Global Inequality Reaches Levels Not Seen in Nearly 200 Years

Global income inequality has returned to levels recorded in the 1820s—when the Industrial Revolution produced sizable wealth gaps between the rich and poor—according to a new report released Thursday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The sweeping study, “How Was Life? Global Well-Being Since 1820,” uses historical data from eight world regions to present for the first time “systematic evidence” of trends in areas such as health, education, inequality, the environment, and personal security over the past 200 years.

The report reveals that great strides have been made in some areas such as literacy, life expectancy, and gender inequality. “People's well-being has generally progressed since the early 20th century across a large part of the world,” it reads.

But while income inequality, as measured by pre-tax household income among individuals within a country, fell between the end of the 19th century until around 1970, it began to rise markedly at that point, perhaps in response to globalization.

“The enormous increase of income inequality on a global scale is one of the most significant—and worrying—features of the development of the world economy in the past 200 years,” the authors write. “It is hard not to notice the sharp increase in income inequality experienced by the vast majority of countries from the 1980s. There are very few exceptions to this.”

In a speech Wednesday in Strasbourg, France before the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, OECD secretary-general Angel Gurría called on world leaders to “strengthen our efforts to reduce inequality.”

He declared:

The financial and economic crisis has exacerbated rising inequality and fueled a social crisis. In OECD countries the income of the top 10 percent of the population is 9.5 times that of the bottom 10 percent, up by more than 30 percent in 25 years. Anchored poverty has increased by approximately 2 percentage points between 2007 and 2011, with much larger increases in countries that have experienced the deepest and longest downturns. The number of those living in households without any income from work has doubled in Greece, Ireland, and Spain. And worryingly for our future, the youth have now replaced the elderly as the group experiencing the greatest risk of income poverty. More


Militarized cops’ scary new toys: The ugly next frontier in “crowd control”

The horror we saw in Ferguson may be just the start. Here’s some other police gear our military is working on.

Police in Ferguson, Mo., Aug. 11, 2014

Now that the sight of American police decked out as if they are replaying the events of Blackhawk Down has alerted the American public to the militarization of our police agencies, perhaps they will finally be receptive to the warnings that some of us have been making for years about the next generation of weapons that are being developed for “crowd control.” As we’ve seen over the past few days, regardless of whether it’s created for military purposes, this gear tends to eventually end up on the streets of the United States.

In Ferguson this week the police used one of these new weapons, the LRAD, also known as a sound cannon. These were developed fairly recently as an interdiction device to repel pirates or terrorists in the aftermath of the attack on the USS Cole. But their use as a weapon to disperse crowds quickly became obvious. In Ferguson it seems to have served mostly as a warning device, but it can cause substantial pain and hearing damage if it’s deployed with the intent to send crowds running in the opposite direction. It’s been used liberally by police departments for the past few years, even at such benign public gatherings as a sand castle competition in San Diego, California. The police chief (as it happens, the former FBI agent in charge at the Ruby Ridge standoff) explained that it was there in case they needed it. Evidently, San Diego takes its sand castle competitions very seriously.

But the LRAD is a toy compared to some of the other weapons the military industrial complex has been developing to deal with “crowd control.” Take Shockwave, the new electric shock weapon developed by Taser International, a sort of taser machine gun:

The cartridges are tethered by 25-foot wires, which can be fired from a distance of up to 100 meters in a 20-degree arc. The “probes” on the end of the cartridges can pierce through clothing and skin, emitting 50,000 volts of electricity in the process.

“Full area coverage is provided to instantaneously incapacitate multiple personnel within that region” Taser explains.

“Multiple Shockwave units can be stacked together (like building blocks) either horizontally or vertically in order to extend area coverage or vertically to allow for multiple salvo engagements.” The product description states.

The weapons can also be vehicle mounted or “daisy chained” according to Taser. Clearly it is anticipated that these things will be used on sizable crowds, meaning an increased likelihood of indiscriminate targeting.


