November 19, 2009

Some OPEC Nations Charge Ahead Despite Slow Oil Demand

The Wall Street Journal
11/19/2009 12:04

Energy forecasters increasingly predict slowing growth in global oil demand in the years ahead, but some OPEC nations are heading in the opposite direction and ramping up their capacity to pump oil.

Qatar, for example, is set to raise its oil-production capacity early next year from an existing field known as Al Shaheen. The more than $6 billion expansion project brightens the revenue prospects of the Mideast state but highlights a bigger problem brewing for its partners in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

After keeping a tight tether on supply in recent years by cautiously investing, the 12-nation cartel finds itself battling an untimely convergence of lackluster consumption that magnifies its own rising supply capacity -- which may in turn reignite old battles between members over market share and ultimately push oil prices lower.

OPEC output capacity is expected to increase around one million barrels a day in 2010 as projects enter service in Angola, Iraq, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, according to Bill Farren-Price, energy director at Medley Global Advisors.

"Significant challenges face OPEC next year," Mr. Farren-Price says. "It will struggle to integrate a wave of new OPEC production capacity that vastly exceeds world demand for its crude." Many of the projects started development well before the recession.

Projects like Al Shaheen may swell OPEC's nominal spare production capacity, a measure of its overall capability to bring barrels to consumers, to roughly 7.5 million barrels a day. That would will leave OPEC capacity up about 15% from 2008, almost a 10-year high, depending on how much oil the group is actually producing.

Operated by Denmark's AP Moller-Maersk, the offshore Al Shaheen field started producing crude in the early 1990s and could almost double in capacity to over 500,000 barrels a day, says Qatar oil minister Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah. "The expansion is coming along as expected," he said, dismissing concern about depressed demand.

Mr. Al-Attiyah and other OPEC officials say China, India and other parts of Asia will remain OPEC's fastest-growing markets. OPEC exports to Asia, not including Japan, grew by 22% in 2000-08, according to OPEC data. By comparison, shipments to North America, mainly the U.S., were flat in that period.

Prices, meanwhile, have risen about 77% this year to $79 a barrel, thanks in part to a weak U.S. dollar that is encouraging investors to buy higher-yielding oil futures contracts, and in part to big OPEC production cuts this year. Those cuts are likely to be kept in place at the group's final meeting of the year scheduled for Dec. 22 in Angola, OPEC officials say.

But problems seem set to mount. In the near term, a persistent glut in crude inventory this year is expected to last into 2010. Yet OPEC is cranking up its ability to produce oil -- and that could extend the current supply glut.

Among the most aggressive has been Angola, which has doubled its production capacity -- from a low base -- since 2004, to about 2.1 million barrels a day. Most of the output from its 100,000-barrel-a-day Tombua-Landana offshore project will start in 2010. Chevron Corp. is developing the $3.8 billion project.


Jahalin Bedouin suffer without representation

Kieron Monks, The Electronic Intifada, 19 November 2009

The Jabal Bedouin camp near Abu Dis is situated near a large garbage dump. (Lazar Simeonov)

Beyond the demolitions in its suburbs and the frequent, violent clashes around the al-Aqsa mosque, Jerusalem is the scene of a quieter shame. Southeast of the holy city live the Jahalin Bedouin, a community that has been repeatedly displaced and transferred, now enduring unimaginable poverty beside Jerusalem's largest garbage dump. An embarrassment to Palestinians and Israelis alike, the Bedouin and their unique way of life are under grave threat.

Eid Raeb is a coordinator between the Jabal camp and the European nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that are its lifeblood. "Bedouin life is finished," he declared without hesitation. "Sometimes when I look outside I imagine how it was before, but I know that life is over." Eid is one of the founding members of the camp after they were displaced from their land that became Ma'ale Adumim, one of the fastest growing Israeli settlements. "After they built [Ma'ale Adumim] in 1979, they began to move us. At first very slowly, one family at a time. After 1993 and the Oslo agreements they built many houses and said they needed all the land." The Oslo agreements placed them in Area C, under Israeli control. "At first when they told us to move here we refused, but the Israelis said they would use force. They promised us building permission, electricity, water and streets. When we came here there was nothing, just open land."

The Jabal camp was established in 1997, with each Bedouin family receiving around $10,000 compensation from the Israeli government. But the promises of infrastructural support were reneged on; most crucially the Bedouin were denied permission to build, forcing them to live for six years in shipping containers. In 1998, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed "deep concern at the situation of the Jahalin Bedouin families who were forcibly evicted from their ancestral lands to make way for the expansion of the Ma'ale Adumim settlement." The report also condemned the "manner in which the Government of Israel has housed these families -- in steel container vans in a garbage dump in Abu Dis in subhuman living conditions." After concerted pressure from aid organizations and foreign NGOs the residents of Jabal were finally granted permission to build on their land.

Eid claims that the site was uninhabited when the Bedouin were moved in, that it was Israeli land to give away and that "Palestinians have no problem with us being here." This is not the case according to Dr. Abdullah Abu Helal, a long-time resident of Abu Dis, the neighboring Palestinian village. "Their village is built on land confiscated from Palestinians in Abu Dis. We think very badly of them, that they work with Israelis and sometimes they behave like Israeli soldiers. We had a demonstration against the stealing of our land and they came to shoot at us. That they have their own problems and difficulties does not mean they should accept to live on Palestinian land." Abu Helal referred to a neighboring Bedouin camp where he claims the residents refused to displace Palestinians and now live in temporary tents away from Abu Dis town, explaining that "they trade milk and cheese with us, we provide them with teachers. They are with us in our struggle against the Israelis."

