Posted on Jan 21, 2008
|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.
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.
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.
Let’s put all these “illions” into perspective. A million seconds is roughly 12 days, whereas a billion seconds is approximately 32 years.
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.
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.
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.
Bush and Cheney are steering the U.S. into a collapse. Only strong public voices by influential people can prevent the coming disaster. We desperately need for men and women who are known to the public and have credibility to speak up in the critical period ahead to avoid catastrophe.
- A few weeks ago, Israel bombed a alleged nuclear facility in Syria. This is a warm-up for an attack on Iran.
- In the last few days, the U.S. unilaterally tightened sanctions on Iran. Russia and China do not support this move.
- A week ago Bush warned Iran that its attainment of nuclear arms would lead to World War III.
- Russia, which has been assisting Iran in its nuclear construction program for decades, regards Western military action against Iran as unacceptable.
- China has been arming Iran with missiles. Its relations with Iran have been improving for years.
We know that Bush and Cheney are capable of pre-emptive attack. We know that Bush will act if he believes he is right no matter what the costs are. In his distorted worldview, Iran with nuclear weapons is a scenario worth any cost to avoid.
We know that Bush, Cheney, and Rice have repeatedly warned Iran of meaningful consequences if Iran arms itself with nuclear weapons. We know that their terms in office end in 15 months. These are the critical months.
But it is by no means clear that the front-running candidates for office who may replace them hold substantially different views. Hillary Clinton has publicly called for sanctions against Iran and has called Iran a threat to Israel.
Why may an unprovoked attack on Iran lead to WWIII and why may it lead to the collapse of the U.S.?
Whispers from the Mean Streets
October 22, 2007
No names, no pack drill, like we used to say in the army, but I had a client who wanted me to look into some aspects of the world heroin trade.
I googled a bit, and made a few phone calls and began to have disturbing suspicions.
Since the fall of the Taliban regime, which had seriously honoured an agreement to close down the trade, heroin production in Afghanistan has surged. In 2006 there was a 50 per cent increase in the poppy harvest and it created a new record for world production, my contact in the UN Office on Drugs and Crime told me. Afghanistan now accounts for 92 per cent of the world’s illicit production. She expected it would take another leap upwards this year.
So where is the stuff ending up? So far, not in Australia, but that’s only a matter of time. Once again, the streets of Western Europe and Russia are awash with the stuff and that fact got me thinking about the CIA.
The espionage game provides a powerful motive, superbly trained teams and the perfect cover for large-scale drug smuggling. It’s hardly a secret that, in the past, the CIA has partaken of the feast and, collectively, it couldn’t give a damn if the stuff gets dumped on the despised nations of ‘Old Europe’.
The US clandestine agencies are a sprawling brotherhood of silence and trust. And it isn’t just the huge bureaucracy of the CIA itself. Now, there’s also a freelance parallel universe of ‘special forces’ and ‘security contractors’ – created by the neocons for their War on Terror – doing everything from assassinations to ‘interrogation’. No mainstream politician wants to know what these people are doing in their name.
The U.S. dollar might be destined to disappear, replaced by a regional currency called the amero, reports the Tokyo correspondent for the Singapore Business Times today.
“Truth is said to be stranger than fiction sometimes, and what I hear about the future of the U.S. dollar may sound like pure fiction, but the sources from whence the reports spring are, as they say, ‘usually reliable’ ones, and so they do have a ring of truth to them,” writes Anthony Rowley.
Rowley says the slide of the U.S. dollar in relation to other foreign currencies makes such a transition more likely.
Apart from the fact that no reasonable human being would want Blackwater anywhere near were they live, why does a private mercenary firm need three bases spread all over the country? Why is a private mercenary firm accused of war crimes, who has withdrawn from their lobbying organisation for fear of an investigation into their professional conduct allowed to train American police officers? There are only a thousand Blackwater mercenaries in Iran, so what else do they do on those bases? And let’s not forget that they also have a fourth base in the Philippines.(Travellerev)
Blackwater keeps its eye on a tiny East County enclave.
