Archive for January, 2006

US urges Arab states to fund Palestinians after Hamas victory

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

The US is urging Arab states to continue funding a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, even though Washington is threatening to cut its own aid. Western diplomats said yesterday that George Bush’s administration had already contacted Arab governments that give the Palestinian Authority support and requested them to continue their funding.

The US position behind the scenes contrasts with its public stance, in which President Bush has said he will cut aid to the Palestinian Authority unless Hamas renounces violence and stops demanding the destruction of Israel.

Putin Touts Russia’s Missile Capabilities

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin boasted Tuesday that Russia has missiles capable of penetrating any missile defense system, Russian news reports said.

“Russia … has tested missile systems that no one in the world has,” the ITAR-Tass, Interfax and RIA Novosti news agencies quoted him as saying at a news conference. “These missile systems don’t represent a response to a missile defense system, but they are immune to that. They are hypersonic and capable of changing their flight path.”

Putin said the new missiles were capable of carrying nuclear warheads. He wouldn’t say whether the Russian military already had commissioned any such missiles.

The wild frontier

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

Four years after coalition troops toppled the Taliban, the Afghan province of Helmand remains a lawless, volatile tinderbox, where insurgents are becoming more violent and opium, not democracy, rules. Soon, this will be home to thousands of British troops. Can they avoid being drawn into another bloody, seemingly interminable foreign conflict?

No, but apparently that is not the plan…

Interview with Tariq Ali: “The Real Threat is from Imperial Fundamentalism”

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

Writer and political activistTariq Alidescribes himself as a “person of the Left.” In a recent interview in Kolkata, he talked about his concerns over an Asia which is “politically undetermined and economically over-determined,” and of an Indian political leadership “obsessed with money and markets.”

…Dam: Do you see Latin America being an inspiration to the rest of the developing world in the search for alternative strategies to the Washington Consensus?

Ali: The Washington Consensus has received its first serious challenge from within Latin America; which was a continent the United States had used as its laboratory. All the prescriptions of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the U.S. Trade Department, the World Trade Organisation, were imposed there before even in other parts of the world. So it is only fitting that the reply should come first from Latin America. And it has come initially in the shape of the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela which is a democratic revolution and a democratic upheaval… And [Hugo] Chavez has shown how it is possible to defy the Washington Consensus if you have the will and the popular support to do so even though the Venezuelan elite is squealing.

Security council backs Iran referral

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

Iran should be reported to the UN security council over its nuclear ambitions, the council’s five permanent members agreed today.
In a statement, the foreign ministers of the UK, US, Russia, China and France said Iran should be referred to the council by the UN’s nuclear watchdog, which is holding an emergency meeting in Vienna on Thursday.

The statement said the security council should then await a formal report on Tehran’s activities from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – due in March – before deciding what action to take.

Iran: Imperialism’s second strike
In a completely different trajectory, however, initiatives which had been under way for some time have matured sufficiently over the past two years for Iran to emerge as the virtual lynchpin in the making, over the next decade or so, of what China and Russia have come to regard as an absolutely indispensable Asian Energy Security Grid, for breaking Western control of the world’s energy supplies and securing the great industrial revolution of Asia. The subjugation of Iran, always considered essential by the U.S.-Israel axis becomes all the more necessary because, to put it in summary terms: if Iran goes, the Asian Energy Security Grid goes. Iran is quite justified in pointing out that the battle over Iran is, in fact, a battle for securing Asian sovereignty against expansionist imperialism. The Americans too are right: Iran is strategically far more important than, say, Iraq or Syria. Unable to invade immediately, the U.S. needs desperately to break Iran through other means. The weapon at hand is that of international sanctions and regimes of surveillance and sabotage, of the kind that broke Iraq. That is what the Vienna meetings are all about. They need the fig leaf of the IAEA Board’s resolutions. After that, they may not even go to the Security Council, for fear of Chinese and Russian vetoes, or the Security Council may be eventually ignored, as it was ignored when it came to the invasion of Iraq. High profile Euro-American groups have been assembled already, which are recommending that the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) alliance, or some such combination, can undertake the sanctions anyway in case the Security Council cannot be counted upon to deliver. The U.S. in any case has been saying for several years now that things like the Geneva Conventions and the United Nations Charter have become obsolete in this age of “the war on terror” and that “the West” has to act collectively and pre-emptively to secure its own interests.

The choice for India is stark. It can join China, Iran and Russia; help erect a new kind of non-alignment suitable for our times; secure its own economic interests and industrial future, and be part of Asia’s great forward march. Or, it can become a U.S. client under the smokescreens of Alliance, strategic partnership, civilian nuclear cooperation, and so forth. On September 24 India acted as a U.S. client. It does not have to.

