Friday, October 31, 2008

Communists Lash Out at New Bond Girl

Foreign Confidential....

It looks like Bill Ayers will be boycotting the new Bond film.

AP reports:

First it was Indiana Jones. Now it's James Bond's latest lady friend.

The Communist Party in St. Petersburg says Olga Kurylenko, the Ukrainian-born model who plays a Bolivian agent in the latest Bond film, "Quantum of Solace," has betrayed her roots.

"In the name of all communists we appeal to you, prodigal daughter of poor Ukraine and deserter of Slavic world," the party said in an open letter dated Oct. 21 and posted on their Web site Friday.

The Soviet Union "gave you free education, free medical care but nobody knew you would commit an act of intellectual and moral betrayal that you would become a movie kept girl of Bond, who in his movies kills hundreds of Soviet people and citizens of other socialist countries: Cubans, Vietnamese, North Koreans, Chinese and Nicaraguans," the party said.

Sergei Malenkovich, head of the party's regional organization, told The Associated Press that latest Bond movie is "an insult for Russians."

Click here to continue.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Oil Price Plunge Shakes Iran

AP reports from Tehran:

Three weeks ago, a hard-line cleric close to Iran's president gloated publicly that the world financial crisis was God's punishment on the United States. The laughter, however, was short-lived.

Iran plunged this week into a bitter storm of political recrimination, largely directed at President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as officials and ordinary Iranians realized with shock that the Islamic republic faces a severe economic crisis of its own.

The reason: As oil prices plunge because of the global slowdown, Iran is caught in a classic crunch. Ahmadinejad's government failed to save enough of the billions in oil windfall it earned during the good years to now cushion the bad.

The same crunch afflicts Venezuela and to a lesser extent, Russia, as all three struggle with falling oil prices.

But in Iran, the economic crisis has quickly turned political. Economic woes are the key issue as Ahmadinejad — already deeply unpopular and suffering from exhaustion, he said this week — seeks re-election next summer in a tough vote. And they are shaping up as his weakness.

Critics say he has recklessly squandered Iran's oil windfall on costly, subsidized imports, from fruit and other goods to the gasoline the country must buy overseas because of a refinery shortage, while failing to take any needed reforms.

"The Iranian people got a golden opportunity in history. But it was buried under this government's wrong policies," said Mohsen Safaei Farahani, a former lawmaker and reformist economist.

Among the dire statistics made public this week: The government may have as little as $9 billion left in its hard-currency reserve, the rainy day fund set aside to bolster the currency, import goods or pay off debt, according to one official, an ally of the president, who gave that figure to newspapers.

Other officials immediately disputed that, saying Iran still had closer to $20 billion or $25 billion in the fund.

But the relatively low figures shocked the country, leading one state agency to send an investigative report to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and parliament Monday, accusing Ahmadinejad's government of financial violations. Among the accusations: His government unlawfully withdrew money from the fund.

Even if Ahmadinejad is not re-elected in June, it is unclear how much Iran's foreign policy would change. Khamenei, a hard-liner, has the final say in all state matters and strongly supports Iran's nuclear program and dislike for the United States.

Click here to continue.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Israel Slams Russia, China, India for Aiding Iran

Foreign Confidential....

Israel is increasingly concerned about the international community's failure to stop Iran from acquiring atomic arms.

Ynet reports:

"The Iranians are determined to develop nuclear power, and we believe it is delusional to think otherwise. Iran's plan jeopardizes both regional stability and that of the entire world," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Wednesday evening in a meeting with European Union ambassadors.

Barak lashed out against Russia, India and China for continuing to do business with Tehran at a time when most of the West is seeking to further tighten the sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic.

"So long as Russia, Chine and India do not join the nations imposing sanctions on Iran, it will have allies to do business with," said Barak. The defense minister briefed the EU envoys on a number of state and defense issues relevant to the Middle East, as well as Israel's continued efforts to rally world opinion against Iran's nuclear program.

Khamenei (to Obama): Iran Hates America

Foreign Confidential....

As if to confirm the view that appeasement invites aggression, and arguably anticipating an Obama victory in the US Presidential election, Iran's so-called supreme leader said Wednesday that his country's hatred for the United States runs deep and differences between the two nations go beyond a few political issues. AP reports:

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's comments on state-run television less than a week before the American presidential elections were seen as a signal that a thaw in U.S.-Iran relations was not expected no matter who wins the Nov. 4 race.

Khamenei said the hatred is rooted in 50 years of U.S. intervention in Iran's domestic affairs and hostility toward Tehran.

"The hatred of the Iranian nation is deep-seated. The reason is the various conspiracies by the U.S. government against the Iranian people and government in the past 50 years," Khamenei said.

He was addressing a group of students in Tehran days ahead of the 29th anniversary of the 1979 storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran by militant students.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

US Warming to Taliban

Foreign Confidential....

As if to validate and pave the way for Barack Obama's policy of appeasement, the Bush administration, facing looming disaster in Afghanistan, is warming up to the Taliban. The Wall Street Journal reports:

The U.S. is actively considering talks with elements of the Taliban, the armed Islamist group that once ruled Afghanistan and sheltered al Qaeda, in a major policy shift that would have been unthinkable a few months ago.

Senior White House and military officials believe that engaging some levels of the Taliban -- while excluding top leaders -- could help reverse a pronounced downward spiral in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan. Both countries have been destabilized by a recent wave of violence.

The outreach is a draft recommendation in a classified White House assessment of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, according to senior Bush administration officials. The officials said that the recommendation calls for the talks to be led by the Afghan central government, but with the active participation of the U.S.

The idea is supported by Gen. David Petraeus, who will assume responsibility this week for U.S. policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Gen. Petraeus used a similar approach in Iraq, where a U.S. push to enlist Sunni tribes in the fight against al Qaeda in Iraq helped sharply reduce the country's violence. Gen. Petraeus earlier this month publicly endorsed talks with less extreme Taliban elements.

The final White House recommendations, which could differ from the draft, are not expected until after next month's elections. The next administration wouldn't be compelled to implement them. But the support of Gen. Petraeus, the highly regarded incoming head of the U.S. Central Command, could help ensure that the policy is put in place regardless of who wins next month's elections.

Click here to continue.

France Criticizes, Russia Condemns US Raid in Syria

Foreign Confidential....

Criticism and condemnation....

1. The criticism. France said Monday that it is very worried about a US commando attack in Syrian territory and called for restraint and the "strict respect" of the territorial integrity of all nations.

The statement from French President Nicolas Sarkozy's office called for "light to be shed" on Sunday's cross-border raid, which the Syrian government says killed eight people.

The statement says France "deplores the loss of Syrian civilians." It says Sarkozy has sent his condolence to the victims' friends and families.

A US military official in Washington has confirmed that special forces had conducted a raid in Syria.

The US official said Sunday's military action (scroll down for the story) targeted a network of Al Qaida-linked foreign fighters moving through Syria into Iraq.

2. The condemnation. Russia's reaction to the raid was much sharper. The Foreign Ministry condemned the US for having triggered dire consequences by the recent attack on the Syrian soil.

"It is obvious that such unilateral military actions have a sharply negative effect on the situation in the region, and widen the seat of dangerous armed tension," the ministry said in a statement about the Sunday attack.

The ministry added that the reported incident near the Iraqi-Syrian border marked Washington's using the 'war on terror' as a codename for infringement upon sovereign soils.

"We believe attacks that are worthy of condemnation should not be launched on the territory of sovereign states under the slogan of the fight against terrorism."

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sarkozy Breaks Ranks, Criticizes Obama on Iran

Foreign Confidential....

Amid European euphoria over Barack Obama, one leader dares to break ranks.

Haaretz reports:

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is very critical of U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama's positions on Iran, according to reports that have reached Israel's government.

