News for November 30, 2008
Lebanon recognizes 'state of Palestine' The Jerusalem Post (November 30, 2008) - The Lebanese government has approved forming full diplomatic relations with what it calls the "state of Palestine," and is elevating the office of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Beirut to the status of an embassy. No date has been set to carry out the decision, which was announced by Lebanese Information Minister Tariq Mitri.
The PLO is regarded by the Arab League as the sole representative of the Palestinian people. The organization is currently headed by Mahmoud Abbas, who is also president of the Palestinian Authority. Hilal Khashan, a professor of political science at the American University of Beirut, said he thought the move showed the government in Beirut was trying to show support for 'Abbas' administration. "He is facing tough times. There is a split in the Fatah movement and there's a running battle between Fatah and the Hamas in Gaza," Khashan told The Media Line.
In addition, the Lebanese army is posted outside the 'Ein Al-Hilweh refugee camp and is contemplating military action if Palestinians in the camp do not surrender six members of the Islamist Fatah Al-Islam organization seeking refuge there. "I believe the Lebanese government wants to give the impression that it is not anti-Palestinian and it is welcoming diplomatic relations with the state of Palestine, which has not been declared yet," Khashan said. He added that the implementation of the decision requires a validating cabinet decision, so at the moment it "amounts to nothing."
Lebanon accommodates nearly 400,000 Palestinian refugees who say they
are discriminated against by the government. Khashan said the decision to
upgrade relations with the PLO will not affect this situation, explaining
that anti-Palestinian sentiments are deeply rooted in Lebanon. "What
is needed is a change in a series of Lebanese laws that bar Palestinians
from employment in Lebanon. They are not allowed to work in significant
professions beyond manual labor. This is what lies at the heart of the problem,"
he said. "The Palestinians are treated as non entities in Lebanon and
have no rights whatsoever. I believe there is a deliberate effort by the
Lebanese government to keep their situation sub-human so they will never
contemplate seeking permanent residency in the country."
Two earthquakes rattle remote Alaska Reuters
(November 29, 2008) - Two moderate earthquakes
rattled remote locations in Alaska on Friday, according to the U.S. National
Earthquake Center. A magnitude 5.3 quake struck 13 miles west northwest
of the Alaska town of Anchor Point, which is about 200 miles south of Anchorage.
About a minute later, a magnitude 5.1 quake occurred about 28 miles southwest
of Cantwell, Alaska, which is about 200 miles north of Anchorage. Magnitude
5 quakes can cause considerable damage, but there were no immediate reports
of injury or damage.
Mag 6.2 Quake Strikes Off Coast of Northern California
28, 2008) - An earthquake of magnitude 6.2 struck off California’s
northern coast, the U.S. Geological Survey said in an e-mailed alert. The
temblor struck at 5:43 a.m. local time today, at a depth of 62 miles (100
kilometers), the USGS said. The quake took place 133 miles west of Eureka,
California, the monitoring agency said. No tsunami is expected from the
undersea quake, the USGS the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center
said in a separate alert.
Strong quake hits waters off western Indonesia Associated Press (November 28, 2008) - A powerful earthquake struck waters off western Indonesia late Saturday, but local officials said there was no risk of a tsunami. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 and hit 160 kilometres southwest of Bengkulu, a city on Sumatra island. It was centred 26 kilometres beneath the ocean floor. There was no risk of a tsunami, said Fauzi, an official with Indonesia's geological agency. Like many here, he only uses one name.
There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries, and residents
in Bengkulu, which is frequently hit by quakes, showed few signs of panic,
said Haris Said Hakim, a geological agency official based in the city. Often
powerful temblors send people fleeing their homes and running to high ground.
Indonesia is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the so-called
Pacific "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling
the Pacific Basin. In December 2004, a massive earthquake off Sumatra triggered
a tsunami that battered much of the Indian Ocean coastline and killed more
than 230,000 people.
Arkansas Could See High-Magnitude Earthquake: Expert Associated Press (November 28, 2008) - A series of small earthquakes that rattled central Arkansas in recent weeks could be a sign of something much bigger to come. By this weekend, seismologists hope to install three measurement devices to gather data about future temblors in the area. That information could show whether the rumbles come from heat-related geological changes or from an undiscovered fault -- which could mean a risk of substantial earthquakes in the future. "The potential for generating a high-magnitude earthquake is real," said Haydar Al-Shukri, director of the Arkansas Earthquake Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Five earthquakes ranging in magnitude from 2.2 to 2.7 have hit central Arkansas this month. Quakes with a magnitude of 2.5 to 3 are typically the smallest felt by people. While hundreds of earthquakes occur each year, including several in Arkansas, the location of the recent ones give Al-Shukri pause. Arkansas quakes generally occur in the state's northeast corner, part of the New Madrid Seismic Zone, where three temblors with magnitudes of around 8 struck during the winter of 1812 and smaller ones continue today. But central Arkansas does not have any seismic history, Al-Shukri said. "It is abnormal. It is significant," he said. "We need to carefully watch this activity."
The area does not have any permanent seismograph, so researchers asked the University of Memphis in Tennessee if they could use its portable equipment. The nearest seismographs aren't close enough to provide the detailed readings scientists need to determine what could be causing the tremors or properly locate their origin, said Scott Ausbrooks, the geohazard supervisor for the Arkansas Geological Survey. "I don't know if you've looked at a map of where these events are located, but they've got a scatter on them," he said. "We're thinking this is probably the inherited error built in when you try to locate events of this small a magnitude from that far away."
