Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Oil Spikes 14% on Last Day of 2008

Commodities Confidential....

Mark Shenk reports:
Crude oil rose 14 percent, trimming a record annual decline, after a government report showed a smaller-than-expected gain in U.S. fuel supplies.

Stockpiles of gasoline and distillate fuel, a category that includes heating oil and diesel, climbed in the week ended Dec. 26, the Energy Department report showed. Prices have tumbled 70 percent from a record $147.27 on July 11 as the U.S., Japan and Germany faced their first simultaneous recessions in six decades.

“We are very near the bottom in oil prices, or will reach the bottom in the next few weeks,” said Ehsan Ul-Haq, head of research at Vienna-based JBC Energy GmbH, an oil broker and consultant. Prices will be subdued “as long as stockpiles remain very high,” he said.

Crude oil for February delivery rose $5.57 to $44.60 a barrel at 2:55 p.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest settlement since Dec. 12. Futures are down 54 percent this year, the first annual decline since 2001 when oil fell 26 percent, and the biggest drop since trading began in 1983.

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Israel Air Force Attack Video

Gold Gained 3% in 2008

Commodities Confidential....

The gold bugs have the last laugh.

In contrast with investors who got ripped off by Madoff (the monster who made off with billions) and lost out by trusting the biggest names on Wall Street, people who put their money in gold did OK this year.

Stuart Wallace reports from London:
Gold headed for a record eighth annual gain in London on expectations that the dollar and global economies will weaken, bolstering demand for the metal as a hedge against further declines in the currency and as a haven.

Gold rose 3 percent this year, preserving investors’ money as $30 trillion was wiped off equities and the Reuters/Jefferies CRB Index of 19 raw materials headed for its worst year in a half-century. The dollar index, measuring the currency against six counterparts, fell this month after the Federal Reserve cut its benchmark interest rate to a range of zero to 0.25 percent.

“What’s really driving gold at the moment is pressure on the dollar from the Fed lowering interest rates relative to other foreign currencies and other central banks,” David Meger, a senior analyst at Alaron Trading Corp., said from Chicago, predicting that bullion will trade at $840 to $880 an ounce in the first quarter of 2009.

The metal is the second-best performer in the UBS Bloomberg CMCI Index of 26 commodities this year, behind cocoa...

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Israel Continues Air Offensive, Targeting Tunnels

Ibrahim Barzak and Matti Friedman report:
Israel rejected international pressure to suspend its air offensive against Palestinian militants whose rocket barrages are striking close to the Israeli heartland, sending warplanes Wednesday to demolish smuggling tunnels that are the lifeline of Gaza's Islamic Hamas rulers.

The diplomatic action was set in motion by the scale of destruction in Gaza since Israel unleashed its campaign Saturday, and a casualty toll that Gaza officials now put at 390 dead and some 1,600 wounded. Hamas says some 200 uniformed members of Hamas security forces have been killed, and the U.N. says at least 60 Palestinian civilians have died. Four Israelis have been killed by militant rocket fire, including three civilians.

The chief of Israel's internal security services, Yuval Diskin, told Cabinet ministers Wednesday that Hamas' ability to rule had been "badly impaired." Weapons development facilities have been "completely wiped out" and the network of smuggling tunnels has been badly damaged, a participant in the meeting quoted Diskin as saying.
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Jordan's King Appoints New Intelligence Chief

Foreign Confidential....

Jordan's King Abdullah II on Monday issued a decree appointing General Mohammad Rakkad as new head of the General Intelligence Department (GID), one of the country's most influential posts, according to a royal court statement.

Rakkad replaced General Mohammad Dahabi, who resigned his post earlier in the day, a royal court statement said.

Dahabi came to the limelight over the past couple of months after leading a Jordanian team to a series of meetings with member of Hamas' politburo Mohammad Nazal, who is based in Damascus.

It was the first high-level encounter between the Jordanian government and the hard-line Palestinian faction since 1999, when the Amman authorities closed Hamas' bureau in Jordan and deported its staffers including Khalid Mashaal, who later became the group's politburo chief.

It was unclear whether Dahabi's resignation had anything to do with these talks, which were likely conducted with the King's consent.

Rakkad previously served as director of intelligence for the governates and as an assistant to the director of intelligence for Irbid, the second-largest city in the kingdom.

He played a primary role in arresting members of terrorist cells in Jordan, including three operatives who had plans to blow up a building belonging to the security services and the American embassy in Amman.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Gold Slips at Year-End

Commodities Confidential....

Lewa Pardomuan reports from Singapore:
Gold softened on Wednesday in thin year-end trade but a stronger euro could offer support for the metal, one of few commodities to end the year firmer after an economic crisis hit demand but gave gold some safe-haven allure.

Looking ahead, geopolitical tensions and worries about a deepening global recession could spur more buying from investors, after a sell-off in equities sent bullion prices plummeting from a record in March to a 13-month low two months ago.

Gold was trading at $867.95 an ounce, down $4.15 an ounce from New York's notional close on Tuesday, having rallied to a 11-week high at $889.55 on Monday after oil jumped more than $2 on concerns Israeli attacks on Hamas could disrupt supplies.
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Israeli Cabinet Considering French Truce Idea


The cabinet will reconvene Wednesday to discuss a French proposal for a 48-hour "humanitarian" cease-fire, after failing late Tuesday night to reach a decision. Tuesday's meeting followed a day in which a Hamas rocket struck Be'er Sheva for the first time and the Israel Defense Forces completed preparations for a possible ground operation in the Gaza Strip. The Education Ministry announced that schools in Be'er Sheva would not open Wednesday.

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Report: Israel Mulling Truce Offer

Foreign Confidential....

AP reports Israel is mulling a truce offer to Hamas.
Israel is considering suspending its Gaza offensive to give Hamas militants an opening to halt their rocket fire, but the threat of a ground offensive remains if the truce does not hold, an Israeli defense official said Tuesday.

Israel's defense minister is to raise the proposal during a meeting of Israel's security Cabinet on Wednesday, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. Israel TV's Channel 10 also reported such a proposal.

At the same time, the security Cabinet will also be asked to consider various plans for a ground invasion, the defense official said.

The public rhetoric from Israeli officials has indicated they expect the operation to continue, and a Hamas spokesman said any truce was conditional on the opening of Gaza's borders.

Mideast Moving Toward Nuclear War

Foreign Confidential....

Missile-mad Iran is close to acquiring atomic arms, which it intends to use against Israel.

Iran believes it can create a nuclear shield behind which Hezbollah can rain missiles down on Tel Aviv and Haifa, leveling the Israeli cities.

The conflict, Iran believes, will draw in Syria, which has a formidable arsenal of ballistic missiles and chemical warheads.

Iran also believes it can use Hamas rockets and suicide bombers--and an Israeli Arab insurrection--to bring down Israel.

Israel has a large nuclear force, which it will not hesitate to use (a) to prevent the destruction of the state, or (b) to retaliate for a nuclear attack by Iran.

israel is a one-bomb country--meaning, one nuclear weapon could wipe it out. But Israel has enough firepower to obliterate Iran and other foes.

At the same time, escalating tensions between Pakistan and India could bring these two nuclear powers to--and over--the brink of a horrific confrontation.

There has never been a more urgent need for smart, effective diplomacy.

Iran Plans to Kidnap and Try Israelis and Jews

Foreign Confidential....

Countdown to conflict--with Iran.

The nuclear-arming, Islamist regime that runs oil-rich Iran has set up a court to try Israelis for Israeli air attacks on Gaza and is ready to try in absentia any people who Tehran says have committed "crimes," a judiciary official said on Tuesday.

"The court is in a special branch in Tehran and entrusted with the task of dealing with the executors, planners and officials of this (Israeli) regime who have committed crimes," judiciary spokesman Alireza Jamshidi said.