What is Paul Wolfowitz Up to in Chad?

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

…So Wolfowitz was moved over to control the World Bank’s billions. And he is now back in the news for having suspended loans to the sub- Saharan African country of Chad, one of the poorest nations in the world. The bank announced on Jan. 6 that it was withholding all new loans to Chad and was even suspending a $124 million loan already set aside.

Most of the money was for an ongoing project to build an oil pipeline from Chad to Cameroon so Exxon-Mobil can exploit Chad’s petroleum reserves. Shortly after Wolfowitz’s confirmation, Daphne Eviatar had written prophetically that “Now, a leading architect of U.S. foreign policy would be in a position to pressure the world’s largest public financial institution to help pay for the exploration, drilling and transport of America’s most coveted natural resource.” (Salon, April 26, 2005)

So why is the money being frozen? Wolfowitz says it is because the Chad government doesn’t want to spend enough of its oil earnings on alleviating poverty.

Incredible. How many times have we heard similar statements from the representatives of the rapacious imperialists who have sucked the wealth out of the colonized and neo-colonized parts of the world for centuries now? They exhibit no shame at all. Wringing their hands, they castigate Third World governments for not caring about their people—the way the imperialist bankers and industrialists do, of course.

Wolfowitz has seized on a law recently passed by Chad’s parliament that would allow the government to dip into a $30 million fund generated by the oil revenues. According to the World Bank, Chad had agreed to this fund, which sets aside 10 percent of its oil revenues in trust “for future generations,” as a condition for getting the loans to build the pipeline. Under the new law, this money can now be used for current expenses.

According to a Jan. 9 Reuters dispatch, “Among the world’s five poorest countries, Chad regularly has difficulty paying its civil servants and regions in the east and south have had to absorb at least 240,000 refugees from neighboring Sudan and Central African Republic.” There is fighting along its northern border, and its army is weak.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is building new military bases in Africa, particularly in areas where there is oil. The largest is in Sao Tome and Principe on the petroleum-rich Gulf of Guinea.

Obviously, Chad is strapped for cash, even though it has become an oil producer. Some members of its legislature, who voted for the new law 119 to 13, said that the terms demanded by the World Bank were a violation of their country’s sovereignty.

The World Bank is not going to hold up the construction of the pipeline. That’s not what ExxonMobil wants.

This move by Wolfowitz can only be seen as pressure on the government of Chad to force it to do something it hasn’t wanted to do. It may be some time before the real issues in this struggle are exposed. But one thing is for sure: it has nothing to do with the bank’s concern for “future generations.”

Exxon profit tops $10 billion, capping record year
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, reported a quarterly profit of $10.7 billion on Monday, rounding out the most profitable year in U.S. corporate history.

The results pushed up Exxon’s profit for the year to a staggering $36.13 billion — bigger than the economies of 125 of the 184 countries ranked by the World Bank. Profit rose 42 percent from 2004, largely due to soaring oil and gas prices.

Harry Belafonte on Bush, Iraq, Hurricane Katrina and Having His Conversations with Martin Luther King Wiretapped by the FBI

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

HARRY BELAFONTE: When Katrina took place, there was a great sense of tragic loss for many Americans who saw that terrible tragedy. What we had not anticipated was that our government would have been so negligent and so unresponsive to the plight of hundreds of thousands of people in the region. And in a dilemma that we all face as to what we could do as private citizens to help the folks that were caught in that tragedy, we began to listen to voices that were outside the boundaries of government, the United States government. We listened to voices that came from as far away as Denmark, who offered to send goods and services in emergency, and we also heard the voices of people from Venezuela through their leader, Hugo Chavez, who said that ‘In this moment of your great tragedy, we, the Venezuelan people, extend all the resources we can summon up to help the plight of those people caught in the Gulf region.

The United States very abruptly and very arrogantly rejected that offer, while in its stead, we did nothing to bring immediate relief. And as a matter of fact, I must tell you, we’re still quite delinquent in what the peoples of that region need, because we still failed to fully mobilize and meet the needs of the people, particularly in New Orleans, but other places within that region.

I and many other private citizens decided that we would listen very carefully to what people outside of the government were saying, because there was no immediate sense of relief and response to what we were experiencing, the people in Katrina. And so, like others, I went with a delegation of 15 people, at the invitation of the Venezuelan government, to come and to meet with President Chavez and members of his cabinet to talk about what we could do to help American people caught in this tragedy.

While there, we were given the right and the permission and the opportunity to visit barrios, villages, going into the schools, going into the prisons of Venezuela. We went into the academic institutions, in which Cornel West spoke. Tavis Smiley went to TeleSUR and other television communications development taking place, to examine, to see what was happening to, quote-unquote, “freedom of the press.” As we’ve said, freedom of the press in Venezuela is vigorously denied. There is no opposition noise. Yet it’s interesting to note that nothing in Venezuela has been nationalized. There’s still a very vigorous private sector, albeit that it’s a little disgruntled that it is not able to sustain the rather one-sided agreement that they drew with that government a long time ago in contracts that were drawn for oil and other resources.