A home in the Jabal Bedouin camp. (Lazar Simeonov)

Eid freely admits to his split loyalties. "The Bedouin here are Palestinians. But before when Jordan had this land we were Jordanians and most Bedouin feel closer to Jordan. We work with Israelis and if there is a problem, Israeli police come here." It is easy to see how their dealings with the occupation forces would be enough to poison a Palestinian's view of the Jabal Bedouin, while Eid has nothing but contempt for the Palestinian Authority (PA). He explained that "They are not a government, they are like thieves. We are starting from zero here, we need schools, water, roads but the PA is helping us only with teachers. We know that more than $1 million has come from international aid but we do not see it. Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] and the PA take it."

The camp's greatest concern is the massive garbage dump located just 300 meters away where the majority of Jerusalem's waste is disposed, including tons of chemicals and dangerous gases each day. The site predates Jabal but as Eid explained, "For the last ten years [the Israelis] have been promising to take the garbage. They say they will relocate it to a place near Jericho but even if they do the problem will not go away, it is in the earth now. We have now many cases of skin disease in our people and animals and we do not know how to treat it. One animal will catch it and then spread the sickness to many others. Sometimes we cannot see it for weeks." Jabal's 3,500-strong population does not include a single doctor, so anyone who falls sick must take a long drive to Bethany. "If we need a doctor quickly it is a big problem", said Eid.

Two months ago, Eid was visited by a representative from the Israeli Land Administration, guaranteeing the garbage would be moved in the next two years. "I would like to trust her but I believe only in actions," he explained. There was less optimistic news from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. He added that the camp was informed by a spokesperson that "The most recent meeting between the interior minister and the mayor of Ma'ale Adumim resulted in a decision to postpone any kind of plan for at least six months."

There are many precedents for Bedouin being forced to endure such conditions. Between 2002-04 the Israeli government destroyed 7,500 acres of Bedouin crops in the Negev desert by spraying the area with illegal toxic chemicals. The effects were hugely damaging to residents and animals in the area and the policy was widely condemned. At the time Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert defended the policy, stating "we will displace unrecognized Bedouin communities to make room for thousands of Jews." Recognition has been a huge problem for the Bedouin and around 20 percent of their population are not even registered as refugees, giving them no protection from displacement and brutal treatment. There is currently a court case on behalf of Ezariya camp (Bethany), to determine whether their residents have any right to reverse the 257 eviction orders that have been issued against them.

Their rights infringed upon by the Israeli authorities and resented by their Palestinian neighbors, and struggling to maintain their way of life, the residents of Jabal face an uncertain future. Although they now own the rights to the land, the continued expansion of Ma'ale Adumim poses a constant menace. Without the resources to support themselves they are reliant on a handful of foreign NGOs which have been unable to find solutions for the garbage problem or the resultant diseases. Without urgent attention Jabal could become a humanitarian crisis, but there is no authority willing to represent them.

Kieron Monks is a freelance reporter from London, writing for Ma'an News, Palestine News Network and publications in Europe.

Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby

From Channel Four’s Dispatches program. The documentry on the disease crippling the Western governments.

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IOF raids wound 3 Palestinians, IOF soldiers round up dozens in Gaza

19/11/2009 - 10:23 AM

RAFAH, (PIC)-- Israeli warplanes pounded the tunnels area in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, and a position for the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, at dawn Thursday wounding three citizens, local sources reported.

They told the PIC reporter that Israeli F-16s fired two missiles at the tunnels area on the Palestinian-Egyptian border and injured three civilians.

The sources noted that a few minutes later the warplanes blasted a position for the Qassam Brigades west of Khan Younis, also in southern Gaza, with two missiles but no casualties were reported.

The third raid targeted the same position almost an hour later while police squads were combing the area, no casualties were known yet.

The local initiative committee in Beit Hanun, north of the Strip, said that the Israeli occupation forces rounded up tens of Palestinians in an incursion in the vicinity of the industrial area near Beit Hanun (Erez) crossing.

The committee said that the IOF soldiers opened fire at the Palestinian workers from the military watchtowers in the vicinity of the crossing wounding a number of them before detaining many others.

It said in a statement that around 30 heavily armed soldiers attacked the workers and took them to the crossing.

November 18, 2009

U.S. nuclear arms in Japan: a firsthand account

By BRIAN A. VICTORIA -November 17, 2009
MSG, USAR (Retired) and Professor of Japanese Studies, Antioch University

Dear Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama,

In the fall of 1980 I was assigned as a civilian university professor to provide Japanese language instruction to the officers and men of the USS Knox (FF-1052), a destroyer home-ported in Yokosuka. Sharing quarters with the ship's nuclear weapons officer, I soon became aware that the Knox was outfitted with an ASROC antisubmarine missile system including nuclear depth bombs.

I say this because: 1) The operations manual for these nuclear weapons lay in plain sight on the floor beneath the officer's desk; 2) receipts for the nuclear weapons first loaded on the ship in Guam were on his desk; and 3) an armed marine stood guard 24 hours a day in front of a door on the ship marked with a radiation hazard sign.

