Showing posts from July, 2008

Afghan air war grows in intensity

The NATO force is called ISAF the International Security Assistance Force. However their priority is security for their own forces not Afghans as the article puts it: But U.S. and allied troops in trouble take precedenceKarzai has complained constantly about civilian casualties caused by these airstrikes. The response of the U.S. and NATO has been to increase the number of airstrikes rather than reduce them. Last fall, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, responding to the rising civilian death toll from airstrikes, publicly demanded that the United States find an alternative. But airstrikes only increased. The increasing civilian deaths will recruit more to the Taliban ranks. This will increase the number of attacks. In response the U.S. and others will increase troop levels and increase the level of casualties and violence. Welcome to the New American Century.,0,6638715.storybaltimoresun.comAfghan air war grows in intensityFears of civi…

India nixes WTO deal to cut tariffs

The developed countries just love to blame these failures on developing countries. Of course developing countries often want to protect their own farmers from competition that could be disastrous for those farmers. At the same time the great free traders in the developed world subsidise their own farmers and thus make their products cheaper and cheaper simply because they are subsidised.
Personally I find it makes a great deal of sense in many cases to protect one's own agricultural production. This can provide food security in many cases whereas removing any protection can create disaster for agricultural producers. Note that Canada was excluded from the main discussions in Geneva. So much for Harper's great new presence on the global stage.

India nixes WTO deal to cut tariffs

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

July 29, 2008 at 7:53 PM EDT
WASHINGTON — Sending a powerful message to the world's richest countries, India has rejected a long-sought deal to cut gl…

NAM ministerial conference in Tehran

There seems to be complete silence on this in the western mainstream press. I suppose the non-aligned countries are regarded as of no significance especially given they are meeting in Iran!

NAM ministerial conference opens in Tehran 2008-07-29 13:55:52

TEHRAN, July 29 (Xinhua) -- The 15th Ministerial Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) opened here on Tuesday with an inaugural speech of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"The world is on the verge of change," Ahmadinejad said in his speech. "It is facing frustrating challenges."
Big powers are root of many problems, said Ahmadinejad, adding that poverty is a result of wrong policy of big powers.
He accused big powers of trying to keep a monopoly on technology, saying that nuclear powers are blocking peaceful nuclear work of other states.
He said that the NAM which has the capacity for peace and justice can establish an arbitration council and can defend countries against inv…

U.S. warned against Pakistan missile strikes

Apparently the U.S. carried out the strikes (and others) without the permission of the Pakistani government. Pakistani intelligence already seems to be reacting strongly against the U.S. nuclear deal with India by undermining Indian influence in Afghanistan and certainly Pakistan's relationships with the Karzai government are frigid. No doubt Pakistan is ready to cut a deal with the Taliban and other foes of the Karzai government if it can. The U.S. is helping to create an even more anti-U.S. feeling in Pakistan so that if the Pakistan government takes action to curb the power of the U.S. in Afghanistan and Pakistan that will have a great deal of public support. The U.S. simply does not seem to care about the sensibilities of the Pakistanis about the issue of sovereignty. This same lack of sensitivity is evident in bombings by the U.S. in Afghanistan as well. Karzai has complained mightily without changing the policy one iota. In fact now that bomber McNeill is gone the policy is…

Bush praises Pakistan just hours after U.S. strike.

This is from the NY Times.
Gilani may be able to neglect to mention the missile strike on Pakistani soil but it will be noticed in Pakistan as I note in another post. This is the second time that Midhat Umar has been reported killed so we still will need to wait to have the kill confirmed. Apparently seven people were killed including the head of a school. That the U.S. should carried out this attack just hours before Bush met with Gilani is meant to send a message to Pakistan. With other attacks inside Pakistan and with the new nuclear deal with India, the U.S. can expect that whatever Pakistan may say they will probably work for some type of deal with the Taliban and even try to undermine the Karzai government and also the influence of India in Afghanistan.

