US Loses 85,000 Jobs in December

January 11th, 2010 by Tom Eley

The US economy lost 85,000 jobs in December, the Labor Department reported Friday, the same day new major layoffs were announced by UPS and Lockheed Martin.

The ongoing destruction of jobs in what the Obama administration has touted as an economic “recovery,” is indicative of a social disaster affecting ever wider layers of the population. Friday’s report comes on top of a whole battery of recent reports showing the widespread growth of hunger, homelessness, and poverty.

The complacent talk of economic recovery and the promotion by the Obama administration of the supposed success of its policies reveal both its callous indifference to the social crisis and a deliberate policy of maintaining a high level of unemployment to weaken the resistance of the working class to attacks on its wages, working conditions and standard of living.

The December jobs report closed out an abysmal year for US workers. Job losses in 2009 totaled more than 4.2 million, and the average official unemployment rate was 9.3 percent, up from 5.8 percent in 2008—an increase of more than 60 percent. More than 15.3 million American workers are now officially unemployed, 3.9 million more than when the year began. Since December 2007, upwards of 8 million jobs have been lost.

Over the decade, the US lost 1.6 million private sector jobs and added only 400,000 jobs overall—even as the population grew by almost 10 percent—the first time since the Great Depression that the economy actually shed jobs over a ten-year period, according to Floyd Norris of the New York Times. To have kept pace with population growth, the economy would have had to generate between 12,000,000 and 15,000,000 jobs since 2000.

The official jobless rate remained at 10 percent in December, but the broader “U-6” measure of unemployment, which takes into account those who have fallen out of the workforce or are employed part-time involuntarily, increased to 17.3 percent, or more than one in six US workers, close to the record high reached in October.

The percentage of the jobless without work for six months or longer, 39.8 percent, set a new high mark in records dating back to 1948. In all, 661,000 workers fell out of the US labor force in December, the largest decline in nearly 60 years, and the labor market participation rate fell to a 25-year low of 64.6 percent from 64.9 percent in November. Had these workers been counted, the official unemployment rate would have increased to 10.4 percent. For 2009 as a whole, the US workforce shrank by 1.5 million workers, the first annual decline since 1951.

The Labor Department revised its November jobs report upwards from a loss of 11,000 to a net gain of 4,000 jobs. But this was more than offset by a 16,000-job downward revision for October, raising job losses in that month to 111,000.

More major job cuts were announced on Friday. The defense contractor Lockheed Martin said it would cut another 1,200 jobs and United Parcel Service (UPS), the world’s largest parcel delivery firm, said it would cut 1,800 management positions.

UPS reported higher-than-predicted profits along with its latest job cuts announcement. Its stock rose rapidly in response, with Standard & Poor’s upgrading UPS shares from “hold” to “buy” and the Wall Street Journal calling them “hot.” UPS had already eliminated 15,000 jobs in 2009 and ceased contributions to its employees’ 401(k) retirement accounts.

Wall Street shrugged off the worse-than-expected jobs report, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing the day slightly higher after falling in the morning.

The coupling of increased share prices with layoffs, jobs cuts and pay and benefit freezes has become commonplace in recent months. “While companies typically defend such moves as necessary to prepare for more challenging business conditions in the future, the layoffs they carry out often serve to grow profits for shareholders,” the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) pointed out Tuesday, listing a number of major corporations that have reaped hefty profits while paring down their workforces.

Yet the negative jobs report, in conjunction with bleak data from the housing market in recent days, has raised fears among economists that the US is heading for a “double dip” recession, in which an apparently recovering economy slips back into contraction.

The sectors of the economy experiencing the most job losses cast further doubt on the touted “recovery.” Job losses continued to mount in construction, which is closely tied to the housing and commercial real estate markets, and in manufacturing, which would appear to belie claims of a “bounce” in that sector. And the retail sector declined in December by 10,000 jobs, in spite of better-than-predicted consumer spending.

The government sector also lost jobs. This points once again to the inadequate character of the Obama administration’s stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), funds from which have been used to help plug holes in state budgets. Given the dire budgetary situation confronting state and local governments, it is likely that government jobs will be shed at a far higher rate in the coming months—more still after the impact of the stimulus begins to wane in the summer.

Temporary jobs grew for the fifth consecutive month, the economy adding 47,000 short-term positions in all. Some commentators view this as an indication that employers may be preparing to hire full-time workers, a scenario dependent upon continued improvement in business conditions.

The average work week remained at the near historic low of 33 hours. The work week must expand markedly before any sustained improvement in labor market conditions, analysts say. “Firms have plenty of scope to expand hours before adding new workers,” commented Sal Guatieri, an economist with BMO Financial Group.

Among demographic groups, blacks saw a sharp increase in unemployment to 16.2 percent from 15.6 percent in November and 12.1 percent one year ago. The teenage unemployment rate rose to 27.1 percent in December from 26.8 in November and 20.8 in 2008. Among black teenagers the unemployment rate was at 48.4 percent. When taken together with their labor market participation rate of just 27.5 percent, this means that only 14.2 percent of black teens have jobs.

The US December jobs report was mirrored by worse-than-expected data from Europe, also released Friday. The Eurozone saw the official unemployment rate rise to over 10 percent for the first time since the introduction of the common currency in 2002, according to Eurostat.

In France, unemployment increased to 10 percent, in Italy it held steady at 8.3 percent, in Germany it was 7.6 percent. In Spain, the fourth largest Eurozone economy, the unemployment rate was 19.4 percent, behind Latvia (22.3 percent) for the worst mark in Europe. Among Spanish workers under the age of 25, the unemployment rate stood at a staggering 43.8 percent.

The Obama administration met the latest US jobs report with scarcely concealed indifference. President Obama counseled that the “the road to recovery is never straight” but that the economy “is still pointing in the right direction,” as he announced a measure that would hand over $2.3 billion in tax credits to manufacturers to put in place “green technologies.” These would fund 180 projects and would create a grand total of 17,000 jobs, according to the administration.

Christina Romer, Obama’s chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, called the December job losses a “slight setback” when “compared with the unexpectedly good report for November.” Romer added that the report “underscores the need for responsible actions to jump-start private-sector job creation.” Romer’s references to “responsible actions” and “private-sector job creation” serve notice that the administration is not contemplating any new government stimulus or public works program.

All indications are that for America’s workers, 2010 will be even worse than 2009.

The Labor Department report confirmed the consensus view that the official unemployment rate in 2010 will remain close to, or above, 10 percent. Even should job growth occur, it would have the effect of driving up the official unemployment rate by drawing back into the hunt for jobs, and thus into the official workforce, “discouraged workers” who had given up looking.

To reverse the unemployment rate, economic growth would have to be more rapid than the 4 percent gross domestic product increase predicted by many economists for the fourth quarter of 2009, and the economy would have to add well over the 100,000 to 150,000 new jobs monthly necessary to keep pace with population growth.

It is an article of faith among economists that any sustained recovery will require a steady increase in consumer spending. Yet stagnating wages—the average hourly wage increased but three cents in December—are offset by increases in the cost of living.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) reported the average price for a gallon of gasoline in the US hit $2.70 on Thursday, the highest price in 15 months. Stressed consumers sharply cut back their debt in November, according to a Friday report from the Federal Reserve. Seasonally adjusted consumer debt declined by 8.5 percent, $17.49 billion in all, with most of the drop-off coming in credit card debt. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected a decline of $3.9 billion.

The December jobs report comes on the heels of recent data showing a sudden contraction in pending home sales, an increase in foreclosures, and a sharp increase in personal bankruptcies.

The Countdown to the Second Gaza War has Begun

January 11th, 2010 by Bradley Burston

Next week, or the week after, Barack Obama may well see intelligence reports of tank battalions moving south and west along Israeli highways, and whole infantry brigades setting up camp in the western Negev.

The countdown to the Second Gaza War has begun in earnest. Date it, if you like, to Sunday, and a coolly terrifying analysis by Yom Tov Samia, former overall Israeli military commander of the Gaza Strip and the adjacent Negev.

Or date it, if you prefer, according to the axiom of contemporary Israeli history which reads: A future war becomes all but inevitable the moment a key IDF reserve major general declares it so.

Alternatively, date it from the moment that selective amnesia allows Israeli political figures to court the illusion that Hamas can be invaded to death.

All this and more was to be had from an interview Samia gave Army Radio this week, which should give pause not only to the Palestinians and Israelis who may fall victim to a Second Gaza War, but to Washington as well.

If last year’s brutal fighting is any indication – and there is every reason to believe that it is – a full-on drive to prevent the looming Israel-Hamas confrontation in the Strip belongs at the top tier of Obama’s already staggering pile of priorities.

Another Gaza war, this one likely to be an even more bitter onslaught, could not only prove lethal to what is left of Israeli moral credibility, it could undermine and cripple Obama’s military-political offensives in Iraq, Afghanistan and, slipping further down the slope, Yemen.

If Obama still nurses hopes of brokering a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, his first task must be defusing the war wagon before it once again engulfs Gaza – and, this time around, Tel Aviv as well. As it is, war in Gaza has shifted Israel’s political landscape, and not in Obama’s favor.

The 2005 disengagement from Gaza, with its resultant rocket fire against the Negev and lack of any peace dividend, proved a huge blow to the Israeli left. But it was the Gaza offensive a year ago, a war supported at first even by Meretz, that was the end. It was the end of Meretz, the end of the Labor Party, the end of a leftist alliance with Israeli Arab parties.

Can Barak Obama stop the coming war in Gaza? Only if he acts fast. And only if his advisors study and apply with care lessons from the last war, in particular the period which immediately preceded it.

One logical place to start is another analysis, also broadcast by the IDF radio station, this one five days before the last war began. It was by Shmuel Zakai, a retired brigadier general who served under Samia and later commanded the IDF’s Gaza Division.

Zakai urged a fundamental reappraisal of how Israelis should regard Hamas. At heart, “The State of Israel must understand that Hamas rule in Gaza is a fact, and it is with that government that we must reach a situation of calm.”

Should he wholly adopt the peacemakers’s role, Obama has resources and conditions which were unavailable a year ago.

It is, of course, no coincidence that what may prove a crucial test of the Obama administration coincides with the anniversary of his taking office. Cast Lead, pointedly launched at the interregnum between the outgoing Bush administration and the incoming Obama White House, ended with a unilateral Israeli case fire barely 48 hours before the president-elect took the oath of office.

At the time, a scandal-plagued, lethally unpopular prime minister desperate to redeem a reputation for military misjudgment that complemented his record of personal malfeasance, took advantage of a power vacuum in Washington to mount a war that failed to achieve any of its stated objectives, casting Israel, in the world’s eye, as an unapologetic aggressor.

This time around, the Obama administration has a number of elements in its favor. One is the present predicament of Hamas, which has promised its constituents a prisoner release in exchange for captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit and, having greatly raised expectations across the Palestinian territories, has yet to deliver. Hamas, ever-attuned to Palestinian public opinion, can also ill afford another devastating campaign in the ravaged Strip so soon after Cast Lead.

Another is a potentially proactive and newly constructive role on the part of Egypt, which until recently has sat largely passive, if apprehensive, on the sidelines. Analysts have said Egypt’s huge iron wall project now underway along the border between Gaza and Egyptian Sinai sends a strong message to both Hamas and Israel.

With Samia hinting that in a new war the IDF might capture and occupy the tunnel-honeycombed Philadelphi Corridor which borders the new wall, Professor Yoram Meital of the Negev’s Ben-Gurion University said this week that to Israel, “The message is that Egypt is setting out a border, and views any effort to touch it as an attack on its national security.”

“To Hamas they are saying ‘We will not under any circumstances lend our hand to the establishment of a mini-state in the Gaza Strip,’ and are thus closing the Rafiah crossing nearly hermetically, and erecting the iron wall in the bowels of the earth.'”

One of the most important lessons of last year’s bloodletting is that war or no war, Hamas and only Hamas decides when and if rockets are to be fired from Gaza into Israel. Rockets flew throughout the three-week war, and stopped only at Hamas’ order, several hours after Israel stilled its guns.

The mayor of rocket-scarred Sderot, David Buskila, said this week that, “By the close of Operation Cast Lead, we understood that the military solution cannot be a comprehensive one, it’s a solution that can create breaks between escalations.”

In the end, Israel holds perhaps the most significant card to play, a move which may depend on a uncharacteristically hands-on Obama White House. With third-party international mediation, Israel could offer to resurrect the 2008 truce by significantly alleviating its stranglehold embargo on the Strip.

To decide to do that, however, Israel would also have to abandon its longtime belief in firepower as a lever to bend Gaza to its will. And that means abandoning reasoning that goes precisely like this:

Samia: “The State of Israel is not doing this to replace the regime in Gaza. The State of Israel is doing this because [of] a situation in which Hamas controls the Gaza Strip and the basis of its world view is to annihilate the State of Israel and to fire on schools and kindergartens and to carry out terror attacks in restaurants.

“For the State of Israel, it doesn’t matter if Hamas calls itself a regime or a just a terror organization it’s a terrorist organization in every way, and we must deal with it and annihilate it.

“If, at the same opportunity, the moderates rise and come to power, that’s good enough for us, we’ll be pleased.”

Future Air Security Could Involve Mind-Reading Technology

January 11th, 2010 by Global Research

Editor’s note

The following AP report acknowledges the Obama administration’s intent to implement the adoption of mind reading technology at US airports, including sensors and lie detectors, which would be used to screen passengers.

CHICAGO — A would-be terrorist tries to board a plane, bent on mass murder. As he walks through a security checkpoint, fidgeting and glancing around, a network of high-tech machines analyzes his body language and reads his mind.

Screeners pull him aside.

Tragedy is averted.

As far-fetched as that sounds, systems that aim to get inside an evildoer’s head are among the proposals floated by security experts thinking beyond the X-ray machines and metal detectors used on millions of passengers and bags each year.

Yesterday, in the wake of the Christmas Day bombing attempt over Detroit, President Barack Obama called on Homeland Security and the Energy Department to develop better screening technology, warning: “In the never-ending race to protect our country, we have to stay one step ahead of a nimble adversary.”

The ideas that have been offered by security experts for staying one step ahead include highly sophisticated sensors, more intensive interrogations of travelers by screeners trained in human behavior, and a lifting of U.S. prohibitions against profiling.

Some of the more unusual ideas are already being tested. Some aren’t being given any serious consideration. Many raise troubling questions about civil liberties. All are costly.

“Regulators need to accept that the current approach is outdated,” said Philip Baum, editor of the London-based magazine Aviation Security International. “It may have responded to the threats of the 1960s, but it doesn’t respond to the threats of the 21st century.”

Here’s a look at some of the ideas that could shape the future of airline security:

MIND READERS

The aim of one company that blends high technology and behavioral psychology is hinted at in its name, WeCU — as in “We See You.”

The system that Israeli-based WeCU Technologies has devised and is testing in Israel projects images onto airport screens, such as symbols associated with a certain terrorist group or some other image only a would-be terrorist would recognize, company CEO Ehud Givon said.

The logic is that people can’t help reacting, even if only subtly, to familiar images that suddenly appear in unfamiliar places. If you strolled through an airport and saw a picture of your mother, Givon explained, you couldn’t help but respond.

The reaction could be a darting of the eyes, an increased heartbeat, a nervous twitch or faster breathing, he said.

The WeCU system would use humans to do some of the observing but would rely mostly on hidden cameras or sensors that can detect a slight rise in body temperature and heart rate. Far more sensitive devices under development that can take such measurements from a distance would be incorporated later.

If the sensors picked up a suspicious reaction, the traveler could be pulled out of line for further screening.

“One by one, you can screen out from the flow of people those with specific malicious intent,” Givon said.

Some critics have expressed horror at the approach, calling it Orwellian and akin to “brain fingerprinting.”

For civil libertarians, attempting to read a person’s thoughts comes uncomfortably close to the future world depicted in the movie “Minority Report,” where a policeman played by Tom Cruise targets people for “pre-crimes,” or merely thinking about breaking the law.

LIE DETECTORS

One system being studied by Homeland Security is called the Future Attribute Screening Technology, or FAST, and works like a souped-up polygraph.

It would subject people pulled aside for additional screening to a battery of tests, including scans of facial movements and pupil dilation, for signs of deception. Small platforms similar to the balancing boards used in the Nintendo Wii would help detect fidgeting.

At a public demonstration of the system in Boston last year, project manager Robert Burns explained that people who harbor ill will display involuntary physiological reactions that others — such as those who are stressed out for ordinary reasons, such as being late for a plane — don’t.

The system could be made to work passively, scanning people as they walk through a security line, according to Burns.

Field testing of the system, which will cost around $20 million to develop, could begin in 2011, The Boston Globe said in a story about the demonstration. Addressing one concern of civil libertarians, Burns said the technology would delete data after each screening.

 

THE ISRAELI MODEL

Some say the U.S. should take a page from Israel’s book on security.

At Israeli airports, widely considered the most secure in the world, travelers are subjected to probing personal questions as screeners look them straight in the eye for signs of deception. Searches are meticulous, with screeners often scrutinizing every item in a bag, unfolding socks, squeezing toothpaste and flipping through books.

“All must look to Israel and learn from them. This is not a post-911 thing for them. They’ve been doing this since 1956,” said Michael Goldberg, president of New York-based IDO Security Inc., which developed a device that can scan shoes for hidden weapons while they are still on people’s feet.

Israel also employs profiling: At Ben-Gurion Airport, Jewish Israelis typically pass through smoothly, while others may be taken aside for closer interrogation or even strip searches. Another distinquishing feature of Israeli airports is that they rely on concentric security rings that start miles from terminal buildings.

Rafi Ron, the former security director at Israel’s famously tight Ben Gurion International Airport who now is a consultant for Boston’s Logan International Airport, says U.S. airports also need to be careful not to overcommit to securing passenger entry points at airports, forgetting about the rest of the field.

“Don’t invest all your efforts on the front door and leave the back door open,” Ron said.

While many experts agree the United States could adopt some Israeli methods, few believe the overall model would work here, in part because of the sheer number of large U.S. airports — around 400, versus half a dozen in Israel.

Also, the painstaking searches and interrogations would create delays that could bring U.S. air traffic to a standstill. And many Americans would find the often intrusive and intimidating Israeli approach repugnant.
 

PROFILING

Some argue that policies against profiling undermine security.

Baum, who is also managing director of Green Light Limited, a London-based aviation security company, agrees profiling based on race and religion is counterproductive and should be avoided. But he argues that a reluctance to distinguish travelers on other grounds — such as their general appearance or their mannerisms — is not only foolhardy but dangerous.

“When you see a typical family — dressed like a family, acts like a family, interacts with each other like a family … when their passport details match — then let’s get them through,” he said. “Stop wasting time that would be much better spent screening the people that we’ve got more concerns about.”

U.S. authorities prohibit profiling of passengers based on ethnicity, religion or national origin. Current procedures call for travelers to be randomly pulled out of line for further screening.

Scrutinizing 80-year-old grandmothers or students because they might be carrying school scissors can defy common sense, Baum said.

“We need to use the human brain — which is the best technology of them all,” he said.

But any move to relax prohibitions against profiling in the U.S. would surely trigger fierce resistance, including legal challenges by privacy advocates.

 

PRIVATIZATION

What if security were left to somebody other than the federal government?

Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the Washington-based Cato Institute, a free-market-oriented think tank, says airlines should be allowed take charge of security at airports.

Especially since 9/11, the trend has been toward standardizing security procedures to ensure all airports follow the best practices. But Harper argues that decentralizing the responsibility would result in a mix of approaches — thereby making it harder for terrorists to use a single template in planning attacks.

“Passengers, too, prefer a uniform experience,” he said. “But that’s not necessarily the best security. It’s better if sometimes we take your laptop out, sometimes we’ll pat you down. Those are things that will really drive a terrorist batty — as if they’re not batty already.”

Harper concedes that privatizing airport security is probably wishful thinking, and the idea has not gotten any traction. He acknowledges it would be difficult to allay fears of gaping security holes if it were left to each airline or airport owner to decide its own approach.

When I first heard the sensationalized news reports of the Christmas Day terror attack against the Detroit airport, I felt I must be missing something.

The panic and fear generated by those early reports manifested itself in ramped-up security and massive delays at all North American airports.

The fact that the apprehended suspect — Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab — was a member of al-Qaida’s Nigerian franchise, and that he chose Christmas Day to launch his attack was, in the opinion of Fox News analysts, enough to proclaim that the Christian world was under full assault.

Last week, it was announced that one of the charges laid against Abdulmutallab was “possession of a weapon of mass destruction.”

President Barack Obama was so alarmed by this security breach that he ordered his intelligence agencies to conduct a full review of their procedures.

In the immediate aftermath of Abdulmutullab’s one-man blitzkrieg, no airline passengers travelling to the United States were allowed any carry-on luggage, reading material was forbidden on flights and there is to be no access to the aisles or washrooms for a full hour prior to landing.

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority took advantage of this climate of fear to inform the flying public that starting next month, the so-called “nude scanner” will be implemented at all major airports.

Because that is a heck of a lot of amenity and convenience — not to mention privacy — being taken from travellers in a short span of time, I think perhaps a little cause-and-effect assessment is in order.

While only a few people are still discussing the details of the incident, what appears to have transpired is that Abdulmutallab had stored a few ounces of a liquid chemical inside his underpants.

As Northwest Airlines Flight 253, en route from Amsterdam, began its descent into the Detroit airport, the Nigerian extremist ignited his “bomb.”

Obviously, the device did not explode, but it did apparently cause burns to Abdulmutallab’s legs, and to the hands and arms of those passengers who quickly overpowered him.

One cannot help but compare this latest incident with the Dec. 22, 2001, shoe bomber attack, which briefly paralyzed air travel around the world eight years ago.

With the U.S. still reeling from the 9-11 attacks and the anthrax scare only three months earlier, Richard Colvin Reid’s antics caused an incredibly disproportionate panic among the masses.

A luckless, petty crook, Reid may have been an imaginative nut job, but he was no bomb maker.

Halfway through an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami, a stewardess witnessed Reid trying to ignite his shoe. Other crew members and passengers overpowered the six-foot-four Reid, and a small amount of plastic explosive was found in the heels of his shoes.

Without a detonator, this substance would have simply burned fiercely but would not detonate or explode. Reid did not possess a working bomb, but nevertheless he pleaded guilty to “possessing a weapon of mass destruction.”

His legacy, of course, has been the enforced shoe removal and scanning at all U.S. airports. (Canada quietly stopped this being a mandatory requirement several years ago).

What we need to keep in mind is that terror as a weapon can only truly be measured by the response it generates.

Neither the underpants bomber nor the shoe bomber succeeded in seriously harming anyone, yet by virtue of the fear that they invoked, they will effectively cause both inconvenience and grief for millions of airline passengers for years to come.

At the height of the German Blitz in the Second World War, the residents of Britain did not allow the nightly air raids to break their spirit.

They showed their collective defiance by carrying on with their normal routine.

When I was in Belgrade, Serbia, during the NATO air bombardment in 1999, I witnessed the Serbs putting on target T-shirts and flocking to the bridges each night to present themselves as human shields. That’s collective defiance.

As a frequent flier, I must confess that I fear that the next would-be attacker hides their bomb internally. Such a weapon of mass destruction would surely result in mandatory cavity searches, which would be terrifying.

Scott Taylor is an author and editor of Esprit de Corps magazine. He can be reached at [email protected]

French doctor and author of a book on the swine flu scam, Marc Girard, has declared victory in the information battle in Europe surrounding the swine flu vaccine following the decision by the French government to cancel 50 million doses and abandon the vaccine centers under intense political pressure.

Some other key turning points in the campaign were:

*the decision by the German army in September to refuse to take the toxic Baxter Celvapan jab forcing Baxter to drop mercury and adjuvants at the last moment when seeking EU approval for its vaccine and so triggering a  storm of protest inside Germany about the two classes of vaccines with and without adjuvants.

*protests by Belgium citizens groups stopping a parliamentary law allowing forced vaccination to go through.

*the announcement by the Polish Health Minister and family doctor Ewa Kopacz that she would order the inadequately tested jab for Poland

*the legal action by Marc Vercoutere and Christian Cotton that forced French Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot to start to account, through her lawyer, in a Paris court on January 4th for the swine flu campaign irregularities.

“In the flu affair, by the sole force of the internet and an unprecedented majority, the citizens have won: against the lobbies supported by the large media, and in spite of the objective collusion of all the politicans – including those who are today calling for a commission of inquiry. The time has already come to think about the time after the flu and to reflect on the factors that allowed such a scandal possible.”

“Dans l’affaire de la grippe, par la seule force d’internet et à une majorité sans précédent, les citoyens ont gagné : contre les lobbies soutenus par tous les grands médias, et malgré la collusion objective de tous les politiques – incluant ceux qui réclament aujourd’hui une commission d’enquête. Il est déjà temps de penser l’après-grippe et de réfléchir aux facteurs qui ont rendu possible un tel scandale. Réalisée dans des conditions techniques précaires imposées  par une situation que tout le monde connaît, la vidéo qui suit vise à susciter une réflexion citoyenne sur la question centrale des conflits d’intérêts.

http://www.rolandsimion.org/spip.php?article108   Bonne écoute – bonne réflexion… Marc Girard”

However, while we, in Europe, have beyond a doubt achieved a fantastic victory, much remains to be done to stop the swine flu jabs being sent to developing countries, among other things.

Also, we need to start legal actions and insist on parliamentary inquries to identify those responsible for this scam.

Since this is the same international corporate crime syndicate organised around the Bilderbergs that is also responsible for Codex Alimentatarius, GMO foods, poisoning us through water and other means, as well as for the financial crisis and instigating numerous false flag terrorist attacks and wars (Afghanistan, Iraq and now Yemen), there is a unique opportunity to deal with a multitude of problems by systematically dismantling the power structure of this group.

Desperate Lives in the Global Economy

January 11th, 2010 by Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin

Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin (pronounced Kee-veen O Cree-awn) is a prominent Irish artist who has exhibited widely around Ireland. His work consists of drawings and paintings and features cityscapes of Dublin, images based on Irish history and other work with social/political themes.

The paintings below illustrate the devastating social consequences of globalization and the impoverishment resulting from the “free market” economy.

Visit his web site http://gaelart.net/.  He can be reached at [email protected] .

A series of oil paintings examining the daily existence of people making a living in the worst working and living conditions in the global economy.


Aftermath of Suicide Bomber, Morgue in Rawalpindi, Pakistan
Oil on canvas (150cm x 150cm / 59.1 in x 59.1 in)

A man looking for relatives at a morgue in Rawalpindi in Pakistan after a suicide bombing in which at least 35 people were killed and dozens more wounded in November 2009. Soldiers and civilians had gathered outside a branch of the National Bank of Pakistan to collect their monthly salaries and pension payments when the bomb exploded. 

Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya
Oil on canvas (150cm x 150cm / 59.1 in x 59.1 in)

Kibera is the second largest urban slum in Africa (after Soweto in South Africa) with a population estimated at between 600,000 and 1.2 million inhabitants.  It is located in southwest Nairobi, about 5 kilometers from the city centre.  Improving the situation for the people who live there has been beset by problems such as petty and serious crime, difficult vehicle access, and the lack of building foundations as much of the ground is composed of refuse and rubbish.

Favela, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Oil on canvas (150cm x 150cm / 59.1 in x 59.1 in)

Many favelas in Rio de Janeiro are shanty towns built up the side of hills with access only by stairs and narrow pathways.  They are affected by landslides in heavy rain and their inhabitants regularly have to face the problems of drug wars and petty crime. Many were constructed in the 1970s when a construction boom attracted rural workers from poorer states in Brazil. It is estimated that about 19 per cent of Rio de Janeiro’s population is living in one of 600 favelas around the city.

Dharavi Slum, Mumbai, India
Oil on canvas (150cm x 150cm / 59.1 in x 59.1 in)

While Dharavi has been featured in films such as Danny Boyle’s 2008 film Slumdog Millionaire, the difficulties such as sanitation issues, an inadequate water supply, overcrowding and poverty faced by people who live there are some of the worst in the world.  It is estimated that around 1 million people live in Dharavi making it one of the largest slum in Asia.

Soldering Circuit Boards, Toy Factory Shantou, Guangdong, China
Oil on canvas (150cm x 150cm / 59.1 in x 59.1 in)

Factory conditions in China have come under much criticism for issues such as subsistence wages, long working days, seven day weeks and illegal overtime hours. In some cases workers need permission to leave the factory grounds and live in cramped conditions sharing large dorms. Foreign investors, who have a huge presence in China, often violate the most fundamental human and worker rights. Opposition to such conditions can lead to being fired, or even arrest and imprisonment.

Phone Recycling, Mumbai, India
Oil on canvas (150cm x 150cm / 59.1 in x 59.1 in)

In many slums around Mumbai people worked in traditional industries such as pottery and textiles. Now there is a growing recycling industry processing waste from other parts of Mumbai. Many of these industries are carried out in one-roomed factories manufacturing products that are distributed globally. While there have been some projects set up to improve living conditions, Dharavi remains a source of cheap labor for local and foreign investors.

Rubbish Dump Recycling, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Oil on canvas (150cm x 150cm / 59.1 in x 59.1 in)

It is believed that over 3000 scavengers live and work around the Stung Meanchey municipal rubbish dump situated on the outskirts of Cambodia’s capital city Phnom Penh. Many of the scavengers are children who have to leave school to earn money for their families. They work up to 14 hours a day looking for glass, plastic, metal and any other materials which can be recycled. Fumes from burning rubbish, dirty needles, flies and truck accidents pose huge threats to the safety and health of the workers there. 

Ship Dismantling, Alang Shipyard, India
Oil on canvas (150cm x 150cm / 59.1 in x 59.1 in)

Many ships such as supertankers, car ferries and container ships are dismantled on the beach at Alang in the state of Gujarat, on the west coast of India.  Thousands of people work in this industry and millions of tons of steel and other materials are recovered and then sold as scrap. However, it is a very dangerous business and the process maims and kills many workers each year and the shoreline is contaminated with oily waste, asbestos, toxic paint and other toxic materials.

New Development: The German President of the Health Committee of the Council of Europe, Wolfgang Wodarg, is issuing accusations against the pharmaceutical lobbies and the governments. He has intitiated the start of an investigation by that body concerning the role played by the pharmaceutical in the campaign of panic about the virus.

 

Ex-member of the SPD, Wolfgang Wodarg is a doctor and epidemiologist. His request for a commission of inquiry into the role of pharmaceutical companies in the management of swine flu outbreak by WHO and the nation states was granted unanimously by the members of the Health Committee of the Council of Europe…

What made you suspicious about the influence of pharmaceutical companies had on the decisions being taken in respect of swine flu?

Wolfgang Wodarg. We are facing a major failure of national institutions responsible for warning about risks and responding in case a pandemic occurs. In April when the first alarm came from Mexico I was very surprised at the figures furnished by the World Health Organization (WHO) to justify the declaration of a pandemic. I was immediately suspicious: the numbers were very low and the alarm level very high. There were not even into a thousand patients when there was already talk of the pandemic of the century. And the alert was decreed extreme based on the fact that the virus was new. But the characteristic of influenza disease is to develop very quickly with viruses which take on new forms each time, by dwelling in new hosts, animal, human etc.

There was nothing new in itself to that. Each year a new virus of this “flu” type appears. In reality there was no reason to sound the alarm at this level. This was only possible because in early May the WHO changed its definition of a pandemic. Before that date there had to be not only a disease which had broke out in several countries at once but also one that had very serious consequences with the number of deaths above the usual average. This aspect was removed from the new definition, to retain the rate of spread of disease as the only criteria. And they claimed that the virus was dangerous because people had not been able to develop immunity against it. Which was false for this virus. Because it was observed that people aged over 60 years already had antibodies. That is to say they had already been in contact with similar viruses. That is why also there are virtually no people aged over 60 who have developed the disease. Yet those were the people who were recommended to be vaccinated quickly.

Among the things that aroused my suspicions there was therefore on one side this determination to sound the alarm. And on the other side, some curious facts. Such as, for example, the recommendation by WHO to carry out two injections for vaccines. That had never been done before. There was no scientific justification for this. There was also the recommendation to use only special patented vaccines. There was however no reason for not adding, as it is done every year, specific antiviral particles of this new H1N1 virus, “completing” the vaccine used for seasonal influenza. This was not done because they preferred to use patented vaccine materials that major laboratories had designed and manufactured to be ready in case of a pandemic developing. And by proceeding in this way they did not hesitate to endanger the persons vaccinated.

What danger?

Wolfgang Wodarg. To provide products rapidly, adjuvants were used in some vaccines, whose effects have not been adequately tested. In other words, they wanted absolutely to use these new patented products instead of developing vaccines according to traditional methods of production which are much simpler, more reliable and less costly. There was no medical reason for this. It was only for marketing purposes.

How could anyone justify that?

Wolfgang Wodarg. To understand we must return to the episode of avian influenza from 2005 to 2006. It was then that new international plans were defined for dealing with a pandemic alarm. These plans were officially developed to ensure rapid manufacturing of vaccines in case of an alert. This led to negotiations between pharmaceutical companies and governments. On the one hand the labs committed themselves to keep ready to develop the preparations, on the other hand, states assured them they would buy them all. After this strange deal the pharmaceutical industry took no economic risk by engaging in new fabrications. And it was sure to touch the jack pot in the case of a pandemic outbreak.

Do you disagree with the diagnoses and even the potential severity of influenza A?

  

Wolfgang Wodarg. Yes, it’s just a normal kind of flu. It does not cause a tenth of deaths caused by the classic seasonal flu. All that mattered and that led to the great campaign of panic which we have seen was that it was a golden opportunity for representatives from labs who knew they would hit the jackpot in the case of a pandemic being declared. 

Those are very serious accusations you’re making. How was such a process made possible within the WHO?

Wolfgang Wodarg. A group of people in the WHO is associated very closely with the pharmaceutical industry.

Will the investigation by the Council of Europe also work in this direction?

Wolfgang Wodarg. We want to clarify everything that brought about this massive operation of disinformation. We want to know who made decisions, on the basis of what evidence and precisely how the influence of the pharmaceutical industry came to bear on the decision-making. And the time has come at last for us to make demands on governments. The purpose of the inquiry is so that there are no more false alarms of this type in the future. So that the people may rely on the analysis and the expertise of national and international public institutions. The latter are now discredited, because millions of people have been vaccinated with products with inherent possible health risks. This was not necessary. It has also led to a considerable mismanagement of public money.

Do you have any concrete figures on the extent of this mismanagement?

Wolfgang Wodarg. In Germany it comes to 700 million euros. But it is very difficult to know the exact figures because we are talking on one side about vaccines resold to foreign countries and most firms do not communicate due to the principle of respect for “business secret” regarding the amounts in contracts concluded with States and any indemnification clauses contained therein.

Will the work of “lobbying” by pharma companies on the National Institutes of Health also be dealt with by the investigation of the Council of Europe?

Wolfgang Wodarg. Yes we will examine the attitude of institutions like the Robert Koch Institute in Germany or Pasteur in France who should in fact have advised their governments from a critical standpoint. In some countries certain institutions have done so. In Finland and Poland, for example, critical voices were raised to say: “we do not need that.

  

Has the tremendous global operation of disinformation also been possible because the pharmaceutical industry had “representatives” even within the governments of the most powerful countries?

Wolfgang Wodarg. As regards the ministries, that seems to me to be obvious. I can not explain how specialists, very smart people who know the problems of the influenza disease by heart, did not notice what was happening.

So what happened?

Wolfgang Wodarg. Without going as far as saying direct corruption, which I am certain does exist, there were many ways for labs to exercise their influence over decisions. A very concrete example, is how Klaus Stöhr, who was the head of the epidemiological department of the WHO at the time of bird flu, and who therefore prepared the plans to cope with a pandemic that I mentioned above, in the meantime had become a top executive of the company Novartis. And similar links between Glaxo and Baxter, etc. and influential members of the WHO. These large firms have “their people” in the cogs and then they pull strings so that the right policy decisions are taken. That is to say, the ones that will allow them to pump as much money from taxpayers.

But if your survey succeeds, will it not be a support for citizens to insist their governments demand accountability from these large groups?

 
Wolfgang Wodarg. Yes, you’re right, this is one of the major issues related to this investigation. States could indeed take advantage of this to contest contracts drawn up in, let us say, improper conditions. If it can be shown that it was under the influence of firms that the process was initiated then they will have to be push to ask for reimbursement. But that’s just the financial side, there is also the human side, persons who were vaccinated with products that were inadequately tested.
 

So what kind of risk have these healthy people unknowingly taken by getting vaccinated?

Wolfgang Wodarg. Again, the vaccines were developed too quickly, some adjuvants were insufficiently tested. But there is worse to come. The vaccine developed by Novartis was produced in a bioreactor from cancerous cells. A technique that had never been used until now.

Why, I’m obviously not an expert, but how can one claim to make a vaccine from diseased cells?

Wolfgang Wodarg. Normally one uses chicken eggs on which viruses are grown. We need in fact to work on living cells. Because viruses can only multiply in this way and so do, by definition, the virus preparations that go with it. But this process has a big flaw, it is slow and it takes a lot of eggs. And it is long and complex technically. Another potentially excellent technique is to grow the virus in living cells in bioreactors. This requires cells which grow and divide very quickly. It’s a bit like the method used to culture yogurt, which is also produced in a bio-reactor. but in this context the cell was so upset in its environment and its growth that it grows like a cancer cell. And it is on these rapidly multiplying cells that they grow the virus. But to manufacture the vaccine the virus must be re-extracted from these cells on which they were implanted. And it can therefore happen that during the manufacturing process of the vaccine, residue of cancerous cells remain in the preparation. In the same way as it happens in conventional manufacturing with eggs. Thus we know that in the case of a classic influenza vaccination, side effects can occur in people who are allergic to egg albumin found in egg white. It can not be excluded that proteins, remains of a cancer cell present in a vaccine produced by bio-reactor, may generate a tumour on the person vaccinated. According to a true principle of precaution, before such a product is allowed on the market, there should therefore be 100% certainty that such effects are actually excluded.

And wasn’t this done?

Wolfgang Wodarg. It was not. The EMEA (European Medicines Agency), an institution under the responsibility of the European Commissioner for Economic Affairs, based in London, which gives permission to release vaccines on the market in Europe, gave the green light for commercializing this product arguing, namely, that this mode of manufacture was not a “significant” risk. This was very differently appreciated by many experts here in Germany and by an independent drug institution, which instead sounded the alert and voiced their objections. I took these warnings seriously. I studied the case and intervened in the context of the Bundestag health committee of which I was a member so that the vaccine would not be used in Germany. I made it known that I was certainly not opposed to the development of vaccines with this technique. But first it had to have a total guarantee of innocuousness. The product has therefore not been used in Germany where the government terminated the contract with Novartis.

What is the name of this vaccine?

Wolfgang Wodarg. Obta flu.

But that means that in other European countries like France the product can be marketed without any problem?

Wolfgang Wodarg. Yes, it obtained permission from EMEA and can be used anywhere in the EU.

What alternative do you intend to propose so that further scandals of this type are avoided?

Wolfgang Wodarg. The WHO should be more transparent, so we know clearly who decides and what type of relationship exists between participants in the organization. It should also be flanked by at least one elected chamber, which should be able to react very critically and where everyone can express themselves. This enhanced public scrutiny is essential.

Isn’t the question of another system capable of handling a matter which is in fact a common good for citizens across the planet coming to the surface?

Wolfgang Wodarg. Can we go on allowing the production of vaccines and the conduct of these productions to organizations whose goal is to win as much money as possible? Or is the production of vaccines not something that States must absolutely monitor and implement themselves? That’s why I think we should abandon the system of patents on vaccines. That is to say, the possibility of monopolization of vaccine production by a large group. For this option requires that we sacrifice thousands of lives, simply in the name of respect for these monopoly rights. You’re right, that particular claim has become evident for me.

 
Interview by Bruno Odent translated into English by Carolyn Dunning.

To read the original article in French click here

Council of Europe’s motion for a recommendation: Faked Pandemics — a threat for health

Put in a New Pitcher: Time to Fire Tiny Tim Geithner

January 11th, 2010 by Danny Schechter

When a pitcher gets tired, starts throwing walks or being hit, most attentive managers take him out of the game. When policies fail, as in the case of the security system that didn’t work to spot the alleged Christmas bomber, the President starts acting tough with bluster about the buck stopping here and orders to straighten out a failed system.

But when tens of thousands of workers, once again, lose their jobs, the people responsible get winked at, not wanked. The President is contrite, his rhetoric subdued, even as the recovery he keeps talking about goes south.

Yes, there needs to be a cabinet shake-up. It’s time to yank tiny Tim Geithner from the game along with advisor Larry Summers. Their pro-bank, pro-Wall Street policies are failing. Isn’t it obvious?

The Establishment will lean towards a Republican to replace him like FDIC Chairman Sheila Bear who has proven to be far more competent and outspoken than her counterparts.

Geithner is a Trilateralist toadie, a servant and stalking horse for the people responsible for the meltdown. It’s time to say “sayonara,” and appoint someone with the people’s interest at heart. There is no shortage of capable and committed Democratic economists that can replace him. How about Elizabeth Warren or Joe Stiglitz or Brooksley Born or Simon Johnson or even, for op-ed’s sake, Paul Krugman?

Even Wall Streeters know Geithner is a dead man walking. Bruce Krasting, a foreign exchange and derivatives veteran writes on Naked Capitalism: “Tim Geithner has outlived his usefulness. He is too connected to the bailouts of 08. Bear, Lehman, AIG, TARP and even QE are all part of his legacy. That makes Tim a lightening rod. Too many Americans hate that part of our history.

“I don’t think the current flap relating to the deliberate ‘non-disclosure’ of information relating to AIG is that big a deal. When the full history of this period is finally told (it will take awhile yet) this particular transgression of Mr. Geithner will look small by comparison. The things that we do not yet know about the that ‘agreed to’ during the ‘crisis period’ are going to cause us to roll our eyes and bow our heads when all is said and done.”

Now, there will be hearings to see what Tim knew and when he forgot he knew it. Market Watch says he is “ankle deep in the AIG quicksand.” A deceptive defense is being crafted, as Bloomberg reports.

Timothy Geithner, the former Federal Reserve Bank of New York president, wasn’t aware of efforts to limit American International Group Inc.’s bailout disclosures because the regulator’s top lawyer didn’t think the issue merited his attention, according to a letter sent to lawmakers.

“Matters relating to AIG securities law disclosures were not brought to the attention of Mr. Geithner,” Thomas Baxter, general counsel of the New York Fed, said today in a letter to Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican. “In my judgment as the New York Fed’s chief legal officer, disclosure matters of this nature did not warrant the attention of the president.”

Why is the media so quiet on the Geithner front? Cenk Uygur wrote about the way rightwing channels are giving him a pass:

“if it was anyone else that had screwed up one tenth of what Geithner has, it would be running on a 24/7 loop on Fox News. Geithner gave away over $62 billion to the top banks in the country in secret, tried to cover it up and at the very least overpaid these banks by $13 billion. And that’s just the latest in a series of scandals, with all the same theme – Geithner gives away taxpayer money to the richest (and most culpable) guys in the country. Ah, there it is.

If the right-wing goes after Geithner, then they’re going after the banks and the billions in taxpayer money they received. The right-wing media in this country have no interest in attacking big money, big corporations or big banks. So, while they’ll talk about how Janet Napolitano should be fired for misspeaking for ten straight days, Geithner is remarkably bullet-proof. Why? Because they actually love what he’s doing.”

And now the White House has joined the cover-up. Read this exchange between CNN’s Ed Henry and Obama news flack Robert Gibbs, and weep:

“Q: Robert, Does the White House believe that Secretary Geithner should testify on the Hill, turn over any documents he has, to sort of clear this up?

MR. GIBBS: Ed, I’d point you to the Treasury Department. I’m sure you’ve already talked to them. Secretary Geithner was not involved in any of these emails. These decisions did not rise to his level at the Fed. These are emails and decisions made by officials at an independent regulatory agency —

Q: But how do you know that he wasn’t involved? He was the leader of the New York Fed.

MR. GIBBS: Right, but he wasn’t on the emails that have been talked about and wasn’t party to the decision that was being made.

Q: Well, Republican Congressman Issa says there are probably thousands of more emails and he may not be on some that some people have looked at. In the interest of transparency would the White House want more — I mean, you run AIG now, essentially –

MR. GIBBS: I would point you to the Department of Treasury, which I think will tell you that –

Q: But what does the White House believe?

MR. GIBBS: I just gave you what the White House believes.

What should we believe? Perhaps another investigation that gets underway this week may offer some answers. Its lacks the power and zeal of the independent Pecora Commission appointed by FDR to probe the causes of the Crash of ’29, but it will at least raise some questions. It is, unfortunately, modeled on the 911 Commission that was subverted by the Bush Administration and ended up raising more questions than it answered.

Reports the New York Times:

“The commission, comprising six Democrats and four Republicans, has summoned four heads of big banks to testify on Wednesday at the panel’s first substantive hearing: Lloyd C. Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, John J. Mack of Morgan Stanley and Brian T. Moynihan of Bank of America.

“There is a deep hunger out there, on behalf of the American people, to understand what happened,” the commission’s chairman, Phil Angelides, said in an interview on Friday. “It arises out of anger, confusion and anxiety about their own future. This will be, in a real sense, the only public forum for examination of this crisis.” Writes columnist Frank Rich, “Americans must be told the full story of how Wall Street gamed and inflated the housing bubble, made out like bandits, and then left millions of households in ruin.”

But the Times also reports that the banks and their lobbying arms have been working overtime to prepare testimony that will defect all the blame away from them. Will the commission and the media challenge this disinformation?

“Bank employees worked through the holidays preparing testimony and drawing up potential questions that will be asked of their chiefs. The hearings will occur in the middle of the 2009 bonus season, and executives are bracing for questions about the paychecks that many firms will dispense.”

They are also excitedly awaiting their latest round of bonuses, an announcement likely to stir pubic anger given that CEOS now make, on average, 245 times the annual wage of most workers. Bill Moyers reports they have set aside $200 billion to reward themselves.

And so it goes. Will the truth ever come out? Will the folks who screwed up our economy—in government and Wall Street—ever be held accountable? We seem to be in the 9th inning.

Danny Schechter, Mediachannel’s News Dissector, has made a new film and written a book on the financial crisis as a crime story. See plunderthecrimeofourtime.com Comments to: [email protected]

MEXICO — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has announced plans for the deployment of new Russian-made tanks and combat helicopters on the border with Colombia.

Ties between Venezuela and Colombia deteriorated last August after Washington signed a deal with Bogota allowing U.S. forces to run anti-drug operations from Colombian bases. Chavez has criticized the deal and called for the Venezuelan people and army to prepare for a war.

“We are expecting the arrival of the first shipment of tanks [from Russia] which will be sent to Barracas [in the state of Barinas] to reinforce a motorized infantry brigade,” Chavez said in his weekly TV program, Alo Presidente, on Sunday.

“In addition, attack helicopters arriving from Russia will be deployed along the Colombian border,” he said.

Chavez secured a $2.2 loan from Russia during his visit to Moscow last September for the purchase of 92 T-72 main battle tanks, an undisclosed number of Smerch multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS), and a variety of air defense systems, including the advanced S-300 complexes.

Between 2005 and 2007, Moscow and Caracas signed 12 contracts worth more than $4.4 billion to supply arms to Venezuela, including fighter jets, helicopters and Kalashnikov assault rifles.

Venezuelan military already has nearly 200 tanks, according to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, while Colombia has no tank units.

British soldiers are being investigated over allegations they tortured and murdered a 62-year-old Iraqi grandmother.

The body of Sabiha Khudur Talib was found dumped by the roadside three years ago after her family home was raided by troops.

The Royal Military Police are now investigating claims from her relatives that she was led away by soldiers from the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment before being brutally tortured and shot.

It is one of the most serious charges levied against the British Army during its six-year occupation in southern Iraq.

Ministers are to be handed crime reports filed by Basra police that conclude Mrs Talib’s body was dumped by a roadside in a British bodybag in November 2006.

Injuries to her face were consistent with torture and she had been shot in the abdomen.

Lawyers for Mrs Talib’s family say their are preparing legal action in the High Court against the MOD.

Statements from relatives who were at home during the raid claim that they saw her being led away by British soldiers shortly before she died.

The MOD confirmed that Mrs Talib was shot by British soldiers from the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment in 2006 but deny she was murdered or tortured.

But an investigation led by Lieutenant Haidar Yashaa Salman from Al-Qibla police station of the Al-Hussein Police Directorate in Iraq concluded: ‘At 11 o’clock, we were informed by the police operation room of the finding of a dumped body, so went to the site and found out that the body belonged to the victim Sabiha Khudur Talib, who was arrested by the British forces on 14-15 November 2006 .

‘I saw the body in a brown dish- dash [one-piece tunic], bare feet and hands with marks of handcuffs.’

Phil Shiner, of Public Interest Lawyers, who is representing the family told The Independent: ‘The possibility that British forces in 2006 could have tortured and executed an innocent elderly woman should shock the nation.

‘Such an allegation must be immediately independently investigated as a possible murder.’

U.S. to Store $800m in Military Gear in Israel

January 11th, 2010 by Amos Harel

The U.S. Army will double the value of emergency military equipment it stockpiles on Israeli soil, and Israel will be allowed to use the U.S. ordnance in the event of a military emergency, according to a report in Monday’s issue of the U.S. weekly Defense News.

The report, written by Barbara Opall-Rome, the magazine’s Israel correspondent, said that an agreement reached between Washington and Jerusalem last month will bring the value of the military gear to $800 million.

This is the final phase of a process that began over a year ago to determine the type and amount of U.S. weapons and ammunition to be stored in Israel, part of an overarching American effort to stockpile weapons in areas in which its army may need to operate while allowing American allies to make use of the ordnance in emergencies.

The agreement was signed by Brig. Gen. Ofer Wolf, who heads the Israel Defense Forces’ technology and logistics branch, and Rear Adm. Andy Brown, the logistics director of U.S. Army European Command.

The United States began stockpiling $100 million in military equipment in Israel in 1990, 12 years after it first began storing weapons within the territory of key allies, starting with South Korea.

An American defense official told Defense News that the U.S.-Israel agreement reflects the Obama administration’s continued commitment to Israel’s security and the understanding that changes in U.S. economic conditions and inflation have limited the weapons available to Israel.

The deal allows Israel access to a wider spectrum of military ordnance, and the U.S. official said his government was considering which forms of military supplies would be added to stores in Israel. Missiles, armored vehicles, aerial ammunition and artillery ordnance are already stockpiled in the country.

The agreement is expected to aid Israel in its effort to bolster its weapons stockpiles for use in an emergency. Israel’s stores of aerial and artillery ammunition were depleted during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, nearly reaching levels the IDF considers dangerously low.

“Why They Want to Harm Us”

January 11th, 2010 by Ray McGovern

Thank God for Helen Thomas, the only person to show any courage at the White House press briefing after President Barack Obama gave a flaccid account of the intelligence screw-up that almost downed an airliner on Christmas Day.

After Obama briefly addressed L’Affaire Abdulmutallab and wrote “must do better” on the report cards of the national security schoolboys responsible for the near catastrophe, the President turned the stage over to counter-terrorism guru John Brennan and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

It took 89-year old veteran correspondent Helen Thomas to break through the vapid remarks about channeling “intelligence streams,” fixing “no-fly” lists, deploying “behavior detection officers,” and buying more body-imaging scanners.

Thomas recognized the John & Janet filibuster for what it was, as her catatonic press colleagues took their customary dictation and asked their predictable questions. Instead, Thomas posed an adult query that spotlighted the futility of government plans to counter terrorism with more high-tech gizmos and more intrusions on the liberties and privacy of the traveling public.

She asked why Abdulmutallab did what he did.

Thomas: “Why do they want to do us harm? And what is the motivation? We never hear what you find out on why.”

Brennan: “Al Qaeda is an organization that is dedicated to murder and wanton slaughter of innocents… They attract individuals like Mr. Abdulmutallab and use them for these types of attacks. He was motivated by a sense of religious sort of drive. Unfortunately, al Qaeda has perverted Islam, and has corrupted the concept of Islam, so that he’s (sic) able to attract these individuals. But al Qaeda has the agenda of destruction and death.”

