are their stooges in Washington, not just congress, but those involved directly in the theft of nuclear weapons?J
Jeff Smith: This is why they will never sign the NNP treaty or ever allow inspection.
Richardson’s role at DOE under Clinton is now becoming more interesting. Along with Tom Countryman’s head of NNP at State. This explains why the FBI watched him so closely.
Mushroom clouds rise in the sky in western Sanaa where the capital’s largest weapons caches are located.
Powerful explosions have rocked the Yemeni capital, shattering windows and damaging structures, as Saudi-led air strikes targeted suspected weapon caches and missiles held by Houthi fighters.
Mushroom clouds on Monday rose in the sky over Fag Atan, in western Sanaa, where the capital’s largest weapons caches are located.
The air strike was reportedly targeting a Scud missile base held by the Shia Houthi rebels in Fag Atan mountain. Nearby homes were being evacuated.
Hakim al-Masmari, the editor-in-chief of Yemen Post, told Al Jazeera that the weapons depot in Fag Atan was not hit.
“We sent reporters to the scene who confirmed that the strike missed the depot. The impact site was far away from it,” he said.
Residents of Sanaa said the explosions sent large shockwaves through the city.
“The hanging ceiling and chandelier fell because of the explosions,” resident Mohammed Mohsen told the Associated Press.In a separate development, Riad Yassin, Yemen’s foreign minister said thousands of Houthis and fighters loyal to the former president have been killed since the operation started.
Saudi Arabia and allied countries began the air campaign on March 26, hoping to roll back the Houthi fighters who seized Sanaa in September and have overrun large parts of the country.
Riyadh says air strikes will continue until President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who has fled the country, is reinstated.
An Airbus A321 passenger plane operated by a Russian airline crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Saturday. None of the 224 passengers and crew on board survived. The tragedy astonished the world. It is among the worst air accidents in recent years, and public opinion immediately went into overdrive, trying to connect Russia's can of worms, from its economy to its geopolitics, to the plane crash.
The crash happened a month after Russia started its air strikes against the Islamic State, an offshoot of which in Egypt has claimed responsibility. Is it revenge against Moscow from the extremist group from the Middle East? The question cropped up soon after the accident. Both Egypt and Russia have denied that the plane was shot down by a missile, but still, the threat of terrorism, although with certain misgivings, has become the first guess from public opinion.
More suspicions are over technical problems. There are many clues and materials in this regard that can be discussed. First of all, the airliner was an 18-year-old, second-hand plane that had been in service for several airlines in the Middle East.
It also hit people's minds that there are still quite a few airliners from the former Soviet Union, ferrying passengers across the sky until today. The manufacturing industry of civil aerospace was once so powerful in the former Soviet Union, with the lowest rate of civil aviation accidents worldwide. Yet today, more than half of the industry is shut down. It is now the norm to purchase or rent foreign second-hand passenger planes. In addition, poor management of certain small-scale airlines in the country has also led to a sharp rise in the accident rate, which is three times the world average.
Russia has strong military power and a firm diplomatic stance. However, it has not yet extricated itself from the sluggish economy since the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Russian life today depends to a large extent on the international oil price, since the foundation of its original industry was badly damaged, while its capability to innovate is not yet revitalized.
But no matter how hard it seems, the country is no less significant. It has a strong scientific technological base, well-developed education and a Russian population that is hard-working and dauntless.
Russia is now facing huge challenges, including dealing with the aftermath of the accident, and ensuring the safety of its civilian flights. As its neighbor, China shows the utmost sorrow and sympathy for Russia. We hope all the airliners and passengers will be safe in the future.
On October 15, United States President Barack Obama stepped away from his campaign pledge to remove all U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan. He said that the nearly 10,000 troops that were now in the country would remain and that by the end of the year they would be reduced to half that number. During Obama’s tenure, in other words, U.S. forces would remain in Afghanistan. To be fair to Obama, he has cut the U.S. troop presence from 1,00,000 in 2010 to a mere 5,000 at the end of 2015. This is as close to a withdrawal as one might expect from the U.S.
One of the main reasons to retain a military force is that it provides the lever for the U.S. to expand its troops in Afghanistan if necessary. A total withdrawal would give it no standing to increase troop levels without new authorisations from the Afghan government. As it is, these 5,000 troops will provide the basis for an extension as and when the U.S. government wishes. Already the longest war in U.S. history, the Afghan campaign is not to end in the short term. It will extend for at least another few years. The U.S. has two main strategic goals in Afghanistan—to prevent the return of Al Qaeda and to train the Afghan National Army (ANA). Nothing more is to be expected from the U.S., neither “nation-building” nor an anti-narcotics programme. If these latter form part of the U.S. brief, they only do so marginally. Investment in infrastructure and in social welfare of the population has been minimal. What are colloquially known as the Kabul Kleptocracy and the Poppy Mafia will be untouched by the U.S. presence. In fact, they have established themselves as major players in the very government that the ANA—trained by the U.S.—is pledged to protect. How does one measure victory or defeat when an occupation force withdraws? If it leaves behind a friendly government and a vanquished enemy, then it is easy to see its occupation as a success. The U.S. occupation of Japan after the Second World War is a case in point. Japan remains a major strategic ally of the U.S. If the occupation force leaves only to find that its friendly government is weakened and its enemies return to power, then it is fair to consider the war a failure.The United Nations now suggests that the Taliban at present fights for power in over half of the districts of Afghanistan. The seizure of Kunduz in the north-east comes alongside the failure of the ANA to secure Helmand province in the south through its Operation Zulfiqar. In both areas, north and south, the Taliban continues to be a serious force. The U.S. will withdraw its troops slowly, but nonetheless without a decisive defeat to the Taliban. In that case, the U.S. has been defeated in its Afghan war.