July 29, 2008
Bush Praises Pakistan Just Hours After U.S. Strike
WASHINGTON — President Bush on Monday praised Pakistan’s commitment to fighting extremists along its deteriorating border with Afghanistan, onl…

Bush meets with Prime Minister Gilani of Pakistan.

This is from Washington Post.
Quick summary:
Blah blah...democracy hurrah...blah blah militants boo...blah blah...sovereignty hurrah...blah blah..extremists boo....blah blah....self-determination hurrah......terrorists boo....blah hurrah.......blah blah...thank you all.

Bush Meets With Prime Minister Gilani of PakistanBush, Gilani Hold a Media Availability
CQ TranscriptsMonday, July 28, 2008; 12:28 PM
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Mr. Prime Minister, welcome. It's been a -- it's been a very constructive morning.
BUSH: We've had a good meeting in the Oval Office. And then I'm going to have lunch with the prime minister here in the main White House. And that's fitting. After all, Pakistan is a strong ally and a vibrant democracy, and the United States supports the democracy and supports the sovereignty of Pakistan.
We talked about areas of concern. Of course, we're going to spend a l…

Democrats: No blank check for Iraq war.

This is from wiredispatch.
I have never heard Obama complain about military spending overall. He wants to send more troops to Afghanistan. It seems as if the Democrats might be willing to grant blank checks for the Afghan war! Anyway they do not seem to have been successful at cutting budgets for the Iraq war.

No 'blank check' for Iraq war, Democrats say
Democratic Sen. Jack Reed: US can't afford GOP strategy of writing blank checks for Iraq war
Jul 26, 2008 15:16 EST
Sen. Jack Reed says America can't afford the Republican strategy of continuing to write blank checks for the Iraq war.

"At a time when the war in Iraq costs $10 billion each month, Americans are paying $4 a gallon for gasoline, and our economy is struggling, we cannot continue down the path that President Bush and Senator McCain propose: writing blank check after blank check," Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, said Saturday in his party's weekly radio address.
Reed said Democrat…

Bolton: U.S. should help Israel hit Iran

No doubt Israel already receives intelligence from the U.S. about Iran or perhaps it is the other way around! Fortunately, Bolton is now not in a position of power. Bolton is famous or infamous for his outspoken and aggressive neo-con foreign policy views. This is from the Jewishledger.

Bolton: U.S. should help Israel hit Iran
Published: Wednesday, July 23, 2008 9:08 PM EDT
WASHINGTON, D.C. (JTA) -- Former U.N. ambassador John Bolton said the United States should assist Israel in any strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. The ex-U.S. envoy in an op-ed in the July 15 Wall Street Journal said the United States must consider what assistance to extend to Israel before and after an airstrike. “We will be blamed for the strike anyway, and certainly feel whatever negative consequences result, so there is compelling logic to make it as successful as possible," wrote Bolton, who was known for his hawkish foreign policy views. "At a minimum, we should place no obstacles in Israel's…

The 25 most vicious Iraq war profiteers

The list and descriptions of the companies are at businesspundit.

The 25 Most Vicious Iraq War Profiteers
The Iraq war is many things to different people. It is called a strategic blunder and a monstrous injustice and sometimes even a patriotic mission, much to the chagrin of rational human beings. For many big companies, however, the war is something far different: a lucrative cash-cow. The years-long, ongoing military effort has resurrected fears of the so-called “military-industrial complex.” Media pundits are outraged at private companies scooping up huge, no-questions-asked contracts to manufacture weapons, rebuild infrastructure, or anything else the government deems necessary to win (or plant its flag in Iraq). No matter what your stance on the war, it pays to know where your tax dollars are being spent.
Following is a detailed rundown of the 25 companies squeezing the most profit from this controversial conflict.

How many US Troops will remain in Iraq

This is from VOA hardly a hard leftist source! The US seems to be doing nothing to build up the Iraqi Air Force. I expect this is deliberate so that control of air space remains in US hands. In fact I gather all air traffic in Iraq is under US control!
As this article points out withdrawal of troops from Iraq means combat troops but there could still be many thousands of troops remaining. This is often overlooked when talking about bringing home the troops. A sovereign Iraq needs a big complement of US troops to look after US interests, the pampered in the embassy mansion, contractors, and so forth.