Thomas: “And you’re saying it’s because of religion?”

Brennan: “I’m saying it’s because of an al Qaeda organization that used the banner of religion in a very perverse and corrupt way.”

Thomas: “Why?”

Brennan: “I think this is a — long issue, but al Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland.”

Thomas: “But you haven’t explained why.”

Neither did President Obama, nor anyone else in the U.S. political/media hierarchy. All the American public gets is the boilerplate about how evil al Qaeda continues to pervert a religion and entice and exploit impressionable young men.

There is almost no discussion about why so many people in the Muslim world object to U.S. policies so strongly that they are inclined to resist violently and even resort to suicide attacks.

Obama’s Non-Answer

I had been hoping Obama would say something intelligent about what drove Abdulmutallab to do what he did, but the President limited himself to a few vacuous comments before sending in the clowns. This is what he said before he walked away from the podium:

“It is clear that al Qaeda increasingly seeks to recruit individuals without known terrorist affiliations … to do their bidding. … And that’s why we must communicate clearly to Muslims around the world that al Qaeda offers nothing except a bankrupt vision of misery and death … while the United States stands with those who seek justice and progress. … That’s the vision that is far more powerful than the hatred of these violent extremists.”

But why it is so hard for Muslims to “get” that message? Why can’t they end their preoccupation with dodging U.S. missiles in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Gaza long enough to reflect on how we are only trying to save them from terrorists while simultaneously demonstrating our commitment to “justice and progress”?

Does a smart fellow like Obama expect us to believe that all we need to do is “communicate clearly to Muslims” that it is al Qaeda, not the U.S. and its allies, that brings “misery and death”? Does any informed person not know that the unprovoked U.S.-led invasion of Iraq killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and displaced 4.5 million from their homes? How is that for “misery and death”?

Rather than a failure to communicate, U.S. officials are trying to rewrite recent history, which seems to be much easier to accomplish with the Washington press corps and large segments of the American population than with the Muslim world.

But why isn’t there a frank discussion by America’s leaders and media about the real motivation of Muslim anger toward the United States? Why was Helen Thomas the only journalist to raise the touchy but central question of motive?

Peeking Behind the Screen

We witnessed a similar phenomenon when the 9/11 Commission Report tiptoed into a cautious discussion of possible motives behind the 9/11 attacks. To their credit, the drafters of that report apparently went as far as their masters would allow, in gingerly introducing a major elephant into the room:

“America’s policy choices have consequences. Right or wrong, it is simply a fact that American policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and American actions in Iraq are dominant staples of popular commentary across the Arab and Muslim world.” (p. 376)

When asked later about the flabby way that last sentence ended, former Congressman Lee Hamilton, Vice-Chair of the 9/11 Commission, explained that there had been a Donnybrook over whether that paragraph could be included at all.

The drafters also squeezed in the reason given by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as to why he “masterminded” the attacks on 9/11:

“By his own account, KSM’s animus toward the United States stemmed … from his violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel.”

Would you believe that former Vice President Dick Cheney also has pointed to U.S. support for Israel as one of the “true sources of resentment”? This unique piece of honesty crept into his speech to the American Enterprise Institute on May 21, 2009.

Sure, he also trotted out the bromide that the terrorists hate “all the things that make us a force for good in the world.” But the Israel factor did slip into the speech, perhaps an inadvertent acknowledgement of the Israeli albatross adorning the neck of U.S. policy in the Middle East.

Very few pundits and academicians are willing to allude to this reality, presumably out of fear for their future career prospects.

Former senior CIA officer Paul Pillar, now a professor at Georgetown University, is one of the few willing to refer, in his typically understated way, to “all the other things … including policies and practices that affect the likelihood that people … will be radicalized, and will try to act out the anger against us.” One has to fill in the blanks regarding what those “other things” are.

But no worries. Secretary Napolitano has a fix for this unmentionable conundrum. It’s called “counter-radicalization,” which she describes thusly:

“How do we identify someone before they become radicalized to the point where they’re ready to blow themselves up with others on a plane? And how do we communicate better American values and so forth … around the globe?”

Better communication. That’s the ticket.

Hypocrisy and Double Talk

But Napolitano doesn’t acknowledge the underlying problem, which is that many Muslims have watched Washington’s behavior closely for many years and view pious U.S. declarations about peace, justice, democracy and human rights as infuriating examples of hypocrisy and double talk.

So, Washington’s sanitized discussion about motives for terrorism seems more intended for the U.S. domestic audience than the Muslim world.

After all, people in the Middle East already know how Palestinians have been mistreated for decades; how Washington has propped up Arab dictatorships; how Muslims have been locked away at Guantanamo without charges; how the U.S. military has killed civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere; how U.S. mercenaries have escaped punishment for slaughtering innocents.

The purpose of U.S. “public diplomacy” appears more designed to shield Americans from this unpleasant reality, offering instead feel-good palliatives about the beneficence of U.S. actions. Most American journalists and politicians go along with the charade out of fear that otherwise they would be accused of lacking patriotism or sympathizing with “the enemy.”

Commentators who are neither naïve nor afraid are simply shut out of the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM). Salon.com’s Glen Greenwald, for example, has complained loudly about “how our blind, endless enabling of Israeli actions fuels terrorism directed at the U.S.,” and how it is taboo to point this out.

Greenwald recently called attention to a little-noticed Associated Press report on the possible motives of the 23-year-old Nigerian Abdulmutallab. The report quoted his Yemeni friends to the effect that the he was “not overtly extremist.” But they noted that he was open about his sympathies toward the Palestinians and his anger over Israel’s actions in Gaza. (Emphasis added)

Former CIA specialist on al Qaeda, Michael Scheuer, has been still more outspoken on what he sees as Israel’s tying down the American Gulliver in the Middle East. Speaking Monday on C-SPAN, he complained bitterly that any debate on the issue of American support for Israel and its effects is normally squelched.

Scheuer added that the Israel Lobby had just succeeded in getting him removed from his job at the Jamestown Foundation think tank for saying that Obama was “doing what I call the Tel Aviv Two-Step.”

More to the point, Scheuer asserted:

“For anyone to say that our support for Israel doesn’t hurt us in the Muslim world … is to just defy reality.”

Beyond loss of work, those who speak out can expect ugly accusations. The Israeli media network Arutz Sheva, which is considered the voice of the settler movement, weighed in strongly, branding Scheuer’s C-SPAN remarks “blatantly anti-Semitic.”

Media Squelching

As for media squelching, I continue to be amazed at how otherwise informed folks express total surprise when I refer them to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s statement about his motivation for attacking the United States, as cited on page 147 of the 9/11 Commission Report. Here is the full sentence (shortened above):

“By his own account, KSM’s animus toward the United States stemmed not from his experience there as a student, but rather from his violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel.”

One can understand how even those following such things closely can get confused. On Aug. 30, 2009, five years after the 9/11 Commission Report was released, readers of the neoconservative Washington Post were given a diametrically different view, based on what the Post called “an intelligence summary:”

“KSM’s limited and negative experience in the United States — which included a brief jail-stay because of unpaid bills — almost certainly helped propel him on his path to becoming a terrorist … He stated that his contact with Americans, while minimal, confirmed his view that the United States was a debauched and racist country.”

Apparently, the Post found this revisionist version politically more convenient, in that it obscured Mohammed’s other explanation implicating “U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel.” It’s much more comforting to view KSM as a disgruntled visitor who nursed his personal grievances into justification for mass murder.

An unusually candid view of the dangers accruing from the U.S. identification with Israel’s policies appeared five years ago in an unclassified study published by the Pentagon-appointed U.S. Defense Science Board on Sept. 23, 2004. Contradicting President George W. Bush, the board stated:

“Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf States.

“Thus, when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy.”

Abdulmutallab’s Attack

Getting back to Abdulmutallab and his motive in trying to blow up the airliner, how was this individual without prior terrorist affiliations suddenly transformed into an international terrorist ready to die while killing innocents?

If, as John Brennan seems to suggest, al Qaeda terrorists are hard-wired at birth for the “wanton slaughter of innocents,” how are they also able to jump-start a privileged 23-year old Nigerian, inculcate in him the acquired characteristics of a terrorist, and persuade him to do the bidding of al Qaeda/Persian Gulf?

As indicated above, the young Nigerian seems to have had particular trouble with Israel’s wanton slaughter of more than a thousand civilians in Gaza a year ago, a brutal campaign that was defended in Washington as justifiable self-defense.

Moreover, it appears that Abdulmutallab is not the only anti-American “terrorist” so motivated. When the Saudi and Yemeni branches of al Qaeda announced that they were uniting into “al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula,” their combined rhetoric railed against the Israeli attack on Gaza.

And on Dec. 30, Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi, a 32-year-old Palestinian-born Jordanian physician, killed seven American CIA operatives and one Jordanian intelligence officer near Khost, Afghanistan, when he detonated a suicide bomb.

Though most U.S. media stories treated al-Balawi as a fanatical double agent driven by irrational hatreds, other motivations could be gleaned by carefully reading articles about his personal history.

Al-Balawi’s mother told Agence France-Presse that her son had never been an “extremist.” Al-Balawi’s widow, Defne Bayrak, made a similar statement to Newsweek. In a New York Times article, al-Balawi’s brother was quoted as describing him as a “very good brother” and a “brilliant doctor.”

So what led al-Balawi to take his own life in order to kill U.S. and Jordanian intelligence operatives?

Al-Balawi’s widow said her husband “started to change” after the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. His brother said al-Balawi “changed” during last year’s three-week-long Israeli offensive in Gaza, which killed about 1,300 Palestinians. (Emphasis added)

When al-Balawi volunteered with a medical organization to treat injured Palestinians in Gaza, he was arrested by Jordanian authorities, his brother said.

It was after that arrest that the Jordanian intelligence service apparently coerced or “recruited” al-Balawi to become a spy who would penetrate al Qaeda’s hierarchy and provide actionable intelligence to the CIA.

“If you catch a cat and put it in a corner, she will jump on you,” the brother said in explaining why al-Balawi would turn to suicide attack.

“My husband was anti-American; so am I,” his widow told Newsweek. Her two little girls would grow up fatherless, but she had no regrets.

Answering Helen

Are we starting to get the picture of what the United States is up against in the Muslim world?

Does Helen Thomas deserve an adult answer to her question about motive? Has President Obama been able to assimilate all this?

Or is the U.S. political/media establishment incapable of confronting this reality and/or taking meaningful action to alleviate the underlying causes of the violence?

Is the reported reaction of a CIA official to al-Balawi’s attack the appropriate one: “Last week’s attack will be avenged. Some very bad people will eventually have a very bad day.”

Revenge has not always turned out very well in the past.

Does anyone remember the brutal killing of four Blackwater contractors on March 31, 2004, when they took a bad turn and ended up in the wrong neighborhood of the Iraqi city of Fallujah — and how U.S. forces virtually leveled that large city in retribution after George W. Bush won his second term the following November?

If you read only the Fawning Corporate Media, you would blissfully think that the killing of the four Blackwater operatives was the work of fanatical animals who got – along with their neighbors – the reprisal they deserved. You wouldn’t know that the killings represented the second turn in that specific cycle of violence.

On March 22, 2004, Israeli forces assassinated the then-spiritual leader of Hamas in Gaza, Sheikh Yassin — a withering old man, blind and confined to a wheelchair. (Emphasis added)

That murder, plus sloppy navigation by the Blackwater men, set the stage for the next set of brutalities. The Blackwater operatives were killed by a group that described itself as the “Sheikh Yassin Revenge Brigade.”

Pamphlets and posters were all over the scene of the attack; one of the trucks that pulled around body parts of the mercenaries had a large poster photo of Yassin in its window, as did store fronts all over Fallujah.

We can wish Janet Napolitano luck with her “counter-radicalization” project and President Obama with his effort to “communicate clearly to Muslims,” but there will be no diminution in the endless cycles of violence unless legitimate grievances are addressed on all sides.

It would certainly also help if the American people were finally let in on the root causes for what otherwise gets portrayed as unprovoked savagery by Muslims.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. During a 27-year career at CIA, he served under nine directors and in all four of CIA’s main directorates, including operations. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

“All War is Stupid”

January 11th, 2010 by Raymond A. Schroth

It was one of TIME magazine’s most dramatic covers. A lone soldier stood atop a pile of rocks and rubble, a tiny dot on a landscape of rugged mountains towering into the horizon. Title: “Afghanistan: THE RIGHT WAR.”

It was July 2008 at the height of the presidential campaign, and Barack Obama was already defining himself as a “war president” against John McCain by promising to send two additional brigades to Afghanistan — while McCain would send at least three. And Obama would seek more help from NATO allies.

On “How to Save Afghanistan,” TIME offered advice from Professor Rory Stewart, who lives in Kabul and was recently named head of the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard. His first rule: Don’t send more troops. Nor should we increase our involvement in the government and the economy. We should focus on development assistance, agricultural irrigation, education, and roads. Our military should focus on counterterrorism, not counter-insurgency. Transforming a country of 32 million people was a task not for Westerners but for Afghans. He concludes, “We do not have a moral obligation to do what we cannot do.”

In the months preceding Obama’s reconsideration of American policy, good advice piled up in the press and online. Columnist William Pfaff recalled that Obama was not against all wars, only “stupid wars.” Another writer pointed out that John F. Kennedy first wrote “War is stupid” from the Pacific during World War II.

Pfaff suggested Afghanistan might be a stupid war. What makes us sure, he asks, that Osama Bin Laden and his staff are still in Afghanistan or Pakistan? Maybe they have shaved their beards and are living it up in South America or Paris, while they send out rumors that he’s in this or that Pakistan village so the Americans will bomb them, kill more civilians and generate more hatred of our presence.

Jerome Grossman’s blog (May 23, 2009) reminded us that a war in Afghanistan would not save us from another September 11. “That attack was made by 19 people, not one of them Afghans, armed with credit cards and box cutters.” Leslie Gelb (New York Times, March 13, 2009), said, increase economic aid while withdrawing troops over three years. Include the Taliban in the power structure, and ring Afghanistan with neighbors — China, India, Russia, NATO, and Iran — who would restrain the Afghan drug trade and Islamist extremism.

Several critics warned that Afghanistan could become Obama’s Vietnam. As much as I admire the rhetoric of his Nobel Prize speech and accept the argument that sometimes force must be used against evil, and though Obama rejects the suggestion that Afghanistan is like Vietnam, it is.

Without asking the American upper and middle class to sacrifice, through raised taxes and a draft, we are sending young men and women to be killed and wounded to support a corrupt regime which the majority of its people oppose. Afghanistan now ranks as the fifth most corrupt country on earth. It is hard to escape the impression that Obama, having opposed the Iraq war, now feels that as a “war president” and commander of the armed forces he must strike the pose of a tough guy, in tune with the generals who have had training and experiences this young law professor never had.

Muckraking journalist I. F. Stone used to quip that the only president to stand up to generals was Eisenhower, who had five stars on his shoulders when they had only four.

But another issue looms large on whether this is a just war. Obama, in his Nobel address, committed the United Sates to the traditional principles of the just war, which include the immunity of con-combatants, which means we may not kill civilians in the course of pursuing other goals. In modern wars, Obama admits, more civilians than soldiers die. And, according to reports, he has ordered commanders to minimize civilian casualties.

But news stories for 2009 are a steady stream of maneuvers, air raids, gone wrong, which end up in the death of households invaded in the night, of bomb strikes called in to wipe out targets which turn out to not be enemy bastions. A UN report in February, 2009, said that in air strikes and village raids American led attacks had killed 828 people the previous year.

A UN May report counted a total 2000 Afghans killed the previous year, including those killed by insurgents. Two hundred had been killed that May. In one incident (NYT May 7, 2009) where as many as 130 may have been killed by us, the villagers brought in two tractor trailers full of body parts to prove that the casualties had occurred. During the last week (NYT December 31-Jan 8), nighttime raids and bombing killed approximately 17 civilians, mostly young students.

This is not how to wage or win a war. If there is no other way, Obama should know, by moral and international law, it’s time to pull out.

The Christmas Day attempt by the son of a prominent Nigerian banker and business tycoon connected closely to top Nigerian leaders to detonate a chemical improvised explosive device aboard Delta Airlines flight 253 from Amsterdam Schiphol to Detroit was a false flag operation carried out by the intelligence tripartite grouping of the CIA, Mossad, and India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), according to WMR’s Asian intelligence sources who closely monitor the activities of the three agencies in India and Southeast Asia.

The tripartite alliance of the CIA, Mossad, and RAW were behind the terrorist attacks on Mumbai earlier last year and on December 28 Rupee News reported the three agencies worked together, along with former Afghan KHAD intelligence agents, to assassinate former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto: “The Benazir assassination was pre-planned and executed via triangulation by KHAD, RAW, CIA and Mossad using the most modern radioactive weapons available in the market. The Israeli PM publicly admitted helping India in Kargil recently. The purpose of the covert KHAD, RAW, CIA, Mossad operations is to destabilize Pakistan. The IMF plan to de-fang Pakistan in 2000 did not work, but provincial autonomy will make the center bankrupt triggering an implosion.”

The outcome of the failed terrorist attempt by Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab on the Detroit-bound plane has resulted in major Christmas gifts for the neocons and militarists who still call the shots on U.S. policy: the deployment of privacy-invasive millimeter wave (MMW) full body scanning equipment at airports in North America and Europe. The ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, Representative Peter King (R-NY), who is an ardent defender of the Catholic Church and its prelates in Ireland, has defended the scanning system which can image the naked bodies of passengers, including children and babies, an increase in the U.S. military and intelligence presence in Yemen, retention of US USAPATRIOT Act surveillance provisions, an increase in racial profiling of Arabs and Muslims — and because Mutallab is African — blacks in the United States, and more cumbersome travel restrictions for airline passengers.

The neocon propagandists are already spinning counterclaims to reports that indicate that Mutallab was a witting accomplice of a larger plot cooked up by American, Israeli, ajd Indian intelligence agents to carry out yet another false flag terror operation on American soil. The eyewitness testimonies of Michigan attorney Kurt Haskell and his attorney wife Lori Haskell are being pilloried by the corporate media after the two were featured on major U.S. television networks. Haskell and his wife witnessed a “well-dressed Indian man” arrange for Mutallab to board Delta 253 without a passport at the check-in desk at Schiphol.

Haskell told CBS News: “Only the Indian man spoke, and what he said was, this man needs to board the plane, and he doesn’t have a passport. And the ticket agent then responded saying you need a passport to board the plane, and the Indian man then said he’s from Sudan. We do this all the time.”

WMR has learned that the Indian man is suspected by Asian intelligence services of being a RAW agent who used his influence to convince airline and airport security personnel that Mutallab was a bona fide Sudanese refugee. Mutallab reportedly spent several hours in a Schiphol airport lounge before boarding the Delta flight. Dutch agents are reportedly scanning Schiphol CCTV footage and have reason to believe that Mutallab had accomplices at the airport, which bolsters the witness accounts of the Haskells. The FBI has interviewed the Haskells and the bureau, as is its modus operandi, appears to be intimidating witnesses and pressuring them to support the government’s party line.

The neocon spin machine is also refuting reports that Mutallab traveled to the United States without a passport and that his ticket was only one-way. The facts emerging are that Mutallab was not traveling on a Nigerian passport but on an Italian passport. Mutallab’s father, Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, happens to hold the Italian Order of Merit. In addition, Mutallab’s ticket was purchased in Accra, Ghana, with $2,831 in cash and was later re-issued, on December 16, with a different itinerary at the KLM office in Lagos. The original itinerary was Lagos-Amsterdam-Detroit-Amsterdam-Accra but the return leg on January 8, 2010, was changed from Amsterdam to Lagos instead of Accra. 

Previously, WMR reported that the security company that cleared Mutallab in Schiphol is ICTS, a firm that is headquartered in Israel and Amstelveen, Netherlands. The firm also cleared attempted shoe bomber Richard Reid for a Miami-bound American Airlines flight from Paris in December 2001. Reid, who was bound for Antigua, was profiled after he purchased his ticket at a travel agency in the 18th arrondissement in Paris. Reid had previously traveled to Turkey, Pakistan, Israel, Egypt, the Netherlands, Belgium and France and he obtained pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN), a component of the explosive Semtex, and his specially designed shoes in Amsterdam. Reid was linked by French authorities to French convert to Islam Jerome Courtailler, who, in 2004, was sentenced in absentia by a Dutch court to six years for plotting to attack U.S. targets in Belgium and France. Mutallab’s undershorts also contained PETN.

There is a possibility that Mutallab was recruited to carry out a false flag attack after another one failed on November 13. A Somali man was arrested at Mogadishu airport with the same chemicals, powder, and syringe combination that Mutallab used to ignite his clothing. The Somali man was attempting to board a Daallo Airlines flight from Mogadishu to Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, Djibouti, and Dubai. Daallo is the national flag carrier of Djibouti and is owned by Dubai World’s Istithmar World Aviation (IWA) Holdings. Dubai World’s recent financial woes sent shock waves through the global financial community. It is also noteworthy that Delta 253 passenger Jasper Schuringa, the young man who wrestled Mutallab to the ground and prevented him from carrying out his terrorist mission, was driven to Schiphol on Christmas morning by his friend Chris Van Amersfoort. Van Amersfoort’s Facebook page lists himself as a “fan of” Dubai World’s owner “His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum,” the Emir of Dubai.

Daallo Airlines has an interline agreement with a single U.S. airline, which happens to be Delta Airlines, the same airline that saw Mutallab successfully board its flight 253 in Schiphol. It has similar agreements with other airlines that fly to the United States, including Qatar Airways, Saudia, Ethiopian Airlines, and Alitalia.

Schuringa’s father works for Shell and, in 1993, they were evacuated by the French foreign Legion from Gabon during riots by demonstrators opposed to the tainted re-election of Gabon’s presidential dictator Omar Bongo. The Curacao-born Jasper Schuringa attended film school in Miami and he also lived in Oman. After accusations in the media that he was publicizing himself over the Muttalab incident, Schuringa largely receded from public view. Schuringa was en route to Costa Rica via Detroit to visit his sister. The National Counter-terrorism office in The Hague is being mum about any connections it had with Schuringa, according to the Dutch paper Parool.

On October 18, a little less than a month prior to the attempt by the syringe- and chemical-armed Somali to board the Daallo Airlines flight from Mogadishu, Shaykh Muqtaar Abu Zubeyr, the leader of Somalia’s radical Al Shahab Islamic Movement, warned Somalis in leaflets distributed in Mogadoshu’s Bakaraha market and other points in the city not to fly on Daallo Airlines, Somalia’s largest carrier, because he said the airline had “close ties” with the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, the United States and the “Jewish government” of Israel.

Before moving from Egypt, Mutallab was in an MBA course in Dubai at the time of the Daallo warning. Mutallab later dropped out of school in Dubai.

Mutallab’s father, Umaru, the retired chairman of First Bank of Nigeria (FBN), is among the top elite of Nigeria, counting among his friends the top royalty of northern Nigeria, including the Emir of Gombe, the Emir of Zazzau, and the Sultan of Sokoto, as well as Nigerian President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua, who has been recovering from a mysterious illness in Saudi Arabia. Mutallab’s empire included FBN (UK), which its president described as “the very first UK bank owned by a Nigerian bank and could be counted as an equal to other UK banks.” Mutalan was also a contender to be President of the National Council of the Nigeria Stock Exchange. In 2003, Mutallab formed Nigeria’s first Islamic bank, Jaiz International Bank.

The same bureaucratic stovepiping issues used by the U.S. intelligence and law enforcement communities to explain away the lack of intelligence on the 9/11 attacks are at play with the Delta 253 incident. Of course, all these problems were to have been solved by the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and the Directorate of National Intelligence. Mutallab was entered as a terrorist suspect in the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) database of 500,000 names maintained by the director of National Intelligence’s National Counter-terrorism Center (NCTC) but not on the “no fly” list maintained by the Transportation Security Administration(TSA).

On November 19, just six days after the Somali attempted to board the plane in Mogadishu with a syringe and chemicals, the elder Mutallab met with the CIA Station Chief at the U.S. embassy in Abuja, the Nigerian capital. Mutallab told the CIA official that he was concerned about the radicalization of his son, who was called “Alfa” — a term for an Islamic scholar — while attending the British International School in Lome, Togo. The elder Mutallab was quite emphatic that his son posed a significant security risk.

After dropping out of the MBA program in Dubai, the younger Mutallab turned off his cell phone and destroyed the phone’s SIM card before leaving Dubai for Yemen where it is said he wished to improve his Arabic. It is not known who bought Mutallab’s ticket to Detroit in Accra and why the return destination was changed from Accra to Lagos. Mutallab’s multiple entry visa for the United States was issued on June 16, 2008, with an expiration date of June 16, 2010.

In response to the elder Mutallab’s warning, the U.S. embassy in Abuja sent a Visa Viper cable to the State Department and NCTC on November 20. However, Mutallab’s name was not added to the no-fly list. The State Department is refusing to disclose the classification of Mutallab’s visa and State Department spokesman Ian Kelly is refusing to reveal information on Mutallab’s visa application.

The Daily Trust of Abuja penned the following editorial in the aftermath of the flight 253 incident: “The story caused anxiety among regular air travellers, not only for the safety of planes, but also for the kind of reception that Nigerian travellers to Europe and the US, especially Muslim ones, are likely to get in the next months and years. The story also excited Northern Nigeria’s many conspiracy theorists, who think another grand Western plot is in the offing to tarnish the image of Muslims, possibly as a prelude to another invasion.” The editorial added, “Among officials of Nigeria’s embattled Federal Government, though, the story caused a mix of anxiety and relief. Anxiety, because it threatens to throw this country’s fitful Rebranding Campaign into further chaos. But it provided welcome relief from endless newspaper commentaries on President Yar’adua’s health.”

The Nigerians are obviously suspicious also about those behind the attempt on the aircraft. The Abuja editorial continues: “Bringing down a plane is not a thought that comes easily to people in Northern Nigeria. Most people here, with me as a typical example, cannot breathe easily in a plane until it hits the tarmac. A man who holds fast to a plane’s aluminium frame for support during a turbulent take-off hardly can think of bombing it. This explosive substance that Faruk allegedly used in the Delta Airlines plane, pentaerythritol or PETN, may be known to British school kids, but I have never heard of it. To think that I once taught in a university’s Faculty of Science. If indeed Faruk told the Americans that he was an Al-Qaeda operative, then he was a very poor one, to be frank. His bomb, which he said he got in Yemen, was weak [exploding like a fire cracker] and technically deficient [failed to go off properly]. He was easily subdued by a film producer, did not struggle when he was grabbed, did not say anything when they held him, and almost as soon as he reached the FBI station, he began to sing like a canary. Sounds very much like the gentle British lad that he is.”

Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report

The Military-Industrial Complex is Ruining the Economy

January 10th, 2010 by Washington's Blog

Everyone knows that the too big to fails and their dishonest and footsy-playing regulators and politicians are largely responsible for trashing the economy.

But the military-industrial complex shares much of the blame.

Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says that the Iraq war will cost $3-5 trillion dollars.

Sure, experts say that the Iraq war has increased the threat of terrorism. See this, this, this, this, this, this and this. And we launched the Iraq war based on the false linkage of Saddam and 9/11, and knowingly false claims that Saddam had WMDs. And top British officials, former CIA director George Tenet, former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill and many others say that the Iraq war was planned before 9/11. But this essay is about dollars and cents.

America is also spending a pretty penny in Afghanistan. The U.S. admits there are only a small handful of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. As ABC notes:

U.S. intelligence officials have concluded there are only about 100 al Qaeda fighters in the entire country.

With 100,000 troops in Afghanistan at an estimated yearly cost of $30 billion, it means that for every one al Qaeda fighter, the U.S. will commit 1,000 troops and $300 million a year.

Sure, the government apparently planned the Afghanistan war before 9/11 (see this and this). And the Taliban offered to turn over Bin Laden (see this and this). And we could have easily killed Bin Laden in 2001 and again in 2007, but chose not to, even though that would have saved the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars in costs in prosecuting the Afghanistan war. But this essay is about dollars and cents.

Increasing the Debt Burden of a Nation Sinking In Debt

All of the spending on unnecessary wars adds up.

The U.S. is adding trillions to its debt burden to finance its multiple wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, etc.

Two top American economists – Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff – show that the more indebted a country is, with a government debt/GDP ratio of 0.9, and external debt/GDP of 0.6 being critical thresholds, the more GDP growth drops materially.

Specifically, Reinhart and Rogoff write:

The relationship between government debt and real GDP growth is weak for debt/GDP ratios below a threshold of 90 percent of GDP. Above 90 percent, median growth rates fall by one percent, and average growth falls considerably more. We find that the threshold for public debt is similar in advanced and emerging economies…

Indeed, it should be obvious to anyone who looks at the issue that deficits do matter.

A PhD economist told me:

War always causes recession. Well, if it is a very short war, then it may stimulate the economy in the short-run. But if there is not a quick victory and it drags on, then wars always put the nation waging war into a recession and hurt its economy.

You know about America’s unemployment problem. You may have even heard that the U.S. may very well have suffered a permanent destruction of jobs.

But did you know that the defense employment sector is booming?

As I pointed out in August, public sector spending – and mainly defense spending – has accounted for virtually all of the new job creation in the past 10 years:

The U.S. has largely been financing job creation for ten years. Specifically, as the chief economist for Business Week, Michael Mandel, points out, public spending has accounted for virtually all new job creation in the past 1o years:

Private sector job growth was almost non-existent over the past ten years. Take a look at this horrifying chart:

Between May 1999 and May 2009, employment in the private sector sector only rose by 1.1%, by far the lowest 10-year increase in the post-depression period.

It’s impossible to overstate how bad this is. Basically speaking, the private sector job machine has almost completely stalled over the past ten years. Take a look at this chart:

Over the past 10 years, the private sector has generated roughly 1.1 million additional jobs, or about 100K per year. The public sector created about 2.4 million jobs.

But even that gives the private sector too much credit. Remember that the private sector includes health care, social assistance, and education, all areas which receive a lot of government support.

***

Most of the industries which had positive job growth over the past ten years were in the HealthEdGov sector. In fact, financial job growth was nearly nonexistent once we take out the health insurers.

Let me finish with a final chart.

Without a decade of growing government support from rising health and education spending and soaring budget deficits, the labor market would have been flat on its back. [120]

Raw Story argues that the U.S. is building a largely military economy:

The use of the military-industrial complex as a quick, if dubious, way of jump-starting the economy is nothing new, but what is amazing is the divergence between the military economy and the civilian economy, as shown by this New York Times chart.

In the past nine years, non-industrial production in the US has declined by some 19 percent. It took about four years for manufacturing to return to levels seen before the 2001 recession — and all those gains were wiped out in the current recession.

By contrast, military manufacturing is now 123 percent greater than it was in 2000 — it has more than doubled while the rest of the manufacturing sector has been shrinking…

It’s important to note the trajectory — the military economy is nearly three times as large, proportionally to the rest of the economy, as it was at the beginning of the Bush administration. And it is the only manufacturing sector showing any growth. Extrapolate that trend, and what do you get?

The change in leadership in Washington does not appear to be abating that trend…[121]

So most of the job creation has been by the public sector. But because the job creation has been financed with loans from China and private banks, trillions in unnecessary interest charges have been incurred by the U.S.So we’re running up our debt (which will eventually decrease economic growth), but the only jobs we’re creating are military and other public sector jobs.

PhD economist Dean Baker points out that America’s massive military spending on unnecessary and unpopular wars lowers economic growth and increases unemployment:

Defense spending means that the government is pulling away resources from the uses determined by the market and instead using them to buy weapons and supplies and to pay for soldiers and other military personnel. In standard economic models, defense spending is a direct drain on the economy, reducing efficiency, slowing growth and costing jobs.

A few years ago, the Center for Economic and Policy Research commissioned Global Insight, one of the leading economic modeling firms, to project the impact of a sustained increase in defense spending equal to 1.0 percentage point of GDP. This was roughly equal to the cost of the Iraq War.

Global Insight’s model projected that after 20 years the economy would be about 0.6 percentage points smaller as a result of the additional defense spending. Slower growth would imply a loss of almost 700,000 jobs compared to a situation in which defense spending had not been increased. Construction and manufacturing were especially big job losers in the projections, losing 210,000 and 90,000 jobs, respectively.

The scenario we asked Global Insight [recognized as the most consistently accurate forecasting company in the world] to model turned out to have vastly underestimated the increase in defense spending associated with current policy. In the most recent quarter, defense spending was equal to 5.6 percent of GDP. By comparison, before the September 11th attacks, the Congressional Budget Office projected that defense spending in 2009 would be equal to just 2.4 percent of GDP. Our post-September 11th build-up was equal to 3.2 percentage points of GDP compared to the pre-attack baseline. This means that the Global Insight projections of job loss are far too low…

The projected job loss from this increase in defense spending would be close to 2 million. In other words, the standard economic models that project job loss from efforts to stem global warming also project that the increase in defense spending since 2000 will cost the economy close to 2 million jobs in the long run.

The Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst has also shown that non-military spending creates more jobs than military spending.

So we’re running up our debt – which will eventually decrease economic growth – and creating many fewer jobs than if we spent the money on non-military purposes.

But the War on Terror is Urgent for Our National Security, Isn’t It?

For those who still think that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are necessary to fight terrorism, remember that a leading advisor to the U.S. military – the very hawkish and pro-war Rand Corporation – released a study in 2008 called “How Terrorist Groups End: Lessons for Countering al Qa’ida“.

The report confirms that the war on terror is actually weakening national security. As a press release about the study states:

“Terrorists should be perceived and described as criminals, not holy warriors, and our analysis suggests that there is no battlefield solution to terrorism.”

Former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski told the Senate that the war on terror is “a mythical historical narrative”. And Newsweek has now admitted that the war on terror is wholly unnecessary.

In fact, starting right after 9/11 — at the latest — the goal has always been to create “regime change” and instability in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Somalia and Lebanon; the goal was never really to destroy Al Qaeda. As American reporter Gareth Porter writes in Asia Times:

Three weeks after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, former US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld established an official military objective of not only removing the Saddam Hussein regime by force but overturning the regime in Iran, as well as in Syria and four other countries in the Middle East, according to a document quoted extensively in then-under secretary of defense for policy Douglas Feith’s recently published account of the Iraq war decisions. Feith’s account further indicates that this aggressive aim of remaking the map of the Middle East by military force and the threat of force was supported explicitly by the country’s top military leaders.

Feith’s book, War and Decision, released last month, provides excerpts of the paper Rumsfeld sent to President George W Bush on September 30, 2001, calling for the administration to focus not on taking down Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network but on the aim of establishing “new regimes” in a series of states…

***

General Wesley Clark, who commanded the North Atlantic Treaty Organization bombing campaign in the Kosovo war, recalls in his 2003 book Winning Modern Wars being told by a friend in the Pentagon in November 2001 that the list of states that Rumsfeld and deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz wanted to take down included Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan and Somalia [and Lebanon].

***

When this writer asked Feith . . . which of the six regimes on the Clark list were included in the Rumsfeld paper, he replied, “All of them.”

***

The Defense Department guidance document made it clear that US military aims in regard to those states would go well beyond any ties to terrorism. The document said the Defense Department would also seek to isolate and weaken those states and to “disrupt, damage or destroy” their military capacities – not necessarily limited to weapons of mass destruction (WMD)…

Rumsfeld’s paper was given to the White House only two weeks after Bush had approved a US military operation in Afghanistan directed against bin Laden and the Taliban regime. Despite that decision, Rumsfeld’s proposal called explicitly for postponing indefinitely US airstrikes and the use of ground forces in support of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance in order to try to catch bin Laden.

Instead, the Rumsfeld paper argued that the US should target states that had supported anti-Israel forces such as Hezbollah and Hamas.

***

After the bombing of two US embassies in East Africa [in 1988] by al-Qaeda operatives, State Department counter-terrorism official Michael Sheehan proposed supporting the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance in Afghanistan against bin Laden’s sponsor, the Taliban regime. However, senior US military leaders “refused to consider it”, according to a 2004 account by Richard H Shultz, Junior, a military specialist at Tufts University.

A senior officer on the Joint Staff told State Department counter-terrorism director Sheehan he had heard terrorist strikes characterized more than once by colleagues as a “small price to pay for being a superpower”.

If you still believe that the war on terror is necessary, please read this.

Torture is Bad for the Economy

For those who still think torture is a necessary evil, you might be interested to learn that top experts in interrogation say that, actually:

Indeed, historians tell us that torture has been used throughout history – not to gain information – but as a form of intimidation, to terrorize people into obedience. In other words, at its core, torture is a form of terrorism.

Moreover, the type of torture used by the U.S. in the last 10 years is of a special type. Senator Levin revealed that the the U.S. used torture techniques aimed at extracting false confessions.

McClatchy subsequently filled in some of the details:

Former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the interrogation issue said that Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded that the interrogators find evidence of al Qaida-Iraq collaboration…

For most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there.”

It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Muhammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document…

When people kept coming up empty, they were told by Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s people to push harder,” he continued.”Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s people were told repeatedly, by CIA . . . and by others, that there wasn’t any reliable intelligence that pointed to operational ties between bin Laden and Saddam . . .

A former U.S. Army psychiatrist, Maj. Charles Burney, told Army investigators in 2006 that interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility were under “pressure” to produce evidence of ties between al Qaida and Iraq.

“While we were there a large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between al Qaida and Iraq and we were not successful in establishing a link between al Qaida and Iraq,” Burney told staff of the Army Inspector General. “The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish that link . . . there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results.”

“I think it’s obvious that the administration was scrambling then to try to find a connection, a link (between al Qaida and Iraq),” [Senator] Levin said in a conference call with reporters. “They made out links where they didn’t exist.”

Levin recalled Cheney’s assertions that a senior Iraqi intelligence officer had met Mohammad Atta, the leader of the 9/11 hijackers, in the Czech Republic capital of Prague just months before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The FBI and CIA found that no such meeting occurred.

In other words, top Bush administration officials not only knowingly lied about a non-existent connection between Al Qaida and Iraq, but they pushed and insisted that interrogators use special torture methods aimed at extracting false confessions to attempt to create such a false linkage. See also this and this.

Paul Krugman eloquently summarized the truth about the type of torture used:

Let’s say this slowly: the Bush administration wanted to use 9/11 as a pretext to invade Iraq, even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. So it tortured people to make them confess to the nonexistent link.

There’s a word for this: it’s evil.

But since this essay in on dollars and cents, the important point is that terrorism is bad for the economy.

Specifically, a study by Harvard and NBER points out:

From an economic standpoint, terrorism has been described to have four main effects (see, e.g., US Congress, Joint Economic Committee, 2002). First, the capital stock (human and physical) of a country is reduced as a result of terrorist attacks. Second, the terrorist threat induces higher levels of uncertainty. Third, terrorism promotes increases in counter-terrorism expenditures, drawing resources from productive sectors for use in security. Fourth, terrorism is known to affect negatively specific industries such as tourism.

The Harvard/NBER concludes:

In accordance with the predictions of the model, higher levels of terrorist risks are associated with lower levels of net foreign direct investment positions, even after controlling for other types of country risks. On average, a standard deviation increase in the terrorist risk is associated with a fall in the net foreign direct investment position of about 5 percent of GDP.

So the more unnecessary wars American launches, the more innocent civilians we kill, and the more people we torture, the less foreign investment in America, the more destruction to our capital stock, the higher the level of uncertainty, the more counter-terrorism expenditures and the less expenditures in more productive sectors, and the greater the hit to tourism and some other industries.

Moreover:

Terrorism has contributed to a decline in the global economy (for example, European Commission, 2001).

So military adventurism and torture, which increase terrorism, hurt the world economy. And see this.

For the foregoing reasons, the military-industrial complex is ruining the economy.

Galloway Deported From Egypt After Exiting Gaza

January 10th, 2010 by Global Research

Bethlehem – Ma’an – Leader of the Viva Palestinan convoy and British MP George Galloway was deported from Egyptian soil moments after he set foot on it, crossing the border at Rafah from Gaza, organizers of the convoy said. 

A statement from the group said Galloway and a colleague “were forcibly pushed into a van, refused exit and told that they were leaving the country,” as they entered Egypt. 

Egyptian security sources confirmed the decision to deport Galloway, saying officials had decided to bar the British MP from entering Egypt in the future and added the country would “also put all the convoy members on the black list after they leave.” Officials were upset over the protests launched by the convoy, which spurred riots at the Rafah border, which lead to the death of an Egyptian police officer. 

Tensions were high in Egypt even before Viva Palestina landed in the country. The convoy arrived shortly after a series of protests organized by an earlier group of Gaza supporters, the Gaza Freedom March. The march saw 1,300 internationals gather in Cairo in an attempt to enter Gaza for a solidarity march on New Year’s Eve. Egyptian authorities permitted just over 80 delegates with Codepink into the Gaza Strip, and clamped down on protests organized by the hundreds of other supporters across Cairo. 

At the same time, the Egyptian government had battled the Viva Palestina convoy several times over the route of the group and how many supporters would be allowed into Gaza. Egypt first refused entry to the group traveling from Jordan into Egypt via the Red Sea. Government officials said the convoy had to access the country via the Al-Arish port, on the Mediterranean. 

Viva Palestina organizers and Egyptian officials both insist that they notified the other side of their intentions around travel arrangements/restrictions well in advance of the group’s travel to Gaza. 

When convoy members made alternative arrangements for supporters and aid to arrive in Egypt via Al-Arish, Egyptian officials announced they would only let the first 100 activists who arrived to the country into Gaza. 

Viva Palestina organized a protest at the Rafah border demanding all of the supporters be allowed into Gaza. At the same time Hamas leaders in the southern Strip called for a simultaneous protest on the Gaza side of Rafah calling for Egypt to let the convoy into the beseiged area. 

A riot broke out, some activists were injured and an Egyptian officer was shot and killed. That evening Egypt allowed the convoy into Gaza for 48-hours. 

Upon leaving, Viva Palestina organizers said Egyptian riot police and plane clothes intelligence officers attacked a group of 55 Gaza supporters, detaining seven. The group was leaving early, on Wednesday morning. 

Galloway himself was ushered into a police van, taken to the airport and deported to the UK. While at the airport Galloway reportedly learned about the detention of seven convoy members.

According to a statement from the group, “Galloway and Turkish MP’s struck a deal with Egyptian authorities, part of this deal was that the 7 detainees were released without charge.”

All Gaza Crossings Closed

January 10th, 2010 by Global Research

Gaza – Ma’an – Despite being scheduled to open on Friday, Israeli crossings authorities announced the closure of all crossings into the Gaza Strip, Palestinian crossings authority official Raed Fattouh said.

Kerem Shalom crossing was suddenly closed Thursday after mortar shells fired by the militant wing of the Popular Resistance Committees hit near the crossing site. 

The crossings are closed for the Israeli sabbath on Saturday, they were open for four out of six scheduled days last week.

Israeli Jets Attack Targets Across Gaza, Killing 3

January 10th, 2010 by Global Research

Gaza – Ma’an – Israeli warplanes carried out a series of raids on sites throughout the Gaza Strip late Thursday night, witnesses said and Israel’s military confirmed. 

Three citizens were killed and two others injured in the Israeli raids that targeted a tunnel near Rafah crossing south of Gaza.

Medical sources in Abu Yousif An-Najjar hospital identified the dead as Barakat Abu Shalouf, Odai Abu Heesh, 15, and Naser Al-Mahmum, 22. 

Muawiya Hassanein, the Gaza Health Ministry’s director of ambulance and emergency services said the jets struck four areas in total. 

Early reports from Al-Jazeera said a missile killed one Palestinian and injured two inside a smuggling tunnel along the Gaza-Egypt border. Locals reported to Ma’an that smoke was rising above the tunnel area just after midnight. 

At least two missiles landed in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis, one of them near a school, and a third between Khan Younis and Rafah. Jets were still flying overhead the area early into Friday morning. 

Two missiles struck what was described as a military target in the Gaza City neighborhood of Zaytoun. Residents said a missile hit the center of the nearby An-Nuseirat Refugee Camp.

According to an Israeli military spokeswoman, the targets included a weapons manufacturing facility in Gaza City and three tunnels, two along the Egyptian border and another near the border with Israel in central Gaza. She said the third tunnel was intended to facilitate attacks on Israel. 

The official said the airstrikes, among the most wide-scale attacks since Israel’s devastating assault last winter, came in retaliation for the 10 mortar shells reportedly launched toward southern Israel on Thursday. The military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees said a total of 14 mortar shells were launched in three rounds on Thursday. 

The military spokeswoman told Ma’an Israel “will not tolerate the firing of rockets by terror organizations at Israel and will continue to respond against attempts to disrupt the calm in Israel’s southern communities.” 

The three mortar barrages were the largest attack on southern Israel since the end of its Operation Cast Lead, which left some 1,400 Palestinians dead. Projectiles have been intermittently launched at Israeli targets in clusters of two to four, with no more than two barrages in a single day. The PRC said the first launch of two launches included eight, and the second an additional four mortars.

After the first two launches, Israeli forces dropped hundreds of thousands of leaflets into areas in northern and eastern Gaza (pictured above), warning Gazans to stay away from the border area. Shortly after the third attack, Palestinians in Jabaliya reported hearing explosions, although no evidence of Israeli artillery fire or airstrikes was reported. 

One of the projectiles landed near the Kerem Shalom crossing, prompting its closure.

‘Take responsibility for your future’

The leaflets, which residents said were dropped in northern and southern Gaza, warned Palestinians not to approach within 300 meters of the Israeli border, and against digging tunnels into Egypt. 

One reported that the “prohibited zone” includes border areas in Beit Lahiya, Beit Hanoun, and Jabaliya in the north, Khan Younis, Khuza’a, and Abasan in the center, and Rafah in the south. A second warned Palestinians against using tunnels to circumvent the Israeli blockade of the territory. 

“Terrorists, tunnel owners, and the smugglers of military equipment know for certain that the continuation of terrorist attacks, the smuggling of military equipment, and the digging of tunnels will be targeted by the IDF [Israel Defense Forces], but they continue to work in your residential areas and seek refuge among you,” according to the flier, which was written in Arabic.

“The digging [of] tunnels under your houses and the smuggling of military equipment into Gaza constitutes a threat to your lives, the lives of your children, and family, and your property,” it added. “Do not stay idle and let the terrorists use you. They will not stand beside you when harm is done to you and your property. … Take responsibility for your future.” 

The leaflet also lists an email address and a phone number urging Palestinians to provide information about smugglers and tunnel operators.

A military spokesman confirmed that the leaflets were dropped from air force planes, warning that anyone who comes within 300 meters of the border is “putting themselves at risk,” warning against weapons smuggling. 

The spokesman said “the IDF will operate against anyone who harbors terrorists.”

Following the first wave of mortar attacks, Israel announced that the Kerem Shalom crossing point was closed after sources said a mortar shell fired from Gaza landed in the area. Palestinian officials said between 86 and 96 trucks had been scheduled to deliver aid to Gaza.

Israel shut down its borders with Gaza after the elected Hamas government took full control of the territory in June 2007. The closure has reduced imports of vital goods to one-fifth of pre-blockade levels and prevented the Strip’s 1.5 million residents from leaving.

Russia will continue developing offensive armaments to counter U.S. missile defenses, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told reporters on Tuesday.

“We must continue developing offensive systems,” the prime minister said in Vladivostok, adding that it will help “preserve a strategic balance” with the United States which, unlike Russia, is sticking to its missile shield program.

“If we want to exchange information, let the U.S. share its information on missile defense and we will provide information on offensive weapons,” he said.

Putin described talks with the U.S. on a new strategic offensive arms reduction treaty as “positive.”

The START 1 treaty expired on December 5. The new treaty is expected to be signed in early 2010.

Putin said the treaty should contain “certain rules on arms reduction,” which should be “equally understood, easily tested and transparent.”

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama announced at their first meeting in April that the countries would replace the START I treaty as part of their efforts to “reset” bilateral ties.

The treaty’s outline agreed by the presidents included cutting nuclear arsenals to 1,500-1,675 operational warheads and delivery vehicles to 500-1,000.

Xe Services Aims for $1 Billion Afghan Deal

January 10th, 2010 by Global Research

WASHINGTON – Blackwater Worldwide’s legal woes haven’t dimmed the company’s prospects in Afghanistan, where it’s a contender to be a key part of President Barack Obama’s strategy for stabilizing the country.

Now called Xe Services, the company is in the running for a Pentagon contract potentially worth $1 billion to train Afghanistan’s troubled national police force. Xe has been shifting to training, aviation and logistics work after its security guards were accused of killing unarmed Iraqi civilians more than two years ago.

Yet even with a new name and focus, the expanded role would seem an unlikely one for Xe because Democrats have held such a negative opinion of the company following the Iraqi deaths, which are still reverberating in Baghdad and Washington.

During the presidential campaign, then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, now Obama’s secretary of state, backed legislation to ban Blackwater and other private security contractors from Iraq.

Xe eventually lost its license to operate as guardian of U.S. diplomats in Iraq and the State Department, with Clinton at the helm, elected not to rehire the company when the contract expired in 2009. Delays in getting a new company in place led to a temporary extension of the State contract.

A federal judge on New Year’s Eve dismissed criminal charges against five of the Blackwater guards, citing repeated missteps by federal prosecutors. The Iraqi government has vowed to pursue the case, a new strain on relations between the U.S. and Iraq.

Xe on Wednesday reached a settlement in a series of civil lawsuits in which dozens of Iraqis accused the company of cultivating a reckless culture that allowed innocent civilians to be killed. On Thursday, however, two former Blackwater contractors were arrested on murder charges in the shootings of two Afghans after a traffic accident last year.

Reliance on Xe

Despite the scrutiny, the U.S. relies heavily on Xe — pronounced “zee” — for support in Afghanistan and the workload may grow significantly.

Xe spokesman Mark Corallo declined to comment on whether the company, based in Moyock, N.C., is bidding for the Afghan police training contract. But a U.S. official knowledgeable of the deliberations said Xe is competing. The official requested anonymity to discuss sensitive information about the federal contracting process.

Xe provides security services in Afghanistan, though on a smaller scale than it did in Iraq. As of November, Xe had more than 200 security personnel on the ground in Afghanistan, according to documents highlighting Xe’s operations.

Two Xe guards were killed Dec. 30 during a suicide bombing attack at a CIA base in southeastern Afghanistan, again raising questions about services the company provides for the CIA.

Late last year, CIA Director Leon Panetta terminated the use of Xe personnel in loading and other logistics for airborne drones used to hunt militants in Pakistan.

Caracas, January 9, 2009 – Yesterday’s violation of Venezuelan airspace by a P-3 US military combat plane is another example of the escalation in provocations against Venezuela and evidence of the danger US military presence in the region represents. During a live television broadcast on the evening of January 8, President Hugo Chávez revealed that at approximately 12:55pm earlier that day, a US P3 combat plane took off from the air base in neighboring Curaçao and entered Venezuelan airspace during a 15-minute period. Two Venezuelan F-16 planes intercepted the foreign military aircraft, prepared to escort it outside Venezuelan territory. “When the F-16 planes attempted communication with the US aircraft, it immediately took off towards the north, but later it returned”, announced President Chávez. He said that at 1:37pm Venezuelan time, the combat plane returned and flew for about 19 minutes inside Venezuelan territory. “It was escorted out and pressured by our F-16s, we didn’t have to bring in the Sukhois”, added Chávez.

The Pentagon has denied violation of Venezuelan airspace, yet the Venezuelan military has video and photographic images of the US combat plane incursion yesterday.

Just days earlier, Venezuela’s Vice-President Ramón Carrizalez had publicly denounced the intromission of a US military plane also originating from the air base in Curaçao during 2009. The governments of Washington and Holland denied the violation, yet Carrizalez revealed an audio recording between the Venezuelan airport control tower and the US pilot while inside Venezuelan airspace. The pilot stated clearly that he was flying a US Navy military plane stationed at the base in Curaçao. He claimed ignorance as to the violation of Venezuelan territory, stating he was “unaware” he had entered an authorized zone. But the US military plane hadn’t just merely crossed a border that some might argue is difficult to visualize, rather the pilot had flown over a strategic Venezuelan military base on La Orchila, a small island off Venezuela’s northern coast, clearly well inside Venezuelan territory. This was not an isolated incident.

