Dozens of suspected Nazi war criminals and SS guards collected millions of dollars in U.S. Social Security benefits after being forced out of the United States, an Associated Press investigation has found.
The payments, underwritten by American taxpayers, flowed through a legal loophole that gave the U.S. Justice Department leverage to persuade Nazi suspects to leave the U.S. If they agreed to go, or simply fled before deportation, they could keep their Social Security, according to interviews and internal U.S. government records.
Among those receiving benefits were armed SS troops who guarded the network of Nazi camps where millions of Jews perished; a rocket scientist who used slave laborers to advance his research in the Third Reich; and a Nazi collaborator who engineered the arrest and execution of thousands of Jews in Poland.
There are at least four living beneficiaries. They include Martin Hartmann, a former SS guard at the Sachsenhausen camp in Germany, and Jakob Denzinger, who patrolled the grounds at the Auschwitz camp complex in Poland.
America is the land of opportunity, just for some more than others.
That’s because, in large part, inequality starts in the crib. Rich parents can afford to spend more time and money on their kids, and that gap has only grown the past few decades. Indeed, economists Greg Duncan and Richard Murnane calculate that, between 1972 and 2006, high-income parents increased their spending on “enrichment activities” for their children by 151 percent in inflation-adjusted terms, compared to 57 percent for low-income parents.
Even poor kids who do everything right don’t do much better than rich kids who do everything wrong. Advantages and disadvantages, in other words, tend to perpetuate themselves. You can see that in the above chart, based on a new paper from Richard Reeves and Isabel Sawhill, presented at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s annual conference, which is underway.
Specifically, rich high school dropouts remain in the top about as much as poor college grads stay stuck in the bottom — 14 versus 16 percent, respectively. Not only that, but these low-income strivers are just as likely to end up in the bottom as these wealthy ne’er-do-wells. Some meritocracy.
What’s going on? Well, it’s all about glass floors and glass ceilings. Rich kids who can go work for the family business — and, in Canada at least, 70 percent of the sons of the top 1 percent do just that — or inherit the family estate don’t need a high school diploma to get ahead. It’s an extreme example of what economists call “opportunity hoarding.” That includes everything from legacy college admissions to unpaid internships that let affluent parents rig the game a little more in their children’s favor.
But even if they didn’t, low-income kids would still have a hard time getting ahead. That’s, in part, because they’re targets for diploma mills that load them up with debt, but not a lot of prospects. And even if they do get a good degree, at least when it comes to black families, they’re more likely to still live in impoverished neighborhoods that keep them disconnected from opportunities.
Three months ago we read that loneliness has become an epidemic among young adults. Now we learn that it is just as great an affliction of older people. A study by Independent Age shows that severe loneliness in England blights the lives of 700,000 men and 1.1m women over 50, and is rising with astonishing speed.
The war of every man against every man – competition and individualism, in other words – is the religion of our time, justified by a mythology of lone rangers, sole traders, self-starters, self-made men and women, going it alone. For the most social of creatures, who cannot prosper without love, there is no such thing as society, only heroic individualism. What counts is to win. The rest is collateral damage.
One of the tragic outcomes of loneliness is that people turn to their televisions for consolation: two-fifths of older people report that the one-eyed god is their principal company. This self-medication aggravates the disease. Research by economists at the University of Milan suggests that television helps to drive competitive aspiration. It strongly reinforces the income-happiness paradox: the fact that, as national incomes rise, happiness does not rise with them.
The top 1% own 48% of global wealth, but even they aren’t happy. A survey by Boston College of people with an average net worth of $78m found that they too were assailed by anxiety, dissatisfaction and loneliness. Many of them reported feeling financially insecure: to reach safe ground, they believed, they would need, on average, about 25% more money. (And if they got it? They’d doubtless need another 25%). One respondent said he wouldn’t get there until he had $1bn in the bank.
For this, we have ripped the natural world apart, degraded our conditions of life, surrendered our freedoms and prospects of contentment to a compulsive, atomising, joyless hedonism, in which, having consumed all else, we start to prey upon ourselves. For this, we have destroyed the essence of humanity: our connectedness.
Wikileaks has released a new draft of the intellectual property chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, revealing that the US is still pushing for draconian measures on copyright infringement.
“By publishing this text we allow the public to engage in issues that will have such a fundamental impact on their lives,” says Wikileaks editor in chief Julian Assange.
The US has all along wished to introduce features of the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), such as compelling ISPs to alert customers who are accused of illegal downloads and, possibly, take the infringing material down. If they failed to do so, they would themselves be liable for any copyright infringement by their customers.
But the latest draft goes even further: the US wants to see these rules covering not just ISPs, but anyone providing internet services. And, as Alberto Cerda of Georgetown University Law Center points out to TorrentFreak, this means that coffee shops could potentially be held liable for copyright infringement by their customers.
The US is also calling for criminal sanctions for copyright infringement, even where the infringement isn’t being carried out for commercial reasons.
“If the US gets its way, then criminal penalties will apply even against users who were not seeking financial gain from sharing or making available copyrighted works, such as fans and archivists,”write Jeremy Malcolm and Maira Sutton of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). “Such a broad definition is ripe for abuse.”
But while the last leaked draft of the TPP, dated November 2013, showed strong international opposition to this criminalization plan, Canada now seems to be the only serious hold-out.
This may, suggests James Love of Knowledge Ecology International, be because this new draft gives some countries extra time to implement the agreement – meaning that current governments won’t necessarily have to carry the can for their decisions.
The draft calls for countries to introduce criminal penalties for unauthorised access to, misappropriation of or disclosure of trade secrets “by any person using a computer system”. This would apply where the actions led to commercial advantage or financial gain; where they were directed by “a foreign economic entity”; or where they were detrimental to a country’s economic interests, international relations, national defence or national security.
These are very broad provisions, and don’t allow any exceptions in the public interest, such as journalism or whistleblowing.
There’s an unintended beneficiary emerging from the U.S.-led campaign to crush the Islamic State: the extremist group’s main rival, al Qaida.
Al Qaida is no friend of the Islamic State, whose rapid expansion in Iraq and Syria gave it the lead in the struggle for primacy in the global jihadist movement. But the international attacks on the Islamic State also have lent urgency to al Qaida’s appeals for fighters and cash to confront “the Crusaders,” even as air strikes ravage its primary rival, according to analysts of international jihadist groups.
As a militant Islamist group, al Qaida can’t cheer on Western military intervention in Muslim nations. But analysts predict that the U.S.-led coalition’s presence will result in more cash, recruits and operating space for al Qaida, particularly in Syria. The affiliate there, the Nusra Front, is the vanguard of a rebel movement that’s been steamrolled by the Islamic State, which also is known by the acronyms ISIS and ISIL.
While al Qaida loyalists must condemn the strikes in public, analysts say, they also recognize that the operations against the Islamic State offer the chance for a renaissance.