Showing posts from November, 2007

More Americans believe in devil than Darwin.

I find this rather surprising. Maybe this explains why in a recent survey of 15 year olds globally that studied science skills the US scored 29th. Most of the developed world as the article mentions certainly does not share US attitudes. In spite of these attitudes among the majority of Americans the US is still a world player in scientific research. However, Germany under the very unscientific Nazi ideology managed to function quite well for the most part as far as certain types of scientific research were concerned. In the US religion does block certain research to some degree such as that on stem cells.
It is rather weird that only thirty percent of Protestants believe in the theory of evolution whereas more than 40 per cent of Catholics do. The Catholic Church historically has often fought against Darwinism in spite of Teilhard de Chardin. As far as I know only the fundamentalist Protestants are concerned about evolution.

Poll finds more Americans believe in devil than Darwin
Thu N…

Kyoto framework still best

The Canadian Prime minister, Stephen Harper, has allied himself more closely with the US on many issues than the former Liberal Government. Anderson was in the former government. Although the government signed on to Kyoto it did little and in fact emissions grew. So the former govt. took the moral high ground and then in practice made the environment worse. Stephen Harper blows hot air at very high temperatures and his idea of fairness is to not do anything as long as developing countries such as China and India do not sign on to targets even though as the article points out they certainly have quite legitimate complaints and suspicions about the US and Canada idea of fairness.

Kyoto framework is still best hope for the world

Nov 30, 2007 04:30 AM
David Anderson

The major objective of President George Bush and Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the Bali Meeting of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol that begins Monday is to replace the emission reduction Kyoto targets for the developed countrie…

Coup staged from Luxury Hotel in Manila fizzles out.

Apparently there is quite a bit of unrest within the AFP so perhaps this group thought that they could just call for the armed forces to rise up against Arroyo and their superiors and have some chance of success. However some of these people were already on trail for mutiny. Trillanes and a couple of the military officers involved are more or less experts by now on how to fail at coups. I wonder who pays for repairs to the hotel. Although no one seems to have been hurt I imagine there was considerable property damage.

Botched coup bid in Philippines ends, no casualties

By Karen Lema and Raju Gopalakrishnan

MANILA, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Philippine military and police teams stormed a luxury hotel in Manila on Thursday to end a short-lived coup attempt by a small group of soldiers and others who had called on the army to mutiny.

Government forces fired teargas into the lobby of the Manila Peninsula Hotel and used an armoured personnel carrier (APC) to batter down its glass doors before stormin…

Afghan MPs in mass walk-out

This is from the BBC.
It seems that many of the casualties were the result of guards firing into the crowd. The whole bombing is somewhat of a mystery. The Taliban have denied responsibility. They are usually not shy about accepting responsibility even when the carnage has been rather indiscriminate.

Afghanistan MPs in mass walk-out
Afghanistan's Speaker has led a walk-out of parliament, followed by nearly half the country's deputies.
Yunus Qanuni left the assembly because he said the government of President Hamid Karzai was ignoring parliament.

Many MPs want senior officials in Baghlan province to be suspended after a bombing there earlier this month.

Nearly 80 people were killed in the attack, including six MPs and about 60 children. The government has said it is still investigating the bombing.

Correspondents say much is still unclear about the bombing in Baghlan.

Some reports say many of the victims died from gunshot wounds and appear to have been shot by the MPs' bodyg…

Sharif urges Bhutto to boycott vote

It is surprising that Musharraf let Sharif back into Pakistan. I wonder if he was pressured to do this by the US. I am not sure the US would be happy if Sharif actually won. The US would prefer Bhutto. Perhaps there will still be some understanding between Bhutto and Musharraf. Notice that Sharif is the one calling so strongly for re-instatement of the chief justice and others. He is right that the court is now stacked with Musharraf supporters. As with other leaders Sharif is saddled with corruption charges. Before he can run they must be dropped or ignored so he can probably run only if Musharraf thinks it is a good idea! Sharif is wise enough not to be too principled. If Bhutto decides to run he will also in spite of his denouncing of the election. These chaps sound very much like Western politicians.

Sharif urges Bhutto to boycott vote

27 November 2007

LAHORE, Islamabad - Pakistani ex-premier Nawaz Sharif called on Tuesday on rival opposition leader Benazir Bhutto to join his p…

New Australian PM signals Iraq pullout.

