Archive for December, 2005

Thursday, December 29th, 2005

Kurds in Iraqi Army Proclaim Loyalty to Militia
KIRKUK, Iraq – Kurdish leaders have inserted more than 10,000 of their militia members into Iraqi army divisions in northern Iraq to lay the groundwork to swarm south, seize the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and possibly half of Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city, and secure the borders of an independent Kurdistan.

Israel Ex-commandos Training Kurds in North Iraq: Report

Nuking Iran With the UN’s Blessing

Wednesday, December 28th, 2005

Consumption and the Effect on our Societies
By one calculation, there are now more than 1.7 billion members of “the consumer class”—nearly half of them in the developing world. A lifestyle and culture that became common in Europe, North America, Japan, and a few other pockets of the world in the twentieth century is going global in the twenty-first.

Worldwide, private consumption expenditures—the amount spent on goods and services at the household level—topped $20 trillion in 2000, a four-fold increase over 1960 (in 1995 dollars).
As incomes rise, people are gaining access to a multitude of consumer items associated with greater prosperity:

What does the knowledge of our access to these goods and consumption of them hold in store for us?

A growing share of the global consumer class now lives in developing countries. China and India alone claim more than 20 percent of the global total—with a combined consumer class of 360 million, more than in all of Western Europe. (Though the average Chinese or Indian person consumes substantially less than the average European.)

Developing countries also have the greatest potential to expand the ranks of consumers. China and India’s large consumer base represents only 16 percent of the region’s population, whereas in Europe the figure is 89 percent. In most developing countries the consumer class accounts for less than half of the population—suggesting considerable room to grow.

While the consumer class thrives, great disparities remain. The 12 percent of the world’s population that lives in North America and Western Europe accounts for 60 percent of private consumption spending, while the one-third living in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa accounts for only around 3 percent.

Spy Agency Mined Vast Data Trove, Officials Report
“New York Times” — — WASHINGTON, Dec. 23 – The National Security Agency has traced and analyzed large volumes of telephone and Internet communications flowing into and out of the United States as part of the eavesdropping program that President Bush approved after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to hunt for evidence of terrorist activity, according to current and former government officials.

The volume of information harvested from telecommunication data and voice networks, without court-approved warrants, is much larger than the White House has acknowledged, the officials said. It was collected by tapping directly into some of the American telecommunication system’s main arteries, they said.

As part of the program approved by President Bush for domestic surveillance without warrants, the N.S.A. has gained the cooperation of American telecommunications companies to obtain backdoor access to streams of domestic and international communications, the officials said.

The government’s collection and analysis of phone and Internet traffic have raised questions among some law enforcement and judicial officials familiar with the program. One issue of concern to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has reviewed some separate warrant applications growing out of the N.S.A.’s surveillance program, is whether the court has legal authority over calls outside the United States that happen to pass through American-based telephonic “switches,” according to officials familiar with the matter.

“There was a lot of discussion about the switches” in conversations with the court, a Justice Department official said, referring to the gateways through which much of the communications traffic flows. “You’re talking about access to such a vast amount of communications, and the question was, How do you minimize something that’s on a switch that’s carrying such large volumes of traffic? The court was very, very concerned about that.”

Since the disclosure last week of the N.S.A.’s domestic surveillance program, President Bush and his senior aides have stressed that his executive order allowing eavesdropping without warrants was limited to the monitoring of international phone and e-mail communications involving people with known links to Al Qaeda.

What has not been publicly acknowledged is that N.S.A. technicians, besides actually eavesdropping on specific conversations, have combed through large volumes of phone and Internet traffic in search of patterns that might point to terrorism suspects. Some officials describe the program as a large data-mining operation.

The current and former government officials who discussed the program were granted anonymity because it remains classified.

Bush administration officials declined to comment on Friday on the technical aspects of the operation and the N.S.A.’s use of broad searches to look for clues on terrorists. Because the program is highly classified, many details of how the N.S.A. is conducting it remain unknown, and members of Congress who have pressed for a full Congressional inquiry say they are eager to learn more about the program’s operational details, as well as its legality.

Officials in the government and the telecommunications industry who have knowledge of parts of the program say the N.S.A. has sought to analyze communications patterns to glean clues from details like who is calling whom, how long a phone call lasts and what time of day it is made, and the origins and destinations of phone calls and e-mail messages. Calls to and from Afghanistan, for instance, are known to have been of particular interest to the N.S.A. since the Sept. 11 attacks, the officials said.

This so-called “pattern analysis” on calls within the United States would, in many circumstances, require a court warrant if the government wanted to trace who calls whom.