By Pat Sherman 10/09/2007
Blackwater USA Vice President Brian Bonfiglio flashed a self-satisfied smile, gazing east across Round Potrero Road where, on Sunday, more than 200 Potrero residents and antiwar activists streamed onto an adjacent parcel of land. They had come-some from as far as Ventura-to protest the 824-acre paramilitary training facility the company hopes to open a mile down the snaky dirt road.”I don’t think the war profiteering signs are appropriate, quite frankly,” Bonfiglio said. “At the end of the day, this will be determined as a land-use project by the [San Diego County] Board of Supervisors.”
As the public face of the project-dubbed Blackwater West-it’s Bonfiglio’s job to sell the facility as a non-invasive windfall to the residents of Potrero, a rural hamlet 45 miles east of San Diego. Given his employer’s image as a supplier of trigger-happy mercenary armies, unaccountable to neither the Iraqi nor American governments, wooing Potrero’s 850 residents has been a dicey game. Five members of the Potrero Planning Board who voted in December to support the project are facing a recall election. Some 320 residents signed a petition opposing the project that was sent to the county Board of Supervisors and Congressman Bob Filner, the Democrat whose district includes Potrero.
Vanessa Alarcon saw them while working at an antiwar rally in Lafayette Square last month.
“I heard someone say, ‘Oh my god, look at those,’ ” the college senior from New York recalled. “I look up and I’m like, ‘What the hell is that?’ They looked kind of like dragonflies or little helicopters. But I mean, those are not insects.”
Robotic fliers have been used by the military since World War II, but in the past decade their numbers and level of sophistication have increased enormously.
Out in the crowd, Bernard Crane saw them, too.
“I’d never seen anything like it in my life,” the Washington lawyer said. “They were large for dragonflies. I thought, ‘Is that mechanical, or is that alive?’ “
That is just one of the questions hovering over a handful of similar sightings at political events in Washington and New York. Some suspect the insectlike drones are high-tech surveillance tools, perhaps deployed by the Department of Homeland Security.
BY ROB HOTAKAINEN
McClatchy News Service
As the national debt heads toward the $10-trillion mark, generous Americans are sending checks to the federal government.Donations to the Bureau of the Public Debt have topped $2.5 million so far this year. That’s the highest amount since at least 1996.
It’s not making much of a dent, though.
For the fifth time since 2001, Congress is raising the debt limit, increasing it by $850 billion to $9.815 trillion. The Senate approved the plan on a 53-42 vote Thursday. That’s $9,815,000,000,000.00.
The House of Representatives has already signed off on the plan, without a direct vote.
According to the folks who follow this stuff closely, the national debt has been rising by an average of $1.36 billion per day since September of last year.
And each citizen now has a share of nearly $30,000.
But Congress has an easy solution to deal with the rising tide of red ink. Instead of fretting over it, members simply allow the government to borrow more money, much to the consternation of some critics.
One of the most influential figures in the world economy, former US central bank chairman Alan Greenspan, has warned that the good times are over for the world economy.Mr Greenspan, who played a key role in managing the US economy as head of the Federal Reserve from 1986 to 2006, says that higher interest rates and higher inflation are more likely in the future, leading to slower economic growth and lower housing and share prices.
In a wide-ranging interview with BBC economics editor Evan Davis, he warns that the UK cannot escape from global economic pressures.
And he says that central bank governors, including the Bank of England’s Mervyn King, face a far more difficult task in managing the economy in turbulent times.
Why is Mr Greenspan so gloomy for the world economy?
And why have his perceptions shifted so sharply, compared with his views when he was in charge of the Fed?
by Charles E. Carlson
Global Research, September 29, 2007
Eight years of Biofuels (ethanol) policy and legislation has cemented in place the first world wide food cabal, which promises a humanitarian disaster, a famine more serious than those caused by any tsunami, earthquake or drought. This crisis is not in the dim future, it is here.