Sarkozy has made his criticisms only in closed forums in France. But according to a senior Israeli government source, the reports reaching Israel indicate that Sarkozy views the Democratic candidate's stance on Iran as "utterly immature" and comprised of "formulations empty of all content."

Obama visited Paris in July, and the Iranian issue was at the heart of his meeting with Sarkozy. At a joint press conference afterward, Obama urged Iran to accept the West's proposal on its nuclear program, saying that Iran was creating a serious situation that endangered both Israel and the West.

According to the reports reaching Israel, Sarkozy told Obama at that meeting that if the new American president elected in November changed his country's policy toward Iran, that would be "very problematic."

Obama Advisers Angry Over US Raid into Syria

Foreign Confidential....

China Confidential has learned that Barack Obama's Middle East advisers are furious about America's daring attack against a Syrian enemy. The advisers, including Zbigniew Brzezinski,who was Jimmy Carter's National Security Adviser, are privately accusing the Bush administration of a needless provocation of the Syrian regime, which Obama is eager to engage diplomatically.

AFP reports on the raid:

The United States mounted a rare cross-border raid into Syria to kill the head of a smuggling network feeding arms and foreign fighters to Iraq, a US official said Monday, signaling a more aggressive approach to insurgent sanctuaries.

The official identified the man targeted in Sunday's raid as Abu Ghadiya, describing him as "one of the most prominent foreign fighter facilitators in the region."

"The operation was successful," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "He is believed to have been killed."

The official provided few details about the raid itself, but did not dispute Syrian accounts that helicopter-borne troops assaulted a site in the village of Al-Sukkiraya, eight kilometers (five miles) from the border.

The official Syrian press said eight civilians, including four children, were killed in the raid. Syrian state television showed a construction site with bloodstains on the ground, and bodies in a morgue.

The Syrian toll could not be independently verified, and White House and Pentagon officials would not comment.

US cross-border raids into Syria have been extremely rare, if not unprecedented, despite tension and occasional clashes over the years along the long open border between Iraq and Syria.

The raid was also striking in that it came with little more than a week to go before the US presidential elections.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Ahmadinejad Sick with AIDS? Obama the Promised Warrior for Shiite Conquest? Iran Rife with Rumors

Foreign Confidential....

Islamist Iran is rife with rumors that its homophobic, missile-mad maniac-in-chief, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is sick with AIDS.

Ahmadinejad has said he is suffering from exhaustion to combat rumors he is more seriously sick.

Meanwhile, exiled Iranian journalist Amir Taheri asks: is Barack Obama is the so-called promised warrior "coming to help the Hidden Imam of Shiite Muslims conquer the world?"

The question has made the rounds in Iran since last month, when a pro-government Web site published a Hadith (or tradition) from a Shiite text of the 17th century. The tradition comes from Bahar al-Anvar (meaning Oceans of Light) by Mullah Majlisi, a magnum opus in 132 volumes and the basis of modern Shiite Islam.

According to the tradition, Imam Ali Ibn Abi-Talib (the prophet's cousin and son-in-law) prophesied that at the End of Times and just before the return of the Mahdi, the Ultimate Saviour, a "tall black man will assume the reins of government in the West." Commanding "the strongest army on earth," the new ruler in the West will carry "a clear sign" from the third imam, whose name was Hussein Ibn Ali. The tradition concludes: "Shiites should have no doubt that he is with us."

In a curious coincidence Obama's first and second names--Barack Hussein--mean "the blessing of Hussein" in Arabic and Persian. His family name, Obama, written in the Persian alphabet, reads O Ba Ma, which means "he is with us," the magic formula in Majlisi's tradition.

Mystical reasons aside, the Khomeinist establishment sees Obama's rise as another sign of the West's decline and the triumph of Islam. Obama's promise to seek unconditional talks with the Islamic Republic is cited as a sign that the U.S. is ready to admit defeat. Obama's position could mean abandoning three resolutions passed by the United Nations Security Council setting conditions that Iran should meet to avoid sanctions. Seeking unconditional talks with the Khomeinists also means an admission of moral equivalence between the U.S. and the Islamic Republic. It would imply an end to the description by the U.S. of the regime as a "systematic violator of human rights."

Obama has abandoned claims by all U.S. administrations in the past 30 years that Iran is "a state sponsor of terrorism." Instead, he uses the term "violent groups" to describe Iran-financed outfits such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

Obama has also promised to attend a summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference within the first 100 days of his presidency. Such a move would please the mullahs, who have always demanded that Islam be treated differently, and that Muslim nations act as a bloc in dealings with Infidel nations.

Obama's election would boost President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's chances of winning a second term next June. Ahmadinejad's entourage claim that his "steadfastness in resisting the American Great Satan" was a factor in helping Obama defeat "hardliners" such as Hillary Clinton and, later, it hopes, John McCain.

Click here to continue reading Taheri's essay in Forbes.

Damascus: US Soldiers Attack Syrian Target

Foreign Confidential....

Syrian media and witnesses say US soldiers have attacked a building in eastern Syria during a helicopter raid, killing eight people.

Syrian media say four US helicopters took part in the raid Sunday on the town of Abu Kamal, near the Iraqi border. They say US soldiers who emerged from the aircraft stormed a civilian building under construction and fired on workers, killing eight of them.

Syrian media say the US helicopters flew to Iraq after the attack. The French news agency quotes a US military spokesperson in Iraq, Sergeant Brooke Murphy, as saying the US military is "investigating" the reports.

No other information about the reported attack was immediately available.

The Abu Kamal area is near the Iraqi border city of Qaim, which was once a major crossing point for fighters and weapons coming into Iraq from Syria.

A US military official confirmed late Sunday that a US helicopter attacked a target in an area along Syria's border with Iraq, which left eight people dead and three people wounded. The official said the attack targeted elements of a robust foreign fighter logistics network and that due to Syrian inaction the US was now "taking matters into our own hands."

Israel's Livni Calls for New Elections

Foreign Confidential....

Tzipi Livni has called for new elections in Israel, saying she failed to form a coalition government.

Livni, the foreign minister and prime minister-designate, won the Kadima Party primary in September following Ehud Olmert's resignation.

But she was unable to assemble a governing majority and on Sunday said she would not ask Israel's president, Shimon Peres, for more time to bring coalition partners on board.

Failed to Reach a Deal

Livni had managed to bring the Labor Party, led by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, on board, but she failed to reach an agreement with the Orthodox Shas party or other potential coalition partners to pass the 61-seat threshhold necessary to become prime minister.

Livni made her decision late Saturday night during a party meeting that included her main Kadima rival, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz. The meeting was called after the Shas and Degel Hatorah, another Orthodox party, said they would not join Livni's government.

The Pensioners' Party also announced Saturday night that it would was backing out of negotiations with Livni.

'Impossible Demands'

"After the primaries, I said that I believed in stability and was committed to seeing through the process of forming a government," Livni told Israel's Cabinet meeting on Sunday. "Recent days have seen coalition demands become impossible, and there was a need to draw the line, to say 'no more.'

"I was prepared to pass budgets I believe in for needy families and social causes, but when it became clear that every person and every party was taking advantage of the situation to make illegitimate demands -- both economic and diplomatic -- I decided to put a stop to it and go to elections."

Although Peres is likely to recommend going to new elections, the president has three days to appoint another lawmaker to form a new government within 28 days. If the country goes to new elections, they likely will be held in February or March. Until then, Olmert will stay on as caretaker prime minister.


Retired US General to Israel: Drop Dead

Foreign Confidential....

Three decades after the Untied States under President Jimmy Carter betrayed Iran's pro-US, modernizing monarch, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, Washington is warming to another betrayal--of Israel.