Ausbrooks said officials would install the three seismographs around Magnet Cove, a Hot Spring County community near where a magnitude-2.7 earthquake hit on Nov. 1. Residents told police dispatchers they heard what sounded like an explosion.
One possible culprit could be a hydrothermal quake, caused by extremely hot fluid pushing into rocks under the surface. The hot fluid percolates into the cracks of the rocks and causes movement, Al-Shukri said. That theory matches the geologic history of the area. Central Arkansas is home to Hot Springs, a city that grew up around its namesake spas. The springs have 143-degree waters rushing to the surface continuously. If that's the case, the earthquakes likely wouldn't pose a drastic danger to the area, Al-Shukri said. At their strongest, such quakes reach only a magnitude of 5, the U.S. Geological Survey's threshold for "moderate."
However, if the earthquakes are caused by a previously unknown fault, that could mean a much more powerful temblor in the future. A recently discovered fault in eastern Arkansas near Marianna caused an earthquake with a magnitude of between 7.2 and 7.5 in the past 5,000 years, Al-Shukri said. That could cause widespread, heavy damage. "Now, it's not active, but in geologist time, that's yesterday," he said.
Ausbrooks wouldn't speculate on what could be causing the earthquakes,
saying he wanted to see what data the seismographs capture. However, he
acknowledged an unknown fault could be running through the area. "There
are numerous faults across the state, both known and unknown," Ausbrooks
said. "This area has got a lot of faults associated with it from the
mountain building of the Ouachitas, but they're considered inactive."
Worker dies at Long Island Wal-Mart after being trampled in Black Friday stampede New York Daily News (November 28, 2008) - A Wal-Mart worker died early Friday after an "out-of-control" mob of frenzied shoppers smashed through the Long Island store's front doors and trampled him, police said. The Black Friday stampede plunged the Valley Stream outlet into chaos, knocking several employees to the ground and sending others scurrying atop vending machines to avoid the horde. When the madness ended, 34-year-old Jdimytai Damour was dead and four shoppers, including a woman eight months pregnant, were injured.
"He was bum-rushed by 200 people," said Wal-Mart worker Jimmy Overby, 43. "They took the doors off the hinges. He was trampled and killed in front of me. "They took me down, too ... I didn't know if I was going to live through it. I literally had to fight people off my back," Overby said.
Damour, a temporary maintenance worker from Jamaica, Queens, was gasping for air as shoppers continued to surge into the store after its 5 a.m. opening, witnesses said. Even officers who arrived to perform CPR on the trampled worker were stepped on by wild-eyed shoppers streaming inside, a cop at the scene said. "They pushed him down and walked all over him," Damour's sobbing sister, Danielle, 41, said. "How could these people do that? "He was such a young man with a good heart, full of life. He didn't deserve that."
Damour's sister said doctors told the family he died of a heart attack. His cousin, Ernst Damour, called the circumstances "completely unacceptable." "His body was a stepping bag with so much disregard for human life," Ernst Damour, 37, said. "There has to be some accountability."
Roughly 2,000 people gathered outside the Wal-Mart's doors in the predawn darkness. Chanting "push the doors in," the crowd pressed against the glass as the clock ticked down to the 5 a.m. opening. Sensing catastrophe, nervous employees formed a human chain inside the entrance to slow down the mass of shoppers. It didn't work. The mob barreled in and overwhelmed workers.
"They were jumping over the barricades and breaking down the door," said Pat Alexander, 53, of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. "Everyone was screaming. You just had to keep walking on your toes to keep from falling over." After the throng toppled Damour, his fellow employees had to fight through the crowd to help him, police said.
Witness Kimberly Cribbs said shoppers acted like "savages." "When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling, 'I've been on line since Friday morning!'" Cribbs said. "They kept shopping."
When paramedics arrived, Damour's condition was grave. "They were pumping his chest, trying to bring him back, and there was nothing," said Dennis Smokes, 36, a Wal-Mart worker. Damour was taken to Franklin Hospital and pronounced dead at 6:03 a.m.
Hank Mullany, president of Wal-Mart's northeast division, said the company took extraordinary safety precautions. "We expected a large crowd this morning and added additional internal security, additional third-party security, additional store associates and we worked closely with the Nassau County police," he said in a statement. "We also erected barricades. Despite all of our precautions, this unfortunate event occurred." The 28-year-old pregnant woman and three other shoppers were taken to area hospitals with minor injuries, police said.
In a news conference after the incident, Nassau County police spokesman Lt. Michael Fleming described the crowd as "out of control" and the scene as "utter chaos." He said Wal-Mart did not have enough security onhand. Fleming said criminal charges were possible but that it would be difficult to identify individual shoppers in surveillance videos. Items on sale at the Wal-Mart store included a $798 Samsung 50-inch Plasma HDTV, a Bissel Compact Upright Vacuum for $28 and Men's Wrangler Tough Jeans for $8.
The Long Island store reopened at 1 p.m. and was packed within minutes. "I
look at these people's faces and I keep thinking one of them could have
stepped on him," said one employee. "How could you take a man's
life to save $20 on a TV?"