He said the court was set up on the basis of a 1948 U.N. convention on the prevention of genocide to which Iran is a signatory.

Iran's top authority, Supreme (clerical fascist) Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called on all Muslims to defend Palestinians in whatever way they can.

Iran's Foreign Minister on Tuesday accused Israel of committing "genocide against humanity" in Gaza. He was speaking in a meeting with foreign envoys in Tehran that was broadcast and translated by Iran's English-language Press TV.

Jamshidi called on all Palestinians who have been affected by the Israeli operation in Gaza to file complaints. The Israeli officials could be tried in absentia, he added.

Jamshidi said Iran's judiciary chief, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahroudi, was sending letters to his counterparts in all Islamic states seeking their cooperation with this court.

EARLY WARNING: China Confidential analysts suspect Iran intends to orchestrate the kidnapping of Israelis--and Jewish supporters of Israel--for televised show trials and executions.

The events could coincide with a nuclear breakthrough by Iran. It is hurtling towards acquisition of an atomic weapon and plans to use its newly developed nuclear shield to back an all-out proxy war of annihilation against Israel.

Soybeans and Corn Climb on Dollar's Decline

Commodities Confidential....

Soybeans and corn rose as the dollar’s decline boosted the purchasing power of grain buyers using other currencies.

The dollar fell the most in almost two weeks against the euro as fighting in the conflict between Israel and Hamas raised concerns that Middle East oil supplies may be disrupted. U.S. agencies inspected 30.6 million bushels of soybeans for export in the week ended Dec. 25, a gain of 1.4 percent, from a week earlier and 18 percent more than a year earlier, government data showed.

“Strong Chinese import needs, gains in crude oil and the weak dollar” supported soybean futures, Li Jianlei, an analyst at Cofco Futures Co., wrote in an e-mailed research note today. Dry conditions in South America also underpinned prices, he said.

Soybeans for March delivery on the Chicago Board of Trade rose 9.5 cents, or 1 percent, to close at $9.55 a bushel in electronic trading. The most active contract has advanced 23 percent since touching $7.7625 a bushel on Dec. 5, the lowest since May 15, 2007.

More rain is needed to support crop development and remaining planting in the Brazilian provinces of Rio Grande do Sul and Parana Brazil, as well as parts of central Argentina, Meteorlogix LLC said in a report yesterday.

The U.S. is the world’s biggest soybean and corn exporter, followed by Brazil and Argentina.

Corn Climbs

Corn for March delivery in Chicago rose 5.5 cents, or 1.4 percent to $3.99 a bushel. The most traded contract has gained 30 percent since touching two-year low of $3.055 on Dec. 5. Wheat for March delivery advanced 0.6 percent to close at $5.955 a bushel.

The dollar slid 1.7 percent to $1.4165 per euro at 7:16 a.m. in New York, from $1.3927 yesterday, when it reached $1.4364, the weakest since Dec. 18. The decline pared this year’s advance to 2.9 percent.

A weaker dollar increases the purchasing power of grain buyers using other currencies.

- Bloomberg

Dollar Down Relative to Yen and Euro

The dollar declined against the euro on speculation the Federal Reserve’s zero interest rate will weigh on demand for the greenback.

The dollar also fell versus the yen as a report showed U.S. consumer confidence dropped this month to a record low, adding to concern the recession is deepening.

The euro rose to near an all-time high against the pound, heading closer to parity, on bets the Bank of England will cut interest rates faster than the European Central Bank.

- Bloomberg

Israel Raises Alert Level on Northern Border

Foreign Confidential....

The Israeli military has raised its level of alert in the North out of fear that Palestinian terror groups, possibly acting under Hezbullah auspices, will launch rockets into Israel in the coming days to open another front as the army operates against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Israel Determined to End Hamas Threat

Foreign Confidential....

Warplanes pounded Gaza for a fourth day on Tuesday as tanks stood by to join the "all-out" war Israel vowed would wipe out Hamas, and the Palestinian death toll rose to at least 360.

Israel made it clear Monday the offensive was just beginning, even as UN chief Ban Ki-moon urged world leaders to work urgently to end the "unacceptable" violence.

Palestinian militants responded to Israeli air strikes with deadly rocket and mortar fire that has so far killed four Israelis.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak, who has threatened to launch ground incursions alongside the aerial blitz, said Israel is in "an all-out war with Hamas and its proxies."

Deputy Prime Minister Haim Ramon said the offensive's goal "is to topple Hamas ."

Barak said that if militant rocket attacks do not stop, "Israel will have recourse to every means and all legal actions at its disposal to see to it that the enemy halts its illegal aggression."

With Israeli tanks just metres (yards) away from Gaza, the army decreed the border area a closed military zone -- a move that in the past has been followed by ground operations.

"After this operation there will not be a single Hamas building left standing in Gaza, and we plan to change the rules of the game," said armed forces deputy chief of staff Brigadier General Dan Harel, quoted by the YNet News website.

"We are hitting not only terrorists and launchers, but also the whole Hamas government and all its wings," Harel said.


Monday, December 29, 2008

UN Agency: 100 Million People Need Food

Foreign Confidential....

The United Nations World Food Program is appealing to governments to come up with the $5.2 billion it needs to feed 100 million hungry people next year. The WFP says that amount is only a fraction of what governments are spending on their financial rescue packages.

The WFP warns it will run out of food by March without a quick injection of funds.

WFP Spokeswoman Emilia Casella says millions of people in Africa, Asia, Latin America and other global hunger hot spots will go hungry when the warehouse stocks run out.

"A mere one percent of the money that has been spent for financial bailout packages in recent weeks would completely fund the World Food Program's 2009 budget," Casella says. "In addition, permit us to provide hot meals in school for 59 million children around the world, which is what we would aim for in our school feeding program. Our school feeding program now feeds about 19 million children around the world. But, it is about 59 million who need it."

Casella says the WFP would like to use some of the money for which it is appealing to set up a reserve fund for fast acquisition of food stocks for emergencies.

The WFP spokeswoman says money also is needed to boost the agricultural production of small farmers who can no longer afford to buy seeds and fertilizers. She says the price of these commodities has more than doubled since 2006.

Casella notes at the beginning of 2008, WFP was expecting to feed around 69 million people around the world. But, more than 100 million actually need food aid.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reports high food prices have pushed 40 million more people into hunger this year, bringing the total number of those going hungry to nearly one billion.

WFP Spokeswoman Casella says it takes about 90 days from the time a donation is made for the food to actually reach the people who need it.

Hunger can lead to civil unrest. Soaring food prices have led to riots in dozens of countries around the world. One of the worst situations was in Haiti where food riots caused the death of a number of people and drove the prime minister out of office.

Fascist Anti-Semitism Gaining in Greece

Foreign Confidential....

The leader of a far-right political party in Greece has compared Israel's actions in Gaza to Hitler.

The statements Monday by George Karatzaferis, the leader of the far right LAOS party, come a day after a daily newspaper in Greece blamed Jews for the world financial crisis and the Israeli operation in Gaza.

Karatzaferis released a statement that read, in part, "Someone has to pull the ear of the darling child of the West, Israel. Its aggressiveness and malice against non-combatants, whose only precedent can be found during Hitler's time, cannot leave the international community indifferent."

Israeli Ambassador to Greece Ali Yahya said in response to the statement, "Racism is not in Greece's culture. I'm saddened by the pathetic statement made by Mr. Karatzaferis; it shows, if nothing else, complete historic ignorance. It is the Jewish people that were the prey of racism."

