Monday :: Jan 12, 2004

All The World Is Watching


by pessimist

The (mis)Administration of George Warmonger Bush has been an incredible disaster, not only for the United States, but for the entire world. But for some reason I still don't understand, he maintains his level of support. It doesn't seem to matter if he's destroying the Constitution, wreaking the economy, or messing around in explosive international situations. You try to explain to someone about his tax "relief" or the effects of his foreign "policy" and you are likely to draw a blank stare as a response. Outside of our borders, however, it is a much different story. People out there are clearly paying more attention to what our government is doing than most Americans are.

To give you an idea, I have located numerous stories from the world's media that I doubt will see daylight in the American media, all illustrating some aspect of the disaster that is George W. Bush. He's managed to inspire half of the world's population to seek major changes, got himself wedged between the two Chinas, has numerous members of the Coalition of the "Willing" bucking like broncos over his policy activities, is stomping all over the sovereignity of several nations, wants to impose economic "agreements", and his stalling the Kyoto Accords is beginning to have an effect.

Think any of this will sink in to those who will not see Bush for what he is?

Presenting the ‘Other’ American Point of View

Arab News publishes many articles written by American journalists, they are primarily from writers for American newspapers, who I believe have never stepped foot on Arabian soil. Most of these opinion pieces are and have been critical of the Bush administrations policies here in the Middle East and few, if any, have presented what I refer to as "the other American viewpoint". I have tried to present is a balanced argument that attempted to explain why this administration made the decisions that they made and why they undertook the actions that have resulted in the invasion of two Muslim countries — Afghanistan and Iraq.

This has not been an easy task but it has been a rewarding one. As I worked on this task, I learned to view the US from a different vantage point. I listened to some Europeans expound on the aggressive, arrogant, and dangerous Bush administration policies, that they were and are convinced will result in the destruction of the entire Middle East.

I read news reports and opinion pieces from Europe, the US and the Middle East. I found the vast majority of these articles presented a picture of the United States as a "wounded lion,” raging throughout this region, completely isolated and out of control. The many expatriates I have spoken with, range in diversity from Romanians who expressed an undying gratitude for American support during the Cold War to Pakistanis who simply do not understand why Americans must always interfere where they are not wanted and do not belong and just about everything in between. I have had quiet conversations with Saudi intellectuals about the merits of democracy and verbal confrontations with Americans who considered me a traitor because I wrote articles for an Arab newspaper.

I discovered that the Palestinians, Indonesians, Filipinos and Egyptian waiters at my local restaurant read Arab News everyday and could hardly contain themselves if I would just sit and discuss any and all news items with them. This discovery made me ashamed to think that at home in America the average American does not even read a newspaper.


Half The World’s Population Will Vote For Change

Political analysts unanimously agree that 2004 will be an exceptional year because parliamentary elections will be held in countries that comprise half of the world's population, about three billion people. The outcome of these elections will certainly influence international and regional affairs. The other half of the world's population will confront new problems; particularly if President George W. Bush wins a second term and continues his campaign against Syria, Iran, and North Korea. Iraq's future will also be jeopardized after Bush's commitment to find an urgent solution to the Iraqi resistance - through the transfer of power to an Iraqi government next summer. American analysts consider their presidential elections to be the true indicator for the public mood, of which President Bush took advantage since 9/11. They also expect of him a political maneuver like the withdrawal of a limited number of troops from Iraq, or simply, a parade of power by launching a military offensive, in collaboration with Pakistan, in order to capture Osama bin Laden.


Iraq Policy News


American Iraq: Many Questions, Few Answers

I would like to ask a few questions: will the Iraqi people adapt to the American invasion as the U.S. claims? Will the world forget that main claim for going to war with Iraq? Will the success of George Bush after the opinion polls of December 13th prompt new preemptive wars? Will the U.S. congress and the American public opinion continue to support this administration to go to wars that have no goals, knowing that 40 million Americans live below the poverty line deprived of their social security and health care benefits? There are many more questions, yet the answers are few. Until this very moment, the American administration has succeeded in controlling the world with pre-designed images, which is an achievement.


Saddam Hussein? Saddam Hussein who?