The use of similar data-mining operations by the Bush administration in other contexts has raised strong objections, most notably in connection with the Total Information Awareness system, developed by the Pentagon for tracking terror suspects, and the Department of Homeland Security’s Capps program for screening airline passengers. Both programs were ultimately scrapped after public outcries over possible threats to privacy and civil liberties.
Hey we don’t need court orders for wiretaps because we listen to absolutely EVERYTHING.

The agency that could be big brother
DEEP in a remote, fog-layered hollow near Sugar Grove, W.Va., hidden by fortress-like mountains, sits the country’s largest eavesdropping bug. Located in a “radio quiet” zone, the station’s large parabolic dishes secretly and silently sweep in millions of private telephone calls and e-mail messages an hour.

Run by the ultrasecret National Security Agency, the listening post intercepts all international communications entering the eastern United States. Another N.S.A. listening post, in Yakima,Wash., eavesdrops on the western half of the country.

A hundred miles or so north of Sugar Grove, in Washington, the N.S.A. has suddenly taken center stage in a political firestorm. The controversy over whether the president broke the law when he secretly ordered the N.S.A. to bypass a special court and conduct warrantless eavesdropping on American citizens has even provoked some Democrats to call for his impeachment.

According to John E. McLaughlin, who as the deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency in the fall of 2001 was among the first briefed on the program, this eavesdropping was the most secret operation in the entire intelligence network, complete with its own code word – which itself is secret.

Below a Mountain of Wealth, a River of Waste
JAKARTA, Indonesia – The closest most people will ever get to remote Papua, or the operations of Freeport-McMoRan, is a computer tour using Google Earth to swoop down over the rain forests and glacier-capped mountains where the American company mines the world’s largest gold reserve.

With a few taps on a keyboard, satellite images quickly reveal the deepening spiral that Freeport has bored out of its Grasberg mine as it pursues a virtually bottomless store of gold hidden inside. They also show a spreading soot-colored bruise of almost a billion tons of mine waste that the New Orleans-based company has dumped directly into a jungle river of what had been one of the world’s last untouched landscapes.

Shock, awe and Hobbes have backfired on America’s neocons
The tragic irony of the 21st century is that just as faith in technology collapsed on the world’s stock markets in 2000, it came to power in the White House and Pentagon. For the Project for a New American Century’s ambition of “full-spectrum dominance” – in which its country could “fight and win multiple, simultaneous major-theatre wars” – was a monster borne up by the high tide of techno euphoria of the 1990s.

Ex-hippies talked of a wired age of Aquarius. The fall of the Berlin wall and the rise of the internet, we were told, had ushered in Adam Smith’s dream of overflowing abundance, expanding liberty and perpetual peace. Fukuyama speculated that history was over, leaving us just to hoard and spend. Technology meant a new paradigm of constant growth without inflation or recession.

But darker dreams surfaced in America’s military universities. The theorists of the “revolution in military affairs” predicted that technology would lead to easy and perpetual US dominance of the world. Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters advised on “future warfare” at the Army War College – prophesying in 1997 a coming “age of constant conflict”. Thomas Barnett at the Naval War College assisted Vice-Admiral Cebrowski in developing “network-centric warfare”. General John Jumper of the air force predicted a planet easily mastered from air and space. American forces would win everywhere because they enjoyed what was unashamedly called the “God’s-eye” view of satellites and GPS: the “global information grid”. This hegemony would be welcomed as the cutting edge of human progress. Or at worst, the military geeks candidly explained, US power would simply terrify others into submitting to the stars and stripes.

Shock and Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance – a key strategic document published in 1996 – aimed to understand how to destroy the “will to resist before, during and after battle”. For Harlan Ullman of the National Defence University, its main author, the perfect example was the atom bomb at Hiroshima. But with or without such a weapon, one could create an illusion of unending strength and ruthlessness. Or one could deprive an enemy of the ability to communicate, observe and interact – a macro version of the sensory deprivation used on individuals – so as to create a “feeling of impotence”. And one must always inflict brutal reprisals against those who resist. An alternative was the “decay and default” model, whereby a nation’s will to resist collapsed through the “imposition of social breakdown”.

Israel and the Neocons, The Libby Affair and the Internal War
The national debate, which the indictment of Irving Lewis Libby for perjury and obstruction of justice has aroused in the mass media, has failed to address the most basic questions concerning the deep structural context, which influenced his felonious behavior. The most superficial explanation was that Libby, by exposing Valerie Plame (a CIA employee), acted out of revenge to punish her husband Wilson for exposing the lies put forth by Bush about Iraq’s “importation” of uranium from Niger. Other journalists claim that Libby acted to cover up the fabrications to go to war. The assertion however raises a deeper question — who were the fabricators of war propaganda, who was Libby protecting? And not only the “fabricators of war”, but the strategic planners, speech-makers and architects of war who acted hand in hand with the propagandists and the journalists who disseminated the propaganda? What is the link between all these high- level functionaries, propagandists and journalists?
Equally important given the positions of power which this cabal occupied, and the influence they exercised in the mass media as well as in designing strategic policy, what forces were engaged in bringing criminal charges against a key operative of the cabal?