I don't know why Rudd would be called a Tone Clone. Perhaps it is his Third Way policies modeled after UK labor. However, Rudd will pull out from Iraq and will sign onto Kyoto moves that will hardly please Bush et al. I doubt that Blair is a republican. I expect that he supported the monarchy!! This is from the Times on Line.

New Australian PM signals Iraq pulloutPaul Ham, Sydney
AUSTRALIA’S new prime minister Kevin Rudd will mark his arrival on the international stage by announcing the withdrawal of his country’s combat troops from Iraq and signing the Kyoto treaty on climate change.

Rudd, a republican and former diplomat, swept to power as his Labor party stormed to a landslide victory in yesterday’s elections.

Official figures showed Labor had won more than 53% of the vote, compared with just under 47% for the ruling Liberal coalition of John Howard, who had served four terms as prime minister but lost his seat. Computer projections forecast that Labor would secure 86 seats in t…

The Biggest Gas-Guzzler of them All.

There is never a peep about this matter. The US taxpayer seems to worry about the cost of social programs and about fuel consumption of private cars and commercial jets but the huge consumption by the US military doesn't merit a mention.

The Biggest Gas-Guzzler of them All
Sunday, November 25th, 2007 in News, Empire, Military spending, Politics, US Military by Tim Swanson| Comment |

After Al Gore won the Peace Prize I mentioned that he did next to nothing to dismantle or even criticize military intervention during his terms as a senator and Vice President.

Yet, despite his fawning over a government controlled “green” world, neither he nor the rest of the political class have done anything to stymie the worlds largest oil consumer: the Department of Defense.

And unsurprisingly, despite substantially higher oil prices, “the needs” of the military will go undeterred for the foreseeable future.

Lawyers in residential school case make big bucks.

There is no mention of Frank Iacobucci, chair of the Iacobucci Inquiry, who received 2.5 million as fees for his role in the cases. See this site. The lawyers certainly have done well but probably without them the settlement would have been much lower. The payout to the claimants seems to be slower than that to the lawyers!

Ottawa pays $45.6M to lawyers involved in residential school cases
Last Updated: Monday, November 26, 2007 | 9:35 AM CT
CBC News
More than $45 million has recently been paid to residential school lawyers — one of the largest legal bills in Canadian history.

According to federal officials, a government cheque for $45.6 million has been sent to a consortium of lawyers — most of them in Alberta and Ontario — who had been involved in the Indian residential schools class action.

Former students like Roy Sanderson aren't impressed that, in some cases, lawyers are getting paid first.

"That hurts me. Why did they get paid first, get the money first and we never got not…

Oxfam: Too much aid to Afghanistan wasted.

This is from common dreams. From the point of view of corporations that get paid for projects and locals who benefit from a corrupt system the waste is quite profitable. A consultant can make up to 500,000 a year. I was not aware as this article claims that there has been a change in the process of authorising air strikes so that the numbers have gone down. I thought the opposite was the case.

Too Much Aid to Afghanistan Wasted, Oxfam Says
by Jon Hemming
KABUL - Too much aid to Afghanistan is wasted — soaked up in contractors’ profits, spent on expensive expatriate consultants or squandered on small-scale, quick-fix projects, a leading British charity said on Tuesday.

Despite more than $15 billion of aid pumped into Afghanistan since U.S.-led and Afghan forces toppled the Taliban in 2001, many Afghans still suffer levels of poverty rarely seen outside sub-Saharan Africa.

“The development process has to date been too centralised, top-heavy and insufficient,” said a report by Oxfam.

By far th…

Syria to join US led Middle East Conference.

Syria seems determined to reach out to the US perhaps in the vain hopes that it will help settle the Golan Heights situation. Syria has also helped out considerably in the war on terror being a common destination for suspects rendered for torture in Syria's infamous prisons. There were some rumblings about an alternate meeting with Hamas and others opposed to the Annapolis meeting in Syria but obviously Syria decided it was in its interests to be at the Bush meeting. The Arab peace initiative got nowhere since the US and Israel were unwilling to recognise the coalition government. Now that the Hamas controls Gaza and there is a "new" Palestinian govt. without Hamas the US hopes that some way forward can be found. However, it is doubtful. Neither side is in any position to deliver much but lofty sounding words that are basically hot air.