Legal Hurdles in West Slow Pursuit of Pirates The New York Times (November 28, 2008) - Somali pirates firing automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades hijacked yet another ship in the Gulf of Aden on Friday, this time seizing a chemical tanker. A German military helicopter from a nearby warship arrived in time to pull three security guards out of the water, but not soon enough to prevent the hijacking of the ship and the rest of the crew. The latest attack, in which even trained security personnel aboard could not deter the pirates, demonstrated the urgent need for coordinated action by governments from Cairo to Berlin. But the bureaucratic and legal hurdles facing international institutions and national governments have so far defeated most efforts to deal with the nimble crews of pirates in speedboats, whose tactics have grown bolder as their profits have paid for better weapons and equipment. While the pirates have been buying GPS devices, satellite phones and more-powerful outboard motors, officials in Europe have been discussing jurisdictional issues surrounding the arrest of pirates on the high seas and even the possibility that the pirates might demand asylum if brought onto European Union shores.
Germany, perhaps more than any other country, epitomizes both the importance of safe passage for ships and the difficulty of reacting swiftly. It is the world’s leading exporter of goods, and according to the German Shipowners’ Association it has the world’s largest container-ship fleet, with some 36 percent of total container capacity. That would seem to argue for swift action to stop the pirates, and Germany did indeed draw international attention earlier this week when it announced that up to 1,400 military personnel members might take part in the mission to combat piracy. But the figure significantly overstated the likely deployment as part of a European Union mission in the region, and Parliament has yet to approve it. It also remains to be seen whether the rules of engagement give German sailors a free enough hand to fight the pirates. German law requires parliamentary approval for all troop deployments, an outgrowth of the country’s uneasiness with the use of military force after the aggression and crimes of the Nazi regime.
On Wednesday, government ministry officials, members of Parliament and representatives of the shipping industry and the workers’ unions gathered on a dark, rainy night in the imposing stone Reichstag building to debate the problem and the best course of action. In addition to the question of asylum, questions of extradition to other countries and how to proceed with potential prosecutions were high on the agenda. “It is not only the case for Germany that these legal questions have to be clarified, but that also goes for the other countries,” said Vice Adm. Hans-Joachim Stricker, commander of the German fleet, in an interview shortly before the proceedings began. “That is being worked on under high pressure, and once these legal questions are clarified, then the operations can be ordered.”
But some legal experts in Germany said that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and an existing United Nations mandate to combat Somali piracy already provided all the legal cover necessary for muscular action against the pirates. “The legal regime is in existence, sustainable, and there’s no problem with that,” said Rüdiger Wolfrum, professor and director at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law and a leading jurist here. “There is a certain political hesitation to forcefully engage in anti-pirate acts.”
If it gets approval, the German military is planning to send a frigate, the Karlsruhe, with some 220 seamen on board, to join in the European Union’s first naval mission, Operation Atalanta, named after the swift huntress of Greek legend. “At this point we are finalizing the operational plan,” said Cristina Gallach, spokeswoman for Javier Solana, the European Union’s foreign policy chief. Ms. Gallach said that half a dozen nations or more were expected to contribute to the mission and that its first tasks would probably begin Dec. 9, after the expected approval by the countries’ foreign ministers the day before. The presence is expected to include up to six frigates, three to five airplanes for maritime patrols and some 1,200 people in all, and the European Union hopes to coordinate actions with other navies operating in the region, including those from India, Russia and the United States.
But the Germans may not obtain the necessary approvals for their part
of the plan in time to join the mission right away. Though the plan is expected
to be approved before Christmas, the slowness of the process has frustrated
some members of Parliament. “I cannot believe that we could have this kind
of problem, where pirates fool around with the international community,”
said Bernd Siebert, a member of Parliament and a defense expert with Chancellor
Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats. “The bureaucratic obstacles and legal
problems must be overcome. We have discussed this for too long.”
Hurricane Season Blows Away Records Associated Press (November 27, 2008) - The 2008 Atlantic hurricane season, which ends Sunday, seemed to strike the United States and Cuba as if on redial, setting at least five weather records for persistence and repeatedly striking the same areas. "It was pretty relentless in a large number of big strikes," said Georgia Tech atmospheric sciences professor Judith Curry. "We just didn't have the huge monster where a lot of people lost their lives, but we had a lot of damage, a lot of damage."
Data on death and damage are still being calculated, but the insurance industry recorded at least $10.6 billion in losses this hurricane season. That includes $8.1 billion in insured damage from Hurricane Ike, which ranked as the seventh most expensive catastrophe in the United States history, according to Mike Barry of the Insurance Information Institute in New York.
Three records showed the hurricane season's relentlessness. Six consecutive named storms — Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike — struck the U.S. mainland, something that had not been seen in recorded history. It's also the first time a major hurricane, those with winds of at least 111 mph, formed in five consecutive months, July through November. And Bertha spun about for 17 days, making it the longest lived storm in July.
Two records involve storms hitting the same places repeatedly. Rain-heavy Fay was the only storm to hit the same state — Florida — four times, leaving heavy flood damage in its wake. A record three major hurricanes smacked Cuba: Gustav, Ike and Paloma.
Upper air currents helped storms get bigger and focused them into a few places — Cuba and the U.S. Gulf Coast — said Gerry Bell, the top hurricane forecaster at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center. Five of the six storms that hit the United States this season struck the Gulf Coast. And that repeat-tracking of storms to the same place — and with it increased likelihood of landfall — is typical of years when the hurricane season is on overdrive, like this year, Bell said.