The stage is being set for US-led, international acceptance of the unacceptable--a nuclear-armed, Islamist Iran--even if that means putting Israel in permanent danger of annihilation.


The former United States army head of operations in the Middle East, retired general John Abizaid, believes that Israel is incapable of causing serious damage to Iran's nuclear program, Newsweek reported earlier this month.

The weekly magazine quoted the former Commander of the U.S. Central Command, who oversaw operations in the Middle East, as saying he doubted whether "the Israelis have the capability to make a lasting impression on the Iranian nuclear program with their military capabilities."

According to Newsweek, Abizaid made the comments earlier this month at a Marine Corps University conference, where he also reportedly said that an Israel-Iran confrontation would be bad for the U.S. and would further destabilize the region.

Abizaid's recent reported comments appear to echo remarks he has made on the issue of Iran's nuclear program, which Israel and the U.S. believe is aimed at developing atomic weapons.

Last year, the retired general said that, "There are ways to live with a nuclear Iran."

Several officers and Pentagon analysts were also quoted by Newsweek as saying that the U.S. military thinks Israel would face huge challenges in reaching Iran, refueling its warplanes along the way and penetrating hardened nuclear targets.

Abizaid isn't the only surrogate speaking out. Nicholas Burns, former US Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs, writes in the current (November 3) issue of Newsweek that John McCain is wrong to attack Barack Obama for his willingness to sit down with America's foes.

"As Americans learned all too dramatically on 9/11 and again during the financial crisis this autumn, we inhabit a rapidly integrating planet where dangers can strike at any time and from great distances. And when others--China, India, Brazil--are rising to share power in the world with us, America needs to spend more time, not less, talking and listening to friends and foes alike," Burns writes.

Asserting that that one of America's greatest but often-neglected strengths is its diplomatic power, he suggests that the next administration should look for opportunities to talk in Iran, Syria, and eventually even Afghanistan--i.e. negotiating with the Taliban.

"I lived this issue for 27 years as a career diplomat," Burns writes. And "I've been struggling to find the real wisdom and logic in this Republican assault against Obama ... Is it really smart to declare that we will never talk to such leaders?"

Burns proposes a diplomatic offensive around the world akin to Obama's call for "aggressive diplomacy"

Burns: "Rather than retreat into isolationism, as we have often done in our history, or go it alone as the unilateralists advocated disastrously in the past decade, we need to commit ourselves to a national strategy of smart engagement with the rest of the world. Simply put, we need all the friends we can get. And we need to think more creatively about how to blunt the power of opponents through smart diplomacy, not just the force of arms."

Clearly, the stage is being set for a major policy shift.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

US Reported Ready to Renew Relations with Iran

Foreign Confidential....

Peace in our time?

A stab in the back for Israel and John McCain?

Say it ain't so, George!

After surrendering to nuclear-armed North Korea, the battered and bankrupt Bush administration appears ready to throw in the towel and renew diplomatic relations with nuclear-arming Iran following the 2008 US Presidential election.

US recognition of Iran's monstrous, missile-mad mullahocracy--even under cover of a flawed and phony, North Korean-style nuclear deal--would completely undercut John McCain's opposition to appeasing the Islamist regime. Hence, the need for a November surprise.

Reports of the secret deal recall the Iraqi government's stunning support for Barack Obama's proposed date-certain withdrawal from Iraq, and lend credence to speculation concerning a so-called grand bargain between Washington and Tehran regarding a reduction of violence in the occupied Arab country (scroll down for the story)--i.e. the theory that Iranian control of Iraqi Shiite militias matters more than the US troop surge.

Haaretz reports:

Several American media outlets reported on Saturday that President George Bush is likely to announce after next month's presidential elections that he intends to restore the diplomatic relations with Iran, almost 30 years after they were suspended.

Quoting U.S. civil servants, the reports said that Bush's decision to postpone the announcement until after the elections was meant to rid the two presidential candidates of having to deal with the controversial move.

In the first stage, the American administration allegedly seeks to appoint a low-level diplomatic delegation, and has already started the recruitment process.

Tehran has already been informed of the initiative, but its view on the matter remains unclear. Similar reports were published a few months ago, but the plan was then put on hold.

Click here to continue.

Berg's Lawsuit Against Obama Dismissed

A Federal judge has dismissed the Pennsylvania attorney's lawsuit challenging Barack Obama's Constitutional eligibility to be President of the United States. But the lawyer, Philip Berg, said he will appeal the decision to the US Supreme Court. A former deputy attorney general of Pennsylvania, Berg is licensed to try cases before the Court.

Newsmax broke the story.

American Thinker

If anyone can show me where Obama has been asked to prove he is a "natural born citizen" of the United States and done so, I would be grateful. So far as I know, no official body has received such proof in the form of an officially generated and certified Hawaiian certificate of live birth.

Obama's college and medical records are still secret. Click here for an overview. Scroll down for our piece on Obama's lost years in New York.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Islamist Threat to Syria Intensifying

Foreign Confidential....

With more than a half-million angry Iraqi refugees in Syria, the militant threat to the secular regime in Damascus is intensifying.

It's a question of blowback. Syrian President Bashar Assad allowed Islamist fighters to enter Iraq through its porous Syrian border to attack US troops. Assad saw the strategy as an opportunity to attack US interests and export mounting domestic militancy.

Under pressure from Washington, however, Assad has cracked down and begun to control the borders, leaving Damascus in the position to deal with the domestic threat, which includes Islamist infiltration of the armed forces and security services.

In what Syrian officials described as a rare act of terror, a suicide bomber killed at least 17 in the outskirts of Damascus on September 17.

Israeli Businessman Kidnapped in Ghana

Foreign Confidential....

The Jerusalem Post reported Friday that a businessman says his partner, an Israeli national, has been kidnapped by armed gunmen in the West African country of Ghana.

The paper said unidentified businessman said his business partner, whose name was not released, was abducted this week and his captors have demanded $300,000 for his safe release.

The businessman, who is reportedly heading up ransom negotiations with assistance from the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said his partner disappeared Wednesday.

Israel has no formal representation in Ghana, so the government was offering assistance in the matter through its embassy in the West African country of Nigeria, the Post said.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yossi Levy would not offer additional details regarding the kidnapping, telling Ynetnews releasing details could exacerbate the situation.

The reported kidnapping is the most recent abduction of an Israeli national in West Africa since late September when 60-year-old Ehud Avni was kidnapped in Nigeria.

Avni was eventually released after nearly two weeks in captivity after his kidnappers demanded a $12 million ransom.

Austrian Ultra-Rightist Leader May Have Been Gay

Foreign Confidential....

AP reports from Vienna:

Was Austrian far-right leader Joerg Haider secretly gay?

Speculation that he led a double life raged this week after his political protege, Stefan Petzner, publicly called Haider "the man of my life" in a tearful tribute to the former Freedom Party boss killed in a car crash earlier this month.

Petzner, 27, did not say explicitly that he and Haider, a 58-year-old married father of two, were gay or had a sexual relationship.

But Petzner's tears and the tone of his remarks — along with photographs purportedly showing Haider in a gay bar on the eve of his death — have raised questions about whether the ultraconservative nationalist had something to hide.
"This can't go on," said Michael Fleischhacker, editor-in-chief of the daily Die Presse.

"Stefan Petzner needs to make a decision: Either he describes what was so special about his relationship with Joerg Haider, or he stops publicly playing the role of Haider's successor and widow," Fleischhacker wrote in his blog.

Haider died Oct. 11 after crashing his car in the southern province of Carinthia, where he was governor. Investigators say he was drunk and speeding at twice the posted limit when the car plowed into a concrete post and flipped.

Haider was alone in the vehicle, and although authorities have said there is no evidence to suggest foul play, his widow has refused to have Haider's body cremated until independent forensics experts take another look at the remains.

