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Above the law

In the latest scandal involving the criminal activities of major banks, the US Justice Department on Tuesday announced a $1.9 billion settlement with British-based HSBC on charges of money laundering on a massive scale for Mexican and Colombian drug cartels.

The deal was specifically designed to avert criminal prosecution of either the bank, the largest in Europe and third largest in the world, or any of its top executives. Even though the bank admitted to laundering billions of dollars for drug lords, as well as violating US financial sanctions against Iran, Libya, Burma and Cuba, the Obama administration avoided an indictment by means of a “deferred prosecution agreement.”

Michigan’s right-to-work law

Michigan’s Republican Governor Rick Snyder on Tuesday signed into law a so-called “right-to-work” bill, making Michigan the 24th state in the US to adopt the measure. The law bars labor contracts requiring all workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment. Promoted by right-wing forces, its basic aim is to undermine the ability of workers to collectively fight in defense of their interests in opposition to the employers.

The inability of the United Auto Workers and other unions to mount any serious opposition to the legislation demonstrates the bankruptcy of these organizations. They long ago ceased to fight for the interests of their rank-and-file members or the working class as a whole.

Washington discovers terrorists in Syria

The US State Department on Tuesday formally designated one of the leading militias fighting for the overthrow of the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization.”

The group, known as Jabhat al-Nusra, or the al-Nusra front, is widely credited as being the most effective fighting force in the bloody struggle in Syria. It has recently overrun at least three Syrian military bases and seized control of territory in the eastern part of the country.

In a teleconference with select members of the media Tuesday, an unnamed senior State Department official justified the designation by charging al-Nusra with “hundreds of attacks, nearly 600, in major city centers across Syria in which numerous innocent Syrians have been injured and killed.”

Earlier, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement: “Al-Nusra has sought to portray itself as part of the legitimate Syrian opposition while it is, in fact, an attempt by AQI (Al Qaeda in Iraq) to hijack the struggles of the Syrian people for its own malign purposes.”

UAW provides Obama a platform for his austerity assault on workers

President Obama gave a campaign-style speech at a suburban Detroit auto factory Monday afternoon, enlisting the support of the United Auto Workers union for his attack on basic social programs at the heart of the deficit-reduction deal he is negotiating with congressional Republicans.

Union officials standing behind the president and packing the audience served as extras in this latest stage-managed effort to package a historic assault on what remains of the social reforms of the 1930s and 1960s as a defense of “middle class” working Americans. The president’s fig leaf of “fairness” and “shared sacrifice” consists of a pledge to impose a token—and temporary—increase in tax rates for the richest 2 percent of households. The UAW officials roared their approval of this reactionary farce.


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