This year wasn't the busiest ever. It merely tied for the fourth most named storms in history with 16. The 2005 season shattered all records with 28 tropical storms and hurricanes. The 2008 season was busy largely because of the natural cycles of high and low storm activity that last anywhere from 25 to 40 years. "This one started in 1995. Based on the historical record, we're right in the middle of an active era," Bell said. An average season has 11 named storms, six of which become hurricanes. This year there were eight hurricanes, of which five - Bertha, Gustav, Ike, Omar and Paloma — became major hurricanes. Three of those — Gustav, Ike and Paloma — made "extreme" Category 4, where winds have to be at least 131 mph. "That's a lot," Bell said. "But it's typical of a very active season such as what we saw."
Curry said this year's large number of Category 4 storms indicates a "signal"
of global warming. But Bell said the science is not quite clear on that.
At the National Hurricane Center one thing is clear. Meteorologist and spokesman
Dennis Feltgen said: "We're glad it's over."
The Famine of 2009 Daily Kos (November 27, 2008) - Last week I received a very concerned call from South Dakota farmer and agronomist Bryan Lutter. "Neal, we're out of propane!" I figured this was personal distress – he and his family farm over three square miles of land and I know this has been a tough year for many people. He promptly corrected my misconception when I tried to console him. "No, everybody is out, all three grain elevators, we can't get fuel for the bins, and we're coming in real wet this year."
There are equally dramatic issues due to the bankruptcy of Verasun and the apparent insolvency of the nation's largest private crop insurance program. Payments that would have come in June or July of a normal year are still not dispersed at the end of November and this has grim implications for next year's crop.
I started digging into the details and unless I'm badly mistaken people are going to be starving in 2009 over causes and conditions being set down right now. It's a complex, interlocking issue, and I hope I've done a good job explaining it below the fold ...
(I just submitted my personal story and a vision for the nation at change.gov - I sure hope someone is listening over there.)
The Dakotas have faced fuel restrictions for at least the last two years. They're at the far end of the pipeline network and after complete outages in 2007 everyone orders their diesel well in advance. Vehicle tanks are kept fuller and the on farm tanks are not allowed to run low. Gasoline supply dynamics have changed as well; British Petroleum shuttered three hundred stations in the area, citing the high cost of trucking fuel to the locations from the pipeline terminals.
This year propane is in short supply. Rural homes in that part of the world are heated with propane and the grain elevator and on farm drying require it to bring corn moisture down for storage. There is no sense that homes will go cold this year, at least not due to supply issues; the grain drying season is a short period of intense usage that will draw to an end within the next week. Pray to whatever higher power you recognize that the unheard of figure of 18% of the crop still in the field is brought in before the snow flies.
The Dakotas were very wet this year and the corn is coming in at 22% moisture. A more usual number would be 18% and for long term storage it must be dried to 14% to avoid spoilage. That doubling in the moisture reduction needed, an 8% drop instead of 4%, pretty much doubles the amount of propane used. Right now the harvest is at a dead stop. What can be dried has been and what is left can't even be combined without the fuel to make it ready for storage; it would all just spoil in the bin if put up wet.
I wondered if this was a spot problem in that particular part of South Dakota, but Bryan said it was widespread – he'd talked to farmers as far away as St. Louis and they were reporting similar issues.I made a few calls to try to figure out how broad the problem was. I ended up talking to Rollin Tiefenthaler at fuel dealer Al's Corner in Carroll, Iowa about the issue.
The Iowa crop comes matures earlier and is brought in earlier, so that is done, but he confirms that propane is being trucked long distances because local terminals have outages. They did have one farmer's cooperative run out of propane and they scrambled to get them enough, but in general it wasn't a problem. These are plains cooperatives, operations with thirty employees, dozens of vehicles, and tens of millions of dollars in inventory and commodities under management, so one running out of fuel is a problem that would affect a whole county.
Diesel has been a bigger concern for them – instead of the thirty mile drive to the Magellan pipeline terminal in Milford they're running as far as Des Moines or Omaha, each about two hours away, and the added time and cost for running more trucks is eating them alive.
The die has already been cast in the Dakotas, they'll either get the crop in or they won't. If they don't and it winters in the field they not only lose 40% of the yield on that ground they lose 20% of next year's yield in soy beans. The corn makes an excellent snow fence, trapping drifts six feet high, and they're slow to clear in the spring. The farmers have to wait until it's dry enough to plant before they can finish bringing in the corn crop, then they plant their soy, and that delay cuts into the growing degree days available for the soy beans and thusly we see the yield drop.
A few of you might not be from farm state and thusly won't know the normal work flow. The corn crop is still partially in the field, but the soy beans are already done. Soy matures and dries earlier, so it gets tended first. There would never been an instance of soy being left to overwinter just based on crop timing and I don't think the small, thin stocks with relatively fragile pods would prove to be terribly durable under snow banks.
I wrote earlier about the famine potential we face due to the underfertilization of the wheat crop. Wheat that gets enough ammonia is 14% protein, if it is unfertilized closer to 8%, and that 43% reduction in total plant protein is going to cause unimaginable suffering in places like Egypt, where half of the population gets subsidized bread. Global end of season per capita wheat stocks have been about seventy pounds my entire life, except the last three years where they've dropped to only forty pounds. One mistake in this area and one of the four horsemen gets loose, certainly dragging his brothers along behind. That mistake may already have been made in the lack of wheat fertilization this fall.
The fall nitrogen fertilizer application has been 10% of the norm. A typical year would see 50% put on in the fall and 50% in the spring. During fertilizer application season the 3,100 mile national ammonia pipeline network runs flat out and the far points on the network experience low flow both fall and spring. If they try to jam 90% of the fertilization into a period of time when the system can only flow a little more than half of the need much of our cropland will go without in the spring of 2009.