Syria to join U.S.-led Middle East conference
Sun Nov 25, 2007 10:18 AM EST

By Jeffrey Heller

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Syria said on Sunday …

Australia's PM-elect Rudd vows better global ties

Perhaps Rudd will better ties with some other countries but the US ties may be strained to say the least. Rudd will sign on to Kyoto and withdraw troops from Iraq. Domestically he will have more pro-labor parties. Labor is also in power in the six Australian states.

Australia's PM-elect Rudd vows better global ties
Sat Nov 24, 2007 8:02 PM EST

By Rob Taylor

BRISBANE (Reuters) - Incoming Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, a Mandarin-speaking former diplomat, has pledged closer Australian ties with overseas allies and unity at home after ending 11 years of conservative rule under John Howard.

Rudd, 50, presented himself as a new-generation leader by promising to pull about 500 frontline Australian troops out of Iraq and sign the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, further isolating Washington on both issues.

"To our friends and allies around the world, I look forward as the next Prime Minister of Australia to working with them in dealing with the great challenges which our world now fac…

Middle East Peace Conference Begins in Annapolis

This article points out the many difficulties facing any peace talks. Without Hamas there is little hope of any agreement being honoured but there is not likely to be an agreement in any event. No one mentions any more that Hamas was actually the elected government and that the negotiations are in effect with a rump of parliament that the West finds more acceptable. Anyway most in Israel will not accept a peace agreement acceptable to even Abbas I expect.

Briefing: Middle East peace conference begins in Annapolis
Condoleezza Rice, US Secretary of State, is said to be serious about solving the conflict. Will she succeed where so many others have failed?
By Donald Macintyre
Published: 25 November 2007
The US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, has invited all the main Middle East regional players except Iran to Annapolis, Maryland, this week in an effort to get serious peace talks going for the first time in seven years.

How did we get here?

The summit was the one item of news in Presid…

Chomsky On US and Iran

This is an interview. A video and transcript is available at ICH.
As usual Chomsky is his caustic self and refuses to go along with the ordinary framing of discourse in which the US is somehow not interfering in Iraq even though it invaded and overthrew the existing government whereas Iran a neighbour is if it interferes in any way with the US occupation!

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: ElBaradei, is the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, stated quite definitively there is no evidence of a nuclear weapons program in Iran. The recent resolution—the Kyle-Lieberman amendment—and the recent U.S. sanctions against Iran, which one of the charges is that Iran has been helping what they call insurgents in Iraq. There's practically no evidence of that either. Based on what we know as evidence, there's not a lot of reasons for U.S. policy to be as aggressive right now towards Iran as it is, certainly not for the stated reason. What really does motivate U.S. policy towards Iran?


Karzai: All private security firms must close

From time to time Karzai choses to show some backbone and not just do what the US says to do. Until Nov. 2005 Karzai used to be guarded by US Dyncorp corporation guards. He was strongly advised to get rid of them. They often were aggressive and offensive. Now he is going further and going after all private security firms. Dyncorp is still training the National Police Force. I doubt that they will be let go. There must be quite a few security firms linked up with ISAF and Enduring Freedom. I wonder what will happen with them. I suppose if they are associated with ISAF that will be under the rubric of the UN so they will be OK.

All private security firms must close: Afghanistan
1 day ago

KABUL (AFP) — Authorities in Afghanistan want to close down all private security firms operating in the country, many of them illegally, President Hamid Karzai's office said.

About nine unlicensed companies have already been shut down in a crackdown that has been under way in Kabul for weeks, accordin…

A plan to attack Iran swiftly and from above.

There seems to have been a little cooling down of the war of words between Tehran and Washington the last little while but this article points out that preparations are well under way for an attack. This is just part of the article at the Globe and Mail. The author mentions a supposed attack on nuclear facilities in Syria. This is nothing more than rumor and speculation. As has been shown by critics the satellite photos show no fence nor guards. Imagine a nuclear facility sitting in the wide open spaces with no fence nor guards!
Of course there is not a hint that a US attack might violate international law. International law is of no concern when the hegemon is involved. It counts only when enemies of the hegemon are involved.

A plan to attack Iran swiftly and from above
A bombing campaign has been in the works for months - a blistering air war that would last anywhere from one day to two weeks

From Thursday's Globe and Mail

November 22, 2007 at 5:11 AM EST


Taliban leaders open to talks

I just wonder whether these are splinter groups or the main leaders of the insurgency. I doubt that the main group will negotiate unless there is some agreement that the foreign troops withdraw but who knows what sort of deal Karzai and they might be cooking up. What is so laughable about all this is that the US and other western government always cry out against negotiating with terrorists while Karzai is willing to take them into his government. Anyway it is probably a step up from some of the warlords that are already part of his government.

