October 10, 2009

Video: Goldstone UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict


October 10, 2009

UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict Goldstone Commission. Israeli war crimes desribed in detail.

Italian Tax Evaders Repatriate Funds at Record Pace Amid Slump

By Elisa Martinuzzi

Oct. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Italian tax evaders, lured by the country’s third amnesty since 2001, are repatriating funds at a record pace as the recession prompts them to pump cash into their companies.

“We’ve already received interest for twice as many funds that may be repatriated as in the previous amnesty,” Luca Caramaschi, head of private wealth management at Deutsche Bank AG in Italy, said in a telephone interview from Milan.

Italy’s parliament voted last week to forgive past false accounting under the amnesty, allowing companies to repatriate funds. Asset managers say the amount moving back home is poised to exceed both previous amnesties combined, when about 80 billion euros ($118 billion) was returned. Evaders have until Dec. 15 to apply for pardon in return for a 5 percent fee.

“There’s definitely an acceleration of interest,” said Giuseppe Marino, a tax consultant, author and a professor of fiscal law at Bocconi University in Milan. “It’s driven by the need to inject fresh capital in companies.”

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has pledged that Europe’s most indebted nation will spend the proceeds from the amnesty on state universities and health care. Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti said last month the measure will help small companies stay afloat as the economy emerges from recession. Italy’s economy is set to contract about 5 percent this year and tax income is shrinking, according to the Ministry of Economy.

‘Moment of Crisis’

“In a moment of crisis, we expect a return of company money,” Attilio Befera, who runs Italy’s tax collector, the Agenzia dell’Entrate, said yesterday at a Milan briefing organized by Mediolanum SpA, the financial services firm partly owned by Berlusconi. Befera declined to estimate how much he expects to be repatriated.

While entrepreneurs are likely to account for the bulk of repatriations, older people who have stashed personal savings outside Italy are also seeking to move money back to share with family members, said Ferruccio Ferri, chairman of UBS AG’s Italian fiduciary unit, which administers client assets.

“Estates held abroad are re-emerging in notable dimensions,” said Ferri. UBS has about 16 billion euros under management at its Italian wealth management unit. “There’s been a significant increase in interest this early on in the amnesty.”

The push by Group of 20 leaders to target tax havens and clamp down on money laundering may also be boosting repatriations, according to Bocconi’s Marino, author of “Paradisi e paradossi fiscali,” (“Fiscal Paradises and Paradoxes”) published by Egea in 2009.

“The global context this time is different,” said UBS’s Ferri. “It’s not just an Italian initiative.”

The amnesty started on Sept. 15. The tax collector will take into account the complexities involved in moving assets, Befera said. Evaders can send in their paperwork after the deadline expires if they have paid beforehand, he added.

“There may be some difficulties given the relatively short timeframe,” Francesco de Ferrari, chief executive officer of Credit Suisse Group AG’s private banking unit in Italy, said in an e-mailed response to questions. “Interest is very strong among individuals and entrepreneurs.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Elisa Martinuzzi in Milan at emartinuzzi@bloomberg.net

Ships of Poison

Nuking the Mediterranean

By MICHAEL LEONARDI - October 10, 2009

As reported in the Calabria daily newspaper “Calabria Ora” by director Paolo Pollichieni, 55 are the number of ships confirmed by Italian navy admiral and chief of Italian intelligence organization AISE (formerly SISMI), Bruno Branicoforte; 55 Ships containing a toxic and dangerous mix of radioactive and other industrial contaminants that were traded in the international traffic of the world’s hazardous wastes on the high seas. Others unofficially talk of upwards to 140 ships. Only NATO knows for sure but has not yet revealed this information to the public, and who knows if they ever will? Now these 55 ships, cargos of waste aboard and possibly seeping into the waters of the Mediterranean, are said to be lying on the sea floor, intentionally sunk across international waters over the past twenty years. Branicoforte made his affirmation to the Italian parliamentary committee for the Security of the Republic, Copsair on the 25th of September.

The threat to public health is alarming to the coastal population of Italy as it should be to all of the 23 countries that border the Mediterranean Basin. Health reports from the Region of Calabria show elevated cases of cancerous tumors, especially among the younger population along the coasts. The culprits of this International tragedy: organized criminal elements, the corporate producers of this waste and the government’s that knowingly allowed this contamination of the sea to unfold; are now gathering forces and talking of confirmations of these ships and a clean-up of the Sea.

The assessor of the Environment in the Region of Calabria Doctor Silvio Greco, a marine biologist, reminds us that the majority of these wastes came from Industries outside of Italy. This makes it again clear that there must be an International effort monitored by citizen watchdog groups to contain the effects of this catastrophe. It is hard to trust those that made this mess in the first place to clean up this unthinkable man made disaster, but they may have the only means.

A ship from the Italian energy giant ENI is now in route from Cyprus to Calabria. As reported in the Calabrian daily il Quotidiano on the 8th of October, the vessel is specialized to verify the contents of the first ship to be photographed in the seas depths, 11 kilometers from Cetraro. ENI has offered the assistance of this vessel free of charge, recognizing the gravity of the situation. Another research vessel from the Italian environmental research institute called ISPRA is being retrofitted with special equipment to provide 3 dimensional images of the ship thought to be the Cunsky,

The regional fishing industry, especially around Cetraro, is being harshly affected and there is talk of public aid to families feeling the economic brunt from the crash in fish consumption. There is also concern about a blow to the tourism industry. This area is usually overrun with tourists during the month of August and many families here base their livelihoods around the tourist industry. Contaminated land from illegal dumping of hazardous wastes is also a large problem in this area and a threat to local agricultural practices, confounding an already ugly situation.

In Italy as a whole, Berlusconi and his harem of ministers continue to hold the public interest. Stefania Prestigiacomo, the young environmental minister from Sicily, said on the 7th of October that there will be every effort made on the part of the government to assess and clean up the situation in the Calabrian coastal waters near the towns of Cetraro, Fuscaldo, Guardia Piemontese, San Lucido and the cities of Paola, Diamante and Amantea on the Tyrennian Sea, where the first ship to be photographed lies off the coast. But nothing has yet been said by Prime Minister Berlusconi, President Napolitano or environmental minister Prestigiacomo about the other 54 ships confirmed by Admiral Branicoforte. Other regions beyond Calabria, including Tuscany, Basilicata and Campania, are asking for more action and communication from the Berlusconi government as Berlusconi himself has yet to address the issue publicly and Prestigiacomo has done so only sparingly. The opposition is accusing the government of negligent inaction, while Prestigiacomo says that she is doing all she can as she begins to break her silence on this global calamity.

The Berlusconi government is also under pressure to for it’s decision to bring back nuclear power to Italy. In 1987 Italians voted overwhelmingly against the use of nuclear power and existing plants were phased out by 1990. In 2008 the Berlusconi led government reversed this decision and announced a renewed investment in nuclear energy and a new generation of plants.

The recent landslides in the Sicilian province of Messina that caused the death of at least 21 people have combined with Berlusconi’s continuing legal saga and sex scandal to temporarily shift attention here from the Ships of Poison. The Landslides in Messina are seen as another result of the neglect of the South by the national government and abusive criminal practices in the Southern regions.

At the European level there is interest coming from the European Parliament to address the horrible reality coming to light here. The Calabrian Environmental Assessor Greco will lead an Italian delegation to Strausburg in order to further elaborate the gravity of this situation of the Ships of Poison to the European Community on the 20th of October.

Throughout the world there is growing attention and focus on this story while at the local level there is a mass mobilization underway. On the 24th of October organizers are planning an International day of action with a large demonstration in the small city of Amantea near the river Oliva. This area is largely seen here as ground zero for this horrid reality. Along the shores of Amantea in 1990, a ship called the Jolly Rosso, laiden with toxic and radioactive waste, beached ashore after a failed attempt to sink it off the coast. The contents of the Jolly Rosso were then dumped on land nearby. The area suffers from elevated deaths due to leucemia and cancerous tumors thought to be linked to findings of the highly toxic Cesium 137, Mercury and other poisonous substances contaminating the land, river and sea. On the 24th of October it is hoped that this situation will be given the attention it deserves and that a global cooperation may begin to heal the waters of our beautiful Mediterranean Sea. We hope this for our children and children’s children.