Meanwhile, the Avriani newspaper led its front page with anti-Semitic accusations for the second time in several weeks. Sunday's headline read: "After the American Jews acquired once again the world's wealth and plunged the planet into an unprecedented financial crisis, they started rehearsing for WWIII."

Midway through the paper's story on Israel's operation in Gaza, the story, under the heading "The Plan," explains that a Jewish plutocracy, having made the "wealth of the century at the expense of the economies of the world," is preparing to put in motion "war machines" in various hot spots around the world in order to control the price of oil, redistribute the world's natural resources and start a new cycle of weapons production.

Avriani also blames U.S. President-elect Barack Obama for "playing dead" in the present crisis by not saying anything against the Jews, urging him to prove that he is not owned by the Jewish lobby.

On Nov. 4, the day after Obama was elected president, the paper ran a headline that said, "The end of Jewish domination. Everything changes in the U.S.A. and we hope that it will be more democratic and humane."

Jewish groups protested the headline.


Karatzaferis is one of Europe's most notorious political figures. An avowed anti-Semite and racist, he is a closet neo-Nazi with close connections to the neo-Nazi-Islamist underground.

Enough! Hamas Must Go!

Iran Plotting to Destroy Israel in 2009

Foreign Confidential....

Concerned about the current conflict over Gaza?

You should be, because the fighting, which Iran instigated by egging on its missile-mad, Palestinian proxy, Hamas, is merely a warmup act ahead of the main conflagration.

Intelligence experts say Iran has developed a secret plan to destroy Israel, drive the United States from this Middle East, and drive up oil prices--to over $150 a barrel--in 2009.

According to these sources, the plan calls for massive missile bombardment of Israeli cities and towns by Iran's Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah--under protection of an Iranian nuclear shield.

That's right: an Iranian nuclear shield. A major breakthrough in Iran's nuclear program is expected within 60 days.

The Islamist regime will actually acquire atomic arms before the end of March, according to the experts.

Iranian missiles will be equipped with nuclear warheads.

The weapons will embolden Iran to attack U.S. targets in the Middle East and threaten Israel with incineration.

Hamas will be ordered to commence an all-out, do-or-die offensive against Israel.

Radicalized--i.e. Islamized--elements among Israel's Arab citizenry will be ordered to rise up and launch suicidal acts of terror.

The Iranian plan--personally approved by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad--is to destroy Israel from within and without. The apocalyptic Ahmadinejad has repeatedly vowed to annihilate the Jewish state. He intends to keep his word.

Understandably preoccupied with the global economic meltdown, the world is in denial about the Iranian/Islamist threat.

Not since the 1930s, has the world been in such dangerous straits. The Cold War was a joke compared to what is coming.

Oil Rising on Gaza Conflict

Commodities Confidential....

Iran must be pleased. Oil is rising.

George Jahn reports from Vienna:
Tensions generated by a widening conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants sent crude prices up sharply to above $40 a barrel Monday, with gasoline and heating oil also making sizable gains.

Prices also were supported by indications that key OPEC members were acting on commitments to cut back production, in line with a decision earlier this month to take a daily 2.2 million barrels off the market.

Light, sweet crude for February delivery rose $2.56 to $40.27 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange by midday in Europe. The contract on Friday rose $2.36 to settle at $37.71.

Israel expanded its deadliest-ever air offensive against Gaza's Hamas rulers Sunday and prepared for a possible ground invasion. Arab leaders protested the attacks and Syria broke off indirect peace talks with the Jewish state.

With the two-day death toll nearing 300, Hamas fired rockets deeper than ever into Israel.
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Gold Up

Gold is rising, too. Gold futures traded above $882 an ounce Monday.

Gold for February delivery rose $12.10, or 1.4%, to $883.30 an ounce in electronic trading on Globex. Earlier, gold futures soared to an intraday high of $892 an ounce.

On Friday, gold futures rose $23.20, or 2.7%, at $871.20 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Gold futures have gained more than 5% in 2008.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Beijing Fears Revolt by Jobless Migrant Workers

The specter of revolution haunts China.

Beijing's ruling Communist Party--which has based its legitimacy on its ability to continue delivering material progress--fears the economic crisis that started in the United States and has spread to China could trigger a massive uprising.

More than 10 million migrant workers lost their jobs in China in the first 11 months of 2008.

The jobless figure could skyrocket in 2009, analysts say.

Al Qaeda-Linked Palestinians Planning Attacks

Foreign Confidential....

Analysts are concerned that Al Qaeda-associated groups that are competing with Hamas for the hearts and minds of Palestinians may be planning terrorist attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets around the world in order to upstage their Islamist rival, which Al Qaeda considers to be ideologically impure.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The theological and ideological differences that separate Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran are insignificant in terms of the threat to the West that Islamism represents. The Nazis also had their factions--and fought among themselves. Like Nazism, the clerical fascist creed called Islamism must be destroyed. There is no alternative to victory; our civilization is on the line.

Iranian Cleric Calls for Terrorism Against Israel

Foreign Confidential....

Iran's Islamist regime has apparently given Muslims a green light to commit acts of terrorism against Israel and its supporters.

Zahra Hosseinian reports from Tehran:
Iran's Supreme Leader issued a religious decree to Muslims around the world on Sunday, ordering them to defend Palestinians in Gaza against Israeli attacks "in any way possible", state television reported.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also declared Monday a day of public mourning in Iran after Israel killed more than 280 Palestinians in two days of air strikes on Gaza.

"All Palestinian combatants and all the Islamic world's pious people are obliged to defend the defenceless women, children and people in Gaza in any way possible," Khamenei said.

"Whoever is killed in this legitimate defence, is considered a martyr," he said in a statement.

A religious decree is an official statement by a ranking religious leader that commands Muslims to carry out its message. While there is no religious and legal force behind it, Khamenei is respected by many Iranian and non-Iranian Shi'ites.

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Gold Rises in Tandem with Oil and Mideast Violence

Commodities Confidential....

Gold rose more than 2% to its strongest price since early October on Monday, as oil gained on fears of supply disruptions after violence flared between Israel and Hamas.

By 0025 GMT, gold was trading at $887.95 an ounce, up $21.15 from New York's notional close, having hit an intraday high of $889.00 on Monday on safe-haven buying.

- Reuters

Israeli Tanks at Gaza Border

Foreign Confidential....

An Israeli ground offensive could be imminent.

AFP reports:

Israeli tanks massed at the Gaza border on Monday as warplanes continued pounding Hamas targets in the densely populated enclave where raids have killed more than 300 people in two days.

Dozens of tanks and personnel carriers idled at several points near the border after Israel warned it could launch a ground offensive in addition to its massive air blitz.

Hamas responded to the continuing bombardment by firing rockets the farthest yet into Israel, with one striking not far from Ashdod, Israel's second-largest port, some 30 kilometres (18 miles) north of Gaza . It caused no casualties, medics said.

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Syria Suspends Indirect Peace Talks with Israel

Foreign Confidential....

Syria has suspended indirect peace talks with Israel in response to Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip, a senior Syrian official said on Sunday.

Syria has held four indirect rounds of talks with Israel in Turkey this year.

"The Israeli aggression on Gaza closes the door in front of the movement for a peaceful political settlement," the official said. The official would not be drawn any further on which steps Syria was taking.

- Reuters

Barrick Gold to Native Americans: Drop Dead

Dateline USA....

In the midst of a global economic meltdown, the world's largest--and most controversial--gold mining company, Canada's Barrick Gold (NYSE: ABX), is giving its industry a black eye.

Brenda Norrell reports from Cresent Valley, Nevada:

Barrick Gold is bulldozing the Western Shoshone sacred mountain of Mount Tenabo. Barrick construction crews blocked access to Western Shoshone ceremonial grounds this week with heavy machinery and pipes. Western Shoshone had planned a ceremony on Mount Tenabo, where the sweatlodge is located.