The capture of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on December 13 offered a glimmer of hope for the United States-led coalition that the insurgency against their occupation would soon begin to crumble and possibly even spontaneously implode. Now, three weeks later, it is clear that the resistance is unaffected. The danger for the Bush administration is the potential for the capture of Saddam to turn sour. Immediately following the announcement of Saddam's capture, many felt that it was a turning point in the conflict and even in the "war on terrorism". But as time goes by, and the longer that conditions in Iraq stay the same, the better the chances that Saddam's capture will become a liability for the US leadership, demonstrating just how little impact Saddam was having on the happenings and mood in post-Ba'athist Iraq.


Iraqi Governing Council angry over US move

Some Iraqi Governing Council members bristled yesterday at Washington's classification of Saddam Hussein as a prisoner of war, angered they had not been consulted on the matter. Although the US decision does not affect current plans to try Saddam in Iraq, the council members were annoyed that Saddam's legal standing was decided by the US occupation alone, with no consultation.


Iraq 'could get state oil firm'

US advisers and Iraqi officials are considering the setting up of a state-run oil company in Iraq, according to the Wall Street Journal. The move would significantly limit the role of foreign oil companies in Iraq, which has the second-largest proven oil reserves in the world. It also would help allay criticism that the US-led invasion was primarily aimed at securing control of oil fields. "It's just pragmatism", a coalition authority adviser told the paper.


Unemployed Iraqis Turn Violent, Pelt British Troops With Stones

In the southern city of Ammara, waves of protesters — some armed with sticks and shovels — rushed British troops guarding the city hall, a day after clashes there killed six protesters and wounded at least 11. The British drove the crowd back from the compound, which also houses the US-led occupation force and the 1st Battalion of Britain's Light Infantry. Tensions in Ammara, 320 kilometers (200 miles), southeast of Baghdad, erupted Saturday after hundreds of Iraqis gathered to protest that authorities had not kept a promise to give them jobs. Demonstrators sent a representative to talk to British and Iraqi officials, who promised them 8,000 jobs, according to witnesses. But protesters said a similar promise made weeks before had not been fulfilled and the clash ensued. Prior to the US-led invasion of Iraq, Saddam's security forces were the biggest employer in this city of 400,000.


The 40-day prisoner

Mohamed, the only prisoner who spoke some English, soon became the official camp translator, and he also became friendly with some of the soldiers. "A lot of them were homesick," was how he described their state of mind. One of the soldiers had just lost his father, and the wife of another had given birth; and none of them had the chance to go home. "When I get home," a sergeant told Mohamed, "I will never again vote for George Bush." The same sergeant, by now on friendly terms with Mohamed, checked the computer regularly for any details about his release. And finally the news arrived. "Tomorrow you're to be released, and you'll be freer than any US soldier here."

"All the best, and sorry for the unpleasant situation," said an officer to Mohamed as he was leaving the prison, adding that, "there was actually no reason for you spending the last month here." Mohamed was a changed man when he returned home, a fact confirmed by his wife. Now he is afraid to drive and spends most of his time at home with his family. "The only way of guaranteeing that nothing like this will ever happen to me again is to emigrate," he says. He is thinking of moving with his family to one of the Gulf states, but is somewhat reluctant since he does not want to have "to start again from scratch". And how would he sum up his experience in a single sentence? Mohamed pauses a while. "The most bizarre thing was to be imprisoned by the very people who claim to be our saviours."


US Military using Executions, Brutality, Intimidation in Al-Adamiyah

The mosque in Al-Adamiyah was shot by the Americans. This action is the worst possible thing the Americans could do to the people who worship there. At this point people took up arms against the occupiers of their country, and even more bloodshed occurred. Some men who attended the demonstration say they witnessed five Iraqi men who were wounded by theAmerican soldier’s gunfire. They say that these five men were taken under a nearby bridge and executed by the Americans. The bodies were found later and taken to the morgue in Al-Adamiyah. The US military here has not commented on any such atrocity. A photo from inside the Al-Adamiyah morgue of two of five, unidentified bodies, each shot at close range, execution style. Gunpowder burns mark the skin. One man has been shot at close range in the back of the head. The people of Al-Adamiyah claim that the family members of those slain, in order to retrieve the bodies from the morgue, first had to report to the US camp near Al-Adamiyah. They claim they had to sign a form stating that their family member was shot by Iraqi Police, not US soldiers. Then they had to take this signed form to the morgue in order to obtain the body, as the hospital and morgue was sealed off by Iraqi Police (following orders from the Americans) for several days following the terrible events of December 14th. The residents here also tell me that US soldiers have taken the wounded from the hospital here directly to prison. They report Americans using intimidation and fear tactics on the families, as well as others who were wounded and seeking medical care in the hospital.