Finances as much as weather are the issue with regards to fertilization this fall. Crop prices have fallen to half of what they were, ammonia prices have dropped but ammonia suppliers here, receiving 75% of their supply from overseas, still have product in their storage tanks purchase at the historical highs last spring and summer.
When farmers plant they record the acreage and they purchase crop insurance - $20 to $40 an acre depending on the crop. If they have a failure they file a claim, an adjustor contacts them, and they get a check to cover the deficit. Some of this runs through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and some of it is through private insurers.
My conversations with farmers earlier this week lead me to believe that the largest private insurer, Des Moines Iowa's Rain and Hail Agricultural Insurance may be insolvent. Flooding claims from this spring were filed and payments would have typically been received by the end of June or beginning of July. It's now the end of November and payments are not being dispersed. Individual farmers are told there was something wrong with their paperwork, but this is nonsense – some of these guys have been farming thirty years and they all didn't forget how to fill out a simple form all at the same time. Iowa did have its second five hundred year flood in a decade and a half this spring which certainly has something to do with the situation, but I suspect Wall Street's sticky fingers got hold of Rain & Hail's assets, just as they've done to every pension fund and state run municipal investment pool.
So, we're already facing what Bryan Lutter calls "the mother of all fertilizer shortages" next spring and on top of that local banks won't lend to farmers.
The local bank was quite willing to lend to a farmer on a crop despite the weather related risks just like they'd lend on a car despite the driving risks. So long as the asset was insured the risk was deemed manageable. There were sure to be losses here and there, but they'd be administrative hassles associated with well known risks. If the auto insurance companies were viewed as untrustworthy no one would be getting a car without 100% down at the dealership and the same rule is now in effect for farmers.
Farmers without financing can't afford nitrogen fertilizer at $1,000 a ton, which translates to $100 an acre at current application rates. They won't be paying $300 for a bag of 80,000 hybrid corn kernels, again a $100 per acre expense. The average farm size in Iowa is four hundred acres and planting to harvesting would run about $120,000.
This looks incredibly bad. Bryan and I are both puzzled as to why the mainstream media isn't covering this. Perhaps the need to sell Christmas season advertising trumps the need for the public to know about the troubles that are brewing.
This is already 1,600 words and I haven't even touched Verasun. Executive
summary? The nation's second largest ethanol maker took corn from farmers,
went bankrupt without paying many of them, and a whole lot of family farms
are going to be foreclosed upon in short order if something isn't done.
Iran, Lebanon sign 5-year security pact The Jerusalem Post (November 27, 2008) - Iran and Lebanon have signed a security agreement, according to which Iran will supply the Lebanese army with weapons and equipment over the next five years, the London-based daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat reported. The agreement between the two nations was signed during Lebanese President Michel Suleiman's two-day visit to Teheran, which ended on Tuesday.
The visit focused on security and defense cooperation, as well as on regional and international matters of mutual concern, an Iranian source revealed to the paper. "Iran announced its readiness to supply Lebanon with defensive weapons, to be agreed upon in the framework of a defensive strategic system the Lebanese will formulate," a Lebanese source said. The two sides agreed to conduct ministerial visits to Teheran and Beirut in the near future. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also promised to visit Beirut soon, added the Lebanese source.
During his visit, Suleiman was accompanied by the ministers of foreign affairs, interior, labor, economy and trade, industry, and expatriates. Each of the ministers met with his Iranian counterpart to discuss mutual interests. By supplying the Lebanese army with weapons, Iran will thus be responsible for arming Lebanon's two major armed forces: the national army, and Hizbullah, The Media Line's analysts indicate.
Since the summer war of 2006 between Israel and Hizbullah, the Lebanese
Islamic resistance movement has tripled its force, Israeli Defense Minister
Ehud Barak said earlier this week. Hizbullah now holds 42,000 missiles and
rockets, which it received from Iran, some of which can reach Israel's nuclear
reactor in Dimona, almost 300 kilometers south of the Israeli-Lebanese border,
Red Alert: Possible Geopolitical Consequences of the Mumbai Attacks Stratfor (November 27, 2008)
If the Nov. 26 attacks in Mumbai were carried out by Islamist militants as it appears, the Indian government will have little choice, politically speaking, but to blame them on Pakistan. That will in turn spark a crisis between the two nuclear rivals that will draw the United States into the fray.
At this point the situation on the ground in Mumbai remains unclear following the militant attacks of Nov. 26. But in order to understand the geopolitical significance of what is going on, it is necessary to begin looking beyond this event at what will follow. Though the situation is still in motion, the likely consequences of the attack are less murky. We will begin by assuming that the attackers are Islamist militant groups operating in India, possibly with some level of outside support from Pakistan. We can also see quite clearly that this was a carefully planned, well-executed attack.
Given this, the Indian government has two choices. First, it can simply say that the perpetrators are a domestic group. In that case, it will be held accountable for a failure of enormous proportions in security and law enforcement. It will be charged with being unable to protect the public. On the other hand, it can link the attack to an outside power: Pakistan. In that case it can hold a nation-state responsible for the attack, and can use the crisis atmosphere to strengthen the government’s internal position by invoking nationalism. Politically this is a much preferable outcome for the Indian government, and so it is the most likely course of action. This is not to say that there are no outside powers involved — simply that, regardless of the ground truth, the Indian government will claim there were.