"Right now I am sitting here crying. The mining company is ripping out our hearts and guts," Shoshone elder Joyce McDade said today.

"We went to our scared site to build our Arbor, for the ceremonial gathering on Sunday. We couldn't drive in to deliver the materials for the boys to build the Arbor. The Canadian mining company shut us out, by putting big heavy waterpipes in alongside of our sweatlodge."

Western Shoshone said they will still hold a ceremony on Sunday, at a location to be announced. All are welcome. Western Shoshone ask for help and support.

Western Shoshone called into the Censored Blog Radio today, heavy with grief that their ceremonial grounds were being destroyed. Barrick Gold has ripped the pinon and juniper trees out by the roots and sacred Mount Tenabo is being bulldozed.

"This mountain is the same to us as their church. They can not understand this," McDade said. The pinons are central in Shoshone culture and vital to the animals as well on the mountain.

Russians Still Love Stalin

Foreign Confidential....

Is there such a thing as national character?

Apparently--unfortunately--there is.

For example, Russians seem to love dictators.

David Nowak reports from Mosow:

Television viewers have voted Soviet dictator Josef Stalin — who sent millions to their deaths in the Great Purge of the 1930s — Russia's third-greatest historical figure.

Rights activists have blasted Stalin's inclusion in the 90-day, nationwide project by the state-run Rossiya channel. They say authorities are trying to gloss over Stalin's atrocities and glorify his tyranny.

The project, called "The Name of Russia," culminated with the announcement Sunday night that Russian medieval leader
Alexander Nevsky had been voted the greatest Russian, with more than 524,000 Internet and SMS votes. Stalin garnered more than 519,000 votes, and even led in early voting.

Nevsky defeated various European invaders during his 13th-century reign and was subsequently canonized.

In second place was Pyotr Stolypin, a prime minister early in the 20th century under Czar Nicholas II. Stolypin was recognized for land reform but gained notoriety for his brutal quashing of leftist revolutionaries. He saw to it that thousands were hanged for attempting to overthrow the imperial rulers. Stolypin received more than 523,000 votes....
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Israel Avoiding Mistakes of Last Lebanon War

Foreign Confidential....

Reporting from Jerusalem, Dan Williams analyzes the Israeli onslaught against Hamas.

Goaded by Islamist guerrillas' cross-border attacks, Israel goes to war with a surprise aerial onslaught. Troops and tanks follow, to gain ground and pressure foreign powers into imposing a truce the Israelis can live with.

The strategy used by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for an offensive in Lebanon in 2006 could again be deployed against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

But there are big differences in the handling of the military operation in Gaza, which the Israeli air force started pounding on Saturday, and it is not clear how regional stability might benefit, let alone peace talks with Palestinians.

For now, Israeli officials sound satisfied with an operation in Gaza that shows few of the tactical mistakes of the 2006 war on Lebanese Hezbollah.
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Hamas Taken By Surprise

Foreign Confidential....

More than 200 Palestinians have been killed in an Israeli air assault on the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by the Islamist terrorist group Hamas.

Israeli warplanes and helicopters launched a massive assault on Hamas installations across Gaza. Military sources say 40 targets were destroyed in a span of just five minutes.

Hamas was taken by surprise. There were heavy casualties when a graduation ceremony for new military officers was hit by missiles.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said it was retaliation for Hamas rocket and mortar attacks, which escalated after a six-month ceasefire expired a week ago.

"There is no other alternative and we are doing what we need to do in order to defend our citizens. Israel was attacked from Gaza Strip. Enough is enough," she said.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the aim of the operation is to deal a severe blow to Hamas. Barak said the offensive will be expanded as necessary. He said the war on terror is a long one, but Israel is determined to change the situation in the South.

Israel has not ruled out a ground offensive, and officials say the Hamas leadership could be targeted.

[See the story below for an analysis of what Israel would be facing on the ground.]

Hamas Leaders Command 20,000-Man Army

Foreign Confidential....

Hamas, once known for its suicide attacks inside Israeli cities, is no longer a small-time terrorist group, but a large guerrilla army that has well-trained forces deployed throughout the entire Gaza Strip.

Were the IDF to embark on a ground operation in Gaza, it would face an army of close to 20,000 armed men, among them at least 15,000 Hamas operatives. The rest are from Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Popular Resistance Committees.

Since the cease-fire went into effect in Gaza in June, Hamas has used the lull in action to fortify its military posts in the Strip and dig tunnel systems as well as underground bunkers for its forces. IDF estimates put the length of the tunnels at over 50 kilometers.

Hamas has also dug foxholes throughout the Strip to accommodate anti-tank missile units, and prepared massive bombs, which have been placed on the main access roads into Gaza.

In addition to its homemade Kassam rockets, Hamas has smuggled into Gaza a number of anti-aircraft cannons and several shoulder-to-air missiles. It also a large number of anti-tank missiles that, if used correctly, could wreak havoc on Israeli armor in the event of a ground operation involving tanks and armored personnel carriers.

It also has Special Forces - commando forces and units with expertise in rocket fire, mortar attacks and roadside bombs.

Continue here.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Rebranding Fascism: National-Anarchists

Foreign Confidential....

By Spencer Sunshine

On September 8, 2007 in Sydney, Australia, the antiglobalization movement mobilized once again against neoliberal economic policies, this time to oppose the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit. Just as during the protests against the World Trade Organization in Seattle,Washington, in 1999, the streets were filled with an array of groups, such as environmentalists, socialists, and human rights advocates. And also just like in Seattle, there was a “Black Bloc”—a group of militant activists, usually left-wing anarchists, who wore masks and dressed all in black.

In Sydney, the Black Bloc assembled and hoisted banners proclaiming “Globalization is Genocide.” But when fellow demonstrators looked closely, they realized these Black Bloc marchers were “National- Anarchists”—local fascists dressed as anarchists who were infiltrating the demonstration. The police had to protect the interlopers from being expelled by irate activists.

Since then, the National-Anarchists have joined other marches in Australia and in the United States; in April 2008, they protested on behalf of Tibet against the Chinese government during the Olympic torch relay in both Canberra, Australia, and San Francisco. In September, U.S. National-Anarchists protested the Folsom Street Fair, an annual gay “leather” event held in San Francisco.

While these may seem like isolated incidents of quirky subterfuge, these quasi anarchists are an international export of a new version of fascism that represent a significant shift in the trends and ideology of the movement. National-Anarchists have adherents in Australia, Great Britain, the United States, and throughout continental Europe, and in turn are part of a larger trend of fascists who appropriate elements of the radical Left. Like “Autonomous Nationalists” in Germany and the genteel intellectual fascism of the European New Right, the National-Anarchists appropriate leftist ideas and symbols, and use them to obscure their core fascist values. The National-Anarchists, for example, denounce the centralized state, capitalism, and globalization — but in its place they seek to establish a system of ethnically pure villages.

Continue here.

Israel Central Bank Lowering Lending Rate

Foreign Confidential....

David Rosenberg reports from Jerusalem:
The Bank of Israel will probably lower its benchmark lending rate tomorrow to a record as Governor Stanley Fischer seeks to shore up flagging economic growth, a survey showed.

The rate will be cut by half a point to 2 percent, according to seven out of 12 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. Four expect a reduction of three-quarters of a point while one anticipates a full-point cut. The Jerusalem-based central bank will announce its decision at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow.
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Taliban Tightens Noose Around Kabul

Foreign Confidential....

The war in Afghanistan is all but lost.

More than seven years after 9/11, the dreaded Taliban--allies and protectors of Al Qaeda--are closing in on the Afghan capital.