I immediately realized that the presence of nuclear weapons in Japanese territorial waters violated Japan's three nonnuclear principles. Yet even then I suspected this violation could not have occurred without the Japanese government's consent. Recent revelations regarding related "oral agreements" between then Foreign Minister Masayoshi Ohira and U.S. Ambassador Edwin Reishauer have proven my suspicions correct.

In 1995 I returned to Japan, this time as U.S. Army intelligence specialist assigned to Headquarters, U.S. Forces, Japan, located at Yokota Air Force Base. There I participated in command and control exercises premised on the outbreak of war on the Korean Peninsula.

Once, in response to the commanding general's query, my fellow intelligence analysts insisted that U.S. military bases in Japan would not be subject to antiwar demonstrations in the event of a second Korean war. Why? Because North Korean missiles aimed at U.S. bases in Japan were so inaccurate they would miss their targets and, instead, kill Japanese civilians in neighboring areas. This would so anger the Japanese people that they would forget that the reason for the missiles raining down on them in the first place was the presence of U.S. bases.

Significantly, there was never any discussion of how to prevent innocent Japanese civilians from being killed, only how to take advantage of their deaths to ensure the Japanese people's support for the U.S. war effort.

In 1997 I was reassigned to the U.S. Army-run military port in Naha, Okinawa. This was at a time when the U.S. had agreed to an Okinawan request to relocate the military port to a site further north on the main island. However, I soon discovered that while the U.S. military authorities had publicly pledged that, in the event of relocation, there would be no expansion of the port's facilities, there was nevertheless a secret plan to build a new hovercraft port to speed up the dispatch of marines to the Korean Peninsula in the event of war.

Prime minister, the conclusion I draw from my personal experiences is that neither the U.S. military nor previous Liberal Democratic Party governments can be trusted to tell the truth to the Japanese people. In light of the recent collision between a Japanese naval destroyer and a container ship in the narrow Kanmon Straits, who can guarantee that the same will not happen to one or another of the nuclear-armed U.S. Navy ships home-ported in Yokosuka, with the possible loss (or worse) of one or more nuclear weapons on board?

Further, is it right for the lives of Japanese civilians near U.S. military bases to be held hostage to U.S. military activities on the Korean Peninsula? Prime minister, I trust you will agree that the Japanese people should not become the unwitting and unwilling victims of yet another war.

Dedicated to the welfare of the people of Japan as I believe you and the Democratic Party of Japan are, I pray you will not allow the U.S. military to further betray and endanger this nation as it has done so often in the past. As you have rightly pointed out, it is highly unnatural to have foreign military bases located in one's country for more than half a century. Isn't it time, beginning with Okinawa, to work toward dismantling these bases even as you strive to build a new East Asian economic and security system?


Local Currencies -
The missing link in the quest for sustainability

by Helen Dew,
a founding member of the Living Economies Trust, New Zealand
November 4, 2009

Currency is the lifeblood of an economic system. Most people think that there’s only one type of money, because that’s all they’ve ever known. Cheques and credit cards etc. represent special-purpose forms of cash, but money is money, they think, regardless of the form it takes. Few realise that there are, potentially at least, many different forms of money, and each type can affect the economy, human society and the natural environment in a different way.

Bernard Lietaer, research fellow at the Centre for Sustainable Resources, California, and author of "The Future of Money" (2001), says
‘We create our exchange systems and then they create the world we live in.’

Richard Douthwaite, author of "The Ecology of Money" (1999), says
‘If we wish to live more ecologically, it would make sense to adopt monetary systems that make it easier to do so.’

Essentially, community currencies connect unused or under-utilised resources with unmet needs, enabling exchanges to take place despite a shortage of money.

A wide variety of currency models are currently in use throughout the world, including manually operated mutual credit systems, beautifully designed vouchers and on-line accounting systems.

Members form trading circles, list their offerings and needs, and offer and accept payment for goods and services either wholly or partly in the local currency.

Local Currencies are the ultimate in loyalty programs. Unlike profits derived from trading with national currencies, the wealth generated by trading with exchange systems created by and for local communities stays within the district.

Since community currencies work alongside and supplement national currency, once their advantages are understood they are welcomed by the community, particularly in times of economic stress. Historically, community currencies have been economic and social lifesavers.

The principle advantages of community currencies are

• Protection against global economic instability
• Stemming ‘leakage’ of community wealth to outsiders/offshore
• Support for local small/medium businesses
• Business opportunities in import substitution
• Less fuel needed for imported product
• Increased employment opportunities
• Less conventional money required for desirable projects
• Enhanced sense of community
• Branding opportunity for the district
• Tourist attraction, especially for early adopters

Naturally, if we decide to change how money works we first of all need to understand how the current money system is designed, how the use of it manages to leave a trail of destruction in its wake and what other options are possible.

Deirdre Kent, in "Healthy Money, Healthy Planet", brings to light some surprising facts about the history and workings of money:

Almost all of our money supply is created by private banks as interest-bearing debt. The Reserve Bank has confirmed that only about two percent of the money supply in use in New Zealand is created interest-free.

The problem with this is that money is always in short supply. When banks provide loans they create the principle only. Borrowers must find extra money to repay the interest either by increasing their production, competing with others facing the same problem or by further borrowing.