Obama’s approach in Afghanistan went in two directions —a surge in 2010 that was poised to destroy the morale of the Taliban and a drone policy that was intended to kill Al Qaeda members and affiliated terrorists as well as key Taliban leaders who provided assistance to Al Qaeda. The surge initially cleared large tracts of southern Afghanistan, but the U.S. was not able to pacify the Taliban. As U.S. troops went back to their bases, the Taliban reasserted its positions. Like phantoms its forces emerged at night, able to hold their ground among pockets of the country that support their insurgency.
Two years after the surge, General John Allen looked back at data on Taliban attacks and found that they were down by 3 per cent. This was not “statistically significant”, he admitted. What was the Taliban doing just as the surge ended? Its most active operations were in Panjwai and Zhare in Kandahar and Nad Ali in Helmand. Nad Ali sits beside Marja, where the U.S. troops had begun their surge in 2010, and it is where, this year, the Taliban has made regular attacks at the ANA posts. The long-term effects of the surge have been minimal. Operation Zulfiqar conducted by the ANA in northern Helmand this year also failed to meet its objectives. This means that the first goal of the U.S. mission—to defeat the Taliban and to train the ANA to continue the fight against the Taliban—has not been reached.
The second goal—to vanquish Al Qaeda and its allies —seemed to have been met early in the 2001 bombing campaign. Al Qaeda members either were killed and captured or they fled to their countries of origin. The network appeared broken, with Osama bin Laden on the run and operational ties with its terrorists totally frayed. An intelligence analyst from one of the U.S.’ 17 agencies told me in 2004 that one of the outcomes of the heavy bombardment of Afghanistan was that it would scatter Al Qaeda members around the world. “If you smash the thermometer,” he said, “the mercury will spread everywhere.”
This is precisely what happened as Al Qaeda members got scattered over an extensive geographical range from the Philippines in east Asia to Libya in northern Africa. They brought mayhem to their home countries, particularly in Libya after 2011. Even within the region, Al Qaeda was not easy to defeat. Its members headed to northern Pakistan, where they got involved in local conflicts. The black flag of Al Qaeda could be regularly spotted in small hamlets in northern Waziristan. The Obama administration built on the George Bush administration’s drone programme as the hammer to beat down the mercury. Between 2011 and 2013, the U.S. conducted Operation Haymaker to take out the main Al Qaeda and associated terrorists in northern Pakistan and in southern Afghanistan. According to documents leaked to The Intercept, this programme killed few real targets and produced more bitterness and anger. Firstly, about nine of every 10 people killed in these strikes were not the intended targets. This was perhaps through poor intelligence. The source that leaked these documents explained that the U.S. designated “military age males” (MAMs) as reasonable targets and designated those hit as “enemy killed in action” (EKIA). Ryan Devereaux, who wrote one of the stories for The Intercept, said that the targets that did get hit in most cases were neither Taliban nor Al Qaeda “but also local forces with no international terrorism ambitions, groups that took up arms against the U.S. after American air strikes brought the war to their doorsteps”. In other words, according to the U.S. government’s own assessment, the drone wars had no positive strategic effect. In fact, they had the opposite—producing the conditions for the creation of more insurgents.
Kunduz hospital bombing
The prestige of the U.S. fell further with the targeted bombing of a charity hospital in Kunduz during the fightback against the Taliban. The hospital, run by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), or Doctors Without Borders, was hit over a considerable period. The U.S. admitted that it had hit the hospital knowing it was a hospital. That this is itself a war crime did not appear to bother the Pentagon officials, who seem oblivious to considerations of international law. MSF called for an independent investigation by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission (established by the Geneva Conventions), but this was not to be. A U.S. tank lumbered into the destroyed hospital, essentially contaminating the evidence that should have been studied by a forensic team. The U.S. military later said that the tank contained its investigators. A U.S. State Department analyst, on condition of anonymity, said that this claim was specious. There is no unanimity in the administration on how to handle the bombing in Kunduz. It will wait until the next leak to The Intercept to establish the chatter inside the Pentagon and the White House over this bombing. Obama’s team believes that the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq allowed the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to emerge as a serious threat to the region. If the U.S. leaves Afghanistan, the view goes, not only the Taliban but also the ISIS will emerge as a serious contender in the country. Obama does not want to preside over that fiasco. It is far better to settle in for an endless war than have to declare defeat.
Why Obama dropping his promise to end America's longest war is going to give contractors billions of dollars.