Jason Strazuiso and Amir Shah report from Kabul.
Two months ago, Mohammad Anwar recalls, the Taliban paraded accused thieves through his village, tarred their faces with oil and threw them in jail.

The public punishment was a clear sign to villagers that the Taliban are now in charge. And the province they took over lies just 30 miles from the Afghan capital of Kabul, right on the main highway.

The Taliban has long operated its own shadow government in the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan, but its power is now spreading north to the doorstep of Kabul, according to Associated Press interviews with a dozen government officials, analysts, Taliban commanders and Afghan villagers. More than seven years after the U.S.-led invasion, the Islamic militia is attempting — at least in name — to reconstitute the government by which it ruled Afghanistan in the late 1990s.
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Rice: US Holds Hamas Responsible for Fighting

Dateline USA....

The United States holds Hamas "responsible" for the renewal of deadly violence in Gaza after the Islamist group broke its ceasefire with Israel, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Saturday.

An earlier version of Rice's statement was recalled by the State Department and replaced with a slightly adjusted version that expressed Washington's concern about the violence and added an appeal to safeguard innocent lives.

"The United States is deeply concerned about the escalating violence in Gaza," Rice said in the new statement.

"We strongly condemn the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and hold Hamas responsible for breaking the ceasefire and for the renewal of violence there."

The six-month ceasefire that expired December 19 and which Hamas, the movement that controls the impoverished Palestinian territory, said last week it would not renew, "must be restored immediately and fully respected," she said.

"The United States calls on all concerned to protect innocent lives and to address the urgent humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza," Rice added.

Punishing Israeli air raids into the Gaza Strip Saturday left at least 225 people dead and 700 wounded, in retaliation for rocket fire in one of the bloodiest days of the decades-long Middle East conflict.


Hamas Leader Urges Arab Uprising Against Israel

Foreign Confidential....

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal called on Saturday for a new uprising against Israel after air strikes in the Gaza Strip killed 208 Palestinians.

"I call upon you (Palestinians) to carry out a third intifada," Meshaal, who lives in exile in Damascus, told Al-Jazeera television in an interview.

He called for a "military intifada against the Zionist enemy", as well as "a peaceful intifada internally", an apparent reference to Hamas's power struggle with Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose government is based in the Israeli occupied West Bank.

- Reuters

EDITOR'S NOTE: China Confidential analysts say Hamas is inciting Israeli Arab citizens as well as West Bank Palestinians to riot and commit acts of terrorism against Israel.

Iran Pushing for All-Out War

Foreign Confidential....

Countdown to conflict with Iran.

The Islamist regime ... which is facing mounting domestic discontent over falling oil prices and soaring inflation as it approaches a major nuclear breakthrough timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary in February of its takeover of the country ... is pushing for war with Israel.

All-out war.

The conflict could engulf the entire region and quickly involve the United States.

Both the outgoing and incoming U.S. Presidents have their hands full. The dynamic that has been unleashed by Iran is moving faster than most observers realize.

China Confidential can report that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad egged Hamas on to break its truce with Israel and resume rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, knowing the Israeli government would have to respond with crushing counterattacks.

Analysts say Iran is now readying its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, to join the conflict. Iranian Revolutionary Guard units are in complete control of Hezbollah's formidable missile arsenal.

Tel Aviv and Haifa are within reach of the Islamist rockets.

Israel will use any and all weapons necessary for protecting its people.

Masada shall not fall again.

UPDATE: Hamas is preparing a new wave of suicide attacks inside Israel. The Islamist terrorist group is also preparing to kidnap another Israeli soldier--this time, a female.

China Confidential analysts also expect Iran to issue a new threat of destruction against Israel--specifically, a threat to use missiles to "burn" Tel Aviv if Israel does not cease military action against Hamas.

Syria, which is still secular but aligned with Iran, is a big question mark. Damascus could be drawn into the conflict, although it seems to want to stay out of it. There is more behind-the-scenes diplomacy than that which has been reported.

Israel Strikes Back at Gaza

Foreign Confidential....

Nidal al-Mughrabi reports from Gaza:
Israeli warplanes and combat helicopters pounded the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Saturday, killing at least 155 people in the bloodiest day for Palestinians in more than 20 years of conflict.

Militants in the Gaza Strip responded with rocket salvoes that killed one Israeli man and wounded several others. Both sides said they were prepared to launch wider attacks.

Black smoke billowed over Gaza City, where the dead and wounded lay scattered on the ground after more than 30 air strikes destroyed Palestinian security compounds, including two where Hamas was hosting graduation ceremonies for new recruits.

The Israeli army said it had targeted "terrorist infrastructure" following days of rocket attacks from Gaza on southern Israel that caused some damage but few injuries.

The rocket attacks increased pressure on Israeli political leaders to act as a February 10 election approaches.

U.S. President George Bush's administration, in its last weeks in office, called on Hamas to halt cross-border rocket attacks and urged Israel to avoid civilian casualties but stopped short of calling for an end to the air strikes.

The Israeli army pledged more strikes if necessary, possibly targeting Hamas leaders.
Continue here.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said "the time has come to fight." Click here.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Chinese Warships Joining Anti-Piracy Fight

Three Chinese warships were on their way to the Gulf of Aden Friday to join international efforts to fight Somali pirate attacks.

Japan's prime minister also said Japan may consider joining the anti-piracy mission.

China's official news agency Xinhua reported that two destroyers and a supply ship carrying Special Forces troops left from a base in the southern province of Hainan Friday.

The commander of the three warships, Rear-Admiral Du Jingchen, described the mission as the vessels were preparing to leave.

He said each ship will have different tasks and assignments, but the main mission is to protect ships in Gulf of Aden, and escort ships to protect them and their cargo.

UN Authorized Attacks

China announced Tuesday that it planned to join anti-piracy efforts after the United Nations Security Council authorized nations to attack pirate bases from air and land.

The Chinese ships will join warships from other countries including India, Russia, NATO and the United States.

At a news conference in Tokyo Friday, Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso said his country was also considering joining anti-piracy efforts.

He said each nation is taking measures against the Somalian pirates. So, Japan should also take its own steps.

"It is inappropriate to say that we cannot help foreign national ships in danger while we protect Japanese national ships. So, I think we need to revise the bill and put the proposal at the next parliamentary session. We will probably put it [forward] as maritime policing activity," said Japan's prime minister.

Kenyan Calls for Protection

Meanwhile, in Kenya, Karim Kudrati, managing director of the Mokatu Shipping Company, urged the Chinese and other anti-piracy missions to protect the interests of all ships in the piracy-prone area.

"All the countries are sponsoring their vessels to protect their interests. What about the people that we don't have, the navies of their country?" He asked.

A vessel from Kudrati's shipping company was hijacked by pirates last year.

Somali pirates have stepped up their attacks against ships plying the waters off Somalia's coastline over the past year, seizing tens of millions of dollars in ransom fees.

The International Maritime Bureau reports that 63 of 199 piracy incidents recorded worldwide in the first nine months of 2008 were in waters off Somalia.

Japanese Gold Exports Doubled in 2008

Commodities Confidential....

Chikako Mogi reports that
Japan's gold exports have doubled this year as individual investors locked in profits after gold prices soared earlier in the year, but retail demand for bullion has been picking up steadily over the past few months.

Industry sources say the rise in retail demand for gold may turn Japan into a net importer again, but that may not happen immediately as many players are still looking to unload their gold holdings when prices recover.

Continue here.

Will Corn Rise Again in 2009?

Commodities Confidential....

Reuters' Christine Stebbins reports on the unexpected end of the 2008 grain bubble and the outlook for '09.
Just a year ago the debate about grain prices was simple: how high was high?

Huge global demand for grains, governments hoarding food, climate fears amid droughts, storms and floods -- basically every bullish factor one could imagine hit the markets.