• The never-ending need to increase production causes intolerable demand to be made on natural resources.
• The competition for an inadequate supply of money is a bit like musical chairs; someone misses out; bankruptcy is inevitable for some of the losers.
• Further borrowing compounds borrower’s problems, consigning them to long-term and often inescapable debt.

Given the above options imposed by the present money system it is little wonder that regionally, nationally and globally we are now faced with escalating environmental damage, economic strain and social dislocation.

In the search for effective means of meeting these challenges, particularly the immanent problem of diminishing and more costly supplies of energy communities are beginning to recognise the potential of community currencies.

Cuba’s response to ‘peak oil’

When Cuba lost access to Soviet oil in the early 1990s, the country faced an immediate crisis – feeding the population – and an ongoing challenge: how to create a new low-energy society. Cuba transitioned from large, fossil-fuel intensive farming to small, less energy-intensive organic farms and urban gardens, and from a highly industrial society to a more sustainable one. Although barely mentioned in the documentary film, "The Power of Community" documenting Cuba’s recovery, community currency played a very important role in that process.

Kinsale 2021, Ireland

The creators of the Kinsale 2021 energy descent plan( 7) (Kinsale has a population of 7,000), recently announced that the Kinsale Town Council has unanimously adopted the proposed long term plan. The plan, which involved the community in its development, is based on the changes that can be expected in the absence of cheap fuel. It is significant that 10 of the 53 pages of the plan are devoted to the design and implementation of a community currency system. Also noteworthy is the priority given to creating their local currency as the first step in the process of implementing the plan.

Regional currencies in Germany

Mounting economic, environmental and social pressures are prompting greater openness by communities and their business and civic leaders to seriously consider the implementation of community currencies. This is particularly so in Germany, where Prof Dr Margrit Kennedy has pioneered regionally-scaled systems. Seventeen ‘Regio’ currency systems have already launched their local vouchers, with 49 more in the pipeline.

The first example was launched in March 2005 by students at a Steiner school in Chiemgau, for the purpose of raising funds for major repairs to the school building.

Regio participants purchase vouchers at 1:1 for Euros and use them to purchase goods or services, either wholly or as a percentage of the price. Vouchers may be redeemed for Euros at any time, minus an administration fee. A combination of education and built in incentives leads to a preference for trades using the local currency.

A valued feature of local currencies is their tendency to build community. Like the growing appreciation of ‘slow food’, ‘slow money’ is helping to restore the social dimension of trading. It takes more time to process a transaction, time for graciousness, time for building connection with community of place.

Once would-be participants come to appreciate the advantage of having their own exchange medium promoters sign up members from all sectors of the community; local government, banks, businesses, community organisations and ordinary citizens.

In February 2007 an ABC TV news story reported the fast spreading voucher-based BerkShares? in Massachusetts, USA. US$835,000 worth of vouchers were distributed to the participating banks prior to the 2006 launch; 225 local businesses accept the vouchers. ‘Chambers of Commerce in three neighbouring towns recently asked how they can bring BerkShares? to their communities.’

Community currencies are a vital tool for the empowerment of local communities as they come to terms with the multitude of challenges related to energy and climate change.

source:Living Economy

Globalization Unchecked:
How Alien Media is Suffocating Real Culture

By Ramzy Baroud
November 18, 2009

A Muslim family sits across of me in café, in a largely Muslim Asia country. An older woman shyly hunches over and desperately trying to avoid eye contact with the giant plasma screen TV, blazing loud music on the popular music video channel, MTV. The scantily dressed presenter introduces her ‘top song’ for the week. Beyonce, dressed in so very little, annoyingly reiterates that she is “a single lady.” The old woman’s son is mesmerized by what he sees. He pays no attention to his mother, young wife or even his own son who wreaks havoc in the coffee shop. The man’s T-Shirt reads: “what the fxxx are you looking at?”

Respecting the message on his T-Shirt, I try to keep to myself, but find it increasingly difficult. The wife is completely covered, all but her face. The contradictions are ample, overwhelming even.

The attire of the family, the attitude of the ladies and even the man with the provocative T-Shirt are all signs of the cultural schizophrenia that permeates many societies in the so-called Third World. It’s a side effect of globalization that few wish to talk about.

It’s almost always about trade, foreign investment, capital flow and all the rest. But what about culture, identity, traditions and ways of life; do these things amount to anything?

True, Globalization has various manifestations. If viewed strictly from economic terms, then the debate delves into trade barriers, protectionism and tariffs. Powerful countries demand smaller countries to break down all trade barriers, while maintaining a level of protectionism over their own. Smaller countries, knowing that they cannot do much to hide from the hegemonic nature of globalization, form their own economic clubs, hoping to negotiate fairer deals. And the economic tug-of-war continues, between diplomacy and threats, dialogue and arm twisting. This is the side of globalization with which most of us are familiar.

But there is another side of globalization, one that is similarly detrimental to some countries, and profitable to others: cultural globalization - not necessarily the domination of a specific culture, in this case Western culture, over all the rest - but rather the unbridgeable disadvantage of poorer countries, who lack the means to withstand the unmitigated takeover of their traditional ways of life by the dazzling, well-packaged and branded ‘culture’ imparted upon them around the clock.