Libby’s rise to power was part and parcel of the ascendancy of the neo-conservatives to the summits of US policymaking. Libby was a student, protégé, and collaborator with Paul Wolfowitz for over 25 years. Libby along with Wolfowitz, Elliot Abrams, Douglas Feith, Kagan, Cohen, Rubin, Pollack, Chertoff, Fleisher, Kristol, Marc Grossman, Shumsky and a host of other political operators were long term believers and aggressive proponents of a virulently militaristic tendency of Zionism linked with the rightwing Likud Party of Israel. Early in the 1980’s, Wolfowitz and Feith were charged with passing confidential documents to Israel, the latter temporarily losing his security clearance

U.S. Exit Strategy in Iraq: Hand Quagmire to Iran
For Arab media commentators across the region, the provocative speeches of Iran’s new president merely aim to distract attention from that country’s increasingly central role in Washington’s emerging exit strategy from Iraq.

“The (American) decision to open direct contacts with Iran means that Iraq will be handed over to Iran,” Fadel Al Rabee, a spokesman for the National Iraqi Alliance, told “Behind the News,” a daily news program on Al Jazeera. “The U.S. is ignoring the Saudi advice not to do so. Instead, they are allowing the Iranian influence to grow stronger in Iraq,” Al Rabee added.

He said the U.S. exit strategy is similar to the one used by the French to drag the Americans into Vietnam before they left. In this way Shiite Iran will become a “partner in the occupation of Iraq” and inevitably find itself head-to-head with the Sunni-led national Iraqi resistance.

“The U.S. is helpless in Iraq and needs Iran in Southern Iraq and to negotiate with the Shiites,” Al Watan Al Arabi magazine quotes Ayatollah Mahdi Haeri, a spokesman of the Iranian Muslim Scholars Abroad. “The Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Al Jafari, who keeps saying that the U.S. must speak with Iran to achieve security in Iraq, is trying to mediate a deal between Iran and the U.S.,” Maeri adds.

There is already speculation that 50,000 U.S. soldiers will be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of 2006 and the rest will be stationed in 12 American bases throughout the country. According to Al Jazeera, the U.S. Congress has allocated $236 million to build another permanent base in 2005.

Dispute Delays Handoff to Iraqi Unit

Wednesday, December 28th, 2005

BAGHDAD, Dec. 26 — A dispute between the U.S. military and Iraq’s Defense Ministry over who will command the Iraqi army unit assuming responsibility for some of Baghdad’s most sensitive sites has led to the postponement of a formal handover scheduled for Tuesday.

Since August, Col. Muhammed Wasif Taha has served as acting commander of the 5th Brigade, 6th Division of the Iraqi army, the unit set to take charge of a section of the capital including the airport road and the perimeter of the fortified Green Zone. The U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Division currently controls both areas.

But the handoff ceremony has been delayed because Iraq’s Defense Ministry has not approved Taha’s appointment, U.S. and Iraqi officials said.

“It is a bit of a showdown,” said Capt. John Agnello, public affairs officer for Task Force 4-64, which is part of the 3rd Infantry Division and works closely with the Iraqi 5th Brigade. “We do not want to transfer authority if we don’t know the person who will be put in command.”

Ice Age Footprints Said Found in Outback

Thursday, December 22nd, 2005

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – Hundreds of human footprints dating back to the last Ice Age have been found in the remote Australian Outback, an official and media reported Thursday.
The 457 footprints found in Mungo National Park in western New South Wales state is the largest collection of its kind in the world and the oldest in Australia, The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported.
The prints were made in moist clay near the Willandra Lakes 19,000 to 23,000 years ago, the newspaper reported ahead of archeologists’ report on the find to be published in the Journal of Human Evolution.
State Environment Minister Bob Debus said the site showed a large group of people walking and interacting.
“We see children running between the tracks of their parents; the children running in meandering circles as their parents travel in direct lines,” Debus told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.
“It’s a most extraordinary snapshot of a moment or several moments in the life of Aboriginal people living on the edge of the lake in western New South Wales 20,000 years ago,” he added.

Court rules against govt in Padilla case

Thursday, December 22nd, 2005

12/21/05 WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In a stinging rebuke to the Bush administration, a U.S. appeals court refused on Wednesday to transfer “enemy combatant” Jose Padilla from U.S. military custody to federal authorities in Florida until the Supreme Court considered his case.