Click here to continue reading.

And click here and here for articles about Haider's anti-Semitic, extremist history and views--he was basically a Nazi--and Austria's shocking reaction to his death and what that reaction says about the country that gave the world the man Haider probably most admired--Adolf Hitler.

Lawyer Claims to Have Recording of Obama's Grandmother Confirming Candidate's Kenyan Birth

Dateline USA....

Could this be a game changer?

WND reports:

The Pennsylvania Democrat who has sued Sen. Barack Obama demanding he prove his American citizenship – and therefore qualification to run for president – has confirmed he has a recording of a telephone call from the senator's paternal grandmother confirming his birth in Kenya.

The issue of Obama's birthplace, which he states is Honolulu in 1961, has been raised enough times that his campaign website has posted an image purporting to be of his "Certification of Live Birth" from Hawaii.

But Philip J. Berg, a former deputy attorney general for Pennsylvania, told the Michael Savage talk radio program [Thursday night] that the document is forged and that he has a tape recording he will soon release....

Click here to continue reading.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Is Obama a Foreign-Born Dual Citizen?

Click here for an Obama timeline.

And click here for Nicholas Kristof's interview with the multilingual Mr. Obama--he speaks Arabic and Indonesian, according to The New York Times columnist.

Addressing Global Food Crisis, Clinton Salutes Bush, Backs Jatropha-Based Biodiesel, Slams Corn Ethanol

Foreign Confidential....

Barack Obama backs ethanol, seems indifferent to the food crisis that threatens the world's poor with famine. But Bill Clinton is not afraid to criticize himself, the US Congress, the World Bank and the IMF....

A remarkable report from AP:

Former President Clinton told a U.N. gathering Thursday that the global food crisis shows "we all blew it, including me," by treating food crops "like color TVs" instead of as a vital commodity for the world's poor.

Addressing a high-level event marking Oct. 16's World Food Day, Clinton also saluted President Bush — "one thing he got right" — for pushing to change U.S. food aid policy. He scolded the bipartisan coalition in Congress that killed the idea of making some aid donations in cash rather than in food.

Clinton criticized decades of policymaking by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and others, encouraged by the U.S., that pressured Africans in particular into dropping government subsidies for fertilizer, improved seed and other farm inputs as a requirement to get aid. Africa's food self-sufficiency declined and food imports rose.

Now skyrocketing prices in the international grain trade — on average more than doubling between 2006 and early 2008 — have pushed many in poor countries deeper into poverty.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the gathering that prices on some food items are "500 percent higher than normal" in Haiti and Ethiopia, for example. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the number of undernourished people worldwide rose to 923 million last year.

"Food is not a commodity like others," Clinton said. "We should go back to a policy of maximum food self-sufficiency. It is crazy for us to think we can develop countries around the world without increasing their ability to feed themselves."
He noted that food aid from wealthy nations could itself be a tool for bolstering agriculture in poor countries. Canada, for example, requires that 50 percent of its aid go as cash — not as Canadian grain — to buy crops grown locally in Africa and other recipient countries.

U.S. law, however, requires that almost all U.S. aid be American-grown food, which benefits U.S. farmers but undercuts local food crops. Bush proposed earlier this year that 25 percent of future U.S. aid be given in cash.

"A bipartisan coalition (in Congress) defeated him," Clinton said. "He was right and both parties that defeated him were wrong."

Clinton also criticized the heavy U.S. reliance on corn to produce ethanol, which increased demand for the crop and helped drive up grain prices worldwide.

"If we're going to do biofuels, we ought to look at the more efficient kind," he said, referring, for example, to the jatropha shrub, a nonfood source that grows on land not suitable for grain.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Obama Cadre Plans Permanent Change Movement

Dateline USA....

The Obama campaign is more than that--it's a movement.

China Confidential has learned that a key campaign cadre plans to keep on fighting after election day. Anticipating a big victory, the zealous, left-wing band sees the campaign as the foundation of a White House-backed, extra-government movement for permanent--revolutionary--change.

And The Candidate of Change, Democratic Party sources say, approves of the idea, seeing the movement as the answer to a thorny problem--how to reward and channel the energies of his more extreme supporters without causing controversy and inviting close media scrutiny.

An Obama youth movement? You can count on it. Obama block watchers? You bet. Obama neighborhood storefronts and government-funded make-work programs? Absolutely. A little red--or green for the environment--Obama book of political wit and wisdom? Publishers will fight for the rights.

No wonder Fidel Castro has endorsed Obama--twice.

Reacting to Mere Slowdown, China Plans Tax Cuts; Reacting to a Recession, Obama Vows Tax Hikes

The contrast is incredible.

In the United States, Barack Obama, the presumptive President--in the eyes of the mainstream media--is proudly planning to raise taxes, even though history and common sense says that doing so would deepen and prolong the recession and turn it into a full-blown depression.

In China, the government has begun drafting tax cutting and spending policies to stimulate the economy after a third quarter growth of 9%, the slowest pace since 2003.

The government will shift the emphasis towards maintaining “a stable and rapid economic development”, the state-controlled media reported on Monday. The previous policy had been “to ensure growth and control inflation.”

As part of the new policy, China plans to increase export tax rebates for everything from labour-intensive products such as garments and textiles to high-value products such as mechanical and electrical products. Banks will be encouraged to lend more money to small and medium-size enterprises, and support programms will be drafted to help farmers.

The Jewish Press Endorses John McCain

Dateline USA....

The Jewish Press, arguably America's most influential Jewish community newspaper, has endorsed John McCain for President. An excerpt of the editorial appears below. Click here to read the whole piece--it is powerful and persuasive.

From where we sit, Sen. Obama emerges as a representative of the radical left, which does not accept the notion of American exceptionalism and the presumptive validity of American tradition. We recall his gratuitous ridicule of those middle Americans who, supposedly out of frustration, "cling to their religion and their guns."

We fear Sen. Obama is not intent on merely changing this or that policy but the system in its entirety.

This strain emerges also in the area of international affairs. His observation that the leaders of Hamas support him because they expect him to abandon President Bush's "cowboy diplomacy" reflects the view that perhaps our enemies have a point and America is to be blamed for most of the world's problems. This was underscored when he said he would negotiate with such leaders as Iran's Ahmadinejad "without preconditions."

And then there are the insults to our intelligence he regularly delivers. When he immediately backtracked from his declaration that he supported an "undivided Jerusalem" as the capital of Israel, he explained that he only meant it shouldn't be divided by fences. He has also regularly played the race card by asserting that Sen. McCain would resort to claiming that he, Sen. Obama, doesn't look like others who have run for president.

To criticisms of his relationship with Rev. Wright, Sen. Obama claimed he wasn't present on those occasions when Rev. Wright spilled his venom. He initially said of his contacts with William Ayres that they were minimal, and later that he thought Mr. Ayers had "been rehabilitated" - despite the fact that Mr. Ayres regularly bemoans his failure to have planted more bombs during his terrorist heyday.

Perhaps among the most troubling things about Sen. Obama was his recent comment to the now famous "Joe the plumber." When "Joe" asked him why he planned to raise taxes on him, Sen. Obama responded: "It's not that I want to punish your success. I just want to make sure that everybody that is behind you, that they have a chance for success too. I think that when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."

This a radical departure from mainstream thinking in our country. It is one thing for the government to provide for the less fortunate and for those in dire need. It is quite another to embrace a scheme to arbitrarily redistribute the wealth from the get-go in order to institutionally equalize the situation of all Americans.

In addition to the concerns we have as Americans about Sen. Obama's decidedly leftist predilections, those of us with a particular interest in Israel are troubled by the prospects of an Obama presidency. His political bent, facile changes of position and overall failure to stick to his word make us leery of the reliability of his oft-stated commitment to the Jewish state. We have no such hesitancy about Sen. McCain.