What audiences watch, read and listen to in most countries outside the Western hemisphere is not truly Western culture in the strict definition of the term, of course. It’s a selective brand of a culture, a reductionst presentation of art, entertainment, news, and so on, as platforms to promote ideas that would ultimately sell products. For the dwarfed representation of Western culture, it’s all about things, tangible material values that can be obtained by that simple and final act of pulling out one’s credit card. To sell a product, however, media also sell ideas, often one sided, and create unjustifiable fascinations with ways of life that hardly represent natural progression for many vanishing cultures and communities around the world.

Recently in some Gulf country, a few Turkish teenagers turned an Internet café into a shouting match as they engaged one another in some violent computer game. I desperately tried to mind my own business, but their shrieks of victory and defeat were deafening. “Kill the Terrorist”, one of them yelled in English, with a thick Turkish accent. The “Rs” in “terrorists” rolled over his tongue so unnaturally. For a moment, he was an “American”, killing “terrorists”, who, bizarrely looked more Turkish than American. As I walked out, I glanced at the screen. Among the rubble, there was a mosque, or what was left of it. The young Turkish Muslim was congratulated by his friends for his handy work.

There is nothing wrong with exchanges of ideas, of course. Cultural interactions are historically responsible for much of the great advancements and evolution in art, science, language, even food and much more. But, prior to globalization, cultural influences were introduced at much slower speed. It allowed societies, big and small, to reflect, consider, and adjust to these unique notions over time. But the globalization of the media is unfair. It gives no chance for mulling anything over, for determining the benefits or the harms, for any sort of value analysis. News, music and even pornography are beamed directly to all sorts of screens and gadgets. When Beyonce sings she is a ‘single lady’, the whole world must know, instantly. This may sound like a harmless act, but the cultural contradictions eventually morph into conflicts and clashes, in figurative and real senses.

More, it makes little sense, for example, that Asian audiences are consumers of Fox News and Sky News, while both are regarded as rightwing media platforms in their original markets. And what can Nepali television, for example, do to control media moguls and morphing media empires all around? Young people grow, defining themselves according to someone else’s standards, thus the Turkish teenager, temporarily adopting the role of the “American”, blows up his own mosque.

Globalization is not a fair game, of course. Those with giant economies get the lion’s share of the ‘collective’ decision-making. Those with more money and global outlook tend to have influential media, also with global outlook. In both scenarios, small countries are lost between desperately trying to negotiate a better economic standing for themselves, while hopelessly trying to maintain their cultural identity, which defined their people, generation after generation throughout history.

The Muslim family eventually left the coffee shop. The husband watched MTV throughout his stay; the young wife, clicked endlessly on her iPhone, and the older woman glanced at the TV from time to time, then quickly looked the other way. One is certain that a few years ago, that family would have enjoyed an entirely different experience. Alas, a few years from today, they might not even sit at the same table.

source: Palestine Chronicle

Olive oil and yoghurt, yoghurt and olive oil

by Hasan Abu Nimah
November 18, 2009

No matter how they're packaged, "peace" initiatives will do little until Israel's oppression of Palestinians ends.

As a child in early-1940s Palestine, I grew up in a small village of 1,500 individuals with its roots in biblical times. I would like to tell you an anecdote from my childhood that I recalled as I was reading the news the other day.

Life was simple, tranquil and often hard but despite the lack of modern amenities or even what was then available in the city, it was happy. There was no electricity or running water. We used kerosene lamps that gave poor lighting and kerosene stoves for cooking. The best stoves for indoor cooking were of the Swedish-made Primus or Radius brands. Weather-permitting, we cooked outdoors, often using a pottery pot, placed on three stones with a wood-fire underneath.

Food was tastier, simpler and healthier then, although we had no refrigerators. People dried fruits for the long, harsh winter, first by oiling them (which preserved tenderness) and then exposing them to the hot summer sun. Vegetables were sprayed with sea salt before drying. All our winter tomatoes were sun-dried, although nowadays that is a delicacy.

Bread-making was a well-honed process as well. You started with the grain, usually wheat, which was stone ground. I remember the mill was made of two round, heavy coarse black stones on top of each other with a three-inch diameter hole in the center of the top stone. Women (men never did the milling) turned the heavy top stone around with a wood handle while slowly putting wheat in the middle hole. Flour emerged sparingly from between the two stone wheels. The process was repeated daily as wheat was easier to store as grains than flour. Rarely, people carried their wheat to big mills in the city to grind all at once.

The dough made from this flour was left to ferment before being baked over hot round stones inside a thick clay dome called a taboun -- which many still use today. The taboun had to be heated by covering it with slow-burning straw and dry manure without flames; it took many hours before it was ready to use. The stones on the ground absorbed the right amount of heat for the baking process to be perfect -- producing delicious bread.

Women had to carry water many times a day from the village spring. I often wondered how young women balanced the large pottery jars perfectly on their heads without using their hands as they carried water up from the spring. During village celebrations, the women often danced with jars on their heads to demonstrate their skill, balance and prowess.

Jars, often larger, were used for storing olive oil to supply families with their needs until the next season. People used the same jars year after year, and the porous pottery became saturated with oil. People believed that the jars never needed to be washed because the oil in them never spoiled. Now we know that oil should not be exposed to either heat or light to maintain its color and taste. This wisdom was already built in to the thick-walled pottery storage jars.

Jars were also used to store homemade jams made of grapes, apricots and quince. From grapes they also made a heavy sweet molasses which was a great source of energy as well as a stable source of healthy diet in winter. All such winter supplies were naturally sterilized by prolonged cooking; they therefore kept well with no need for refrigeration.