The psychology of short supplies carried over to other commodities as well, especially industrial metals as China and India drew in a rapidly rising share of materials as their economies raced to modernize and transform.

The final element for the "perfect storm" sending commodities to stratospheric heights was the tsunami of Wall Street and other speculative money that, frustrated by stagnant stocks and bonds, finally bought into the commodities story.

The benchmark Reuters-Jefferies-CRB index .CRB of 19 commodity futures was at 358.71 on Dec. 31, 2007, up 17 percent for the year. It jumped another 32 percent to hit record high of 473.97 on July 3, 2008.

Then, as investors blinked, it was over. The index started sliding and by early December fell to a 6-1/2-year low of 208.58 -- down 56 percent from the midsummer highs.

The global economic crisis tied to dried-up bank credit -- the lifeblood of all markets -- rocked Wall Street but also rolled over commodities, bursting bubbles right and left.
Continue here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Obama Should Revive the Nation's Railroads

Dateline USA....

Here's an idea for a Christmas present to the nation from President-elect Barack Obama and his able transition team: expand the planned infrastructure stimulus package to include railroads. They should be rebuilt ASAP along 21st century lines.

Doing that would create thousands of well-paying, permanent jobs and reduce America's reliance on imported oil.

The new trains could run on electricity and next-generation biodiesel as well as petro-diesel.

A small but significant example of a project that cries out for completion: extend electrification of the Harlem Valley commuter rail line, which connects New York City's Grand Central Station with Westchester, Putnam, and Dutchess counties. The electrified service, which opened up northern Westchester some two decades ago, presently ends in Brewster, NY. Diesel-powered trains connect the station with its recently remodeled and expanded northern terminus, in Wassaic, NY, about 10 miles south of the village of Miillerton, which is located on the border of Columbia County to the north and Litchfield County, Connecticut to the east. Electrification of the entire line would raise real estate values and put the pastoral towns and villages of this region within daily commuting distance of White Plains, NY, a suburban city, and Manhattan in anticipation of the day when there will again be jobs to which residents can commute. (A few diehards would probably object to the stealth suburbanization; but their views wouldn't matter, and they would eventually be proven wrong in terms of the tradeoff of benefits, just as the few critics of electrification in Northern Westchester were proven wrong.)

Stepping up the ladder in terms of economic significance, truly fast trains should connect the entire Northeast corridor from Boston to Washington, DC. The present Amtrak service is a poor substitute for the kind of high-speed trains that could be introduced and have been available in Japan since 1964 and in France since 1981. Nobody should be tempted to fly from Boston to New York or New York to the nation's capital.

Nor should flying be a competitive option for those traveling between New York and Chicago. Again, the technology has been around for over 40 years.

Freight needs help, too, from the mighty Class 1 carriers to the feisty short-lines and struggling spurs. Depots and reload centers across the country should be modernized and expanded and fast-tracked for Foreign Trade Zone designation, which would encourage tariff-advantaged manufacturing and warehousing.

The seeds of a new era of railroading can be found in the present economic crisis. it's time for the next President and Congress to get on board for a cause whose time has come.

: Back in 1930s, when America was in the grip of the Great Depression, the nation's railroad porters banded together to form the first all-black union and jump-start the civil rights movement. Those dignified, hard-working men who served luxury car passengers could not have imagined the rise of Barack Obama. It is therefore especially ironic and somehow particularly fitting that America's first African-American President, who is faced with the challenge of preventing a replay of the Great Depression, has a chance to revive railroading in America in ways that will forever change the country's fly/drive culture and dramatically improve the lives of millions of his fellow citizens.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Severe Drought Threatens Mideast Wheat Output

Commodities Confidential....

The Middle East suffered a severe region-wide drought last year, with substantial crop losses reported from western Turkey and Israel through eastern Iran. In most areas the exceedingly dry weather pattern lasted from planting time in September through harvest in June, resulting in one of the worst agricultural droughts in recent decades.

Total regional wheat production declined approximately 7.4 million tons or 19 percent.

The only countries to escape significant year-to-year reductions in grain output were Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Saudi Arabia’s wheat crop declined modestly owing to planned reductions in sown area (not drought), whereas Turkey experienced an even more severe drought in 2007/08 and had crop yields actually recover slightly in 2008/09.

Could Have Been Worse

Wheat production would have fallen much more dramatically had not a significant proportion of the grain crop been irrigated in the Middle East’s major producing countries. Irrigated wheat acreage has gradually increased during the past few decades, providing some stability to annual foodgrain production, and preventing absolute catastrophe in severe drought years such as 2008. Irrigated wheat acreage now amounts to roughly 40 to 50 percent of total acreage in Syria, Iran, and Iraq, and roughly 20 percent in Turkey.

Lucky Turkey

The worst affected regions included nearly the entire cultivated wheat area in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Israel.

Turkey was fortunate that its crop is widely dispersed, and much of it escaped the worst of the severely dry weather pattern. Rainfed wheat crops suffered extreme losses in all countries with the exception of Turkey, causing national wheat production declines ranging from 30 to 60 percent below the previous year.

The drought was also severe enough to cause substantial declines in the region's stored irrigation reserves (reservoirs, groundwater, wells) and cause irrigated crop yields to fall in countries like Iran, Iraq, and Syria. The overall shortage of irrigation supplies continues into the current 2009/10 winter grain growing season, and has the potential to prevent a full recovery in crop production even if rainfall conditions improve.

USDA Forecast

Owing to the drought, Middle Eastern countries are forecast by USDA to increase wheat imports this year by 5.8 million tons or 72 percent over 2007/08. Both Syria and Iran were forced to enter the international market to buy abnormally large volumes of wheat this year, after having domestic production fall precipitously.

As the 2009/10 winter grain planting season comes to a close in December, farmers and government officials across the Middle East are hoping for a substantial recovery in national grain production to help their domestic farm economies recover and to forestall the need for continued above-normal grain imports.

As of mid-December 2008, it is evident that rainfall conditions have been mixed across the region, and that significant producing areas have experienced generally unfavorable planting conditions. Therefore, at this early date, it is uncertain whether wheat production will recover to nearly normal levels or not.

Winter Wheat in Iran

In general terms, autumn precipitation to date during the primary 2009/10 winter wheat planting period was much improved over last year in both Iraq and western Iran. Planting rains in Turkey, however, were lighter than last year, whereas in Syria and eastern Iran rainfall accumulations were as poor as last year.

It should be mentioned as well that though Iraq has received appreciably better rainfall than last year, it is believed that much of its major rainfed grain regions did not receive sufficient moisture to allow for normal planted acreage or the ability to sustain healthy crop establishment at this point.

The country’s primary rainfed producing province, Ninewa, reportedly had large areas unsown as of late November.

Syrian SItuation

In addition, given the seriously depleted groundwater resources in Syria this year, its irrigated wheat area is expected to be reduced as a consequence. Rainfed wheat acreage in Syria is expected to make up a greater than normal proportion of total area, and planting rains have not yet been adequate to ensure normal crop establishment.

At this early stage in the 2009/10 growing season, wheat yield potential is extremely questionable in many regions of the Middle East’s major wheat producing countries.


Given reduced irrigation supplies in general across the region, post-planting winter precipitation levels will be of even greater importance this year in determining the outlook for wheat production.

The region showing the most favorable outlook to date relative to last year is western Iran, which accounts for roughly half of the country's wheat production. However, the rainfall profile in Iran’s remaining producing areas is as bad or worse than last year, putting the aggregate national output picture in jeopardy.

In general, given current moisture conditions across the Middle East, the outlook for 2009/10 wheat production is uncertain in every major producing country. The region is going to need a general improvement in the amount and distribution of rainfall over the coming months to enable a nearly normal wheat crop.