Middle East Policy News


'US serious about Middle East'

The US government is determined to send out the message that it is serious about being involved in resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. That is why, a Qatari foreign ministry source told Aljazeera.net, while all panels were closed to journalists at the US-Islamic World forum, the Palestinian-Israeli talks were not. "Honesty is much easier to get when we're not worrying about how you're going to be quoted by journalists," Dr Shibley Telhami of the US-based Brookings Institution's Saban Centre for Middle East Policy said. "This is not a show."


21st century appears to Arabs as khaki-clad robber of cities

With the fall of Baghdad on the 9th of April 2003, this century appeared to the eyes of many Arabs as a giant robber dressed in khaki intent on snatching away their greatest cities one after the other. For most of the 20th century, invoking the pre-Islamic non-Arab identities in the region had been a colonial legacy. The British and the French had two contradictory images of the Arab world: one bright, glorious and recognized biblical image of pharaonic Egypt, Babylonian Mesopotamia, Phoenician Lebanon, and of course Hebraic Palestine, the other an image of a dark, hostile, sensual united Arab Islamic region, whose unity was seen as a deadly threat to Europe and its extensions. The colonial policy was thus to use symbols from the pre-Islamic history of the region to create nationalisms, and perhaps nations, that are not Arab and not Islamic. With Islam set aside as an organizing force, imposing those politically, socially and culturally meaningless identities, on the people of the region would allow the colonial powers to fill the cultural vacuum and engineer the social and political lives of the conquered Arabs. The result would then be a nation whose symbols are pharaonic or Phoenician, but which is in everything else an imitation of Europe.


Osama vs. Saddam in "Greatest Arab" contest

Now, with the capture of Saddam Hussein and his removal from the political arena, the United States is expected to intensify its efforts in finding the world's most wanted man – Osama bin Laden. From time to time, Bin Laden has released a videotape from an undisclosed location, calling on Muslims to unite and continue with their war against the West. These "messages" along with bin Laden's war against the US and its allies have strengthened the Al Qaeda chief's image as a courageous and powerful leader, in the hearts of his followers and many others across the globe. His dedication, faith, goal and elusiveness have helped create the image of one who cannot easily be defeated, even by the might of the world's number one superpower.

Recently, Al Qaeda head, Osama bin Laden and toppled Iraqi president Saddam Hussein have been nominated for the title of the "greatest Arab" of all time in a Middle Eastern variation of the BBC's popular Great Britons series. An Arabic television channel started accepting nominations, after buying the format for the British program. Thousands of people have already logged on to the website for the series or sent text messages to vote for their favored candidate. As expected, both bin Laden and Hussein have already received votes.


Letters home from Guantanamo Bay

Every couple of months, a letter arrives at the Birmingham home of Azmat and Gull Begg from their son, Moazzam, a British detainee in Camp Delta who is to be among the first to face trial before a secret US military tribunal. But few letters get through, and those that do typically have several passages heavily crossed out by those who monitor goings-on at the prison camp. His family hope against hope Moazzam and the eight other British suspects will be handed over to the UK to face justice here. But despite supportive noises from the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and a host of MPs, fears are mounting that the US will not bow to pressure to repatriate. "This country is the mother of justice - how can they say our laws are not good enough?" asks Mr Begg, a retired bank manager who once harboured dreams of becoming a barrister.


UK appeal backs terror suspects

An appeal on behalf of terror suspects held in Guantanamo Bay by the US is to be made by about 135 peers and MPs. In an unusual move, the group is filing a legal brief with the US Supreme Court. It supports a case being brought by 16 detainees, who argue that they should be entitled to challenge their detention before a civilian court. Lord Donaldson told BBC News: "I think it's a complete negation of the rule of law, that you can have a place within the jurisdiction of the United States government - it is a sovereign base there - where they can do what they like unfettered by the law. "It's a situation which could not arise in this country."