VOA Home

As Surge Ends, How Many US Troops Will Remain in Iraq?
By Al Pessin Pentagon24 July 2008
Pessin report - Download (MP3) Pessin report - Listen (MP3)
The U.S. troop surge in Iraq has now ended, with the top general's spokesman confirming to VOA that all the combat troops sent in last year to bolster security efforts have ended their tours of duty and left the c…

Official says Zimbabwe power-sharing talks go well.

So what happens if the talk are successful? Surely the sanctions should be withdrawn. Given that there is still violence and many want Mugabe out completely the talks may end up failing. What is surprising is that talks seem to be going forward at all. The western sanctions just play into Mugabe's script about western colonialism still being a strong force.

Official says Zimbabwe power-sharing talks go well
Zimbabwe talks go well though many Zimbabweans feel betrayed and some violence continues
Jul 25, 2008 13:20 EST
Power-sharing talks between Zimbabwe's rival political parties were proceeding well Friday, a South African official said, although violence continued and hundreds of opposition supporters remained jailed.

Both sides are under pressure: the opposition from fear of more state-sponsored violence and longtime President Robert Mugabe from widening Western sanctions. The United States on Friday broadened its sanctions against targeted Zimbabweans and the…

Cleaning up sunk ferry mess expensive: Philippines.

This is from the Inquirer.
The cleanup of the mess left in the sunk ferry is going to cost millions. Hopefully Titan Salvage will be able to remove the toxic chemicals without too much trouble. For now Sulpico is not allowed to run its ferries according to this article and probably will only be allowed to carry cargo when it can run the ships.

Sulpicio signs deal for retrieval of ferry’s toxic cargo
Titan Salvage has month and a halfBy Riza T. OlchondraPhilippine Daily InquirerFirst Posted 19:46:00 07/24/2008
MANILA, Philippines -- After yet another extension in its deadline, Sulpicio Lines Inc. (SLI) has finally signed a contract to retrieve toxic cargo from the sunken MV Princess of the Stars.
SLI first vice president Edgar Go and Titan Salvage commercial manager Amit Wahil signed, at around 6:50 p.m. Thursday, the $7.55-million contract to retrieve the toxic cargo, bunker fuel and bodies still inside the ferry, SLI lawyer Victoria Florido said.
Florido said the company was "n…

Philippine govt. co-ording release of 20 Filipino seamen seized by pirates off Somalia

This is from the Inquirer.
No doubt there will be ransom demanded. The Philippine government leaves it to others to pay the ransom! Of course it does this for noble motives namely that one should not encourage pirates by giving in to ransom demands. It is OK I imagine if others do so though! Some pirates need to kidnap these lofty idealists who refuse to pay ransoms and see if they request that their government not pay to release them.

VICE PRES DE CASTRO:Efforts on for safe release of seamen seized in Somalia
Gov’t coordinating with ship ownersBy Cynthia BalanaPhilippine Daily InquirerFirst Posted 14:34:00 07/24/2008
MANILA, Philippines -- The government is coordinating with a Japanese shipping firm, manning agents and international maritime authorities to secure the safe release of 20 Filipino seamen of a bulk carrier seized by pirates off Somalia last Sunday, Vice President Noli de Castro said Thursday.
In an interview, De Castro, who is also presidential adviser on Overseas Fili…

Iranian military convoy rocked by mystery explosion.

This is from the Telegraph.
As the article notes at the end the U.S. has increased the funding of covert operations inside Iran to the tune of 200 million. It is just possible that the U.S. is behind the explosion. On the other hand it may simply be an accident.

Iranian military convoy rocked by mystery explosion
Iran's Revolutionary Guards have launched an urgent inquiry after a mysterious explosion wrecked a military convoy in Tehran, killing at least fifteen people and injuring scores more.