That, in turn, will plunge India and Pakistan into the worst crisis they have had since 2002. If the Pakistanis are understood to be responsible for the attack, then the Indians must hold them responsible, and that means they will have to take action in retaliation — otherwise, the Indian government’s domestic credibility will plunge. The shape of the crisis, then, will consist of demands that the Pakistanis take immediate steps to suppress Islamist radicals across the board, but particularly in Kashmir. New Delhi will demand that this action be immediate and public. This demand will come parallel to U.S. demands for the same actions, and threats by incoming U.S. President Barack Obama to force greater cooperation from Pakistan.
If that happens, Pakistan will find itself in a nutcracker. On the one side, the Indians will be threatening action — deliberately vague but menacing — along with the Americans. This will be even more intense if it turns out, as currently seems likely, that Americans and Europeans were being held hostage (or worse) in the two hotels that were attacked. If the attacks are traced to Pakistan, American demands will escalate well in advance of inauguration day.
There is a precedent for this. In December 2001 there was an attack on the Indian parliament in New Delhi by Islamist militants linked to Pakistan. A near-nuclear confrontation took place between India and Pakistan, in which the United States brokered a stand-down in return for intensified Pakistani pressure on the Islamists. The crisis helped redefine the Pakistani position on Islamist radicals in Pakistan.
In the current iteration, the demands will be even more intense. The Indians and Americans will have a joint interest in forcing the Pakistani government to act decisively and immediately. The Pakistani government has warned that such pressure could destabilize Pakistan. The Indians will not be in a position to moderate their position, and the Americans will see the situation as an opportunity to extract major concessions. Thus the crisis will directly intersect U.S. and NATO operations in Afghanistan.
It is not clear the degree to which the Pakistani government can control the situation. But the Indians will have no choice but to be assertive, and the United States will move along the same line. Whether it is the current government in India that reacts, or one that succeeds doesn’t matter. Either way, India is under enormous pressure to respond. Therefore the events point to a serious crisis not simply between Pakistan and India, but within Pakistan as well, with the government caught between foreign powers and domestic realities. Given the circumstances, massive destabilization is possible — never a good thing with a nuclear power.
This is thinking far ahead of the curve, and is based on an assumption
of the truth of something we don’t know for certain yet, which is that the
attackers were Muslims and that the Pakistanis will not be able to demonstrate
categorically that they weren’t involved. Since we suspect they were Muslims,
and since we doubt the Pakistanis can be categorical and convincing enough
to thwart Indian demands, we suspect that we will be deep into a crisis
within the next few days, very shortly after the situation on the ground
Iran Urges Lebanese to Unite Against Israel FOCUS News Agency (November 26, 2008) - Iran, a main backer of Lebanon's Shi'ite group Hezbollah, urged the Lebanese people Tuesday to unite to confront Israel, the Islamic Republic's arch foe, Reuters informed. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made the comments to Lebanese President Michel Suleiman during a visit to Iran that included touring an exhibition by the Defense Ministry, Iranian media reported. "Iran believes the capability of all Lebanese groups should be at the service of (Lebanon's) power and unity to confront the danger of the Zionist regime," Khamenei told Suleiman, the official IRNA news agency reported.
Iranian officials often call Israel the Zionist regime. Suleiman, a Maronite Christian, was elected president in a May parliamentary vote after an 18-month standoff between the U.S.-backed government and the Hezbollah-led opposition. Under Lebanon's power-sharing system the presidency is held by a Christian while other top posts are taken by Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims and members of the Druze sect. "Holding talks among different Lebanese groups that are now led by the president is considered positive because Lebanon's bright future depends on national unity," Khamenei said.
Suleiman, a former army chief, was elected as part of an agreement brokered by Qatar in May to defuse the political crisis that had pushed Lebanon to the brink of civil war. Tehran has often praised Hezbollah, which has formidable guerrilla army, for fighting Israel in a 34-day war in 2006. Israel has accused Iran of supplying weapons to Hezbollah but Iran insists it only provides moral and political support. "Lebanon as a friendly and brotherly country in the region will always enjoy Iran's spiritual support," Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani told Suleiman, Iran's ISNA news agency reported.
Suleiman's trip included touring an exhibition showing off the Defense
Ministry's capabilities, ISNA also said. Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa
Mohammad Najjar announced Iran's readiness to "deepen and expand defensive
ties between two states in line with the strengthening of Lebanon's security
and increasing Lebanon's national and defensive capabilities." ISNA
reported that Suleiman "expressed interest in expanding defensive cooperation
and emphasized the need to strengthen the Lebanese army's defensive power
in confronting any kind of threat, foreign aggression and terrorism."
Khamenei said Iran would "always be on Lebanon's side" and said
he hoped talks during the visit would strengthen ties. Suleiman, who left
Tuesday, also met Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during his two-day
The Truth behind the Citigroup Bank "Nationalization" 321 Gold (November 26, 2008) - On Friday November 21, the world came within a hair's breadth of the most colossal financial collapse in history according to bankers on the inside of events with whom we have contact. The trigger was the bank which only two years ago was America's largest, Citigroup. The size of the US Government de facto nationalization of the $2 trillion banking institution is an indication of shocks yet to come in other major US and perhaps European banks thought to be 'too big to fail.'
The clumsy way in which US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson - himself not a banker but a Wall Street 'investment banker', whose experience has been in the quite different world of buying and selling stocks or bonds or underwriting and selling same - has handled the unfolding crisis has been worse than incompetent. It has made a grave situation into a globally alarming one.