Lebanon refutes Rumsfeld on existence of terrorists in the Bekaa

Lebanon has refuted statements attributed to the US secretary of state, Donald Rumsfeld, on the existence of what he called terrorists in the Bekaa area, considering such statements as mere illusions. The Lebanese foreign minister Jean Obeid told journalists "I believe that the matter will be refuted by facts on the ground, the same as happened to Mr. Rumsfeld's allegations about mass destruction weapons." On whether Rumsfeld's statement is an introduction to launch an American aggression against Lebanon and Syria, Obeid said "we do not know what is going in the head of Rumsfeld but we think that Lebanon in this matter is free of all accusations."


Syria And Turkey Defy The United States

This week's visit to Turkey by Syria's young leader, President Bashar Al Assad, is of considerable geo-strategic significance. It has taken place in close coordination with Syria's ally Iran, whose foreign minister, Kamal Kharazzi, was in Damascus on the eve of the visit, while Turkey's foreign minister Abdullah Gul is expected in Tehran on Saturday. The three countries are intent on sending a firm message to the United States about its policy in Iraq. They are telling Washington that Iraq must remain a unitary state and that they will strongly oppose any attempt to break it up into three mini-states, Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite, as several influential American commentators have recently been recommending. Above all, they are warning the U.S. not to encourage the Kurds to seek permanent autonomy, let alone independence.


This is something BushCo would love to pull off here in the US.

Top Iranian reformist blasts 'coup d'etat' by hardliners

Prominent Iranian reformist MP Mohsen Mirdamadi accused Tehran's powerful hardliners of staging a "coup d'etat" by disqualifying large numbers of reformers from standing in next month's parliamentary elections. "I consider this rejection of candidates to be an illegal coup d'etat and an act of regime change by non-military means," said Mirdamadi, head of the parliament's foreign policy and national security commission. "If this decision is upheld, there will not be elections but designations," he told reporters outside the parliament, or Majlis.


Conservatives ban reformers

Dozens of reformist lawmakers who hardliners have banned from running in February legislative elections demonstrated at the parliament building yesterday, buoyed by President Mohammad Khatami's vow to fight the "senseless" disqualification rulings. More than 80 incumbent lawmakers, all key reformers, have been barred from seeking another term. MPs said about 900 of the 1,700 hopefuls for seats in Teheran had also been disqualified. "We are holding protest against the illegal decision of the Guardian Council to disqualify prominent reformers who have resisted hardline dictatorship," said reformist lawmaker Reza Yousefian. National Security and Foreign Policy Committee chair Mohsen Mirdamadi, one of those disqualified, said the move had been a "bloodless coup".

"Through these disqualifications, the hardliners want only their own thinking to control the next parliament," Mr Mirdamadi said. "This will be no election, but an appointment of the next parliament by hardliners." Mr Mirdamadi said he, the younger Mr Khatami and Mr Nabavi were disqualified because the Guardian Council had decided "we are not loyal to the absolute rule of the supreme leader".


Afghanistan, The OTHER Nation Building Project


US, Karzai push for Afghan elections despite warnings

"It's hard to see why the US is so adamant about holding the elections to the June timeframe when no one else is but President Karzai," he said. "It's hard to not conclude that it's not something to do with domestic political reasons within the US, which is a tragic reason to hold elections in Afghanistan."


New Afghan army in shambles as 3,000 troops quit

Thousands of Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers have deserted the fledgling service after completing training given by instructors from the United States, France and Britain, defence ministry officials said on Sunday. "Some 3,000 ANA soldiers have fled the army," ministry spokesman General Mohammad Zahir Azimi said. "The defence ministry has announced that they have to come back and join the army, otherwise they will have to pay for all the expenses spent on their training." The desertions are a serious blow to the nascent ANA which, according to Zahir Azimi, numbers around 10,000 troops. However, international observers believe the real strength of the ANA is closer to 7,000. Even though it is forecast to grow to be about 70,000-strong, the ANA's numbers are small in comparison to the 100,000 armed militia currently being disarmed and demobilised by government authorities. Disarming private militias is one of the priorities for President Hamid Karzai as he attempts to extend the authority of his government to the provinces, which have been troubled by factional fighting and rights abuses by commanders.