The court said bringing criminal charges against Padilla in Florida after he had been held by the U.S. military for more than three years created the appearance the government may be attempting to avoid high court review of the case.

Padilla, an American citizen, was charged last month with being part of a support cell providing money and recruits for militants overseas. The Justice Department had accused Padilla after his arrest in May 2002 of plotting to set off a radioactive “dirty bomb.”

The ruling came on a day the administration was struggling to get the anti-terrorism Patriot Act reauthorized, and while it is under fire in the U.S. Congress for President George W. Bush’s secret order allowing domestic eavesdropping.

The appeals court also rejected the government’s request that it set aside a ruling that allowed Padilla to be held as an enemy combatant without being charged. Wiping out that ruling would have made it virtually impossible for the Supreme Court to review the case.

The Bush administration, in bringing the criminal charges against Padilla, maintained that his challenge to being held by the military was moot and must be rejected by the Supreme Court.

The justices could decide as early as next month whether to hear his case.

Britain will be first country to monitor every car journey

Thursday, December 22nd, 2005

Britain is to become the first country in the world where the movements of all vehicles on the roads are recorded. A new national surveillance system will hold the records for at least two years.

Using a network of cameras that can automatically read every passing number plate, the plan is to build a huge database of vehicle movements so that the police and security services can analyse any journey a driver has made over several years.

Bolivia’s Morales brands Bush a “terrorist”

Thursday, December 22nd, 2005

DUBAI (Reuters) – Evo Morales, the winner of Bolivia’s presidential election, branded U.S. President George W. Bush a “terrorist”, in an interview with Arabic satellite television on Tuesday.

“The only terrorist in this world that I know of is Bush. His military intervention, such as the one in Iraq, that is state terrorism,” he told Al Jazeera television.

The leftist won slightly more than half the votes cast in Bolivia’s election on Sunday and is set to become the country’s first indigenous president.

“There is a difference between people fighting for a cause and what terrorists do,” he said in comments, which were translated into Arabic.

“Today in Bolivia and Latin America, it’s no longer people that are lifting their weapons against imperialism, but it’s imperialism that is lifting its weapons against people through military intervention and military bases.”

Sunni and secular parties seek Iraq election rerun

Thursday, December 22nd, 2005

A broad-based group of Sunni and secular parties called yesterday for a rerun of last week’s Iraqi elections, claiming the ruling party in the country had engaged in blatant fraud. “We want a new election commission and we’re going to ask the United Nations to help organise it,” Thair al-Naqeeb, the spokesman for Ayad Allawi, the head of the Iraqi National List, told the Guardian last night.
“We’re going to ask for a new government to rule while the election is prepared. If our demands are not met, we will take further steps and create a lot of protest,” he added.

Mr Allawi was Washington’s favourite to become prime minister in the new four-year parliament. His list includes liberals, communists, and representatives of several ethnic minorities, as well as secular Sunnis and Shias. It is considered to be the most balanced of any group in last week’s poll and is firmly opposed to religion interfering in politics.

But preliminary results announced this week gave it a worse score than it expected, and it will probably end up with barely half the 40 seats it has in the current parliament.

Kurdistan: Voting Irregularities Reported in Kurdish Areas

Spy Court Judge Quits In Protest

Wednesday, December 21st, 2005

A federal judge has resigned from the court that oversees government surveillance in intelligence cases in protest of President Bush’s secret authorization of a domestic spying program, according to two sources.

U.S. District Judge James Robertson, one of 11 members of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, sent a letter to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. late Monday notifying him of his resignation without providing an explanation.

Two associates familiar with his decision said yesterday that Robertson privately expressed deep concern that the warrantless surveillance program authorized by the president in 2001 was legally questionable and may have tainted the FISA court’s work.

Saudi to build 26-billion-dollar new city

Wednesday, December 21st, 2005

Oil-rich Saudi Arabia unveiled a 26.6-billion-dollar project to build a state-of-the art residential and industrial city, timed with its new membership to the World Trade Organisation. King Abdullah Economic City will be located near the western industrial city of Rabegh on the Red Sea coast, north of the kingdom’s second largest city, Jeddah.

An Emaar-led consortium made up of Saudi and Emirati companies, including the Saudi Bin Laden construction company, will be the main investor in the development.

The Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), which is in charge of attracting foreign investment to the kingdom, will be project coordinator.

“In what is considered the single largest private sector investment in Saudi Arabia, the announcement … is a signal of the dawn of a new era of economic prosperity for the citizens of the kingdom,” Emaar said on Tuesday.