Meet Comrade Klonsky, Another Obama Commie

Dateline USA....

National Review Contributing Editor Andrew C. McCarthy exposes another Communist--one with a capital "c"--in Barack Obama's orbit. His name is Michael Klonsky. Like his old SDS comrade, the former Weather Underground bomber Bill Ayers, Klonsky is a so-called school reformer.

Here’s what you need to know. Klonsky is an unabashed communist whose current mission is to spread Marxist ideology in the American classroom. Obama funded him to the tune of nearly $2 million. Obama, moreover, gave Klonsky a broad platform to broadcast his ideas: a “social justice” blog on the official Obama campaign website.

To be clear, as it seems always necessary to repeat when Obamaniacs, in their best Saul Alinsky tradition, shout down the opposition: This is not about guilt by association. The issue is not that Obama knows Klonsky … or Ayers … or Dohrn … or Wright … or Rashid Khalidi …

The issue is that Obama promoted and collaborated with these anti-American radicals. The issue is that he shared their ideology.

Klonsky’s communist pedigree could not be clearer. His father, Robert Klonsky, was an American communist who was convicted in the mid-Fifties for advocating the forcible overthrow of the United States government — a violation of the Smith Act, anti-communist legislation ultimately gutted by the Supreme Court. In the Sixties, Klonsky the younger teamed with Ayers, Dohrn, and other young radicals to form the Students for a Democratic Society. It was out of the SDS that Ayers and Dohrn helped found the Weatherman terrorist group.

Klonsky took a different path, albeit one that led inexorably to a new partnership with Ayers, which Obama mightily helped underwrite. Upon splitting off from the SDS, Klonsky formed a Maoist organization, first known as the “October League,” which ultimately became the “Communist Party (Marxist Leninist).”

Klonsky was CP(ML)’s chairman. He was so highly thought of by Mao’s regime that he was among the first Americans invited to visit Communist China. When he was feted there in 1977, a year after Mao’s death, the communist leadership hailed Klonsky’s party as “reflecting the aspirations of the proletariat and working people.”

Klonsky was a regular guest of the Chicoms until 1981, when the relationship soured over the post-Mao leadership’s free-market reforms. (Yes, Klonsky is apparently more committed to communism than China’s own Communist Party.) So what was a Leftist radical without platform to do? Why, what else? He became an American college professor specializing in education.

After getting his doctorate, Klonsky eventually made his way to Chicago and hooked up with his old SDS comrade (and self-professed “small ‘c’ communist”) Bill Ayers. Together, they co-founded the Small Schools Workshop in 1991. The goal — as Ayers has repeatedly made clear, most prominently in a 2006 speech before Hugo Chavez at an education forum in Caracas — is to bring the same Leftist revolution that has always galvanized them into the classroom.

The concept may be called small schools, but Klonsky and Ayers uniquely grasp the force-multiplier effect. In a small class, the teacher preaching the “social justice” gospel that American capitalism is a racist, materialist, imperialist cauldron of injustice can have greater impact on the students he seeks to mold into his conception of the “good citizen” — and on the teachers he is teaching to be preachers.

Click here to read the whole piece. It's truly frightening.

America's Secret Deal and Looming War with Iran

Foreign Confidential....

Mark Silverberg's analysis of America's "grand bargain"--and coming conflict--with Iran is must reading. A key excerpt of the essay, which appears in the Middle East Times, is set forth below.

In May 2007, the United States established a secret bargain with Iran, the essence of which was that in return for reducing Iranian-assisted terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan and stabilizing oil prices, the U.S. administration would refrain from military action against Iran's nuclear installations prior to the end of the Bush presidency in January 2009.

The Iranians undertook to exercise restraint in their dealings with Afghan insurgents, open the way for the U.S. military and the Iraqi government to destroy al-Qaida and the foreign Sunni insurgents in Iraq, and allow Bush to claim that his surge had been successful prior to leaving the White House.

In furtherance of that understanding, Tehran ordered Iranian intelligence officers and the Revolutionary Guard Quds Force working undercover in Iraq to halt attacks on U.S. troops by pro-Iranian militias including Moqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army.

Bush is also seeking another foreign policy achievement prior to leaving office. According to the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida, this involves undermining the Iranian-Syrian relationship by establishing a U.S.-Syrian rapprochement whereby the United States would pressure Israel to cede the Golan Heights to Syria in exchange for Syria breaking its ties with Iran – a pipedream at best for which Israel will pay the price.

The U.S. effort involves easing economic and political pressure on Syria and withdrawing support for Syrian opposition groups. As a result, Syrian President Bashar Assad would no longer fear any serious international investigation into the political assassinations of anti-Syrian Lebanese leaders and would be granted international respectability and permitted to exercise greater influence over Lebanese political affairs.

Despite these behind-the-scenes developments, however, tensions over Iran's continuing quest for nuclear weapons continue to rise.

From the Iranian perspective nothing has changed. The regime remains religiously committed to destroying the American presence in Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the Middle East. The bargain, however, has bought the mullahs critical time to expand and harden their nuclear sites, enhance their command and control structure, diversify their defensive and offensive missile capabilities with Russian, Chinese, North Korean and Syrian assistance, increase the number of operating centrifuges, and proceed at full speed toward the development of an Iranian nuclear weapon – the shield under which it would conduct its global Shiite jihad.

But it has also allowed the United States, Israel and its European allies the time to prepare their offensive and defensive land, sea and air war capability in preparation for the moment when the grand bargain had used up its usefulness and a military strike becomes necessary – and it seems that that moment is approaching.

Click here to continue reading this most important article.

Barack Obama told reporters Wednesday that the next US President will be tested once in office, and a smooth transition is essential to make sure that adversaries don't take advantage of the shift in administrations. Obama's remarks follow similar comments that his Vice Presidential running mate, Joe Biden, made Sunday. Clearly, the candidates have been briefed about certain developments.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

OGEC? Iran, Russia, Qatar Announce Natural Gas Cartel as Hopeful Obama Plans to Outlaw Carbon

The United States has huge natural gas reserves. Contrary to the doom-and-gloom warnings of dumbbell, no-drill Democrats, the country is running into gas, finding new and bigger reserves.

Incredibly, however, Barack Obama, the presumptive winner--by an adoring media--of the US Presidential election, aims to cripple US oil and gas development (scroll down for the story) and lock up the resources that dwarf his unreliable and nonexistent alternative energy schemes and dreams.

Meanwhile, Iran, Russia, and Qatar have other ideas. They plan to form a natural gas cartel. The Guardian reports:

Western concerns about global energy markets hit new heights last night when Russia, Iran and Qatar said they were forming an Opec-style gas cartel.

The move by the three countries, which control 60% of the world's gas reserves, was met with immediate opposition from the European commission, which fears the group could drive up prices.

Alexey Miller, chairman of Russia's Gazprom, said they were forming a "big gas troika" and warned that the era of cheap hydrocarbons had come to an end.

"We are united by the world's largest gas reserves, common strategic interests and, which is of great importance, high cooperation potential in tripartite projects," he explained. "We have agreed to hold regular - three to four times a year - meetings of the gas G3 to discuss the crucial issues of mutual interest."

Miller's comments, likely to increase pressure on the west to accelerate developments in wind and other renewable energy alternatives, followed a meeting in Tehran with Gholamhossein Nozari, Iran's petroleum minister, and Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah, Qatar's deputy prime minister and oil and energy minister.

Miller said the group was establishing a technical committee comprised of specialists and experts to discuss the implementation of joint projects embracing the entire value chain from geological exploration to marketing.

The Russians avoided the word cartel but the Iranians spelled it out clearly. "There is a demand to form this gas Opec and there is a consensus to set up gas Opec," Nozari told a news conference.