By Con Coughlin Last Updated: 1:55PM BST 25 Jul 2008
The explosion took place in the Tehran suburb of Khavarshahar as the military convoy left a munitions' warehouse controlled by the Revolutionary Guards. According to reports received by Western officials, the convoy was taking a consignment of military equipment to Hizbollah, the Shia Muslim militia Iran supports in southern Lebanon, when the explosion occurred.
Senior Revolutionary Guard commanders immediately imposed a news black-out …

Obama: Jerusalem should not be capital of Palestinian State.

This is from Maan.
Obama continues to court Israeli support or rather the support of the Israel lobbyists in the U.S. Many Palestinians see Obama as just more of the same and that is probably correct. If Israel and the U.S. have a common understanding of what should happen how can the U.S. be an honest broker let alone a neutral mediator between the two sides? Anyway unless Hamas is brought into the picture it is hard to see how there can be any real peace. Israel is going ahead with more settlements and is keeping Gaza crossings virtually sealed. The situation could soon return to increase violence. Hamas is getting almost nothing from the ceasefire.

MAAN NEWS AGENCY---------------------------
Obama: Jerusalem will not be capital of Palestinian state
Date: 24 / 07 / 2008 Time: 09:44
Bethlehem – Ma'an - US democratic candidate Barak Obama said during a press conference on Wednesday in Sderot, a city in the south of Israel, that he does not support the idea of East Jerusalem as the c…

Obama on talking with Iran.

This is from Haaretz.
So it seems that one reason for talking to Iran is to legitimate action taken by the U.S. or Israel! It seems that if the Iranians do not give in to U.S. demands then action is legitimate!

Obama to PM: Iran action legitimate only if talks fail
By Barak Ravid and Jack Khoury, Haaretz Correspondents
Tags: Ehud Olmert, Barack Obama
Near the close of his visit to Israel on Wednesday, Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. A major topic of their long conversation was Obama's declared willingness to engage in direct dialogue with Tehran. Obama reportedly told Olmert that he is interested in meeting the Iranians in order to issue clear ultimatums. "If after that, they still show no willingness to change their nuclear policy, then any action against them would be legitimate," an Israeli source quoted him as saying.

Pilger: Obama, the Prince of Bait-and-Switch

Even though Obama still is simply a candidate for the presidency he is being treated as if he were already one of the chief world leaders whose every move and every mouthing of a platitude is to be covered extensively. Here is an article by John Pilger who puts Obama in a different perspective. With Obama the main change will be in imagery, but the reality with respect to U.S. militaristic foreign policy is not about to change.

Obama, the Prince of Bait-and-Switch
by John Pilger
On 12 July, The Times of London devoted two pages to Afghanistan. It was mostly a complaint about the heat. The reporter, Magnus Linklater, described in detail his discomfort and how he had needed to be sprayed with iced water. He also described the "high drama" and "meticulously practiced routine" of evacuating another overheated journalist. For his US Marine rescuers, wrote Linklater, "saving a life took precedence over [their] security." Alongside this was a report whose final pa…

Naomi Klein on Bush and Iraq Oil

This is excerpted from the Canadian Dimension blog.
There is little mention or discussion of these contracts in the mainstream media. But that is not surprising since the Iraq war is never supposed to be about oil. I hadn't heard about the management contracts. As I understand it the contracts are not yet signed so there could be political opposition before they are finalised as there has been to the Oil Law. The Oil Law benchmark is never mentioned any more!

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I think we’re seeing the Bush administration in its final months just handing out a series of gifts to the oil and gas industry, both at home, pushing for opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and then in Iraq, the prize, the biggest prize of all, which is allowing foreign multinationals to gain control of Iraq’s oil fields. And we’re seeing a two-stage process now, and it isn’t over yet, where first there was the service—the short-term service agreements, no-bid contracts, that were announc…

Israel mulls building new settlement in West Bank

This may very well derail any chance of success of peace talks with the Palestinians. Do we hear outraged cries from McCain and Obama?