Current USDA area and production estimates for grains and other agricultural commodities are available on IPAD's Agricultural Production page or at PSD Online.

For more information contact Michael Shean ( at USDA-FAS, Office of Global Analysis

Barrel of Feb. Oil Now Costs Less Than July Fill-Up

Commodities Confidential....

A barrel of oil on the New York Mercantile exchange now costs less than the cost of a gasoline fill-up five months ago.

Dragged down by sinking demand, oil prices fell below $40 a barrel for February delivery.

This summer, gas prices peaked at $4.11 a gallon.

Monday, December 22, 2008

China Considering Ways to Stimulate Economy

China may spur consumer spending after lowering Interest rates. Bloomberg's Li Yanping and Kevin Hamlin report from Beijing:
China may follow its latest interest- rate cut with steps to spur consumer spending as deepening recessions in the U.S. and Europe pummel exports, one of the main engines of the world's fourth-largest economy.

The People's Bank of China yesterday lowered its one-year lending rate by 0.27 percentage point to 5.31 percent and the deposit rate by the same amount to 2.25 percent. The central bank also reduced the proportion of deposits lenders must set aside as reserves by 0.5 percentage point.

Chinese stocks fell on concern the cut was too small to shore up the economy, which may grow at the slowest pace in two decades next year. Premier Wen Jiabao, who unveiled a 4 trillion yuan ($583 billion) stimulus package for roads and bridges last month, may also reduce taxes and try to prop up the housing market, economists said.

Officials “will continue to ease monetary policy and introduce additional fiscal stimulus measures, particularly in support of domestic consumption,” said Jing Ulrich, head of China equities at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Hong Kong.
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Ancient Gold Coins Unearthed in Jerusalem

Foreign Confidential....

Archaeologists in Israel said they have unearthed more than 250 gold coins dating back to the seventh century A.D., making it the largest cache of gold coins from that period ever found in Jerusalem.

A British archaeologist found the treasure trove on Sunday while excavating the ruins of a building. The dig site is now a parking lot on the edge of Jerusalem's walled Old City.

The gold coins date back to the Byzantine period and bear the image of the Emperor Heraclius, who ruled between 610 and 641 A.D. The nearly 1,400 year-old coins depict him in military dress, holding a cross in his right hand.

Officials at the Israeli Antiquities Authority Monday said the coins had likely been hidden in one of the building's walls. They said archaeologists have never discovered more than five Byzantine-period coins at a time in Jerusalem before.

While Cautioning Israel About Reacting to Hamas Rocket Fire, Egypt Wants Political Change in Gaza

Foreign Confidential....

While Egyptian leaders publicly warn Israel against raiding Gaza, an Israeli official says Egypt privately is angry at Hamas for ending a six-month truce.

Thought it officially has cautioned Israel against undertaking a military operation in the Palestinian territory, "Egypt is very upset at Hamas and understands that the leadership there needs to be replaced," an Egyptian official told The Jerusalem Post.

Meanwhile Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said Israeli military action "would have devastating consequences, devastating humanitarian consequences. This is something we cannot accept or condone under any terms."

Israeli government officials told The Post that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak last week decided Israel would have a military response to rocket attacks initiated in Gaza, but the timing hasn't been determined. The Post said military officials were drawing up plans to evacuate children and elderly from Israeli communities that could come under attack.

Nineteen rockets and at least three mortar rounds were fired into Israel Sunday from Gaza, the Post reported. Palestinian militants say they have ratcheted up their attacks to protest Israel's closing Gaza's border crossings and targeting Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank.

Zaki reported no progress in getting the parties to renew the cease-fire, calling its expiration "a dangerous situation" that could escalate into confrontation.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Brightening Outlook for Gold

Foreign Confidential....

Bloomberg's Pham-Duy Nguyen reports:
Gold may rise for the third straight week on speculation the dollar’s rally will stall, boosting the appeal of the precious metal.

Thirteen of 25 traders, investors and analysts surveyed from Mumbai to Chicago on Dec. 18 and Dec. 19 advised buying gold, which rose 2.1 percent last week to $837.40 an ounce in New York. Seven said to sell, and five were neutral.
Motley Fool says 2009 could be a vintage year for gold.
The Federal Reserve estimates that in the past year losses in real estate, stocks and mortgages have sucked out some $7.2 trillion of wealth from the U.S. economy. Some are now putting the figure at $20 trillion. A massive recession is starting and will likely spread throughout much of the world. These forces have exerted their classic strong downward pressure on the price of gold.

In addition, the $700 billion TARP fund to salvage the American financial system, and large amounts spent by other governments to protect their own banks, has greatly reduced the fear of a financial breakdown. As a result, the financial panic insurance value of gold was largely eroded, adding further downward price pressure.

2008 was a volatile year for gold. Prices have gyrated quite violently between the $700’s and $1,000, or by some 25 to 30 percent. This volatility alone acts as a depressing influence on gold prices as it discourages the belief that gold is a credible investment.

The world’s major governments long have sought to eradicate gold as a monetary measure in order to remove the last vestiges of monetary discipline and to clear the field for massive government over-spending and inflation.

In 1968, the London Gold Poll was abolished. In 1978, America forced a further move, via the IMF, to write gold out of the international money supply. In August 1971, President Nixon broke the U.S. dollar-gold exchange link.

In September 1999, the United States, while being careful to keep its own gold stocks intact, led other major nations, in the first of two so-called ‘Central Bank Gold Agreements’ to flood the gold market with sales of gold.

In 1999, the central banks held some 33,000 tonnes, or one quarter of all mined gold. The effect of government gold sales was potentially very bearish for gold.

Gold market observers, who have studied the pattern of IMF gold sales, allege that the sales are timed to cause the maximum volatility in the price of gold, to discourage investment.

More recently, there are allegations that the Government has allowed certain institutions to engage in massive naked short selling of gold and silver. This has caused distortions in the gold price that do not reflect genuine market pressures. In short, they amount to market manipulation.

A fair conclusion is that gold is cheap and that its present price does not truly reflect market conditions.
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Madoff Suspected of Skimming Hundreds of Millions

Foreign Confidential...

There is increasing speculation in New York and London that the con man Bernie Madoff siphoned off hundreds of millions of dollars from his global Ponzi scheme to manipulate the shares of listed companies for the benefit of himself and his family.

Taliban Kill Two Afghans Accused of Spying for US

Foreign Confidential....

Pakistani police say Taliban militants killed two Afghan nationals for allegedly acting as spies for U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Police say they found the bullet-ridden bodies of two brothers Sunday in a village located in Pakistan's lawless tribal region of North Waziristan.

Police say a note found with the bodies said the two men were spies from the neighboring Afghan province of Khost.

The United States plans to send 20,000 to 30,000 troops to Afghanistan in order to prevent it from falling to the Taliban.

Uma Thurman Fiance Gave Madoff $220 Million

Foreign Confidential....

One of London's most celebrated hedge fund managers is a victim of Bernie Madoff's $50 billion global Ponzi scheme.

Arpad Busson, who is engaged to actress Uma Thurman, reportedly has up to $220 million exposure to Madoff through the EIM fund of hedge funds which manages about $11 billion.

Besson founded EIM in 1992. A business partner confirmed the exposure to Madoff's funds.

Busson is not alone. Madoff and his family used a complex web of wealthy individuals across Europe to introduce new investors into his funds. Those new investors enabled him to keep paying the healthy returns he had promised older existing investors.

Japanese PM Sought US Nuke Shield Against China

Tomoko Hosaka reports from Tokyo:
Japan's longest-serving prime minister — a Noble Peace laureate — asked the U.S. in 1965 to deploy nuclear weapons against China if war broke out between the Asian rivals, according to newly declassified government files obtained by Kyodo news agency.

