Politkovskaya murder – remains unsolved

February 23, 2009

(CPJ/IFEX) – The following is a 19 February 2009 CPJ press release:

RUSSIA: Three men acquitted in Politkovskaya murder

New York, February 19, 2009 –

Three defendants in the October 2006 murder of Novaya Gazeta journalist Anna Politkovskaya walked free out of the Moscow District

Anna Politkovskaya (www.russianwriting.com)

Anna Politkovskaya russianwriting.com

Military Court today after a jury unanimously acquitted them of helping to organize the crime, according to local news reports. The state prosecution said it will appeal the verdict. The Committee to Protect Journalists called on Russian authorities to vigorously seek out the masterminds and triggerman, thoroughly gather all available evidence, bring all perpetrators to trial with solid proof of their involvement in the crime, and try them in a court open to the press and the public. Those acquitted are Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, a former police officer with the Moscow Directorate for Combating Organized Crime, and ethnic Chechen brothers Ibragim and Dzhabrail Makhmudov. A fourth suspect, Pavel Ryaguzov, a former Federal Security Service (FSB) lieutenant colonel, was tried in a separate case but alongside the three because of his previous association with Khadzhikurbanov. The jury also acquitted Ryaguzov of unrelated charges of abuse and extortion today. All defendants had pleaded not guilty, according to local news reports and CPJ sources close to the trial.

Read the full story IFEX update

WHO killed Anna Politkovskaya, Russia’s best and bravest campaigning journalist? Who organised it? Who were the shadowy figures seen on CCTV footage, tailing her in the days leading up to her murder? And who gave the order? By the time the sometimes-farcical trial of four men charged in connection with the killing ended in an acquittal on Thursday February 19th, few believed that the answer to any of these questions would emerge. The story of Ms Politkovskaya’s death in 2006 and the bungling, evasive behaviour of the Russian authorities in dealing with it was just the sort of topic suited for her own fiery pen.

The jury acquitted two brothers, Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov, who were charged with acting as accomplices in the murder. A former police officer, Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, was found not guilty of organising it. Pavel Ryaguzov, a former agent with the FSB, Russia’s domestic-security service, was acquitted of a related extortion charge. But that bare summary does not do justice to the baroque mixture of intrigue, incompetence and official secrecy that followed Ms Politkovskaya’s murder.

No Justice The Economist

The obscenity of capitalism and doing something about it

February 21, 2009

I continue to be revolted by the scale of mendacity, hand-wringing, crocodile tears and ideological acrobatics coming from politicians, economists, billionaires and sections of the media about the economic crisis and the need for “bailouts”.

Lining up for food and water, Louisville, Kentucky, 1937. By Margaret Bourke-White/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images.

Lining up for food and water, Louisville, Kentucky, 1937. By Margaret Bourke-White/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images.

Who really needs a bailout? Well, according to the most recent Vanity Fair, it seems anyone one Wall Street forced to limp along on a base salary of less than $4 million a year. [VF has a great track-record on reporting the crisis – check it out]

There’s a certain obscene symmetry to capitalism. Those floating across the top like so much soapy scum often clean up while those sinking under debt and unemployment usually get cleaned out. It’s prompted me to do some creative accounting.

I think I have found a way to save the victims of the toxic debt fall out and get some moral justice karma happening for those who we should be holding accountable.

I have been thinking about this for a while and I think it’s time I offered some free (gratuitous) advice to Presidents, Prime Ministers and b(w)ankers, before things get out of hand.

So far the major banks on Wall Street, such as Merrill Lynch, have been given $125 billion dollars in tax-payer funded bailouts. That’s a lot of money and it’s not the only bag of cash on offer.

But $125 billion is a staggeringly big number. Let’s start with some smaller numbers.

When John Thain became CEO of investment bank Merrill Lynch in 2007 he got a $15 million signing-on fee. He’s since left the bank, which has been taken over by Bank of America.

At the other end of the social scale there’s Kathy Lovelace of Zephyrhills, Fla. She’s recently lost her job, now her bank wants to foreclose on her mortgage and repossess her $200,000 home.

Here’s an idea, why doesn’t John Thain pay off Ms Lovelace’s mortgage out of his signing on bonus. Let’s assume that Ms Lovelace owes her bank $175,000. If Mr Thain paid this he’d still have $14,825,000 of his sign-on fee. In fact, if Mr Thain had left his $15 million in a bank account for one year at 2% he would have earned around $300,000 in interest. So he’d still be in front of where he started and way out in front of Ms Lovelace.

I think we can apply this principle on a massive scale and save the houses of the poor working folk who are being kicked out of their homes because of the actions of men like Mr Thain.  Here’s how it might work…

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Georgia on my mind – gangsters, oil and blood

August 16, 2008

Warning: this post contains some AO language and is not really about taxi drivers at all.

I have a lot of respect for cab drivers. Most of the time they’re really well-educated and they’re all very, very  street-smart. Last night I got a ride home with Ahmad. He’s from Afghanistan and he was listening to the BBC World Service.

There were items about the conflict in Georgia and so we got to talking. It was quite funny to realise that my chat with Ahmad was the perfect dessert to my main course argument with my colleague Wayne at the Brooklyn.

Wayne and I had been talking about Russia, Georgia, gangster capitalism, transnationals and failed or failing states. Ahmad segued straight into that line of thinking off the back of the World Service reports from Georgia. Ahmad has been all over the world. He thinks the Russians are crazy and hates the American presence in his homeland. There’s a nice, balanced logic to his position and I’m instantly drawn to a stranger who’s making my journey smooth on a soggy Auckland night.

My conversations with Wayne and Ahmad  led to this little tome: gangster capitalism, the looming resource wars and ‘regime change’.

What happens when you give gangsters access to new-killer weapons of mass distraction?

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