The Department of Defense touts the use of these weapons as battlefield devices, but considering the huge market for military gear among police forces, it’s fairly obvious that they have been developed for domestic use as well. You can watch a demonstration of the device here. You’ll note the demo opens with the question: “What if you could drop everyone in a given area to the ground with the push of a button?” (They leave out the part where they are all screaming and writhing in terrible pain …)

And then there’s Taser’s new shotgun style taser called the XREP (for Extended Range External Projectile).It has the advantage of being able to be shot from a real gun and it delivers 20 long excruciating seconds of unbearable pain as opposed to the wimpy 5 seconds of the regular taser — which kills people with regularity. (You can see a demonstration of that one here.) The Taser drone is still in development but it’s sure to be a very welcome addition to the electroshock weapon arsenal.

If we believe, as Joe Scarborough does, that citizens are required to instantly comply with police regardless of the situation, these devices are perfect enforcement tools. On the other hand, if you believe that citizens have a right to peacefully protest and that police are not automatically entitled to deference in all circumstances, then you might want to think twice about the use of these weapons. They are only barely better than allowing police to shoot into crowds with bullets. Tasers can kill people and cause them to badly injure themselves and they are far too easy for police to use indiscriminately since the public has been brainwashed into believing they are harmless.

But there’s more. The military has been developing something called the Active Denial System, also known as the Pentagon’s Ray Gun. “60 Minutes” did a laudatory story on it a few years back in which it showed the training exercises the Army was using to test the weapon for potential use in Iraq. The funny thing was that the exercises featured soldiers dressed as protesters carrying signs that said “world peace,” “love for all,” which the “60 Minutes” correspondent characterized as something soldiers might confront in Iraq. (Who knew there was a large contingent of American-style hippies in Iraq staging antiwar protests?) The weapon itself is something out of science fiction: It’s a beam of electromagnetic radiation that heats the skin to a painful 130 degrees allegedly without inflicting permanent damage. They claim there have been almost no side effects or injuries. It just creates terrible pain and panics the peaceniks into dispersing on command. What could be better than that? Imagine how great it would be if any time a crowd gathers and the government wants to shut it down, they can just zap it with heat and send everyone screaming in agony and running in the opposite direction.

In his thorough Harper’s investigation on this subject, reporter Ando Arike explained the purpose behind all these new technologies:

[We have] an international arms-development effort involving an astonishing range of technologies: electrical weapons that shock and stun; laser weapons that cause dizziness or temporary blindness; acoustic weapons that deafen and nauseate; chemical weapons that irritate, incapacitate, or sedate; projectile weapons that knock down, bruise, and disable; and an assortment of nets, foams, and sprays that obstruct or immobilize. “Non-lethal” is the Pentagon’s approved term for these weapons, but their manufacturers also use the terms “soft kill,” “less-lethal,” “limited effects,” “low collateral damage,” and “compliance.” The weapons are intended primarily for use against unarmed or primitively armed civilians; they are designed to control crowds, clear buildings and streets, subdue and restrain individuals, and secure borders. The result is what appears to be the first arms race in which the opponent is the general population.

As I wrote earlier, in a couple of weeks the Soft-kill Convention, also known as Urban Shield, will be holding its annual trade show in Oakland, California. Police agencies from all over the world will attend to try out the various types of modern weapons that will be on display there. The super high-tech weapons described above are probably some years away from the commercial market. But it’s highly likely they will make their way to the police eventually through one of the many ways the weapons manufacturers manage to put this equipment in the hands of civilian authorities — if the federal government continues to make money available for that purpose.

Hopefully, Ferguson has alerted the public to the danger to our civil rights and liberties brought by the federal government arming police forces to the teeth with military gear. But it’s going to take vigilance to ensure that the next time we see civil unrest and peaceful protests on the streets of America, the authorities won’t be responding with electroshock or laser weapons or electromagnetic radiation devices designed purely for the purpose of gaining instant compliance from people in a crowd. If Americans foolishly accept these weapons as an improvement on the harsher methods we might see today there is a grave danger that we will be giving authorities much more power to quell dissent. In a free society it shouldn’t be easy to quell dissent. If it is, that society won’t be free for very long. More



A Movement Grows in Ferguson

Is the Ferguson Movement the begining of a Nationwide Movement driven by Racism and Economic Disparity?