Since 2008, Washington has been increasing its military and intelligence presence on the small Dutch island of Curaçao, where it maintains a Forward Operating Location (FOL) since 1999. The original contract between Holland and Washington stipulated use of Curaçao for counter-narcotics operations. But since September 11, 2001, Washington began using its military installations around the world to combat “terrorist threats” and threats against US interests, and in some cases,  such as in Curaçao and Aruba, violating the terms of previous military agreements that only authorized counter-narcotics or humanitarian missions.

By 2006, US operations from Curaçao were not just US Air Force counter-narcotics missions, but a clear presence of US Navy, Marines, Army, Special Forces and CIA had taken over the tiny Caribbean island. Together, the US military and intelligence community components were conducting joint exercises and  operations to combat a “potencial threat in the region”. At the same time, the Bush Administration was trying to brand Venezuela as a state sponsor of terrorism, despite the lack of any evidence to back such a dangerous accusation.

The arrival of US aircraft carriers, war ships, combat planes, Black Hawk helicopters, nuclear submarines, and thousands of troops to the waters of Curaçao to participate in “joint exercises” caused alarm in the region. The Commander of the U.S.S. Stout, one of the war ships that docked in Willemstad during Spring 2006, declared to the Curaçao press on April 11, 2006, “…we are the most powerful Naval force in the world and the United States will defend its friends in the region under all circumstances.” Commander Thomas K. Kiss also exclaimed that his powerful ship represented “…a formidable presence to defend US interests in the region.”

That was in 2006. In 2008, the stakes intensified. Washington formally attempted to place Venezuela on the terrorism list, though Congress didn’t approve the request because of oil dependence. But in July 2008, the US Naval Fourth Fleet was reactivated after almost 60 years, to “demonstrate US power and force in the region”. In 2009, a military agreement between Colombia and Washington was sealed, allowing the Pentagon to occupy and use seven military bases in Colombian territory and any civilian installation necessary. US Air Force documents justifying the agreement and budget requests to improve Colombian military installations underlined the necessity to combat “…the constant threat of …anti-US governments in the region” and to engage in Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaisance missions, as well as to improve the US armed forces’ capacity to execute “Expeditionary Warfare” in the region.

           
In December 2009, President Chávez denounced the detection of a US drone plane that had violated Venezuelan territory from Colombia.

A Department of State publication from 2006 classified the Dutch islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao as the “The Third Frontier of the United States”, considering the Caribbean colonies part of the “geopolitical border of the United States”. In reaction to the growing US military presence on Curaçao, a local journalist commented, upon visiting one of the US war ships, “After leaving the war ship, we had the sensation that all of a sudden, we are now very important…”

From Blackwater to Xe, the Templar Crusade

January 10th, 2010 by Michael Carmichael

Blackwater is a corporation that provides mercenary soldiers and supporting security personnel to the US government. 

Erik Prince, the founder and owner of the now infamous US corporation, Blackwater, hails from Holland, Michigan where his family was both powerful and prominent in two institutions – (1) the Republican Party and (2) the evangelical Christian Church.  After scandals hit his large and lucrative firm, Prince ordered a curious rebranding that changed its name to Xe.

X is an archaic form of abbreviation for Christ and/or Christian that was derived from the cross and the Greek Alphabet.  X or Chi is the Greek letter that is the initial of “Christos” – X – which at the same time served as a symbol for the cross.  Sometimes written Chi-Rho, (Xp) is another abbreviation for Christos and his followers, the Christians.  From the perspective of medieval Christian symbology, ‘Xe’ is a combination of the Christic cross and the Greek letter, Epsilon, the first letter in the Greek word, Evangelion, glad tidings or gospel.  From the perspective of a modern member of the Knights Templar, Xe is immediately recognizable as it symbolizes Christian Evangelism.

Prince’s background

Eric Prince’s father owned a thriving automotive parts business and sent his son to Holland Christian School – an evangelical establishment that accepts students from Kindergarten through the 12th grade.  Since then, Prince has converted to Roman Catholicism – and may be a member or associate of Opus Dei, a very conservative cult now described as a prelature that is a strong ally of the current pope, Benedict XVI, who – when he was a Cardinal – paved the way for the beatification and canonization of the cult’s founder, St. Josemaria Escriva by his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.  

Here is a brief description of Erik Prince’s religious background taken from a website :

The founder and CEO of Blackwater is Erik Prince, son of Edgar Prince, the now deceased businessman from Holland, Michigan. Prince’s background as a Western Michigander is not just limited to geography, the brother of Betsy DeVos has also embraced the conservative religious beliefs that his family promoted zealously, particularly with their money. Erik began his political career working as an intern for Gary Bauer at the Family Research Council and also worked in the Bush I White House, although he thought that this administration was too liberal. Prince disapproved of the Bush I administration to the extent that in 1992 he supported Patrick Buchanan for President, something that got him into trouble with his sister Betsy.

Unlike his family, which is part of the Christian Reformed Church, Erik Prince is a Catholic. He most likely became Catholic when he married his first wife, who died of cancer shortly after they were married. Interestingly enough, most of the leadership at Blackwater is also Catholic, albeit a conservative wing of the church that is quite reactionary. Erik Prince is personally connected to conservative Catholic groups like Catholic Answer, Crisis magazine, and a Grand Rapids-based group, the Acton Institute. But Prince has not abandoned his Protestant/Evangelical roots and is a close friend of Watergate criminal turned believer Chuck Colson. They have shared the podium on several occasions, even once at Calvin College. According to Scahill, Prince is aligning himself with a new Catholic/Evangelical alliance called “Evangelicals and Catholics Together.” The ECT manifesto states:

“The century now drawing to a close has been the greatest century of missionary expansion in Christian history. We pray and we believe that this expansion has prepared the way for yet greater missionary endeavor in the first century of the Third Millennium. The two communities in world Christianity that are most evangelistically assertive and most rapidly growing are Evangelicals and Catholics.” 

Prince’s relationship to what Scahill calls the “Theocon” movement is not marginal. Prince himself writes about this relationship and it’s importance, particularly with the mission of Blackwater. Prince says “Everybody carries guns, just like the Prophet Jeremiah rebuilding the temple in Israel – a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other.”

The current Crusade

In 2004, the current pope signed a letter to the Bishops in the United States warning the laity not to vote for Catholic candidates who had voted in favor of women’s rights to abortion.  Cardinal Ratzinger’s letter weakened the campaign of John Kerry and strengthened George W. Bush who had used the term, “crusade,” to rally his forces shortly after 9/11. Speaking in Regensburg in 2006, Pope Benedict XVI made insensitive remarks about the Islamic faith that caused outrage in the Muslim world.

Erik Prince’s personal Crusade

Among his personnel at Xe, Prince is known to be a high-profile Islamophobe who believes his personal mission in life is to bring about the total extinction of the Muslim population of this planet in what he has described as a global campaign of genocide or a, “Crusade.”

Here is an excerpt of an article about Prince that appeared in The Economist:

In an affidavit lodged with a court in Virginia, one of the witnesses said that Mr Prince “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe.” The statement continues

To that end, Mr. Prince intentionally deployed to Iraq certain men who shared his vision of Christian supremacy, knowing and wanting these men to take every available opportunity to murder Iraqis. Many of these men used call signs based on the Knights of the Templar, the warriors who fought the Crusades.

Mr. Prince operated his companies in a manner that encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life. For example, Mr. Prince’s executives would openly speak about going over to Iraq to “lay Hajiis out on cardboard.” Going to Iraq to shoot and kill Iraqis was viewed as a sport or game. Mr. Prince’s employees openly and consistently used racist and derogatory terms for Iraqis and other Arabs, such as “ragheads” or “hajiis.”

Michael Carmichael is the founder of Planetary.

A Decade of Wars, Crises and Rises

January 10th, 2010 by Stanly Johny

In international politics, decades are important tools that help us understand and interpret history better. The major developments in the past often come to our mind with tags of decades – the economic crisis of 1920’s, the wars of 1930’s, the reconstruction of 1950’s, the Lost Decade, and so on. Now, standing at the starting point of a new decade, how do we analyse the bygone one (2000-10)?

According to British historian Andrew Roberts, the first ten years of the new century, or the Noughties, were full of troubles. It witnessed two major wars, one of the gravest financial crises in decades, a number of natural disasters including Tsunami, and changes in global power dynamics. At the beginning of the century, not many might have forecast such a troublesome first decade.
 
The Noughties followed a decade that saw the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the subsequent emergence of the US as the sole superpower in the world. The successful tests of American hard power in the Balkans and the Middle East in the late 1990’s underscored the opinion that the new century would be an American century. President George W. Bush, who assumed office in 2001, vowed to accelerate American style free market capitalism and expand the military capabilities of the country. Everything looked set for paving the way for the US to reshape and lead the global order without major hindrances. But the path of history often lies beyond the scope of prediction.

Wars

The beginning of sweeping changes of the decade started on September 11, 2001, when the World Trade Centre, the tall symbols of America’s economic might, was attacked by a few terrorists. The attack became a reference point of the decade, if not of the century. In the same month, president Bush declared America’s “war on terror” and the US started this war on October 7 by bombing Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

The US could drive the Taliban out of Kabul within weeks of bombing, and set up a puppet government of Hamid Karzai in the capital city. But the war did have a ripple effect across the Muslim Middle East. The war on terror was interpreted by many political Islamists as an “imperial crusade” of the West against Islam. This notion gained currency when Bush opened another war front in the Islamic world in 2003. Accusing the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq of supporting al-Qaeda in the region and mobilising weapons of mass destruction, the US declared war on the Baathist country in March 2003.

Two months later, President Bush declared victory in Iraq. Saddam Hussein went absconding, the regime was toppled and a provincial government was established, which was followed by a bloody resistance by Iraqis against the occupation. Saddam was captured in December 2003 and hanged on December 30, 2006.

According to many reports, the neoconservatives in the Bush administration wanted to expand the war to Iran, and further to Syria as part of their plans to reinforce America’s hegemony on the entire Middle East. But the Iraqi resistance bogged America down for years. When things started returning to a new normal in Iraq, the economic catastrophe limited America’s military possibilities.

Crisis

If America’s hard power faced fresh challenges in the first half of the decade, its unique economic model was nearly destroyed in the second half. The unregulated capitalism, which the US championed for years, drew flak from all corners when Wall Street investment banking giants like Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008, plunging the entire world into an unprecedented liquidity crisis. The woes of the financial sector soon expanded to the real economy, leaving most of the advanced developed countries in recession.

The new president of the US, Barack Obama, in complete realisation that his country was not in an advanced position to cope with the world’s problems, came forward to formulate a new cooperation mechanism with the emerging economies including China and India. Many countries, including the US, put caps on the flow of capital, implemented fresh regulations and expanded the scope the government to fight the crisis.

The Rise of China

Another major twist of the decade is the rise of emerging powers, including China, India and Brazil, onto the global stage. Of these, China stands out. According to many analysts, the this century is China’s. British academic Martin Jaques says the stage is set for China to rise as a counter power to the US and radically overhaul the international system. China’s escape from the global slowdown nearly unhurt has forced many analysts to take a more positive view vis-à-vis the Asian giant. China is the fastest growing economy in the world and is set to overtake Japan as the second largest economy in 2010. It is also a fast rising military power and a regional hegemonic state in Asia.

The new decade will see China further expanding its economic influence and making efforts to convert that into political clout. According to Goldman Sachs, China will move past the US as the largest economy by 2027. If the trend of Noughties continues in the new decade, it will have radical effect on the existing global order, so far dominated by the West. So, gear up to live in a rapidly changing world.

Global Militarization and the “War on Terror”

January 10th, 2010 by Global Research


VISIT THE GLOBAL RESEARCH ARCHIVE
10,000+ articles
– 2010-01-10

A Decade of Wars, Crises and Rises
– by Stanly Johny – 2010-01-10


Award Winning Movie: “SUPERPOWER”:
Order the DVD Online from Global Research
– by Barbara-Anne Steegmuller – 2010-01-10

Palestinians reject U.S. call for resuming peace talks
– by Saud Abu Ramadan, Fares Akram – 2010-01-10

Subscribe to the Global Research E-Newsletter
– 2010-01-10


Trilateral Geithner: Corrupted Regulator?
– by Patrick Wood – 2010-01-09


The Surge in U.S. Personal Bankruptcies, Foreclosures and Job Losses
– by Bob Chapman – 2010-01-09


Northwest Bomb Plot ‘Oddities’
– by Lori Price – 2010-01-09


VIDEO: Viva Palestina Convoy Arrives in Gaza
– 2010-01-09

Yemen and the Al Qaeda Pretext: A Closer Look at the War on Terrorism’s “New Frontier”
– by Ali Jawad – 2010-01-09

China Urges U.S. to Stop Arms Sales to Taiwan
– 2010-01-09


Africom – Latest U.S. Bid to Recolonise the Continent
– by Tichaona Nhamoyebonde – 2010-01-09

The US government has intensified its efforts to bring a permanent army to settle in Africa

Environmental Coverup: Radioactive Groundwater Contamination in the Chesapeake Bay
– by Cathy Garger – 2010-01-08


Climate Science: Observations versus Models
– by Richard K. Moore – 2010-01-08


“Let the Plunder Begin”: The Return of Robert Rubin
– by Mike Whitney – 2010-01-08

Never Mind the Facts, Let’s Have a War…
– by Finian Cunningham – 2010-01-08


Bush Top Lawyers Authored Memos Purporting to Authorize Torture
FOIA Request Filed for OPR Report on Bush’s Lawyers
– 2010-01-08

Did Abdulmutallab Board Flight 253 Without a Passport?
– by Joe Wolverton – 2010-01-08

Afghans Hold Anti-US Rally Over Killing of Civilians
– 2010-01-08


U.S., NATO Expand Afghan War To Horn Of Africa And Indian Ocean
– by Rick Rozoff – 2010-01-08

The US and its NATO allies have laid the groundwork for increased naval, air and ground operations in the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden.

Six Million in the US With no Income but Food Stamps
– by Jerry White – 2010-01-08

Angry Iceland Defies the World
– by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard – 2010-01-08

Gaza Freedom March
We reinvigorated our own determination to keep struggling to lift the siege!
– by Code Pink – 2010-01-08

Breaking News: Israeli F16s attack Northern, Western, Southern and Middle Gaza
– 2010-01-07

Local Currencies: The Key to Economic Recovery
– by Richard C. Cook – 2010-01-07


VIDEO: A Message for Peace
– by Kseniya Simonova – 2010-01-07


VIDEO: The Breakup of Yugoslavia
New Documentary Film by Boris Malagurski
– by Bojan Ratković – 2010-01-07


Israel Resembles a Failed State
– by Ali Abunimah – 2010-01-07

Honduran Military Leaders Face Arrests
– 2010-01-07


The West’s Afghan War: From Conquest To Bloodbath
– by Rick Rozoff – 2010-01-07


Suicide Claims More US Military Lives Than Afghan War
– by James Cogan – 2010-01-07

The American Elite
– by William Blum – 2010-01-07

‘Yemen to Let US Set Up Air Base on its Soil’
– 2010-01-07


Media Vultures Are Coming: Freedom of Expression at Risk
– by Ramzy Baroud – 2010-01-07


Frosty, Frigid Global Warming
Record cold has hit the US for the winter of 2009/2010 we shall attempt to look at a possible reason for this to happen
– by Ted Twietmeyer – 2010-01-07


Vancouver International Airport to Get Full-body Scanners
Security workers will be able to see through travellers’ clothes
– by Andrea Woo, Dara Hansen – 2010-01-07


Insider: Palin Failed to Lead on Oil and Gas Safety in Alaska
– by Dahr Jamail – 2010-01-07


Economy USA 2010: From the Scandalous Past to the Uncertain Future
– by Prof. Rodrigue Tremblay – 2010-01-06


VIDEO: The United Nations’ Role in Peace and War
Global Research Public Lecture, Montreal, Dec 1, 2009
– by Denis Halliday – 2010-01-06


Bomb Plot with a Yemeni Connection: A Christmas Gift for US War Plans
– by Finian Cunningham – 2010-01-06


US Home Sales Plummet, Personal Bankruptcies Soar
– by Tom Eley – 2010-01-06


Bernanke: “Easy Money did not Cause the Housing Bubble”
– by Mike Whitney – 2010-01-06

Two Missile Strikes in Pakistan Kill 10
– 2010-01-06

Afghanistan: Gold Mine for Security Companies
– 2010-01-06


Leading Global Warming Crusader: Cap and Trade May INCREASE CO2 Emissions
– by Washington’s Blog – 2010-01-06


Obama: US Agencies had Intelligence to Foil Airline Bomb Plot
– by Bill Van Auken – 2010-01-06


Telling the Truth
– by Yvonne Ridley – 2010-01-06


Reagan’s Ghost: Starwars Stops START
Hopes fading that the historical treaty between the US and the Soviet Union will be renewed
– by Eric Walberg – 2010-01-06

Activists Leave Egypt After Gaza Entry Denied
– 2010-01-06

The Grand Placebo: Airport security and The Terrorist Genie
– by Binoy Kampmark – 2010-01-05

Caspian Sea Geopolitics: Nabucco will be the most expensive pipeline ever built
– by Dr. John C.K. Daly – 2010-01-05


Canada’s Rogue Conservatives Prorogue Parliament
This is the second time the ruling party wants to shut down democracy
– by Michael Werbowski – 2010-01-05


Moving Our Money from Wall Street to Local Community Banks
The North Dakota Model
– by Ellen Brown – 2010-01-05


The Stranglehold the Banks have on our Economy
Financial Reforms Are Being Watered Down As Bailouts Are Up
– by Danny Schechter – 2010-01-05

German Soldiers ‘Trained to Kill’ in Afghanistan: Expert
– 2010-01-05

Bolivia Refuses to be U.S. Slave
– 2010-01-05

Iraq to Sue Blackwater in Iraq
– 2010-01-05

Israeli Defense Delegation Makes Secret Visit to India
– 2010-01-05

Hundreds of Afghans Rally Against NATO Forces
– 2010-01-05

Clinton Says Yemen Poses Global Threat
– 2010-01-05

International Declaration: War is Illegal
– 2010-01-05

New U.S. Air Traveller Screening Focuses on 14 Nations
– by James Vicini – 2010-01-05

At this Critical Time in World History, We Dare Not Let the Plutocracy Prevail
Real change requires effective organizing, mass mobilization and unrelenting perseverance
– by Ramsey Clark – 2010-01-05


U.S. Venezuelan Relations: Imperialism and Revolution
– by James Petras – 2010-01-05

Viva Palestina Convoy To Leave For El-arish, Egypt By Chartered Flight
– 2010-01-05


Questions Mount Over Attempt to Bomb Detroit-bound Jetliner
– by Patrick Martin – 2010-01-05


The Yemen Hidden Agenda: Behind the Al-Qaeda Scenarios, A Strategic Oil Transit Chokepoint
– by F. William Engdahl – 2010-01-05

The steady escalation of US military involvement in Yemen, a dismally poor land adjacent to Saudi Arabia.


Guantánamo: The Definitive Prisoner List (Updated for 2010)
– by Andy Worthington – 2010-01-05


How Goldman Sachs Made Tens of Billions of Dollars from the Economic Collapse of America
– by The Economic Collapse Blog – 2010-01-04


“The Underwear Bomber”: Crushing Freedom With Phony Arab Terrorism
– by Joe Quinn – 2010-01-04


‘The US Military is Exhausted’
– by Sarah Lazare – 2010-01-04


Global Cooling in 2009
– 2010-01-04

VIDEO: Afghanistan is Not the Right War
– by James Corbett – 2010-01-04


Lining Up for the Wall Street Gravy Train
– by Mike Whitney – 2010-01-04


Animal Tracing, Food Contamination and the Unsanitary Conditions of US Meat Processing Plants
The National Animal Identification System
– by Rady Ananda – 2010-01-04


Northwest Airlines Christmas Day Flight: “Al Qaeda Made Me Do It!”
The rise of patsies and heroes
– by Rev. Richard Skaff – 2010-01-04

Obama Takes ‘War on Terror’ to Yemen
– by Simon Tisdall – 2010-01-04


Undeclared Martial Law: The Violation of Fundamental Human Rights in the Philippines
– by Marya Salamat – 2010-01-04


Who Would Benefit Politically from a Terrorist Incident on American Soil? The Strange Case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab
– by Tom Burghardt – 2010-01-04

Are we to believe that it was yet another “intelligence failure”?


Is the U.S. Government Buying Stocks?
– by Washington’s Blog – 2010-01-04

VIDEO: Iraq War Veteran Exposes the Unspoken Truth: “The Real Terrorism is This Occupation”
Moving Testimony
– by Mike Prysner – 2010-01-04

Fresh US Drone Attacks Kill 5 in Pakistan
– 2010-01-04

US General Urges Strip Search of Muslim Men
– 2010-01-04

Palestine / Israel: A Single State, with Liberty and Justice for All
– by Susan Abulhawa, Ramzy Baroud – 2010-01-03

The Effects of Genetically Modified Foods on Animal Health
– by Rady Ananda – 2010-01-03


VIDEO: Exposing The Bush-Cheney Cabal: Exclusive Footage of an Attempted Citizen’s Arrest of G.W. Bush
– by Splitting The Sky – 2010-01-03

Northwest Flight 253: Mounting Evidence of U.S. Complicity in Terrorism
– by Gordon Duff – 2010-01-03

Operation “Cast Lead” – One Year Later, Justice Still Eludes Palestinians
– by Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East – 2010-01-03

Pakistan: Over 700 Civilians Killed in US Drone Strikes
– 2010-01-03

Tony Blair’s £1m-a-year Paymaster Seeks Giant Iraqi Oil Deal
– 2010-01-03

Britain: Record fall in pay levels
– by Julie Hyland – 2010-01-03


Canada’s Conservatives Shut Down Parliament, Again
– by Keith Jones – 2010-01-03


The US and China: One Side is Losing, the Other is Winning
– by James Petras – 2010-01-03

Emirates is Top US Military Customer
– by Ivan Gale – 2010-01-03

U.S. Military Eyes Guam as Staging Post to Counter Threats
– 2010-01-03


Afghanistan: Shooting Handcuffed Children
– by David Swanson – 2010-01-03

“US Plans Military Aggression Against Venezuela”
– 2010-01-03


An Introspective Look at the Future of America
Systemic Fraud, Corruption and Financial Instability
– by Craig Harris – 2010-01-02


Is the Fed Juicing the Stock Market?
– by Mike Whitney – 2010-01-02

De-FARMization – Climate Bill Makes Tree Planting More Lucrative Than Farming
– by Edward Felker – 2010-01-02

Palestinians reject U.S. call for resuming peace talks

January 10th, 2010 by Saud Abu Ramadan

GAZA/RAMALLAH, Jan. 9 (Xinhua) — The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) on Saturday rejected a U.S. call for resuming the stalled peace talks with Israel without preconditions, demanding a full settlement freeze in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, Gaza Strip ruling Islamic Hamas movement warned the PNA against any resumption and cautioned that Israel will be the only beneficiary of the peace talks.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Xinhua in a telephone interview that it is unacceptable, “since the U.S. administration’s calls don’t include a total freeze of settlements in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, and don’t include a timetable for resuming the talks.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday said that the United States is working with Israeli and Palestinian authorities, as well as Arab states, namely Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, to resume the peace negotiations “as soon as possible and without preconditions.”

Clinton made the remarks after meeting Jordanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Judeh, adding that Washington is to renew its commitment and increase efforts in persuading the parties to return to the talks.

The two officials called on the Palestinians and Israel to tackle the thorny issues of borders and the status of Jerusalem first, saying resolving the two issues would automatically resolve the dispute over Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, a major obstacle in the peace process.

But Erekat said that Clinton “neglected the Arab position” that Israel must halt the building of Jewish settlements all-over the West Bank as well as in the occupied East Jerusalem.” Clinton also failed to “endorse the principle of the two-state solution,” Erekat said.

“How should we negotiate on the Palestinian state’s boundaries while the Israeli bulldozers and settlements are eating up the land that we want to build our state on?” Erekat said. “The settlement expansions must stop to give a chance for the negotiations to succeed.”

Erekat stressed that the negotiations must restart from the point they stopped at during the era of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

The peace talks came to a standstill when Israel launched a military offensive against the Gaza Strip in December 2008 and efforts to restart them have failed due to the continuation of Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

On Friday, Israeli Ha’aretz daily reported that the United States studies the possibilities of holding indirect negotiations between Israel and the PNA.

“But (Palestinian) President Mahmoud Abbas still rejects the resumption of any talks before halting the Israeli settlements,” the report said.

Erekat denied that the PNA has received such kind offers over resuming indirect peace talks with Israel, saying that, “So far we haven’t received any official U.S. offers.”

Last week, Abbas visited Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan and Turkey to express the Palestinian stance concerning the efforts to resume the peace talks.

“There are actually Arab efforts exerted by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Qatar to convince the U.S. Administration that it is time now that the United States present a comprehensive peace plan based on the establishment of a Palestinian state on the territories occupied by Israel in 1967,” said Erekat.

The Palestinians insist the borders of their future statehood encompass all of the land Israel occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem as their capital, while Israel deems Jerusalem as its indivisible capital.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has also called on the international community to urge Israel to stop settlement in the Palestinian territories and end the blockade that has been imposed on the Gaza Strip for three years “before resuming any peace negotiations.”

Meanwhile, the Islamic Hamas movement, which has been ruling the Gaza Strip since June 2007, snubbed U.S. and Arab efforts to resume peace talks between the PNA and Israel.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told reporters that the bids to revive the peace process “aim at saving the Arab regimes from their weakness and rescuing the U.S. administration’s reputation which is biased towards the Israeli occupation.”

“For Hamas, the only beneficiary of the resumption of the negotiations is Israel which will use it as a cover to continue building settlements and making Jerusalem Jewish,” Abu Zuhri added.

Hamas basically rejects the Middle East peace process and also refuses to recognize Israel.

Also on Saturday, a coalition of eight Palestinian factions based in Damascus, which include Hamas, Islamic Jihad and radical left-wing groups, said that they reject recent American and Arab political efforts to resume the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

“The ongoing moves to re-track negotiations with Israel are part of a plan to subjugate the Palestinian people to Israeli conditions,” said the eight groups in a statement.

“We call on all the Palestinians political factions and powers to be united to confront these plans that would harm the just Palestinian cause,” the statement said.

Trilateral Geithner: Corrupted Regulator?

January 9th, 2010 by Patrick Wood

Timothy Geithner is a rising star within the membership of the Trilateral Commission: He is highly educated, has extensive regulatory experience, and is wiling to bend, break or obscure the rules to favor his global elite bosses.

In November 2008 when Geithner was President of the NY Federal Reserve, just before becoming Obama’s Secretary of the Treasury, recently discovered e-mails reveal that Geithner and the NY Fed pressured the bailed-out AIG into keeping it’s mouth shut about which banks were receiving taxpayer funds in exchange for toxic assets known as “credit swaps.” (This story was made possible by copies of e-mails between Fed and AIG officials that were recently secured by California Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA.))

Furthermore, the NY FED and AIG then conspired to officially hide the event when AIG was required to make a regulatory filing to the SEC on December 24, 2008: The Fed crossed out the reference on its records and AIG excluded the facts on their filing.

In November 2008, the NY Fed was officially in charge of negotiations between AIG and those banks that were “to big to fail.” More than a dozen banks, including Goldman Sachs and Societe Generale SA, received payments of $62.1 billion from AIG for worthless mortgage-backed contracts. What a sweetheart deal they got, too: 100 cents on the dollar!

No wonder that Geithner wanted to hide the details.

On behalf of the taxpayer, AIG was supposed to negotiate steep discounts for these worthless contracts. Yet, in October, the NY Fed had ordered AIG to not seek discountsfrom the banks, which directly dinged taxpayers for at least $13 billion.

Around November 24, 2008, when Geithner learned that Obama intended to nominate him for the top Treasury job, he was officially recused from matters dealing with specific companies. In other words, he ran like a rabbit and insulated himself from any further involvement that might be discovered during his Senate confirmation hearings.

Geithner successfully obscured his still-hidden dealings with AIG and was subsequently confirmed to be the head watchdog and guardian of America’s money center.

This level and sophistication of corruption is without parallel in the history of the world. It is calculated, brazen and blatant. 

Remember that in September 2008, then-Secretary of the Treasury Henry “Hammerin’ Hank” Paulson demanded $700 billion in bailout funds from Congress with no strings attached. Paulson literally extorted the money by claiming that America would completely collapse in days or weeks if he didn’t get the money authorized immediately. The fact that Paulson was formerly CEO of Goldman Sachs, a company with heavy representation in the Trilateral Commission, didn’t deter his demands nor Congress’ total capitulation to them.  

U.S. taxpayers should demand that Congress immediately start impeachment proceedings to remove Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury. Perhaps the threat of a publicly-broadcast Senate trial would motivate Obama to fire him before other incriminating evidence could be presented. 

From a layman’s perspective, criminal charges facing Geithner might start with something like these:

Perjury – lying to and withholding information from the U.S. Senate while under oath

Theft – illegally diverting billions of Treasury funds to selected global banks 

Conspiracy to conceal a criminal act – coercing AIG to file false regulatory statements with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)

Malfeasance – commission of an unlawful act in the course of an official capacity

The August Review has long pointed out and documented cases where members of the Trilateral Commission have discovered ways to raid the U.S. Treasury for private gain. A few of these articles include:

America Plundered by the Global Elite – May 18, 2005 

Plundering the Public Purse – March 21, 2008

BAILOUT: America’s Financial Ruin – October 6, 2008

It should be reiterated that all bankers and corporate executives are not greedy and corrupt. In fact, the vast majority are loyal Americans, law-abiding, family oriented and civic-minded. The small group of internationalists who are members of the Trilateral Commission are the polar opposite of mainstream America and live and operate as if they are above the law and any accountability to the people of the countries where they have business interests. From its founding in 1973 by Zbigniew Brzezinski and David Rockefeller, the Trilateral Commission has never had more than 400 members at any one time; of those members, only about one third are directly connected to banks and global corporations. Since Commission membership is drawn from Europe, Asia and North America, U.S. membership is obviously quite small. 

The August Review’s 2009 article Obama: Trilateral Commission Endgame was not widely criticized when it reported that about 12 percent of the U.S. membership had been appointed by President Obama to top-level positions in his administration: Timothy Geithner, Susan Rice, Gen James Jones, Thomas Donilon, Paul Volker, Adm. Dennis Blair, Kurt Campbell, James Steinberg, Richard Haas, Dennis Ross and Richard Holbrooke. Another Trilateral member, Robert Hormats was appointed later in 2009.

If America is to survive this pandemic of high-level corruption, then this Trilateral Commission hegemony must first be jetisoned from all positions and departments of our government; merely electing another party in November 2010 will not accomplish this. 

Patrick Wood is editor of The August Review and The August Forecast, and is co-author with the late Antony C. Sutton of Trilaterals Over Washington Volumes I and II.

The number of Americans filing for personal bankruptcy rose by nearly a third in 2009, a surge largely driven by foreclosures and job losses.

And more people are filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which liquidates assets to pay off some debts and absolves the filers of others. That is significant because a 2005 overhaul of federal bankruptcy laws aimed to encourage Chapter 13 filings, which force consumers to sign onto debt-repayment plans in exchange for keeping certain assets.

The changes were designed to make it more difficult for people to shed their debt, particularly in a Chapter 7 filling. A “means” test, for example, was introduced to separate those who could afford to repay their debt from those who couldn’t. A Chapter 7 filing is off the table if the means test determines a person is able to pay back at least a portion of the debt after it is restructured.

The worst U.S. recession in a generation is testing the effectiveness of these laws. The economic downturn also has prompted more middle-class Americans to file for bankruptcy protection.

Overall, personal bankruptcy filings hit 1.41 million last year, up 32% from 2008, according to the National Bankruptcy Research Center, which compiles and analyzes bankruptcy data. It is the highest level of consumer-bankruptcy fillings since 2005. Consumers rushed to file in 2005 before the new bankruptcy laws took effect in October of that year.

Chapter 7 filings were up more than 42% as of November 2009, compared with the same period a year earlier, according to the research center. November is the most recent month with analyzed data available. Chapter 13 filings rose by 12% and made up less than a third of 2009 filings as of November.

“That suggests it was largely ineffective,” Ronald Mann, a law professor at Columbia University, said of the 2005 overhaul. “I don’t think anybody who’s knowledgeable about the bankruptcy system thought the statute was well crafted.”

During this recession, the housing crisis and high unemployment rate have prompted more people to file for bankruptcy who may never have considered the option before, experts said. Filings from 2008 showed more people with high income and high education levels resorting to bankruptcy petitions, according to an annual survey of consumer-bankruptcy filers’ demographics by the Institute for Financial Literacy, a nonprofit that provides bankruptcy-related counseling and education services. Those demographic trends appeared to continue last year.

Mr. Mann said he believes bankruptcies reached their peak sometime last year, but bankruptcy attorneys from across the country said there was no sign that business was slowing. The 113,274 filings in December alone were a third higher than the same month a year earlier.

“I can’t see over the top of the files on my desk,” said Cathleen Moran, a bankruptcy attorney at Moran Law Group in Mountain View, Calif., likening it to the rush of clients before the revised law went into effect. In a three-month period before those rules changed in 2005, her firm filed five times as many cases as usual.

Ms. Moran’s clients in 2008 typically were people who earned between $40,000 and $80,000. That changed last year when a rash of people who earned $100,000 to $300,000 began filing as well, she said.

Non-manufacturing sector expanded in December, but barely, according to data released Wednesday by the Institute for Supply Management. Employment within the broad sector continued to contract.

The ISM’s non-manufacturing purchasing managers’ index rose to 50.1 last month, from 48.7 in November. The December index was slightly below the 50.5 expected by forecasters surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires. Readings above 50 indicate expanding activity.

The ISM said its December business activity/production index rose to 53.7 last month from 49.6. The new-orders index slipped to 52.1 from 55.1 in November.

Nonfarm private employment declined by 84,000 jobs in the month of December, marking the eight straight month of a decreasing rate of job destruction.

According to the authors of the ADP National Employment Report, “employment losses are now rapidly diminishing and, if recent trends continue, private employment will begin rising within the next few months.”

Despite the improvement over the 145,000 jobs lost in November (revised up from -169,000), December’s slowdown was still less than forecast. Analysts had expected a better improvement in the range of 63,000 jobs lost.

Well-known banking analyst Meredith Whitney on Tuesday cut her earnings estimates for Wall Street bank Goldman Sachs for the second time in less than a month.

Shares of Goldman Sachs (NYSE: gs) fell immediately after the news, but then rebounded higher.

Whitney, head of the Meredith Whitney Advisory Group, lowered her fourth quarter estimate for Goldman Sachs to $5.50 from $6.

She also cut her full-year estimate for Goldman for 2010 from $19.65 to $19.20; her 2011 earnings per share estimate from $20.60 to $20.25; and her 2012 estimate from $21.45 to $21.10.

Whitney had previously cut her estimates for Goldman on Dec. 17.

Whitney lowered her estimates for bank Morgan Stanley (NYSE: ms) this past December, reducing her 2010 expectations to $2.60 a share from $2.63 a share. For 2011, her firm lowered its profit estimates to $2.75 a share from $3.28 a share on the bank. It also set an earnings estimate of $2.90 a share for Morgan Stanley for 2012.

Construction spending on hotels, office buildings and retail centers may fall 13 percent this year, the second straight annual decline amid a drop in property prices, the American Institute of Architects said.

The Washington-based group’s forecast is more severe than an estimate it made in July, when it predicted a 12 percent decrease. Spending will turn “marginally” higher in 2011, the group said today.

“The magnitude of the downturn has set in,” Kermit Baker, the group’s chief economist, said in an interview. This year’s expected drop compares with a decline of about 20 percent in 2009. “Another bad year is the bottom line, but there are some prospects of recovery as we get into 2011.”

U.S. commercial real estate values sank to the lowest level in seven years in October as job losses cut demand for apartments, offices and retail space, Moody’s Investors Service Inc. said last month. Office vacancies may approach 20 percent in 2010, according to Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. and Grubb & Ellis Co. Unemployment was 10 percent in November after a 26-year high of 10.2 percent the prior month, the Labor Department said.

Commercial construction spending will probably have a “marginal increase” of 1.8 percent next year, according to the architects group.

That forecast “still implies a weak first half of 2011 and a stronger second half,” Baker said.

Industrial construction spending is likely to slump the most this year, 24 percent, and an additional 7.8 percent in 2011, the institute said.

The group expects hotel building to also fall about 24 percent this year, before rising 5.4 percent in 2011.

Spending on office buildings may drop 19 percent this year and then increase 12 percent in 2011, while retail construction is likely to decline 17 percent this year before climbing 3.2 percent next year, the group said.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York, then led by Timothy Geithner, told American International Group Inc. to withhold details from the public about the bailed-out insurer’s payments to banks during the depths of the financial crisis, e-mails between the company and its regulator show.

AIG said in a draft of a regulatory filing that the insurer paid banks, which included Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Societe Generale SA, 100 cents on the dollar for credit-default swaps they bought from the firm. The New York Fed crossed out the reference, according to the e-mails, and AIG excluded the language when the filing was made public on Dec. 24, 2008. The e-mails were obtained by Representative Darrell Issa, ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The New York Fed took over negotiations between AIG and the banks in November 2008 as losses on the swaps, which were contracts tied to subprime home loans, threatened to swamp the insurer weeks after its taxpayer-funded rescue. The regulator decided that Goldman Sachs and more than a dozen banks would be fully repaid for $62.1 billion of the swaps, prompting lawmakers to call the AIG rescue a “backdoor bailout” of financial firms.

“It appears that the New York Fed deliberately pressured AIG to restrict and delay the disclosure of important information,” said Issa, a California Republican. Taxpayers “deserve full and complete disclosure under our nation’s securities laws, not the withholding of politically inconvenient information.” President Barack Obama selected Geithner as Treasury secretary, a post he took last year.

Central bankers will hold talks with banking executives in Switzerland this weekend amid concern financial companies are rebuffing a push to increase regulation and temper risk-taking as the recent crisis ebbs.

The gathering to discuss regulation will take place at the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, according to two Group of Seven central bank officials. The BIS invited commercial bankers citing concerns that they are returning to the excessive-risk patterns that helped spark the global crisis in 2007, the Financial Times reported today.

The meeting comes a month after the BIS urged central banks to take greater account of financial stability and published proposals aimed at forcing banks to hold more and better-quality capital and discourage leverage. The MSCI World Index of stocks has surged 73 percent since its low of last March.

“The central bankers are clearly aiming to head off the excesses that will certainly come out of the very easy monetary policy” put in place during the crisis, said Bill Belchere, global chief economist at Mirae Asset Securities in Hong Kong. “They have no choice but to be prudent and vigilant to grapple with the potential problems and stop bubbles before they emerge.”

The BIS meetings occasionally feature sessions with private banks and this month’s gathering will be such an example, the two officials said on condition of anonymity because the agenda isn’t public. Bank executives usually attend the January meet.

The difference between two- and 10- year Treasury yields widened to within 4 basis points of the most in at least 20 years as the Federal Reserve signaled it will hold its target interest rate at a record low.

The so-called yield curve steepened after minutes of the Fed’s last meeting showed officials believe economic growth will be “rather slow relative to past recoveries.” The Treasury will announce plans for next week’s debt sales today.

“Growth and inflation concerns are pushing up longer yields, while market participants are betting that the central bank will keep rates on hold,” said Michael Markovic, a senior fixed-income strategist in Zurich at Credit Suisse.

The 10-year note yield was 3.83 percent as of 7:10 a.m. in New York, according to BGCantor Market data. The 3.375 percent security due in November 2019 was little changed at 96 9/32.

The rate is 2.82 percentage points more than two-year securities. The spread was 2.84 percentage points earlier today, within 4 basis points of the biggest gap since at least 1990. The curve widened to a record 2.88 percentage points on Dec. 22.

The government will sell $10 billion in 10-year Treasury Inflation Protected Securities on Jan. 11, $40 billion of three- year notes on Jan. 12, $21 billion of 10-year securities on Jan. 13 and $13 billion of 30-year debt on Jan. 14, according to Wrightson ICAP LLC, an economic advisory firm in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Ford Motor Co. Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally said investments in the company’s car lineup and efforts to pay back debt are helping the automaker make “tremendous progress” in its turnaround effort.

“During this worst recession, we chose to increase our investment in new vehicles that people want and value,” he said in an interview from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. “Now we are delivering on that product promise, and we’re actually paying the loans back and improving our balance sheet.”

Ford, which reported a 33 percent sales rise in December, gained U.S. market share last year for the first time since 1995. New models like the Ford Fusion are fueling orders at the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker. Its shares have more than quadrupled in the past year, reaching the highest level in almost five years.

“The consumer loves a company that not only has a strong product line but is creating a strong business, and they know they are going to be around,” said Mulally, 64. “The goodwill that everyone has for Ford far outweighs the disadvantages that Ford has now.”

Ford is reaping the benefits of Mulally’s plan to invest in new models with much of the $23 billion the automaker borrowed in late 2006. Ford put up as collateral all major assets, including its name, to secure that lending, which allowed the company to stave off the bankruptcies that befell General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC last year.

Treasuries were the worst performing sovereign debt market in 2009 as the U.S. sold $2.1 trillion of notes and bonds to fund extraordinary efforts to bolster the economy and financial markets.

Investors in U.S. debt lost 3.5 percent on average through Dec. 30, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch indexes, the biggest annual slide since at least 1978. The 10-year Treasury yield reached its highest level in six months yesterday before a Labor Department report next week forecast to show payrolls were unchanged in December after the U.S. economy lost jobs in every month since January 2008.

Defense contractor Lockheed Martin of Bethesda said that it plans to cut 1,200 employees by the spring as it consolidates two of its business units and that it foresees a slowdown in its upcoming work from the Pentagon. [they have already cut 730 jobs.]

The number of Americans filing first- time claims for unemployment benefits rose less than forecast last week from the lowest level in more than a year, indicating jobs cuts are waning as companies become more confident in the economy.

Initial jobless applications increased by 1,000 to 434,000 in the week ended Jan. 2, fewer than the 439,000 claims economists anticipated, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The number of people receiving unemployment insurance dropped in the prior week to 4.8 million, and those receiving extended benefits increased.

Improving sales and production gains are prompting companies to slow the pace of firings as the economy recovers from the worst recession since the 1930s. Labor Department data tomorrow may show employment was unchanged in December after almost two years of job cuts.

This is clearly a strong number, said Maxwell Clarke, chief U.S. economist at IDEAglobal in New York, who forecast claims at 435,000. Looking forward, you should see slow and steady improvement and a return to positive payroll numbers.

The four-week moving average of initial claims, a less volatile measure, fell to 450,250 last week, the lowest since the Sept. 13, 2008, from 460,500 the prior one. Claims have fallen 36 percent since reaching a 26-year high of 674,000 in the week ended March 27.

The Federal Reserve’s latest weekly money supply report Thursday shows seasonally adjusted M1 rose by $1.7 billion to $1.688 trillion, while M2 rose $16.4 billion to $8.413 trillion.

Two high-ranking Maricopa County officials confirmed late Thursday that they will testify next week before a federal grand jury exploring allegations that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office has abused power.

County Manager David Smith and Assistant County Manager Sandi Wilson said they were preparing to testify before the grand jury on Wednesday.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio denied any knowledge of the grand jury, but news of sheriff’s officials being called to testify before a federal panel has been circulating in county circles for months.

Republic sources have confirmed that at least three high-ranking sheriff’s officials, including a captain and two chief deputies, have testified before a federal grand jury in the last four months, though the nature of their testimony remained unclear.

“I’m not going to comment on that situation,” Arpaio said Thursday. “We’re just going to continue doing our job and our investigations that we have in progress.”

US job losses resumed in December after revisions showed payrolls rose in November for the first time in nearly two years, the Labor Department estimated Friday. Nonfarm payrolls fell by a seasonally adjusted 85,000 in December following a revised 4,000 gain in November. During 2009, payrolls fell by 4.2 million. Since the recession began two years ago, payrolls have fallen by 7.3 million. The official unemployment rate remained at 10% in December. An alternative gauge of unemployment, which includes discouraged workers and those forced to work part-time, rose to 17.3% from 17.2%. Details of the report were weak, with few signs of further improvement in labor conditions. [John Williams net unemployment figure is 22.7%, our figure is 22.5%.]

We find it comical that the Fed says it is going to wind down the control bank’s purchases of toxic mortgage securities in March and a day later says they may continue them. The excuse is they are concerned that the housing market may collapse without their assistance and 30-year fixed rate mortgage might rise to 6-1/4%. Not to mention staggering real unemployment, which stands at 22.5%.

December Challenger job cuts were at the lowest level in two years. Employers announced 45,094-planned job cuts in December, the fewest since 12/07. That was a 73% decline year-on-year.

Monster Worldwide’s barometer of online employment said its index fell to 115 in December from 119 in November, the lowest in five months.

Incidentally, there are now more government employees than goods-producing workers in the US.

For the week of January 6th, commercial paper fell by $94.2 billion to $1,076 trillion, which is substantial.

We find it of great interest that Timmy, the dwarf, Geithner, removed the bailout limitations on Fannie and Freddie on Christmas Eve, when no one was around to see the news on the major media. This is what you could expect from a habitual tax cheat and a crook.

Worse yet, as head of the NY Fed he pressured AIG to violate SEC laws by instructing them to withhold from the public details of a $200 billion taxpayer bailout of AIG. We paid these bankers 100% on the dollar for worthless paper. The dwarf should be thrown out of his job immediately and be tried for tax fraud.

In case you missed it, Barney Frank found Geithner and the Fed’s actions troubling. This proves again Washington is a criminal enterprise and a den of thieves. Where does it end? We will tell you if we can’t clear out Congress we are doomed.  

FED POLICY MAKERS SAW COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE `DETERIORATING’ *A FEW FOMC MEMBERS SAID MORE STIMULUS `MIGHT BECOME DESIRABLE’ *FED POLICY MAKERS SAW GROWTH STRENGTHENING OVER NEXT TWO YEARS

*FOMC MEMBERS SAW NEED TO WATCH IMPACT OF DOLLAR ON INFLATION *SOME ON FOMC SAID WIND-DOWN OF MBS PURCHASES MAY HURT HOUSING *FED POLICY MAKERS AGREED ON NO CHANGE TO ASSET PURCHASE PLANS

*FOMC MEMBERS SAW NEED TO WATCH IMPACT OF DOLLAR ON INFLATION*FOMC MEMBERS PREDICTED UNEMPLOYMENT TO BE HIGH FOR `SOME TIME’

*FOMC MEMBERS SAW ASSET VALUES NOT OUT OF LINE WITH FUNDAMENTALS

*FED POLICY MAKERS SAW SECURITIZATION MARKETS `IMPAIRED’

*FOMC MEMBERS PREDICTED `RATHER SLOW’ RISE IN OUTPUT, EMPLOYMENT

*FOMC MEMBERS PREDICTED `SUBDUED INFLATION’ FOR THIS YEAR

*FED POLICY MAKERS PREDICTED `MODERATE GROWTH’ IN 2010 *FOMC MEMBERS SAW ECONOMIC GROWTH STRENGTHENING IN 4TH QUARTER

*ONE FOMC MEMBER THOUGHT ASSET PURCHASES COULD BE SCALED BACK

*A FEW FOMC MEMBERS SAID MORE STIMULUS `MIGHT BECOME DESIRABLE’

Either the Fed is engaged in a policy of ‘good cop/bad copping’ the markets or there is confusion if not internecine fighting about Fed policy and economic expectation. Just a couple days ago, Bill Gross stated that the Fed would renew MBS monetization later this year. Then a Fed official and the 12/16 FOMC minutes said the same thing. It’s almost as if Gross has a direct pipeline to the Fed!

We always warn that investors and traders should heed Fed action and not its rhetoric. Our view is the Fed is removing juice but in order to keep the patrons and lemmings from a panic run to the exits, they periodically send out officials to spew ‘more juice’ talk.

The Institute for Supply Management’s nonmanufacturing index doesn’t get as much attention as its manufacturing index, which helped drive Monday’s rally. But it should.

The nonmanufacturing sector comprises 88% of the economy, and it follows that most of the nation’s jobs are in services ranging from construction to finance to pet care. While the worst of layoffs appear to be over, the services report is likely to show that hiring remains elusive…

A critical component of the services-sector index is even weaker: jobs. The employment sub-index, factored into the overall number, has contracted for 22 of the past 23 months, according to ISM. November’s 41.6 reading of service-sector employment remains in contraction territory.

The Wall Street Examiner reports December tax receipts are down 7.7% yoy.

The December 2009 ISM purchasing managers manufacturing survey surged in yesterday’s (January 5th) reporting, with the seasonally- adjusted diffusion index (50.0 and above is positive) rising to 55.9 from 53.6 in November. Set annually by the Department of Commerce, however, the seasonal adjustments have changed meaningfully during and due to the recession. If the pre-recession seasonal factors used in 2007 (based on 2006) were applied, the November index would have been at 53.3 instead of 53.6, but December would have been 54.0 instead of 55.9.

Although the index still gained in December using the 2007 seasonals, the gain was 0.8 versus the 2.3 points reported. The employment component officially increased from 50.8 in November to 52.0 in December, but using the 2007 seasonals, the increase was from a contractionary 49.8 to 51.1.

Government deficits have caused the U.S. savings rate to turn negative for the first time since the Great Depression, and the gap is widening even as households and companies put away more money than ever before. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aexjnfkHISt0&pos=7

As part of the Barney Frank proposed Manager’s Amendment, which will accompany HR4173, the “Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009”, are three little-noticed rules that, if adopted, will make shorting stocks if not impossible, then extremely problematic and difficult. It is obvious why these rules would end up in an amendment: the outcry from retail and institutional traders would have been huge had these proposals made the full text of the proper Bill, and into the full view of the Mainstream Media. So why bother with these – simple. As everyone is aware, Ponzi schemes only work when constantly growing, as otherwise they blow up, implode under their own weight, once price discovery is attempted by all.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday asked Washington for funds to help close his state’s massive budget shortfall — a move some other states are likely to follow in coming months as they deal with their own fiscal woes.

“The federal government is part of our budget problem,” the Republican governor said in his annual State of the State address, reiterating a longstanding complaint that California sends far more money to Washington than it receives in return. Mr. Schwarzenegger also said federally mandated spending of state money has further strained California’s coffers.

“We no longer can ignore what is owed to us,” he said, adding that Washington owes the state billions of dollars for various programs. He criticized elements of congressional proposals to overhaul the health- care system, saying California could be saddled with billions of dollars of additional annual spending.

President Barack Obama signaled to House Democratic leaders Wednesday that they’ll have to drop their opposition to taxing high-end health insurance plans to pay for health coverage for millions of uninsured Americans.

In a meeting at the White House, Obama expressed his preference for the insurance tax contained in the Senate’s health overhaul bill, but largely opposed by House Democrats and organized labor, Democratic aides said. The aides spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was private.

As much as $9.5 million in federal stimulus dollars went to 14 zip codes in Virginia that don’t exist or are in other states, Old Dominion Watchdog (http://virginia.watchdog.org)  reports. The fake zip codes were listed on Recovery.gov, the federal Web site that is supposed to track how the stimulus money is being used. The phony zip codes are a new wrinkle in Recovery.gov’s increasingly tattered credibility.

The US is pursuing a policy similar to what the French pursued after its Mississippi Bubble burst – protect the aristocracy but crack down on the masses. We all know what eventuated.

Tax collections nationwide declined by 10.9 percent during the third quarter of 2009, the third consecutive quarter during which tax revenues fell by double-digit percentages, according to the latest report from the Rockefeller Institute of Government.