Taliban leaders open to talks


This is from the canoe site.

KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Thursday that his government has had increasing contact with Taliban insurgents this year, including several talks this week with militant leaders living in exile.

Karzai said militants in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan have increasingly approached the government in the last eight months, even as the count…

Another Mall blast in the Philippines

This is from this site. Any malls that I have visited have security guards at entrances who will inspect bags. This package was left in a baggage check area on the outside of the mall where there might not be such checks. Given the location I just wonder if the person who was killed was actually the target of the device. While terrorists such as the Abu Sayyaf are often indiscriminate , they try to kill as many as they can. Given where this device was placed it was unlikely to cause that many casualties.

One dead, four injured in Philippines mall blast

22 November 2007

COTABATO, Philippines - An explosion ripped through a shopping mall in the southern Philippines on Thursday, killing one person and injuring four others, officials said.

The blast killed an 18 year-old man working at the baggage check-in counter of the KMCC mall in Kidapawan city on Mindanao island, said Chief Superintendent Leo Ajero, the city police chief.

Four other people were injured, he added.

“It’s most probably …

Most polls predict Labor win in Australia

I wonder how "objective" the polling organisations are when they seem to vary a considerable amount. Overall the polls would indicate a clear Labor victory. Rudd is not all that different in many policies although he will withdraw troops from Iraq. The Australian labor party has swung quite far to the right. Almost every social democratic and labor party has opted for some variation of the third way so that there really is no sharp choice between right and left. This should be called the law of the exclusive middle!

Two out of three polls back a Labor win
Friday Nov 23 09:43 AEDT
Two out of three polls released on the eve of the federal election predict a clear win for Labor, but a third shows John Howard still in with a chance.

The latest Galaxy poll has Prime Minister John Howard in with a chance, while a Nielsen poll has the coalition facing annihilation, and a Morgan poll says the ALP will win in a close contest despite a swing towards the coalition.

The telephone poll conduc…

Pakistan top judge still retained

Musharaf seems to be confident of control. Even to leave the country he must have felt that there would be no move to toss him out. Significantly the chief justice is still under house arrest even though judges have been released. The chief justice has always been a thorn in the side of Musharraf. The spotlight seems to be off Bhutto for the moment. The US would be happy if Musharraf would make another deal with her but it doesn't seem likely given Bhutto's recent comments on Musharraf.

Pakistan top judge still detained
Pakistan's ousted chief justice remains under arrest, a day after officials said judges detained under emergency rule could move around freely.
Iftikhar Chaudhry tried to leave his Islamabad residence but was stopped from doing so by security forces.

Meanwhile, President Musharraf has amended the constitution to prevent future legal challenges to his actions.

His government has urged the Commonwealth to delay a decision on suspending Pakistan from its meetin…

Philippines: Mitag grows into a typhoon

This could be quite bad. My wife has a house in Legazpi. It will probably be flooded again as it was last year. The recent rains and the huge amount of volcanic ash on Mayon will produce gigantic mudslides. There are always some people who refuse to relocate. After these typhoons it is often weeks and weeks before power gets back. My sister in law is in a low area of Legaspi so they will probably have to retreat to the second floor for a while or wade around in the kitchen! Lets hope there is little or no loss of life.

Mitag grows into a typhoon as it tracks toward the Philippines
Last Updated: Thursday, November 22, 2007 | 7:43 AM ET
The Associated Press
A tropical storm gained strength and developed into a typhoon Thursday as it headed toward an eastern Philippine region ravaged last year by flash floods and volcanic mudslides that killed more than 1,000 people, officials said.

A little girl sits with merchandise protected by an umbrella on a pushcart in Manila as typhoon Mitag approch…

Guards fire on civilians after Afghan blast

This article of which I just excerpt a small bit gives a glimpse into the problems within the Karzai government. It also shows that there are the same problems with private security contractors as in Iraq. Private contractors even provide security for Karzai himself.
The article also shows that it will be some time before the Afghan police will ever be able to provide security effectively on their own. It may also show that there are plots within the Karzai govt. to kill opposition politicians. The Taliban have claimed they are not responsible for the blast. They are usually not shy about these matters.