The Calabrian daily newspaper il Quoitidiano has created an on-line petition to call on the Italian government to move quickly to both assess and begin to address this International disaster. It calls on the Italian government to contain the damage from the radioactive waste at sea and on land. There have been an average of 2000 signatures a day from all over the world. The link is here and you can sign where it says firma la petizione. If you would like to take part in the International Day of Action on the 24th by organizing a local event in solidarity or attending the demonstration in Amantea you can send an email to me and I will forward it to the local organizers here.

Michael Leonardi currently lives in Calabria. He teaches English at the University of Calabria in Cosenza and at the Vocational Highschool in Maratea for training hotel and restaurant workers. He can be reached at mikeleonardi@hotmail.com


IOF troops block olive harvesting

10/10/2009 - 09:57 AM

JENIN, (PIC)-- Palestinians in east Jenin whose lands were isolated behind the separation wall have said that Israeli occupation forces (IOF) guarding gates of the wall were blocking their entry into their land.

The villagers said that the IOF soldiers, who usually open those gates at 8 am and close them at 5 pm, were harassing them and hardly allowing them to enter their own lands to harvest the olives crop.

They complained that they have been denied entry for three days without any justification.

The villagers of Faku'a village said that the IOF issue a limited number of entry permits for them, asking for the intervention of human rights groups to allow them to reach their land.

Time for a War Tax

How to Pay for Escalation in Afghanistan

October 10, 2009

The United States has spent $228.2 billion on combat operations in Afghanistan since October 2001, so the Congressional Research Service tells us. The White House recently said that the single most cost-effective option--withdrawing US fighting forces--was not on the table during its ongoing review of AfPak strategy. This means, among other things, that the cost will continue to mount whether General McChrystal gets his additional tens of thousands of troops or not. The quarter trillion dollar figure does not include the current cost of recruiting young men and women to fight the war (hundreds of millions of dollars per year), the future cost of veterans’ benefits (likely to be gigantic), nor the cost of debt service on the borrowed money. The latter figure could rise as high as $200 billion, according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. Put together, these figures rival those of the Wall Street bailout.

This has been a war, as is the war in Iraq, and as was the war in Vietnam, that the US waged on future taxpayers’ dimes. One consequence of the Johnson- and Nixon-era war splurge was the stagflation of the 1970s, and the withering of Great Society programs. The self-imposed pay-as-you-go spending rule enacted by Congress in 1990 expired in 2002 just as George W. Bush prepared to invade Iraq. This was a period during which the US ran budget surpluses for the first time since the 1950s. The rule mandated that any new spending be budget neutral: new spending had to be offset by spending cuts or tax increases elsewhere in the budget. A new version of the rule recently passed the House and is currently before the Senate. President Obama has said he will sign the bill into law. As written, the bill does not exempt war spending.

The president also (re)committed to paying for the wars through the regular budget process (this was a campaign promise)—following one 2009 supplemental war spending bill that overwhelmingly passed both houses. Supplementals required a straight up or down vote; no amendments were permitted, as in the regular budget process. Obama’s FY2010 defense budget reflects this more honest approach. But this forthcoming budget simply adds the rapidly growing tab of the wars to the national debt. A truly honest approach would pay for the wars with real money, not funds borrowed from the Chinese and our great-great-grandchildren.

The United States invented the telephone excise tax to help finance the Spanish-American War in 1898. Renewed many times afterwards, during times of both war and peace, the tax (which applies today only to local calls spelled out as such on a phone bill) has essentially been made obsolete by cell phones and bundled service. The revenues, which ended up in the general fund anyway, were never enough to pay the full toll for any war. The War Tax Act of 2010 could remedy this and other defects in the American tradition of paying (or not) for war.

A war tax, called such and sized to cover the full cost of the wars, would signal an important break from the lies and chicanery of the George W. Bush years. The tax should be progressive rather than regressive. It should be renewed or reinstated every year US forces engage in combat on foreign soil, air, or water. The Blackwaters, Lockheed Martins, and Halliburtons—contemporary war profiteers—should pay the lion’s share through targeted and loophole-free corporate income taxes. But none of us who make incomes above a genuine poverty level—not the federal government’s shameful underestimate--should be exempt. Why? Because war is too easy without basic fiscal responsibility.

A vote for war funding—a leading cause of deficit spending--is today without political risk for all but a handful of members of Congress. It does not take much if any deliberation for most members to vote “yes” on “authorizations for the use of force,” and for the supplemental bills to “pay” for the force. Indeed, the only risk they face comes should they vote against war spending. Presidents notice, and potential challengers back home notice. Hardly surprising then that Bush and Obama received everything they’ve asked for in Iraq and Afghanistan from Congress these past eight years.

That same Congress is unlikely to show much enthusiasm for a war tax. Why should it? The current arrangement works just fine for most members, thank you very much. Institution of a war tax would, like all good things, require a years long, focused and strategic grassroots campaign against extraordinary odds and fierce resistance. A war tax addresses the fiscal root of the problem by simply paying for war on an as-you-go basis. A war tax is the fiscal policy equivalent of universal single-payer health care. But it stands even less chance of implementation.

There is no cost-effective alternative to a war tax besides the off-the-table immediate exit strategy. The administration has boxed itself into a deficit-spending corner. It is virtually certain that whatever revised policy emerges from the present round of meetings, it will cost more than the exorbitant status quo.

Congressional war hawks (who double as deficit hawks, even during a recession) the Washington Post editorial board, and General McChrystal are pushing Obama to escalate the eight-year-old war. Again, the White House announced that declaring victory over al-Qaeda in Afghanistan (a fair claim, according to the president) and holding a parade is, unfortunately, not on the near-term horizon.

It’s a shame that the economic cost of the war has not figured at all in the current debate over US AfPak policy. Were it to, escalation would be the first option off the table.

Steve Breyman teaches at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Reach him at breyms@rpi.edu


The Securitization Boondoggle

Down the Rat Hole

By MIKE WHITNEY - October 10, 2009

The relentless financialization of the economy has resulted in a hybrid-system of credit expansion which depends on pools of loans sliced-and-diced into tranches and sold into the secondary market to yield-seeking investors. The process is called securitization and it lies at the heart of the current financial crisis. Securitization markets have grown exponentially over the last decade as foreign capital has flooded Wall Street due to the ballooning current account deficit. A significant amount of the money ended up in complex debt-instruments like mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and asset-backed securities (ABS) which provided trillions in funding for consumer and business loans. Securitization imploded after two Bear Stearns hedge funds defaulted in July 2007 and the secondary market collapsed. Now the Federal Reserve and the Treasury are working furiously to restore securitization, a system they feel is crucial to any meaningful recovery.

But is that really a wise decision? After all, if the system failed in a normal market downturn, it's likely to fail in the future, too. Is Fed chair Ben Bernanke ready to risk another financial meltdown just to restore the process? The Fed shouldn't commit any more resources to securitization (over $1 trillion already) until the process is thoroughly examined by a team of experts. Otherwise, it's just good money after bad.

Here's Baseline Scenario's James Kwak digging a bit deeper into the securitization flap:
"The boom in securitization was based on investors’ willingness to believe what investment banks and credit rating agencies said about these securities. Buying a mortgage-backed security is making a loan. Ordinarily you don’t loan money to someone without proving to yourself that he is going to pay you back...

The securitization bubble happened because investors were willing to outsource that decision to other people — banks and credit rating agencies — who had different incentives from them." (Baseline Scenario)
Investors are no longer willing to trust the ratings agencies or rush back into opaque world of structured finance. The reason the securitization boycott continues, is not because of "investor panic" as Fed chair Ben Bernanke likes to say, but because people have made a sensible judgment about the quality of the product itself. It stinks. That said, how will the economy recover if the main engine for credit production is not repaired? That's the problem.