For the fourth quarter of 2009, early data showed continuing declines, although the negative trend of the past year appeared to be moderating.

During the third quarter of 2009, personal income tax revenues for the states declined by 11.8 percent, when compared with the same period a year earlier. Personal income taxes represent one of the three major sources of revenue for the states. The other two, sales taxes and corporate income taxes, fell by 8.9 percent and 22.6 percent, respectively.

Yet US bean counters produced wonderful retail sales, income and GDP data for Q3; and US corporations reported ‘great’ earnings on cost cutting…Good thing US corporation are allowed to run two sets of books – one for taxes and one for the public.

Rents fall 0.7 percent in the fourth quarter.

The Exhaustion Rate of unemployment benefits as of November 30, 2009 is 53.78%, another new high.

For the week ended 12/19 10.42 million Americans are receiving unemployment benefits. 5.44m in ‘extended claims’ (week ended 12.19); and 4.981m of ‘continuing claims’.

Hoenig Says Fed Should Eventually Lift Main Rate to 3.5%-4.5% Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City President Thomas Hoenig said the central bank should move “sooner rather than later” to reduce stimulus, with a goal of eventually boosting the benchmark interest rate to “probably between 3.5 and 4.5 percent.”

“The process of returning policy to a more balanced weighing of short-run and longer-run economic and financial goals should occur sooner rather than later,” Hoenig, who votes on monetary policy decisions this year, said today in a speech in Kansas City.

“Maintaining excessively low interest rates for a lengthy period runs the risk of creating new kinds of asset misallocations, more volatile and higher long-run inflation, and more unemployment — not today, perhaps, but in the medium- and longer-run.”…

The purchases brought the U.S. central bank’s purchase of mortgage bonds guaranteed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae to roughly $1.123 trillion since January of 2009…The Fed aims to buy $1.25 trillion of agency MBS in a bid to bring down mortgage rates and to stimulate the battered housing sector and the overall economy.

US House lawmakers may agree to pay for the nation’s health-care overhaul by adopting versions of Senate proposals to raise Medicare payroll taxes and tax health benefits for the first time, Democratic aides said.

The Senate measure would impose a 40 percent excise tax on employer-provided insurance plans worth more than $8,500 for individuals and $23,000 for families.

Shipping giant UPS Inc. will cut 1,800 management and administrative jobs, less than 1 percent of its global work force, as it repositions itself for a gradual economic recovery.

About 1,100 employees will be offered a voluntary separation package as part of the work force reduction, which is meant to streamline the company’s U.S. small package segment. Other cuts will come through attrition and layoffs. The U.S. small package segment represents roughly 60 percent of UPS’ annual revenue. It handles shipments of up to 150 pounds by ground and air.

U.S. investors oppose federal initiatives that would force them to give up control over their 401(k) accounts, the Investment Company Institute said.

Seven in 10 U.S. households object to the idea of the government requiring retirees to convert part of their savings into annuities guaranteeing a steady payment for life, according to an institute-funded report today.

“Households’ views on policy changes revealed a preference to preserve retirement account features and flexibility,” the institute, which represents the mutual-fund industry, said in the report.

The U.S. Treasury and Labor Departments will ask for public comment as soon as next week on ways to promote the conversion of 401(k) savings and Individual Retirement Accounts into annuities or other steady payment streams, according to Assistant Labor Secretary Phyllis C. Borzi and Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary Mark Iwry, who are spearheading the effort.

The institute’s member companies manage $11.6 trillion of assets in mutual funds, including employer-sponsored 401(k) accounts. Some lawmakers have questioned the public-policy value of the tax benefits for people investing in retirement accounts, the ICI said in a report today.

The average 401(k) fund balance dropped 31 percent to $47,500 at the end of March 2009 from $69,200 at the end of 2007, according to a Fidelity Investments review of 11 million accounts it manages. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index tumbled 46 percent in that period. The average balance of the Fidelity accounts recovered to $60,700 as of last Sept. 30 as the stock market rebounded.

Senator Herb Kohl, chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, proposed legislation on Dec. 16 to require fund companies to do more to ensure 401(k) options are appropriate for workers. The Wisconsin Democrat cited reports that target- date funds designed for people retiring in 2010 invested in high-yield, high-risk corporate bonds.

Representative George Miller, a California Democrat, is advocating legislation to require more disclosure about 401(k) fees paid by investors. The Education and Labor Committee, which Miller leads, approved a bill requiring more disclosure about fees in June.

The ICI survey was based on a telephone survey of 3,000 households from Nov. 20 to Dec. 20 and had a sampling error of plus or minus 1.8 percent.

We wonder if the public realizes that all the bad debt bought up by the Fed, more than $2 trillion, will in part eventually have to be assumed by the taxpayer. Some realize the problem, and they seem to be in denial, the rest simply don’t understand. In time the gravity of the situation will become reality. The present economic buoyancy is mainly based on inventory recapitalization and accumulation, but the underlying demand has to appear and with unemployment hovering around 23% how can policymakers believe that a recovery can carry through? The bullet should have been bitten 2-1/2 years ago and the system purged. The longer they wait to solve this painful problem the worse it is going to be. As quantitative easing and higher interest rates take their toll do these elitist have the fortitude to carry their program through? We dispute that they do. The distortions are going to be deep and large, particularly in both residential and commercial real estate. The later actions will bring the US and world economy into total deflationary economic and financial depression. These ideas are considered heretical but then again this publication is usually correct, and those who disagree are more often than not in denial. Unfortunately the experts, who are usually wrong, believe we are delusional, when in fact it is they who refuse to recognize the truth, and it is they and those they council who pay the price. These are the same people who believe the people at the Fed and others are blameless in this catastrophe.

The Fed, as we have in the past, pointed out intercedes into and manipulates markets. The two markets within their historic purview have been currencies and the Treasury market. It is our opinion that in regard to the ten-year Treasury note the Fed’s efforts have reduced yields by ½%, or 50 bps, and perhaps more. Their affect on agencies such as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Ginnie Mae, FHA and collateralized debt obligations has been greater by some 1% plus. The Fed purchases are presently estimated to be in the vicinity of $1 trillion or about 2/3’s of existing issues in mid-range yields. One of the big questions is who were the sellers and what were the prices paid by the Fed. They have thus far refused to release this information. The Fed has recently said they will start to slowly sell these securities. The question is at what price? The Fed may have relieved the holders, mostly banks, of the MBS, but at what price? This is simply another taxpayer bailout of the people who caused the problem in the first place. As a result the public is furious and they have sternly passed their anger on to their representatives in Congress, who were responsible for massive support of Ron Paul’s HR1207 and the bill to audit and investigate the Fed. This and the health care legislation will see many Democrats not returning to Congress next year. The public mistrusts the Fed now more than the IRS.

Even if the Fed does not raise interest rates soon the market will do it for them, and that looks like it is in progress. We see a 5%, 10-year T-note by year end, and a 6-1/4%, 30-year fixed rate mortgage. Some believe this will strengthen the dollar, hence the recent rally led by Goldman Sachs, which looks like it has failed at least for now, and a peaking in gold prices. There is no trust left in the Fed or the dollar and no confidence for the future and that is why dollar rallies born by the Fed won’t sustain. The same lack of confidence is reflected in gold prices. A small upward move in interest rates is not going to deter the rally in gold. Interest rates would have to move to 8% to become a factor in gold prices. The flight to quality is too strong for rates to overcome and at the same time higher rates are not going to have any lasting affect on the value of the dollar. That is reflected in the fall of dollar forex reserves by foreign central banks over the past six months. They fell from 64.5% to 61.8% – enough said.

We would like to believe those figures, but government’s lie so much today we have to take them with a grain of salt. Current economic figures in the US economy are all skewered. The inventory liquidation has been furious and is probably over. This has not been much of a recovery considering the massive amount of liquidity stuffed into the financial system. That said we find it difficult to see how anyone can believe that improvement can be greater than what we have already seen. We believe the employment improvement in December and again in January will be fed by retail job gains and the employment of census takers. Those events have already been discounted. We are looking forward to the February figures that will be adjusted by 885,000 phantom jobs created by the birth/death ratio. In reality that figure should be 1.7 million. Just to show you how thick the propaganda is December figures showed a loss of jobs, yet some economists said they were unchanged.

Fourth quarter GDP will probably officially be about 3.2%; the real numbers will be more like 2%.

We stand frozen as the Treasury and the Fed, instead of cutting spending and liquidity, continue to increase it. GMAC has received more taxpayer largess in the billions of course – corporatist fascism marches on. Our latest Christmas present was the perpetual funding of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by our Treasury. Once additionally funded those funds will clean up the rest of the CDOs in the market and bail the Fed out of the toxic waste it has been accumulating. Thus far that is about $1.2 trillion. That leaves $600 to $800 billion to go. This should swell taxpayer debt by another $3 trillion. This move is in anticipation of higher interest rates during the year. Not many people are going to qualify for loans at 6-1/4% to 6-1/2%. It looks like the Fed will continue to buy toxic waste and then roll it over to the Treasury. That will enable the Fed to make more loans they shouldn’t be making to the residential real estate market. That will lead to ever more inflation.

The elitists continue to play their game not believing that anyone understands what they are up too. Each day they delay the inevitable as more of the world public awakens via newsletters, talk radio and the Internet. The average American and those of other nations have seen their home slip away, their retirement lost and their net worth destroyed. Their jobs, now some nine million in the US, have been shipped to foreign lands by transnational conglomerates run by Illuminists, under the guise of free trade, globalization and offshoring and outsourcing. This as taxes rise along with inflation squeezing them even further. They see their markets manipulated by their government. They see the banks, Wall Street and insurance being bailed out and a bone being thrown to the public. Is it any wonder the public is disgusted.

Northwest Bomb Plot ‘Oddities’

January 9th, 2010 by Lori Price

In 2008, the ACLU estimated the US ‘No Fly List‘ to have grown to over 1,000,000 names — heck, even Cat Stevens and the late Senator Ted Kennedy were on it — and it continues to expand. But, suspected terrorist Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab, who was curiously able to obtain military-grade high explosives –80 grams of PETN (Gee, where’d he get that?) — managed to escape airport security and detonate his underwear bomb!

In April 2009, American authorities reportedly refused an Air France flight from Paris to Mexico entry into US airspace because a left-wing journalist writing a book on the CIA was on board. Hernando Calvo Ospina, who works for Le Monde Diplomatique and has written on revolutionary movements in Cuba and Colombia, figured on the US authorities’ ‘no-fly list.’ Air France said the April 18 flight was forced to divert to the French Caribbean island of Martinique before continuing its journey (telegraph.co.uk).

Got it? Write a book critical of the CIA — you cannot fly. Carry explosives (allegedly from Yemen) on board when the US is trolling for an excuse to invade and occupy Yemen for its oil — yes you can! The US needs false flags to provide cover for illegal invasions and occupations. The 9/11 terrorist attacks (aka inside job, six ways to Sunday) worked well for the US government; the security-industrial complex made billions and US corporaterrorists were able to negotiate the wholesale theft of Iraq’s oil.

According to CNN, the terror suspect’s father tried to warn authorities. CNN reported: The father of a man suspected in a botched terror attack aboard a Northwest Airlines flight contacted the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria recently with concerns his son was planning something, a senior U.S. administration official said Saturday. The father — identified by a family source as Umaru Abdul Mutallab — contacted the U.S. Embassy “a few weeks ago” saying his son, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, had “become radicalized,” the senior administration official, who is familiar with the case, told CNN.

And yet, Abdulmutallab was not obliged to undergo any additional airport screening layers, prior to boarding for the last leg of his journey to Detroit.

Also, lest we forget: Three key provisions of the Patriot Act are scheduled to expire 31 December 2009. Hmm. I wonder if post-Abdulmutallab they will get renewed?

Abdulmutallab was thwarted by a quote, unquote vacationing movie producer, Jasper Schuringa, who, within seconds, asserted that he not only tackled the suspect and put him in a headlock but also tried ‘to search his body for any explosives’ (CNN). Unless one was a bona-fide law enforcement professional or a military agent, who on earth would think of searching a man who had just set himself on fire, in a matter of seconds, for more explosives?

The goal is Yemeni oil. Hence the reason for the destabilization and the purported need for the US to stop al-Qaeda (literally, ‘the database’). The Yemeni national security chief has declared that the country is receiving assistance from the US in the crackdown on what he called ‘al-Qaeda operatives’ in southern Yemen (Press TV). Translation: US corporaterrorists want Yemen’s oil and they want it NOW.

Canada ordered airline scanners months ago –Scanner technology was in the works well before events in recent weeks 06 Jan 2010 Transport Minister John Baird told CTV’s Canada AM on Wednesday morning that Canada chose to pursue the high-tech scanner technology months ago, putting an order in to manufacturers “before the United States were in the queue…and before some of the countries in Europe.” He said the scanner technology was in the works well before the events in recent weeks, leaving Canadian authorities well-informed about the practical concerns of implementing them at nationwide airports. “This is something we’ve been working on for about 15 months,” said Baird.

Airline Bombing Suspect Flagged For Check At Landing 07 Jan 2010 As the White House prepared Thursday to release a preliminary report on the Christmas Day bombing attempt aboard a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, there was word that security officials had flagged the name of the bombing suspect after he was already on his way. U.S. officials say the Nigerian man was supposed to get extra screening once he arrived, because of his apparent ties to extremists. Customs and Border Protection officials screen passengers against terrorist watch lists before international flights leave for the U.S., and then check names against a different database while the flight is in the air. [LOL!] It was during this second check that officials flagged the alleged bomber.

Obama security adviser says bomb report a shocker 07 Jan 2010 Americans will feel “a certain shock” from a White House report to be released on Thursday on security lapses in the attempted December 25 bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner, U.S. national security adviser James Jones said in a USA Today interview. President Barack Obama “is legitimately and correctly alarmed that things that were available, bits of information that were available, patterns of behavior that were available, were not acted on,” Jones said in the interview published on Thursday. [‘A certain shock.’ Oh, that a Cheney ‘burrower’ ensured that Abdulmutallab was not on the ‘No-Fly’ list, so that the US would be attacked under Obama? Odd, as Obomba is funding and fomenting more rage and possible acts of terrorism (through killer drone attacks, etc.) than Bush. See: Administration Moves to Protect Key Appointees 18 Nov 2008.]

U.S. learned intelligence on airline bomb suspect while he was en route 06 Jan 2010 U.S. border enforcement officials came close to stopping the attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines jet while the suspect was en route to Detroit on Christmas Day, new data show. U.S. border security officials learned of intelligence about the alleged extremist links of the suspect in the Christmas Day airline bombing attempt as he was en route to Detroit and had decided to question him when he landed, officials said in new disclosures today.

Obama Says Government Knew of “Other Red Flags” in Terror Threat 06 Jan 2010 President Obama said Tuesday that the United States government had sufficient information to uncover the terror plot to bring down an airplane on Christmas Day, but intelligence officials “failed to connect those dots” that would have prevented the young Nigerian man from boarding the plane in Amsterdam. “This was not a failure to collect intelligence, it was a failure to integrate and understand the intelligence that we already had,” Mr. Obama said after a two-hour meeting with his national security team at the White House.

Ah, then came the dawn. Yemen seizes ‘Israel-linked’ cell 07 Oct 2008 Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has said the security forces have arrested a group of alleged Islamist militants linked to Israeli intelligence. Mr Saleh did not say what evidence had been found to show the group’s links with Israel, a regional enemy of Yemen. The arrests were connected with an attack on the US embassy in Sanaa last month which killed at least 18 people, official sources were quoted saying. [Hmm. Guess they didn’t get the whole cell.]

U.S. Customs: Second person handcuffed on Christmas Day was on Flight 253, after all 02 Jan 2010 A spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection now says that a man who was handcuffed and questioned by authorities on Christmas Day was a passenger on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 — just days after saying that person arrived to Detroit aboard a different flight. In an email to The Detroit News Thursday night, Customs spokesman Ron Smith acknowledged that a person from Flight 253 was handcuffed after search dogs found something in his carry-on bag. Smith said the email was based on new information he had received. The passenger was not arrested or detained, and was allowed to leave Detroit Metro Airport with the rest of the Flight 253 passengers, according to WWJ.

Official confirms 2nd man interviewed from Flight 253 –Couple on 253 did see 2nd man in cuffs, customs officer says 02 Jan 2010 A U.S. Customs official reversed himself Friday, admitting a passenger from Northwest Flight 253 was placed in handcuffs, searched and released after a security dog alerted officers to the passenger’s carry-on luggage. Ronald G. Smith, chief U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer in the Detroit area, sent an e-mail to The Detroit News late Thursday apologizing that the information on the passenger — which was made public by a pair of Taylor attorneys, Kurt and Lori Haskell, who were passengers on the flight — was not officially announced earlier. FBI officials had said only one man from the flight was arrested.

White House Adviser Briefed in October on Underwear Bomb Technique 03 Jan 2010 White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan was briefed in October on an assassination attempt by Al Qaeda [al-CIAduh] that investigators now believe used the same underwear bombing technique as the Nigerian suspect who tried to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day, U.S. intelligence and administration officials tell NEWSWEEK. The briefing to Brennan was delivered at the White House by Muhammad bin Nayef, Saudi Arabia’s chief counterterrorism official. In late August, Nayef had survived an assassination attempt by an operative dispatched by the Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda who was pretending to turn himself in.

MI5 knew of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s UK extremist links 03 Jan 2010 The security services knew three years ago that the Detroit bomber had “multiple communications” with Islamic extremists in Britain, it emerged this weekend. Counterterrorism officials said Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was “reaching out” to extremists whom MI5 had under surveillance while he was studying at University College London. None of the information was passed to American officials, which will prompt questions about intelligence failures prior to the attack. British officials have now passed a file to their US counterparts on Abdulmutallab’s activities in Britain while he was a student from 2005 to 2008. It shows his repeated contacts with MI5 targets who were subject to phone taps, email intercepts and other forms of surveillance.

Flight 253 passenger Kurt Haskell: ‘I was visited by the FBI’ 31 Dec 2009 Following up on a visit from FBI officials about an eyewitness account first described to MLive.com, Michigan attorney Kurt Haskell described the visit in comment sections across MLive on Wednesday. Haskell and his wife, Lori, were aboard Flight 253 when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab allegedly tried to destroy the plane. They say another man tried to help Abdulmutallab board the plane in Amsterdam.

Airline bomber suspect studied in Houston 31 Dec 2009 The Nigerian man accused of trying to bomb an airliner on Christmas Day over Detroit attended an intensive, Islamic education seminar in Houston last year designed for top student scholars, an organization confirmed Wednesday. Shaykh Waleed Basyouni, vice president for the AlMaghrib Institute in Houston, said 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was living in London in the summer of 2008 when he attended the nonprofit institute’s annual “IlmSummit” with about 150 other students. Basyouni said other participants in the seminar, which was held in Houston during the first two weeks of August 2008, remembered Abdulmutallab as being very quiet and keeping to himself.

US aware ‘Nigerian’ prepared for terror attack 30 Dec 2009 The US was aware that “a Nigerian” in Yemen was being prepared for a terrorist attack – weeks before an attempted bombing on a US plane. ABC News and the New York Times say there was intelligence to this effect, but its source is unclear. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab flew from Lagos to Amsterdam before changing planes for a flight to Detroit on which he allegedly tried to detonate a bomb.

Second person was detained by U.S. Customs after alleged attack on Flight 253 29 Dec 2009 A person was detained by customs at Detroit Metro Airport on Friday following Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s alleged attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253, according to a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. It is unknown why the person was detained or whether the person will face any charges, spokesman Ron Smith told MLive.com. Bill Carter, a spokesman with the FBI in Washington, D.C., said in an interview Tuesday that Abdulmutallab was the only person arrested or charged in relation to Friday’s foiled attack.

Report: Dutch police investigating report of accomplice in Northwest Flight 253 terror plot 28 Dec 2009 Reuters reports Dutch military police are investigating claims that an accomplice may have helped Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab board Northwest Flight 253 in Amsterdam on Christmas day without a passport, a story first told here on MLive.com. Abdulmutallab allegedly tried to blow up the Detroit-bound plane with an explosive chemical he smuggled through security.

Man videotaped entire false flag, including detonation: Oconomowoc Family Survives Terrorist Attempt 28 Dec 2009 (WI) Patricia “Scotty” Keepman still has a sense of humor after the harrowing experience she, her husband, daughter and two new adopted children from Ethiopia had as a man tried to detonate an explosive device while their plane was getting ready to land in Detroit on Christmas Day. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab of Nigeria was charged Saturday in the Christmas Day attempt that only sparked a fire on the flight from Amsterdam. They were sitting about 20 rows behind Abdulmutallab, in a center aisle… Her daughter said that ahead of them was a man who videotaped the entire flight, including the attempted detonation. “He sat up and videotaped the entire thing, very calmly,” said Patricia. “We do know that the FBI is looking for him intensely. Since then, we’ve heard nothing about it.”

Detroit bomber linked to MI5 suspect 30 Dec 2009 The Detroit bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was linked to a Muslim extremist under surveillance by MI5 while he was living in Britain, it has emerged. The Security Service have found that the 23-year-old was connected to a suspect it was investigating while he was studying at university in London. The connection was discovered after record checks by MI5 following the attempted suicide bombing on Christmas Day by Abdulmutallab on a US-bound plane. Until now, it was thought that the first time MI5 had any evidence of Abdulmutallab was when he was put on a “watch list” earlier this year after being refused a student visa because he had given details of a bogus college. But MI5 has now discovered he was on the “periphery of a past incident” sources said, although he was not said to have been under surveillance himself.

U.S. Had Information Before Christmas of a Terror Plot –The government also had more information about where Mr. Abdulmutallab had been and what some of his plans were. 30 Dec 2009 President Obama was told during a private briefing on Tuesday morning while vacationing here in Hawaii that the government had a variety of information in its possession before the thwarted bombing that would have been a clear warning sign had it been shared among agencies, a senior official said. Two officials said the government had intelligence from Yemen before Friday that leaders of a branch of Al Qaeda there were talking about “a Nigerian” being prepared [by his CIA handlers] for a terrorist attack.

‘The information on AbdulMutallab had been sent to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.’ Source: CIA failed to circulate report about bombing suspect 29 Dec 2009 The father of terrorism suspect Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab talked about his son’s extremist views with someone from the CIA and a report was prepared, but the report was not circulated outside the agency, a reliable source told CNN on Tuesday. Had that information been shared, the 23-year-old Nigerian who is alleged to have bungled an attempt to blow up a jetliner as it was landing in Detroit, Michigan, on Christmas Day might have been denied passage on the Northwest Airlines flight, the source said. U.S. officials said the father, a former Nigerian banker, expressed his concerns about his son’s radicalization during at least one meeting and several calls with officials at the embassy in Nigeria. The information on AbdulMutallab had been sent to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, but it sat there for five weeks and was not disseminated, the source said.

Two al Qaeda Leaders Behind Northwest Flight 253 Terror Plot Were Released by U.S. [by Bush] –Former Guantanamo Prisoners Believed Behind Northwest Airlines Bomb Plot; Sent to Saudi Arabia in 2007 28 Dec 2009 Two of the four leaders allegedly behind the al Qaeda [al-CIAduh] plot to blow up a Northwest Airlines passenger jet over Detroit were released by the U.S. from the Guantanamo prison in November, 2007, according to American officials and Department of Defense documents. American officials agreed to send the two terrorists from Guantanamo to Saudi Arabia where they entered into an “art therapy rehabilitation program” and were set free, according to U.S. and Saudi officials. Guantanamo prisoner #333, Muhamad Attik al-Harbi, and prisoner #372, Said Ali Shari, were sent to Saudi Arabia on Nov. 9, 2007, according to the Defense Department log of detainees who were released from American custody. Al-Harbi has since changed his name to Muhamad al-Awfi.

US jet plot suspect ‘was in Yemen in December’ 29 Dec 2009 The Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a jet over the US on Christmas Day was living in Yemen until earlier this month, Yemeni officials have said. The foreign ministry said Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was in Yemen from August until the beginning of December, the official Saba news agency reported. He had a visa to study Arabic at an institute in the capital Sanaa.

Anti-terror officials let terror suspect keep visa 28 Dec 2009 The State Department says counterterrorism agencies were warned that the Nigerian man who allegedly tried to blow up an airliner Christmas Day may be under extremists’ influence. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly says it was up to the National Counterterrorism Center to block Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from entering the U.S. He says U.S. counterterror agencies received the information on Nov. 20, a day after it was provided by the father, but it was not enough to revoke the visa.

Father of terror suspect reported Mutallab to US Embassy 6 months ago 27 Dec 2009 The father of the al Qaeda terrorist behind Friday’s attempted explosion aboard a Northwest flight bound for Detroit reported his son’s fanatical religious views to the U.S. Embassy six months ago, according to a Nigerian news outlet. The young man, Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, is the son of Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, a former Nigerian minister and bank chairman. He became wary of his son’s religious beliefs and reported his activities to the U.S. Embassy as well as Nigerian security services half a year ago, according to the Nigerian newspaper This Day.

Source: Terror suspect’s father tried to warn authorities 27 Dec 2009 The father of a man suspected in a botched terror attack aboard a Northwest Airlines flight contacted the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria recently with concerns his son was planning something, a senior U.S. administration official said Saturday. The father — identified by a family source as Umaru Abdul Mutallab — contacted the U.S. Embassy “a few weeks ago” saying his son, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, had “become radicalized,” the senior administration official, who is familiar with the case, told CNN. Abdulmutallab, 23, was charged in a federal criminal complaint Saturday with attempting to destroy the plane Friday on its final approach to Michigan’s Detroit Metropolitan Airport, and placing a destructive device on the aircraft, the Department of Justice said.

Father alerted US about Nigerian plane bomb suspect 27 Dec 2009 The father of a Nigerian man charged with trying to blow up a transatlantic jet on Christmas Day had voiced concerns to US officials about his son. The father, a top Nigerian banker, warned US authorities last month about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s extreme views, say officials. US sources confirm a file was opened, but say the information did not warrant placing the accused on a “no-fly” list.

Airline bomber was barred from Britain –Man who allegedly attempted to blow up US jet had UK visa request refused in May 27 Dec 2009 The son of a prominent Nigerian banker, who allegedly attempted to blow up a transatlantic flight over America, was barred from returning to Britain earlier this year. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, graduated from a university in London last year but his visa request was refused in May when he attempted to apply for a new course at a bogus college. Abdulmutallab, described as a devout Muslim, attempted to ignite an explosive device on a plane from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day after shouting about Afghanistan.

Flight 253 passenger: Sharp-dressed man aided terror suspect Abdul Mutallab onto plane without passport 27 Dec 2009 A Michigan man who was aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 says he witnessed Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab trying to board the plane in Amsterdam without a passport. Kurt Haskell and his wife, Lori, of Newport, Mich., were returning from a safari in Uganda when they boarded the NWA flight on Friday. Haskell said he and his wife [attorneys with Haskell Law Firm in Taylor] were sitting on the ground near their boarding gate in Amsterdam, which is when they saw Mutallab approach the gate with an unidentified man. While Mutallab was poorly dressed, his friend was dressed in an expensive suit, Haskell said. He says the suited man asked ticket agents whether Mutallab could board without a passport. “The guy said, ‘He’s from Sudan and we do this all the time.'” Mutallab is Nigerian. Haskell believes the man may have been trying to garner sympathy for Mutallab’s lack of documents by portraying him as a Sudanese refugee.

Unclear If Suspect’s Name Was On Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment List –The list, maintained by United States National Counterterrorism Center, includes about 550,000 names 27 Dec 2009 The Nigerian man accused of trying to ignite an incendiary device aboard a trans-Atlantic jetliner on Friday came to the attention of American officials at least “several weeks ago,” but the initial information was not specific enough to raise alarms that he could potentially carry out a terrorist attack, a senior Obama administration official said on Saturday… It was unclear whether Mr. Abdulmutallab’s name was entered into the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment list, which includes people with known or suspected contact or ties to a terrorist or terrorist organization. Those people, however, are not necessarily placed on the federal government’s so-called no-fly list, which prohibits persons entering the United States because of known or suspected [or imagined] terrorists links. Mr. Abdulmutallab was not on that list, federal officials say.

US authorites divert Air France flight carrying ‘no-fly’ journalist to Mexico –American authorities reportedly refused an Air France flight from Paris to Mexico entry into US airspace because a left-wing journalist writing a book on the CIA was on board. 29 Apr 2009 Hernando Calvo Ospina, who works for Le Monde Diplomatique and has written on revolutionary movements in Cuba and Colombia , figured on the US authorities’ “no-fly list”. Air France said the April 18 flight was forced to divert to the French Caribbean island of Martinique before continuing its journey and that it might ask the US Transportation Security Administration for compensation. A spokesman for Mr Ospina’s French publisher, Le Temps des Cerises, said: “Hernando, who was heading to Nicaragua to research a report, thus found out that he is on a ‘no-fly list’ that bans a number of people from flying to or even over the United States.” Some 50,000 people are said to be on the list set up under George W. Bush, the former US president [sic]. The publisher accused the Central Intelligence Agency of being behind Mr Ospina’s blacklisting, pointing out that the journalist was currently researching a book about the spy agency. “It shows to what degree its paranoia (has reached),” it said.

‘I was trying to search his body for any explosives.’ Passenger says he helped thwart terror attack 27 Dec 2009 Passenger Jasper Schuringa told CNN that with the aid of the cabin crew, he helped subdue and isolate Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who was charged Saturday with trying to destroy a plane. Schuringa of Amsterdam, Netherlands, said he was traveling to Florida to visit friends. The journey aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 had been mundane, he said. But as the plane neared its destination of Detroit, Michigan, he heard a pop that sounded like a firecracker going off, and someone started yelling: “Fire! Fire!” Then, there was smoke. “Around 30 seconds later the smoke started to fill up on the left side beneath this person,” he said. That’s when Schuringa said he knew something was wrong. “I basically reacted directly. I didn’t think. When you hear a pop on the plane you’re awake, trust me,” Schuringa said. When he noticed that Abdulmutallab was not moving, he grew suspicious. “I was on the right side of the plane and the suspect was on the left side, there were quite some seats in between.” He jumped over the passenger next to him and lunged over Abdulmutallab’s seat, “Because I was thinking he’s trying to blow up the plane, and I was trying to search his body for any explosives.”

Airports intensify security measures worldwide in wake of failed bomb attack aboard U.S.-bound jetliner –Terror suspect charged in jetliner bomb plot 26 Dec 2009 Federal authorities have charged Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab, of Nigeria, with attempting to destroy Northwest flight 253 with a “destructive device” as it descended into Detroit on Christmas Day. In a case of attempted terrorism that has sparked a worldwide intensification of security at airports, U.S. officials said Saturday afternoon that a preliminary FBI analysis found a bomb-making chemical called PETN in the device Abdulmutallab tried to detonate. The affidavit, filed in the Eastern District of Michigan, also said FBI agents discovered the remnant of a syringe near the suspect’s seat, part of what the agents believe was part of the explosive device.

Investigators: Northwest Bomb Plot Planned by al-Qaeda in Yemen –Officials Say Bomb Materials Sewn Into Suspect’s Underwear by Top Terror Bomb Maker 26 Dec 2009 The plot to blow up an American passenger jet over Detroit was organized and launched by al-Qaeda [al-CIAduh] leaders in Yemen who apparently sewed bomb materials into the suspect’s underwear before sending him on his mission, federal authorities tell ABC News. Investigators say the suspect had more than 80 grams of PETN, a compound related to nitro-glycerin used by the military. The so-called shoe bomber, Richard Reid, had only about 50 grams kin his failed attempt in 2001 to blow up a U.S.-bound jet.

Yemen is focus of new US front against al Qaeda –The Pentagon is to spend more than $70 million over the next 18 months, and use teams of Special Forces to train and equip Yemeni military, Interior Ministry and coast guard forces. 28 Dec 2009 The United States has quietly opened a third, largely covert front against the Al-Qaeda terror network in Yemen, accoding to The New York Times newspaper. A year ago, the Central Intelligence Agency sent a number of its top field operatives with counter-terrorism experience to the country, the newspaper said. At the same time, some of the most secretive special operations commandos have begun training Yemeni security forces in counter-terrorism tactics, the report said.

Officials Point to Suspect’s Claim of Qaeda Ties in Yemen 27 Dec 2009 Federal authorities on Saturday charged a 23-year-old Nigerian man with trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day, and officials said the suspect told them he had obtained explosive chemicals and a syringe that were sewn into his underwear from a bomb expert in Yemen associated with Al Qaeda [al-CIAduh]. The authorities have not independently corroborated the Yemen connection claimed by the man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who was burned in his failed attempt to bring down the airliner and is in a hospital in Michigan. But a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation said on Saturday that the suspect’s account was “plausible,” and that he saw “no reason to discount it.”

US bombs Sa’ada governor’s house, Houthis say 27 Dec 2009 A US fighter jet has carried out multiple airstrikes on the home of a senior official in Yemen’s northern rugged province of Sa’ada, Houthi fighters say. The Yemen-based Houthi fighters say the warplane struck the home owned by the governor of Sa’ada province, Hassan Mohammad Manna in five blitzes. There were no reports on possible casualties in the attacks.

Yemen confirms receiving US military support 27 Dec 2009 The Yemeni national security chief has declared that the country is receiving assistance from the US in the crackdown on what he called ‘al-Qaeda operatives’ in southern Yemen. Mohamed al-Anisi has told the Saudi Arabian newspaper Okaz that Yemeni forces were cooperating with the US military on attacks against al-Qaeda camps, DPA reported on Saturday. Yemen’s confirmation comes as an ABC report revealed that US President Barack Obama had signed the order for a recent military strike on Yemen in which scores of civilians, including children, were killed.

Yemen oil min- oil majors mull investments-paper 21 Feb 2009 Yemen has received investment offers from oil majors including Exxon Mobil Corp and Total, Oil Minister Amir al-Aidarous said in remarks published on Saturday. Yemen’s Ministry for Oil and Mineral Resources has received eight oil investment bids from international companies, pan-Arab daily al-Hayat quoted Aidarous as saying, four of which were from oil majors seeking direct negotiations with Yemen. The companies include Exxon Mobil, Total, and BP, the minister said, but did not elaborate on the nature of the investments. Other companies that made bids included Austrian oil and gas group OMV, Nexen, and Occidental, he said.

House Delays Patriot Act Spy Vote By David Kravets 16 Dec 2009 The House of Representatives tabled on Wednesday legislation to reform U.S. surveillance law. The two-month delay puts off a collision with a competing Senate version. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declined to include a vote on the Patriot Act in a Pentagon funding bill. The move automatically extends provisions of the Patriot Act that would otherwise expire at year’s end. The Senate is likewise expected to delay the matter. The act, hastily adopted six weeks after the 2001 terror attacks, greatly expanded the government’s ability to spy on Americans in the name of national security. A key difference between the House and Senate packages concerns the standard by which the FBI may issue so-called National Security Letters — although Wednesday’s vote prolongs the time for more backroom negotiations. Reforming NSL powers is a key bone of contention in the Patriot Act debate, even though it is not one of the three Patriot Act provisions that was scheduled to expire Dec. 31.

Police lose battle over evidence of ‘British 9/11’ plot –Scotland Yard must reveal whether it had CIA intelligence 26 Dec 2009 Scotland Yard has been ordered to reveal whether it has any evidence to support America’s claim that Britain was saved from a 9/11-style disaster by the CIA’s secret foreign interrogation centres. The Times has won a case under the Freedom of Information Act forcing British police to say whether the US stopped a plot to fly planes into Canary Wharf and Heathrow. The claim was made by President [sic] Bush when he first acknowledged the existence of a clandestine CIA prison network created to fight his War on of Terror. Scotland Yard has been given 35 days to comply or appeal. If it admits that there is no such intelligence, it would undermine any political defence for America’s strong-arm tactics in fighting terrorism.

BTW, I hope the FAA enjoyed this page as much as the DHS and the Navy Network Information Center did, etc.

204.108.0.11 – – [28/Dec/2009:21:45:49 -0500] “GET /northwest_bomb_plot_oddities.html HTTP/1.1” 200 32177 “http://www.[redacted].com/” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1; GTB5; .NET CLR 1.1.4322; .NET CLR 2.0.50727; .NET CLR 3.0.4506.2152; .NET CLR 3.5.30729)”

204.248.24.163 – – [28/Dec/2009:14:20:06 -0500] “GET /northwest_bomb_plot_oddities.html HTTP/1.1” 200 10170 “http://www.[redacted].com/” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 5.1; DHSI60SP1001; .NET CLR 2.0.50727; InfoPath.1; .NET CLR 3.0.04506.30; DHSI70; DHSI70)”

138.162.8.57 – – [28/Dec/2009:07:24:51 -0500] “GET /northwest_bomb_plot_oddities.html HTTP/1.1” 200 31220 “http://www.[redacted].com/” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1; .NET CLR 1.1.4322; .NET CLR 2.0.50727; InfoPath.1; .NET CLR 3.0.04506.648; .NET CLR 3.5.21022)”

Oh yeah. And treas.gov, the DoD Network Information Center and tons of other .govs and .mils.

199.196.144.11 – – [30/Dec/2009:16:48:32 -0500] “GET /graphics/logosmalr.gif HTTP/1.1” 200 5526 “http://www.legitgov.org/northwest_bomb_plot_oddities.html” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 5.1; GTB6.3; .NET CLR 1.1.4322; .NET CLR 2.0.50727; .NET CLR 3.0.4506.2152; .NET CLR 3.5.30729)”

63.167.255.151 – – [28/Dec/2009:10:51:19 -0500] “GET /northwest_bomb_plot_oddities.html HTTP/1.1” 200 31220 “http://www.[redacted]com/” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1; .NET CLR 2.0.50727; InfoPath.1)” …etc.

Happy New Year to all!

VIDEO: Viva Palestina Convoy Arrives in Gaza

January 9th, 2010 by Global Research

“Remember, the Al Qaeda that was in a very few countries — and most specifically in Afghanistan in September of 2001 — is now an Al Qaeda that is in about 58, 59 — who knows precisely, but we sort of peg it around 60 countries. It is a global network, which it wasn’t.” — John F. Kerry, 7 October 2009

If recent experience is anything to go by, the mere mention of any ‘Al Qaeda threat’ is enough to signal the swift exit of rational thought and/or due regard to definition in Washington. The superior military outfit in history whose sheer might none could aspire to ‘equal, let alone surpass’, has been madly spooked – as we are led to deduce – by a band of former cave-inhabiting, shoddy-bearded ragtags now transmogrified into a “global network”.

The media scene is abuzz once again as spinmeisters tap away in overtime mode to direct world attention to the latest frontier in the so-called Global War on Terrorism: Yemen. 

 

With its fate arguably sealed on Christmas Day following the failed attack by the comically-named “underwear bomber”, the least-developed Gulf state positively checks all the tick-boxes required of a nation for it to qualify for greater US interference – leaking poverty, internally fractured, geopolitically pivotal and fatefully, a nation that can feasibly be associated with a global terror threat. Just weeks earlier, connections to Yemen were apparently uncovered in investigations relating to the Fort Hood shooting. 

In between the two incidents, the US military conducted a series of deadly airstrikes having received the go-ahead from Nobel-winner Obama. The target of the attacks (as with the case of routine deadly drone-strikes in north-western Pakistan) was an ethereal Al Qaeda top figure who, unsurprisingly, seems to have escaped unscathed. [1]

Following months of in-house policy talks, top figures in the US administration have added their voices to the mix by underlining the need to confront the threat posed by Al Qaeda in the troubled nation. With the stage seemingly set, and greater US involvement very much in the pipelines, there is a need to plumb through some unchartered territory surrounding the present situation and what it holds for the region as a whole.

Measuring the Al Qaeda Pretext 

Obama’s AfPak strategy brought to surface the touchy issue of defining terms previously assumed to be self-evident such as ‘Al Qaeda’ and ‘Taliban’. Despite Bush-era treatment of these terms as some kind of fixated Platonic archetypes, problems of definition have always been raised by observers and analysts who have cited the misuse of the Al Qaeda pretext in justifying the expanding imperial project, as well as in bolstering instruments of state authority and security in a number of countries. In this regard, the fictitious link tying Iraq to Al Qaeda in the prelude to the war on Iraq represents one of the more obvious examples. Yet, there are a number of other cases in which the same pretext has been falsely employed to serve as a ‘welcome!’-sign for direct US involvement.

In his book ‘The Dark Sahara: America’s War on Terror in Africa’, Professor Jeremy Keenan unveiled how the Algerian government theatrically staged operations beginning from 2003 (which it blamed on Al Qaeda), in order to secure US military support. The man running the ‘terror show’ whose group eventually renamed itself the ‘Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’ (AQIM) was in fact an agent of the Algerian secret military intelligence service (DRS); a man operating with the pseudonym, El Para. The Bush administration duly obliged and entered into a marriage of convenience with the Algerian government; a relationship in which both sides, in the words of Professor Keenan, “wanted terrorism in that area”.[2]

The resource-rich Sahel subsequently became a “swamp of terror” and El Para, whilst still an agent of the DRS, turned into “Bin Laden’s right-hand man in the Sahel”. Similar blueprints were replicated in nearby Niger and Mali within the context of a wider militarization project in Africa. [3] Invented Al Qaeda threats allegedly active in the “swamp of terror” conveniently functioned as “the early seeds” of AFRICOM.

Squarely under the purview of AFRICOM, Yemen seems to be the next country in line; quietly adamant not to lose out on a historic opportunity to shore up its strength and silence all internal dissent by simply throwing up the Al Qaeda card.

Broadening Definitions

In an interview to BBC Arabic, the comments of Yemeni Chief of Staff in the Central Security Forces, Brigadier Yehia Mohammed Abdallah Saleh, were revealing insofar as how he chose to define the nature of the threat: “the problem that Yemen is facing remains with Al Qaeda sympathizers rather than with Al Qaeda itself.” He went on to add, “Al Qaeda is trying to weaken Yemen thinking it could operate unchecked if it cooperated with the Houthis to undermine the country”. [4]

The import of the brigadier’s comments is instructive; in addition to being extremely vague, the business of tackling “sympathizers” inherently requires some form of extended commitment. Yet, as the brigadier would no doubt insist, this should be no cause for short-term complacency, for he immediately proceeds to sanctify the ongoing war on Zaydi Houthis by falsely associating it with the wider war on terror – a tactic that is being continually recycled in order to fit newer purposes all around the world.

As one would expect, a brief look at the facts brings forth an entirely different picture. Over the years, the government in Yemen has tried to play it both ways with Al Qaeda. By adopting a strategy of accommodation, and indeed signing a non-aggression pact in 2003, the Yemeni government has in the past solicited the support of Al Qaeda in its fight against the Houthis, as confirmed by counterterrorism expert Michael Scheuer. 

In a recent news article that appeared on BBC Arabic, a Houthi official speaking to correspondent Bob Trevelyan declared that the government’s strategy to fight Al Qaeda was bound to fail since it was itself responsible for “sponsor[ing] these movements in the past”. [5] Unsurprisingly, such stories or even implicit nuances to that effect are missing altogether in the BBC’s English coverage of Yemen – instead, analyses are teeming with talk of a symbiotic relationship between Houthi ‘rebels’ and Al Qaeda.

For a government that has no qualms with Machiavellian realpolitik and outright deception, one can safely assume that the vocal southern secessionist resurgence will likewise be confronted in the name of counterterrorism. The more pronounced involvement of figures like Tariq Al-Fadhli – a former member of Yemeni president’s senior council who also fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan – in the south [6] will turn the “Al Qaeda sympathizers” criterion into quite a useful tool to justify more iron-fist policies towards the region. 

At another level, the government’s tentative treatment of the Al Qaeda threat is indicative of both the complex social dynamic within the country, as well as the inability of the central government to effectively exert state control. Although a considerable number of Yemenis subscribe to a Wahhabist-Salafist version of Islam, they certainly do not advocate the militaristic outlook that is symptomatic of Al Qaeda. 

Growing US involvement or perception of US-client status (as enjoyed by next-door Saudi Arabia) associated with Yemen however, will certainly serve to radicalise great swaths of the Yemeni population, and in turn intensify the nature of the threat from the country. Well aware of this dimension, foreign minister Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi stressed that any direct confrontation with Al Qaeda within Yemen should remain a strictly-Yemeni affair, adding that it is not “in the interests of the United States or western countries to send security forces to Yemen”.

The Saudi Connection

It is impossible to speak of an Al Qaeda threat in Yemen without accounting for the role played by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in giving rise to this threat, as well as determining how it is in turn affected by it. In a July testimony before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Brigadier General James Smith – current US ambassador to Saudi Arabia – underlined the need to “bolster Yemen’s capacity to defeat violent extremism”; his mention of Yemen, tellingly, came before any mention of Iraq or Syria. [7]

During the 80s and 90s, Saudi Arabia embarked on a project to propagate a strong Wahhabist current in order to establish itself as the paramount power in the Arab and Muslim worlds. Billions upon billions of petrodollars were devoted to this global undertaking in which Yemen, a nation joined to the Saudi kingdom “through historical, ethnic and tribal ties”, was certainly not ignored. In Yemen, the kingdom created “a strong Wahhabi current that was politically and ideologically loyal to the ruling al-Saud”, as noted by Dr. Mai Yamani, an expert on Saudi Arabia. Earlier in May of last year, Dr. Yamani summarised the present dilemma with the following assessment:

“the two largest countries on the Arabian peninsula – Saudi Arabia, the biggest in terms of landmass and oil wealth, and Yemen in terms of population, are now locked in life-and-death struggles with internal enemies. The paradox is that, though the threat to both countries is the same, each is worsening the outlook for the other by the policies it is pursuing.” [8]

As President Ali Abdallah Saleh’s control over Yemen falters with popular movements in the north and south increasingly gaining momentum, the Al-Saud royalty is acutely aware that it would be the first to feel the after-effects of its backfired policy, as it comes under increasing threat from the same quarters it once funded and used to buttress its global standing. The US is likewise very cognisant of this threat, and acknowledges that any de-stabilization of the kingdom would immediately diminish the empire’s regional coult.

In conclusion, the recent focus on Yemen is primarily driven by geostrategic imperatives which revolve around preserving a pro-US configuration of the Middle East. Media hype and sensationalized analysis obscure the underlying dynamics which, in fact implicate the US’s closest regional clients most notably, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in engendering the Al Qaeda threat.

Further, the stakes in question for Ali Abdallah Saleh’s government are unmistakable: simple old-style survival. With a distinguished heritage in the vocation, the US is thus set to pursue a tradition of bolstering an unpopular, oppressive regime in Yemen. Indeed, Sana’a will be hoping for greater aid and extended commitment from the US (under the cover of the international community), to come out of the London conference called on by British PM Gordon Brown. 

As officials from the Yemeni government sing the ‘give us more aid, we’ll deal with Al Qaeda’ tune [9], the message is clear: discreetly strengthen our armed counterterrorism capacity. Not in the least surprising, the head of Commander of Special Operations – the outfit that is responsible for counterterrorism – Ahmed Ali Abdallah Saleh happens to be the son of the Yemeni president. In connection, any international recognition of a vaguely-defined Al Qaeda threat in Yemen will thus provide much needed ammunition to the Yemeni government to silence its internal foes.

For the US, the paramount objective is to secure the surrounding neighbourhood of its prime Gulf client and gradually build a stronger presence in Yemen. The geopolitical prizes on offer are significant: in addition to neighbouring Saudi Arabia, Yemen is the only country from which oil can potentially reach the open seas without passing through either the Strait of Hormuz or the Suez Canal. Should Yemen fall within the orbit of direct US influence, the above factor will ominously reduce the geostrategic importance of the Strait of Hormuz in formulating calculations surrounding any future ‘shock and awe’-type strikes on Iran. Further, with a greater presence in Yemen the US will have almost secured the Bab el-Mandeb passing, since Djibouti already hosts a 2,000-man strong AFRICOM base. The only remaining quandary for the US in the war of access to the nerve-centre of global energy supplies will once more leave the Strait of Hormuz and Iran.

In the short-term however, much rests on how the US will act in response to the ‘Al Qaeda threat’ in Yemen. Indeed, it could be said that Ali Abdallah Saleh’s fate is firmly chained to Washington’s decisions over the coming months. That perhaps, is in itself revealing as to the present status of regional equations, and how these will in turn pan out.

For individuals and groups concerned with issues of human rights, the most immediate task is to strongly press for a clear, rigid and measurable definition of ‘Al Qaeda’ and related terms such as ‘terrorism’ in the upcoming London conference – particularly with relevance to the Yemeni scene – in addition to a clear call for a binding ceasefire to the ongoing war against Yemeni Houthis. Furthermore, any commitment of aid to Yemen (regardless of its nature) must stand up to rigorous standards of transparency; encompassing in this regard, the ability to closely scrutinise how any such aid is (or will be) utilised by the Yemeni government.

Ali Jawad is a political activist and a member of the AhlulBayt Islamic Mission (AIM)

Notes

1. Awlaki: I’m Alive, ABC News, 31 Dec 2009
http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/awlaki-alive/story?id=9455144
2. British Anthropologist Jeremy Keenan on “The Dark Sahara: America’s War on Terror in Africa”, Democracy Now, 6 August 2009.
http://www.democracynow.org/2009/8/6/keenan
Also refer to: America’s New Frontline: A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, Al Jazeera English (accessible on YouTube)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYoRiCLX6Tk
3. AFRICOM and America’s Global Military Agenda: Taking The Helm Of The Entire World, Global Research, 22 October 2009
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=15788
4. Yemen faces Al-Qaeda sympathizers not the group itself, Global Arab Network, 21 December 2009
http://www.english.globalarabnetwork.com/200912214107/Yemen-Politics/yemen-faces-al-qaeda-sympathizers-not-the-group-itself-says-official.html
5. Houthis: Strategy to fight Al Qaeda in Yemen will fail, BBC Arabic, 6 January 2009 http://www.bbc.co.uk/arabic/middleeast/2010/01/100106_aq_yemenrebels_tc2.shtml
6. The Yemen Hidden Agenda: Behind the Al-Qaeda Scenarios, A Strategic Oil Transit Chokepoint, Global Research, 5 January 2010
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=16786
7. See: Statement of James B. Smith Ambassador-Designate to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia before the Senate Committee for Foreign Relations, 22 July 2009
http://foreign.senate.gov/testimony/2009/SmithTestimony090722a.pdf
8. Yemen, haven for Jihadis, Guardian Online, 25 May 2009
 http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/may/25/yemen-jihadi-guantanamo-saudi-arabia
Also refer to: Saudi Arabia goes to war, Guardian Online, 23 November 2009
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/nov/23/saudi-arabia-yemen-houthi-war
9. Interview: Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi, Financial Times, 6 January 2010
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/5f0356f8-fae1-11de-94d8-00144feab49a.html 

China Urges U.S. to Stop Arms Sales to Taiwan

January 9th, 2010 by Global Research

BEIJING- China urged the United States on Saturday to reverse its decision to sell arms to Taiwan, Xinhua reported.

The U.S. arms sales to Taiwan undermine China’s national security as well as the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei told the agency, stressing Beijing’s “resolute opposition” to the sales.

This was China’s sixth official warning over the issue in a week, as government officials denounced the U.S. move.

He Yafei said China had strongly protested the U.S. government’s recent decision to allow Raytheon Company and Lockheed Martin Corp. to sell weapons to Taiwan.

The sales plan was part of an arms package announced in October 2008 by the Bush administration, which included weapons and equipment such as Patriot III anti-missile systems.

He said the Taiwan issue was “the most important and sensitive issue at the core of Sino-U.S. relations.”

Africom – Latest U.S. Bid to Recolonise the Continent

January 9th, 2010 by Tichaona Nhamoyebonde

African revolutionaries now have to sleep with one eye open because the United States of America is not stopping at anything in its bid to establish Africom, a highly-equipped US army that will be permanently resident in Africa to oversee the country’s imperialist interests.

Towards the end of last year, the US government intensified its efforts to bring a permanent army to settle in Africa, dubbed the African Command (Africom) as a latest tool for the subtle recolonisation of Africa.