With Opec due to meet on Friday to look at ways of driving up oil prices, Miller said fossil fuels were going to cost more. "We share the opinion that oil price fluctuations don't put in question the fundamental thesis stating that the era of cheap hydrocarbons has come to an end."

The European commission said last night that it would oppose the creation of any organisation that could restrict competition. "The European commission feels that energy supplies have to be sold in a free market," said its spokesman, Ferran Tarradellas Espuny.

Click here to continue reading.

Obama Will Classify Carbon as Pollution

Dateline USA....

How did we miss this?

If elected President of the United States, The Candidate of Change will cripple what remains of America's productive capacity to "save the planet."

On October 16 Bloomberg reported:

Barack Obama will classify carbon dioxide as a dangerous pollutant that can be regulated should he win the presidential election on Nov. 4, opening the way for new rules on greenhouse gas emissions.

The Democratic senator from Illinois will tell the Environmental Protection Agency that it may use the 1990 Clean Air Act to set emissions limits on power plants and manufacturers, his energy adviser, Jason Grumet, said in an interview. President George W. Bush declined to curb CO2 emissions under the law even after the Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the government may do so.

If elected, Obama would be the first president to group emissions blamed for global warming into a category of pollutants that includes lead and carbon monoxide. Obama's rival in the presidential race, Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, has not said how he would treat CO2 under the act.

Click here to continue.

The Big Question About Barack Obama

Dateline USA....

Is Barack Hussein Obama Mr. Magoo or the Manchurian (or Mansourian) Candidate?

Is the Democratic nominee a man who knew nothing, saw nothing, understood nothing ... about Bill Ayers, Jeremiah Wright, Michael Pfleger, Louis Farrakhan, Khalid Al-Mansour, ACORN ... or a created agent of ... Islamic ... influence?

Given Obama's history of radical ... and racist ... associations ... and the mainstream media's refusal to take them seriously ... one wonders.

US Intelligence Said to Confirm China Confidential Prediction: Iran Could Build an A-Bomb in Feb. '09

Foreign Confidential....

The Israeli online intelligence report, Debkafile, says US intelligence sources have confirmed what China Confidential has been predicting for about a year: Iran could be ready to build an atomic bomb in February 2009, just one month after the inauguration of the next US President. Click here to read the report.

Our analysis is that the Iranian regime is bent on becoming a nuclear power in time for the 30th anniversary of the Islamic revolution. The bomb will be Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's gift to the Iranian nation--and the Muslim world.

The Iranian bomb's existence will forever change the balance of power in the Middle East and lay the groundwork for the menacing of Europe and, eventually, the United States. Not for nothing is Iran developing nuclear warheads--with North Korean help--and intercontinental ballistic missiles (under cover of a civilian space program).

Not for nothing, too, did Joe (the Senator) Biden say Sunday, "It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy.” Biden has a history of spilling the beans....

One can only hope Obama's opponent wins the election. Unlike The Candidate of Change, John McCain has already been tested.

UPDATE: Haaretz says Iran is considering attacking Israel. The paper reports:

Senior Tehran officials are recommending a preemptive strike against Israel to prevent an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear reactors, a senior Islamic Republic official told foreign diplomats two weeks ago in London.

The official, Dr. Seyed G. Safavi, said recent threats by Israeli authorities strengthened this position, but that as of yet, a preemptive strike has not been integrated into Iranian policy.

Safavi is head of the Research Institute of Strategic Studies in Tehran, and an adviser to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The institute is directly affiliated with Khamenei's office and with the Revolutionary Guards, and advises both on foreign policy issues.

Safavi is also the brother of Yahya Rahim Safavi, who was the head of the Revolutionary Guards until a year ago and now is an adviser to Khamenei, and holds significant influence on security matters in the Iranian government.

Click here to continue.

Blogger Unearths Obama's Blurb for Ayers' Book

Dateline USA....

An enterprising blogger reports:

On December 21, 1997, Barack Obama wrote a short review of William Ayers’ book, A Kind and Just Parent: The Children of Juvenile Court, which had recently been published by Beacon Press. Here’s a photo of how the review appeared in the Chicago Tribune:

Obama’s review of Ayers’ book says, “A searing and timely account of the juvenile court system, and the courageous individuals who rescue hope from despair.”

I had seen mentions of the existence of this review in a very few media outlets, including CNN, National Review, American Spectator, and a handful of others. But because the review was published before the Chicago Tribune began digitizing and archiving its articles online, there was no direct Web link to the review itself — only citations of it. So, out of curiosity, I took it upon myself to visit a library in San Francisco, and using the library’s Lexis-Nexis access and its archive of microfilm versions of major newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, I finally tracked down a copy of the actual review itself.

Turns out the review was very short — what I had thought (from reading the citations in the online articles) were just short quotes from it was in fact the entirety of the review. But it was accompanied by a photo of Obama, standing by his statement. The review was part of a column called “Mark My Word,” in which Chicago notables praise their favorite current books.

Just a few weeks before this review was published in the Chicago Tribune, Obama and Ayers appeared together on a panel about juvenile justice organized by Michelle Obama on November 20, 1997....

Click here to continue reading.

Monday, October 20, 2008

US, Peru Sign Rainforest Protection Pact

Foreign Confidential....

The United States of America and Peru Monday announced an agreement to reduce Peru’s debt payments in exchange for protecting the country’s tropical forests. Under the agreement more than $25 million will be put towards conserving Peru’s rainforests.

The agreement with Peru was made possible by the Tropical Forest Conservation Act (TFCA) of 1998. It will complement an existing TFCA debt-for-nature program in Peru dating from 2002, a 1997 debt swap under the Enterprise for the Americas Initiative, and the United States-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement, which includes a number of forest protection provisions. With the agreement, Peru will be the largest beneficiary under the Tropical Forest Conservation Act, with more than $35 million generated for conservation.

Peru is one of the most biologically rich countries on earth. Funds generated by the debt-for-nature program will help Peru protect tropical rainforests of the southwestern Amazon Basin and dry forests of the central Andes.

The new Peru agreement marks the 14th Tropical Forest Conservation Act pact, following agreements with Bangladesh, Belize, Botswana, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Panama (two agreements), Paraguay and the Philippines, as well as an earlier agreement with Peru. These debt-for-nature programs will together generate more than $188 million to protect tropical forests.

China's Economy Shows Signs of Slowing

AP reports that China's economy is still growing but slowing down.

After years of feeding a voracious global appetite for its exports, China is seeing demand dry up as consumers in the U.S. and Europe cut back on spending in the wake of the mortgage-debt meltdown. The shift is a serious challenge for Beijing leaders as they struggle to keep job-creating growth on an even keel.

Protests by laid-off workers demanding their paychecks have already erupted as thousands of factories fold under the pressure of rising costs and slowing orders. Affluent city dwellers are feeling the pinch of sinking share prices and a weak housing market — sales of passenger cars fell 6.2 percent in August from a year earlier, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

"The growth rate of the world economy has slowed down noticeably. There are more uncertain and volatile factors in the international economic climate," National Statistics Bureau spokesman Li Xiaochao said in a nationally televised news conference.

"All these factors have started to release their negative impact on China's economy," Li said.

Exports have just begun to slow — the trade surplus hit a monthly record $29.3 billion in September as costs for imports eased thanks to lower prices for crude oil and other commodities.

A weaker China spells trouble for other Asian countries that have thrived on robust sales of raw materials and other manufacturing inputs to their giant neighbor.

"The problem is that China's economic growth is slowing down when it is most needed," said Huainan Zhao, a banking expert at Cass Business School in London.

Growth for the first nine months of the year was 9.9 percent, compared to 11.9 percent for all of 2007. Economists have cut China's forecasts for 2008 to as low as 9 percent.