Karzai has been described as increasingly frustrated by the poor performance of the Afghan police, based in the Interior Ministry, and he has publicly accused the ministry of corruption and incompetence. He has also expressed exasperation at the tendency of foreign donors to bypass his government and deal directly with private contractors.

A particular source of complaint has been the d…

"One million" homeless in Somalia

This is from the BBC.
This conflict is a direct result of the US use of Ethiopian proxy troops to overthrow the Union of Islamic Courts. Ever since there has been conflict between Islamic insurgents and the provisional government in effect the Ethiopian invaders who prop up the government. There was some semblance of security during the reign of the Islamic Courts and it was supported by many because whatever its faults it was better than feuding warlords and the provisional govt. However, it was not acceptable to the US so it had to go.

'One million' homeless in Somalia

Some 600,000 have left Mogadishu this year
One million people are now living rough in Somalia, the UN refugee agency says.
The figure includes 60% of Mogadishu residents who have fled their homes - 200,000 in the past two weeks - leaving many districts empty, says UNHCR.

People have been forced out by renewed conflict between Islamist insurgents and Ethiopian-backed government forces.

Kenya's government h…

Just 12 per cent of Poles favor troops in Iraq

The new Polish government has pledged to withdraw the troops by next year. With this type of poll they will probably be withdrawn sooner rather than later. The Law and Justice party which lost the recent election was probably not helped by its close connections with Bush.

Only 12 percent of Poles favor troops in Iraq
By Agence France Presse (AFP)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

WARSAW: Almost four-fifths of Poles want their country's troops out of Iraq, and a similar proportion hope Polish forces will be withdrawn from Afghanistan, according to a survey published Tuesday. The poll conducted by the ARC institute for the Polska newspaper found that 85 percent of respondents opposed Poland's deployment of 900 troops in Iraq, while only 12.1 percent were in favor of sticking with the US-led coalition. Poland has been one of Washington's most loyal allies over Iraq. Around 2,600 Polish troops took part in the 2003 invasion, a move which sparked a bitter verbal tussle with anti-war fe…

Putin: Control of oil reserves among Iraq war goals.

This is from this Russian site. It is not surprising that Putin should say this but it is a little surprising that he should agree with Bush that the US should stay as long as the security situation requires it. Of course Putin along with many others think that the US should set a withdrawal date. The two positions are a bit contradictory unless the withdrawal date is just a motivator!

Control of oil reserves among Iraq war goals - Putin
16:53 | 18/ 10/ 2007

MOSCOW, October 18 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was mainly aimed at controlling the Gulf state's oil reserves.

During his annual televised question-and-answer session, the president responded to a request for his appraisal of the Iraq war by stating that, "One of the goals, in my opinion, was to establish control over the country's crude reserves."

He also said that the U.S. should fix a date for the withdrawal of its troops from Iraq.


Pakistan releases 3,400 jailed under emergency rule

I imagine that the former chief justice is also still behind bars. It is interesting that Bhutto has never been put in jail. Even when her house is under siege she still manages news conferences!
I am a bit surprised that Musharraf would leave to visit Saudi Arabia during this time period. He must either feel that there is no danger of a takeover while he is gone or else he knows there is a takeover coming and has arranged a nice soft landing and retirement abroad.

Pakistan releases 3,400 jailed under emergency rule
Last Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2007 | 8:44 AM ET
CBC News
More than 3,400 people jailed in Pakistan under the broadened powers of emergency rule have been released in recent days, the country's Interior Ministry said Tuesday.

Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema said 3,416 prisoners have been released, while 2,000 still remain behind bars.

Many of those detained since President Gen. Pervez Musharraf imposed a state of emergency on Nov. 3 were lawyers, human rights…

Philippines: Quick end to investigation leads to frame-up speculation

This is from the Manila Tribune. There is a great distrust of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the National Police, and politicians in the Philippines. In fact of the three the politicians though widely distrusted are ranked third of the three in level of distrust in a poll published a couple of years ago.
Even though the National Police account seems at least to me an outsider perfectly reasonable--after all the Sayaff group have every reason to target the congressman--many people think the investigation was all a frame-up. The National police are just not trusted as independent investigators but are thought to frame the evidence to conclude what they want to conclude. Of course this mode of investigation may not just be confined to the Philippines!! They seem to have exported it to many other countries as well!!

Swift end to Batasan attack probe raises frame-up posit


The unusually swift resolution of investigations into the bombing at the Batasan Complex, which was unch…