Just before end of last year, General William E. Garret, Commander US Army for Africa, met with defence attaches from all African embassies in Washington to lure them into selling the idea of an American army based in Africa to their governments. Latest reports from the White House this January indicate that 75 percent of the army’s establishment work has been done through a military unit based in Stuttgart, Germany, and that what is left is to get an African country to host the army and get things moving.

Liberia and Morocco have offered to host Africom while the Southern African Development Community (SADC)  has closed out any possibility of any of its member states hosting the US army.

Other individual countries have remained quiet.

Liberia has longstanding ties with the US due to its slave history while errant Morocco, which is not a member of the African Union and does not hold elections, might want the US army to assist it to suppress any future democratic uprising.

SADC’s refusal is a small victory for the people of Africa in their struggle for total independence but the rest of the regional blocs in Africa are yet to come up with a common position. This is worrying.

The US itself wanted a more strategic country than Morocco and Liberia since the army will be the epicentre of influencing, articulating and safeguarding US foreign and economic policies. The other danger is that Africom will open up Africa as a battleground between America and anti-US terrorist groups.

Africom is a smokescreen behind which America wants to hide its means to secure Africa’s oil and other natural resources, nothing more.

African leaders must not forget that military might has been used by America and Europe again and again as the only effective way of accomplishing their agenda in ensuring that governments in each country are run by people who toe their line.

By virtue of its being resident in Africa, Africom will ensure that America has its tentacles easily reaching every African country and influencing every event to the American advantage.

By hosting the army, Africa will have sub-contracted its military independence to America and will have accepted the process that starts its recolonisation through an army that can subdue any attempts by Africa to show its own military prowess.

The major question is: Who will remove Africom once it is established? By what means?

By its origin Africom will be technically and financially superior to any African country’s army and will dictate the pace for regime change in any country at will and also give depth, direction and impetus to the US natural resource exploitation scheme.

There is no doubt that as soon as the army gets operational in Africa, all the gains of independence will be reversed.

If the current leadership in Africa succumbs to the whims of the US and accept the operation of this army in Africa, they will go down in the annals of history as that generation of politicians who accepted the evil to prevail.

Even William Shakespeare would turn and twist in his grave and say: “I told you guys that it takes good men to do nothing for evil to prevail.”

We must not forget that Africans, who are still smarting from colonialism-induced humiliation, subjugation, brutality and inferiority complex, do not need to be taken back to another form of colonialism, albeit subtle.

Africom has been controversial on the continent ever since former US president George W. Bush first announced it in February 2007.

African leaders must not forget that under the Barack Obama administration, US policy towards Africa and the rest of the developing world has not changed an inch. It remains militaristic and materialistic.

Officials in both the Bush and Obama administrations argue that the major objective of Africom is to professionalise security forces in key countries across Africa.

However, both administrations do not attempt to address the impact of the setting up of Africom on minority parties, governments and strong leaders considered errant or whether the US will not use Africom to promote friendly dictators.

Training and weapons programmes and arms transfers from Ukraine to Equatorial Guinea, Chad, Ethiopia and the transitional government in Somalia, clearly indicate the use of military might to maintain influence in governments in Africa, remains a priority of US foreign policy.

Ukraine’s current leadership was put into power by the US under the Orange Revolution and is being given a free role to supply weaponry in African conflicts.

African leaders must show solidarity and block every move by America to set up its bases in the motherland unless they want to see a new round of colonisation.

Kwame Nkrumah, Robert Mugabe, Sam Nujoma, Nelson Mandela, Julius Nyerere, Hastings Kamuzu Banda, Kenneth Kaunda, Augustino Neto and Samora Machel, among others, will have fought liberation wars for nothing, if Africom is allowed a base in Africa.

Thousands of Africans who died in colonial prisons and in war fronts during the liberation struggles, will have shed their blood for nothing if Africa is recolonised.

Why should the current crop of African leaders accept systematic recolonisation when they have learnt a lot from colonialism, apartheid and racism? Why should the current crop of African leaders fail to stand measure for measure against the US administration and tell it straight in the face that Africa does not need a foreign army since the AU is working out its own army.

African leaders do not need prophets from Mars to know that US’s fascination with oil, the war on terrorism and the military will now be centred on Africa, after that escapade in Iraq.

Tichaona Nhamoyebonde is a political scientist based in Cape Town, South Africa.

Not far from the political wheeling and dealing, hidden from view outside Washington, DC, one of the most stunning cover-ups in environmental criminal history quietly gurgles below our feet. For outside the awareness of nearly 17 million residents exists a total news blackout of nuclear power plants that have leaked radioactive chemicals into the groundwater of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

To be clear, it’s not that media coverage of the polluted, oxygen-deprived Chesapeake Bay with its forty percent “dead zones” doesn’t exist. In fact, mid-Atlantic news coverage has been glutted for years with “save the Bay” rhetoric, public awareness campaigns, and half-hearted clean-up efforts. And while the dead-and-dying Chesapeake receives no shortage of coverage in the local media, the only pollution you’re going to hear about is that which does not concern radioactive contamination of the Chesapeake Bay.

Nuclear poisons aside, the defiled Chesapeake is forever in the news. In May, 2009, President Obama donned his cape and made like a cartoon super hero to [ostensibly pretend to] jump in to protect and restore the Chesapeake with an Executive Order. Thanks to dutiful White House staffers, the greater DC metro area media ravenously devoured such fanfare – as is par for the course on the poor Chesapeake’s woes. Well, on some of the Bay’s woes, that is – considering the mainstream media’s standard protocol of reporting only on topics deemed acceptable for public consumption.

There exists possibly no better example of the total stand down on the Chesapeake’s nuclear woes than the day in August, 2009 when an EPA rep came to an Annapolis town hall forum. Organized by local non-profits Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Clean Water Action, and Maryland PIRG offshoot, Environment Maryland, the event was billed as an opportunity for the public to give EPA, tasked with coordinating the fulfillment of the Executive Order, its input. Press was in abundance in the standing-room-only event, ensuring wide press coverage of standard Bay pollution topics with bright smiling faces talking about nitrogen and storm drains.

Yet for all the rhetoric from the non-profit organizers and EPA about the Bay-on-its-way-out, (It’s all that blasted fertilizer, cow manure, and storm water runoff, dang it!) radioactive chemical emissions generated by the eleven (11) reactors in the Bay watershed and their own “special” contributions to the Bay’s demise were never mentioned. No one with a microphone talked about routine, planned radioactive discharges and continuous purges of 11 nuclear reactors into the air, Bay, and its tributaries. Predictably, neither was a word about “accidental” leaks – nor nuclear power’s thermal, climate-changing pollution – uttered from the podium. In fact, this writer and one other citizen were the only ones to stand up and expose the “elephant” in the room … namely, the deadly effects of the eleven nuclear reactors on the Chesapeake Bay.

Furthermore, in the EPA’s recent follow up effort, “Draft Strategy for Protecting and Restoring the Chesapeake Bay,” noticeably absent is not as much as a word of mention of nuclear fission products leaked into groundwater – nor about radioactive liquid effluents continuously spewing into the Bay and its tributaries for well into the fourth decade. In essence, for all the incessant “Chesapeake Bay saving” rhetoric, it’s as if the rampant point source radioactive and thermal pollution generated by the eleven Bay watershed reactors simply does not exist.

A Leaky Reactor or Two, Ya Say? How ‘Bout … ALL!

Yet whether EPA, environmental groups, or the media ever talk about it or not, the fact still remains that radioactive groundwater has been migrating steadily underground towards the Bay and draining into its tributaries for years. And whether residents living in the area are aware of it or not – increases in radioactive pollution now further threaten the health of nearly 17 million humans – and all other living things within the Bay ecosystem.

It’s a huge surprise to many to learn how many nuclear reactors discharge into the body of water often called “our national treasure” and its tributaries. Out of the eleven (11) nuclear reactors in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, nine (9) are located on rivers or a lake (in North Anna’s case, a lake) that flow either directly or eventually into the Bay. The other two (2) reactors are located at Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant, which sits directly on – and dumps into – the Chesapeake Bay.

With Bay restoration efforts focused on storm water drains, fertilizer, and farm animal dung, precious few in the greater Baltimore-Washington metro area ever seem to discover on their own that 11 nuclear reactors (plus, actually, the twelfth, the now-defunct infamous Three Mile Island Unit 2) have been wrecking havoc on the Chesapeake Bay Watershed since the 1970s. Even more of a well-kept secret, however, is the fact that all of the nuclear power plants – a full one hundred percent (100%) – have leaked radioactive materials into the Chesapeake Watershed’s groundwater.

Unbeknownst to most living in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, the nuclear power plants described by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley as “a new clean energy-generating asset” (or, rather, a$$et) are, in reality, anything but clean. How in the world can “clean” be used to describe complex machinery that continuously discharges materials that contaminate our water, air, soil (think food) with Uranium and its decay products that remain in the environment for an eternity and lethal fission products, most of which are not found in nature?

Tritium, the most plentiful radionuclide emitted by nuclear reactors, was found in nature in only miniscule amounts prior to the 1940s … that is, back in the pre-nuke era, before the nuclear orgy of reactor-generated electricity and thousands of atomic bomb explosions were still but a mere twinkle in Manhattan Project’s, J. Robert Oppenheimer’s, eye.

With 1,500 different radioactive isotopes called radionuclides, (most of which are created in the nuclear fission process) a few in particular – Tritium, Cobalt-60, and Cesium-137 most predominantly [see descriptions below] – have been reported in the soils and groundwater on and around the nuclear sites in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia.

One would be justified to surmise that if the extent of the radioactive contaminated groundwater’s were to become public knowledge, then new, experimental nuclear reactors – such as those planned for Calvert Cliffs, MD, Peach Bottom (Bell Bend), PA and North Anna, VA might not ever get built. [Note: Approval of the new reactor at North Anna has not been smooth sailing for Old Dominion, due to the hard work of local environmentalists, with assistance of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, who took the case to a Virginia Court – and won.]

Radioactive Water from Calvert Cliffs Heads for the Bay

Although many in the area realize the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant sits on the Chesapeake, about 35 miles from Washington, DC, completely suppressed from public awareness has been the December 3, 2005 discovery of the underground radioactive contamination in one of the monitoring wells.

According to a 2006 report, a substantial leak of tritium – approximately 60,000 liters inside a 49 foot deep well, from an eroded pipe in a sub-surface drainage system connected to the plant’s circulating water system, caused levels of tritium as high as 2,880 picocuries per liter. This is roughly 288 times the tritium found in nature. According to the Department of Energy, natural tritium levels [pre-Nuclear Age] were in the 10 to 30 picocuries per liter range.

Information submitted by Constellation Energy indicated that Calvert Cliffs’ tritiated-contaminated groundwater plume was then roughly 273 feet from reaching the Chesapeake Bay. In a July, 2007 report, Constellation reported the tritiated plume was expected to migrate and reach the Bay “sometime between 2010 and 2028.” So any day during the next 18 years, the silent radioactive “hit” on the Bay will quietly take place when no one is watching, when no one even knows. Tragically, the extent and size of the tritiated plume will neither be measured nor evaluated. As a Constellation Energy Senior Chemist admitted, there are no regulations nor reporting requirements specifically mandated by the NRC for tritium contamination levels in the soil.

Abnormal levels of tritium in the groundwater of Calvert Cliffs on the Bay, according to a December 5, 2008 report, are still present. Yet no remediation is planned to stop the radioactive water from further contaminating the Chesapeake – a dwindling source of crabs, oysters, clams, rockfish, bluefish, trout, flounder, and other fish for consumers along the East coast.

Where Are the Environmentalists?

Although information on groundwater contamination in the watershed has been reported by the NRC, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Exelon Corporation websites, the issue has been ignored by government officials, the media, and environmental non-profit organizations.

While searching for more details on groundwater contamination at Chesapeake Watershed nuclear power plants, no information on the subject was found on the websites of the Chesapeake Safe Energy Coalition – a group that reports it “exists to challenge and subsequently stop the proposed new reactor at Calvert Cliffs” – nor on any of the websites of the organizations that comprise the anti-nuclear coalition nor on the websites of the two leading “save the Bay” groups, Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.

Just how can it be possible none of the environmental, consumer protection, and Bay-saving organizations in the DC area have covered the issue of radioactive groundwater contamination occurring at no less than all of the nuclear power plants in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed?

Even more astonishing, however, than the blackout by local non-profits is the fact that both UniStar (a new firm formed by Constellation Energy and Electricite de France) and the State of Maryland did not mention leaking reactors nor groundwater contamination in the process of obtaining a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity to construct a third, double-size, experimental French EPR (“European Pressurised Reactor”) at Calvert Cliffs. Incidentally, the application was subsequently granted by the State of Maryland Public Service Commission in August, 2009.

With six nuclear power plants involved, it certainly defies belief that none of the afore-mentioned organizations, media, or state government agencies have exposed the radioactive groundwater contamination at all Chesapeake nuclear plants. Even the NRC does not list on its page of nuclear sites with tritiated groundwater any of the six nuclear power plants in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

What’s the Big Deal About Radioactive Hydrogen in our Water?

Tritium is but one of the 1,500 hazardous radioactive isotopes that put human health at risk. The NRC states that it “assumes that any exposure to radiation poses some health risk, and that risk increases as exposure increases in a linear, no-threshold (LNT) manner. The LNT assumption suggests that any increase in dose, no matter how small, incrementally increases risk.”

Why, exactly, is this radioactive groundwater such a concern? For starters, tritium, the only radioactive isotope of hydrogen and most prevalent contaminating element, according to the NRC, “cannot be filtered out of the water.”

Environmental Epidemiologist and Founder and Past President of The International Institute of Concern for Public Health, Dr. Rosalie Bertell , echoes the NRC’s statement, as she states, tritium is “a very effective distributor of radioactivity in the environment since it is exceedingly mobile as tritiated water, and can travel everywhere that water can travel. The human body, all tissues and cells, are composed of about 70% water. About 80% of the atoms in the human body are hydrogen atoms, which can be replaced by tritium.”

So are Americans actually protected from the hazards of this dangerous radiation? Consider the following carefully – but only on an empty stomach. The DOE states the “maximum contaminant level developed by the Environmental Protection Agency for tritium in drinking water supplies is 20,000 pCi/L or 0.02 microcuries per liter (a picocurie is a millionth of a microcurie). Higher concentrations can be present in water at facilities that produce and utilize tritium, including certain DOE sites.”

Twenty thousand (20,000) picocuries per liter, you say, EPA? Hold the phones! If the water our grandparents found outdoors in nature in the 1930s [before nuclear reactors and bomb explosions began polluting our environment] contained a mere 10 to 30 picocuries per liter of tritium – a truly miniscule amount generated by the sun’s cosmic rays and subterranean sources which originated from the formation of the earth – why in the world is it now acceptable for humans alive today to be permitted to drink a full 20,000 picocuries per liter of tritiated water…. in other words, up to 2,000 times the amount of radioactivity found in nature prior to the advent of the “Nuclear Age”?

In the words of Dr. Bertell, “It is the role of regulators to protect the public health, not to protect the right of corporations to pollute up to industry established non-health based levels. Industry based regulations have ordinarily proven too lenient! Tritium is not the exception!”

Radioactive Water Impacts Humans and Other Living Things

As far as the effects of tritium and its impact on aquatic life in the Bay, research shows that tritium – even at minimal doses – has adverse effects on the genetic materials of marine mussels. In fact, current levels of “permissible” radiation in our waters may not be protective of aquatic life. One study suggests “that the generic dose limits recommended by the International Atomic Energy Agency for the protection of aquatic biota might not be applicable to all aquatic organisms.” Research also shows that, in tritium accumulation in the aquatic organisms food chain, radionuclide concentrations are highest up the food chain with consumer fish.

In humans, tritium can be taken into the body by drinking water, eating food containing tritium, breathing air, and absorption through the skin. When tritium is inhaled, it is taken into the lungs, where it is circulated in the bloodstream and distributed to all tissues. Ingested tritium is almost completely absorbed, moving quickly from the gastrointestinal tract to the bloodstream. Within minutes it is found in all body fluids, organs, and is uniformly distributed throughout the soft tissues. And according to the NRC, after 10 days of exposure, approximately one-half the radioactive tritium still remains within the body.

With skin absorption of tritium, exposure to high concentrations of tritiated water vapor readily occurs under conditions of high humidity during hot weather, due to the normal movement of water through the skin. According to the DOE, “Tritiated water behaves the same as ordinary water, both in the environment and in the human body. Hence, a significant fraction of the inhaled and ingested tritium is directly absorbed into the bloodstream.” When radioactive tritium is taken into the body through any of these means, it is distributed through all body fluids within one to two hours.

While inside the body, tritium can cause significant damage to health. When ingested in food, tritium can remain within the body for years. In a paper by Committee Examining Radiation Risks of Internal Emitters (CERRIE) titled “Tritium: Properties, Metabolism and Dosimetry,” the amount of tritium in protein (think fish caught in a highly tritiated body of water) appears to be greatly increased. A study found that, in tritium in foods, the amount of tritium can increase the radiological dose 1.7 to 4.5 times over the dose found in water.

Specifically, scientific research shows proximity to nuclear power plants with high rates of tritium discharges includes cell damage within the genetic materials, especially DNA, with mutations causing birth defects and Down’s syndrome. In pregnant females, tritium ingested by the mother can cross the placenta and become incorporated directly into the fetus.

High rates of tritium have also been associated with high newborn death rates, high childhood leukemia death rates, childhood cancers in children from birth to 14, and children born with central nervous system disorders. Even the NRC affirms on its website, “The health risks include increased occurrence of cancer and genetic abnormalities in future generations.”

What may be perhaps most concerning to all may be the latency period – or the period of time between radiation exposure and the detection of cancer and other diseases. In other words, the tritium we inhale, consume in our water and food, or absorb directly through our skin today can cause cell damage today that results in diseases and problems with our offspring many years in the future.

Environmental Epidemiologist and Founder and Immediate Past President of The International Institute of Concern for Public Health, Dr. Rosalie Bertell, has reported that tritium is “a very effective distributor of radioactivity in the environment since it is exceedingly mobile as tritiated water, and can travel everywhere that water can travel. The human body, all tissues and cells, are composed of about 70% water. About 80% of the atoms in the human body are hydrogen atoms, which can be replaced by tritium.”

Dr. Bertell tells us also that current tritium doses are disproportionately damaging to women and children, the populations at highest risk. In addition to fatal cancers and severe genetic defects, miscarriage, and still-births, tritium protection risks must also take into account non-fatal cancers, reproductive problems, and chronic diseases caused by nonfunctioning enzymes, hormones, and other proteins due to tritium-induced damage. These disruptions, however, just may be the proverbial “icing on the cake.” As Dr. Bertell states about the harm caused by radiation in general, “There are a large number of auto-immune diseases like type two diabetes, lupus disease, rheumatoid arthritis and others, which are likely to be radiation related since their mechanisms are similar to those of cancer – namely mutations of the DNA.”

Quite unfortunately for our kids, grand kids, and their children yet to come, the NRC reports about genetic effects as a result of cell mutation caused by radiation can sometimes skip generations and may not manifest abnormalities for several generations to come. And since effects of radiation occur at the level of the cell, “thus changes may not be observed for many years (usually 5-20 years) after exposure.” Yet it’s not like any of this is breaking news. Scientists have known since the 1950s the multitude of diseases caused by ionizing radiation can appear years after initial contamination.

To help better visualize these radiation-induced damages, proteins, enzymes, DNA and RNA depend upon their shape for their activity and biological integrity. When the shapes are altered, this results in inactivity of normal processes. In addition, the radioactive decay process of one tritium atom may have “a catastrophic effect” on the activity and normal processing of these molecules.

Environmental radiation expert Dr. Chris Busby of the Low Level Radiation Campaign has labeled tritium an “enhanced hazard” because, as a form of radioactive hydrogen, it freely exchanges with hydrogen in biological systems, such as enzymes, to DNA, “which is held together and whose reactions are controlled and facilitated by hydrogen bonds.” In essence, all hell breaks loose within our cells when tritium enters our bodies!

What is the public’s bottom line on groundwater contamination?

Nuclear reactors that leak tritium are a real concern. With a half-life of 12.43 years, some of the tritium will still be around in the environment for more than a couple of hundred years. Yet in the minds of nuclear energy firms like Calvert Cliff’s Constellation Energy, the fact that underground, leaked radioactive water migrating toward the Bay will be around for years presents no problem at all!

Constellation showed its unabashed hubris and wonton disregard for the environment and public health in a 2006 NRC report. “Since the tritium was originally permitted for discharge to the Chesapeake Bay,” said the firm that recently sold out half its business (and all of its soul) to Electricite de France, a firm that is, for all intents and purposes, the French nuclear state, “there will be no significant impact.”

Qu’est-ce que c’est, Constellation Nucleaire? No significant impact, you say? Au contraire! And go tell that to the crabs and oysters! As bottom-dwellers, the Chesapeake’s prized seafood is the Bay life most impacted with the lion’s share of radioactive materials that settle in the sediment! In the twisted logic of those in the nuclear pollution industry – and their enablers in positions of federal power – since tritium and other radioactive chemicals are already permitted to be discharged into the Bay and its tributaries through what is called “planned effluent releases”– what harm does it do, goes the argument, when even more tritium and other radioactive poisons migrate through the soils into the Bay?

Yet even despite the current warped mindset that allows the imperiled Chesapeake to function as the nation’s largest floating nuclear dumping site, energy firms like Constellation actually do realize that leaky reactors are absolutely not okay. As a representative of Constellation Energy acknowledged at a September, 2007 presentation on Tritium, [nuclear] “plants do not have legal authorization to release radioactive material to the groundwater.” Furthermore, “Groundwater flows through and off the plant property, potentially contaminating private property.”

As Constellation Energy also stated, “Groundwater is considered a public resource.” Thus, by contaminating our public resource, the residents’ right to clean groundwater suitable for drinking has been compromised. While even though possessing no discernible moral responsibility toward public and environmental health, the nuclear industry still does understand the law and realizes that contaminating groundwater is an ongoing action in violation with the law. As the Constellation spokesperson stated, “plaintiffs can claim property damage…’You have put your radioactive waste on my property and damaged my property value’.”

Sad is the day when even nuclear regulators shrug their shoulders and admit that nuclear-generated poisons will increase human diseases, anomalies, and disorders in sad and painfully debilitating ways – including brain abnormalities and, according to CDC, “decreased intelligence as measured by Intelligence Quotient [IQ] tests.”

Can there be any other solution than for all of us to work our hardest to stop the continued onslaught of radioactive contamination of, not just the Chesapeake Watershed, but the entire United States? Each day the contamination increases, so we must act all the more quickly while those members of the human species among us with consideration for all those to come after still have vitality, decent health, and some semblance of normal brain functioning left.

The complete blackout that surrounds groundwater contamination of all nuclear power plants in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed without question constitutes one of the greatest environmental crimes in US history.

Tragically, all indications are such that this trend of increased, life-destroying, environmental radiation will only continue – that is, of course, unless and until ordinary but determined Americans in large numbers relentlessly demand an end to the continuous radioactive poisoning and reckless endangerment of our environment and our people.

You can start with the Chesapeake Bay Watershed or you can start in your own backyard. But wherever you choose to protect, please go ahead and do it – and make it fast! For there are so many precious lives already born and yet to be born for the next umpteen billion years who, although they do not yet realize it, are dependent upon just average folks like you and me and the next guy and gal to take a stand, speak up, speak out, and tell those in positions of power they may no longer permit the unabated radioactive poisoning and contamination of our nation any longer –at least not on our watch!

The nuclear polluters – and the radiation-enablers in all levels of power – are not going to stop running our nation into the ground with always more toxic, more dangerous, more lethal nuclear poisons… until the American people in large numbers not request – but rather, demand – that it is so.

Contaminating Bay Tributary Nuclear Power Plants

Three Mile Island, PA – Unit 1 –

In July, 2006 AmerGen Energy Company reported numerous releases that “may have” a current impact on groundwater. The report admits the presence of underground tritiated water but gives no amounts of any radionuclides. In addition, an unusual comment is made with regard to the underground contaminated water: “The site maintains three production supply wells that are pumped continuously for supply water to various systems. The benefit of this is that the station recovers tritiated water beneath the site for use at the station.” This is atypical due to the fact that nuclear power plants do not customarily have any need to use radioactive water for plant operations at commercial nuclear power plants used to generate electricity for the public.

The report of groundwater contamination from Unit 1 at Three Mile Island includes:

Leaks from the Unit 2 Borated Water Storage Tank occurred between 1981 – 1987.

1990 – Secondary Side water drained to roof from the Feed Water Heaters.

1986/1996/1997 – Unit 1 Borated Water Storage Tank leaks.

1999 – Unit I Liquid radwaste discharge line leakage.

1995/2004 – Unit I Aux Boiler Blowdown sump leakage.

2006 – Unit 1 Condensate Storage Tank – A, de-icing line leak.
North Anna Power Station, VA – Units 1 and 2 –

In August, 2006, Dominion’s North Anna Power Station reported 56 occurrences where either the volume or the source of the release exceeded the reporting threshold. There are no plans for remediation of contaminated soils prior to decommissioning.

A 2008 report showed a tritium level on April 9, 2008 from the storm drain as high as 4,290 picocuries per liter (roughly 429 times the natural level) and on December 30, 2008, a well monitoring reading reached 5,580 picocuries per liter (about 558 times natural tritium levels). On September 29, 2008, a different well showed a Cobalt-60 level of 3.24 picocuries per liter and Cesium-137 at a level of 32.2 picocuries per liter. Both Co-60 and Cs-137 are not found in nature, as they are solely a product of manmade nuclear fission. (See below for more info).

Surry Power Station, VA – Units 1 and 2 –

In August, 2006, Dominion’s Surry Power Station reported eight (8) events where either the volume or the source of the release exceeded the reporting threshold. There are no plans for remediation of contamination until decommissioning of the plants take place.

In one of the wells, tritium levels went from 14,700 picocuries per liter on March 6, 2008 to 17,200 picocuries per liter on September 8, 2008 to an even higher 17,900 picocuries on November 20, 2008. Surprisingly, despite the increasing amounts of tritium up to 1,790 times greater than normal levels, the narrative simply stated there were no on-site leaks. Another well reading indicated tritium levels as high as 10,700 picocuries per liter – that is 1,070 times natural levels.

That same well showed Cobalt-60 at a level of 25.6 picocuries per liter. (See info on Cobalt-60 below). In addition, in October 2007, a water leak from an underground storm drain pipe contained 31,900 picocuries per liter of tritium, roughly 3,100 times the amount found in nature. This amount was over and above the 20,000 picocuries per liter permitted by the EPA in drinking water. The leaked water – at the rate of 60 to 120 drops per hour – also contained a fair amount of Cobalt-60 (18.3 picocuries per liter) and a high amount of Cesium-137, (986 picocuries per liter) over four times the “permissible” amount of Cesium-137 of 200 picocuries/liter. (See info on Cesium-137 below).

Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station, PA– Units 2 and 3 –

In September, 2006 Exelon Generation put out a Hydrogeologic Investigation report on its Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station with tritium levels as much as 57 times above natural levels. As a background note: With regard to Unit 1 no longer in operation, in February, 1986 there was a release of an estimated 34,000 to 36,000 gallons of tritiated water from the Condensate Storage Tank that landed in the storm drain system that flows into the Conowingo Reservoir, which in turn flows into the Chesapeake Bay. In addition, at the Units 2 and 3 area site, there were three other releases of radioactively contaminated liquids that occurred in 1981, 1982, and 1983.

Five well sites showed significant tritium levels and nine sample locations in all were selected (including surface water). The highest tritium reading was 575 picocuries per liter, about as much as 57 times over natural levels. The report indicates there is no indication that tritium has yet migrated offsite.

Susquehanna Steam Electric [Nuclear] Power Station, PA – Units 1 and 2 –

In a July, 2006 Susquehanna Steam Electric [Nuclear] Station report made by PPL Susquehanna to the NRC, four wells were identified as being used for “domestic” water use, such as for drinking within the nuclear plant. Condensate and radwaste system leaks and spills into groundwater were reported as having occurred in 1983, 1988, 1991, and 1995. Levels of radioactive contamination were simply omitted from this report, which stated, “The potential for contamination of groundwater and/or soils is being re-evaluated as part of the on-going review of events (see question 3) involving inadvertent releases of liquid radioactive materials,” concluding, “there is no indication that remediation efforts need to be initiated.”

In a 2008 report submitted to the NRC, Susquehanna reported a tritium level of 525 picocuries per liter (roughly 52 times the tritium from natural sources) and groundwater samples as high as 181 picocuries per liter (roughly 18 times the natural tritium value). The 2007 report showed a similar tritium value of 529 picocuries per liter and higher ground water tritium values, with a high of 298 picocuries per liter (roughly 29 times the amount found in nature).

Two Other Radionuclides in Chesapeake Watershed Groundwater

Cobalt-60 – A product of manmade nuclear fission, Cobalt-60 is a highly radioactive isotope not found in nature. Created by human nuclear endeavors beginning in the 1940s – Cobalt-60 wrecks havoc within the body for many years, one-half of it depositing in the liver and soft tissues. In addition, as the EPA warns, “Because it emits such strong gamma rays, external exposure to cobalt-60 is also considered a significant threat.” The CDC tells us “Co-60 can cause skin burns, acute radiation sickness, or death. “ As the DOE itself admits, “Cobalt-60 is the isotope of most concern at Department of Energy (DOE) environmental management sites.” Despite all of this, the amount of Cobalt-60 permitted in our drinking water is 100 picocuries per Liter(!)

According to the CDC, short-term exposure of rats to high levels of cobalt in the food or drinking water results in effects on the blood, liver, kidneys, and heart. Longer-term exposure of rats, mice, and guinea pigs to lower levels of cobalt in the food or drinking water results in effects on heart, liver, kidneys, and blood as well as the testes, and also causes effects on behavior.”

To quote the CDC, “Being exposed to radioactive cobalt may be very dangerous to your health.” Cells can become damaged from gamma rays that can penetrate your entire body, even if you do not touch the radioactive cobalt. Radiation from radioactive cobalt can also damage if one ingests, drinks, breathes, or touches anything that contains radioactive cobalt. With enough exposure, one can experience a reduction in white blood cell count, which could lower resistance to infections. Skin can also blister or burn, and hair loss can take place. Reproductive system cells can become damaged and cause temporary sterility. Exposure to lower levels of radiation can cause nausea, and higher levels can cause vomiting, diarrhea, bleeding, coma, and death. Exposure to Cobalt-60 can damage the genetic materials within cells and also result in the development of cancer and other diseases.”

Cesium-137 is another radionuclide not found in nature. A by-product of nuclear fission in reactors and nuclear explosions, exposure to Cesium-137 can cause burns, acute radiation poisoning, and even death. Exposure to Cesium-137 can increase the risk for cancer and other diseases, with the radioactive material distributed in the soft tissues, especially widely distributed in muscle tissue. Cesium-137 has been associated with heart arrhythmias. With a half-life of 30 years, it will remain in the environment for many generations.

Even though no Cesium-137 is present in nature, the EPA allows up to 200 picocuries per liter in our drinking water(!) According to the CDC, tests on animals given large doses of cesium compounds have shown changes in behavior, such as increased activity or decreased activity. Exposure to Cesium-137 can cause cell damage, and, with high doses, acute radiation syndrome, which includes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bleeding, coma, and death. In utero, babies exposed to enough radiation during the time when their nervous system is rapidly developing can experience brain changes that can result in behavior changes or decreased mental abilities.

To read the reports of radioactive groundwater contamination and associated effluent reports at a nuclear power plant near you, visit the NRC website.

Cathy Garger is a freelance writer, organizer, and speaker who works to stop the continued obscene, eternal radiation poisoning of the planet. Living in the shadow of the national District of Crime, Cathy is constantly nauseated by the stench emanating from the nation’s capital during the Washington, DC, federal work week. Contact the Author

More information: http://axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/Article_57993.shtml 

Climate Science: Observations versus Models

January 8th, 2010 by Richard K. Moore

If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence. – Bertrand Russell, Roads to Freedom, 1918

Science and models

True science begins with observations and measurements. These lead to theories and models, which lead to predictions. The predictions can then be tested by further measurements and observations, which can validate or invalidate the theories and models, or be used to refine them.
 

This is the paradigm accepted by all scientists. But scientists being people, typically in an academic research community, within a political society, there can be many a slip between cup and lip in the practice of science. There are the problems of getting funding, of peer pressure and career considerations, of dominant political dogmas, etc.

In the case of models there is a special problem that typically arises. That is, researchers tend to become attached to their models, both psychologically and professionally. When new observations contradict the model, there is a tendency for the researchers to distort their model to fit the new data, rather than abandoning their model and looking for a better one. Or they may even ignore the new observations, and simply declare that their model is right, and the observations must be in error.
 

A classic example of this problem can be found in models of the universe. The Ptolemaic model assumed that the Earth is the center of the universe, and that the universe revolves around that center. Intuitively, this model makes a lot of sense. On the Earth, it feels like we are stationary. And we see the Sun and stars moving across the sky. “Obviously” the universe revolves around the Earth.
 

However, in order for this model to work in the case of the Moon and the planets, it was necessary to introduce the arbitrary mechanism of epicycles. If the universe really does revolve around the Earth, epicycles must exist, but there is no other reason to believe in epicycles. When Galileo and Copernicus came along, a much cleaner model was presented, that explained all the motions with no need for epicycles. But no longer would the Earth be the center.
 

In this case it was not so much scientists that were attached to the old model, but the Church, who liked the model because it fit their interpretation of scripture. We’ve all heard the story of the Bishop who refused to look through the telescope, so he could ignore the new observations and hold on to the old model. Galileo was forced to recant, and Copernicus, who wouldn’t recant, was put to death. Thus can political interference hold back the progress of science, and ruin careers.

Climate models and public opinion

In the case of the climate models being used by the IPCC, the assumption is that CO2 is a primary driver of climate. There is an intuitive basis for this assumption, given that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and both CO2 levels and temperature have risen sharply in the past century. In addition, a strong correlation has been observed between temperature and CO2 levels in long-term records revealed by ice-core samples. Furthermore, the burning of fossil fuels is continuing to pollute the atmosphere (and the oceans) with ever-higher levels of CO2. This has led to the hypothesis that temperatures are likely to rise precipitously, endangering life on the planet. All of this was presented very dramatically by Al Gore in his famous documentary.

As with the Ptolemaic model however, there are many problems with the assumption that CO2 drives climate, and with the prediction of dangerous warming. For one thing, the long-term records show that temperature has historically changed first, followed much later by changes in CO2 levels. For another, there have been periods of significant cooling in recent years, even while CO2 levels have continued to rise dramatically. In addition, long term records show that temperatures have been much higher than today in the past – including only a thousand years ago (the Medieval Warm Period) – and no bizarre disasters, such as the extinction of polar bears, or runaway feedback loops, occurred as a result.
 

As with the Ptolemaic model, there are politically powerful factions that have embraced the theory of dangerous, human-caused global warming for their own purposes. More about their purposes a bit further on. For now, suffice it to say that generous funding has been provided to CRU (East Anglia, Climate Research Unit) scientists who have been more than willing to ‘refine’ the model to deal with the ‘uncomfortable truth’ of the model’s problems – even if it requires such things as “hiding the decline”.
 

And those political factions, who happen also to be involved with the UN and the IPCC, and who are set to make trillions from cap-and-trade, and who own most of the Western mass media, have seen to it that the media continually hammers home the message that human-caused global warming is a threat to all life on Earth.

All of this has dovetailed with the objectives of the environmental movement, which for very good reasons is concerned about pollution of all kinds, and with society’s over-dependence on non-renewable fossil fuels. With the studies generated by the ‘coalition of willing scientists’, plus the ‘authority’ of the IPCC, plus the ‘objective’ messages of the media, plus the naive enthusiasm of the environmental movement, a ‘perfect storm’ of global public opinion has turned the cause of ‘stopping carbon emissions’ into the equivalent of a religion.

Scientists who persist in exploring the problems of the model are labeled by environmental activists and the media as ‘deniers’; their integrity is called into question, and their studies have difficulty being accepted by refereed climate-science journals. They are treated as heretics of this modern religion, and not given a fair hearing in public discourse.

However problems in the model do not automatically invalidate the model, nor does all of this non-scientific interference – even though these things do justify skepticism regarding the claims of the IPCC, and the CRU models those claims are based on. Let’s make an attempt to investigate the actual science of the matter for ourselves.

Question 1Compared to the historical record, are we facing a threat of dangerous global warming?

Let’s look at the historical temperature record, beginning with the long-term view. For long-term temperatures, ice-cores provide the most reliable data. Let’s look first at the very-long-term record, using ice cores from Vostok, in the Antarctic.

 Data source:
    ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/paleo/icecore/antarctica/vostok/deutnat.txt

Vostok Temperatures: 450,000 BC — Present

Here we see a very regular pattern of long-term temperature cycles. Most of the time the Earth is in an ice age, and about every 125,000 years there is a brief period of warm tempertures, called an inter-glacial period. Our current inter-glacial period has lasted a bit longer than most, indicating that the next ice age is somewhat overdue. These long-term cycles are probably related to changes in the eccentricity of the Earth’s orbit, which follows a cycle of about 100,000 years.

We also see other cycles of more closely-spaced peaks, and these are probably related to other cycles in the Earth’s orbit. There is an obliquity cycle of about 41,000 years, and a precession cycle, of about 20,000 years, and all of these cycles interfere with one another in complex ways. Here’s a tutorial from NASA that discusses the Earth’s orbital variations:
    http://www-istp.gsfc.nasa.gov/stargaze/Sprecess.htm

Next let’s zoom-in on the current inter-glacial period, as seen in Vostok and Greenland, again using ice-core data. Temperatures here are relative to the value for 1900, which is shown as zero:

Vostok Temperatures: 12,000 BC — 1900

 

    Data source:
    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/metadata/noaa-icecore-2475.html

Greenland Temperatures: 9500 BC — 1900

 

Here we see that the Southern Hemisphere emerged from the last ice age about 1,000 years earlier than did the Northern Hemisphere. As of 1900, in comparison to the whole inter-glacial period, the temperature was 2°C below the maximum in Vostok, and 3°C below the maximum in Greenland. Thus, as of 1900, temperatures were rather cool for the period in both hemispheres, and in Greenland, temperatures were close to a minimum.

During this recent inter-glacial period, temperatures in both Vostok and Greenland have oscillated through a range of about 4°C, although the patterns of oscillation are quite different in each case. In order to see just how different the patterns are, let’s look at Greenland and Vostok together, for the past 4,000 years. Vostok is shown with a dashed line.

Greenland & Vostok Temperatures: 2000 BC — 1900

The patterns are very different indeed. In many cases we see an extreme high in Greenland, while at the same time Vostok is experiencing an extreme low. And in the period 1500—1900, while Greenland temperatures were relatively stable, within a range of .5°C, Vostok went through a radical oscillation of 3°C, from an extreme high to an extreme low.

These dramatic differences between the two arctic regions might be related to the Earth’s orbit (See NASA tutorial). On the other hand, we may be seeing a regulatory mechanism, based on the fact that the Southern Hemisphere is dominated by oceans, while most of the land mass is in the Northern Hemisphere. Perhaps incoming heat, though retained by the northern continents, leads to evaporation from the oceans and increased snowfall in the Antarctic. Whatever the reasons, the differences between the two arctic regions are striking.

The IPCC emphasizes average global temperatures in its models. Let’s look at Greenland and Vostok again, for the past 4,000 years, and let’s add their average to the picture. The average is shown with a heavy black line:

Greenland, Vostok, & Average Temperatures: 2000 BC — 1900

 

Here we see that the Antarctic has nearly always been below the average, while the Arctic has almost always been above the average. And while each of the arctic regions has oscillated thorugh a range of 4°C, their average has always stayed within 1°C of the zero baseline. It does seem that the Antarctic is acting as a regulatory mechanism, keeping the average temperature always moderate, even when the Arctic is experiencing high temperatures. I don’t offer that as a theory, but simply as an observation of a possibility.

We can see that the average temperature tells us very little about what is happening in either arctic region. We cannot tell from the average that Arctic temperatures were 3°higher in 1500BC, and that glacier melting might have been a danger then. And the average does not tell us that the Antarctic has almost always been cool, with very little danger of ice-cap melting at any time. In general, the average is a very poor indicator of conditions in either arctic region.

We should note that 1900 represents one of those occasional times when temperatures in both hemispheres happen to be going up at the same time. In neither case is that alarming, as both hemispheres have been much warmer in the past 4,000 years. With both going up at the same time, we truly have been experiencing global warming since 1800, not just warming in one hemisphere. This global warming, however, began long before human-caused CO2 was significant.

Let’s now look at some other records from the Northern Hemisphere, to find out how typical the Greenland record is of its hemisphere. This first record is from Spain, based on the mercury content in a peat bog, as published in Science, 1999, vol. 284, for the most recent 4,000 years. Note that this graph is backwards, with present day on the left:

This next record is from the Central Alps, based on stalagmite isotopes, as published in Earth and Planteary Science Letters, 2005, vol. 235, for the most recent 2,000 years:

And finally, let’s include our Greenland record again for the most recent 4,000 years:

Greenland Temperatures: 2000 BC — 1900

 

While the three records are clearly different, they do share certain important characteristics. In each case we see a staggered rise, followed by a staggered decline — a long-term up-and-down cycle over the period. In each case we see that during the past few thousand years, temperatures have been 3°C higher than 1900 temperatures. And in each case we see a gradual descent towards the overdue next ice age. The Antarctic, on the other hand, shares none of these characteristics.

If we want to understand warming-related issues, such as tundra-melting and glacier-melting, we must consider the two hemispheres separately. If glaciers melt, they do so either because of high northern termperatures, or high southern temperatures. Whether or not glaciers are likely to melt cannot be determined by global averages. In this article we will concern ourselves with the Northern Hemisphere.

In the Northern Hemisphere, based on the shared characteristics we have observed, temperatures would need to rise at least 3°C above 1900 levels before we would need to worry about things like the extinction of polar bears, the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, or runaway methane release. We know this because none of these things have happened in the past 4,000 years, and temperatures have been3°C higher during that period.

However such a 3°C rise seems very unlikely to happen, given that all three of our Nothern Hemisphere samples show a gradual but definite decline toward the overdue next ice age. Let’s now zoom in the temperature record since 1900, and see what kind of rise has actually occurred. Let’s turn to Jim Hansen’s latest article, published on realclimate.org, 2009 temperatures by Jim Hansen. The article includes the following two graphs.

Jim Hansen is of course one of the primary proponents of the CO2-dangerous-warming theory, and there is considerable reason to believe these graphs show an exaggerated picture as regards to warming. Here is one article relevant to that point, and it is typical of other reports I’ve seen:
    Son of Climategate! Scientist says feds manipulated data

Nonetheless, let’s accept these graphs as a valid representation of recent temperature changes, so as to be as fair as possible to the warming alarmists. We’ll be using the red line, which is from GISS, and which does not use the various extrapolations that are included in the green line. We’ll return to this topic later, but for now suffice it to say that these extrapolations make little sense from a scientific perspective.

The red line shows a temperature rise of .7°C from 1900 to the 1998 maximum, a leveling off beginning in 2001, and then a brief but sharp decline starting in 2005. Let’s enter that data into our charting program, using values for each 5-year period that represent the center of the oscillations for that period. Here’s what we get for 1900-2008:

IPCC Global Temperatures: 1900 — 2008

Consider the downward trend at the right end of the graph. Hansen tells us this is very temporary, and that temperatures will soon start rising again. Perhaps he is right. However, as we shall see, his arguments for this prediction are seriously flawed. What we know for sure is that a downward trend has begun. How far that trend will continue is not yet known.

Next, let’s append that latest graph to the Greenland data, to get a reasonable characterization of Northern Hemisphere temperatures over the past 4,000 years up to present day:

Extended Greenlad Temperatures: 2000 BC — 2008

This graph shows us that the temperature rise in the Northern Hemipshpere from 1800 to 2005 was not at all unnatural. That rise follows precisely the long-term pattern, where such rises have been occurring approximately every 1,000 years, with no help from human-caused CO2. Based on the long-term pattern of diminishing peaks, we would expect the recent down-trend to continue, and not turn upward again as Hansen predicts. If the natural pattern continues, then the recent warming has reached its maximum in the Northern Hemisphere, and we will soon experience about two centuries of rapid cooling, as we continue our descent to the overdue next ice age.

So everything depends on the next decade or so. If temperatures turn upwards again, then the IPCC may be right, and human-caused CO2 emissions may have taken control of climate. However, if temperatures continue downward, then climate has been following natural patterns all along in the Northern Hemisphere. In this case there has been no evidence of any noticeable influence on climate from human-caused CO2, and we are now facing an era of rapid cooling. Within two centuries we could expect temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere to be considerably lower than they were in the recent Little Ice Age.

We don’t know for sure which way temperatures will go, rapidly up or rapidly down. But I can make this statement:

As of this moment, based on the long-term temperature patterns in the Northern Hemisphere, there is no evidence that human-caused CO2 has had any effect on climate. The rise since 1800, as well as the downward dip starting in 2005, are entirely in line with the natural long-term pattern. If temperatures turn sharply upwards in the next decade or so, that will be the first-ever evidence for human-caused warming in the Northern Hemisphere.

As regards the the recent downturn, here are two other records, both of which show an even more dramatic downturn than the one shown in the GISS data:

University of Alabama, Huntsville (UAH)
Dr. John Christy
UAH Monthly Means of Lower Troposphere LT5-2
2004 – 2008

Remote Sensing Systems of Santa Rosa, CA (RSS)
RSS MSU Monthly Anomaly – 70S to 82.5N (essentially Global)
2004 – 2008

 

Based on the data we have looked at, all from mainstream scientific sources, we are now in a position to answer our first question with a reasonable level of confidence:

Answer 1

Temperatures, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, have been continuing to follow natural, long-term patterns — despite the unusually high levels of CO2 caused by the burning of fossil fuels. There have indeed been two centuries of global warming, and that is exactly what we would expect based on the natural pattern. Temperatures now are more than 2°C cooler than they were only 2,000 years ago, which means we have not been experiencing dangerously high temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere.

The illusion of global warming arises from a failure to recognize that global averages are a very poor indicator of actual conditions in either hemisphere.

Within the next decade, or perhaps sooner, we are likely to learn which way the climate is going. If it turns again sharply upwards, as Hansen predicts, that will be counter to the long-term pattern, and evidence for human-caused warming. If it levels off, and continues downwards, that is consistent with long-term patterns, and we are likely to experience about two centuries of rapid cooling in the Northern Hemisphere, as we continue our descent toward the overdue next ice age.

Question 2

Why haven’t unsually high levels of CO2 significantly affected temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere?

One place to look for answers to this question is in the long-term patterns that we see in the temperature record of the past few thousand years, such as the peaks separated by about 1,000 years in the Greenland data, and other more closely-spaced patterns that are also visible. Some forces are causing those patterns, and whatever those forces are, they have nothing to do with human-caused CO2 emissions. Perhaps the forces have to do with cycles in solar radiation and solar magnetism, or perhaps they have something to do with cosmic radiation on a galactic scale, or something we haven’t yet identified. Until we understand what those forces are, how they intefere with one another, and how they effect climate, we can’t really build useful climate models, except on very short time scales.

We can also look for answers in the regulatory mechanisms that exist within the Earth’s own climate system. If an increment of warming happens on the surface, for example, then there is more evaporation from the oceans and more precipitation. While an increment of warming may melt glaciers, it may also cause increased snowfall in the arctic regions. Do these balance each other or not? Increased warming of the ocean’s surface may gradually heat and expand the ocean, but the increased evaporation acts to cool the ocean and reduce its mass. Do these balance one another?

Vegetation also acts as a regulatory system. Plants and trees gobble up CO2; that is where their substance comes from. Greater CO2 concentration leads to faster growth, taking more CO2 out of the atmosphere. Until we understand quantitively how these various regulatory systems function and interact, we can’t even build useful models on a short time scale.

In fact a lot of research is going on, investigating both lines of inquiry. However, in the current public-opinion and media climate, any research not related to CO2 causation is dismissed as the activity of contrarians, deniers, and oil-company hacks. Just as the Bishop refused to look through Galileo’s telescope, so today we have a whole society that refuses to look at many of the climate studies that are available.

I’d like to draw attention to one example of a scientist who has been looking at one aspect of the Earth’s regulatory system. Roy Spencer has been conducting research using the satellite systems that are in place for climate studies. Here are his relevant qualifications:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Spencer_(scientist)

Roy W. Spencer is a principal research scientist for the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR-E) on NASA’s Aqua satellite. He has served as senior scientist for climate studies at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

He describes his research in a presentation available on YouTube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xos49g1sdzo&feature=channel

In the talk he gives a lot of details, which are quite interesting, but one does need to concentrate and listen carefully to keep up with the pace and depth of the presentation. He certainly sounds like someone who knows what he’s talking about. Permit me to summarize the main points of his research:

When greenhouse gases cause surface warming, a response occurs, a ‘feedback response’, in the form of changes in cloud and precipitation patterns. The CRU-related climate models all assume the feedback response is a positive one: any increment of greenhouse warming will be amplified by knock-on effects in the weather system. This assumption then leads to the predictions of ‘runaway global warming’.

Spencer set out to see what the feedback response actually is, by observing what happens in the cloud-precipitation system when surface warming is occurring. What he found, by targeting satellite sensors appropriately, is that the feedback response is negative rather than positive. In particular, he found that the formation of storm-related cirrus clouds is inhibited when surface temperatures are high. Cirrus clouds are themselves a powerful greenhouse gas, and this reduction in cirrus cloud formation compensates for the increase in the CO2 greenhouse effect.

This is the kind of research we need to look at if we want to build useful climate models. Certainly Spencer’s results need to be confirmed by other researchers before we accept them as fact, but to simply dismiss his work out of hand is very bad for the progress of climate science. Consider what the popular website SourceWatch says about Spencer.

We don’t find there any reference to rebuttals to his research, but we are told that Spencer writes columns for a free-market website funded by Exxon. They also mention that he spoke at conference organized by the Heartland Institute, that promotes lots of reactionary, free-market principles. They are trying to discredit Spencer’s work on irrelevant grounds, what the Greeks referred to as an ad hominem argument. Sort of like, “If he beats his wife, his science must be faulty”.

And it’s true about ‘beating his wife’ — Spencer does seem to have a pro-industry philosophy that shows little concern for sustainability. That might even be part of his motivation for undertaking his recent research, hoping to give ammunition to pro-industry lobbyists. But that doesn’t prove his research is flawed or that his conclusions are invalid. His work should be challenged scientifically, by carrying out independent studies of the feedback process. If the challenges are restricted to irrelevant attacks, that becomes almost an admission that his results, which are threatening to the climate establishment, cannot be refuted. He does not hide his data, or his code, or his sentiments. The same cannot be said for the warming-alarmist camp.

Question 3

What are we to make of Jim Hansen’s prediction that rapid warming will soon resume?

Once again, I refer you to Dr. Hansen’s recent article, 2009 temperatures by Jim Hansen. Jim explains his prediction methodlolgy in this paragraph, emphasis added:

The global record warm year, in the period of near-global instrumental measurements (since the late 1800s), was 2005. Sometimes it is asserted that 1998 was the warmest year. The origin of this confusion is discussed below. There is a high degree of interannual (year‐to‐ year) and decadal variability in both global and hemispheric temperatures. Underlying this variability, however, is a long‐term warming trend that has become strong and persistent over the past three decades. The long‐term trends are more apparent when temperature is averaged over several years. The 60‐month (5‐year) and 132 month (11‐year) running mean temperatures are shown in Figure 2 for the globe and the hemispheres. The 5‐year mean is sufficient to reduce the effect of the El Niño – La Niña cycles of tropical climate. The 11‐ year mean minimizes the effect of solar variability – the brightness of the sun varies by a measurable amount over the sunspot cycle, which is typically of 10‐12 year duration.