South Asia


'US should not make India scapegoat for job loss'

"We are concerned with the job losses to the tune of three million in the US and some of manufacturing jobs have moved from America to China", US Congressman Joseph Crowley told reporters on Saturday night on the sidelines of a function organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry in Mumbai. "India has not taken away jobs from US. Some jobs were lost due to movement of manufacturing work to China which is not an open system and our (US) leaders should not blame India for loss of employment."


Asian activists converge on Mumbai for anti-globalisation meet

From a boat-load of Japanese peace demonstrators to Nepalese working against the trafficking of girls, the World Social Forum starting Friday in Mumbai will be a melting pot for Asia's diverse causes. The annual convention of anti-globalisation forces, held for the past three years in Brazil, will be held in Asia for the first time in a bid to build support in the continent that is home to half the world's population and gaping inequalities. Peace will be on the minds of a number of other delegations in Bombay, including Japanese activists who oppose their country's decision to send 600 troops to Iraq in the first Japanese military deployment to a war zone since World War II. US "militarism" will also be the target of some of the 300 South Korean activists heading to the forum who accuse Washington of stoking tensions with North Korea, said Jeon So-Hi, leader of Korean People's Action against Free Trade Agreements and the World Trade Organisation. But the top mission for the South Korean activists is to try to block "the market-opening unilaterally driven by the World Trade Organisation," said Lee Chang-Kun, a leader of the Korea Confederation of Trade Unions. For smaller non-governmental organisations in Asia, the Bombay forum will be a chance to link up with a global network, said Somchai Homlaor, secretary general of Forum Asia, an independent group based in Thailand.


Central Asia


Ol' George ain't gonna like THIS:

INDIA SET TO EXPAND PRESENCE IN CENTRAL ASIA

Energy-hungry India is set to put its economic muscle to work, as it strives to make inroads into Central Asia. To keep its economy growing at an average annual rate of 7-8 percent, Indian Planning Commission Chairman K. C. Pant recently told the Indo-Asian News Service, the country will need to increase its energy consumption by roughly 5 percent each year. For a country that imports nearly five times the amount of electricity it exports, such an increase represents a tall order. It is one that India, mindful of its historic Silk Route ties with Central Asia, hopes the largely untapped energy potential of the region will fulfill. In considering energy questions, security issues are coming into play. With Taliban attacks on the increase in nearby Afghanistan, India fears the resurgence of fundamentalist Islamic groups in an area it hopes will be not only a willing trade partner, but dependable supplier of oil and gas.

While traditional rivals China and Pakistan may cast a wary eye on these military maneuvers, officially New Delhi is assuming a reassuring tone. "We are not interested in moving into the region," Foreign Minister Sinha told The Hindu in February 2003. "There is more than enough room there for us all."
Yet that inclusiveness may stop short of the United States. Despite New Delhi’s improved relations with Washington, many Indian officials see the semi-permanent American bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan as potential "lily pads" for the United States, said Dr. Phunchok Stobdan, a research fellow at India’s government-funded Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis. Stobdan suggested Washington could use the bases to intervene in local conflicts, or exert political pressure on local leaders. The "reconfiguration forms a compelling reason for India’s reclaiming its geopolitical rights and responsibilities in Central Asia," said Dr. Stobdan. "India’s overriding concerns are security-driven, too."


East Asia


Taiwan-US ties floundering over referendum issue, say analysts

The scrapping of Taiwan's plan to send a mission to the United States to discuss the controversial referendum issue is another signal of stranded Taipei-Washington ties, analysts say. Joseph Wu, head of the US-bound delegation and also a deputy secretary general in the Presidential Office, claimed: "Based on an evaluation of the National Security Council, the delegation will not be able to gain the expected results, so we decided to delay the trip."

"My feeling is that Washington does not know what Taiwan wants to convey by sending the group to the United States ... after the bilateral mutual trust has been undermined," said Emile C J Sheng, political science professor of Soochow University.


China repeats warning for US to keep out of HK's affairs

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Kong Quan "called on the United States to stop interfering in Hong Kong's internal affairs and not to do anything harmful to the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong and to Sino-US ties," the official Xinhua news agency said. "The Chinese government firmly opposes any foreign government interference in the affairs of Hong Kong in any form," he added, according to Xinhua.