Instead of bouncing back after a lull during the Beijing Olympics, China's industrial boom has slowed further, with output growing 11.4 percent year-on-year in September. That compares with 12.8 percent in August.

"China's manufacturing sector is not immune from the global economic downturn," said Sherman Chan, an analyst for Moody's

Click here to continue.

A Deal Born of Terrorism

Sam Dealey opines on "North Korea and the Farce of the State Department Terror List."

What will be the fate of the Bush administration's deal with North Korea? One victim will be the false notion of paper containment when the hermit kingdom surely cheats on the arrangement. Another more satisfying victim will be the "pragmatists" who, despite common sense and history, championed the deal. More immediately, however, there is State's "terror list" itself, which by North Korea's removal is revealed as a joke.

About the only thing the U.S. gained was North Korea's word to behave and a promise to permit snap inspections of a reactor site that holds few secrets. Meanwhile, the North's peddling of conventional weapons systems and nuclear know-how across South Asia and the Middle East and demands that international inspectors have unfettered access to suspected nuclear worksites were taken off the table. Indeed, the deal itself was born of terrorism: North Korea pledged to continue down the road of nuclear development unless the U.S. government removed it from the list.

Click here to continue.

Tory MP Warns Afghanistan 'Spiralling Down'

Foreign Confidential....

From David Davis, a British politician just back from a 10-day fact-finding trip to Afghanistan, comes more evidence of a looming disaster. The Conservative MP writes in The Independent:

It is time to face facts in Afghanistan: the situation is spiralling downwards, and if we do not change our approach, we face disaster. Violence is up in two-thirds of the country, narcotics are the main contributor to the economy, criminality is out of control and the government is weak, corrupt and incompetent. The international coalition is seen as a squabbling bunch of foreigners who have not delivered on their promises. Although the Taliban have nowhere near majority support, their standing is growing rapidly among some ordinary Afghans.

In Kabul, foreign delegations huddle behind concrete and barbed wire, often with the Afghans' main roads shut. That causes jams throughout the city, exacerbated by convoys of armoured four-wheel drives loaded with bodyguards that push their way through the traffic. These vehicles carry warning signs telling ordinary Afghans that the occupants reserve the right to shoot anyone who comes within 50 metres. Afghans veer between resentment of the high-handed foreigners and fear of the Taliban, who appear to be inexorably seizing the provinces around the city.

In Britain's area of responsibility, Helmand, the governor admits the Taliban control most of the province. While we were, properly, celebrating the delivery of the turbine to the Kajaki dam, we were being forced out of one of the richest poppy growing areas, and the Taliban fought their way to within 12km of Lashkar Gar, the provincial capital. Time after time, our soldiers win tactical victories, only to have the advantage lost because of a lack of coherent international strategy.

The regime we are defending is corrupt from top to bottom. While the President's brother faces accusations of being a drug baron, some three-quarters of the Afghan National Police actively steal from the people. The irony is that Afghan expectations of government are traditionally low, and their faith in President Hamid Karzai was initially high.

The government appears to have been run for the financial benefit of 20 families. From the allocation of mineral rights to the awarding of contracts, ministers frequently intervene to favour families and friends. Even more disturbing, the beneficiaries of this corruption are old-time warlords and faction leaders responsible for past atrocities. Today, they operate with impunity, even over acts of violence and attempted murder. Many public officials, from police chiefs to governors to ministers, have acquired multi-million dollar fortunes in office.

This angers the ordinary Afghan, whose family may have to get by on £10 a week. The government exercises enormous patronage through the appointment of officials, most notably governors and police chiefs. A chief of police post in a district which includes a narcotic trafficking route can sell for $150,000. The new chief recovers his "investment" by demanding a cut in the proceeds of corruption from his juniors. At the bottom of this pyramid, officers make money out of ordinary Afghans by exacting "tolls"at roadblocks and by straight theft and extortion. An Afghan trying to take produce from Lashkar Gar to Kandahar will typically pay at 12 roadblocks – destroying any value he might gain from growing anything other than opium.

It can be worse. An Afghan doctor was stopped and arrested by police, who demanded a $20,000 ransom – a fortune. He borrowed the money and paid. The alternative was death.

For an ordinary Afghan trying to scratch a living out of the arid soil, this must be almost unbearable, particularly so when he sees rapists and murderers, even failed suicide bombers, released without charge after payment of a bribe.

That is the regime we are defending and are perceived to be supporting.

The Taliban play on this. They offer a system of courts which is fast, decisive, and effective. An Afghan living in a non-Taliban part of a southern province, who has a dispute – over property, immigration rights, or a criminal matter – is quite likely to go to the Taliban area and ask them to arbitrate. They will summon both parties, hear their petitions, spend a few days collecting evidence – and then issue, and enforce, a judgement.

They can be vicious and evil at times. They hanged an old woman for the crime of talking to a foreign development officer. They behead people who oppose them or help Nato. These executions are carried out in town centres, where they strike most terror.

Click here to continue.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

US Facing Disaster in Afghanistan

Foreign Confidential....

The United States is facing disaster in Afghanistan.

Al Qaeda-associated, resurgent Taliban forces are relentlessly hammering US troops.

Operating from sanctuaries in neighboring Pakistan, the enemy, which includes foreign fighters, is increasingly sophisticated and aggressive.

Victory is impossible, analysts agree, as long as the cross-border sanctuaries are out-of-bounds. They must be destroyed.

EDITOR'S COMMENT: The Taliban and Al Qaeda should have been wiped out in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Instead of taking too long to respond to the mega-terrorist attacks and relying on notoriously unreliable Afghan warlords, the US should have (a) declared war on Afghanistan, the nation that harbored and aided Al Qaeda, (b) hit back swiftly and decisively, and (c) used any and all necessary weapons, including tactical nuclear arms.

Death by Derivative: Swaps Could Wreck the World

A sham insurance policy known as a credit-default swap (CDS) threatens the world with financial ruin.

Designed to circumvent insurance regulations, a CDS is a swap contract in which a buyer makes a series of payments to a seller and, in exchange, receives the right to a payoff if a credit instrument goes into default or on the occurrence of a specified credit event, for example bankruptcy or restructuring.

In plain English, a CDS is an insurance policy disguised as a derivative--a deadly derivative.

American Insurance Group issued a whopping $440 billion of the swaps; and the $85 billion bailout of AIG was largely aimed at saving banks, hedge funds and other institutional investors who held the swaps "and risked crushing losses if these instruments weren't honored," as Christopher Cox, noted in an opinion article in Sunday's edition of The New York Times.

He should know. Cox is Chairman of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, which is urging Congress to regulate the shadowy CDS market.

"As large as AIG's swaps exposure was," he explains, "it represented only .8 percent of the $55 trillion in credit-default swaps outstanding--this total market is more than the gross domestic product of all nations on earth combined."

And because the CDS market has "operated in the shadows," Cox adds, "there is no public disclosure..." and "government regulators have had no way to assess how much risk is in the system...."

Tens of trillions of dollars ... and nobody knows the downside. Sheer madness....

Meanwhile, this much is certain: there will be jail. People will be indicted, convicted, imprisoned. The public and politicians will demand it. In the US, prosecutors will use every available weapon--perjury, lying to prosecutors, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, you name it.

The second gilded age is over. Regulation--and revenge--rule. Heads will roll.

POSTSCRIPT: Lawyers will need lawyers. The lawyers who wrote the opinions that made possible the whole CDS sham in the first place--the fiction that the swaps are not insurance policies--will find themselves in hot water in the coming months.

POST POSTSCRIPT: Jewel Atkins asks: "When do the Joes get to fight back?"

Thousands March in Paris to Protest Education Cuts

Foreign Confidential....