During his first trip to Washington as the Japanese leader, Eisaku Sato told then-U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara that American military forces could launch a nuclear attack on China by sea if needed, Kyodo said Monday.

Under its post-World War II constitution, Japan renounces war as a sovereign right and prohibits the use of force in international conflicts.

But the new details of Sato's discussions with the U.S. reveal a more complicated picture behind his strong public stance against nuclear weapons as well as his intense distrust of China.
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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Hamas Threatens New Suicide Attacks on Israel

Foreign Confidential....

Hamas has ended its truce with Israel. Rocket fire from Gaza is escalating. The Iranian-backed Islamist terrorist group is threatening to launch a new round of suicide attacks against the Jewish state.

The Israel Defense Forces is preparing to escalate its activities at the Gaza Strip border in response to continuing Qassam rocket and mortar fire into the western Negev.

On Saturday alone 13 rockets and 20 mortar rounds were fired into Israel. No one was injured, but one rocket damaged a kibbutz building. The violence came after Hamas' official announcement that it would not extend its six-month cease-fire with Israel.
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Putin to West: Don't Try to Destabilize Russia

Foreign Confidential....

Oleg Shchedrov reports from Moscow:
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned Russia's foes on Friday against trying to destabilize a country facing broadening economic crisis, Russian news agencies reported.

Putin did not specify who might pose a threat to Russia's stability. But in the past, he has often blamed Western security services of trying to destabilize the country using opposition groups and non-governmental organizations as their instruments.

"Any attempts to weaken or destabilize Russia, harm the interests of the country will be toughly suppressed," they quoted ex-KGB spy Putin as telling an annual meeting of top spies and security officers ahead of their professional holiday.
Continue here.

Madoff Mystery Partner is Space Alien

Dateline USA....

If you believe the above headline is true, this reporter has a uranium mine on Mars that he would like to sell you.

But consider what we are being led to believe: that the man behind the biggest financial fraud in history--the first truly global Ponzi scheme--acted alone.

It boggles the mind. Like the Lone Gunman Theory, the Lone Fraudster Theory is ridiculous. In fact, Lee Harvey Oswald's magic bullet makes more sense than Bernie Madoff's magic touch--and superhuman ability to personally manage at least two sets of books in addition to trading records and accounts for the victims of his $50 billion scam.

Even a common bank robber or jewel thief typically works with a getaway driver.

But Bernie Madoff, we are told, acted alone. No accountants and bookkeepers, no lawyers, no clerical workers and administrative staff, no technical support--nothing. His wife knew nothing. His two sons--who suspiciously never invested with their father--knew nothing. His niece, who is married to a former SEC regulator, knew nothing. The feeder funds knew nothing. The salesmen who shlepped money from charities knew nothing. Nobody knew. Nobody suspected. Nobody helped Uncle Bernie. He did it all by himself, believe it or not.


Chinese Workers Clash With Police

In a rare demonstration of public protest, workers in the Dongguan province of China have clashed with police after taking to the streets over unpaid wages and factory closures.

“We haven’t eaten in days,” said one protester, reflecting the increasing desperation of those who either have not been paid or whose jobs have gone.

An estimated 6.7 million Chinese are believed to have been made unemployed since the global financial crisis hit what used to be known as the “World’s workshop”.

A police officer at the demonstration said he understood the protesters’ worries but the law had to be obeyed. Demonstrations are illegal in China. But with unemployment due to hit a new high in the new year, analysts say social stability is now seriously threatened.

- Euronews

Friday, December 19, 2008

Brazil Fighting to Keep Oil Riches

Foreign Confidential....

Bloomberg's Jeb Blount reports from Rio de Janeiro:
Guilherme Estrella found an undersea lake of oil that may transform Brazil’s economy forever. Now, the exploration chief for Petroleo Brasileiro SA is at the center of a debate over who will profit from it.

At stake is how much of Brazil’s newfound riches will be controlled by the state and how much will end up in the pockets of Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell Plc and other oil companies hungry for new sources of crude. Estrella wants to make Western oil companies little more than hired help for government-controlled Petrobras, as his company is known.

“Petrobras is our space program,” Estrella, a 66-year-old geologist and socialist, said in a Sept. 23 interview in Rio de Janeiro. “Within it, the company contains the Brazilian nationalist spirit.”

A $110 drop in the price of oil since July may make it tougher for Estrella to get his way. Economies around the world are foundering amid the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and it may cost $600 billion to develop Brazil’s deepwater oil deposits, which could be worth $3 trillion at current prices.

Continue here.

Madoff Scandal Feeds Outpouring of Anti-Semitism

Dateline USA....

Anti-Jewish commentary is flooding the Internet in the wake of Bernard Madoff's arrest on charges of masterminding the biggest financial fraud in history.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said there had been "an outpouring of anti-Semitic comments on mainstream and extremist Web sites."

Madoff, 70, is Jewish and a prominent member of the powerful US Jewish community. He is alleged to have defrauded investors, including a number of Jewish-related charities, of some 50 billion dollars.

"Site users have posted comments ranging from deeply offensive stereotypical statements about Jews and money -- with some suggesting that only Jews could perpetrate a fraud on such a scale -- to conspiracy theories about Jews stealing money to benefit Israel," the ADL said in a statement.

"Jews are always a convenient scapegoat in times of crisis, but the Madoff scandal and the fact that so many of the defrauded investors are Jewish has created a perfect storm for the anti-Semites," said Abraham Foxman, ADL national director.

"Nowadays, the first place Jew-haters will go is to the Internet, where they can give voice to their hateful ideas without fear of repercussions."

Regarding Madoff, this reporter wonders: what wouldn't the monster have done? In another place and another time, would he have betrayed his fellow Jews by selling them out to the Nazis? Would he have traded in looted Jewish art and valuables during the Holocaust? Would he have collaborated with the Nazis as a phony Jewish community council leader and aided in the Holocaust selection process? Would he have served on the collaborationist Warsaw Ghetto Jewish police force, killing, beating, and betraying starving Jews .... and the Jewish resistance .... only to be shot dead when his service to the Third Reich was no longer needed? Would he have spied on the fighting Jewish underground for the British in pre-State Palestine? Would he have sought Stalin's favor by persecuting Russian Jews?

Probably. The monster Madoff would most likely have done all of the above--and more. He is the most sociopathic member of the American Jewish community to have ever lived.

It defies reason and common sense to think that his wife and children were not somehow part of his criminal scheme.

If you believe that story, this reporter has a bridge in Brooklyn and a tower in Paris that he would like to sell.

UPDATE: Jeff Kearns reports:
The options trading strategy Bernard Madoff said he used to help produce profits for 17 straight years would have required at least 10 times the contracts that trade on U.S. exchanges.

Madoff, charged with defrauding clients of his $35 billion asset-management business in a “Ponzi scheme,” invested in Standard & Poor’s 100 Index companies and used options to reduce losses, according to marketing materials for his New York-based investment funds. The total number of S&P 100 options outstanding is enough to guard against losses in only $3.25 billion of trades, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

“It was never done,” Michael Schwartz, chief options strategist at Oppenheimer & Co. in New York and a trader since 1965, said of the strategy. “If he did it on an exchange, we would have heard about it, and if he did it over the counter, the person he bought it from would have hedged it on an exchange.”

The 70-year-old founder of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC was arrested Dec. 11 and accused of running an illegal money-management operation. Federal prosecutors say Madoff admitted to stealing $50 billion from clients ranging from movie director Steven Spielberg to real-estate developer Mortimer Zuckerman. The alleged scheme ensnared investors from New York to Lucerne, Switzerland, and Bermuda.

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