"Recent events ... reflect the desire of the people of Hong Kong to advance the democratization process, as provided for under the Basic Law," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, apparently referring to a January 1 protest which attracted up to 100,000 people. "The United States strongly supports democracy through electoral reform and universal suffrage in Hong Kong," he said in a statement.

Now if only they felt that way about promoting freedom and liberty through political activity in the United States!


European Policy


US loses its tourism allure

Fewer and fewer Norwegians are opting to spend their holidays in the United States. A new survey indicates that half of all questioned view the US as an unattractive travel destination. "We were very surprised that every second Norwegian thinks the USA is either an 'unattractive' or a 'very unattractive' destination," said travel bureau Berg-Hansen's chief executive Per Arne Villadsen. "We think the survey clearly shows that the USA has an image problem."


Dutch pilots oppose firearms on board

Dutch pilots have come out against Justice Ministry plans to deploy armed security personnel on board international flights. KLM, too, seems to be having second thoughts about the presence of firearms inside pressurised cabins. While governments in Britain and the Netherlands have no objections, several airlines in Europe and Africa have vowed to cancel flights rather than comply with American demands to deploy armed security staff on US-bound planes to guard against new terrorist attacks. A spokesman for the Association of Dutch Airline Pilots says the whole idea flies in the face of existing security policy, aimed at preventing the presence of firearms on board at any cost: "A bullet could damage equipment or fly through a window causing pressure to drop at high altitude. Besides, there's a danger that terrorists wrest the weapon from the air-marshal on duty." For this reason, Dutch pilots argue that it would be better to tighten security on the ground as much as possible and cancel flights that might be at risk.


United States, Germany Plan Major Military Restructuring

The Pentagon has confirmed the United States will pull armored units from Germany as it realigns its military. Separately, the German Defense Ministry is reportedly planning massive budget cuts for its own armed forces. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has made no secret he would like to reshape the American military from its Cold War era deployments like those in Germany to smaller, more flexible units based closer to potential flashpoints in the Middle East and elsewhere. U.S. officials have repeatedly said that the decision to pull forces from Germany is unrelated to Berlin's opposition to the American-led war in Iraq, and both the key U.S. airbase in Ramstein and the U.S. headquarters in Stuttgart are likely to largely unaffected by the redeployments. However, a number of East European nations that supported Washington during the conflict are now being considered for new bases.


Iraqi Exiles In Czech Republic claim new consul was Saddam Hussein follower who spied on dissidents

Louye Nori Bashar, a career Iraqi diplomat who maintained a consul post in Prague prior to the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in April and who has stayed in the country since, was reportedly tapped for the position by Iraq's interim governing council. News of Bashar's appointment has not sat well with Prague's Iraqi community, which describes him as a loyal Hussein follower whose job until the war was to spy on the local opposition. The community responded to the news by sending a letter of protest to Iraqi authorities asking that they reconsider.


The Environment


Thanks to George Bush's lack of concern over the environment, another liquid could become even more important than oil.

MELTING GLACIERS COULD AFFECT MILLIONS IN REGION

Glaciologists agree that warmer temperatures and below-average snowfalls are causing most of the Earth's 160,000 glaciers to shrink or disappear altogether. In the short term, the phenomenon may help increase the world's supplies of fresh water. But in the long run, the shrinking of the glaciers will mean a significant decline in fresh-water supplies from ice melt, leaving river levels entirely dependent on rainfall. The shrinking and anticipated disappearance of many of the world's glaciers has potentially catastrophic consequences for communities that rely on ice melt for water for irrigation, drinking, and hydroelectric and nuclear power stations. A report from Salford University in Britain last year showed that the great rivers of Europe that are fed by glaciers in the Alps may run dry in summer seasons if the glaciers evaporate completely. Rivers fed from the Alps include the Rhine [Germany], the Rhone [France], the Po [Italy], and the Inn [Austria], which feeds the Danube.


African Policy


US wants normalized Somalia

The US is considering a major diplomatic initiative to help create a functional government in lawless Somalia, a senior US State Department official said Friday. The aim would be to restore the war-ravaged country to some form of normality for its impoverished people and rein in terrorist elements, including some affiliated with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, the official said. Both would boost east African stability and reduce the terrorist threat in the region, the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

You know, if there was oil in Somalia, Bush would be more likely to invade instead of talk.


IS THERE OIL IN SOMALIA?