Four decades after student demonstrations, strikes and riots paralyzed France and toppled the De Gaulle government, the seeds of another political crisis have been sown; and although the next upheaval, if it comes, is unlikely to result in a radical restructuring of the country, the way May '68 failed in the eyes of the young revolutionaries who took to the streets of Paris, the potential for an ideological shift--toward the Left--is clearly evident.

And the reverberations could be felt across the industrialized world.

AFP reports:

Tens of thousands of protestors marched in Paris on Sunday to press demands that the French government scrap proposed education cuts and invest in schools as the best way to confront the financial crisis.

Organisers of the national day of protest said 80,000 people took part in the march but police put the figure at 32,000.

Shouting slogans like "Banks or education: I've made my choice!" and "Investing in schools is our future", the protestors -- mostly teachers and students--accused the government of failing to make education a priority.

The protest was held a few weeks before parliament is to begin debate on the education budget for 2009, which provides for 13,500 job cuts.

Close to 20,000 jobs were slashed in 2007 and 2008 under President Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to trim the civil service by not replacing many of the retiring employees.

Higher Education Minister Valerie Pecresse said the protest was "unjustified and out of sync" with reality.

"Education today is the top priority of the government," she said.

The protest was organised by 47 organisations--parent's associations, teachers' unions and others -- in the latest show of force against the budget cuts.

Leading politicians in the opposition Socialist Party took part including Paris Mayor Betrand Delanoe who is the frontrunner to win the party leadership next month.

"This is a matter of urgency. Education is in jeopardy," Delanoe said.

Sarkozy campaigned for the presidency last year on a plan to trim down the civil service as part of a broader plan to overhaul the state and bring down public spending.

Doubts Raised Over New Kim Photos

Doubts have been raised over newly released photos of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il that were aired by the North’s KCTV on 12 Oct.

The photos were the first to be released in nearly two months and came out on the day the US announced that it has removed Pyongyang from the list of terrorism sponsoring states.

Kim, 66, has been out of public view since 14 Aug. He did not appear at national events, including the 60th anniversary of the regime’s foundation on 9 Sept, stoking speculation that he is seriously ill.

The rumour was addressed somewhat on 4 Oct, when the North’s media outlets reported that he had attended a university soccer match.

The North’s KCTV showed 10 photos of Kim inspecting a female artillery unit. The pictures were repeatedly featured by other broadcasters and newspapers over the weekend.

It did not reveal the timing or location. But Seoul intelligence officials say trees and grass in the background indicated the pictures may have been taken in the summer.

Seoul officials have said that Kim suffered a stroke and underwent brain surgery in mid-August. North Korea denies this claim.

Wearing his trademark dark sunglasses and khaki jumpsuit in the pictures, he looks normal as he converses with soldiers and watches a firing drill.

He looked thinner than before but showed no signs of critical illness, experts say.

Kim did not show up for the festivities celebrating the anniversary of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party on 10 Oct.

-Hwang Jang-Jin, The Korea Herald

Obama's Movement is the Message

Dateline USA....

Forget issues and ideology. The movement is the message.

Just as mass media technologies shape content and perceptions, as Marshall McLuhan explained, Barack Obama's Movement for Change is influencing mainstream media coverage and popular perceptions of the Democratic candidate.

The media subtext is clear: Obama deserves to win because of his mass rallies and mountain of money--hundreds of millions of dollars donated by ordinary Internet users. To deny him his victory, to disappoint his followers and fans around the world, is to go against history, to be anti-change, in the eyes of the mediaocracy.

The postmodernist media have embraced and promoted Obama's story; and nowadays, narrative rules.

It's all about the story line. The media have written Obama's next chapter, and they want to see it played out.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Muslim Rebels Kill 2 Russian Soldiers

Foreign Confidential....

Tell me again: why aren't we allied with Russia against our common enemy, radical Islam?

AP reports:

At least two Russian soldiers were killed and 10 others were wounded Saturday when rebels ambushed a military convoy in a volatile Russian province near Chechnya, officials said.

The Russian Interior Ministry in the southern province of Ingushetia says about a dozen militants ambushed a military convoy on a forest road in the Sunzha region on Saturday.

It said in a statement that the attackers fired automatic weapons and grenades at military trucks, killing two soldiers and wounding others.

An Interior Ministry officer who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media said that at least 10 soldiers were hospitalized with wounds. He said the attackers knocked down two armored vehicles and two trucks before fleeing.

Frequent raids by Islamic militants have destabilized Ingushetia, which neighbors Chechnya to the west, and other provinces in Russia's North Caucasus region.

Click here to continue.

Way to Go: China Tightens the Vice on Islam

Bush blew it. After 9/11, he should have forged a World War II-style alliance with China and Russia to defeat radical Islam. Instead, the President of the United States reacted to the Islamist mega-terrorist attacks--the worst-ever attacks on US soil--by praising "peaceful and beautiful Islam" and declaring war on "terror."

Imagine if FDR had criticized Stalin--instead of partnering with him to defeat Hitler--and declared war on "blitzkrieg," after praising German culture.

Of course, the situation will only worsen if Barack Obama wins. His first impulse after 9/11 was to urge "restraint"--i.e. to hold the US back--and vow to stand with Arabs and Muslims should the government start "rounding them up." The Democratic Candidate of Change is surrounded by advisers who want to downgrade and demilitarize the war against Islamist terrorism and appease Islamist Iran--and Islamism in general.

Back to China. The New York Times reports:

To be a practicing Muslim in the vast autonomous region of northwestern China called Xinjiang is to live under an intricate series of laws and regulations intended to control the spread and practice of Islam, the predominant religion among the Uighurs, a Turkic people uneasy with Chinese rule.

The edicts touch on every facet of a Muslim’s way of life. Official versions of the Koran are the only legal ones. Imams may not teach the Koran in private, and studying Arabic is allowed only at special government schools.

Two of Islam’s five pillars — the sacred fasting month of Ramadan and the pilgrimage to Mecca called the hajj — are also carefully controlled. Students and government workers are compelled to eat during Ramadan, and the passports of Uighurs have been confiscated across Xinjiang to force them to join government-run hajj tours rather than travel illegally to Mecca on their own.

Government workers are not permitted to practice Islam, which means the slightest sign of devotion, a head scarf on a woman, for example, could lead to a firing.

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Two Chinese Toy Factories Fail; 7,000 Workers Fired

Seven thousand workers were laid off in southern China this week after two major toy factories making brands for Western markets were closed down. China's export manufacturers, and toy makers in particular, have been hit hard by the global financial crisis. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.

Hundreds of now unemployed workers gathered outside government offices Friday in Dongguan city in China's southern Guangdong Province.

They sought compensation for two months of unpaid wages after the toy factories they worked for on Wednesday suddenly closed.

The company that owns the factories, Hong Kong listed Smart Union Group makes toys for US brands Mattel and Disney, and is one of thousands of export manufacturers that have suffered heavily from the global financial crisis.

Last week, the mayor of Dongguan, Li Yuquan, told a group of visiting foreign journalists more than 400 factories in the city had closed down in the first half of this year and that unemployment was a growing concern.

He said foreign businesses' profitability will be a lot less than last year and that there are also more businesses that are losing money. Next year, he said, the number of factories closing down will possibly be a little higher.

Guangdong is China's export manufacturing hub and has seen export growth drop by 13.5 percent as western buyers have little cash to spare.

About half of Chinese companies making toys for export in Guangdong, some 3,600, have been forced to shut down this year.

Aside from the global downturn, other factors are the rising cost of labor, raw materials, and increased safety standards, as well as a stronger Chinese currency.

Smart Union earlier announced a $26 million loss from weak demand and rising costs.

It is not clear if the company will pay the back wages owed to workers.

China's state media reports the factory bosses have been missing for several days, and the local government on Friday began paying workers out of a fund of more than $3 million.