Is there a new member of the Bush family?

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President George W. Bush says Bill Clinton has become so close to his father that the Democratic former president is like a member of the family.

Former President George Bush has worked with Clinton to raise money for victims of the Asian tsunami and the hurricane disaster along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Asked about his father and Clinton, Bush quipped, “Yes, he and my new brother.”

“That’s a good relationship. It’s a fun relationship to watch,” Bush said in an interview with CBS News broadcast on Sunday.

While attending Pope John Paul’s funeral, Bush said, “It was fun to see the interplay between dad and Clinton. One of these days, I’ll be a member of the ex-president’s club. … I’ll be looking for something to do.”

He said ex-presidents share rare experiences that others cannot understand. “And so I can understand why ex-presidents are able to put aside old differences,” he said.

Bush said he checked in with Clinton occasionally.

“And you know, he says things that makes it obvious — that makes it obvious to me that we’re kind of, you know, on the same wavelength about the job of the presidency. Makes sense, after all, there’s this kind of commonality,” he said.

BYU’s Dr. David Ray Griffin: The Destruction of the World Trade Center: Why the Official Account Cannot Be True

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

…The official theory is rendered implausible by two major problems. The first is the simple fact that fire has never—prior to or after 9/11—caused steel-frame high-rise buildings to collapse. Defenders of the official story seldom if ever mention this simple fact. Indeed, the supposedly definitive report put out by NIST—the National Institute for Standards and Technology (2005)—even implies that fire-induced collapses of large steel-frame buildings are normal events (Hoffman, 2005).[4] Far from being normal, however, such collapses have never occurred, except for the alleged cases of 9/11.

Defenders of the official theory, of course, say that the collapses were caused not simply by the fire but the fire combined with the damage caused by the airliners. The towers, however, were designed to withstand the impact of airliners about the same size as Boeing 767s.[5] Hyman Brown, the construction manager of the Twin Towers, said: “They were over-designed to withstand almost anything, including hurricanes, . . . bombings and an airplane hitting [them]” (Bollyn, 2001). And even Thomas Eagar, an MIT professor of materials engineering who supports the official theory, says that the impact of the airplanes would not have been significant, because “the number of columns lost on the initial impact was not large and the loads were shifted to remaining columns in this highly redundant structure” (Eagar and Musso, 2001, pp. 8-11). Likewise, the NIST Report, in discussing how the impact of the planes contributed to the collapse, focuses primarily on the claim that the planes dislodged a lot of the fire-proofing from the steel.[6]

The official theory of the collapse, therefore, is essentially a fire theory, so it cannot be emphasized too much that fire has never caused large steel-frame buildings to collapse—never, whether before 9/11, or after 9/11, or anywhere in the world on 9/11 except allegedly New York City—never.

One might say, of course, that there is a first time for everything, and that a truly extraordinary fire might induce a collapse. Let us examine this idea. What would count as an extraordinary fire? Given the properties of steel, a fire would need to be very hot, very big, and very long-lasting. But the fires in the towers did not have even one of these characteristics, let alone all three.

There have been claims, to be sure, that the fires were very hot. Some television specials claimed that the towers collapsed because the fire was hot enough to melt the steel. For example, an early BBC News special quoted Hyman Brown as saying: “steel melts, and 24,000 gallons of aviation fluid melted the steel.” Another man, presented as a structural engineer, said: “It was the fire that killed the buildings. There’s nothing on earth that could survive those temperatures with that amount of fuel burning. . . . The columns would have melted” (Barter, 2001).[7]

These claims, however, are absurd. Steel does not even begin to melt until it reaches almost 2800° Fahrenheit.[8] And yet open fires fueled by hydrocarbons, such as kerosene—which is what jet fuel is—can at most rise to 1700°F, which is almost 1100 degrees below the melting point of steel.[9] We can, accordingly, dismiss the claim that the towers collapsed because their steel columns melted.[10]

Paul Craig Roberts: Rank Ignorance Reigns

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

In keeping with its established role as purveyor of disinformation, Fox “News” talking head Brit Hume misreported Fox’s own poll. On “Special Report” (January 26) Hume said that 51% of Americans “would now support” air strikes on Iran. What the poll found is that if diplomacy fails, 51% would support air strikes.

Can we be optimistic and assume that the American public would not regard an orchestrated failure by the Bush administration as a true diplomatic failure? Alas, we cannot expect too much from a population in thrall to disinformation.