Many oil experts believe that Somalia has got a high potential, and that the country needs peace, democracy and political stability in order to attract international investment necessary for exploration and development.

Ah so!


The Americas


US McCarthyism irritates Argentine government

A high level diplomatic dispute begun this week between Argentina and the United States, after Roger Noriega, U.S. assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere affairs, told reporters on Tuesday he was "disappointed" officials visiting Cuba failed to meet dissidents, a reference to Foreign Minister Rafael Bielsa's recent trip to the island. [T]he strongest answer came from President Kirchner, who said in a statement that Argentina was an independent nation and no longer a "carpet to trample on it".


Divided leaders of Americas to hold summit, strains evident

Leaders from across the Americas will start a two-day summit in Mexico on Monday with US President George W. Bush fighting to push the US agenda against priorities of the region's new leaders. The United States wants the talks to concentrate on fighting terrorism and corruption and building free trade. But Latin America, where almost half the population lives in poverty, is much more worried about social problems. Unlike Bush, many of the region's leaders are not convinced free trade can be a quick enough fix for social ills. The summit, staged by the Organisation of American States, has been held since 1992 but this will be the first meeting of leaders of north, south, and central America and the Caribbean, since the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, which sparked a revolution in US foreign policy. The meeting should have been held in 2005 but was brought forward because of Latin America's economic problems and the number of new leaders in the region. For Bush, it will hold added importance as he faces an election in November and the Hispanic vote will be decisive. Hispanics are the largest US minority, and more than half are of Mexican origin.


Washington still plays Cold War games in Latin America

Washington issued a kind of warning to Cuba and Venezuela on Monday, as accused both Governments of being a potential danger to democracy in Latin America. "Venezuela's neighbors are bothered by close ties between the Venezuelan and Cuban governments and their potential dangers to democracy", said US State Department spokesman Adam Ereli, who also said Cuba remains an antidemocratic force in the region. Ereli"s words are quite interesting as said Cuba "has a long history of attempting to undermine elected governments in the region". According to unclassified US State Department documents, Washington plotted the coup that toppled the democratic, constitutional and legal government of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973, and fueled Argentine military to oust the legally elected administration of Maria Estela Martinez de Peron in Argentina, less than three years later. Mr. Ereli should also look into those files. Moreover, as early as in 1954, Washington sponsored a military coup in Guatemala. One year later supported the military after overthrowing Peron"s ruling in Argentina. All along the eighties supported all sort of bloody dictatorships in Central America, as invaded Panama in 1989. The death toll of the US intervention in Latin America should be in the region of 500.000 casualties, taking into account thousands of deaths in Argentina, Paraguay, Chile, Uruguay and Bolivia in the seventies and Central America in the eighties.


US keeps eye on free trade goals for Americas, a tough sell for Bush

A US hard-sell of plans for a Free Trade Area of the Americas will hit some turbulence at Monday's Summit of the Americas in Mexico, as some leaders balk at the notion free trade can cure their countries' worsening social ills. The United States wants to use the summit to focus on a coordinated fight against terrorism, crushing corruption and building the free trade it sees as key to economic growth. But Latin American nations, nearly half of whose peoples live in poverty, are much more worried about social problems that undercut their stability. Unlike US President George W. Bush, many leaders have not been won over to the idea that trade gains will address the needs of millions of the poor swiftly enough. Meanwhile, the United States, European Union and many Asian nations are scrambling to increase trade with the natural resource-rich region, to which the United States has long had the closest economic ties. The summit as a whole aims to tackle tough issues, including growth with equity, democratic rule and social development. But while the goals may be ambitious, consensus on how to achieve them is elusive.


And back in the Secured Homeland, ...