In the eight days since Michael Brown, an eighteen-year-old, was killed by a police officer named Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, what began as an impromptu vigil evolved into a sustained protest; it is now beginning to look like a movement. The local QuikTrip, a gas station and convenience store that was looted and burned on the second night of the protests, has now been repurposed as the epicenter for gatherings and the exchange of information. The front of the lot bears an improvised graffiti sign identifying the area as the “QT People’s Park.” With the exception of a few stretches, such as Thursday afternoon, when it was veiled in clouds of tear gas, protesters have been a constant presence in the lot. On Sunday afternoon the area was populated by members of local churches, black fraternity and sorority groups, Amnesty International, the Outcast Motorcycle Club, and twenty or so white supporters from the surrounding area. On the north side of the station, a group of volunteers with a mobile grill served free hot dogs and water, and a man stood on a crate, handing out bright yellow T-shirts with the logo of the National Action Network, the group led by Al Sharpton.

The conversation here has shifted from the immediate reaction to Michael Brown’s death and toward the underlying social dynamics. Two men I spoke with pointed to the disparity in education funding for Ferguson and more affluent municipalities nearby. Another talked about being pulled over by an officer who claimed to smell marijuana in the car as a pretense for searching him. “I’m in the United States Navy,” he told me. “We have to take drug tests in the military so I had proof that there were no drugs in my system. But other people can’t do that.” Six black men I spoke to, nearly consecutively, pointed to Missouri’s felon-disfranchisement laws as part of the equation. “If you’re a student in one of the black schools here and you get into a fight you’ll probably get arrested and charged with assault. We have kids here who are barred from voting before they’re even old enough to register,” one said. Ferguson’s elected officials did not look much different than they had years earlier, when it was a largely white community.

Ferguson had, instead, recently seen two highly visible African-American public officials lose their jobs. Two weeks before Brown was shot, Charles Dooley, an African-American who has served as St. Louis County Executive for a decade, lost a bitter primary election to Steve Stenger, a white county councilman, in a race that, whatever the merits of the candidates, was seen as racially divisive. Stenger lobbed allegations of financial mismanagement and incompetence, and worse. Bob McCulloch, the county prosecutor appeared in an ad for Stenger, associating Dooley with corruption; McCulloch would also be responsible for determining whether to charge Darren Wilson. In December, the largely white Ferguson-Florissant school board fired Art McCoy, the superintendent, who is African-American. Those who were gathered at the QuikTrip parking lot on Saturday were as inclined to talk about the underlying political issues as they were about the hail of bullets that ended Brown’s life.

When word came that afternoon that the governor had announced a curfew, to take effect at midnight, the mood shifted to defiance and disbelief. Few thought that the curfew would do much practical good; many thought it was counterproductive, a move back to militarized police response earlier in the week. Curfew or no, the protesters felt that, with the exception of last Thursday, when Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, a black Ferguson native, took charge of operations, the amalgam of county and local law enforcement rolling through Ferguson had tried to clear the streets each day at dusk.

On Johnson’s first night in charge, the police presence in the neighborhood was hardly visible; officers withdrew to the perimeter and removed a roadblock that had cut off Florissant Road, which runs just south of the QuikTrip. The protests that night had a giddy quality. Cars drove up and down the strip, the sounds of honking horns accompanying shouts of Brown’s name and “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” which has emerged as the signature slogan here.

But as early as Friday morning people began to wonder if Johnson really was in charge, in any meaningful way. Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson began the day by releasing Officer Wilson’s name, which had been kept from the public until then. He undercut that gesture by simultaneously releasing a video that appeared to show Brown menacing a local store owner soon before his encounter with Wilson—thus suggesting that Wilson had been pursuing Brown as a suspect. It took a few hours, and a second press conference, for Jackson to acknowledge that Wilson hadn’t stopped Brown because he thought he was a robber but because Brown was walking in the street and not, as Wilson believed he should, on the sidewalk.