Here's an excerpt from the New York Times article "Paralysis in Debt Markets Deepens Credit Drought":
"The continued disarray in debt-securitization markets, which in recent years were the source of roughly 60 percent of all credit in the United States, is making loans scarce and threatening to slow the economic recovery. Many of these markets are operating only because the government is propping them up.

Enormous swaths of this so-called shadow banking system remain paralyzed. Depending on the type of loan, certain securitization markets have fallen 40 to 100 percent.

A once-thriving private market in securities backed by home mortgages has collapsed, from $744 billion in 2005, at the peak of the housing boom, to $8 billion during the first half of this year.

The market for securities backed by commercial real estate loans is in worse shape. No new securities of this type have been issued in two years." ("Paralysis in Debt Markets Deepens Credit Drought" Jenny Anderson, New York Times)
Securitization could be fixed with rigorous regulation and oversight. Loans would have to be standardized, loan applicants would have to prove that they are creditworthy, and the banks would have to hold a greater percentage of the loan on their books. But financial industry lobbyists are fighting the changes tooth-and-nail. That's because securitization allows the banks to increase profits on miniscule amounts of capital. That's the real story behind the public relations myth of "lowering the cost of capital, disaggregating risk, and making credit available to more people." It's all about money, big money.

Securitization also creates incentives for fraud, because the banks only interest is originating and selling loans, not making sure that borrowers can repay their debt. The goal is quantity not quality. In fact, this process continues today, as the banks continue to originate garbage mortgages through off-balance sheet operations which are underwritten by the FHA. A whole new regime of toxic loans are being cranked out just to maintain the appearance of activity in the housing market. The subprime phenom is ongoing, albeit under a different name.

So why did the banks switch from the tried-and-true method of lending money to creditworthy applicants to become "loan originators"? Isn't there good money to be made in issuing loans and keeping them on the books?

Yes, there is. Lots of money. But not as much money as packaging junk-paper that has no capital-backing and then dumping it on credulous investors. That's where the real money is. Unfortunately, the massive build-up of credit without sufficient capital support generates monstrous bubbles which have dire consequences for the entire economy.

And do we really need securitization? Nobel economist Paul Krugman doesn't think so:
"The banks don’t need to sell securitized debt to make loans — they could start lending out of all those excess reserves they currently hold. Or to put it differently, by the numbers there’s no obvious reason we shouldn’t be seeking a return to traditional banking, with banks making and holding loans, as the way to restart credit markets. Yet the assumption at the Fed seems to be that this isn’t an option — that the only way to go is back to the securitized debt market of the years just before the crisis."
There are only two ways to fix the present system; either regulate the shadow banking system and every financial institution that trades in securitized assets, or ban securitization altogether and return to the traditional model of banking. Regrettably, the Fed is pursuing a third option, which is to pour more money down a rathole trying to rebuild a system that just blew up. It's madness.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com

Dollar Dilemma

By Doug Noland - October 09, 2009

Renewed U.S. dollar weakness has evoked calls for Washington to implement a true strong dollar policy. Larry Kudlow is calling for a supply-side cut of marginal corporate tax rates and for the Federal Reserve to hike rates 25 bps in support of our currency. He knows “none of this is gonna happen.” Others believe the focus should be trimming our massive federal deficit. A move to fiscal and monetary restraint is surely needed to help stabilize the dollar. Restraint is not going to happen.

Perhaps chairman Bernanke tossed a tiny bone to the currency markets yesterday evening. Yet everyone in the world knows U.S. policymaker focus is on aggressive short-term stimulus with the objective of jump-starting rapid economic recovery. Officials from both the Federal Reserve and Treasury have stated their view that a strong U.S. economy is the best prescription for a strong dollar. Simple enough. So, perhaps they’ll increasingly be compelled to tweak their comments in hope of influencing currency trading. But don’t hold your breath waiting for a meaningful shift in strategy – say aggressively boosting rates or slashing spending – to protect the value of our currency. Current policy is not the primary issue anyway.

Non-productive Credit expansion/inflation is the bane of currency stability. The dollar’s fundamental problem these days lies with the underlying structure of the U.S. economy. As much as near zero interest-rates and Trillion dollar deficits don’t improve the situation, they are symptomatic of much broader systemic issues. Indeed, ultra-loose monetary policy, scary deficits, and ongoing dollar devaluation are all consequences of deep structural maladjustments to the services and consumption-oriented U.S. “bubble” economy.

And I would make the point that this maligned economic structure has been the driver for both policy and dollar weakness. With the collapse of the Wall Street/mortgage finance Bubble, acute structural fragilities required unprecedented stimulus in order to stem implosion. Once stabilized, policy focus turned immediately to short-term performance – positive GDP growth, spending recovery and job creation. Not surprisingly, the focus remains on finding a quick fix, with scant attention to structural issues.

As it relates to the dollar stability, I would argue that the central policy issue should be to create a backdrop conducive to far-reaching adjustment and repair to the economic structure. Aggressive stimulus would be expected to spur short-term performance gains. However, this would be at the cost of delaying necessary structural corrections. This dynamic may help explain why the bulls have been right on stocks this year but wrong that U.S. recovery would boost the dollar. Washington may believe that big GDP growth numbers will support a strong dollar, but global markets (and policymakers) seem to recognize clearly that the course of U.S. policy undermines the long-term value of our currency (and their dollar holdings).

Decades of credit excess cultivated an economic structure that produces too little and survives on too much credit. The Credit inflation/dollar debasement dilemma was masked for years. The dollar indulged both in its global reserve status and the world’s keen desire to participate in our financial asset Bubble. For years, the U.S. “private”-sector Credit apparatus (Wall Street securitizations, GSE obligations, derivatives, etc.) was the global “asset class” demonstrating the strongest (most alluring) inflationary bias. As fast as our Credit system inundated the world with dollar liquidity, these financial flows would as quickly be recycled right back into U.S. securities. The dollar was king on the back of reflexive speculative flows.

The dollar was not ok – it was fundamentally weak. But it looked ok relatively, in a world of weak currencies and expansive global speculation. And as long as this recycling mechanism functioned smoothly, the U.S. Credit system could easily expand Credit on an annual basis sufficient to boost various types of “output” that tallied in GDP. And with Wall Street and mortgage credit at the heart of the U.S. Credit Bubble, financial excess fed a self-reinforcing boom in lending, asset inflation, consumption, business investment and government expenditures. Moreover, any bout of financial turmoil would see U.S. yields collapse and a virtual buying panic for agency and mortgage-related securities – rapidly reflating our Bubbles.

Many things changed with the bursting of the Wall Street/mortgage finance Bubble. For one, our “private”-sector Credit mechanism was no longer capable of creating sufficient Credit to sustain inflated real estate Bubbles or the inflation-distorted Bubble economy structure. For two, the U.S. Credit system decisively relinquished it status as the most alluring global “asset class.” Years of dollar debasement had already worked to sway the inflationary biases away from the U.S. toward energy, gold, commodities and the “emerging” markets and economies. The unfolding post-Wall Street Bubble reflation has found – for the first time - the “developing” and commodities worlds supplanting the U.S. as the favored destination for speculative finance. This is big.

Granted, deleveraging and unwinding of dollar bearish bets initially propelled the dollar higher. Yet I would argue that the global crisis will be looked back on as a seminal event for our currency. Our policymakers have much less flexibility in the new financial and economic landscape. Both fiscal and monetary measures have lost potency. Trillions of dollars of deficits, zero interest rates and a $2 Trillion Fed balance sheet today get less system response than hundreds of billions and a few percent would have achieved previously. This hurts the dollar. And acute financial and economic fragilities ensure extreme policy measures will remain in place for much longer than would have previously been necessary. This also hurts dollar confidence.

Meanwhile, the “developing” world currencies, markets and economies dramatically outperform the United States. Global reflationary dynamics have put a premium on asset markets in China, Asia and the developing world. This robust inflationary bias, then, places a premium on things consumed in - and demand from - these economies.