George Bush's big-government conservatism - Can't last

IN HIS first three years as president, George Bush has cut taxes three times and yet orchestrated a sharp rise in public spending—not just, or indeed mainly, on foreign wars and “homeland security”, but also on domestic matters. Lower taxes, higher spending: the outcome is that the federal government, despite a steep fall in the interest it pays on its debt, has swung sharply into deficit—$450 billion this fiscal year, by most accounts. A bipartisan conspiracy exists, it seems, to ignore the risks of a widening deficit. What risks? After all, a year or two of sharply higher government spending in the early part of Mr Bush's presidency—when economic growth slowed sharply, a stockmarket bubble burst, and America faced unprecedented and confidence-sapping security threats—may well have been for the good. Yet, even as evidence grows that there is a reasonable chance of economic recovery, the long-term prospects for the budget look as bleak as ever. It is clear that holding back the growth in non-entitlement (or “discretionary”) programmes, such as defence and transport, will not be enough to ensure a sustainable budget in the long run. Unless entitlement programmes are cut too, or taxes raised to unprecedented levels, or both, the country is on a financially unsustainable path over the next half-century. “An ever-growing burden of federal debt held by the public”, the CBO concludes, “would have a corrosive and potentially contractionary effect on the economy.”


Bad news scuppers dollar recovery

When the jobs data were announced at 1330 GMT, the euro soared against the dollar The US dollar has slumped to a new low against the euro on poor US jobs data. The plunge came hours after the dollar rallied against the yen on reports of a massive market intervention by the Bank of Japan. But when the jobs data were released at 1330 GMT, all the hard-won gains evaporated. Meanwhile, the US dollar's slide to multi-year lows against various currencies has added incentive to buy oil, which is priced in dollars and so becomes cheaper for non-dollar investors. As a result, US light crude prices hit a nine-month high during Asian trade, propelled by worries that a cold snap in America would draw down crude stocks that are already at their lowest since 1975.


Oil prices climb to fresh post-Iraq war highs on cold fears

Oil prices hit fresh post-Iraq war highs on Friday, driven by fears Arctic weather in the US will eat into crude stocks that are already at their lowest since 1975. "US inventories are deemed to be near critical levels. To go short does not make sense," said Ian Henderson, vice president and fund manager of JP Morgan Fleming. US Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said on Friday the US would continue to buy oil for its strategic reserves despite the high prices.


BP warns of falling profit margin

Oil giant BP has warned that its fourth-quarter profits could be hit by weaker margins at its oil refineries. BP said in a trading statement that higher costs in North America could lead to lower profits on gas sales. However, analysts are still expecting BP to post record profits next month on the back of higher oil prices. Ironically, oil prices touched a record post-Iraq war high on Friday, with Brent crude reaching $31.55 a barrel. Oil is being driven higher by fears of an oil shortage in the US, where crude oil stocks are at their lowest level since 1975, while the country is facing Arctic winter conditions which are boosting demand for heating oil.


BP product brands

BP
Amoco
am/pm
Aral
ARCO
Castrol


A California Diary

No one, least of all yours truly, wants to be on board a plane with a self-righteous, religious motivated fanatic who wants to go to heaven the easy way. So I was prepared to wait in line for as long as necessary. Actually, it wasn't all that bad. They did check my shoes and belt, patted me down electronically, apologised for the delay and sent me on to the gate. It was a lot faster than the time I spent at Heathrow some years ago when they first started checking everyone. At that time, the queue was held up because a grandmotherly mature lady kept activated the alarm. They inspected her purse and everything else until an embarrassed red-faced bobby found that she was wearing an old-fashioned corset with lots of metal stays. Oh, yes! When I unpacked there, at the bottom of a side compartment of the bag were my corkscrew, bottle opener and diminutive Swiss Army knife. So much for total security.


This demonstrates what likely will happen to any "volunteerism" that Bush might try to promote.

The government wants volunteers to do more, but people are volunteering less

"COMMUNITY participation" sounds a wonderful way of making public services work better. Magistrates and special constables in the criminal justice system, school governors, lay members of police and health authorities, mentors for deprived children and struggling parents—all, in the government's view, make the state work better. The government's plans for reforming the health service require volunteers to sit on hospital boards. The theory is fine, the practice difficult. There is no shortage of retired people with time on their hands, but it is increasingly hard to find the right kind of working-age volunteers. There are big shortages, especially in activities that demand large and regular commitments. "People increasingly want short-term, quick-hit volunteering because they've got busy lives," says Jason Tanner of Community Service Volunteers, the country's largest umbrella group. "They want to turn up, brighten up a school or clear some waste ground, and go away, and not feel that they are a bad person if they don't turn up next week." That does nobody any harm; but it won't change the world.


And maybe this same attitude is why George W. Bush continues on, blissfully expecting to be elected in November.

pessimist :: 4:20 PM :: Comments (7) :: Digg It!