As I’ve emphasized in bold, Jim is assuming that there is a strong and persistent warming trend, which he of course attributes to human-caused CO2 emissions. And then that assumption becomes the justification for the 5 and 11-year running averages. Those running averages then give us phantom ‘temperatures’ that don’t match actual observations. In particular, if a downard decline is beginning, the running averages will tend to ‘hide the decline’, as we see in his alarmist graphs with their exaggerated ‘hockey stick’:

Let’s now look at the actual temperature record of the arctic regions, along with their average, for the past 4,000 years up to present day:

Greenland (light solid line)
Vostok (dashed line)
extended from 1900 using GISS anomalies
Average (heavy solid line)
2000 BC — 2008

Here we can see that the average curve gives us the illusion that temperatures are higher now than they have been at any time in the past 2,000 years. In fact, temperatures have been much higher in both hemispheres during this period. Even the average has been higher in the past, if we look at the whole 4,000 year record. Jim exploits this illusion in the following paragraph, where he makes statements which may be close to the truth, about averages, but which are totally misleading as regards the alleged dangers of global warming:

The past year, 2009, tied as the second warmest year in the 130 years of global instrumental temperature records, in the surface temperature analysis of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). The Southern Hemisphere set a record as the warmest year for that half of the world. Global mean temperature, as shown in Figure 1a, was 0.57°C (1.0°F) warmer than climatology (the 1951-1980 base period). Southern Hemisphere mean temperature, as shown in Figure 1b, was 0.49°C (0.88°F) warmer than in the period of climatology.

It seems we are looking at a classic case of over-attachment to model. What began as a theory has now become an assumption, and actual observations are being dismissed as “confusion” because they don’t agree with the model. The climate models have definitely strayed into the land of imaginary epicycles. The assumption of CO2 causation, plus the preoccupation with an abstract global average, creates a warming illusion that has no connection with reality in either hemisphere.

The Southern Hemisphere may be experiencing warming, but that has nothing to do with the Northern Hemisphere, where temperatures have been declining recently, not setting records for warming. This mathematical abstraction, the global average, is characteristic of nowhere. It creates the illusion of a warming crisis, when in fact no evidence for such a crisis exists. In the context of IPCC warnings about glacers melting, runaway warming, etc., Jim’s global-average presentation serves as deceptive and effective propaganda, but not as science.

As with the Ptolemaic model, there is a much simpler explantation for our recent era of warming, at least in the Northern Hemisphere: long-term patterns are continuing, from natural causes, and human-caused CO2 has so far had no noticeable effect. There is no reason to believe that CO2 has been affecting the Southern Hemisphere either, given the natural record of rapid and extreme oscillations.

This simpler explanation is based on actual observations, and requires no abstract mathematical epicycles or averages, but it removes CO2 from the center of the climate debate. And just as powerful forces in Galileo’s day wanted the Earth to remain the center of the universe, powerful forces today want CO2 to remain at the center of climate debate, and global warming to be seen as a threat.

Question 4

What is the real agenda of the politically powerful factions who are promoting global-warming alarmism?

One thing we always need to keep in mind is that the people at the top of the power pyramid in our society have access to the very best scientific information. They control dozens, probably hundreds, of high-level think tanks, able to hire the best minds, and carrying out all kinds of research we don’t hear about. They have access to all the secret military and CIA research, and a great deal of influence over what research is carried out in think tanks, the military, and in universities.

Just because they might be promoting fake science for its propaganda value, that doesn’t mean they believe it themselves. They undoubtedly know that global cooling is the real problem, and the actions they are promoting are completely in line with such an understanding.

Cap-and-trade, for example, won’t reduce carbon emissions. Rather it is a mechanism that allows emissions to continue, while pretending they are declining — by means of a phony market model. You know what a phony market model looks like. It looks like Reagan and Thatcher telling us that lower taxes will lead to higher government revenues due to increased business activity. It looks like globalization, telling us that opening up free markets will “raise all boats” and make us all prosperous. It looks like Wall Street, telling us that mortgage derivatives are a good deal, and we should buy them. And it looks like Wall Street telling us the bailouts will restore the economy, and that the recession is over. In short, it’s a con. It’s a fake theory about what the consequences of a policy will be, when the real consequences are known from the beginning.

Cap-and-trade has nothing to do with climate. It is part of a scheme to micromanage the allocation of global resources, and to maximize profits from the use of those resources. Think about it. Our ‘powerful factions’ decide who gets the initial free cap-and-trade credits. They run the exchange market itself, and can manipulate the market, create derivative products, sell futures, etc. They can cause deflation or inflation of carbon credits, just as they can cause deflation or inflation of currencies. They decide which corporations get advance insider tips, so they can maximize their emissions while minimizing their offset costs. They decide who gets loans to buy offsets, and at what interest rate. They decide what fraction of petroleum will go to the global North and the global South. They have ‘their man’ in the regulation agencies that certify the validity of offset projects. And they make money every which way as they carry out this micromanagement.

In the face of global cooling, this profiteering and micromanagenent of energy resources becomes particularly significant. Just when more energy is needed to heat our homes, we’ll find that the price has gone way up. Oil companies are actually strong supporters of the global-warming bandwagon, which is very ironic, given that they are funding some of the useful contrary research that is going on. Perhaps the oil barrons are counting on the fact that we are suspicious of them, and asssume we will discount the research they are funding, as most people are in fact doing. And the recent onset of global cooling explains all the urgency to implement the carbon-management regime: they need to get it in place before everyone realizes that warming alarmism is a scam.

And then there’s the carbon taxes. Just as with income taxes, you and I will pay our full share for our daily commute and for heating our homes, while the big corporate CO2 emitters will have all kinds of loopholes, and offshore havens, set up for them. Just as Federal Reserve theory hasn’t left us with a prosperous Main Street, despite its promises, so theories of carbon trading and taxation won’t give us a happy transition to a sustainable world.

Instead of building the energy-efficient transport systems we need, for example, they’ll sell us biofuels and electric cars, while most of society’s overall energy will continue to come from fossil fuels, and the economy continues to deteriorate. The North will continue to operate unsustainably, and the South will pay the price in the form of mass die-offs, which are already ticking along at the rate of six million children a year from malnutrition and disease.

While collapse, suffering, and die-offs of ‘marginal’ populations will be unpleasant for us, it will give our ‘powerful factions’ a blank canvas on which to construct their new world order, whatever that might be. And we’ll be desperate to go along with any scheme that looks like it might put food back on our tables and warm up our houses.

“Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.” John Maynard Keynes

There’s no denying that the economy is getting better, but will it last? Many economists don’t think so, including experts at opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, like Paul Krugman and Martin Feldstein. They think the economy will begin to fizzle sometime in the latter part of 2010 when Obama’s $787 billion fiscal stimulus runs out and consumers are forced to pick up the slack in demand. That’s a safe bet, too, considering that unemployment will still be somewhere in the neighborhood of 9 percent and households will still be digging out from the $13 trillion they lost during the crisis. And the fact that the Fed is planning to end its quantitative easing (QE) program in early April, doesn’t help either. That will just suck more liquidity out of the system and push long-term interest rates higher. When that happens, housing prices will fall, inventory will rise, and a surge in foreclosures will put more pressure on the banks balance sheets. That’s why the pros are so glum, because they know the economy needs a second dose of stimulus to stay on track, but the politicos are dead-set against it. Congress is afraid of the backlash from voters in the upcoming midterm elections. They’d rather drive the economy back into recession then risk losing their jobs.

Despite the propaganda in the media, stimulus works. In fact, Goldman Sachs attributes all of last quarter’s (positive) growth to Obama’s stimulus. Here’s how Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz sums it up in his China Daily article “Harsh lessons we may need to learn again”:

“Keynesian policies do work. Countries, like Australia, that implemented large, well-designed stimulus programs early emerged from the crisis faster. Other countries succumbed to the old orthodoxy pushed by the financial wizards who got us into this mess in the first place.

Whenever an economy goes into recession, deficits appear, as tax revenues fall faster than expenditures. The old orthodoxy held that one had to cut the deficit – raise taxes or cut expenditures – to “restore confidence.” But those policies almost always reduced aggregate demand, pushed the economy into a deeper slump, and further undermined confidence.”

When consumers are forced to cut back on spending, because they’re too far in debt or worried about their jobs, the government has to step in and make up the difference or the economy goes into a tailspin. The deficits need be big enough to maintain aggregate demand while the private sector regains its footing. Otherwise, consumer spending declines, which lowers earnings and forces businesses to lay off more workers. It’s a viscous circle. But if the stimulus is distributed wisely, multipliers kick in and help to lift the economy out of the doldrums. Here’s a good breakdown of how it works from an article in the New York Times:

“Every dollar of additional infrastructure spending means $1.57 in economic activity, according to Moody’s, and general aid to states carries a $1.41 “bang” for each federal buck. Even more effective are increases for food stamps ($1.74) and unemployment checks ($1.61), because recipients quickly spend their benefits on goods and services.

By contrast, most temporary tax cuts cost more than the stimulus they provide, according to research by Moody’s. That is true of two tax breaks in the stimulus law that Congress, pressed by industry lobbyists, recently extended and sweetened — a tax credit for homebuyers (90 cents of stimulus for each dollar of tax subsidy) and extra deductions for businesses’ net operating losses (21 cents). ” (“New Consensus Sees Stimulus Package as Worthy Step ” Jackie Calmes and Michael Cooper, New York Times)

So far, the stimulus has done exactly what it was designed to do; give the economy a big enough boost to get through a deflationary rough patch. Unemployment is flattening out, manufacturing is expanding again, the stock market keeps climbing higher, and a recent survey of individual investors shows the highest ratio of bulls-to-bears since 2007. That’s a good start, but the economy is still weak and needs more help. So why are policymakers so eager to take the patient off the ventilator before he can breathe on his own again?

Politics, that’s why.

The congress is worried about voter rage at the ballotbox, but that doesn’t explain why Obama has started moaning about slashing deficits in the middle of a severe slump. The administration’s agenda is entirely different than congress’s. The White House economics team is trying to garner support for policies that will strap the faltering economy into a fiscal straightjacket and pound the green shoots into mush. All the railing against deficits is just empty blather backed by junk economics.

Here’s ex-Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin–one of the chief architects of the global financial crisis–articulating the position of his proteges at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Robert Rubin: “Putting another major stimulus on top of already huge deficits and rising debt-to-GDP ratios would have risks. And further expansion of the Federal Reserve Board’s balance sheet could create significant problems…. Today’s economic conditions would ordinarily be met with expansionary policy, but our fiscal and monetary conditions are a serious constraint, and waiting too long to address them could cause a new crisis….

First, there must be sound fiscal and monetary policies. The United States faces projected 10-year federal budget deficits that seriously threaten its bond market, exchange rate, economy, and the economic future of every American worker and family. Those risks are exacerbated by the context of those deficits: a low household-savings rate, even after recent increases; large funding requirements for federal debt maturities every year; heavy overweighting of dollar-denominated assets in foreign portfolios; worsened fiscal prospects in the decades after the current 10-year budget period; and competing claims for capital to fund deficits in other countries.” (“Getting the Economy back on track” Robert Rubin, Newsweek)

Interesting. Rubin admits that the recession “would ordinarily be met with expansionary policy”, but suggests that he has a better remedy than stimulus. Does that make sense? After all, it was Keynes counter-cyclical public spending (stimulus) that just produced positive GDP for the first time in 4 quarters, whereas, it was Rubin’s deregulation of the financial system that pushed the global economy to the brink of disaster. There’s no question of whose theory is more credible or likely to work. Even so, it’s worth considering what Rubin has to say, because it clarifies the views of Obama’s chief economics advisors Geithner and Summers. After all, the trio is joined at the hip.

Rubin again: “The American people are growing increasingly concerned about deficits, creating a public environment more conducive to political action. And the Obama administration, in my view, has a deep understanding of the critical importance of addressing this issue….. “

Indeed. So, Obama has already joined the ranks of the deficit terrorists.

Rubin again: “As President Obama and the other G20 leaders warned, restrictive trade measures in response to the current crisis could lead to highly destructive trade wars. For the long run, we should continue pursuing the open markets that the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a Washington think tank, estimates have added $1 trillion to America’s current GDP.”

So Rubin is working for Peterson? That explains everything. Here’s an excerpt from a Dean Baker article which appeared in the UK Guardian this week:

“Peter Peterson is a Wall Street billionaire and former Nixon administration cabinet member who has been trying to gut Social Security payments and Medicare for at least the last quarter of a century. He has written several books that warn of a demographic disaster when the baby boomers retire. These books often include nonsense arguments to make his case. For example, in one of the books making his pitch for cutting social security as matter of generational equity, Peterson proposes reducing the annual cost of living adjustment.” (Guardian)

Ah ha! So, the real goal is to slash spending to impose onerous austerity measures that will lay the groundwork for dismantling critical social programs, like Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. That’s why Rubin is working hand-in-hand with his allies in and out of the White House. It has nothing to do with what’s best for the country. It’s another looting operation spearheaded by the same band of Wall Street pirates who just blew up the financial system.

Rubin again: “For American workers, sustained growth is the most powerful force for higher wages and greater personal economic security….The dynamism of American society, its flexible labor and capital markets, its entrepreneurial spirit and the sheer size of its economy, are great strengths for succeeding in a rapidly transforming global economy….Finally, in an increasingly interdependent world, transnational issues key to all of us can only be addressed through effective global governance.”

Yada, yada, yada. More free trade, more outsourcing, more off-shoring, more lost jobs, more structural adjustment (at home, this time) more privatization, more screwball globalist Utopianism. It’s all right out of the Neoliberal playbook, corporate America’s sacred text. And it looks President Moonbeam is marching in lockstep with the rest of the hucksters.

Face it; the Obama administration is less interested in engineering a strong recovery than they are with micromanaging a protracted downturn. That’s because a long drawn-out mini-Depression puts the Rubin troupe right where they want to be—with one hand choking the life out of the economy while the other steals whatever is left in the national vault.

Never Mind the Facts, Let’s Have a War…

January 8th, 2010 by Finian Cunningham

A missile test-fired by Iran last week was reported on the BBC World Service as being “capable of striking Israel”.
 
The choice of words was not unusual. On previous occasions when Iran has test-fired a long-range rocket, the BBC and other western news media dutifully inform us that the said device is “capable of striking Israel”. The well-worn phrase is so reliably heard in these news bulletins that its use betrays a coded script. The not-too subliminal implications are that Iran is: a) a hostile state; b) doing something illegal in test-firing a long-range missile; and c) gearing up to deliver on its alleged threat to wipe out the state of Israel.
 
Within hours of these reports last week, the US government weighed in with the pious accusation that the test-firing “undermines Iran’s claims of peaceful intentions”.
 
This is a propaganda system at work: the choice of words and framework of logic designed to condition people into accepting certain options. In this case, the pre-determined option is a unilateral military strike on Iran either by the US or Israel. In that event, it will of course be reported by the BBC and other western media as a “pre-emptive” military measure to “prevent” Iran from attacking western interests in the region. Reported too, no doubt, will be the “collateral damage” of civilian casualties – unfortunate victims in an otherwise “just cause” to bring a “hardline regime” to abide by “international norms”. This is classic thought engineering that British political essayist George Orwell exposed so brilliantly – the official use of sanitised words to cover the sordid truth.
 
So let’s rewind and play back the news with some pertinent facts and context that are routinely omitted in western media reporting.
 
Iran has test-fired a long-range missile – within its sovereign borders. The US and its western allies carry out such weapons testing all the time, as is their sovereign right. One of the US’ allies, Israel, has a stockpile of nuclear weapons in contravention of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. This same ally has previously committed acts of aggression (war crimes) by launching air attacks on neighbouring countries. Israel, with overt approval from Washington, has repeatedly said that it is prepared to militarily strike Iran “soon”, The US itself has warned several times that it reserves the right to use a military option in its relations with Iran. The US is waging illegal wars in three of Iran’s neighbours: Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. A dynamic of fear and distrust between Gulf countries is fuelling a regional arms race. This dynamic is being pushed by the US with, what should be, obvious self-serving interests (massive arms sales, geopolitical influence) that are instead disguised by its bogeyman illusion of Iran, which, unfortunately, Gulf states appear to buy into. All told, these facts actually do “undermine US claims of peaceful intentions”.
 
Here are some other facts that the western media curiously underplay. Iran is not at war with any country, although it is routinely accused in the western media, without supporting evidence, of covert subversion across the region. Iran is conducting a nuclear energy programme, which it has repeatedly said is for civilian power supply. After a decade of close monitoring by UN inspectors, which would never be permitted in its territory by the US or its western allies, the inspectors have reiterated that there is no evidence of Iran building a nuclear weapon. Nevertheless, this conclusion does not restrain Washington and London in their dogged assertion that Tehran is building nuclear weapons (cue more arms sales). 
 
Given these facts, the test-firing by Iran of a long-range missile is far from being a quasi-criminal act laden with hostile intentions. It is the action of a country that needs to show it can defend itself amid relentless provocations from proven and much more greatly armed aggressors, whose arsenal also includes a propaganda system that Nazi spinmeister Joseph Goebbels would have marvelled at.    

An organization of attorneys, journalists, and advocates today filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act requesting the long-suppressed report from the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) regarding the conduct of President Bush’s top lawyers in the Office of Legal Counsel who authored memos purporting to authorize torture and aggressive war.

The request, reproduced below along with a transmittal letter, asks for the OPR report that has long been promised by Attorney General Eric Holder, as well as an earlier OPR report completed during the last months of the Bush administration. The request also seeks the 10 page rebuttal of the 2008 report by then- Attorney General Michael Mukasey.

Transmittal Letter
FOIA Request

Members of the Robert Jackson Steering Committee (RJSC) filed the request.  Founded in September 2008, the RJSC works to bring about the criminal prosecution of top government officials in the United States alleged to have committed war crimes.  The committee was named in honor of  U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, who was the top U.S. prosecutor of Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg.  “We must never forget,” Jackson had said in his Opening Statement, “that the record on which we judge these defendants today is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our lips as well.”

Charlotte Dennett, an attorney member of the RJSC and one of the authors of the FOIA request, said: “The time has come to squarely address the role of these lawyers. Did they create new laws redefining the crime of torture after American forces had already begun torturing prisoners? And if so, for what purpose and on whose orders? We cannot countenance further delays or accept a greatly watered-down version of the original report.  We must know the facts and then decide whether President Obama’s Department of Justice is continuing the cover-up begun under his predecessor.”
 
Peter Weiss, another RJSC attorney member  and author of the FOIA request, added: “We are not simply requesting that a long-promised report be released sooner rather than later.  We are requesting transparency in the unprecedented procedure of letting the very subjects of a DOJ misconduct report propose changes to it.  The current Chilcot Inquiry in England of the build-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq has revealed an editing process in which the attorney general of that nation reversed his opinion that the war would be illegal.  If a similar editing job has been performed on the original OPR report, the American public has a right to know it.”
 
David Swanson, Chair of the Robert Jackson Steering Committee who also worked on the FOIA request, said “Much awaits this report.  Bar associations have delayed disbarment.  Congressional committees have delayed subpoenas and impeachments.  The Department of Justice has delayed prosecutions.  One of the lawyers under review, John Yoo, is facing a civil suit from one of the victims of his actions, Jose Padilla.  If the Justice Department is refusing to release the report in order to deny the report to Padilla’s legal counsel, the public has a right to know.”
 
Justice Robert H. Jackson’s words in his opening statement as Chief Prosecutor at Nuremberg have special relevance to today: “The common sense of mankind demands that law shall not stop with the punishment of petty crimes by little people. It must also reach men who possess themselves of great power… [for they, too,] as Lord Chief Justice Coke put it to King James, [are] ‘under … the law.’ And let me make clear that while this law is first applied against German aggressors, the law includes, and if it is to serve a useful purpose it must condemn aggression by any other nations, including those which sit here now in judgment.”
 
Members of the Robert Jackson Steering Committee are:
 
Chair David Swanson is the author of Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union by Seven Stories Press, Co-Founder of AfterDowningStreet.org. Swanson became chair in November 2009.
 
Past Chair Lawrence Velvel served as chairman of the Steering Committee of the Justice Robert H. Jackson Conference On Planning For The Prosecution of High Level American War Criminals, or the Robert Jackson Steering Committee for short, through October 2009. Velvel is Dean of  the Massachusetts School of Law and a professor of law.
 
John Bonifaz, Legal Director of Voter Action, author of Warrior-King: The Case for Impeaching George W. Bush.
 
Kristina Borjesson, an award-winning print and broadcast journalist for more than twenty years and editor of two recent books on the media.
 
Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee.
 
Marjorie Cohn, a law Professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, immediate past president of the National Lawyers Guild, author of Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law (PoliPointPress, 2007), and editor of “The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration and Abuse” (NYU Press, Fall 2010).
 
Colleen Costello, Staff Attorney of Human Rights, USA, of Washington, D.C., and coordinator of its efforts involving torture by the American government.
 
Ben Davis, a law Professor at the University of Toledo College of Law, where he teaches Public International Law and International Business Transactions. He is the author of numerous articles on international and related domestic law.
 
Charlotte Dennett, investigative journalist, attorney, 2008 candidate for Attorney General of Vermont, and author of  The People v. Bush: One Lawyer’s Campaign to Bring the President to Justice and the National Grassroots Movement She Encounters Along the Way (Chelsea Green, January 2010).
 
Valeria Gheorghiu, attorney.
 
Jeanne Mirer, President of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers.
 
Chris Pyle, a Professor at Mount Holyoke College, where he teaches Constitutional law, Civil Liberties, Rights of Privacy, American Politics and American Political Thought, and is the author of many books and articles, including Getting Away with Torture: Secret Government, War Crimes, and the Rule of Law..
 
Elaine Scarry, the Walter M. Cabot Professor of Aesthetics and the General Theory of Value at Harvard University, and winner of the Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism.
 
Peter Weiss, vice president of the Center For Constitutional Rights, of New York City, which was recently involved with war crimes complaints filed in Germany against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others.
 
Andy Worthington, British journalist and author of The Guantanamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (Pluto Press, 2007).
 
Kevin Zeese, attorney, activist, serves as Executive Director of Voters for Peace and Prosperity Agenda.  He has filed complaints with bar associations seeking the disbarment of 15 Bush-Cheney lawyers for facilitating torture (two who also served Obama-Biden) as part of the Disbar Torture Lawyers Campaign of Velvet Revolution on whose board he serves.

Read the documents:

Transmittal Letter
FOIA Request

Did Abdulmutallab Board Flight 253 Without a Passport?

January 8th, 2010 by Joe Wolverton

As is typical in the aftermath of this sort of occurrence, there is a maelstrom of stories swirling around Umar Abdulmutallab’s attempt to bomb Northwest Airlines Flight 253 bound from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day. Curiously, though, two of these stories are being roundly ignored by most media outlets despite the intriguing facts they contribute to the still poorly defined though compelling narrative of the foiled terrorist attack and the young well-educated Nigerian accused of attempting it.

Kurt and Lori Haskell were on their way back to Michigan from a Ugandan safari when they boarded Northwest Flight 253 in Amsterdam. In an interview with a local Michigan outlet, Mr. and Mrs. Haskell report that as they sat near the gate waiting to board their flight, they witnessed a well-dressed man accompanying a poorly dressed younger companion trying to convince boarding agents to allow a man they now recognize as Umar Abdulmutallab to board the plane, despite not having a passport. Mr. Haskell recalls having his attention drawn to the shabby dress of the man without a passport and then listening with curiosity to the unusual conversation between the suited man and the ticket agent.

The ticket agent informed the well-dressed man that she would need to inform her manager of the situation and the man in the suit responded by informing her that, “He’s from Sudan. We do this all the time.” Abdulmutallab is Nigerian so Haskell suspects that the other man was trying to garner sympathy for Abdulmutallab by portraying him as a Sudanese refugee. At this point in the story, Mr. and Mrs. Haskell report that the two men were escorted by the airline representative to another location and so they are unsure as to whether Abdulmutallab ultimately was permitted to board the plane without a passport.

Finally, the Haskells, attorneys specializing in bankruptcy and family law, were interviewed by the FBI along with all their fellow passengers. Mr. Haskell said that upon concluding his interview, he witnessed government agents taking two men into custody. A spokeswoman for the FBI field office in Detroit disputes Mr. Haskell’s story and claims that Abdulmutallab was the only person arrested after the incident.

Despite the American media’s and law enforcement’s disinterest in the Haskell’s testimony, Dutch authorities have initiated an investigation into the possible complicity of the unidentified man who appeared to be helping Abdulmutallab.

Patricia Keepman of Wisconsin was traveling home with her husband and daughter after having adopted two children from Ethiopia when they boarded Flight 253 in Amsterdam. The Keepman family was seated some 20 rows behind Abdulmutallab when the Keepman’s daughter pointed out a man who was standing and calmly videotaping the cabin. “He sat up and videotaped the entire flight,” Keepman reports. “I figured it was his first flight or something,” she explained.

As in the case with the Haskells, Mrs. Keepman reports that while awaiting debriefing by federal law enforcement, she learned that the FBI was interested in interrogating the man she saw recording the flight. Officially, however, the FBI denies such interest and claims that the only person being investigated is the alleged attempted bomber, Umar Abdulmutallab.

Afghans Hold Anti-US Rally Over Killing of Civilians

January 8th, 2010 by Global Research

Thousands of people in eastern Afghanistan have taken to the streets to protest the death of four children in an explosion they blame on US forces.

Afghan protesters in the city of Jalalabad shouted Death to America and burned an effigy of President Barack Obama.

Protesters strongly condemned the killing and warned of violent reaction by the public.

Wednesday’s blast occurred near a school south of Jalalabad in Nangarhar province, killing four children and a policeman. The incident also injured at least 80 civilians, mostly children.

Police say the incident is being investigated. Police say the blast was caused by a passing police vehicle hitting a mine, but the protesters blame the incident on US soldiers.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said in a recent report that 2,038 civilians had died in the first 10 months of 2009 as a result of US-led operations in the conflict-torn country.

Civilians in Afghanistan continue to pay the price for Washington’s so called ‘war on terror,’ with the latest figures released by the United Nations indicating a 10.8 percent rise in the civilian casualties compared to last year.

A good share of these fatalities is caused by US-led foreign forces.

In parallel with the escalation of the war in South Asia – counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan and drone missile attacks in Pakistan – the United States and its NATO allies have laid the groundwork for increased naval, air and ground operations in the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden.

During the past month the U.S. has carried out deadly military strikes in Yemen: Bombing raids in the north and cruise missile attacks in the south of the nation. Washington has been accused of killing scores of civilians in the attacks in both parts of the country, executed before the December 25 Northwest Airlines incident that has been used to justify the earlier U.S. actions ex post facto. And, ominously, that has been exploited to pound a steady drumbeat of demands for expanded and even more direct military intervention.

The Pentagon’s publicly disclosed military and security program for Yemen grew from $4.6 million in 2006 to $67 million last year. “That figure does not include covert, classified assistance that the United States has provided.” [1]

In addition, “Under a new classified cooperation agreement, the U.S. would be able to fly cruise missiles, fighter jets or unmanned armed drones against targets in the country, but would remain publicly silent on its role in the airstrikes.” [2]

On January 1 General David Petraeus, the chief of the Pentagon’s Central Command, in charge of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as operations in Yemen and Pakistan, was in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad and said of deepening military involvement in Yemen, “We have, it’s well known, about $70 million in security assistance last year. That will more than double this coming year.” [3]

The following day Petraeus was in the capital of Yemen where he met with the country’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to discuss “continued U.S. support in rooting out the terrorist cells.” [4]
 
White House counterterrorism adviser (Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism) John Brennan briefed President Barack Obama on Petraeus’ visit to Washington’s new war theater and afterward stated “We have made Yemen a priority over the course of this year, and this is the latest in that effort.” [5]

The alleged terrorist cells in question are identified by U.S. and other Western governments as being affiliated with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). However, on January 4 CNN reported that “A senior U.S. official cited a rebellion by Huti [Houthi] tribes in the north, and secessionist activity in the southern tribal areas” as of concern to Washington. [6]

The Houthis’ confessional background is Shi’a and not Sunni Islam and the opposition forces in the south are led by the Yemeni Socialist Party, so attempts to link either with al-Qaeda are inaccurate, self-serving and dishonest.
 
In both the north and south the United States, its NATO allies – Britain and France closed their embassies in Yemen earlier this week in unison with the U.S. – and Saudi Arabia are working in tandem to support the Saleh government in what over the past month has become a state of warfare against opposition forces in the country. Saudi Arabia has launched regular bombing raids and infantry and armored attacks in the north of the country and, according to Houthi rebel sources, been aided by U.S. warplanes in deadly attacks on villages. Houthi spokesmen have accused Riyadh of firing over a thousand missiles inside Yemen, and in late December the Saudi Defense Ministry acknowledged that its military casualties over the preceding month included 73 dead, 26 missing and 470 wounded. In short, a cross-border war on the Arabian peninsula.

The West, though, has even larger plans for Yemen, ones which include integrating military operations from Northeast Africa to the Chinese border. Typical of recent statements by U.S. officials and their Western allies, last weekend British Prime Minister Gordon Brown disingenuously claimed that “The weakness of al Qaeda in Pakistan has forced them out of Pakistan and into Yemen and Somalia.” [7]

Brown told the BBC on January 3 “Yemen has been recognized, like Somalia, to be one of the areas we have got to not only keep an eye on, but we’ve got to do more. So it’s strengthening counter-terrorism cooperation, it’s working harder on intelligence efforts.” [8] It is up to Mr. Brown to explain why, if al-Qaeda has been “forced out” of Pakistan, he is adding soldiers to the U.S. and NATO surge that will soon bring combined Western troop numbers to over 150,000 in Afghanistan while intensifying deadly attacks inside Pakistan itself.

The British prime minister has also called for an international meeting on Yemen for later this month and announced that “The UK and the US have agreed to fund a counter-terrorism police unit in Yemen….” [9]

In Western news reports, or rather rumor peddling, Yemeni rebels are accused of supplying weapons to Somali opposite numbers and the second are reported to have offered fighters to the former.

In short the officially discarded but in fact revived and expanded “global war on terrorism” is now to be fought in a single theater of war that extends from the Red Sea to Pakistan. A joint endeavor by the Pentagon’s Central and Africa Commands and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to build upon the consolidation of almost the entire European continent under NATO and Pentagon control and the ceding of the African continent to the new U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). (Except for Egypt, an individual Pentagon asset and NATO Mediterranean Dialogue partner.)

In fact the Central Command was inaugurated by the Ronald Reagan administration in 1983 on the foundations of the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force (RDJTF) that his predecessor Jimmy Carter activated three years before. [10] The latter developed out of the Rapid Deployment Forces (RDF) launched directly to counter developments in Afghanistan and Somalia in 1979 (an integral component of the Carter Doctrine) and was deliberately designed to establish military control of the Horn of Africa, the Arabian Sea and the Western Indian Ocean.

Administrations may depart – George W. Bush and Tony Blair have left public office – and names may change – the global war on terror has been rechristened overseas contingency operations – but Washington’s global geopolitical ambitions, limitless since the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union in 1991, have only grown more universal and the military means employed for their realization more aggressive.   

The White House and its European allies have of late resuscitated and inflated the al-Qaeda specter to a degree not witnessed since the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001.

Under the guise of protecting the American homeland from this shadowy and ubiquitous entity, the Pentagon is involved in military operations from West Africa to East Asia against among other decidedly non-Osama bin Laden-linked forces left-wing groups in Colombia, the Philippines and Yemen; Shi’a militias in Lebanon and Yemen; ethnic rebels in Mali and Niger; a Christian extremist rebellion in Uganda.

Like the infamous 19th century grave robbers William Burke and William Hare, paid so well to provide cadavers to the Edinburgh Medical College that, running out of corpses to sell, created them, al-Qaeda is a dependable villain to be evoked as needed.

Al-Shabaab fighters in Somalia can be conflated with pirates in the Gulf of Aden to provide the pretext for a permanent NATO and allied European Union naval presence in a nexus that includes the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea leading into the Persian Gulf and most of the eastern coast of Africa.

The American component of the Greater Afghan War is Operation Enduring Freedom, which takes in Afghanistan, Cuba (Guantanamo Bay Naval Base), Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, the Philippines, Seychelles, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

Djibouti, which hosts some 2,500 U.S. military personnel in the Pentagon’s first permanent base in Africa, is also the headquarters of the U.S.’s Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), set up in 2001 several months before Operation Enduring Freedom and overlapping with it in many respects. The CJTF-HOA, based in the French military base of Camp Lemonier, was transferred from the Pentagon’s Central Command to its Africa Command on October 1, 2008 when AFRICOM was formally activated.

Its area of responsibility includes Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Yemen. Its areas of interest are Comoros, Mauritius, and Madagascar. The last three are, like Seychelles, island nations in the Indian Ocean. The U.S. expanded Camp Lemonier to five times its original size in 2006 and troops from all branches of the U.S. armed services “use the base when not working ‘downrange’ in countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia and Yemen.” [11]

In announcing recently that “Yemen has received military equipment from the United States to aid the government’s fight against the al-Qaeda network in the south of the country,” a German news agency added this background information: “Yemen, in the 1990s, welcomed back Arab fighters who left Afghanistan after the fall of the Soviet Union.” [12]

As with Afghanistan itself and other locations where the American military is fighting insurgent groups – the Philippines, Somalia and Yemen – the Pentagon is frequently confronting fighters funded, armed and trained by its own government in Pakistan from 1978-1992 under Operation Cyclone, the largest-ever CIA covert undertaking.

A 2008 edition of U.S. News & World Report, a magazine that can hardly be accused of being unfriendly to the White House and the Pentagon, wrote of the war in Afghanistan that “two of the most dangerous players are violent Afghan Islamists named Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Jalaluddin Haqqani, according to U.S. officials.” [13]

An assessment repeated in the August 30, 2009 Commander’s Initial Assessment of General Stanley McChrystal, commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. The report, the basis for the White House increasing troop strength in the war theater to over 100,000, stated that “The major insurgent groups in order of their threat to the mission are: the Quetta Shura Taliban (05T), the Haqqani Network (HQN), and the Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin (HiG).”

The U.S. News & World Report feature provided this background information:

“[T]hese two warlords — currently at the top of America’s list of most wanted men in Afghanistan — were once among America’s most valued allies. In the 1980s, the CIA funneled hundreds of millions of dollars in weapons and ammunition to help them battle the Soviet Army….Hekmatyar, then widely considered by Washington to be a reliable anti-Soviet rebel, was even flown to the United States by the CIA in 1985.”

“U.S. officials had an even higher opinion of Haqqani, who was considered the most effective rebel warlord….Haqqani was also one of the leading advocates of the so-called Arab Afghans, deftly organizing Arab volunteer fighters who came to wage jihad against the Soviet Union and helping to protect future al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.” [14]

In the name of combating the very same bin Laden and al-Qaeda, the U.S. and its NATO allies are now, in addition to increasing combined military forces waging a war in Afghanistan now in its ninth year to over 150,000, more than the Soviet Union ever deployed to that nation:

Intensifying deadly drone missile, helicopter gunship and commando attacks inside neighboring Pakistan. A recent government report in that nation tabulated that 708 people had been killed last year in CIA drone attacks alone. Only five of those were identified as al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects. [14] On January 6 at least thirteen more were killed in a missile attack in the Pakistani tribal agency of North Waziristan. 

Last month an American military newspaper reported that “A 1,000-strong Marine combat task force capable of rapidly deploying to hot spots could soon be at the disposal of the new U.S. Africa Command,” which announcement came “just a few months after U.S. Special Forces staged a daring daylight raid deep inside southern Somalia” and after another Marine force “had already deployed in support of training missions in Uganda and Mali.” [15]

In late October of last year NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen was in the United Arab Emirates [UAE] to rally NATO’s Istanbul Cooperation Initiative partners for a future confrontation with Iran. Addressing a conference on NATO-UAE Relations and Future Prospects of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, he expanded his mission to recruit the Persian Gulf monarchies for the ever-expanding Greater Afghan War. “We have a shared interest in helping countries like Afghanistan and Iraq to stand on their feet again, fostering stability in the Middle East…and preventing countries like Somalia and Sudan from slipping deeper into chaos.” [16]

Two months earlier it was reported that “About 75 U.S. military personnel and civilians will be headed to the Seychelles islands in the coming weeks to set up…Reaper operations, which could start in October or November. U.S. Africa Command is calling the Navy-led mission Ocean Look.

“The U.S. will base the Reapers – to be used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance – at Seychelles’ Mahe regional airport….” [17] The Reaper is the Pentagon’s newest “hunter-killer” unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) which is equipped with fifteen times the firepower and travels at three times the speed of its Predator forerunner, used to devastating effect in Pakistan and Somalia. Last October Somali rebels claimed to have shot down an American drone and local “residents routinely report suspected US drones flying over [their city]. The drones are believed to be launched from warships in the Indian Ocean.” [18]

The permanent stationing of U.S. military forces in Seychelles is part of a pattern in recent years of basing American troops to man missile batteries, interceptor missile radar sites, air bases, counterinsurgency forward bases and other installations in countries where their presence would have been inconceivable even a few years ago: Afghanistan, Colombia, Bulgaria, Djibouti, Iraq, Israel, Kyrgyzstan, Mali, Poland and Romania. A report of January 7 claims that the U.S. plans to establish an air base in Yemen in the Socotra archipelago in the Indian Ocean. [19]

Later it was revealed that “In addition to the Reaper UAVs, the U.S. military is also considering basing Navy P-3 Orion patrol aircraft in the Seychelles for a limited time. Like the Reaper, the Orion can survey a large region….” [20]
   
A Middle Eastern news source reported on this development as follows:

“The United States is taking its military venture in Africa to new levels amid suspicions that Washington could be advancing yet another hidden agenda.

“American operatives are expected to fly pilot-less surveillance aircraft over the Seychellois [Seychelles] territory from US ships off its coast, in what Washington claims are [deployments] meant to spy on Somali pirates….[S]imilar pretexts were used to justify the US invasion of Afghanistan, the missile attacks in Pakistan, and its waning military operations in Iraq….Washington has also started to equip Mali with USD 4.5 million worth of military vehicles and communications equipment, in what is reported to be an increasing US involvement in Africa.” [21]

It did not take long for the U.S. to put the Reapers into operation. In late October Associated Press reported “U.S. military surveillance drones are patrolling off Somalia’s coast for the first time….U.S. military officials say unmanned drones called Reapers, stationed in the island nation of Seychelles, are patrolling the Indian Ocean. [22]

“The developments come as the White House seeks grounds to establish a major military presence in Africa.

“The US military says it has deployed its drones [‘the size of a jet fighter’], capable of carrying missiles to patrol waters off Somalia….” [23]

Washington’s attempt to establish an Afghanistan-Pakistan-Somalia-Yemen connection is intimately connected with its plans for Africa as a whole. [24]

On January 4 a U.S. military website published this update:

“U.S. Africa Command has bolstered its anti-piracy forces with the recent addition of maritime patrol aircraft and more personnel in the Seychelles islands.

“The Navy last month deployed three P-3 Orion aircraft from the Maine-based VP-26 Tridents, along with 112 sailors, to the Seychelles to patrol the waters off East Africa….Patrol Squadron 26’s insignia, a skull over a compass and two bombs or torpedoes that form an X, resembles the Jolly Roger flag, which symbolizes piracy.” [25]

What sort of pirates the Pentagon is using as the pretext for its military buildup in the Horn of Africa and Eastern Africa as a whole was demonstrated last September when “Foreign troops in helicopters strafed a car…in a Somali town…killing two men and capturing two others who were wounded, witnesses said. U.S. military officials said American forces were involved in the raid.”

“Two U.S. military officials said forces from the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command were involved.” [26] The Joint Special Operations Command was headed up by Stanley McChrystal from 2003 to 2008. He has moved on from overseeing counterinsurgency operations in Iraq during those years to assuming control over all U.S. and NATO operations in Afghanistan.

A witness also reported that “the helicopters took off from a warship flying a French flag” [27] and a rebel source said “We are getting information that French army gunships attacked a car, destroying it completely and taking some of the passengers.” [28]

French military forces remain in the former colony of Djibouti where they train for operations not only in Afghanistan but in several former African possessions. Troops, warplanes and armored vehicles from NATO nations – under the flags of NATO itself, the European Union, France and the United States – have intervened in civil and cross-border conflicts across the entire width of Africa over the past few years: Somalia, Djibouti-Eritrea, Chad, the Central African Republic, the Darfur region of Sudan and the Ivory Coast; from the Horn of Africa to the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea.

A report from last month provides some indication of the French role on the continent. Radio France Internationale described “French soldiers in Djibouti train[ing] for Afghanistan and keep[ing] an eye on Africa” with the following details:

“Twelve special forces commandos arrived first” and “the army…storm[ed] the beach….The exercise, seen as crucial for battle preparedness in a region infamous for its fractious politics, included all the country’s military sectors – sea, land and air.

“As desert tanks zoomed onto the shore Mirage jets criss-crossed the open sky. Meanwhile, land troops were dispatched from the mouths of armoured personnel carriers and helicopters airlifted artillery guns onto the ground.

“‘It’s a show of force. It shows what France is able to do militarily,’ said one army officer.

“In recent years French troops in Djibouti have been involved in a number of…military missions in Africa. They helped reinforce the UN brigade patrolling Cote d’Ivoire and last year provided logistical and tactical help to Djiboutian soldiers warding off an attack from neighbouring Eritrea.

“For the time being, the first theatre of combat these troops will see is Afghanistan, where France is part of the Nato contingent. The mountainous, arid countryside closely resembles Djibouti’s own undulating moonscape.

“The troops taking part are a contingent of a 2,500-strong force based in Djibouti.” [29]

In addition to intermittent armed clashes between troops from Djibouti and Eritrea, in the past weeks reports have surfaced of deadly fighting within Eritrea and between that nation and neighboring Ethiopia. Djibouti and Ethiopia are the West’s client regimes and military proxies in the Horn of Africa and, as is demonstrated above, the integration of the South Asian and Northeast African war fronts is proceeding rapidly.

Starting in the autumn of 2008 NATO began what it calls counter-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia and further into the Gulf of Aden, often in league with comparable deployments by the European Union, with which it shares warships, commanders and “common strategic interests” under the Berlin Plus and other arrangements. [30]

The NATO naval surveillance and interdiction operation in and near the Horn of Africa is an extension of its effective takeover of the entire Mediterranean Sea with Operation Active Endeavor [31] initiated in 2001 under the Alliance’s Article 5 mutual military assistance clause and augmented by the blockade of Lebanon’s Mediterranean coast by NATO nations’ warships under UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) auspices that began after Israel’s assault on the country in 2006. The latter’s Maritime Task Force (MTF) “has hailed some 27,000 ships and referred nearly 400 suspicious vessels to Lebanese authorities for further inspection.

“Thirteen countries – Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Turkey – have contributed naval units to the MTF.” [32]

The NATO and EU deployments in the Gulf of Aden are the first such naval operations in the region in both organizations’ history and the EU’s first in African coastal waters.

The expansion of military presence into the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea gives NATO nations control of waterways ranging from the Strait of Gibraltar to the Strait of Hormuz.

As veteran Indian diplomat and analyst M K Bhadrakumar described it in 2008, “By acting with lightning speed and without publicity, NATO surely created a fait accompli.

“NATO’s naval deployment in the Indian Ocean region is a historic move and a milestone in the alliance’s transformation. Even at the height of the Cold War, the alliance didn’t have a presence in the Indian Ocean. Such deployments almost always tend to be open-ended.

“In 2007, a NATO naval force visited Seychelles in the Indian Ocean and Somalia and conducted exercises in the Indian Ocean and then re-entered the Mediterranean via the Red Sea in end-September.” [33]

He added: “US officials are on record that Africom and NATO envisage an institutional linkup in the downstream.

“The overall US strategy is to incrementally bring NATO into Africa so that its future role in the Indian Ocean (and Middle East) region as the instrument of US global security agenda becomes optimal.” [34]

Last August the chief of AFRICOM, General William Ward, said that Somalia was “a central focus of the U.S. military on the continent.”

To indicate the scope of Pentagon plans in not only Somalia but the region, “General William Ward has pledged continued support to Somalia’s transitional federal government….He made his remarks during a visit to Nairobi, Kenya, which is a key U.S. ally in the region.

“When asked about U.S. warnings to Eritrea against its alleged support of al-Shabab, the U.S. general condemned any outside support for the Somali rebels.” [35]
 
U.S., British and other Western officials have been straining to establish (the most) tenuous connection between the so-called AfPak war front and the need for direct military intervention in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, as was seen earlier with the British prime minister’s risible claim that NATO has been so successful in expelling alleged al-Qaeda elements from Pakistan that they have sought refuge in Somalia and Yemen. Rather than, more logically, in locations like Kashmir, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Similarly, Western governments are sparing no effort to fabricate or exaggerate links between the numerous armed conflicts in the Horn of Africa. Somali rebels are accused of supporting the government of Eritrea in its border conflict with Djibouti; they are also accused of offering fighters for the internal conflict in southern Yemen.

In return, Yemeni rebels are accused of providing arms for Somalia’s al-Shabaab fighters and hovering over it all is the implication that Iran is sponsoring Arab Shi’a forces in Yemen’s north.

There is a plethora of evidence, however, documenting genuine foreign intervention in the region: U.S. missile, bombing, helicopter and special forces attacks in Somalia and Yemen and coordination with the armies of Djibouti and Ethiopia in conflicts inside Somalia and with Eritrea. Saudi air and land assaults in Yemen with the resultant deaths of hundreds and displacement of thousands of civilians. French commando operations in Somalia and combat training in Djibouti for warfare in the area and beyond.
   
The true outside forces engaged in military actions are ignored in the West in favor of unsubstantiated contentions that the region is being inflamed by the same adversaries the U.S. and NATO are waging war against on the Indian subcontinent and that the villains in and near the Horn of Africa are, in addition to being the local al-Qaeda franchise, inextricably linked and moreover somehow tied with piracy operations. Such are the tortured logic and far-fetched subterfuges used to prepare Western publics for an escalation of military intervention over 3,000 kilometers across the Indian Ocean from the Afghanistan-Pakistan war theater.
 
NATO warships are bridging the two extremes. Last August the military bloc launched its second naval operation off the coast of Somalia the name of which, Ocean Shield, alone indicates the scope of the Alliance’s objectives in the Africa-Asia-Middle East triangle. The mission includes military ships from Britain, Greece, Italy, Turkey and the U.S. and according to NATO “other countries are thinking of coming to reinforce the operation which could evolve at any moment.” A NATO spokesman said at the time, “No timeframe has been set for this long-term operation, which will last as long as it’s deemed necessary.” [36]

The European Union is conducting a complementary mission, Operation Atalanta, “which has six frigates and works with fleets from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the U.S.-led coalition” and “operates in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean…from Somali territorial waters east to 60 degrees longitude, which runs south from the eastern tip of Oman and 250 miles east of the Seychelles.” [37] Rear Admiral Peter Hudson at the fleet’s command center in Britain announced last month that the operation may expand its range even further, taking in most of the western Indian Ocean.

Last September the commander of NATO’s Maritime Group 2 in the Gulf of Aden met with officials of Somalia’s Puntland autonomous region to plan operations.   

In mid-December NATO made a direct link between its South Asian war and its expansion into the Indian Ocean by announcing it was considering dispatching AWACS surveillance aircraft to the second location. “Commanders are seeking to back up a five-ship counterpiracy task force with one of the airborne warning and control system surveillance planes, possibly sharing it with the allied International Security Assistance Force fighting in Afghanistan.” [38]

On the first day of this year a Canadian news agency, in a feature titled “Canada to help defend Yemen from al-Qaida reinforcements,” revealed that “A NATO spokeswoman said warships patrolling international shipping lanes through the Gulf of Aden, which separates Somalia from Yemen, were aware al-Shabab, an al-Qaida-inspired armed group based in Somalia, had announced plans to send fighters to Yemen” and as a result “A Canadian warship involved in NATO-led counter-piracy operations off Somalia’s coast now has an additional task….” [39]

Somalia and Yemen lie across from each other on either end of the Gulf of Aden where the Red Sea meets the Arabian Sea and the Mediterranean is connected with the Indian Ocean. An arc that effects the conjunction of three of the world’s five most important continents. Territory too important for the United States, whose head of state last month proclaimed himself commander-in-chief of the world’s sole military superpower, and what for the past decade has declared itself expeditionary and global NATO to leave untouched.

Notes

1) Reuters, January 1, 2010
2) Russian Information Agency Novosti, December 30, 2009
3) Reuters, January 1, 2010
4) CNN, January 4, 2010
5) CNN, January 2, 2010
6) CNN, January 4, 2010
7) Agence France-Presse, January 4, 2010
8) Xinhua News Agency, January 4, 2010
9) Press TV, January 3, 2010
10) Cold War Origins Of The Somalia Crisis And Control Of The
    Indian Ocean
    Stop NATO, May 3, 2009
    http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/08/28/cold-war-origins-of-the-somalia-crisis-and-control-of-the-indian-ocean/
11) Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa, April 17, 2009
12) Deutsche Presse-Agentur, January 1, 2010
13) U.S. News & World Report, July 11, 2008
14) Ibid
15) Stars And Stripes, December 16, 2009
16) Al Arabiya, November 1, 2009
17) Stars and Stripes, August 29, 2009
18) Press TV, October 19, 2009
19) Press TV, January 7, 2010
20) Voice of America News, September 2, 2009
21) Press TV, October 21, 2009
22) Associated Press, October 23, 2009
23) Press TV, October 25, 2009
24) AFRICOM: Pentagon Prepares Direct Military Intervention In Africa
    Stop NATO, August 24, 2009
    http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/09/02/africom-pentagons-prepares-direct-military-intervention-in-africa
    AFRICOM Year Two: Seizing The Helm Of The Entire World
    Stop NATO, October 22, 2009
    http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/10/22/africom-year-two-taking-the-helm-of-the-entire-world
25) Stars and Stripes, January 4, 2010
26) Associated Press, September 14, 2009
27) Ibid
28) Agence France-Presse, September 14, 2009
29) Radio France Internationale, December 11, 2009
30) NATO
    http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/topics_49217.htm
31) NATO http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/topics_7932.htm
32) UN News Centre, August 31, 2009
33) Asian Times, October 20, 2008
34) Ibid
35) Voice of America News, August 21, 2009
36) Agence France-Presse, August 17, 2009
37) Bloomberg News, December 11, 2009
38) Bloomberg News, December 21, 2009
39) Canwest News Service, January 1, 2010

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Six Million in the US With no Income but Food Stamps

January 8th, 2010 by Jerry White

Some six million Americans—one in 50 people in the US—are living on no income other than $100 or $200 a month in food stamps, according to an analysis of state data by the New York Times. The number of people who reported that they are unemployed and receive no cash aid—neither welfare, nor unemployment insurance, pension benefits, child support or disability pay—the newspaper reported, has jumped by 50 percent over the last two years, as the recession has taken hold.

According to the January 3 article, the number of people reporting no income tripled in Nevada over the past two years, doubled in Florida and New York, and increased nearly 90 percent in Minnesota and Utah. In Wayne County, Michigan—which includes Detroit, where half the population is unemployed or underemployed—one out of every 25 residents reports an income of only food stamps. In Yakima County, Washington, the figure is one out of every 17.

The figures reveal the vast scale of human suffering in the US as the new decade begins and puts the lie to talk of an economic “recovery.” The 6 million people in households reporting no income—which includes 1.2 million children—is equivalent to the entire population of Indiana or Massachusetts, or the combined populations of Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Boston.

Such a social catastrophe underscores the indifference of the Obama administration, which has done virtually nothing to provide relief to those who have lost their jobs, homes and livelihoods—even as it spares no expense to shore up the fortunes of the financial elite and fund its ongoing wars.

The number of people without an income has been on the rise since 1996, when Democratic President Bill Clinton and the Republican Congress ended welfare as a universal entitlement, a status the federal relief program had enjoyed since its inception in the 1930s. Pledging to “end the cycle of dependency,” the Democrats and Republicans imposed lifetime limits on benefits, drastically reduced the level of cash assistance, and imposed restrictive “workfare” and other requirements on further aid.