Israel mulls building new settlement in West Bank 2008-07-24 19:02:12

Special report: Palestine-Israel Relations
JERUSALEM, July 24 (Xinhua) -- An Israeli parliamentary committee has greenlighted the construction of 20 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank, local media reported Thursday.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is slated to endorse the project soon, which will be carried out at a site named Maskiot in the Jordan Valley, following the approval of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said local daily Ha'aretz.
The project has to be approved by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to go ahead.
Another newspaper The Jerusalem Post reported that Israel originally announced in 2006 that it would build a settlement at Maskiot, where an Israeli military base had been establi…

Arabs hear alarm bells as ICC targets Sudan's Bashir

In Africa what is looked at in the west in terms of long overdue justice for human rights violators is seen as a form of western imperialism and an attempt to control African countries. The same feeling underlies the reluctance to sanction Mugabe. When the U.S. violates human rights or Israel ignores UN resolutions nothing happens at all. Countries such as China have good relationships with Sudan. The U.S. would be happy for regime change and a regime which favored western oil interests.

Arabs hear alarm bells as ICC targets Sudan's Bashir
Wed 23 Jul 2008, 10:26 GMT

By Cynthia Johnston
CAIRO, July 23 (Reuters) - When the International Criminal Court prosecutor sought an arrest warrant for Sudan's president, the move set off alarm bells in Arab capitals that fear it may showcase a new form of Western meddling in Arab affairs.
Arab leaders, many of whom run governments accused of rampant human rights abuses, worry the court could next turn its focus to other Arab states if it succeed…

Car sale growth to slump in Philippines

Given the rising cost of fuel and inflation in the Philippines this is not too surprising. Although the remittances from oversease Filipino workers is rising, those who are paid in U.S. dollars are hurt by the rise of the peso against the U.S. dollar. As the article notes this will still be a record year for sales even though the rate of growth in sales is declining.

Growth in car sales to flag in Philippines
Tue Jul 22, 2008 10:47am BST
MANILA, July 22 (Reuters) - Growth in new vehicle sales in the Philippines is expected to slow to 6 percent this year from 18 percent in 2007 as oil price hikes bite, an industry leader said on Tuesday.
Demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles, however, will continue to support the market, said Elizabeth Lee, president of the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines.
New car sales in the first half of the year rose nearly 14 percent to 61,654 units despite a flurry of price increases that have seen prices of gasoline and diesel jump 36 percen…

Mideast Sees more of the Same if Obama is Elected.

This is from the NY Times.
Although the media strives mightily for product differentiation of the McCain and Obama brands with respect to many policies there are only marginal if any differences between the Obama and McCain. Of course these are already framed as the only choices by the media although there may be a patronising hello once in a while to other candidates.Both candidates in an attempt to get Jewish votes and the support of the Israel lobby declare their undying support for Israel. As many Palestinians point out there is no hope of the U.S. being an unbiased broker for peace, but then there never has been so what you have is more of the same as the article claims.

July 22, 2008
Mideast Sees More of the Same if Obama Is Elected
AMMAN, Jordan — For what feels like forever, Israelis and their Arab neighbors have been hopelessly deadlocked on how to resolve the Palestinian crisis. But there is one point they may now agree on: If elected presi…

NAIA 3 finally opens in Manila.

This is from the Inquirer.
It seems that all terminals except Terminal 3 are processing traffic far beyond rated capacity. Whenever I have landed there or left there has not been much in the way of delays but I have heard others complain. There is always the problem of making sure you have money to pay the exit fee! These fees keep increasing and smaller airports now are joining the bandwagon. I see that there are still legal battles going on concerning Terminal 3!

Inquirer Headlines / Nation
After 6 years, NAIA 3 finally opens
By Tarra QuismundoPhilippine Daily Inquirer
Posted date: July 23, 2008
MANILA, Philippines—Once a white elephant that slept soundly in the dark, the mothballed Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 (NAIA 3) flickered into life before dawn Tuesday and accepted its first passengers.
Lights glowed on one side of the kilometer-long terminal on Andrews A…