Congress has, in a series of acts passed in this millennium, handed the perfect monopoly to what appears to be few giant agribusiness companies that already have enormous economic power, but which may be a much broader cabal.
If you can afford $6.00 a gallon for milk, $4.00 for a loaf of bread and still have money left over for a $50.00 steak at Outback, you may be prepared for 2008, but what about the future? Even if you and I may think we are prepared financially to buy food, whatever the cost, we must have concern for the billion souls who are not and who are condemned to starvation by the corn-to-alcohol conversion scheme.
Subsidies do not make the giant agribusiness firms criminals, only opportunists. Their Public Relations distortion about the value of grain alcohol as fuel is criminal. Congressmen are the real cheats, for they could acknowledge this if they wanted to, but they do not, so they share in the crimes-grand theft and murder by starvation. This being a “Christian” society, it falls to those who heed Jesus Christ’s repeated admonitions to feed the needy and protect those who cannot protect themselves to stop corn-to-alcohol conversion. Make no mistake this is a moral issue.
Saddam Hussein offered to step down and go into exile one month before the invasion of Iraq, it was claimed last night.
Fearing defeat, Saddam was prepared to go peacefully in return for £500million ($1billion).
The extraordinary offer was revealed yesterday in a transcript of talks in February 2003 between George Bush and the then Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar at the President’s Texas ranch.
The White House refused to comment on the report last night.
I would like answers to these questions as well.
Seven chancellors and presidents of Iranian universities and research centers, in a letter addressed to their counterpart in the US, Colombia University, denounced Lee Bollinger’s insulting words against the Iranian nation and president and invited him to provide responses to 10 questions by Iranian academics and intellectuals.
The following is the full text of the letter:
Mr. Lee Bollinger
Columbia University President
We, the professors and heads of universities and research institutions in Tehran, hereby announce our displeasure and protest at your impolite remarks prior to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent speech at Columbia University.
We would like to inform you that President Ahmadinejad was elected directly by the Iranian people through an enthusiastic two-round poll in which almost all of the country’s political parties and groups participated. To assess the quality and nature of these elections you may refer to US news reports on the poll dated June 2005.
Your insult, in a scholarly atmosphere, to the president of a country with a population of 72 million and a recorded history of 7,000 years of civilization and culture is deeply shameful.
And here is another convenient bit of news.
By BRIAN MURPHY, Associated Press Writer
Fri Sep 21, 12:51 PM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan – A top American commander on Friday accused Iran of supplying powerful roadside bombs to militants in Afghanistan and said the U.S. would “act decisively” if the cross-border flow continues.
Heavy battles in the violence-plagued south, meanwhile, killed 75 Taliban and at least six civilians, and a suicide car bomb in the capital killed a French soldier and an Afghan bystander.
Adm. William Fallon, the head of U.S. Central Command, said Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is supplying roadside bomb parts for the type of sophisticated and deadly bombs found in Iraq known as explosively formed penetrators.
“The Iranians are clearly supplying some amount of lethal aid,” Fallon told The Associated Press during a trip to Afghanistan. “There is no doubt … that agents from Iran are involved in aiding the insurgency.”
By Saskia Scholtes
Published: September 18 2007 23:54 | Last updated: September 18 2007 23:54
Large banks with big balance sheets and access to central bank liquidity could be poised to benefit from the recent turmoil in financial markets, says ratings agency Moody’s in a report on Wednesday.
As the crisis of confidence in credit has reduced access to cheap capital markets funding for non-bank participants such as hedge funds, the ratings agency argues that banks are set to play an increasingly important role as the much-needed distributors of central bank liquidity.
“Banks play a pivotal role, as they stand between the central bank and the rest of the financial system – the franchised distributors of the central bank’s vital product,” says Christopher Mahoney, vice-chairman at Moody’s.
The comment comes as international policymakers and regulators engage in increasingly heated debate over their response to the recent market turbulence, and whether banks should be granted a freer hand to allocate and distribute capital during times of stress.