Ron Johnson had to concede that he had not even known that the video would be released; he saw it on television just as everyone else had. (“I would like to have been consulted,” he said at his own press conference.) After sporadic looting on Saturday night—halted largely by other protestors who rushed to protect the establishments being vandalized—Governor Jay Nixon declared a curfew, further undercutting Johnson’s authority. In the span of twenty-four hours, Johnson had gone, in the community’s eyes, from empowered native son to black token. One of the local activists I’d met in Feguson sent me a text message after the curfew announcement saying, “Johnson has good intentions but no power. This is beyond him.”On Sunday, Johnson stepped into the pulpit at Greater Grace Church, the site of a rally, and apologized to Brown’s family, saying, “I wear this uniform and I feel like that needs to be said.” With that, he implicitly condemned the Ferguson Police Department for their failure to do so. Johnson had promised not to use tear gas in the streets of Ferguson but, during a skirmish with looters on Saturday night, police tear-gassed the crowd. Johnson’s address at the church carried the message that his allegiances were, nonetheless, with the people of Ferguson. James Baldwin remarked that black leaders chronically find themselves in a position of asking white people to hurry up while pleading with black people to wait. Johnson finds himself asking black people to remain calm while imploring white police officers not to shoot. The problem here is that few people in Ferguson believe that the former is any guarantee of the latter.

Brown remains unburied. His family, whose faith evaporated early on, refused to simply trust the autopsy performed by local authorities and held out for a second post mortem, by federal authorities. Attorney Eric Holder granted that request late Sunday morning. It might produce a definitive answer to some of the basic questions—like how many times Brown was shot, and whether any of the bullets hit him in the back—that, a week later, remain murky. From the outset, the overlapping bureaucracies in Ferguson handled the case in ways that suggested ineptitude. Yet subsequent developments—the stonewalling followed by contradictory statements, the detention of reporters, the clumsy deployment of sophisticated military equipment—all point not to a department too inept to handle this investigation objectively but one too inept to cloak the fact that they never intended to do so. One protestor held a sign that said, “Ferguson Police Need Better Scriptwriters.” More


In an article by Alex Kane entitled 11 Eye-Opening Facts About America’s Militarized Police Forces the author writing in AlterNet states; The “war on terror” has come home — and it’s wreaking havoc on innocent American lives. The culprit is the militarization of the police.

The weapons that destroyed Afghanistan and Iraq have made their way to local law enforcement. While police forces across the country began a process of militarization — complete with SWAT teams and flash-bang grenades — when President Reagan intensified the “war on drugs,” the post-9/11 “war on terror” has added fuel to the fire.

Through laws and regulations like a provision in defense budgets that authorizes the Pentagon to transfer surplus military gear to police forces, local law enforcement agencies are using weapons found on the battlefields of South Asia and the Middle East.

A recent New York Times article by Matt Apuzzo reported that in the Obama era, “police departments have received tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft.” The result is that police agencies around the nation possess military-grade equipment, turning officers who are supposed to fight crime and protect communities into what looks like an invading army. And military-style police raids have increased in recent years, with one count putting the number at 80,000 such raids last year.

In June, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) brought more attention to police militarization when it issued a comprehensive, nearly 100-page report titled, War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing. Based on public records requests to more than 260 law enforcement agencies in 26 states, the ACLU concluded that this police militarization “unfairly impacts people of color and undermines individual liberties, and it has been allowed to happen in the absence of any meaningful public discussion.”

The information contained in the ACLU report — and in other investigations into the phenomenon — is sobering. From the killing of innocent people to the almost complete lack of debate on these policies, police militarization has turned into a key issue for Americans. It is harming civil liberties, ramping up the “war on drugs,” impacting the most marginalized members of society and transforming neighborhoods into war zones. Here are 11 important — and horrifying — things you should know about the militarization of police. More

One has to question the reason for militatising the police departments in the United States and where this is leading? Is the government expecting insurrection or invasion? Are their citizens now enemies of the state? Editor