So much of our economic structure evolved during - and for - a different era. Our Bubbles were inflating; market dynamics had created great power and flexibility for policymaking; the U.S. consumer was the king; and our securities and economic booms were the focus globally. While some of our multinational companies will benefit, too much of our economic structure is poorly positioned for today’s new global landscape. Not only does our maladjusted economic structure today require too much non-productive Credit creation, it lacks the type of real economic returns necessary to attract global financial flows. This is a big predicament not easily remedied.

It is worth noting that Australia’s central bank was this week the first major central bank to begin the process of removing monetary stimulus. Global markets reacted by pushing the dollar even lower. The “commodity” currencies, gold, energy, commodities and global equities surged higher.

I’ll take the markets’ reaction to uncommon central banking rationality as early confirmation that attempts to tighten ultra-loose monetary conditions globally will be impeded by speculative inflows already bent against the dollar. This dynamic reinforces already strong reflationary forces in non-dollar markets, while intensifying speculative selling pressure against the greenback. Expect foreign central banks to be pressured to buy a lot more dollars and global markets to experience even more destabilizing Monetary Disorder.


Gas giant, Total resumes talks with Iran

Press TV - October 10, 2009 10:39:22 GMT

French gas giant, Total, has resumed its talks with the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) on participating in Iran's South Pars gas field project.

The talks commenced in Tehran on Saturday after months of delay. According to Iranian Mehr news agency, the French company's representatives announced Total's readiness to construct a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plant in the gas field.

The report did not reveal the details of the talks.

Following long delays from Total, Iran set a deadline for the company to reevaluate negotiations for the venture. When the company failed to respond, Tehran signed a $4.7 billion deal with China in June.

Total CEO, Christophe de Margerie recently described the talks with Iran as being "at a standstill," but said there was still a possibility for cooperation.

The South Pars gas field is being jointly developed by Iran and Qatar. The Iranian share of the field is about 14 trillion cubic meters of gas, or about eight percent of the total world reserves, and more than 18 billion barrels of liquefied natural gas resources.

NIOC Head Seyfollah Jashnsaz also said that the door is open for the French company to participate in the project.

Jashnsaz mentioned, however, that Total must first secure the consent of China's CNPC, which became Iran's main overseas partner when Total fell behind on its commitments due to political pressure from Washington.

"Because of Total's procrastination, the contract for the upstream sector was signed with the Chinese company and this company is considered to be the operator of this project," Jashnsaz said.

The executive added that Iran is interested in developing ties with countries throughout the world, but "regarding its petroleum industries, it will not keep waiting for any company."

Iran has the second largest gas reserves in the world after Russia and the second largest petroleum reserves in the world after Saudi Arabia.

'Religious' Jews antagonize Jerusalem locals under prayer pretext

October 10, 2009

Jerusalem – Ma’an - Hundreds of religious Jews marched toward the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, taking over the streets in the Old City in what was described as an in-your-face celebration of Shmini Atzeret, which falls a day after the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

The celebration was viewed by Palestinians in the area as a provocative act.

While many observant Jews in the holy city walk to the Western Wall complex at the bottom of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound for part of the Shmini Atzeret celebration, hundreds of agitators made their way to the Palestinian neighborhood on Al-Wad Street near the entrance of the Al-Qatanin Market. Palestinians observing the group believed they were attempting to break into the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

On the pretext of celebration, religious Jews performing the Hakafot - dancing round in circles with the Torah - pushed Palestinian shopkeepers out of the streets and ordered them to close their doors.

“You are dirty Arabs,” was a slogan the antagonistic group launched at Palestinians in the area, with several shopkeepers being backed into their stores or small corners of the Old City by advancing celebrators. Racial slurs against Arabs mixed in with the traditional rain prayer marking the end of Sukkot and the start of the harvest.

The group of ultra-orthodox Jews was accompanied by several dozen Israeli soldiers and border guards, who watched as religious rituals were used to antagonize local residents.

Palestinians who refused to back down from the ralliers and remained in the area were told by police that they must shut their stores and leave the area for two hours by order of the police department, “so the worshipers could perform their prayers,” one officer said.

Jerusalem Waqf officials rejected the police order and urged residents to “remain steadfast in confronting the settlers’ provocative acts.”

Police were also seen barring the rowdy group from the entrance area of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, bolstering Palestinian concerns that under the pretext of prayer, the group indeed intended to break into the compound.

The location the group staged the prayer at is a street that runs from the Western Wall in the north toward the Al-Qatanin Gate, one of the main gates to the Old City, which is next to one of the entrances to the Muslim Haram Ash-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, that is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The incident occurred just hours after Israeli forces lifted their siege on the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, where more than 100 Palestinians were barricaded, inside, refusing to leave for fear the compound would be taken over by Israel.

Following the Friday prayer at the mosque, nearly 100 more Muslim worshippers remained in the area, vowing to remain there until the close of the Jewish holidays, which end Saturday night. Many of those inside the area have said they will not leave for another two days to ensure the safety of the area.

Gaffe-prone Berlusconi says he paid 'judges'

Press TV - October 10, 2009 13:36:26 GMT

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi says he is the world's most prosecuted man.

In yet another trademark gaffe, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi says he has paid millions of euros to consultants and judges during his court appearances.

The Italian magnate, who is famous for his numerous blunders, was forced to quickly correct himself, saying in a press conference that he had spent 200 million euros on "consultants and lawyers."

Berlusconi also called himself the most prosecuted man in the world with making over 2,500 court appearances and spending millions on his defense.

"I am absolutely the person who has been most persecuted by judges of all times, in the entire history of the world," he said Friday after judges lifted his immunity from prosecution.

Last week, a Milan court ordered his media empire Fininvest to pay a record fine of 750 million euros after ruling that it had obtained a favorable legal decision through bribery.

The decision came after Italy's Constitutional Court on Wednesday overturned a law which was shielding Berlusconi from prosecution while in office.

The verdict paved the way for two corruption trials to resume against Berlusconi.

So far, the Italian premier has faced charges including corruption, tax fraud, false accounting and illegally financing political parties. Although some initial judgments have gone against him, he has never been definitively convicted.

In the latest cases, he is accused of paying his former British tax lawyer, David Mills, 600,000 dollars to give false evidence in two trials in the 1990s. Mills was convicted in February of accepting the payment.

Another pending case against Berlusconi involves allegations that his Mediaset television empire overcharged for broadcasting rights.

The 73-year-old billionaire media tycoon turned politician has seen his popularity ratings drop in the past few weeks as he is also facing a string of sex scandals.

When asked about calls by critics for his resignation as his personal and legal problems damage the country's image in the world, he said, "the reality is completely the opposite."

"In my opinion, and not only mine, I am the best prime minister we can find today," asserted Berlusconi.

October 09, 2009

Israel's export of occupation police tactics

Jimmy Johnson, The Electronic Intifada, 9 October 2009

Israel's urban police tactics are being exported around the globe. (Mamoun Wazwaz/MaanImages)

Israel's specialized policing and fighting capacity, which it is currently exporting to other countries, including the US, began to take shape after the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war. In the territories it occupied during the conflict, especially the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, the Israeli government wanted to lay claim, permanently, to specific parts of the occupied area. This desire ran into Zionism's longest-running problem, the presence of Palestinians. As Zionist leader Ze'ev Jabotinsky wrote in 1923 about indigenous resistance to colonial projects, "The native populations ... have always stubbornly resisted the colonists."

This resistance would have to be suppressed and the population pacified if the occupation of these lands was to be sustainable. Thus began an evolutionary relationship that continues to this day, that of the Palestinian resistance versus Israel's policy of permanent occupation. Architect Eyal Weizman lays out in great detail the study of urban warfare and urban police actions undertaken by the Israeli military in his book Hollow Land: Israel's Architecture of Occupation. Importantly, he looks at the ways the army adapts to the dynamics on the ground, explaining that "Indeed, military attempts to adapt their practices and forms of organization has been inspired by the guerilla forms of violence that confront it. Because they adapt, mimic and learn from each other, the military and the guerillas enter a cycle of 'co-evolution.'" This reciprocal cycle of tactical evolution, and intertwined relationship of Israel's police and army, is proving politically valuable to Israel by helping to shape international norms on policing more like its own.