Despite the increased need for relief, Obama has opposed any additional funding for what remains of the welfare program, called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Since their peak in the 1990s, welfare rolls are down nearly 75 percent, the Times reported.

“Many of those who would have received cash assistance in past recessions are not getting it now,” Judy Putnam, a spokesperson for the Michigan League for Human Services, told the World Socialist Web Site. “Only a third of the state’s children living in poverty are getting cash assistance compared with two-thirds before ‘welfare reform’ in 1996. People in Michigan are heavily dependent on food stamps.”

With jobless benefits covering only half of the unemployed, food stamps—which provide an average of $1 per meal per person, or around $100 per person each month for individuals or families earning up to 130 percent of the official poverty level—have become the safety net of last resort. A record 36 million people—one in eight people and one in four children—now rely on the food stamp program. The joint federal-state Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is expanding by 20,000 people per day, but is still estimated to serve only two-thirds of those who qualify.

An earlier Times study showed there are more than 200 US counties where food stamp usage shot up by at least two-thirds, including Riverside County, California, most of greater Phoenix and Las Vegas, a ring of Atlanta suburbs, and a 150-mile stretch of southwest Florida from Bradenton to the Everglades. The study found there are over 800 counties where food stamps feed one third of all children.

Late last year, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis released a study showing that 50 percent of all children and 90 percent of African American children will receive food stamps at some point before their 20th birthday. “Rather than being a time of security and safety,” said Mark Rank, Ph.D., one of the authors of the report, “the childhood years for many American children are a time of economic turmoil, risk, and hardship.”

The January 3 Times report focused on Florida, where the number of people with no income beyond food stamps has doubled in two years and more than tripled along the southwest coast, where a housing boom turned into a bust of foreclosed and abandoned homes. According to state data, those without income were split evenly between families with children and individuals. Those affected were also racially mixed—about 42 percent white, 32 percent black, and 22 percent Latino—with whites making up the fastest growing segment during the recession.

This plunge into destitution has affected wide layers of the population. The Times article cites a middle-aged mother of two, Isabel Bermudez, who moved from a Bronx housing project to sell real estate in Florida. Once enjoying a six-figure income, a house with a pool and investment property, she lost her job and home and ran out of unemployment benefits. Ms. Bermudez’s sole income is now $320 a month in food stamps. “I went from making $180,000 to relying on food stamps,” she told the newspaper, adding that without the program she wouldn’t be able to feed her children.

The increasing reliance on meager food stamp allowances exposes the absence of anything that can properly be called a social safety net in the US. The situation will only get worse, as both the Democrats and Republicans prepare to slash what remains of publicly funded programs in order to pay for the multitrillion-dollar Wall Street bailout and expansion of US military action around the world.

The theme of Obama’s State of the Union address—expected early next month—will be long-term deficit reduction and a further demand that the American people reduce their consumption. The White House is backing a bipartisan commission to recommend major cuts in basic social programs along with regressive taxes on consumption, and Obama’s budget director, Peter Orszag, has said the administration will take measures to reduce the deficit in its next budget due out in February. Such actions will throw millions more into poverty.

The social crisis facing working people—depression levels of unemployment, home foreclosures, the growth of hunger, poverty and homelessness—is the most graphic expression of the failure of capitalism, an economic system that benefits the wealthy few at the expense of the vast majority.

In the midst of this worsening situation for the working population, it was reported last week that the top three banks—Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley—which received tens of billions in public funds under the Troubled Asset Relief Program—will hand out $49.5 billion in end-of-year cash bonuses and stock awards. All told, US banks will dispense an estimated $200 billion in total compensation.

The Obama administration is continuing and accelerating the transfer of wealth from working people to those who are responsible for precipitating the worst economic breakdown since the Great Depression.

Nearly a year after his inauguration, President Obama has demonstrated he is nothing but a tool of the financial oligarchy. The very future of the working class depends on the development of a mass socialist movement against this administration, both big business parties, and the profit system which they defend.

Angry Iceland Defies the World

January 8th, 2010 by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

Iceland’s president has blocked a Bill to pay Britain and Holland up to £3.4bn for Icesave depositors, acknowledging that popular feeling in the island nation is too strong to proceed without a referendum.

The move reopens a bitter dispute and greatly complicates Iceland’s loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund. It has already led to a fresh downgrade to BB+ by Fitch Ratings, which called the decision “a significant setback to Iceland’s efforts to restore normal financial relations with the rest of the world.”

The Icesave law was passed by Iceland’s parliament in a knife-edge vote late last year, but a petition by the InDefense movement has changed the political landscape. The lobby collected 56,000 signatures – a quarter of voters.

President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson said the “overwhelming majority” wanted a direct say over the matter, and that no settlement would hold without their assent.

“It is the cornerstone of the constitutional structure of the Republic of Iceland that the people are the supreme judge of the validity of the law,” he said. “At this crucial juncture it is also important to emphasise that the recovery of the Icelandic economy is a matter of vital urgency”.

If voters say “No” when the referendum takes place in a couple of months, the accord thrashed out with London and the Hague during months of wrangling will no longer have any credibility, whatever the legal niceties.

The reality is that Icelanders have erupted in collective rage at what they believe to be gross injustice and “gunboat diplomacy” by Downing Street. What rankles is Britain’s use of anti-terrorism law to freeze Iceland’s assets. The Icelandic central bank was listed besides al-Qaeda as a terrorist body – unprecedented treatment for a NATO ally. Holland was careful not to go so far.

“Importers couldn’t get trade finance for food. We feel deeply wronged,” said Johannes Skulason from InDefence. Shelves were bare for weeks in Icelandic shops as the banking system disintegrated.

Einars Már Gudmundsson, a novelist, said most citizens were unaware that Iceland’s three leading banks –Landsbanki, Glitnir and Kaupthing – were operating as global hedge funds with exposure of 11 times Iceland’s GDP.

“I had never heard of Icesave till this happened,” said Mr Gudmundsson. “We were told that what these banks did abroad was nothing to do with us but when it all went wrong the responsibility fell back on us. Profits were privatised, but losses were nationalised.”

He added: “We’re told if we reject the terms, we will be the Cuba of the North. But if we accept, we’ll be the Haiti of the North.”

Both Britain and Holland expect Iceland to stick to its agreement, but the legal claims are far from watertight. Iceland accepted “political responsibility” for the 320,000 British and Dutch deposits in exchange for lenient terms (arguably denied) in November 2008, but never accepted the legal claim.

The UK has refunded private savers up to £50,000, but councils such as Kent are relying on the deal to recoup their money. They have retrieved £100m of the £900m put in Icelandic accounts.

Iceland’s Left-wing coalition – which unseated free marketeers in February’s “Saucepan Revolution” – has backed the Icesave terms, deeming it is the only way for Iceland to move beyond the disastrous episode. The petitioners said they accept that Iceland’s people should foot part of the bill, but object to the “Versailles” terms: a loan at 5.55pc interest, to be repaid within 15 years. The central banks said this will increase Iceland’s public debt by 20pc of GDP.

A report by Sweden’s Riksbank said Britain and Europe share blame for the fiasco. It said “absurd” EU rules – which cover Iceland indirectly – told states to set up a “guarantee scheme” for banks, but never said taxpayers were liable for losses.

The reports added that the UK “hardly bothered” to inform savers that the schemes were ill-funded. “The conclusion is clear: the EU host countries (UK and Holland) are also to blame for Iceland’s disaster. It would be reasonable that they carry some of the burden. It takes two to tango,” it said.

The UK Financial Services Authority said it was unable to stop Icelandic banks raising deposits in the UK under the EU’s “passport” system, even when they began milking UK customers to cover losses at home.

Whatever the rights and wrongs, Iceland was by then already being crushed by a financial tsunami. Britain’s use of anti-terror laws at that moment will not sit pretty in diplomatic history.

Gaza Freedom March

January 8th, 2010 by Code Pink

The 1,362 people from the Gaza Freedom March are just returning home, full of stories about a wild week in Cairo, in the Egyptian border towns of Al Arish and Rafah, in Gaza for those who got inside, and in the West Bank and Erez crossing for those who went to Israel. And people like you, all around the world, people, held solidarity actions that focused world attention on the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza.

It was a rough week for many–battling Egyptian police on the streets, getting rebuffed by our own embassies, joining the hunger strike, debating the Egyptian offer of allowing only 100 people into Gaza. Through it all, however, we can be proud of our many accomplishments:

By focusing worldwide attention on the siege, we lifted the spirits of the isolated people of Gaza. “For us, a population of 1.6 million being imprisoned and starved, the gratitude we express to you, the Gaza freedom marchers, is immense. Thank you all from the depth of our hearts!” – Mohammed Omer, Gaza

We put the spotlight on the negative role Egypt is playing in maintaining the siege and we put pressure on the highest levels of the Egyptian government. “Your presence in Egypt was like an earthquake,” said Suzanne, an Egyptian student. “You did more good politically by protesting in Egypt than you could have ever done in Gaza.” Check out the hundreds of press hits on the march from dailies around the world!

We forced the Egyptian government to make a concession by letting 100 delegates into Gaza. That delegation took in tens of thousands of dollars in humanitarian aid, allowed Palestinians to see long-lost family members, recorded stories they will disseminate broadly, and put up a stunning mosaic memorial, created by muralist Kathleen Crocetti, in a central location in Gaza City in the name of the international community.

View the photos of the Women’s Contingent in action and the whole Gaza Freedom March and solidarity actions from photographers around the world!

We signed on to a lawsuit against the Egyptian government for building a wall to block off the tunnels that have become the commercial lifeline for the people in Gaza.

We reinvigorated our own determination to keep struggling to lift the siege! A new international network formed that can coordinate future work and, initiated by the South African delegation, the Gaza Freedom March committee and various members drafted the Cairo Declaration that outlines a program for moving forward. View and sign on to the Declaration here.

With gratitude,

Ann, Dana, Desiree, Emily, Farida, Gael, Gayle, Janet, Jodie, Kit, Kitty, Liz, Marina, Medea, Nancy, Paris, Rae, Suzanne, Tighe and Whitney

Friday, 08 January 2010 00:31 Added by PT Editor Sameh A. Habeeb

Gaza, January 8, 2010 (Pal Telegraph)- A massive explosion took place few moments ago western Gaza City, in Tal Al Hawa neighborhood. Eyewitness reported that Israeli F16s launched an aerial attack midnight. The attack was followed by a series of air raids.

Palestine Telegraph reported that a number of air raids took place northern Gaza Strip while no new reported about the attacks yet. The attacks also targeted the southern and middle areas of Gaza Strip.

Medical sources reported no casualties till this moment while ambulances hurried to the targeted area. A number of F16 can be heard at the moment and a case of panic and fear spread amongst the civilians who were in a sleep.

The attacks came amid a very densely populated area where around 150 thousands Palestinians live. Israeli army launched a number of attacks last week killing a number of Palestinians.

Via Ayman Quaider and Sameh Habeeb

Local Currencies: The Key to Economic Recovery

January 7th, 2010 by Richard C. Cook

Steven Pearlstein, business columnist for the Washington Post, published a column on January 6 entitled, “Recession Over? Not Unless We Make a Major Shift.” The problem is that the “major shift” Pearlstein writes about won’t solve the problem even if it takes place.

So is the recession ending? The professional cheerleaders from Wall Street think so, now that the Dow-Jones has surged past 10,500. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is also cautiously optimistic as the Fed begins to dismantle some of the emergency bailout programs it had implemented to help save the financial system from total collapse after the meltdown of 2008.

How did the apparent turnaround come to pass? Pearlstein notes: “My best guess is that the current upswings in economic output, confidence and financial asset prices are largely a reflection of the extraordinary fiscal and monetary juice provided by Treasury and the Federal Reserve, along with the natural rebound that occurs after a collapse in consumer and business spending like that which occurred in the first half of 2009.”

There is in fact a consensus among commentators that it’s been government money that has made the difference. But the government money has all come from borrowing. It’s why the national debt rose from about $9.5 trillion to almost $12 trillion in a little more than a year. Interest on the debt now approaches $400 billion a year.

But the debt can’t continue growing at such a rate. President Barack Obama has already said that with the emergency behind us the federal deficit must start to come down. The reason Congress is about to pass such a terribly flawed health care bill is that the Congressional Budget Office estimates that it will reduce federal health care costs by forcing millions of uninsured people into the private insurance system, cutting back on Medicare, and imposing a five percent tax surcharge on the wealthy.

So what is the economic engine that will keep the economy on track? Pearlstein dismisses all four of the most likely possibilities.

He says that consumer spending, with unemployment staying high, will not come back, writing, “It’s hard to see how American consumers can again become the engines of the U.S. or global economies.”

On more government spending, he says, “that’s also hard to imagine. State and local governments, in fact, are still cutting back spending in response to falling tax revenue, and there’s no political consensus for running up bigger federal deficits than we are running now.”

Another possible source of growth is new investment, but the economy is already built to overcapacity in many sectors, “including excess hotel rooms, airplanes, office buildings, shopping malls, cargo ships, aluminum smelters and the like.” Regarding another housing boom, forget it. Pearlstein writes, “…with 5 million vacant apartments and another wave of home foreclosures on the horizon, don’t count on the housing sector to lead the way out of this recession.”

Finally, there is trade. But even though the U.S. trade deficit has come down, its persistence “reflects a fundamental reality not likely to change anytime soon: We no longer produce much of what we like to consume, and cannot make up the difference with exports because of trade barriers and an overvalued currency.”

So what is left?

Here Pearlstein returns to a focus on investment by noting that American consumers have started to save again and that during the downturn businesses saved money by living with aging production equipment, physical plant, and computer systems. He comes out in favor of tax breaks for business to encourage investment, along with new government expenditures for infrastructure such as “basic research, clean-energy development and expanded public higher education.” These things, he says, will create new jobs which in turn should lead to more consumer purchasing power.

The trouble is, Pearlstein already dismissed the investment and public expenditure alternatives earlier in his analysis as being insufficient. More government debt could also lead to high levels of inflation and further devaluation of the dollar. Inflation caused by government and central bank “printing of money” kills enterprise at every level.

Pearlstein fails even to mention the severe constriction of bank lending to businesses that has made conditions much worse for the small business sector where half of all start-ups already fail within a year. Business giants can take refuge in their cash reserves, but even they cannot grow if consumers can’t buy more of their products.

Pearlstein’s prescriptions are mainly platitudes. Let’s be frank: without small business and the revitalization of local and regional economies, a real recovery cannot take place, and an unemployment rate that has terrorized the middle class with loss of jobs, incomes, savings, and health care cannot be overcome.

What is the answer then? It’s one that Pearlstein and the Washington Post, being in the mainstream of economic commentary, dare not mention: it’s local currency systems that alone can fill the gap left by the collapse of public finance due to debt and the failure of the banking system to function at all levels of the economy and not just for the benefit of the super-rich global capitalists.

If the federal government announced that it would begin to accept local currencies in payment of taxes, and state and local governments did the same, we would see an economic miracle that would astound the world.

Richard C. Cook is a former government analyst who writes on public policy issues. His website is www.richardccook.com. His new book is “We Hold These Truths: The Hope of Monetary Reform.”

VIDEO: A Message for Peace

January 7th, 2010 by Kseniya Simonova

Kseniya Simonova is a 24 years old Ukranian artist. She uses a giant light box, dramatic music, imagination and “sand painting” skills to interpret Germany’s invasion and occupation of Ukraine during WWII. She won Ukraine’s Got Talent 2009, watched by over 13 million people.

VIDEO: The Breakup of Yugoslavia

January 7th, 2010 by Bojan Ratković

Canadian filmmaker delivers another documentary on Western involvement in a bloody break up of former Yugoslavia.

From the filmmaker behind the controversial documentary “Kosovo | Can You Imagine?”, which brought to light the unimaginable suffering of Kosovo’s besieged Serbian population, comes word that a brand new film dealing with the complex issues of Western involvement in the internal affairs of the former Yugoslav republics has been green lit for production.

Canadian filmmaker Boris Malagurski, winner of the Silver Palm Award at the Mexico International Film Festival for his 2008 exposé on the gross violations of basic human rights that Kosovo’s remaining Serbs and other non-Albanians are being subjected to in the 21st century, has begun work on an even more ambitious project that aims to uncover the real truth behind Western involvement in the bloody breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

“The Weight Of Chains”, a documentary film planned for release in late 2010, will deal with tough issues concerning the breakup of Yugoslavia and the deadly consequences brought on by a decade of instability and war. The film’s ultimate goal is to present a Canadian perspective on Western involvement in the bloody ethnic conflicts that ravaged Yugoslavia during the 1990s through interviews with important Western political and military figures, including Ret. Maj. Gen. Lewis Mackenzie, Form. Amb. James Bissett, Prof. Michel Chossudovsky, Prof. Sunil Ram, and Mr. Scott Taylor, among others. The film will challenge preconceived notions about the Yugoslav Civil War as it attempts to show that the fires of ethnic hatred that tore apart the former Yugoslavia were fanned from outside the country, by powerful Western interests. The new documentary will examine previously neglected evidence, including the NSDD 133, a 1984 secret memo of the Reagan administration the contents of which will be uncovered on screen for the first time, and the 1991 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act 101-513.

As an example of such neglected evidence, the film examines a May 8th, 1992 New York Times article which revealed that the Pentagon had begun to function under the assumption that no country other than the United States had the right to aspire to any significant leadership roles in the New World Order, be it on a global or on a regional level. However, such evidence had been readily ignored by regional leaders of the former Yugoslav republics, who sold out the interests of their people for the shameless pursuit of personal wealth and prestige, and who were used as pawns by Western powers in a global economic and geopolitical game of chess.

Apart from taking a closer look at what really happened in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s, “The Weight Of Chains” will examine the current economic situation in the newly independent former Yugoslav republics and offer a unique perspective on the major political and social issues facing the people still living in that part of the world.

Nevertheless, without substantial support from donors and sponsors, this ambitious documentary will not see the light of day. Along with Boris Malagurski, others working to make the film a reality include Slobodan Gudelj, Goran Mihajlovic, Maja Romano, Filip Vukadinovic and many others, while the Centre for Research on Globalization, which is committed to curbing the tide of globalization and disarming the New World Order, has become the first sponsor of this project. The filmmaker invites those interested in donating or becoming sponsors of this documentary to visit the official web-site for “The Weight Of Chains”, which offers information on sponsorship opportunities and a brand new Trailer for the film:

www.WeightOfChains.com

To view the trailer:

The Centre for Research on Globlalization has supported this endeavour of Canadian filmmaker Boris Malagurski. This title will be available to order soon through the Global Research Online Store.

Minareti i demokratija

January 7th, 2010 by Vladislav Marjanović

Neverovatno! O religiji i demokratiji ponovo se raspravlja. Povod je referendum koji je održan 29. novembra 2009. godine u Švajcarskoj. Na njemu je odlučeno da se na švajcarskoj teritoriji ne smeju graditi minareti. Narod se izjasnio i odluka većine (preko 57%) mora se poštovati. To nalaže načelo demokratije i narodnog suvereniteta. U zapadnim medijima se taj princip bez prestanka ističe, a na njega se pozivaju i zemlje koje Zapadu ne pripadaju.

Šta, međutim, da se radi ako narod glasa drukčije nego što to želi ona manjina koja smatra da ima monopol na istinu? E, onda ga treba naterati da promeni volju. Pošto narod ionako nije ništa drugo do, kako reče jedan visoki činovnik pre dva veka, stoka bez repa tako da ga svaki demagog može da zavodi kako hoće, onda se njegova volja mora usmeravati. U protivnom, posledice mogu biti kobne. Ne sme se, naime, zaboraviti, da je čak i Hitler došao na vlast odlukom glasača. Nije li to dokaz spremnosti naroda da se prepusti čak i najopasnijim demagozima? No to mu nije bio poslednji greh. U Irskoj je narod 12. juna 2008. godine iskoristio referendum da bi Evropskoj povelji odlučno kazao „ne“. Međutim, ovaj put je nađeno efikasno sredstvo da bi se narod izveo na pravi put. Brisel mu je stavio na znanje da će se referendumi ponovljati sve dotle dok ne bude glasao kako treba. Poruka je bila shvaćena i, uz pomoć međunarodne finansijske krize, referendum od 2. oktobra 2009. završen je odlučnim „da“ u prilog Evropske povelje. Tako je Evropska unija bila spašena. Neoliberalizam takođe.

Demokratija je, dakle, funkcionisala. Naravno, ne narodna, nego ona koju profesionalni političari vode u ime naroda i koji sa vrha svojih kula od slonovače veruju da više vide od onih koji se nalaze u njihovom podnožju, odnosno na nižim stupnjevima društvene lestvice. Ne kaže li se, uostalom, da je sva vlast od Boga?

Takvo je shvatanje dodatni razlog za podsticanje izgradnje verskih građevina. Što ih je više, utoliko bolje. Zvonici i minareti đuture? Što da ne? Nećemo se, valjda, odreći multikulturalizma zbog krajolika! Uostalom, pejzaž se, tokom istorije, menjao. Zvonici i minareti zamenili su antičke hramove i počeli jedni drugima da konkurišu. U ponekim krajevima oni su se, u skladu sa zakonom jačega, smenjivali ili, sticajem okolnosti, koegzistirali. Takav je slučaj na Balkanu gde se zvonici i minareti nalaze mestimično čak i u neposrednom susedstvu. Time pejzaž nije nagrđjen. Naprotiv, on je, zahvaljujući ovom mešanju, čak i ulepšan. Uostalom, može se sasvim lepo živeti jedno uz drugo ukoliko vlasti (svetovne i duhovne) ne podstiču antagonizme.

Vlast, međutim, ima drugu logiku. Religija je idealno sredstvo za manipulisanje duhovima. Ona može da ih smiri i olakša pastvi da se pokori sudbini, ali može takođe da pretvori jaganjce u vukove. Monoteističke religije su u tome pravi majstori koji ne prestaju da da to dokazuju. Polazište im je isto, naime da je Bog samo jedan. No kada je u pitanju način komuniciranja s njim, onda su razlike uočljive. Javlja se konkurencija jer treba ne samo zadobiti božju milost nego i spasti duše, a uz njih i njihov materijalni doprinos ustanovi koja ih zastupa kao i hijerarhiji koja njima upravlja. Budući da se kroz ritual prepoznaju vernici, svaki pokušaj jedne religije da lovi duše u zabranu druge propagiranjem sopstvenog kulta izaziva reakcije koje su često sve drugo osim miroljubivih.

Usled svega toga je sudar civilizacija, čija je emanacija religija, već u toku. Neće li on biti pojačan dozvolom da se grade minareti u samom srcu Evrope? Švajcarski narod, koji nije ratovao bezmalo puna dva veka, sada se uzrujao. Minareti uz zvonike? Posledice bi mogle da budu nepredvidljive. Verski fanatici, iako u neznatnoj manjini, izbijaju u prvi plan, a sa njima ne samo verska, nego i seksualna diskriminacija uz primenu drakonskih kazni koje potiču iz Srednjeg veka, ako ne i iz ranijih vremena. Sve to najavljuje duhovnu dehumanizaciju sveta. Niko, naime, ne može da zna hoće li militantnost jedne verske manjine povući za sobom i ostale, za sada još tolerantne, istovernike. Instinkt upozorava: bolje ne pustiti vuka u stado. Drugim rečima, ne graditi minarete.

Narod je kazao svoju reč i njegova volja treba poštovati. Za to se zalažu svi demokratski ustavi. Ali kako su se vremena promenila. Nije više na narodu da odlučuje, nego na onima koji su iznad naroda, bilo u zemlji bilo u inostranstvu. Po njima, načelo verske trpeljivosti smatra se međunarodnim pravom koje, kao takvo, ima veću težinu od narodne volje. Kao takvo, ono se ne može prenebregavati. U protivnom mogle bi nastati nevolje. Svet, naime, ne živi više po izolovanim alpskim naseljima nego u globalnom selu u kome je cirkulacija ideja, roba pa čak i ljudi zajemčena. Nije važno što je u nekim zemljama Bliskog i Srednjeg istoka verska trpeljivost nepostojeća, što se u njima gaze ljudska prava ili stranci drže kao taoci (Švajcarska se s tim problemom upravo suočava). Važnije je pokazati se velikodušnim, jer ko zna šta se može dogoditi ako se, zbog švajcarske privrženosti demokratiji, bude poštovao zahtev naroda da se zabrani gradjenje minareta? Petrodolari bi mogli da se odliju u banke izvan Švajcarske, a postojeći ulozi iz njih povučeni. Šta više i snabdevanje Švajcarske naftom moglo bi da se poremeti. Libijski vođa Muamar el Gadafi na tome već radi. Ne može se nekažnjeno privoditi sin kralja tradicionalnih afričkih kraljeva, sultana i šeika zbog žalbe zlostavljane posluge. Najzad, ako bi se narodnim glasanjem doveli verski simboli u pitanje, onda bi se time moglo ići na ruku onima koji žele da zabrane širenje određenih hrišćanskih verskih pokreta koji imaju svoje pravno ili finansijsko uporište u Sjedinjenim Američkim Državama, a koje se, izvan njih, još uvek smatraju sektama. Možda zbog toga što pojedine verske zajednice, koje se predstavljaju hrišćanskim propovedaju da je lično bogaćenje bogougodno. Treba verovati… u rast, pogotovu u Africi gde rastu samo dve stvari: pljačka sirovina i siromaštvo.

Naravno svet, bolje reći međunarodna zajednica, ne može da dozvoli da bude izvrgnut ruglu jednim referendumom, pogotovu onim koji je organizovan na zahtev švajcarske krajnje desnice. To bi bilo ravno legalizovanju ksenofobije i povredi načela globalizacije. Zar nije bolje, da se gradnja minareta dopusti umesto da se zabrani? Uostalom, ako ikada dođe do sukoba među zajednicama koji bi destabilizovao zemlju, još uvek postoje snage (naravno, mirovne) koje su spremne da intervenišu. Preventivno, dabome.

Nije li međutim bolje preduprediti prevenciju? Na primer, dijalogom. O ovoj dobroj staroj ideji uporno se raspravlja po forumima na svim nivoima. Rezultati ne izostaju, jer se do saglasnosti se lako dolazi za okruglim konferencijskim stolovima. No, čim se oni napuste, sporovi ponovo iskoče. Znači, treba opet diskutovati. Pritom treba biti uporan. Poput Sizifa. Rezulati su, naravno, odgovarajući. Javnost je bombardovana konferencijama, kampanjama, simpozijumima, radionicama, hartijama, knjigama, naučnim radovima, govorima (veoma lepo sročenim), pa čak i propovedima. No da li je time ostvarena komunikacija?

Tu je očevidno došlo do kratkog spoja. Nemoguće je voditi dijalog među religijama čije dogme svode veru na strogo održavanje rituala i tradicija. Ali dok su za „one na vrhu“ rituali sredstvo za manipulaciju (koje znaju veoma vešto da prilagode potrebi trenutka, pa čak i da ih žrtvuju u interesu dnevne politike), za „one, tamo dolje, u bazi“ obredi su bili – i ostaju – pitanje kolektivnog identiteta i sećanja na jednu idealizovanu prošlost u kojoj se činilo da je svet još bio u redu. Međutim, sve religije (čak i mnogobožačke) su nosioci i metaforičkih poruka koje treba dešifrovati kako bi se mogao shvatiti njihov duh. Bude li se na tome radilo širom sveta, onda bi religije našle mesto koje im u društvu pripada, naime tradicije koja zbližava bez pritiska, koja oplemenjuje jer ne povlači sankcije i koja omogućava komunikaciju sa drugima putem međusobnog uticaja. U tom smislu svaka religija može da doprinese obogaćivanju ljudskog duha i olakšavanju iznalaženju puta u angažovanju za dalju humanizaciju društva. Takav odnos prema religiji omogućava duhovnu evoluciju koja se izdiže iznad simbola i kultnih radnji. Kad se dođe do tog stupnja, onda bi i pitanje zvonika i minareta moglo da dobije potpuno drugo značenje. Konkurenciju bi zamenilo upotpunjavanje, a nepoverenje poverenje. Da se tako svojevremeno postupilo, referendum o minaretima u Švajcarskoj mogao je da se završi drukčijim rezultatom. Ali, iako to nije bilo učinjeno, ne treba očajavati nego se založiti za oslobađanjem od dogmatske učaurenosti na svim nivoima i unutar svih koultura i verskih zajednica, jer bez otvorenog duha nema ni dijaloga, ni komunikacije, ni međusobnog razumevanja, ni solidarnosti u borbi protiv zajedničkog neprijatelja koji destabilizuje društvo ni rezultata narodnog izjašnjavanja koji bi ovim vrednostima išli u prilog.

Israel se parece a un Estado fallido

January 7th, 2010 by Ali Abunimah

Ha pasado un año desde el salvaje ataque israelí contra la franja de Gaza, pero para la gente de aquí el tiempo bien podría haberse detenido.

Desde que los palestinos de Gaza enterraron a sus seres queridos (más de 1.400 personas, de los cuales casi 400 eran niños) pocas cosas han cicatrizado y prácticamente nada se ha reconstruido.

Según las agencias de ayuda internacional, durante este año sólo se ha permitido la entrada a Gaza de 41 camiones con materiales de construcción.

Las promesas de miles de millones hechas en la conferencia de donantes celebrada en Egipto el pasado mes de marzo a la que asistieron las lumbreras de la llamada “comunidad internacional” no se han cumplido y continua el asedio israelí, apoyado por Estados Unidos, la Unión Europea, los Estados árabes y tácitamente por la Autoridad Palestina (PA) en Ramala.

Destacan unos pocos entre los interminables y espeluznantes datos estadísticos: de las 640 escuelas que había en Gaza 18 fueron destruidas completamente y 280 dañadas por los ataques israelíes. Doscientos cincuenta estudiantes y quince profesores fueron asesinados.

De las 122 instalaciones sanitarias que calcula la Organización Mundial de la Salud, el 48% fueron dañadas o destruidas.

El 90% de los hogares de Gaza siguen sufriendo cortes de electricidad durante ocho horas la día debido a los ataques israelíes a la red eléctrica y a la degradación causada por el bloqueo.

El 46% de la antes productiva tierra agrícola de Gaza está inservible debido al daño causado por Israel a las granjas y a las zonas declaradas por éste zonas de tiro libre. Han caído a cero las exportaciones de Gaza de más de 130.000 toneladas al año de tomates, flores, fresas y otras frutas.

Una coalición internacional de agencias de ayuda declaró recientemente que “no es una casualidad que la mayor parte de Gaza continúe en ruinas, sino que es una cuestión política”.

Esta política ha sido muy clara todo el tiempo y no tienen nada que ver con la “seguridad” israelí.

Desde el 19 de junio de 2008 al 4 de noviembre de 2008 prevaleció la calma entre Israel y Gaza ya que (como el propio Israel ha reconocido) Hamás respetó estrictamente un alto el fuego negociado.

Este alto el fuego se vino abajo cuando Israel lazó un ataque sorpresa contra Gaza que mató a seis personas, después de lo cual Hamás y otras facciones de la resistencia respondieron.

Aún entonces las facciones palestinas estaban deseando retomar el alto el fuego, pero fue Israel quien se negó y en vez de ello eligió emprender un ataque sistemático y premeditado contra los cimientos de la vida civilizada en la franja de Gaza.

La Operación Plomo Fundido, como la denominó Israel, fue un intento de destruir de una vez por todas la resistencia en general y a Hamás en particular, que en 2006 había ganado las elecciones y había sobrevivido al bloqueo y a numerosos intentos patrocinados por Estados Unidos de minarla y de derrotarla en colaboración con milicias palestinas apoyadas por Estados Unidos.

Al igual que las sanciones asesinas a Iraq en la década de 1990, el bloqueo de Gaza estaba calculado para privar a los civiles de necesidades y derechos básicos, y de la dignidad con la esperanza de que su sufrimiento obligara a sus dirigentes a rendirse o a derrumbarse.

En muchos aspectos las cosas pueden parecer aún más espantosas que hace un año.

Barack Obama, el presidente estadounidense, del que muchos esperaban que cambiaría las despiadadas políticas antipalestinas de su predecesor, George W. Bush, en vez de ello las ha intensificado mientras que incluso la pretensión de un serio esfuerzo de paz se ha desvanecido.

Según informan los medios de comunicación, el Cuerpo de Ingenieros del ejército estadounidense está asesorando a Egipto en la construcción de un muro subterráneo en su frontera con Gaza para bloquear los túneles que actúan como cuerda de salvamento para el territorio asediado (recursos y esfuerzos que deberían destinarse a la reconstrucción del todavía devastado por el huracán Nuevo Orleáns) y las armas estadounidenses siguen afluyendo a las milicias de Cisjordania implicadas en una guerra civil patrocinada por Estados Unidos e Israel contra Hamás y cualquiera que pueda resistir a la ocupación y colonización israelíes.

Estos hecho son incuestionables y funestos.

Sin embargo, centrarse únicamente en ellos sería pasar por alto una situación mucho más dinámica que sugiere que el poder y la impunidad de Israel no son tan invulnerables como sugiere esta foto fija.

Un año después del ataque de Israel y después de más de dos años y medio de bloqueo, los palestinos de Gaza no se han rendido. En vez de ello ha dado al mundo una lección de firmeza y de dignidad, incluso a un coste atroz e inimaginable.

Es cierto que los dirigentes de la Unión Europea que vinieron al Jerusalén ocupado el pasado mes de enero para abrazar públicamente al entonces primer ministro israelí Ehud Olmert mientras que el fósforo blanco quemaba la carne de los niños palestinos y había cuerpos bajo los escombros todavía agachan la cabeza antes sus respectivos lobbies pro-Israel, lo mismo que los políticos canadienses y estadounidenses.

Pero es palpable el cambio en la opinión pública mientras que sus propias acciones transforman a Israel en un paria cuyas fuerzas directrices no son los valores democráticos liberales con los que afirma identificarse, sino el ultranacionalismo, el racismo, el fanatismo religioso, el colonialismo y un orden judío supremacista mantenido por medio de masacres frecuentes.

La causa universalista de justicia y liberación para los palestinos está ganando adherentes e ímpetu, especialmente entre los jóvenes. Fui testigo de ello por ejemplo entre jóvenes estudiantes malasios a los que conocí en una conferencia de solidaridad con Palestina organizada por la Unión de ONG del Mundo Islámico en Estambul el pasado mes de mayo y de nuevo en noviembre cuando cientos de organizaciones de estudiantes de todo Estados Unidos y Canadá se reunieron para planificar su participación en la campaña global dirigida por palestinos de boicot, desinversión y sanciones según el modelo de la exitosa lucha contra el apartheid sudafricano en la década de 1980.

Esta semana, miles de personas de decenas de países están tratando de llegar a Gaza para romper el asedio y marchar junto con los palestinos que han estado organizándolo desde el interior.

Cada uno de los individuos que viajan con la Marcha Libertad para Gaza, Viva Palestina, u otras delegaciones quizá representan a cientos de otras personas que no pueden hacer el viaje personalmente y que están participando en el acontecimiento con manifestaciones y conmemoraciones, visitas a sus altos cargos electos y campañas mediáticas.

En contra de este floreciente activismo, el sionismo esta luchando por rejuvenecer su menguante base de apoyo. Programas multimillonarios con el objetivo de reclutar y sionizar a jóvenes judíos estadounidenses luchan por competir contra organizaciones como la Red Judía Antisionista que no maneja dinero sino un compromiso con la igualdad humana que está basado en principios.

Cada vez más vemos que los esfuerzos de hasbara (propaganda) de Israel no tienen un mensaje positivo ni ofrecen ningún caso plausible para mantener un status quo de una represión y violencia incalificables, y en vez de ello se basan en la demonización y deshumanización de los árabes y musulmanes para justificar las acciones de Israel e incluso su propia existencia.

Al tener que hacer frente al cada vez mayores reconocimiento global y apoyo a la valiente lucha no violenta contra el continuo robo de tierra en Cisjordania Israel está aumentando su violencia y secuestrando a los dirigentes del movimiento en Bilin y otros pueblos (Mohammad Othman, Jamal Juma’ y Abdallah Abu Rahmeh son algunos de los dirigentes de este movimiento detenidos recientemente).

Actuando de esta manera Israel se parece cada vez más a un desacreditado Estado fallido no a un régimen seguro de su legitimidad y longevidad.

Y a pesar de los esfuerzos de la fracasada industria del proceso de paz por ridiculizarlo, suprimirlo y minimizarlo, existe un creciente debate entre los palestinos e incluso entre israelíes acerca de un futuro compartido en Palestina/Israel basado en la igualdad y la descolonización en vez de en la segregación etno-nacional y la repartición forzada.

Por último pero, desde luego, no menos importante, a la sombra del Informe Goldstone los dirigentes israelíes viajan por el mundo con temor a ser arrestados por sus crímenes.

Por ahora pueden confiar en la impunidad que la complicidad internacional de alto nivel y la inercia de su poder e influencia todavía les concede. Pero la pregunta para la verdadera comunidad internacional (formada por personas y movimientos) es si queremos seguir viendo cómo se desmantela y corrompe sólo por un Estado canalla el todavía incompleto sistema de derecho y de justicia internacional minuciosamente construido desde los horrores de la Segunda Guerra Mundial y el Holocausto nazi.

Lo que hemos hecho en solidaridad con el pueblo palestino en Gaza y el resto de Palestina no es suficiente todavía. Pero nuestro movimiento está creciendo, no puede ser detenido y llegaremos a nuestro destino.

Ali Abunimah es co-fundador de The Electronic Intifada y autor de One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Estará entre las más de 1.300 personas de 42 países que viajan esta semana a Gaza con la Marcha de la Libertad para Gaza. Este artículo se publicó originalmente en Al-Jazeera y se publica con permiso del autor.

Enlace con el original: http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10969.shtml

Traducido del inglés para Rebelión por Beatriz Morales Bastos.

Israel Resembles a Failed State

January 7th, 2010 by Ali Abunimah

One year has passed since the savage Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip, but for the people there, time might as well have stood still. Since Palestinians in Gaza buried their loved ones — more than 1,400 persons, almost 400 of them children — there has been little healing and virtually no reconstruction.

According to international aid agencies, only 41 trucks of building supplies have been allowed into Gaza during the year.

Promises of billions made at a donors’ conference in Egypt last March attended by luminaries of the so-called “international community” and the Middle East peace process industry are unfulfilled, and the Israeli siege, supported by the US, the European Union, Arab states, and tacitly by the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah, continues.

Amid the endless, horrifying statistics a few stand out: of Gaza’s 640 schools, 18 were completely destroyed and 280 damaged in Israeli attacks. Two-hundred-and-fifty students and 15 teachers were killed.

Of 122 health facilities assessed by the World Health Organization, 48 percent were damaged or destroyed.

Ninety percent of households in Gaza still experience power cuts for four to eight hours per day due to Israeli attacks on the power grid and degradation caused by the blockade.

Forty-six percent of Gaza’s once productive agricultural land is out of use due to Israeli damage to farms and Israeli-declared free fire zones. Gaza’s exports of more than 130,000 tons per year of tomatoes, flowers, strawberries and other fruit have fallen to zero.

That “much of Gaza still lies in ruins,” a coalition of international aid agencies stated recently, “is not an accident; it is a matter of policy.”

This policy has been clear all along and it has nothing to do with Israeli “security.”

From 19 June 2008, to 4 November 2008, calm prevailed between Israel and Gaza, as Hamas adhered strictly — as even Israel has acknowledged — to a negotiated ceasefire.

That ceasefire collapsed when Israel launched a surprise attack on Gaza killing six persons, after which Hamas and other resistance factions retaliated.

Even so, Palestinian factions were still willing to renew the ceasefire, but it was Israel that refused, choosing instead to launch a premeditated, systematic attack on the foundations of civilized life in the Gaza Strip.

Operation Cast Lead, as Israel dubbed it, was an attempt to destroy once and for all Palestinian resistance in general, and Hamas in particular, which had won the 2006 election and survived the blockade and numerous US-sponsored attempts to undermine and overthrow it in cooperation with US-backed Palestinian militias.

Like the murderous sanctions on Iraq throughout the 1990s, the blockade of Gaza was calculated to deprive civilians of basic necessities, rights and dignity in the hope that their suffering might force their leadership to surrender or collapse.

In many respects things may seem more dire than a year ago.

Barack Obama, the US president, whom many hoped would change the vicious anti-Palestinian policies of his predecessor, George W. Bush, has instead entrenched them as even the pretense of a serious peace effort has vanished.

According to media reports, the US Army Corps of Engineers is assisting Egypt in building an underground wall on its border with Gaza to block the tunnels which act as a lifeline for the besieged territory (resources and efforts that ought to go into rebuilding still hurricane-devastated New Orleans), and American weapons continue to flow to West Bank militias engaged in a US- and Israeli-sponsored civil war against Hamas and anyone else who might resist Israeli occupation and colonization.

These facts are inescapable and bleak.

However, to focus on them alone would be to miss a much more dynamic situation that suggests Israel’s power and impunity are not as invulnerable as they appear from this snapshot.

A year after Israel’s attack and after more than two-and-a-half years of blockade, the Palestinian people in Gaza have not surrendered. Instead they have offered the world lessons in steadfastness and dignity, even at an appalling, unimaginable cost.

It is true that the European Union leaders who came to occupied Jerusalem last January to publicly embrace Ehud Olmert, the then Israeli prime minister — while white phosphorus seared the flesh of Gazan children and bodies lay under the rubble — still cower before their respective Israel lobbies, as do American and Canadian politicians.

But the shift in public opinion is palpable as Israel’s own actions transform it into a pariah whose driving forces are not the liberal democratic values with which it claims to identify, but ultra-nationalism, racism, religious fanaticism, settler-colonialism and a Jewish supremacist order maintained by frequent massacres.

The universalist cause of justice and liberation for Palestinians is gaining adherents and momentum especially among the young. I witnessed it, for example, among Malaysian students I met at a Palestine solidarity conference held by the Union of NGOs of The Islamic World in Istanbul last May, and again in November as hundreds of student organizers from across the US and Canada converged to plan their participation in the global Palestinian-led campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions modeled on the successful struggle against South African apartheid in the 1980s.

This week, thousands of people from dozens of countries are attempting to reach Gaza to break the siege and march alongside Palestinians who have been organizing inside the territory.

Each of the individuals traveling with the Gaza Freedom March, Viva Palestina, or other delegations represents perhaps hundreds of others who could not make the journey in person, and who are marking the event with demonstrations and commemorations, visits to their elected officials and media campaigns.

Against this flowering of activism, Zionism is struggling to rejuvenate its dwindling base of support. Multi-million dollar programs aimed at recruiting and Zionizing young American Jews are struggling to compete against organizations like the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, which run not on money but principled commitment to human equality.

Increasingly, we see that Israel’s hasbara (propaganda) efforts have no positive message, offer no plausible case for maintaining a status quo of unspeakable repression and violence, and rely instead on racist demonization and dehumanization of Arabs and Muslims to justify Israel’s actions and even its very existence.

Faced with growing global recognition and support for the courageous nonviolent struggle against continued land theft in the West Bank, Israel is escalating its violence and kidnapping of leaders of the movement in Bilin and other villages (Mohammad Othman, Jamal Juma’ and Abdallah Abu Rahmeh are among the leaders of this movement recently arrested).

In acting this way, Israel increasingly resembles a bankrupt failed state, not a regime confident about its legitimacy and longevity.

And despite the failed peace process industry’s efforts to ridicule, suppress and marginalize it, there is a growing debate among Palestinians and even among Israelis about a shared future in Palestine/Israel based on equality and decolonization, rather than ethno-national segregation and forced repartition.

Last, but certainly not least, in the shadow of the Goldstone report, Israeli leaders travel around the world fearing arrest for their crimes.

For now, they can rely on the impunity that high-level international complicity and their inertial power and influence still afford them. But the question for the real international community — made up of people and movements — is whether we want to continue to see the still very incomplete system of international law and justice painstakingly built since the horrors of the Second World War and the Nazi holocaust dismantled and corrupted all for the sake of one rogue state.

What we have done in solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza and the rest of Palestine is not yet enough. But our movement is growing, it cannot be stopped, and we will reach our destination.

Ali Abunimah is a co-founder of The Electronic Intifada. He is also the author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.

 

In late December Abunimah joined more than 1300 activists from approximately 40 countries in the Gaza Freedom March, a protest against the continuing blockade of the Gaza Strip. Egyptian authorities prevented them from reaching Gaza with their message of solidarity. For more information about the GFM, see his blog from Cairo.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy. 

Honduran Military Leaders Face Arrests

January 7th, 2010 by Global Research

(CNN) — Honduran prosecutors issued arrest warrants for the country’s six top military commanders for abuse of power in connection with the coup that ousted President Jose Manuel Zelaya last year.

The Honduran high command, including Gen. Romeo Vasquez Velasquez, the country’s top military chief, face charges for bursting into Zelaya’s residence and transporting the president to neighboring Costa Rica, Attorney General Luis Rubi said.

The June 28 coup deepened a political crisis that remains unresolved, despite a new president being elected in November.

Rubi himself filed the arrest warrants at the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

In addition to abuse of power, the military commanders face charges of illegal expatriation of a citizen.

The manner in which Zelaya was ousted was key in how other countries and international bodies interpreted the military action.

The de facto government of Roberto Micheletti and his supporters have insisted that Zelaya’s removal was a constitutional transfer of power.

But the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the European Union and most nations — including the United States — condemned the coup and demanded that Zelaya be reinstated immediately

The crisis erupted in June when Zelaya — despite congressional and supreme court decisions calling it illegal — pushed forward with a plan to hold a referendum that could have led to changing the constitution to allow for additional presidential terms.

The Supreme Court signed an arrest warrant for Zelaya but not to send him into exile.

Now, the Supreme Court has three days to decide whether to ratify the charges and start a case against the military officers.

Armed Forces spokesman Col. Ramiro Archaga said that the military respects the rule of law and are willing to appear before the justice system.

The announcement of the arrest warrants came as U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Craig Kelly visited with the key players in the crisis in Honduras.

Kelly met with Micheletti Wednesday, though details of the talks were unknown except for a statement from acting Honduran Foreign Minister Carlos Lopez Contreras, saying that calls for Micheletti’s resignation were not part of the dialogue.

Meanwhile, Zelaya remained holed up inside the Brazilian Embassy in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa. He has been there ever since sneaking back into the country in September.

In another development, the Honduran congress was to take up the issue of amnesty for Zelaya and other players in the crisis next week.

Elvin Sandoval contributed to this report.

The West’s Afghan War: From Conquest To Bloodbath

January 7th, 2010 by Rick Rozoff

“When the commander in Kabul asked Obama for the extra troops, he knew the USA would end up with one achievement, and that is more civilian casualties.”

“Every time an American soldier gets killed, they bomb an entire village.”

“This thing is going to be $5 billion to $10 billion a month and 300 to 500 killed and wounded a month by next summer. That’s what we probably should expect. And that’s light casualties.”

On December 29 the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released figures demonstrating that Afghan civilian deaths had risen by 10 percent in the first ten months of 2009, from 1,838 during the same period a year earlier to 2,038. The majority of the killings were attributed to insurgent attacks, including those directed against U.S., NATO and government targets, but almost 500 civilians were killed by American and NATO forces.

Matters only grew worse last November and December, culminating in several massacres of Afghan civilians by Western forces at the end of the year.

In early December a NATO air strike killed thirteen civilians in Laghman province. One account also documents a deadly raid by American special forces there. “According to witnesses, US troops entered a number of houses near the provincial capital, Mehtar Lam, in an overnight operation. The victims included Mohammed Ismail, whose 10-year-old son, Rafiullah, described what happened: ‘When the soldiers came to our house, my father asked them, “Who are you?” Then they shot him in the head and told us, “Be quiet and tell us where the weapons are.”‘” [1]

The chairman of the Laghman provincial council presciently commented on the killings that “When the commander in Kabul asked Obama for the extra troops, he knew the USA would end up with one achievement, and that is more civilian casualties.” [2]

On the same day that the above-cited UN report was made public an air attack by U.S.-led warplanes killed four Afghans in the northern province of Baghlan. According to one report “A father and his three sons were reportedly among the [fatalities]. The raid also wounded eight others.” [3]

A member of parliament from a neighboring province, Haji Farid, said after the aerial onslaught that “Every time an American soldier gets killed, they bomb an entire village.” [4]

The following day a NATO missile strike killed seven Afghan civilians in Helmand province. According to the New York Times, “Neither NATO forces nor the Helmand governor’s office gave a definitive number of dead, but reports from local people said that five to seven civilians had been killed, including three children.” [5] Later a spokesman for the governor of the province confirmed that seven civilians had been slain and another wounded.

Far more atrocious news broke the same day, December 30, when, according to the next day’s edition of The Times of London, “American-led troops were accused…of dragging innocent children from their beds and shooting them during a night raid that left ten people dead” in Kunar province near the Pakistani border. [6]

U.S.-installed and -supported President Hamid Karzai dispatched an investigative team headed by former governor of Helmand province Assadullah Wafa to the scene of the massacre, dubbed by at least one news source as an Afghan My Lai.

A statement was later issued on the official website of the Afghan president that said in part: “The delegation concluded that a unit of international forces descended from a plane Sunday night into Ghazi Khan village in Narang district of the eastern province of Kunar and took ten people from three homes, eight of them school students in grades six, nine and ten, one of them a guest, the rest from the same family, and shot them dead.”

The delegation’s head, Wafa, added that “US soldiers flew to Kunar from Kabul, suggesting that they were part of a special forces unit,” and was quoted as saying “I spoke to the local headmaster. It’s impossible they were al-Qaeda. They were children, they were civilians, they were innocent. I condemn this attack.” [7]

The investigation he led established that eight of the victims were between the ages of 11 and 17. The slain students’ headmaster, Rahman Jan Ehsas, described the details of Barack Obama’s and top U.S. and NATO military commander Stanley McChrystal’s new special operations-led counterinsurgency approach as it was applied to his pupils:

“Seven students were in one room. A student and one guest were in another room, a guest room, and a farmer was asleep with his wife in a third building.

“First the foreign troops entered the guest room and shot two of them. Then they entered another room and handcuffed the seven students. Then they killed them. Abdul Khaliq [the farmer] heard shooting and came outside. When they saw him they shot him as well. He was outside. That’s why his wife wasn’t killed.” [8]

NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) attempted to both widen and evade responsibility for the murders by claiming “the raid was a joint operation and it was still under investigation,” a ploy quickly exposed when “Afghan Defence Ministry spokesman Zaher Azimy said Afghan troops had not taken part.” [9]

Demonstrators, particularly university students and their instructors, took to the streets in the provinces of Kabul and Nangarhar denouncing the rapidly escalating and by now routine slaughter of civilians, including children, by U.S. and NATO troops and warplanes. Their chants included “Obama! Obama! Take your soldiers out of Afghanistan!” and “Stop killing us!” 

Professors and students at Kabul University passed a resolution demanding that NATO troops leave Afghanistan. [10]

Referring to the first of December’s massacres, a Middle Eastern newspaper wrote, “The raid in the eastern province of Laghman this month followed a pattern that has become sadly familiar in Afghanistan over recent years. As is often the case, international forces insisted militants were killed, but local officials and villagers claimed the dead were civilians.” [11]

With the increase of U.S. and other NATO nations’ and partners’ troops to over 150,000 in the near future and the announced shift from counterterrorism to counterinsurgency operations, the killing of Afghan civilians will grow exponentially.

On the other side of the border, Washington’s and NATO’s proclaimed AfPak war is no less murderous.

On January 2 Dawn News, Pakistan’s first 24-hour English news channel, reported on its website that 44 CIA-directed Predator drone missile attacks last year had killed 708 people, only five of them alleged al-Qaeda and Taliban targets. “According to the statistics compiled by Pakistani authorities, the Afghanistan-based US drones killed 708 people in 44 predator attacks targeting the tribal areas between January 1 and December 31, 2009.