Villagers were mostly illiterate, but that did not mean they lacked wisdom (though there was a boys school established in 1888, and girls had formal education when UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, established a school in the early 1950s). Despite the distance of formal governmental authorities or police (which ventured out of the city only when there was a serious problem), people followed strict rules and traditions of conduct toward each other.

The hard life that people led, and the necessity of putting all one's efforts into ensuring you had the means to survive, meant people had little time for nonsense. So, now, after this pleasant digression, let me now come back to the anecdote.

I remember that whenever my mother was upset, she would express her anger by uttering the Arabic expression "zeit ou laban, laban ou zeit." It meant nothing to me until I grew older and my mother explained this common expression of disagreement. My mother said that a man once asked his wife to prepare lunch. When the wife asked what he wanted, the husband answered "laban ou zeit," which means yoghurt with olive oil -- something people ate then and now with fresh bread as a simple and delicious meal. You mean "zeit ou laban" -- olive oil with yoghurt? -- the wife replied, reversing the order. No, the husband insisted, "laban ou zeit" not "zeit ou laban." The story goes that the disagreement between the two escalated into a furious quarrel with dire consequences. Neither the wife nor the husband wanted to admit that it made no difference no matter how one would arrange the two simple ingredients.

For the villagers, this story came to stand for any disagreement where the positions being put forward were essentially indistinguishable. So I found myself muttering this ancient expression last week as I read about a new "peace" plan offered by former Israeli deputy prime minister and former army chief Shaul Mofaz.

Despite the hype, it turned out to be nothing more than recycling of familiar worn-out schemes, repeatedly put forward by Israel and then abandoned: a Palestinian state with "temporary borders" on 50 to 60 percent of the West Bank with large Jewish-only settlement blocs annexed to Israel.

Of course Mofaz's scheme was presented as a great departure -- especially since he suggested that he would talk to Hamas in the course of implementing it. But just like all the previous schemes, Jerusalem and the rights of Palestinian refugees would be off the table. With the Palestinians offered no more than about 15 percent of historic Palestine broken up into isolated enclaves, it was simply a case of Mofaz offering "laban ou zeit," when all the other Israeli schemes offered "zeit ou laban."

Similarly, French President Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to host an international summit in Paris to "break the deadlock" in the Middle East peace process sounds indeed like suggesting that putting the "zeit and laban" in a different container would change it into caviar. It is hard to understand how simple facts escape the notice of leaders of the caliber of the French president. The problem is not how, where, or who would attend, and at what level. Rather, it what the conference would be able to discuss with zero options at hand.

The same can be said for all the other "peace process" schemes from Madrid to Oslo to the Clinton parameters, the "Geneva initiative," the Road Map, Annapolis, and finally the failed mission of US envoy George Mitchell. They can all be summed up in that village wisdom which despite decades of Israeli oppression still survives, and provides much needed clarity, today: "Zeit ou laban, laban ou zeit."

source: The Electronic Intifada

Ukraine, WHO and the Geopolitics of Swine Flu Panic

by F. William Engdahl
November 17, 2009

Latest reports of what is being called a deadly Swine Flu outbreak in Ukraine according to on sight reports appear to be a political concoction by a threatened government to avoid election defeat and possibly declare martial law. The details indicate how convenient the current WHO "Swine Flu" H1N1 "pandemic" scare is for regimes in trouble.

Worldwide media reports in recent days have painted a picture of Ukraine as being under the Black Plague or worse. Pittsburgh Swine Flu "mapper" Dr Henry Niman had earlier predicted that H5N1 Avian Flu would mutate into a deadly human-to-human pandemic. It didn’t.

Niman’s map of the spread of alleged H1N1 Swine Flu since April has given the WHO, the US Government and CNN and major media a convenient graphic to create the image of a new type of "bubonic plague" threatening mankind unless we react with massive doses of untested vaccines from Big Pharma. .

Early on Niman reported about events in Ukraine: "The rapid rise in reported infections, hospitalizations, and deaths in the past few days raise concerns that the virus is transmitting very efficiently…the spike in fatalities and the frequency in hemorrhagic cases in Ukraine have raised concerns." Niman added the alarming note, "The number of infected patients has almost doubled to just under ½ million, compared to the report two days ago."

That’s pretty scary stuff. It conjures images of the reports of the Black Death in 1348 which is said to have killed up to 60% of Europe’s population. Though that history has been challenged, the image as well as the equally terrifying if incorrect panic image of the so-called Spanish Flu of 1918, are being applied in Ukraine.

Exact information about what is really taking place in Ukraine is far from easy. The country is one of the most politically complex and economically distressed states in Europe. One possible hypothesis, yet to be verified, emerges from the writings of Dr Lawrence Broxmeyer MD.

Broxmeyer suggests that the WHO and CDC wish to divert attention from a worldwide epidemic of tuberculosis, while focusing attention on flu instead. Indeed recently the WHO changed its categories of causes of death to lump death from influenza in the same group as death from tuberculosis and other pulmonary disease. Given the present Swine Flu hysteria, any pulmonary death seems to be reported as "death from H1N1 influenza." In a passing note the report typically notes the patient also suffered from lung problems.