Israel participates significantly in areas of the international political and economic markets of arms, security and policing. It is especially renowned for having a highly developed arms industry. There are significant potential political benefits to be gained by participation in the arms trade, especially in the military interoperability that develops with using the same training and systems of war. Military interoperability often lead to the development of political alliances and close personal relationships between high level defense and commerce officials during the research, bidding and approval processes.

However, this trade rarely leads to policy change favorable to Israel by itself. Instead, the training of foreign police and security forces based upon expertise gained in 42 years of military occupation accomplishes this by creating advocates within local, regional and national security infrastructures. In Peter Andreas and Ethan Nadelmann's book Policing the Globe: Criminalization and Crime Control in International Relations, the authors detail how the United States has shaped international policing and prosecution with regards to the drug trade. They explain that "US law enforcement agencies play an especially pivotal role in shaping a transnational police community and thickening intergovernmental law enforcement networks." This occurs by either providing or advocating for technical assistance and training for many foreign police officers. In addition, the US often advocates "for more intensive and systematic bilateral and multilateral cooperation, and prompting new initiatives in both criminal procedures and criminal legislation." Although Israel cannot do this with the same coercive power as the US, it is as proactive as possible in its outreach.

Israel is renowned as the center of training in the fields of policing, homeland security and related fields. In 2005 the then-chief of police of Washington, DC, a city that has adopted Israeli-style policing to an extreme degree, told The Washington Post that Israel is "the Harvard of antiterrorism." Israel actively lauds its expertise with ministries of commerce, public security and foreign affairs, advertising it in public pronouncements and their websites and the government offers support for exporting the expertise, whether done by private firms or public entities. The "Israeli method" blends together state security policing with that of other crimes. Systems put in place in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya, for example, have private businesses linking their information with the Tourist Police and City Police who in turn, link with the National Police, the General Security Service (aka, Shin Bet).

Israeli police and security forces do not separate policing related to Palestinian anti-occupation efforts from street crime. The Palestinians represent both a political and armed opposition to a military occupation, and a disenfranchised underclass with criminal elements in an apartheid state. The Israeli army, which is charged with investigating crime in Areas B and C of the West Bank -- areas designated as such during the Oslo accords of the mid-1990s -- along with its strictly military functions as an occupying army and national defense force, is engaged, along with the Israeli police's car theft bureau, with investigating car thefts by Palestinians. Palestinian car thieves often work with Israeli organized crime families or individual Israelis seeking to defraud insurance agencies and investigation and prosecution falls under the jurisdiction of both the army and the civil police. It is the Israeli police's mandate to prosecute any Israeli citizens, while the Palestinians will be tried in an Israeli military court.

The Israeli army also patrols the northern border along with the drug police looking for heroin, hashish and other items smuggled from southern Lebanon. Inspector Gal Ben Ish, referring to participation by Hizballah in the trade, told the Associated Press in April 2009, "We know that it's not just criminal activity -- here there's always the aspect of national defense. We're helping the country's security." Some of the same Sinai Bedouin tribes involved in smuggling women for Israeli organized crime, which is investigated by the police, also smuggle goods, including weapons, to Palestinians in Gaza. According to a June 2007 report in Terrorism Monitor, this has led to the army patrolling 40 kilometers from the Gaza Strip down the border with Egypt.

The training offered by Israeli police and security forces is exported all over the world. For example in India, Israel has drawn upon its experience in south Lebanon, rural West Bank and urban population centers in Gaza and the West Bank to help train Indian forces. According to a 9 September 2009 article in Defense News, the inspiration for these efforts came after New Delhi took "a keen interest in the homeland security operations, armaments and surveillance devices used by Israeli troops."

A 2008 declaration signed by then-Minister of Public Security Avi Dichter and Canadian Minister of Public Safety Stockwell Day created a similar arrangement for Canada and Israel. According to the Israeli ministry's website, it allowed the countries to "share knowledge, experience, expertise, information, research, and best practices" and "facilitate technical exchange cooperation, including education, training, and exercises." In a 23 March 2008 press release, Minister Day stated that "The declaration seeks to establish a more structured framework for the continued cooperation on public safety issues between Canada and Israel."

Israeli police trained their Chinese counterparts for "possible scenarios involving terror and civil disturbances" prior to the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing. According to a 28 September 2008 article in the Israeli daily Haaretz, the commander of China's People's Armed Police Force "expressed an interest in continued cooperation between Israeli and Chinese police following the success of the course." Five years earlier Israeli police performed a similar task in Greece prior to the Athens games. The French government brought the head of the Israeli police's special forces to instruct their police in riot control.

However, no country in the world has a closer cooperation with Israeli police forces than the US. Just a sampling of US cities and institutions that have trained or are training in Israeli methods are Alameda County; Atlanta; Boston; Cambridge, MA; Commerce, GA; Detroit; Duxbury, MA; Georgia Tech University; Knoxville, TN; Los Angeles: the Maryland Department of Transportation; Miami; New York City; Pembroke Pines, FL; San Francisco; San Mateo; Santa Clara; Seattle; Stamford, CT; Sterling Heights, MI; and Suffolk County, NY. Low-level bilateral relationships between city police, sheriff's departments and other agencies of order in the US are reinforced by arrangements put in place by high-level officials like the memorandum of understanding signed by former Minister Dichter and former US Director of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff in 2007. A statement put out prior to the agreement and quoted by The Jerusalem Post stated "that there exists a vital need to promote operational, scientific and technological cooperation between the parties in the field of homeland security."

Israeli methods are sought out and adopted for their perceived quality, largely led by the government's marketing of them. But the relationships established between agencies of order, whether they be drug enforcement, civil policing, customs officials, tactical police units or any other, are done entirely outside the democratic realm. The citizens of Beijing did not vote for their police to study the repression of civil disturbance in Haifa's football stadium. Canadian parliament neither proposed nor endorsed the "Declaration of Intent Between the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness of Canada and the Ministry of Public Security of the Government of the State of Israel." The students of Georgia Tech University were not approached for their opinion about campus security adopting the tools that help sustain an illegal military occupation. This is the danger of agencies of authority going through processes of professionalization and integration with their foreign counterparts. It's often a strictly technocratic regime that can affect the public greatly but is done without its active knowledge or participation. As Andreas and Nadelmann argue, the efforts at professionalization are driven by the technocrats themselves, most often sanctioned by the governing authority, and it is this perceived technical neutrality that gives the efforts credibility.

This has been seen starkly in Washington, DC. The capitol police have long erected various checkpoints and barriers around the institutions of national government, especially the Capitol Building. In June 2008, Chief of Police Cathy Lanier, who according to The Washington Post once stated "No experience in my life has had more of an impact on doing my job than going to Israel," authorized checkpoints to be set up in the troubled northeast neighborhood of Trinidad, which had seen a spike in homicides and other violent crime. There are severe quality of life problems in Trinidad, including high rates of violent crime, and the disproportionate participation in street violence and the illegal narcotics trade by residents from and visitors to the neighborhood has strong links to socioeconomic exclusion of the poor in the US, especially in communities of color. The establishment of checkpoints in Trinidad was an attempt to address the former while neglecting the latter. Alternately put, it was a method of pacification deployed against resistance to and coping mechanisms of victims of structural classism and racism in the US. The Washington Post quoted one longtime neighborhood resident stating "I knew eventually we'd be a police state. They don't talk to us, they're not community minded."

Prior to Washington, DC police leadership receiving Israeli training they had no socioeconomic desk with which to work against the root causes of street crime, nor do they now. If the US government is no longer going to attempt to integrate all its citizens into its economic and political infrastructure (see for example, the removal of suffrage from convicted felons in many parts of the country) the adoption of Israel's system of blended civil and national security policing has a compelling logic. The, in effect, surplus population in the country will be only slightly less "foreign" to the government, and only slightly more represented in local and national planning, than the Palestinians are to Israel.