'Spitting into the wind'
A case in point is the secretive manner in which Paulson has used the $700 billion in taxpayer funds voted him by a labile Congress in September. Early on, Paulson put $125 billion in the nine largest banks, including $10 billion for his old firm, Goldman Sachs. However, if we compare the value of the equity share that $125 billion bought with the market price of those banks' stock, US taxpayers have paid $125 billion for bank stock that a private investor could have bought for $62.5 billion, according to a detailed analysis from Ron W. Bloom, economist with the US United Steelworkers union, whose members as well as pension fund face devastating losses were GM to fail.
That means half of the public's money was a gift to Paulson's Wall Street cronies. Now, only weeks later, the Treasury is forced to intervene to de facto nationalize Citigroup. It won't be the last.
Paulson demanded, and got from a labile US Congress, Democrat as well as Republican, sole discretion over how and where he can invest the $700 billion, to date with no effective oversight. It amounts to the Treasury Secretary in effect 'spitting into the wind' in terms of resolving the fundamental crisis.
It should be clear to any serious analyst by now that the September decision by Paulson to defer to rigid financial ideology and let the fourth largest US investment bank, Lehman Brothers fail, was the proximate trigger for the present global crisis. Lehman Bros.' surprise collapse triggered the current global crisis of confidence. It was simply not clear to the rest of the banking world which US financial institution bank might be saved and which not, after the Government had earlier saved the far smaller Bear Stearns, while letting the larger, far more strategic Lehman Bros. fail.
Some Citigroup details
The most alarming aspect of the crisis is the fact that we are in an inter-regnum period when the next President has been elected but cannot act on the situation until after January 20, 2009 when he is sworn in.
Consider the details of the latest Citigroup government de facto nationalization (for ideological reasons Paulson and the Bush Administration hysterically avoid admitting they are in the process of nationalizing key banks). Citigroup has more than $2 trillion of assets, dwarfing companies such as American International Group Inc. that got some $150 billion in US taxpayer funds in the past two months. Ironically, only eight weeks before, the Government had designated Citigroup to take over the failing Wachovia Bank. Normally authorities have an ailing bank absorbed by a stronger one. In this instance the opposite seems to have been the case. Now it is clear that the Citigroup was in deeper trouble than Wachovia. In a matter of hours in the week before the US Government nationalization was announced, the stock value of Citibank plunged to $3.77 in New York, giving the company a market value of about $21 billion. The market value of Citigroup stock in December 2006 had been $247 billion. Two days before the bank nationalization the CEO, Vikram Pandit had announced a huge 52,000 job slashing plan. It did nothing to stop the slide.
The scale of the hidden losses of perhaps the twenty largest US banks is so enormous that if not before, the first Presidential decree of President Barack Obama will likely have to be declaration of a US 'Bank Holiday' and the full nationalization of the major banks, taking on the toxic assets and losses until the economy can again function with credit flowing to industry once more.
Citigroup and the government have identified a pool of about $306 billion in troubled assets. Citigroup will absorb the first $29 billion in losses. After that, remaining losses will be split between Citigroup and the government, with the bank absorbing 10% and the government absorbing 90%. The US Treasury Department will use its $700 billion TARP or Troubled Asset Recovery Program bailout fund, to assume up to $5 billion of losses. If necessary, the Government's Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) will bear the next $10 billion of losses. Beyond that, the Federal Reserve will guarantee any additional losses. The measures are without precedent in US financial history. It's by no means certain they will salvage the dollar system.
The situation is so intertwined, with six US major banks holding the
vast bulk of worldwide financial derivatives exposure, that the failure
of a single major US financial institution could result in losses to the
OTC derivatives market of $300-$400 billion, a new IMF working paper finds.
What's more, since such a failure would likely cause cascading failures
of other institutions. Total global financial system losses could exceed
another $1,500 billion according to an IMF study by Singh and Segoviano.
Faltering EU Deal Strengthens Islam Hurriyet News (November 26, 2008) - Turkey's bid for eventual European Union membership is likely to fail and this will further boost Islamist and nationalist tendencies already strong in the society. "Over the next 15 years, Turkey’s most likely course involves a blending of Islamic and nationalist strains, which could serve as a model for other rapidly modernizing countries in the Middle East," said the "Global Trends - 2025" report published Thursday by the National Intelligence Council, or NIC, which brings together all 16 U.S. spy agencies.
Mathew Burrows, NIC counselor and principal organizer of the report, speaking at the Foreign Press Center here a day later, was asked how the U.S. intelligence community predicted that Turkey would be more Islamic and nationalist over the next 15 to 20 years. "We base this on quite a few talks we have had with experts both here and abroad, and our observations of trends happening now in Turkey," Burrows said. "What we see in Turkey today is the development of an Islamist, modernizing tradition that is very strong and successful, combined with what has always been a very strong nationalist tradition," he said.
About Turkey's EU prospects, Burrows said, "we are cautious, I mean, and somewhat pessimistic, I would say, about whether Turkey will ever be in the EU." "And we are worried about that relationship going sour," he said. "We would expect that to reinforce some of this nationalist thinking and Islamist traditions and tendencies." Turkey's pro-secular state establishment, including the military and the ruling Justice and Development Party whose roots are in political Islam have been bickering over secularism-related matters in recent years. The party's votes in legislative elections have climbed from 36 percent in 2002 to 47 percent in 2007.