Broxmeyer states, "Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are fully aware of a far more serious and ongoing tuberculosis Pandemic in the world today. Yet they choose to downplay the link, disregarding the similar flu-like symptoms tuberculosis often begins with. WHO freely admits that there were approximately 1.8 million deaths from tuberculosis in 2007, the most recent year for which data are available as well as that presently about one-third of the world's population, or two billion people, carry the TB bacteria."

Broxmeyer suggests that there is an underestimation of tuberculosis deaths using "flu" as the diversion: "Khomenko's 1993 study showed that the explosive contagiousness of just such influenza-like forms of tuberculosis are exactly the stuff that previous epidemics and pandemics could have been made of... But back in the US, the CDC and NIH seem to feel differently, ignoring everything but "the virus". There was much the same "Influenza" talk when in 1990, a new multi-drug-resistant (MDR) tuberculosis outbreak took place in a large Miami municipal hospital. Soon thereafter, similar outbreaks in three New York City hospitals left many sufferers dying within weeks. By 1992, approximately two years later, drug-resistant tuberculosis had spread to deadly mini-epidemics in seventeen US states, and was reported, not by the American, but the international media, as out of control. Viral forms of swine, avian and human TB can be transmitted from one species to another."

He points to the similarities between the onset of the much-cited 1918 "Spanish Influenza" epidemic and that of today. However, as Broxmeyer notes, "a Press Release, issued on August 19, 2008, by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), contains a striking finding and conclusion: The 20 to 40 million deaths worldwide from the great 1918 Influenza ("Flu") Pandemic were NOT due to "flu" or a virus, but to pneumonia caused by massive bacterial infection."

Reports of low flying aircraft spraying in regions of Ukraine where outbreaks and lung-related deaths reportedly took place cannot be verified. What is clear however is that there is no scientifically rigorous proof of deaths or diseases that can be labeled H1N1 Influenza A in Ukraine.

Reality check?

The WHO, the organization responsible for declaration of the H1N1 Pandemic last summer, allowing governments like the USA and Ukraine to declare martial law and a national state of emergency, suspending all rights and imposing arrests and detentions, has validated the dubious Ukraine claims of out-of-control spread of Swine Flu. A WHO press statement November 3 declared, "Laboratory testing in Ukraine has confirmed pandemic H1N1 influenza virus in samples taken from patients in two of the most affected regions. As the pandemic virus has rapidly become the dominant influenza strain worldwide, it can be assumed that most cases of influenza in Ukraine are caused by the H1N1 virus."

The WHO added, "The outbreak in Ukraine may be indicative of how the virus can behave in the northern hemisphere during the winter season, particularly in health care settings typically found in Eastern Europe. Given the potential significance of this outbreak as an early warning signal, WHO commends the government of Ukraine for its transparent reporting and open sharing of samples." The samples have been sent to the WHO Mill Hill Influenza Reference Lab in London, not exactly inspiring confidence in a scientifically honest report given the record of UK health authorities in manipulating data to please the vaccine giants like GlaxoSmithKline. As of this writing, bizarre enough the WHO has yet to utter a single word of the test results at Mill Hill.

Nonetheless, WHO "strongly recommends early treatment with the antiviral drugs, oseltamivir or zanamivir, for patients who meet treatment criteria, even in the absence of a positive laboratory test confirming H1N1 infection." That means Tamiflu, the highly dangerous drug whose major shareholder includes former Pentagon head Don Rumsfeld. And it means GlaxoSmithKline, maker of the rival Relenza drug.

Ukrainian election geopolitics

The bizarre developments in Ukraine over the past two weeks are being blamed inside the country on intense Ukrainian election politics. In four months national elections in Ukraine are due. Among rival candidates are Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and her chief rival, Arseniy Yatseniuk.

Since Washington financed and organized the 2004 Orange Revolution that brought a pro-NATO Victor Yushchenko in as President, Ukraine politics has been a geopolitical tug-of war between Moscow and Washington. How the current political games around allegations of H1N1 panic play into that tug of war is not yet clear.

The recent speech in Warsaw by Vice President Joe Biden offering Poland and the Czech Republic a "new and improved" version of US anti-missile defense against Russia only four weeks after Obama announced the US was backing out of a controversial earlier missile defense plan for the two eastern European countries underscores the shambles of US strategic policy towards Russia.

Russia has been quick to take advantage as might be expected, as a US missile shield on its borders, as I detail in Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order, gives the US a long-sought nuclear primacy over its only potential strategic rival on the planet. At that point the resistance of the rest of the world to incalculable or objectionable US policies, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, Georgia or wherever, becomes moot.

It’s clear Moscow has been working quietly to bring Ukraine, an original part of Kiev Rus, and a strategically essential part of the Russian economy, back into a more friendly "NATO-free" relationship after five years of Orange Revolution chaos in Ukraine under Yushchenko. .

Yatseniuk, a 35 year old former banker and aide to Washington’s darling, President Viktor Yushchenko, has charged that Tymoshenko is deliberately fostering unnecessary panic in order to impose martial law and suspend elections that she might well lose to Yatseniuk.

There definitely are political games going on by one or another faction in the economically devastated Ukraine. Oleksandr Bilovol, Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of Health, claims the outbreak of flu cases in Ukraine has been essentially contained in 11 out of 25 Ukrainian regions, with the number of people allegedly stricken with H1N1 only 15% higher than figures reported in previous years. "Figures in other the regions are in line with 2007 and 2008," Bilovol said. As well the number of reported deaths is also in line with deaths annually attributed to ordinary influenza.

