The Lessons of Violence

Posted on Jan 21, 2008
Hamas mourners
AP photo / Khalil Hamra
Palestinians mourn over the body of Hussam Zahar, 24, son of Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar, during his funeral in Gaza City. Hussam Zahar was killed Jan. 15 in an Israeli strike on Gaza.

By Chris Hedges

The Gaza Strip is rapidly becoming one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the world. Israel has cordoned off the entire area, home to some 1.4 million Palestinians, blocking commercial goods, food, fuel and even humanitarian aid. At least 36 people have been killed in Israeli strikes since Tuesday and many more wounded. Hamas, which took control of Gaza in June, has launched about 200 rockets into southern Israel in the same period in retaliation, injuring more than 10 people. Israel announced the draconian closure and collective punishment Thursday in order to halt the rocket attacks, begun on Tuesday, when 18 Palestinians, including the son of a Hamas leader, were killed by Israeli forces.

This is not another typical spat between Israelis and Palestinians. This is the final, collective strangulation of the Palestinians in Gaza. The decision to block shipments of food by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency means that two-thirds of the Palestinians who rely on relief aid will no longer be able to eat when U.N. stockpiles in Gaza run out. Reports from inside Gaza speak of gasoline stations out of fuel, hospitals that lack basic medicine and a shortage of clean water. Whole neighborhoods were plunged into darkness when Israel cut off its supply of fuel to Gaza’s only power plant. The level of malnutrition in Gaza is now equal to that in the poorest sub-Saharan nations.

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Recession in the US ‘has arrived’

The feared recession in the US economy has already arrived, according to a report from Merrill Lynch. It said that Friday’s employment report, which sent shares tumbling worldwide, confirmed that the US is in the first month of a recession.

Its view is controversial, with banks such as Lehman Brothers disagreeing.

But a reserve member of the committee that sets US rates warned that it could do little about the below-trend growth expected in the next six months.

“I am concerned that developments on the inflation front will make the Fed’s policy decisions more difficult in 2008,” Charles Plosser, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said.

He was referring to the problems faced by the US Federal Reserve, which might want to cut interest rates to avoid a recession, but is worried about inflationary factors such as $100-a-barrel oil.

‘Significant decline’

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Dollar Crisis: None dare call it ‘conspiracy’

Crude oil prices hit an all-time high this week, closing above $98 a barrel for the first time in history.

According to the AAA, many drivers in my home state of California are already paying more than $4 a gallon for regular unleaded gas. And in one town south of Big Sur, unleaded gas topped $5 a gallon.

The U.S. dollar is at an all-time low, even when compared against the hapless Canadian loonie. Five years ago, a loonie was worth 60 cents. Today, it’s worth $1.12 and climbing.

Yesterday, WorldNetDaily reported that the Chinese are considering abandoning the U.S. dollar as their national reserve currency. WND quoted Craig Smith’s assessment of the consequences of such a move by Beijing on our economy: “If that were to happen, all bets are off, and we will be in a depression that makes 1929 look like child’s play, or we will experience Weimar Republic inflation as the dollar makes extreme moves toward devaluations.”

On Tuesday, the U.S. national debt topped $9 trillion for the first time in history, according to the U.S. Treasury Department’s daily accounting of the national debt. Nine trillion dollars! The number is so staggeringly high that it exceeds our ability to comprehend it in monetary units.

Million, billion, trillion – in financial terms, for most of us, it means a lot of money, really a lot of money, but that is about as specific a picture as most ordinary people can grasp.

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Let’s put all these “illions” into perspective. A million seconds is roughly 12 days, whereas a billion seconds is approximately 32 years.

US debt tops $9 trillion for first time-Treasury

WASHINGTON, Nov 7 (Reuters) – The U.S. Treasury Department said on Wednesday publicly held U.S. debt breached $9 trillion this week for the first time ever, just five weeks after Congress had raised the statutory borrowing limit.

At the end of September, U.S. President George W. Bush signed a measure to increase the debt limit ceiling to $9.815 trillion from $8.965 trillion, allowing the government to keep issuing debt.

The increase in the debt limit is the fifth since Bush took office in January 2001. The U.S. debt stood at about $5.6 trillion at the start of his presidency.

In approving the debt limit increase, Congressional lawmakers said the $850 billion increase should be large enough to allow the government to continue borrowing into 2009, well beyond next year’s presidential and congressional elections.

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War pimp allert: Secret move to upgrade air base for Iran attack plans

The US is secretly upgrading special stealth bomber hangars on the British island protectorate of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean in preparation for strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities, according to military sources.

The improvement of the B1 Spirit jet infrastructure coincides with an “urgent operational need” request for £44m to fit racks to the long-range aircraft.

That would allow them to carry experimental 15-ton Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) bombs designed to smash underground bunkers buried as much as 200ft beneath the surface through reinforced concrete.

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The mystery of the missing $2.9 trillion

Like most people, economists love a mystery – especially if it involves not a missing person but a missing $2.9 trillion in United States debt.

That’s $2.9 with 11 zeros after it.

Some words of explanation: Every quarter the Department of Commerce comes up with the US “International Investment Position.” At the end of 2006, for instance, the US had a net negative position – by this measurement of international assets and liabilities – of $2.6 trillion. In other words, the country is by far the world’s biggest debtor nation.

A quarter century ago, the US was the world’s largest creditor nation.

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Video: Asian countries dumping their dollars

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