The dominant method of warehousing in the US is penal incarceration leading to a nation with about five percent of the world's population containing about 25 percent of the world's incarcerated population, according to Andreas and Nadelmann. As activist Jeff Halper has written, the methods of warehousing used by Israel against its surplus population, the Palestinians, are primarily geographic and structural, such as checkpoints and separation walls and fences, and bureaucratic, such as restricting building permits and ID regimes prohibiting movements between areas.

Similarly, the training of the Beijing police in controlling civil disturbance was largely used to exclude Beijing's slum dwellers, tens of thousands of whom were displaced by the Olympic games themselves, from access to the media, global attention and economic bubble that came with the games. As Mike Davis observed in Planet of Slums, like the US's disenfranchised, the slum dwellers of Beijing, largely economic migrants from the western interior of the country, have been almost entirely written off by the municipal and national authorities in China. And like the Palestinians, they are a surplus population to the government currently controlling their fates. The training of foreign police and security forces in the methods used to pacify resistance to apartheid, military occupation and the warehousing of the Palestinians should give pause as to what these tools of Israel's pacification industry will be deployed against in countries receiving the training.

Jimmy Johnson is an researcher, analyst and organizer with the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. He's based in Washington, DC and can be reached at jimmy [at] icahd [dot] org.

See also:

Looking into the Background of the BART Execution

Atheo News
January 9, 2009

What happened to global warming?

By Paul Hudson
Climate correspondent, BBC News

Planet Earth (Nasa)
Average temperatures have not increased for over a decade

This headline may come as a bit of a surprise, so too might that fact that the warmest year recorded globally was not in 2008 or 2007, but in 1998.

But it is true. For the last 11 years we have not observed any increase in global temperatures.

And our climate models did not forecast it, even though man-made carbon dioxide, the gas thought to be responsible for warming our planet, has continued to rise.

So what on Earth is going on?

Climate change sceptics, who passionately and consistently argue that man's influence on our climate is overstated, say they saw it coming.

They argue that there are natural cycles, over which we have no control, that dictate how warm the planet is. But what is the evidence for this?

During the last few decades of the 20th century, our planet did warm quickly.

The Sun (BBC)
Recent research has ruled out solar influences on temperature increases

Sceptics argue that the warming we observed was down to the energy from the Sun increasing. After all 98% of the Earth's warmth comes from the Sun.

But research conducted two years ago, and published by the Royal Society, seemed to rule out solar influences.

The scientists' main approach was simple: to look at solar output and cosmic ray intensity over the last 30-40 years, and compare those trends with the graph for global average surface temperature.

And the results were clear. "Warming in the last 20 to 40 years can't have been caused by solar activity," said Dr Piers Forster from Leeds University, a leading contributor to this year's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

But one solar scientist Piers Corbyn from Weatheraction, a company specialising in long range weather forecasting, disagrees.

He claims that solar charged particles impact us far more than is currently accepted, so much so he says that they are almost entirely responsible for what happens to global temperatures.

He is so excited by what he has discovered that he plans to tell the international scientific community at a conference in London at the end of the month.

If proved correct, this could revolutionise the whole subject.

Ocean cycles

What is really interesting at the moment is what is happening to our oceans. They are the Earth's great heat stores.

Pacific ocean (BBC)
In the last few years [the Pacific Ocean] has been losing its warmth and has recently started to cool down

According to research conducted by Professor Don Easterbrook from Western Washington University last November, the oceans and global temperatures are correlated.

The oceans, he says, have a cycle in which they warm and cool cyclically. The most important one is the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO).

For much of the 1980s and 1990s, it was in a positive cycle, that means warmer than average. And observations have revealed that global temperatures were warm too.

But in the last few years it has been losing its warmth and has recently started to cool down.

These cycles in the past have lasted for nearly 30 years.

So could global temperatures follow? The global cooling from 1945 to 1977 coincided with one of these cold Pacific cycles.

Professor Easterbrook says: "The PDO cool mode has replaced the warm mode in the Pacific Ocean, virtually assuring us of about 30 years of global cooling."

So what does it all mean? Climate change sceptics argue that this is evidence that they have been right all along.

They say there are so many other natural causes for warming and cooling, that even if man is warming the planet, it is a small part compared with nature.

But those scientists who are equally passionate about man's influence on global warming argue that their science is solid.

The UK Met Office's Hadley Centre, responsible for future climate predictions, says it incorporates solar variation and ocean cycles into its climate models, and that they are nothing new.

In fact, the centre says they are just two of the whole host of known factors things that influence global temperatures - all of which are accounted for by its models.

In addition, say Met Office scientists, temperatures have never increased in a straight line, and there will always be periods of slower warming, or even temporary cooling.

What is crucial, they say, is the long-term trend in global temperatures. And that, according to the Met office data, is clearly up.

To confuse the issue even further, last month Mojib Latif, a member of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) says that we may indeed be in a period of cooling worldwide temperatures that could last another 10-20 years.

Iceberg melting (BBC)
The UK Met Office says that warming is set to resume

Professor Latif is based at the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences at Kiel University in Germany and is one of the world's top climate modellers.

But he makes it clear that he has not become a sceptic; he believes that this cooling will be temporary, before the overwhelming force of man-made global warming reasserts itself.

So what can we expect in the next few years?

Both sides have very different forecasts. The Met Office says that warming is set to resume quickly and strongly.

It predicts that from 2010 to 2015 at least half the years will be hotter than the current hottest year on record (1998).

Sceptics disagree. They insist it is unlikely that temperatures will reach the dizzy heights of 1998 until 2030 at the earliest. It is possible, they say, that because of ocean and solar cycles a period of global cooling is more likely.

One thing is for sure. It seems the debate about what is causing global warming is far from over. Indeed some would say its hotting up.

More Childhood Cancer Near Nuclear Power Plants

German study

The German section of IPPNW has initiated a study, which approves that children under the age of five living near nuclear power stations have contracted cancer at a greatly higher rate than the national average. The study was paid for by the German Federal Radiation Protection Agency (BfS) the government's main adviser on nuclear health. It was conducted by the German Register of Child Cancer, an office in Mainz which is funded by the 16 German states and the federal Health Ministry.

The risk of cancer increased by 60 percent for children living less than five kilometres (three miles) from a nuclear power plant, according to the study. The risk was 117 percent higher when only leukemia was taken into account. The study looked at statistics from between 1980 and 2003 in regions near 21 reactors or former reactors. In those areas, 77 cases of cancer were found among children under five, or a 60-percent increase over the national average. Some 37 cases of leukemia were recorded instead of the average of 17.

"Our study confirms that in Germany a relationship is observable between the proximity of the home to the nearest nuclear power plant at the time of diagnosis and the risk of contracting cancer (respectively leukemia) before the child's fifth birthday," the researchers write.

One member of the expert commission that oversaw the study even considers the conclusions to be understated. According to him, the data indicate an increased risk of cancer for children in a radius of 50 kilometres.

It needed lobbying since 2001 by the local IPPNW section and more than 10,000 protest letters from the public authorities and ministries to get the BfS to commission the study. The campaign was triggered by a study initiated by the IPPNW and carried by Dr. Alfred Körblein (Environment Institute Munich), which found significantly higher child cancer incidence near Bavarian nuclear power stations.

The BfS commissioned its study to the Mainzer Kinderkrebsregister (Mainz Child Cancer Register) in 2003.

“Now that the connection between increased cancer and leukemia rates and proximity of the residence to the nuclear power station has been established, the causes of this must be further clarified immediately,” IPPNW says in a media release.

“The population affected at nuclear power station locations must be examined by suitable screening methods quickly and comprehensively.”

“Given these massive findings at every German nuclear power station location, a radiation-linked cause is highly likely in every case. Anyone who now still talks of coincidence is making himself ridiculous,” writes Dr. Angelika Claussen, chair of the German IPPNW.

“The precautionary principle enshrined in European environment law now demands that the German nuclear power stations be switched off immediately.”