Could it be the reports of Ukraine "Swine Flu" pandemic in Ukraine have more to do with the country’s geopolitical location?

Tymoshenko declared the outbreak as the threat of the third level – the highest possible – to unlock spending of up to 3 billion hryvnias to combat the swine flu. Among measures imposed by the decree include shutting down schools and public gatherings for three weeks across Ukraine, with the government also considering introducing restrictions on movement of people between the regions.

Yatseniuk said the ban on public gatherings spreads fear and panic helping Tymoshenko to promote herself on television, while hindering other presidential candidates to campaign.

Yatseniuk is Tymoshenko’s biggest rival as both compete for votes in western regions of Ukraine. He is perhaps the only candidate that may challenge Tymoshenko in the first round of vote on January 17, 2010 to enter the runoff with opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych.

Yatseniuk said the panic spread by the government helps overshadow issues politically damaging to Tymoshenko, including pedophile and the murder scandals involving Tymoshenko lawmakers, and

Ukraine’s dismal economic performance.

Prime Minister Tymoshenko, whatever the real facts of the case, is using the WHO Swine Flu panic scenario to the hilt. In a recent statement, she stated, "We cannot relax even for a moment because the World Health Organization predicts two more waves of flu, including the bird flu, are expected in Ukraine. There is no alternative to vaccination. The entire world is going this way…" A day earlier she admitted she was not vaccinated and that she prefers "like all other people" plans to rely on garlic, onion and lemon as a way of preventing the flu.

Ukraine Parliament Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn accuses Tymoshenko as well, declaring, "You've organized the flu epidemic in order to avoid responsibility for not supplying heat to houses, schools, higher educational establishments, and kindergartens," he said in Parliament. And Orange Revolution President, Yushchenko has declared there was no reason for declaring an emergency in Ukraine. "There are no such reasons," Yushchenko said. "I am not a supporter of measures that freeze the country, restrict its operation to levels that is hard to justify."

Ihor Popov, Deputy Chief of Staff to Yushchenko, said that in case of emergency the election, which is due on Jan. 17, 2010, would have to be "rescheduled."

Germany joins Swine Flu corruption

Not only is the Ukrainian government apparently using fears of Swine Flu pandemic to change the domestic political calculus, and President Barack Obama using the fears to impose an unnecessary state of emergency. Now it comes out that the responsible German health authorities are caught in a corrupt conflict of interest with the very pharma giants profiting from government decisions on "anti-swine flu" vaccines.

The recent issue of the German weekly Der Spiegel, reports that members of the European Scientific Working Group on Influenza (ESWI), which claims to be an independent scientific advisory body advising EU member governments on policies regarding H1N1 influenza, is anything but independent.
It’s being financed by Big Pharma. ESWI claims it brings together scientific "key opinion leaders in influenza." However the sole financial backers are 10 pharmaceutical companies, including GlaxoSmithKline -- manufacturer of the German swine flu vaccine -- and Roche -- producer of the antiviral drug Tamiflu.

The group lists Walter Haas as one of its scientific advisers. Haas coordinates Germany's flu pandemic preparedness measures at the Robert-Koch-Institut (RKI), the federal institute for disease research. ESWI portrays itself as an independent group of scientists. But even the organization's own statute tells a different story, describing its role as advising politicians and health authorities on "the benefits and safety of influenza vaccines and antivirals" and initiating "a policy for antiviral provisions."

The degree of fraud, deceit, official coverup and outright criminal endangerment of the broad population by the current Swine Flu hysteria is seemingly without precedent.

source: Global Research

Israel uses Palestinian prisoners as guinea pigs to test drugs

Palestinian Information Center
November 16, 2009

GAZA- Sawasya-center for human rights stated Monday that Israel uses Palestinian prisoners as guinea pigs without their consent to test the efficacy of new drugs manufactured by its health ministry on their bodies, calling for an immediate investigation into this violation.

The center cited as evidence that Israeli interrogators gave prisoner Zuhair Al-Iskafi an injection he never saw before which resulted in losing his hair all over his body permanently, adding that similar incidents happened to other prisoners.

The center appealed to Arab and international media outlets to highlight this serious issue and expose the Israeli violations committed against Palestinian prisoners.

It also called on human rights organizations and the world health organization (WHO) to send a delegation of medical specialists to the occupied Palestinian lands to visit Israeli prisons and examine the detainees who were subjected to these tests.

In another context, the Palestinian prisoner committee reported Sunday that the Israeli administration of Hadarim prison decided to deprive five Palestinian detainees from pursuing their academic studies at Hebrew universities without giving reasons.

The committee called on human rights organizations to intervene and pressure the Israeli occupation authority (IOA) to reverse this arbitrary decision taken against the prisoners, asserting that this measure is a prelude to depriving other prisoners from their right to education.

For its part, the popular resistance movement stated Monday that the Palestinian resistance will not rest until it frees all prisoners from Israeli jails.

During a sit-in in solidarity with prisoners held in the Red Cross headquarters in Gaza, spokesman for the movement Abu Ali Azaalan talked about the suffering endured by the Palestinian detainees in Israeli jails and stressed the need for official and popular action to stop the Israeli violations against them.

source: uruknet