“For each Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorist killed by US drones, 140 innocent Pakistanis also had to die. Over 90 per cent of those killed in the deadly missile strikes were civilians, claim authorities….On average, 58 civilians were killed in these attacks every month, 12 persons every week and almost two people every day.” [12]

There has been no diminution of such attacks. In the waning days of 2009 they were intensified. On December 27 “At least 13 people were killed in a suspected United States drone attack” in North Waziristan. “Following the strike, a U.S. B-52 jet plane, along with other spy planes, continued their flights over the tribal areas….” [13]

The preceding day another U.S. missile attack in North Waziristan killed three and wounded two people. “A statement from the [Pakistani] military Saturday said that a targeted airstrike at a compound in Orakzai had killed some civilians along with eight suspected militants.” [14]

The U.S. launched deadly drone missile attacks in Pakistan’s North Waziristan on both ends of the New Year. On December 31 “Five people were killed and at least two more injured” and on January 1 “A US pilotless aircraft fired a missile into Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal district” and “the attack destroyed [a] car and killed three people.” [15]

In the second case a regional security official was quoted by Reuters as stating “The bodies were burned beyond recognition. We are trying to determine their identity.” [16]

On January 3 five more people were killed in the same part of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas by American drone attacks. However much the U.S., NATO and the Western media attempt to sanitize these killings, the Pakistani government figure – that over 99 percent of the victims are civilians – is a damning indictment of what can only be characterized as wanton war crimes.

A yearender feature in the U.S. military newspaper Stars and Stripes reflected on 2009 and looked forward to this year.

“When President Barack Obama took office in January, he inherited a drifting and under-resourced war in Afghanistan, being fought with roughly 35,000 U.S. troops.

“Obama ordered 21,000 additional troops in March and then 30,000 more in December.

“In a little over a year, he will have nearly tripled their numbers, taking ownership of what he calls ‘the war we must win.’

“[E]very step the president has taken represents an escalation of the war, now in its ninth year.” [17]

Afghan and Pakistani civilians deaths have climbed correspondingly. They will rise even more in 2010 as the war, in its tenth calendar year, is broadened further and intensified in earnest.

For all the carnage wreaked on innocent Afghans and Pakistanis, a senior NATO intelligence officer told Western media representatives at a briefing on December 27 that “The Afghan Taliban have expanded their influence across Afghanistan and are now running a ‘full-fledged insurgency’ with their own ‘governors’ in all but one of the country’s provinces.” [18]

“In 33 out of 34 provinces, the Taliban has a shadow government…has a government-in-waiting, with ministers chosen” for the day the government falls in the unnamed official’s words. [19]

Over eight years of bombing villages, conducting deadly raids against civilian households, multiplying projected American and NATO troops strength by a factor of fifteen since 2003 and extending the war into Pakistan have produced this result.

NATO’s first ground war and its first armed conflict outside Europe has also cost the citizens of its own member states both blood and treasure.

Jeff Loftin, press officer of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, was recently quoted as confirming that last year 512 Western troops were killed in Afghanistan, the highest total for any year in the over eight-year war.

That number is over a third of the 1,481 ISAF fatalities (excluding American troops assigned to Operation Enduring Freedom) since the war began on October 7, 2001. The deaths include those of soldiers from NATO partner states Finland, Sweden and South Korea.

Germany, engaged under NATO command in its first combat operations since World War II, lost five soldiers last year, its highest number to date, and “Some 13,900 German soldiers served in Afghanistan this year [2009], up 1,700 from in 2008.” [20]

“At least 70 Western soldiers died each month from July through October, virtually double the rate of the previous summer. In the past year, nearly 500 foreign troops have lost their lives in Afghanistan, including more than 300 Americans.” [21]

On December 27 NATO announced the death of an American service member in a bomb attack in Afghanistan and the icasualties.org website calculated it to be the U.S.’s 310th of the year, double the 155 figure for 2008.

That number was also twice that of U.S. military deaths in Iraq in 2009, 148, the first time since 2003 that deaths in the first theater have been higher than in the second, and “Afghanistan is likely to become an even deadlier place for American forces as reinforcements are rushed there to battle insurgents.” [22]

How much deadlier was first revealed on January 3 when four U.S. soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb attack in southern Afghanistan.

Former U.S. Army General Barry McCaffrey, now an adjunct professor of international affairs at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, recently “traveled to the war zone…as an academic from West Point at the invitation of theater commander Gen. David Petraeus, commander of Central Command, and Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the operational commander in Afghanistan” and upon returning was cited by an armed forces news source as asserting that “Americans should prepare to accept hundreds of U.S. casualties each month in Afghanistan during spring offensives with enemy forces.”

Regarding the New Year’s surge, which will push U.S. troop strength to over 100,000 and combined U.S. and NATO numbers to over 150,000, he predicted that “this thing is going to be $5 billion to $10 billion a month and 300 to 500 killed and wounded a month by next summer. That’s what we probably should expect. And that’s light casualties.” [23]

As many 500 American soldiers killed and injured monthly is in McCaffrey’s estimate light casualties.
 
Another milestone in U.S. losses was marked on December 30 when a reported suicide bombing at the Forward Operating Base Chapman killed seven CIA agents, including the agency’s station chief. The Wall Street Journal quoted a former American intelligence official describing the event as “Pearl Harbor for the agency,” the second-largest loss in one day in the CIA’s history, only the 1983 attack on the U.S.’s embassy in Lebanon, which resulted in eight agency deaths, exceeding it. “The base played a critical role in the CIA’s significant operations in the country, including helping with drone attacks and informant networks in Pakistan.” [24]

According to a former agency official interviewed by the newspaper, “That was one of the bases where they were paying people and running people and sending them into Pakistan.” [25]

The White House of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize recipient and the Pentagon of former CIA director Robert Gates, who in the past boasted of funding and arming the founders of two of the three groups he is now waging war against in Afghanistan and Pakistan [26], have promised to increase the bloodshed in South Asia this year to an unprecedented level. In this instance if in no other the government can be trusted to faithfully fulfill its pledge.

Notes

1) The National (United Arab Emirates), December 28, 2009
2) Ibid
3) Press TV, December 29, 2009
4) Ibid
5) New York Times, December 31, 2009
6) The Times, December 31, 2009
   http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/Afghanistan/article6971638.ece
7) Ibid
8) Ibid
9) Reuters, December 30, 2009
10) Pakistan Observer, January 4, 2010
11) The National, December 28, 2009
12) Dawn News, January 2, 2010
    http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/18-over-700-killed-in-44-drone-strikes-in-2009-am-01
13) Xinhua News Agency, December 27, 2009
14) Associated Press, December 26, 2009
15) Deutsche Presse-Agentur, January 1, 2010
16) Press TV, January 1, 2010
17) Stars and Stripes, December 31, 2009
18) Reuters, December 27, 2009
19) Agence France-Presse, December 28, 2009
20) Brunei News, Agencies, January 1, 2010
21) Stars and Stripes, December 31, 2009
22) USA Today, December 31, 2009
23) Army Times, January 4, 2010
24) Wall Street Journal, January 1, 2010
25) Ibid
26) Afghan Warlords, Formerly Backed By the CIA, Now Turn Their Guns On U.S. Troops, U.S. News & World Report, July 11, 2008
    http://www.usnews.com/articles/news/world/2008/07/11/afghan-warlords-formerly-backed-by-the-cia-now-turn-their-guns-on-us-troops.html?PageNr=2

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American military personnel are continuing to take their own lives in unprecedented numbers, as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq wars drag on. By late November, at least 334 members of the armed forces had committed suicide in 2009, more than the 319 who were killed in Afghanistan or the 150 who died in Iraq. While a final figure is not available, the toll of military suicides last year was the worst since records began to be kept in 1980.

The Army, National Guard and Army Reserve lost at least 211 personnel to suicide. More than half of those who took their lives had served in either Iraq or Afghanistan. The Army suicide rate of 20.2 per 100,000 personnel is higher than that registered among males aged 19 to 29, the gender age bracket with the highest rate among the general population. Before 2001, the Army rarely suffered 10 suicides per 100,000 soldiers.

The Navy lost at least 47 active duty personnel in 2009, the Air Force 34 and the Marine Corp, which has been flung into some of the bloodiest fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, 42. The Marine suicide rate has soared since 2001 from 12 to at least 19.5 per 100,000.

For every death, at least five members of the armed forces were hospitalised for attempting to take their life. According to the Navy Times, 2 percent of Army; 2.3 percent of Marines and 3 percent of Navy respondents to the military’s own survey of 28,536 members from all branches reported they had attempted suicide at some point. The “Defense Survey of Health-Related Behaviors” also found “dangerous levels” of alcohol abuse and the illicit use of drugs such as pain killers by 12 percent of personnel.

The trigger for a suicide attempt varied from case to case: relationship breakdowns, financial problems, substance abuse, tensions with other members of their unit, a traumatic event. What is clear, however, is that military service has seriously impacted on the physical and mental health of the victims.

The suicide figures for serving personnel are only one indication. The most alarming statistics are those on mental illness related to the hundreds of thousands of veterans of the two wars who have left the military and sought to reintegrate into civilian life.

While there is no exact figure, studies estimate that as many as 20 to 30 percent of veterans suffer some degree of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), hindering their ability to hold down jobs, maintain relationships, overcome substance abuse and, in some cases, maintain their will to live. The worsening economic conditions facing working people in the US are aggravating the difficulties.

A survey last year found that at least 15 percent of former soldiers in the 20 to 24 age bracket were unemployed. An article by the Florida Today site on January 3 reported that 450 of the 800 homeless in Brevard County were Iraq or Afghanistan veterans. Shelters in California are reporting twice as many requests for assistance from new veterans compared with 2007. At the current rate, they will eventually outnumber the more than 100,000 homeless Vietnam vets.

A study of veterans with PTSD published last August by the Journal of Traumatic Stress found that 47 percent had had suicidal thoughts before seeking treatment and 3 percent had attempted to kill themselves. The US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) has been compelled to substantially upgrade its services. Since its 24-hour, seven-days a week suicide hotline was belatedly established in July 2007, it has counselled over 185,000 veterans or their families and claims to have prevented at least 5,000 suicides. It now has 400 counselors dedicated to suicide prevention though even the Pentagon admits far more are needed.

People who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan make up a growing proportion of the 6,400 veterans that VA estimates take their own lives each year. A 2007 CBS study put the rate among male veterans aged 20 to 24 at four times the national average—more than 40 per 100,000 per year.

The suicide estimates do not include the hundreds of young veterans who die each year in auto accidents, many of which are linked with excessive speed or driving under the influence and kill or injure others as well. In 2008, veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan were 75 percent more likely to die in an auto accident than non-veterans and 148 percent more likely to die in a motorcycle crash. Suicide statistics also do not count deaths that are classified as accidental drug-related overdoses.

American society will continue to pay for the harm caused by the Iraq and Afghan wars for decades to come. There is a growing medical consensus that a significant factor in PTSD is actual physical damage to the brain. Developments in vehicle and body armour, combined with advances in medical treatment, have enabled thousands of soldiers to survive bomb blasts that might have taken their lives in earlier conflicts. They survive with trauma to their brain however.

The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury estimated in early 2009 that between 45,000 to 90,000 veterans of the two wars had been left with “severe and lasting symptoms” of brain injury. Overall, the Defense Department estimates that as many as 20 percent of veterans had suffered some degree of brain injury due to bomb blasts while in Iraq or Afghanistan—a staggering 360,000 men and women.

The American Elite

January 7th, 2010 by William Blum

Lincoln Gordon died a few weeks ago at the age of 96. He had graduated summa cum laude from Harvard at the age of 19, received a doctorate from Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, published his first book at 22, with dozens more to follow on government, economics, and foreign policy in Europe and Latin America. He joined the Harvard faculty at 23. Dr. Gordon was an executive on the War Production Board during World War II, a top administrator of Marshall Plan programs in postwar Europe, ambassador to Brazil, held other high positions at the State Department and the White House, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, economist at the Brookings Institution, president of Johns Hopkins University. President Lyndon B. Johnson praised Gordon’s diplomatic service as “a rare combination of experience, idealism and practical judgment”.

You get the picture? Boy wonder, intellectual shining light, distinguished leader of men, outstanding American patriot.

Abraham Lincoln Gordon was also Washington’s on-site, and very active, director in Brazil of the military coup in 1964 which overthrew the moderately leftist government of João Goulart and condemned the people of Brazil to more than 20 years of an unspeakably brutal dictatorship. Human-rights campaigners have long maintained that Brazil’s military regime originated the idea of the desaparecidos, “the disappeared”, and exported torture methods across Latin America. In 2007, the Brazilian government published a 500-page book, “The Right to Memory and the Truth”, which outlines the systematic torture, rape and disappearance of nearly 500 left-wing activists, and includes photos of corpses and torture victims. Currently, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is proposing a commission to investigate allegations of torture by the military during the 1964-1985 dictatorship. (When will the United States create a commission to investigate its own torture?)

In a cable to Washington after the coup, Gordon stated — in a remark that might have had difficulty getting past the lips of even John Foster Dulles — that without the coup there could have been a “total loss to the West of all South American Republics”. (It was actually the beginning of a series of fascistic anti-communist coups that trapped the southern half of South America in a decades-long nightmare, culminating in “Operation Condor”, in which the various dictatorships, aided by the CIA, cooperated in hunting down and killing leftists.)

Gordon later testified at a congressional hearing and while denying completely any connection to the coup in Brazil he stated that the coup was “the single most decisive victory of freedom in the mid-twentieth century.”

Listen to a phone conversation between President Johnson and Thomas Mann, Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, April 3, 1964, two days after the coup:

MANN:
I hope you’re as happy about Brazil as I am.

LBJ:
I am.

MANN:
I think that’s the most important thing that’s happened in the hemisphere in three years.

LBJ:
I hope they give us some credit instead of hell.1

So the next time you’re faced with a boy wonder from Harvard, try to keep your adulation in check no matter what office the man attains, even — oh, just choosing a position at random — the presidency of the United States. Keep your eyes focused not on these “liberal” … “best and brightest” who come and go, but on US foreign policy which remains the same decade after decade. There are dozens of Brazils and Lincoln Gordons in America’s past. In its present. In its future. They’re the diplomatic equivalent of the guys who ran Enron, AIG and Goldman Sachs.

Of course, not all of our foreign policy officials are like that. Some are worse.

And remember the words of convicted spy Alger Hiss: Prison was “a good corrective to three years at Harvard.”

Mothers, don’t let your children grow up to be Nobel Peace Prize winners

In November I wrote:

Question: How many countries do you have to be at war with to be disqualified from receiving the Nobel Peace Prize?
Answer: Five. Barack Obama has waged war against only Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia. He’s holding off on Iran until he actually gets the prize.

Well, on December 10 the president clutched the prize in his blood-stained hands. But then the Nobel Laureate surprised us. On December 17 the United States fired cruise missiles at people in … not Iran, but Yemen, all “terrorists” of course, who were, needless to say, planning “an imminent attack against a U.S. asset”.2 A week later the United States carried out another attack against “senior al-Qaeda operatives” in Yemen.3
Reports are that the Nobel Peace Prize Committee in Norway is now in conference to determine whether to raise the maximum number of wars allowed to ten. Given the committee’s ignoble history, I imagine that Obama is taking part in the discussion. As is Henry Kissinger.

The targets of these attacks in Yemen reportedly include fighters coming from Afghanistan and Iraq, confirmation of the warnings long given — even by the CIA and the Pentagon — that those US interventions were creating new anti-American terrorists. (That’s anti-American foreign policy, not necessarily anything else American.) How long before the United States will be waging war in some other god-forsaken land against anti-American terrorists whose numbers include fighters from Yemen?

Or Pakistan? Or Somalia? Or Palestine?

Our blessed country is currently involved in so many bloody imperial adventures around the world that one needs a scorecard to keep up. Rick Rozoff of StopNATO has provided this for us in some detail.4

For this entire century, almost all these anti-American terrorists have been typically referred to as “al-Qaeda”, as if you have to be a member of something called al-Qaeda to resent bombs falling on your house or wedding party; as if there’s a precise and meaningful distinction between people retaliating against American terrorism while being a member of al-Qaeda and people retaliating against American terrorism while NOT being a member of al-Qaeda. However, there is not necessarily even such an animal as a “member of al-Qaeda”, albeit there now exists “al-Qaeda in Iraq” and “al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula”. Anti-American terrorists do know how to choose a name that attracts attention in the world media, that appears formidable, that scares Americans. Governments have learned to label their insurgents “al-Qaeda” to start the military aid flowing from Washington, just like they yelled “communist” during the Cold War. And from the perspective of those conducting the War on Terror, the bigger and more threatening the enemy, the better — more funding, greater prestige, enhanced career advancement. Just like with the creation of something called The International Communist Conspiracy.

It’s not just the American bombings, invasions and occupations that spur the terrorists on, but the American torture. Here’s Bowe Robert Bergdahl, US soldier captured in Afghanistan, speaking on a video made by his Taliban captors: He said he had been well-treated, contrasting his fate to that of prisoners held in US military prisons, such as the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. “I bear witness I was continuously treated as a human being, with dignity, and I had nobody deprive me of my clothes and take pictures of me naked. I had no dogs barking at me or biting me as my country has done to their Muslim prisoners in the jails that I have mentioned.”5
Of course the Taliban provided the script, but what was the script based on? What inspired them to use such words and images, to make such references?

Cuba. Again. Still. Forever.


More than 50 years now it is. The propaganda and hypocrisy of the American mainstream media seems endless and unwavering. They can not accept the fact that Cuban leaders are humane or rational. Here’s the Washington Post of December 13 writing about an American arrested in Cuba:

“The Cuban government has arrested an American citizen working on contract for the U.S. Agency for International Development who was distributing cellphones and laptop computers to Cuban activists. … Under Cuban law … a Cuban citizen or a foreign visitor can be arrested for nearly anything under the claim of ‘dangerousness’.”

That sounds just awful, doesn’t it? Imagine being subject to arrest for whatever someone may choose to label “dangerousness”. But the exact same thing has happened repeatedly in the United States since the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. We don’t use the word “dangerousness”. We speak of “national security”. Or, more recently, “terrorism”. Or “providing material support to terrorism”.

The arrested American works for Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI), a US government contractor that provides services to the State Department, the Pentagon and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). In 2008, DAI was funded by the US Congress to “promote transition to democracy” in Cuba. Yes, Oh Happy Day!, we’re bringing democracy to Cuba just as we’re bringing it to Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2002, DAI was contracted by USAID to work in Venezuela and proceeded to fund the same groups that a few months earlier had worked to stage a coup — temporarily successful — against President Hugo Chávez. DAI performed other subversive work in Venezuela and has also been active in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other hotspots. “Subversive” is what Washington would label an organization like DAI if they behaved in the same way in the United States in behalf of a foreign government.6

The American mainstream media never makes its readers aware of the following (so I do so repeatedly): The United States is to the Cuban government like al-Qaeda is to the government in Washington, only much more powerful and much closer. Since the Cuban revolution, the United States and anti-Castro Cuban exiles in the US have inflicted upon Cuba greater damage and greater loss of life than what happened in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. Cuban dissidents typically have had very close, indeed intimate, political and financial connections to American government agents. Would the US government ignore a group of Americans receiving funds or communication equipment from al-Qaeda and/or engaging in repeated meetings with known leaders of that organization? In the past few years, the American government has arrested a great many people in the US and abroad solely on the basis of alleged ties to al-Qaeda, with a lot less evidence to go by than Cuba has had with its dissidents’ ties to the United States, evidence usually gathered by Cuban double agents. Virtually all of Cuba’s “political prisoners” are such dissidents.

The Washington Post story continued:

“The Cuban government granted ordinary citizens the right to buy cellphones just last year.” Period.

What does one make of such a statement without further information? How could the Cuban government have been so insensitive to people’s needs for so many years? Well, that must be just the way a “totalitarian” state behaves. But the fact is that because of the disintegration of the Soviet bloc, with a major loss to Cuba of its foreign trade, combined with the relentless US economic aggression, the Caribbean island was hit by a great energy shortage beginning in the 1990s, which caused repeated blackouts. Cuban authorities had no choice but to limit the sale of energy-hogging electrical devices such as cell phones; but once the country returned to energy sufficiency the restrictions were revoked.

“Cubans who want to log on [to the Internet] often have to give their names to the government.”

What does that mean? Americans, thank God, can log onto the Internet without giving their names to the government. Their Internet Service Provider does it for them, furnishing their names to the government, along with their emails, when requested.

“Access to some Web sites is restricted.”

Which ones? Why? More importantly, what information might a Cuban discover on the Internet that the government would not want him to know about? I can’t imagine. Cubans are in constant touch with relatives in the US, by mail and in person. They get US television programs from Miami. International conferences on all manner of political, economic and social subjects are held regularly in Cuba. What does the American media think is the great secret being kept from the Cuban people by the nasty commie government?

“Cuba has a nascent blogging community, led by the popular commentator Yoani Sánchez, who often writes about how she and her husband are followed and harassed by government agents because of her Web posts. Sánchez has repeatedly applied for permission to leave the country to accept journalism awards, so far unsuccessfully.”

According to a well-documented account7, Sánchez’s tale of government abuse appears rather exaggerated. Moreover, she moved to Switzerland in 2002, lived there for two years, and then voluntarily returned to Cuba. On the other hand, in January 2006 I was invited to attend a book fair in Cuba, where one of my books, newly translated into Spanish, was being presented. However, the government of the United States would not give me permission to go. My application to travel to Cuba had also been rejected in 1998 by the Clinton administration.

“‘Counterrevolutionary activities’, which include mild protests and critical writings, carry the risk of censure or arrest. Anti-government graffiti and speech are considered serious crimes.”

Raise your hand if you or someone you know of was ever arrested in the United States for taking part in a protest. And substitute “pro al-Qaeda” for “counterrevolutionary” and for “anti-government” and think of the thousands imprisoned the past eight years by the United States all over the world for … for what? In most cases there’s no clear answer. Or the answer is clear: (a) being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or (b) being turned in to collect a bounty offered by the United States, or (c) thought crimes. And whatever the reason for the imprisonment, they were likely tortured. Even the most fanatical anti-Castroites don’t accuse Cuba of that. In the period of the Cuban revolution, since 1959, Cuba has had one of the very best records on human rights in the hemisphere. See my essay: “The United States, Cuba and this thing called Democracy”.8

There’s no case of anyone arrested in Cuba that compares in injustice and cruelty to the arrest in 1998 by the United States government of those who came to be known as the “Cuban Five”, sentenced in Florida to exceedingly long prison terms for trying to stem terrorist acts against Cuba emanating from the US.9 It would be lovely if the Cuban government could trade their DAI prisoner for the five. Cuba, on several occasions, has proposed to Washington the exchange of a number of what the US regards as “political prisoners” in Cuba for the five Cubans held in the United States. So far the United States has not agreed to do so.

Notes

  1. Michael Beschloss, Taking Charge: The Johnson White House Tapes 1963-1964 (New York, 1997), p.306. All other sources for this section on Gordon can be found in: Washington Post, December 22, 2009, obituary; The Guardian (London), August 31, 2007; William Blum, “Killing Hope”, chapter 27

  2. ABC News, December 17, 2009; Washington Post, December 19, 2009

  3. Washington Post, December 25, 2009

  4. Stop NATO, “2010: U.S. To Wage War Throughout The World“, December 30, 2009. To get on the StopNATO mailing list write to [email protected] To see back issues: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stopnato/

  5. Reuters, December 25, 2009

  6. For more details on DAI, see Eva Golinger, “The Chávez Code: Cracking US Intervention in Venezuela” (2006) and her website, posting for December 31, 2009

  7. Salim Lamrani, professor at Paris Descartes University, “The Contradictions of Cuban Blogger Yoani Sanchez“, Monthly Review magazine, November 12, 2009

  8. http://killinghope.org/bblum6/democ.htm

  9. http://killinghope.org/bblum6/polpris.htm

¿Cuándo se convierte en genocidio?

January 7th, 2010 by Nadia Hijab

Durante una visita a Ramala hace un año, mientras se llevaba a cabo el bombardeo israelí a Gaza, compartí mis temores con un buen amigo palestino. “Puede que suene demente, pero creo que el verdadero objetivo de los israelíes es verlos a todos muertos”.

Mi amigo me dijo que no fuera tonta, que el asalto era atroz, pero no era un asesinato masivo. Repliqué que esa no era la cuestión: se trataba de una población que ya era vulnerable a la enfermedad, a tener mala salud y a la desnutrición tras años de asedio, con las infraestructuras, el agua y la comida contaminadas. La guerra de Israel seguramente llevaría a la población más allá del límite, especialmente si, como ha ocurrido, se mantenía el asedio.

En otras palabras, Israel no mataría directamente a decenas de miles de palestinos, sino que crearía las condiciones necesarias para que murieran decenas de miles. Cualquier epidemia podría acabar el trabajo. Mi amigo permaneció callado ante estas palabras, pero siguió moviendo la cabeza con incredulidad.

Dos cosas han cambiado desde el año pasado. Hay más personas que han empezado a aplicar el término “genocidio” a lo que Israel está haciendo a Gaza. Y no sólo se está acusando directamente a Israel sino también, y cada vez más, a Egipto.

¿Es genocidio? La Convención sobre la Prevención y Castigo del Crimen de Genocidio, un documento claro y conciso adoptado por Naciones Unidas en diciembre de 1948, afirma que genocidio es cualquiera de cinco actos cometidos “con la intención de destruir, en su conjunto o en parte, a grupo nacional, étnico, racial o religioso”.

Parece que tres [de los cinco] actos se aplican a Gaza: “(a) Matar a miembros del grupo; (b) Causar un grave daño físico o mental a miembros del grupo; (c) Infligir deliberadamente a miembros del grupo unas condiciones de vida calculadas para causar la destrucción física del conjunto o de parte de éste”.

Los especialistas en derecho no están de acuerdo sobre cómo interpretar los artículos de la Convención y a lo largo de los años se ha demostrado que es difícil definir crímenes como genocidio y no digamos impedirlos o acabar con ellos. Al igual que con el precedente de Bosnia (hasta la fecha el único tratamiento legal autorizado de genocidio) sería necesario establecer un intento deliberado para plantear ante un tribunal una acusación de genocidio contra Israel.

Por supuesto, los dirigentes de Israel no han emitido una declaración de intención. Sin embargo, se puede decir que muchos de los principales altos cargos israelíes lo han hecho. Por ejemplo: • Poner a los palestinos de Gaza “a dieta”, Dov Weisglass, principal asesor de Ariel Sharon, en 2006. • Exponerlos a “una shoah (holocausto) mayor”, Matan Vilnai, antiguo vice-ministro de Defensa, en 2008. • Publicar edictos religiosos exhortando a los soldados a no mostrar piedad, los rabinos del ejército israelí durante el conflicto actual.

Estas declaraciones se hacen eco de al menos tres de las “ocho fases del genocidio” identificadas por el presidente del Observatorio del Genocidio Gregory Stanton en la década de 1990 tras el genocidio de Ruanda: clasificación, deshumanización y polarización.

A continuación está la destrucción o el bloqueo deliberados de los medios de subsistencia, como ha hecho Israel por tierra y mar. El Informe Goldstone ya ha afirmado que privar a los palestinos de Gaza de sus medios de subsistencia, de empleo, de alojamiento y de agua, de libertad de movimientos y de acceso a tribunales de justicia podría equivaler a persecución.

Desde el ataque de diciembre-enero ha habido muchos informes autorizados elaborados por organizaciones de derechos humanos y medioambientales sobre el impacto de la guerra y del actual bloqueo sobre las personas, el suelo, el aire y el agua, incluyendo el aumento de cánceres, de deformaciones congénitas y de muertes evitable. La tasa de mortalidad en Gaza debido a la gripe porcina llegó a nueve a mediados de diciembre y a 13 la semana pasada;una epidemia está aguardando.

La octava fase de genocidio que identifica Stanton es la negación por parte de los perpetradores “de que hayan cometido crimen alguno”. Irónicamente, Stanton presidía la Asociación Internacional de Expertos en Genocidio durante el conflicto, que acabó con las discusiones sobre las acciones de Israel a pesar de las protestas entre otras personas del experto en genocidio y escritor Adam Jones. Jones y otros 15 expertos habían emitido una declaración afirmando que las políticas israelíes eran “demasiado alarmantemente cercanas” al genocidio para ignorarlas y pedían que se dejara de silenciarlas.

Alarmantemente cercano es correcto. Así es cómo Raphael Lemkin, el experto legal judío polaco que impulsó la Convención sobre el Genocidio, lo definía en 1943: “el genocidio no significa necesariamente la inmediata destrucción de una nación…. Su intención es más bien expresar un plan coordinado de diferentes acciones que tienen el objetivo destruir los cimientos fundamentales de la vida de grupos nacionales, con la finalidad de aniquilar a los propios grupos. Los objetivos de semejante plan serían la desintegración de las instituciones políticas y sociales, de la cultura, de la lengua, de los sentimientos nacionales, la religion y la existencia económica de los grupos nacionales y la destrucción de la seguridad personal, la libertad, la salud, la dignidad e incluso de las vidas de los individuos que pertenecen a estos grupos”.

Es difícil concebir una descripción mejor de lo que está ocurriendo en Gaza.

Todos los miembros de las Naciones Unidas tienen la obligación de impedir y detener estos actos de genocidio. Lo que se necesita es un país lo suficientemente valiente como para tomar la iniciativa, antes de que sea demasiado tarde.

La traducción de este articulo se publica con permiso del IPS.

Fuente: http://www.agenceglobal.com/Article.asp?Id=2225

Traducido del inglés para Rebelión (http://www.rebelion.org/) por Beatriz Morales Bastos.

Nadia Hijab es una analista independiente y uno de los miembros responsables del Institute for Palestine Studies. Este artículo lo publicó Agence Global el 30 de diciembre y expresa la opinión de la autora.

‘Yemen to Let US Set Up Air Base on its Soil’

January 7th, 2010 by Global Research

Yemen’s government is to allow the US to set up a military base on its territory, a political analyst says.

The US can no longer rely on Yemen’s government to fight al-Qaeda because it is losing its legitimacy and becoming weaker, Ali Al-Ahmed, a political analyst, told Press TV on Wednesday.

Al-Ahmed added that his sources have revealed that the Yemeni government has decided to let the US military establish the air base on an island called Socotra located off the coast of Yemen.

According to the Saudi scholar, the island is a natural wildlife refuge. The information about the US air base will be made public in the next few weeks.

Al-Ahmed is the founder and director of an independent think-tank in Washington, D.C. focused on providing analyses and disseminating information on political issues in the Persian Gulf region, particularly Saudi Arabia, and the US’s relations with the regional countries.

As you flip through a range of channels on your TV or browse through a stack of newspapers and magazines at a newsstand, you may feel lucky about living in a world where such a plethora of viewpoints is available. It might also seem that the apparent increase in media choices also increases the chances for the public interest to be understood and served fairly. Unfortunately, this is far from the case. The media world is shrinking by the day.

 

Welcome to 2010.

 

The coming year might go down in history as that of major media consolidation, as in concentration of media ownership in the hands of a few large conglomerates and powerful media moguls. Predictions regarding mergers of media companies are very bleak, and to a degree frightening.

 

In his Los Angeles Times article “2010 predictions: Another turbulent year ahead for media”, Joe Flint determines that the debate in the media world “over which is king –content or distribution” was settled in 2009. As a result, a new wave of mergers is likely to follow. Giant media will guzzle other giant media, which had already swallowed less enormous media companies, who in turn had .. well, you get the point.

 

When US President Thomas Jefferson made his famous assertion that “the only security of all is in a free press,” he hardly had media consolidation in mind. Giant media companies reflect the giant, albeit specific business interests of their owners and their advertisers. Neither News Corp nor Viacom are dedicating their services to serving the public. Such companies are dedicated only to financial growth, even at the expense of what matters, or should matter most to the majority of their consumers. In other words, while media companies proudly propagate the value of democracy, as they gain from a very specific interpretation of it, they are neither democratic nor representative.

 

How will democracy, mass participation or public interest be served by the Comcast Corp.’s purchase of NBC’s Universal or the Disney Company’s acquisition of Marvel Entertainment Inc.? The media industry has turned into a jungle, where the survival of the fittest is determined not by value of content, or by contribution to society, but rather by ‘smart’ business deals that ensure survival in an increasingly demanding media market.

 

Times are changing. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was in fact established with a clear mandate (the Communications Act of 1934) to operate in the benefit of “public convenience, interest, or necessity.” Whether the FCC lived up to that mandate or faltered in some of its responsibilities, the fact remains that the FCC is now part and parcel of the incessant efforts aimed at concentrating the ownership of the media in fewer hands. More, even the courts that kept the FCC in check might possibly concede in favor of more media consolidation.

 

“Get ready for a flood of media consolidation deals,” Ira Teinowitz wrote in theWrap.com. The reason is simple, but requires a short detour.

 

In the mid 1990’s, the FCC began relaxing its regulations on media ownership. In 1996 a process of “deregulation” led to a wave of mergers, as thousands of radio stations were sold to a few larger companies, and TV ownership became more concentrated than ever before. In 2003, the FCC once again moved to deregulate US laws regarding media, and this time the new media ownership laws targeted local media across the US. Fortunately, a US court moved in to thwart the FCC’s concessions that seemed to mainly serve large media conglomerates. But the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit’s decision is being challenged once more.

 

The economic recession in the US has hit many newspapers hard. One hundred and fifty newspapers have either gone out of business altogether or are now online, the Seattle PI and the Christian Science Monitor being major examples. Thousands of media outlets across the US are barely breaking even and many are struggling to come up with a viable business model, with little hope on the horizon.

 

The time is ripe for media vultures to make their move. In 2007, the court blocked the FCC’s attempt to change the rules of ownership. Now it is reconsidering that decision. “A three-judge panel of the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, which had put the stay in effect…ordered the FCC and consumer groups to ‘show cause’ by mid January (2010) why the stay should not be dropped.”

 

If the rules are reversed, the mergers and further media consolidation will affect the top twenty markets in the US. Knowing what we know about the history of encroachment of large media companies, we can only guess that this is just the beginning of further concentration of media ownership, and subsequently the stifling of freedom of expression for the large majority of people, especially those whose opinion is not consistent with the business (or political and ideological) interests of media owners and their benefactors.

 

Unfortunately, this trend is not confined to the US. The economic recession is global, and giant media companies are not operating within specific geographic boundaries.

 

“The Spanish media sector saw the start of a wave of consolidation amid signs that at least two of them were close to announcing a tie-up,” reported the Financial Times on December 17. This seems to be a repeated media-related news story in various countries. More, the media consolidation is felt in all media sectors, including film, music and others.

 

The continuation of this trend is terrible news for public interest, civil society and democracy as a whole. We must resist shameless efforts of the few at owning everything we see, hear and read. By owning all the influences that shape our views of our surroundings and the world at large, the public will soon be forced to surrender every available outlet of expression, and eventually its very self-definition. Yes, even the way we define ourselves will ultimately be determined by a billionaire in some penthouse, who makes his wealth selling us packaged lies as news and trash as entertainment.

 

Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (Pluto Press, London), now available on Amazon.com. 

Frosty, Frigid Global Warming

January 7th, 2010 by Ted Twietmeyer

Water Lines May Freeze

 

Probably one of the most serious problems this winter will be FROZEN UNDERGROUND WATER LINES. For many decades in northern areas water lines are buried 42″ or more to prevent freezing when the ground freezes solid. Water lines in the southern USA are not buried anywhere near that deep with some less than 12″ deep. Running water will not freeze, so people may need to keep a tap running slowly somewhere in the house, maybe for the entire winter. People will have to choose between a high water bill or no running water if the ground starts to freeze deep.

 

Arctic Air

 

An unmistakable bite of Arctic air is what the northeast and many places in the USA suffer with right now. Here in the northeast we experienced January temperatures a month early. There is a recognizable signature with Arctic air ­ bitter cold, wicked wind chills complete with just enough humidity to cut through your coat like a knife. Other than that it’s nice outside.

 

I’ve been quietly watching local weather which has hovered around the teens in the northeast for the past few weeks. In December and early January, temperatures usually hover around the 20’s or even 30’s. But not this winter ­ it’s been much colder.

 

So what’s happening across the United States? If the average annual temperature has been rising a few degrees according to global warming experts, will that explain temperatures more than TEN degrees colder than in the past?

 

The logic behind warming must be truly unfathomable. Perhaps we need to use some of that “new math” which has intelligent college students believing 2 + 2 = 5. Of course, the warming science vehicle has already had the tires shot out from under it by hacker exposure.

 

CNN recently posted an article about incredible cold happening everywhere.

 

* In Florida there is a state of emergency as crops are threatened by bitter cold. Enjoy that fresh squeezed orange juice you have right now ­ this year orange juice might be worth more than gold. Weight limits for big farm trucks are being lifted to permit as much of the orange and grapefruit crops to be harvested as possible. You might want to stock up your freezer with frozen juice as an alternative. You can sell it to your neighbors later at a hefty profit!

 

* Low temperature records in many states are being broken while temperatures continue to fall. Clearly global warming is making everything colder

 

* St. Louis, Missouri may see temperatures fall below zero for the first time since 1999.

 

* Little Rock could see temperatures of +10F with a wind-chill of -20F four days from now according to the National Weather Service.

 

* Thursday and Friday will get hot in Dallas – as temperatures reach a balmy high of +20F. National Weather service has said that consecutive days of cold in Dallas like this haven’t happened since 1998.

 

* Northern plains will see wind-chills of -20F to -30F.

 

* CNN meteorologist Rob Marciano says the “length of this cold snap is unusual.”

 

* Atlantic, Iowa broke a 1958 record when temperatures dropped to ­ 29F.

 

* Kansas City, MO already dropped to +1F and froze a homeless man to death.

 

* A dusting of snow is expected in Atlanta, GA.

 

* There have been four cold-related deaths in Tennessee.

 

And there’s more:

 

“Some hard freeze warnings were also in effect in Louisiana and parts of the state could see temperatures drop into the 20s, some of the coldest weather in the area since 1996, CNN affiliate WWL in New Orleans, Louisiana, reported.

Supplies for protecting pipes from freezing were disappearing from area stores, CNN affiliate WDSU reported. It forced some to discuss other options — like wrapping pipes in newspaper and covering it in plastic, WDSU reported.

Hard freeze warnings were in effect Tuesday morning for much of northern Florida and parts of other Gulf Coast states, according to the National Weather Service. ”

 

Clearly just about every state has been hammered by unexpected cold weather. And there are many more problems from the cold across the country which I won’t include here. More info can be found at CNN [1] but hang around and read the rest of this first.

 

The Sun Connection

 

Solar activity has been incredibly quiet. I have been watching NASA’s charts daily since the late 90’s. Below are three charts which show a marked decrease in solar activty. Some scientists have linked solar activity with weather changes.

 

Charts below were slightly reduced to fit the page, but NASA graphics produced some resolution issues. Charts Fig. 1 through Fig. 3 are completely unedited other than for size reduction. Electron flux is a scientific term which refers to electrons given off by the Sun.

  

 

 

 

Fig. 1- Electron Flux chart from Aug 10, 2008 showing high activity. Note wavy upper purple line. (source- author’s archive)

 

 

Fig. 2 ­ Compare this electron flux activity shown here to Fig. 1. Here we see the previously wavy purple line in Fig. 1 is now a series of spikes. Graphing methods have not changed for more than 10 years – but something has changed in how the Sun is giving off electrons. The orange and blue lines for satellite GOES 12 have been removed by NASA. Perhaps the satellite may have died. (chart source – [2] )

 


 

Fig. 3 – Combined current chart (as of this writing) showing solar data over 2 1/3 days. This chart also has the electron flux chart from Fig. 2. Electron flux is one of the indicators used to quantify solar acitivity. Proton flux (in green and red) appears this way when at the lowest levels of activity.(chart source – [2] )

Vertical green bars at the bottom are an indication of geomagnetic activity collected by a network of monitoring stations. During normal solar activity with a few sunspots, these bars often extend half-way or most of the way up the chart. When this happens, the Aurora can be seen on a clear night further south than normal. For many weeks these green bars have been down near the bottom or not even visible at all.

 

Conclusion

There is little doubt that record cold has hit for the Winter 2009/2010. Last Winter people were skating in fountains at Trafalgar Square in London, and skiing on streets. Much of Europe was crippled by record cold temperatures and snow. Solar activity has also been declining for many months, and last Summer was also cooler than usual.

 

What global warming?

 

Ted Twietmeyer can be reached at [email protected]  

 

Notes

[1] – http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/weather/01/05/cold.weather/index.html  

[2] ­ http://www.n3kl.org  

Travellers at Vancouver International Airport could find themselves subject to full-body scans that see through clothing as early as next week.

The airport is expected to receive one or two of the controversial full-body imaging scanners in the next 10 days, said Don Ehrenholz, vice-president of operations and engineering at YVR.

The new technology will primarily target U.S.-bound travellers at first, said Transport Minister John Baird. These passengers must either undergo a scan or submit to a physical patdown, while passengers on domestic and international flights will continue to be randomly selected for the same type of secondary screening done now.

However, suspicious domestic or international travellers could be required to pass through the scanning machine, said Baird.

The announcement has drawn a range of criticism, from security experts who say the scanners are ineffective to civil liberties groups who call them a violation of privacy.

About a dozen of the new scanners are expected to arrive within the next week and the rest by the spring. Patrick Charette, a Transport Canada spokesman, said the scanners will be used in Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.

A total of 44 scanners are designated for Canada at a cost of $11 million.

Baird made the announcement Tuesday in Ottawa, citing the botched Christmas Day bombing of a Detroit-bound flight as an incentive to ramp up security.

He believes most people will accept the new screening measures.

“I think for many Canadians, the idea of going through an electronic machine is far more comfortable and less invasive … than an invasive physical patdown,” he said at a news conference.

The Vancouver Sun reported Monday that the Vancouver Airport Authority will beef up security plans throughout January, leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympics.

March 1, the day after the closing ceremonies, is expected to be YVR’s busiest day in history, with 39,000 people and 77,000 pieces of luggage leaving the airport.

Ehrenholz said the scanners will help simplify the security process and reduce the number of airport employees needed to perform physical pat-downs.

Doug McMakin, an engineer at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., helped invent and develop the body-scanning technology. He said it’s an efficient and effective way to detect plastics, bandages and other substances that now go unnoticed.

“The scanners illuminate with very low-power millimetre waves, which penetrate through clothing and hair,” said McMakin. “[The waves] reflect off any object that would be under the clothing and it reflects off the body as well.”

He added that, unlike X-rays and radiation, the body scanners’ signals are very low-power, similar to radio waves from a cellphone or satellite television.

“With millimetre waves, you don’t break the DNA bonds in your body, so there’s no harm.”

Critics of the scanners’ effectiveness include Andre Gerolymatos, a Simon Fraser University professor and expert on terrorism.

Gerolymatos suggested the body scanner is a cheap political tool to help appease public fears, but does not offer any real protection to passengers.

“Are we going to have body inspections next?” he asked. “I guarantee you, someone will go through [a body scanner] with an explosive inside a condom and inserted inside their cavity.”

The introduction of the scanners is also raising concerns about modesty and human dignity, particularly among Muslims, many of whom feel unfairly targeted by the new security measures.

“This is totally unacceptable to us,” said Aziz Khaki, president of the Muslim Canadian Federation in Vancouver.

Khaki said the machines represent “the greatest humiliation to Muslims, especially to our women.”

But, he added, all Canadians should be concerned.

By forcing someone to be viewed naked by strangers, “you are literally degrading that person,” he said.

Maya Yazigi, a professor of Arabic and Islamic studies at the University of B.C., agreed the body scanners raise serious questions around privacy and civil rights.

But, she added, it’s how the machines are going to be used that may prove the bigger issue.

If all Canadians, and not just Muslim Canadians, are made subject to the scanners, “there may be less of a feeling of discrimination,” she said.

“It has more to do with the expectations of Canadians that we are going to be treated equally under the law.”

Deployment of the new scanning equipment was requested by the U.S., but Canada is still talking with Washington to clarify what, if any, additional security measures might be required.

Canada has not decided whether it will follow the U.S. lead and require all air travellers from 14 countries deemed to be “state sponsors of terrorism” to undergo additional screening, a Transport Canada spokesman said.

The office of the federal privacy commissioner said it is satisfied the scans won’t invade personal privacy since the images will be viewed by an officer in another area who would not be able to identify the passenger.

The scanners were tested during a six-month pilot project last year at the airport in Kelowna, and 95 per cent of passengers surveyed said they would prefer a scan over a physical search.

[email protected]

[email protected]

with files from Canwest News Service and Reuters

There have been several recent oil spills and other environmental problems linked to the oil/gas production industry in Alaska. On December 23, a tugboat hit the Bligh Reef, the same reef struck by the Exxon Valdez 20 years ago. The recent grounding may have caused as much as 33,500 gallons of diesel fuel to spill into Prince William Sound.

The Prince William Sound tug spill followed several other recent environmental incidents on the oil production and delivery system that crosses the state to bring oil from the nation’s largest oil complex to Alaska and the Lower 48. On November 28, there was a spill at a refinery in the town of North Pole. On November 29, there was a large spill at an oil field on Alaska’s North Slope that further underscored British Petroleum’s failure to conduct its work in an environmentally sound manner, among other contamination problems.

All elements of Alaska’s North Slope oil system have been hit in recent weeks, this in the wake of the ongoing book tour by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Palin, who continues to promote herself as a politician who mirrors the needs of her constituents, has touted the tour of her book, “Going Rogue: An American Life,” as that of an old-fashioned bus tour, largely across Midwestern states. However, it has been revealed that while Palin has ordered her staff to take the bus, she has flown from event to event in a private jet.

Along with the hypocrisy that accompanies the use of a private jet on a book tour promoted as a “bus” tour, the recent Alaska spills underscore discrepancies in what Palin claimed to have accomplished while governor of that state, including making repeated statements during the 2008 presidential campaign that she had proven that it was “safe” to produce oil and gas in Alaska.

In November, as Palin’s book tour began, Truthout spoke with Richard Fineberg, an oil and gas analyst who consulted to the Palin administration in 2007-2008.

Fineberg, who lives in Ester, a small town near Fairbanks, won state and national press awards as a reporter during the 1970s and has observed Alaska petroleum development for four decades, including a stint as a senior adviser to the governor of Alaska on oil and gas policy during the 1980s.

“When she announced the Alaska oil and gas infrastructure risk assessment project on May 1, 2007, it (the project) was supposed to take three years to complete,” speaking of a project Palin was involved in, Fineberg told Truthout, “But it took the Palin administration nearly two years just to come up with its plan, only to have its proposal soundly rejected by both the industry and the environmental community. The project Palin launched is now on hold and her successor looks for a new plan – and a new contractor to carry it out.”

Fineberg notes today that if Palin’s risk assessment project had been carried out effectively, recent spills and problems might have been identified and prevented.

Fineberg, who maintains a web site  where he recently revealed what he calls “substantive errors on oil numbers” in her book, and asked, “Is Palin plagued by an astonishing inability to distinguish fact from fiction, an appalling disregard for truth and accuracy, or both?”

The Alaska-based consultant, who refers to Palin as a “maiden of misinformation,” said he “joined Palin’s production tax team in August 2007 with high hopes that were gradually but inexorably deflated. My assignment gave me an inside look at Palin World – a frenetic, topsy-turvy bureaucratic universe where slick phrases and inaccurate statements pinch-hit for reality all too often. When I worked for her team, Palin was hardly ever seen. In any event, at contract close early in 2008 I parted with the Palin team on good terms. Later, as fundamental policy differences began to emerge, I found it necessary to speak out.”

“The production tax measure, which she dubbed ‘ACES’ (Alaska’s Clear and Equitable Share) was one of Sarah Palin’s three major pieces of legislation during her first year in office,” Fineberg wrote, “Based on my first-hand experience, I can tell you that Sarah Palin is misinforming the public on ACES – as she does on so many other issues.”

In a recent interview, Fineberg told Truthout:

“The first factual error, on pages 3 and 4, is that she got the date wrong on the start of TAPS construction. She said 1975; anybody who has been involved in Alaska civics at any level for more than a nano-second probably knows that pipeline construction began in 1974. She gushes that as soon as the oil began flowing, billions of dollars began flowing into state coffers ‘almost overnight.’ It was not until the third year of operations [1980] that the state went over the billion-dollar mark in annual petroleum receipts. This inaccurate over-simplification lends false support to the Arctic drilling frenzy.”

He goes on to add:

“Her closing gaffe is more troubling: She quotes an e-mail from an admirer claiming that the state took in billions of dollars because of the oil tax legislation she promoted. She claims her plan was an entirely new system, which she dubbed ‘ACES’ … In fact, ACES was not a new system. Rather, it was a set of modifications to a new tax plan her predecessors put in place the year before she took office. Moreover, the major part of the ACES gains is rightly attributed to the Legislature’s reversal of key elements of Palin’s proposals.”

On December 22, Fineberg wrote of her book, “The latest mistakes to surface also open the door to a new closet of energy skeletons from her tenure as governor that she failed to mention in recounting her political life.”

For example, Fineberg believes that Palin’s failure to deliver effective pipeline tariff management, essential to ensuring open competition and assuring that Alaska receives its fair share of oil revenue, is just another example of the energy problems she mismanaged as governor, such as the risk assessment project. In previous web site posts he has also questioned Palin’s approach to the North Slope natural gas pipeline project, which she bragged about in her speech accepting the Republican vice-presidential nomination in St. Paul in September 2008.

While Palin claimed in her book to be “a free-market capitalist … (who) understood the bottom line for the oil producers,” Fineberg wrote, “Palin’s failure to recognize the time lag between investment in Alaska oil development and first pay-out is surprising. Moreover, her typically sloppy rendition of this piece of history distorts reality, providing a faulty basis for formulating public policy. For example, Palin’s inaccurate claim that oil drilling produced billions of dollars for Alaska overnight lends erroneous support to her gung-ho advocacy of petroleum exploration and drilling in remote areas of northern Alaska.”

In previous posts, Fineberg has criticized Palin for failing to recognize the effect of reduced forecasts of oil demand in recent years. The long-term demand decline far outweighs the potential remote Arctic oil drilling, at least through 2030, according to US Energy Information Administration data. (See: “Sarah Palin Makes Another Fraudulent Claim About Alaska‘.)

Fineberg told Truthout that he thinks the record clearly supports concerns that Palin “deliberately perpetrates myths about her performance as governor,” and added, “I think her errors go straight to the heart of some rather troubling questions. First [as he asked on his web site]: Why would anyone close an autobiography with information that is demonstrably inaccurate? And, secondly: Given her penchant for inaccurate statements and the numerous examples of her failure to follow through, why on earth would anyone believe that Sarah Palin is competent to govern?”

Asked to justify his skepticism about Palin’s qualifications as a possible presidential candidate, Fineberg told Truthout:

“When it comes to the craft of governance, Palin exhibits a superficiality that I find frightening. She tends to prefer homilies to homework and all too often over-simplifies or distorts issues. Her excessive reliance on staff recommendations frees her from spending the necessary time to understand the intricacies of the issue we face. At the same time, she is a shrewd and dexterous politician who, when her rhetoric leads her in the wrong direction, is apt to reverse her position by using whatever convenient excuse she can find, such as deference to experts. Palin’s lack of follow-through on specific issues as an administrator, which I observed as a consultant, matches the outline of her biography. In 2009 she abruptly resigned from the only statewide elected position she ever held, failing to complete her first term as governor. Five years earlier, she had resigned – equally abruptly – from an appointed state position, leaving the three-person Alaska Oil & Gas Conservation Commission.”

Truthout also asked Fineberg for his thoughts about her ongoing book tour. He responded: “To me, the enthusiasm Palin seems to elicit from her conservative followers is downright scary. We must hope that some day soon Palin’s strange ascendancy to the national stage will be understood as a clarion call to pursue political issues with diligent regard for fact and reasoned discourse. To me, this is the most important way to counter the politics of rhetoric and irrationality that she assiduously courts and represents.”

Dahr Jamail, an independent journalist, is the author of “The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan,” (Haymarket Books, 2009), and “Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq,” (Haymarket Books, 2007). Jamail reported from occupied Iraq for nine months as well as from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Turkey over the last five years.