“The IPPNW demands that the environment ministry now greatly reduce the obviously too lax upper limits for radioactive emissions from nuclear power stations. From now on the burden of proof of cause of illness should no longer have to be borne by parents, but conversely by the operators of the nuclear installations.”

The BfS media release about its study in German: www.bfs.de/en/bfs/presse/aktuell_press/Studie_Kernkraftwerke.html

More IPPNW background and chronology in German at www.ippnw-ulm.de

More on the topic: www.alfred-koerblein.de www.bfs.de

Contact: Reinhold Thiel, #49 0176-511 64 195 or #49 7346-8407,
Dr. med. Angelika Claussen, IPPNW Chair #49 521-15 22 13,
Henrik Paulitz, IPPNW expert on nuclear energy issues #49 621-3972-668.


Al-Walajah, a symbol of Israeli ethnic cleansing

Hasan Abu Nimah, The Electronic Intifada, 9 October 2009

Palestinians retrieve their possessions after the Israeli army demolished their home in the West Bank village of al-Walajah, near Bethlehem, December 2006. (Fadi Tanas/MaanImages)

While American officials continue to claim that the mission of US Middle East Envoy George Mitchell is by no means over, and that he will still pursue his efforts to convince the Israeli government to agree to some sort of settlement freeze, Israeli plans for further colonization of Palestinian land continue undisturbed. The latest Israeli plans call for the destruction of the West Bank village of al-Walajah for the second time in six decades.

According to Israeli press reports, Israel is planning a massive new settlement in the vicinity of Jerusalem, on land owned by Palestinians of al-Walajah. The project, expected to be approved by the Israeli ministry of the Interior, could become the single most populous settlement built in the occupied Palestinian territories since 1967 according to the Israeli daily Maariv. The project plans prepared by the ministry of the Interior and the Jerusalem municipality call for 14,000 housing units for 40,000 settlers on 3,000 dunums of land which would require the demolition of al-Walajah residents' homes, according to the paper.

The original village of al-Walajah was located on the opposite side of its current location, on a mountain slope facing east, just about six kilometers south of Jerusalem. It was very close to Battir, the village in which I was born and brought up. The two villages were separated by a valley, with Battir on the opposite slope from al-Walajah, though a little further south and were very closely linked.

The railway from Jerusalem to the Palestinian coastal city of Jaffa ran right through that valley, which also marks the 1949 armistice line following the end of the 1948 war (also known as the "Green Line.")

During October 1948, Zionist forces attacked and occupied al-Walajah. Its roughly 1,800 inhabitants were scattered in every direction, sharing the fate of Palestinians from hundreds of other towns and villages ethnically cleansed in the same period.

I have strong memories of visiting al-Walajah as a young child, which was walking distance from my village. Often when I was dispatched by one of my parents to purchase something for the house from the only shop in our village, I was advised to try the shop in al-Walajah if the item was not to be found in Battir.

There was active social interaction and intermarriage between the small, tight-knit populations of al-Walajah and Battir. There were daily exchanges of visits and sharing of most kinds of public events. That also applied to many other villages which were within walking distance from Battir such as Beit Safafa, al-Malhah, al-Jawrah, Ain Karem, al-Qabou and Sataf; all were occupied and ethnically cleansed in that first war.

That kind of cozy relationship amongst the small populations of Palestinian villages was all but destroyed by the 1948 war. When the inhabitants of Battir returned home after several months of forced refuge elsewhere when the village during the war came under direct fire, al-Walajah, which used to bustle with life was now silent and deserted. The demarcation line delineated following the 1949 armistice had left al-Walajah just west of the line, on the Israeli side. Battir was barely saved with the barbed wire running through the village cutting most of the village agricultural land, some houses and the boys school. Later, we watched as the Israeli army started to demolish al-Walajah, house by house. We would see a cloud of smoke and dust shoot up into the air over a house, followed by the sound of an explosion, leaving nothing but a heap of rubble. Al-Walajah was completely destroyed before Israel built the settlement of Aminadav and a park where Israelis picnic on its lands.

Apparently the people of al-Walajah owned land across the hills to the east, well within the West Bank, and that is where they decided to settle temporarily for the awaited hope of justice and redemption from the United Nations, which like many Palestinians, they still thought would come.

But time passed and justice never visited them, so they started to build homes and created a new al-Walajah. This new town is the one now threatened with ethnic cleansing. Of course the standard Israeli excuse for destroying Palestinians homes is that they were built "without permission."

The irony is that the Israelis have all along permitted themselves to massacre, ethnically cleanse, occupy, confiscate, destroy and commit every sort of crime against their Palestinian victims while Palestinians are severely punished for building on their land in their country. Al-Walajah in 1948 and now, bears witness to Israel's insatiable appetite for Palestinian land.

Israel's brazen acceleration of settlement construction on occupied Palestinian land is unquestionably a result of international, and particularly American, policy failures and the refusal to hold Israel accountable under international law.

While we have constantly witnessed the so-called "international community" relentlessly tracking down alleged violations and violators in Iran, Syria, Sudan, Lebanon, Kenya, Burma and among Palestinians not affiliated with US-backed Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, Israel is offered unconditional impunity.

It doesn't stop there; Israel is not only exempt from punishment but routinely rewarded for its crimes. After six months of defiant rejection of American requests to stop settlement construction, the Americans were the ones who finally dropped the demand and put pressure instead on the Palestinian Authority (PA) to drop its conditions to restart "negotiations."

Last month's New York summit of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, hosted by US President Barack Obama, was Netanyahu's first great diplomatic victory. Following the growing public outrage at the PA's shelving of the Goldstone report into Israel's war crimes in Gaza, it emerged (according to the BBC Arabic Service on 3 October) that Abbas agreed in New York to drop the Palestinian effort to have the report forwarded to the Security Council for further action. This is a second major Israeli victory. Netanyahu, it should be recalled, had dwelled heavily on the Goldstone report in his address to the UN General Assembly rejecting the report as a serious obstacle to peace. Abbas on his part ignored any mere mention of the report in his own UN speech. This indicates that Abbas had already acquiesced to public and private American and Israeli demands to shelve the Goldstone report.

Israel's third victory is the revelation that the Obama administration, like all its predecessors, has agreed to help Israel continue to hide its nuclear weapons arsenal that threatens the region and all of humanity, while the US and its allies escalate their pressure on Iran in response to Israeli incitement.

All of these events are directly linked to what happens to people in al-Walajah -- and indeed all over Palestine from Galilee to Gaza -- who from 1948 until now, continue steadfastly and stubbornly to defend their rights and existence even as they still hope for international justice that has yet to come.

Hasan Abu Nimah is the former permanent representative of Jordan at the United Nations.


In an endeavor for balanced coverage I am posting the Israeli narrative as elucidated by
Mort Zuckerman, Editor, U.S. News & World Report:

The Cruel Dilemma Facing the Jews of Israel

Published by Huffington Post
October 8, 2009

The Jews of Israel are facing a cruel dilemma. They came home to find peace and safety in their homeland of Israel; to find an end to that vulnerable status of a perpetual wandering minority; an end to exile, alienation, and powerlessness; and the beginning of a normal national existence. Instead, they found neighbors who were not reconciled to their living again together in this tiny piece of land the Jews have regarded as home for 4,000 years. How do you share a home with someone who says, "You have no right to be here"?


Algerian army defuses French landmines

Oct 8, 2009

ALGIERS (AFP) – The Algerian army in September destroyed 5,163 landmines laid by French troops along the country's eastern and western borders, the APS news agency said.

The weapons were part of a total of 415,829 mines destroyed by the army in a latest operation by September 30, according to APS.

The landmines date back to Algeria's war of liberation from French rule in 1954-62.

Since 1962, the army has destroyed more than eight million of the 11 million mines laid along the borders of the country.

In 2007, France gave Algeria maps of the minefields laid on what were known as the Challe and Morice Lines on the eastern and western borders between 1956 and 1959.

The mines were laid to prevent infiltration into Algeria from Morocco and Tunisia by fighters of Algeria's National Liberation Army (ALN).

Warmonger Wins Peace Prize

October 9, 2009

It took 25 years longer than George Orwell thought for the slogans of 1984 to become reality.

“War is Peace,” “Freedom is Slavery,” “Ignorance is Strength.”

I would add, “Lie is Truth.”

The Nobel Committee has awarded the 2009 Peace Prize to President Obama, the person who started a new war in Pakistan, upped the war in Afghanistan, and continues to threaten Iran with attack unless Iran does what the US government demands and relinquishes its rights as a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty.

The Nobel committee chairman, Thorbjoern Jagland said, “Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future.”

Obama, the committee gushed, has created “a new climate in international politics.”

Tell that to the 2 million displaced Pakistanis and the unknown numbers of dead ones that Obama has racked up in his few months in office. Tell that to the Afghans where civilian deaths continue to mount as Obama’s “war of necessity” drones on indeterminably.

No Bush policy has changed. Iraq is still occupied. The Guantanamo torture prison is still functioning. Rendition and assassinations are still occurring. Spying on Americans without warrants is still the order of the day. Civil liberties are continuing to be violated in the name of Oceania’s “war on terror.”

Apparently, the Nobel committee is suffering from the delusion that, being a minority, Obama is going to put a stop to Western hegemony over darker-skinned peoples.

The non-cynical can say that the Nobel committee is seizing on Obama’s rhetoric to lock him into the pursuit of peace instead of war. We can all hope that it works. But the more likely result is that the award has made “War is Peace” the reality.

Obama has done nothing to hold the criminal Bush regime to account, and the Obama administration has bribed and threatened the Palestinian Authority to go along with the US/Israeli plan to deep-six the UN’s Goldstone Report on Israeli war crimes committed during Israel’s inhuman military attack on the defenseless civilian population in the Gaza Ghetto.

The US Ministry of Truth is delivering the Obama administration’s propaganda that Iran only notified the IAEA of its “secret” new nuclear facility because Iran discovered that US intelligence had discovered the “secret” facility. This propaganda is designed to undercut the fact of Iran’s compliance with the Safeguards Agreement and to continue the momentum for a military attack on Iran.

The Nobel committee has placed all its hopes on a bit of skin color.

“War is Peace” is now the position of the formerly antiwar organization, Code Pink. Code Pink has decided that women’s rights are worth a war in Afghanistan.

When justifications for war become almost endless--oil, hegemony, women’s rights, democracy, revenge for 9/11, denying bases to al Qaeda and protecting against terrorists--war becomes the path to peace.

The Nobel committee has bestowed the prestige of its Peace Prize on Newspeak and Doublethink.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com

Iran welcomes foreign investment in energy industry

October 8, 2009

Teheran Times

Iran, holder of the world’s second- largest gas reserves, is open to foreign companies investing in its energy sector, the country’s deputy oil minister said.

“Many companies that belong to the government now will become private very soon,” Azizollah Ramezani, deputy Iranian oil minister, said on Tuesday in an interview in Buenos Aires. “I think the Iranian energy sector in very interesting for foreign companies, including American companies.”

Iran is executing a plan to sell 80 percent of its major state-owned companies to boost the economy and stock values, following a 2006 order by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. At least three- quarters of the Iranian economy is controlled by the state.

The National Iranian Gas Company is also open to potential ventures with private groups, said Ramezani, who’s also managing director of the state-owned gas producer.

“We are ready to negotiate partnerships,” he said. Iran plans to invest $50 billion during the next 10 years on liquefied natural gas projects. The country plans to export as much as 8 million tons of the fuel, known as LNG, by 2012, Ramezani said.

Iran is seeking to develop its mineral assets amid United Nations sanctions and the threat of military action over what Western nations say are its efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

Global gas demand will probably rise between 2 percent and 3 percent a year for the next 20 to 25 years, with India and China the main markets for Iran’s gas exports, Ramezani said.

“All of our liquefied natural gas will be exported,” Ramezani said. “We will invest in the development of the projects and infrastructure, like plants.”

Liquefied natural gas is gas that’s cooled to a liquid to allow transport on tankers. Russia is holder of the world’s largest gas reserves.

The country also aims to increase natural gas exports by fivefold to 60 billion cubic meters a year by 2014, from 12 billion in 2009, he said.

“The world market for natural gas is not mature yet,” Ramezani said. “The demand will grow faster than for oil and for coal.”

---------$15 billion a year

Iran is investing $15 billion a year to expand its annual gas output capacity to 300 billion cubic meters in five years, from 170 billion, the deputy oil minister said.

Economic growth in Brazil, Russia, India and China, known as the BRIC nations, is prompting rising gas demand for use in power generation and industry. Demand in many so-called emerging economies is rising, while the economic crisis has curbed gas use in the U.S. and Western Europe, Repsol YPF SA Chief Executive Officer Antonio Brufau also said Wednesday.

“Brazil is too far and Russia has its own gas reserves,” Ramezani said. “China and India should be the main destinations for our natural gas exports.”

Still, the Iranian government has sought to increase ties with Latin American countries in talks with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Relations with Brazil have “no limits,” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told reporters in New York Sept. 24.

-------------Brazil development

Iran can help Brazil in the development and the exploration of the South American country’s new oil reserves and in the construction of refineries, Ramezani said. “Brazil is a good potential partner,” he said.

Oil prices will probably remain at around $70 a barrel for the next year and rise “gradually” in 2011, according to Ramezani. “I believe $70 is a bottom level for oil prices,” he said.

(Source: Bloomberg)

Berlusconi now open to prosecution

Press TV - October 7, 2009

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi

Italy's Constitutional Court has stripped the country's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of his immunity against legal action.

The ruling by the court, the highest tribunal in Italy, came on Wednesday to the consternation of the premier's colossal public fan base, AFP reported.

Berlusconi has invoked his exception from the course of justice in a number of cases, which now threaten to be revived thanks to the annulment.

The premier could face charges of corruption, tax fraud, false accounting and illegal financing of political parties. There have also been some rumors regarding a possible connection with the Italian Mafia.

The 73-year-old slammed the adjudicators as "11 left-wing judges."

"We must govern for five years with or without the law," Berlusconi said following his earlier suggestions that legal complications should not get into the way of governance.

October 08, 2009

Israel Plans 'Environmental' Crusade

'Israel not after real peace with Palestine'
Press TV - October 8, 2009 06:11:46 GMT

Lieberman has been urged to employ a zero tolerance
policy for instances of anti-Semitism.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry's documents suggest Tel Aviv is not after a real peace deal but rather a shelter from international frustration and Palestinian armed response.

An unapproved document outlining Israel's future foreign policy states that the government should not attempt to reach a permanent settlement with the Palestinians but should focus instead on a temporary accord to prevent US and European frustration.

The draft, handed to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Wednesday, was composed by Naor Gilon, Lieberman's former counselor for political affairs, and is scheduled to be presented before the ministry's directorate within the coming days in order to be approved as Israel's official foreign policy.

Gilon argues that 'the attempt at imposing a settlement with the Palestinians has failed in the past', warning that future attempts would lead to more disappointment on the part of Israel's Western allies and a harsh Palestinian response.

"We need a realistic attitude - the arrival at a temporary accord without dealing with the core issues. This is the maximum that can be achieved, if we want to be realistic," Ynet news website quoted the document as saying.

It also advises Lieberman to reestablish ties with African, Latin American, Balkan, Asian, and moderate Arab nations, countries which Israel has abandoned for many years.

Gilon has also urged Lieberman to employ a zero tolerance policy for instances of anti-Semitism and international isolation, suggesting that Israel should focus on environmental and economic issues in order to improve its global image.

Israel turns to face-saving measures amid mounting challenges it faces from the international community over war crimes committed during Tel Aviv's 23-day military onslaught against the Gaza Strip, which left more than 1,400 people — mostly civilians — killed.

Tel Aviv's Western allies are also pushing for a freeze on its illegal settlement construction activity in the occupied West Bank to pave the way for resuming long-stalled peace talks with Palestinians.