Secularism to decline
The NIC said it expected secularism in the Middle East to decline, in
line with the Turkish example. "In the Middle East, secularism, which
also has been considered an integral part of the Western model, increasingly
may be seen as out of place as Islamic parties come into prominence and
possibly begin to run governments," NIC said in the Global Trends report. "As
in today’s Turkey, we could see both increased Islamization and greater
emphasis on economic growth and modernization." The NIC report also
said it expected to see the political and economic power of Indonesia, Iran,
and Turkey, all non-Arab Muslim countries, increase over the next couple
PM: Peace deal with Palestinians soon The Jerusalem Post (November 26, 2008) - It will soon be possible to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday, the morning after a farewell visit with US President George W. Bush and other administration officials who conceded a deal was not likely to materialize in the short term. "In principle there is nothing to prevent us from reaching an agreement on the core issues in the near future," Olmert said during a briefing with Israeli reporters. "I believe it is possible. I believe it is timely. A declaration is needed. I am ready to make it. I hope the other side is."
He also stressed the US had not tied Israel's hands when it came to military operations in the waning days of the Bush administration, despite media reports to the contrary. "I don't remember that anyone in the administration, including the last couple of days, advised me or any of my official representatives not to take any action which we will deem necessary for the fundamental security of Israel, and that includes Iran," he said, in response to a question from The Jerusalem Post. He pointed to conversations with Bush and his deputies who are "so open, so candid, so personal, that they can say to me anything they feel, and they do... This was not one of the things they said."
Speaking generally about his meetings with Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and others, Olmert also said, "There is a deep, basic understanding between us about the Iranian threat and the need to act in order to remove that threat." There has been speculation that if Israel were going to attack Iran's nuclear sites it would do so before President-elect Barack Obama takes office on January 20. Time magazine also reported that the US had told Israel to refrain from a major invasion of Gaza, despite renewed rocket fire from the Strip, so as not to disrupt peace talks.
But when it came to the Palestinians, during the briefing and in remarks
before his meeting with Bush, Olmert focused on the possibility of reaching
an agreement rather than on the renewed violence. The prime minister said
there wouldn't be any written declaration of principles or other document
spelling out the intermediate steps taken and agreements reached to date
to prepare for a new American administration, because he was looking for
a comprehensive peace deal. "You don't need months to make a decision,"
he said, noting the two years of intensive meetings with the Palestinians
that he's overseen. more...
A magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck off the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia's
far east Monday evening CNN
(November 24, 2008) - A magnitude 7.0 earthquake
struck off the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia's far east Monday evening,
seismologists reported, but there was no immediate report of damage in the
remote area. The quake's epicenter was in the Sea of Okhotsk, about 315
km (195 miles) west-northwest of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy and more than
6,500 km (4,000 miles) northeast of Moscow, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.
It struck shortly after 8 p.m. (4 a.m. ET). No tsunami warnings were issued
as a result of the temblor, according to the U.S.-based Pacific Tsunami
U.S. Pledges Top $7.7 Trillion to Ease Frozen Credit Bloomberg (November 24, 2008) - The U.S. government is prepared to provide more than $7.76 trillion on behalf of American taxpayers after guaranteeing $306 billion of Citigroup Inc. debt yesterday. The pledges, amounting to half the value of everything produced in the nation last year, are intended to rescue the financial system after the credit markets seized up 15 months ago.
The unprecedented pledge of funds includes $3.18 trillion already tapped by financial institutions in the biggest response to an economic emergency since the New Deal of the 1930s, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The commitment dwarfs the plan approved by lawmakers, the Treasury Department’s $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. Federal Reserve lending last week was 1,900 times the weekly average for the three years before the crisis.
When Congress approved the TARP on Oct. 3, Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson acknowledged the need for transparency and oversight. Now, as regulators commit far more money while refusing to disclose loan recipients or reveal the collateral they are taking in return, some Congress members are calling for the Fed to be reined in.
“Whether it’s lending or spending, it’s tax dollars that are going out the window and we end up holding collateral we don’t know anything about,” said Congressman Scott Garrett, a New Jersey Republican who serves on the House Financial Services Committee. “The time has come that we consider what sort of limitations we should be placing on the Fed so that authority returns to elected officials as opposed to appointed ones.”
Too Big to Fail
Bloomberg News tabulated data from the Fed, Treasury and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and interviewed regulatory officials, economists and academic researchers to gauge the full extent of the government’s rescue effort.
The bailout includes a Fed program to buy as much as $2.4 trillion in short-term notes, called commercial paper, that companies use to pay bills, begun Oct. 27, and $1.4 trillion from the FDIC to guarantee bank-to-bank loans, started Oct. 14.
William Poole, former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, said the two programs are unlikely to lose money. The bigger risk comes from rescuing companies perceived as “too big to fail,” he said.
The government committed $29 billion to help engineer the takeover in March of Bear Stearns Cos. by New York-based JPMorgan Chase & Co. and $122.8 billion in addition to TARP allocations to bail out New York-based American International Group Inc., once the world’s largest insurer.
Citigroup received $306 billion of government guarantees for troubled mortgages and toxic assets. The Treasury Department also will inject $20 billion into the bank after its stock fell 60 percent last week.
“No question there is some credit risk there,” Poole said.
Congressman Darrell Issa, a California Republican on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said risk is lurking in the programs that Poole thinks are safe.
“The thing that people don’t understand is it’s not how likely that the exposure becomes a reality, but what if it does?” Issa said. “There’s no transparency to it so who’s to say they’re right?”
The worst financial crisis in two generations has erased $23 trillion,
or 38 percent, of the value of the world’s companies and brought down three
of the biggest Wall Street firms. more...
Worst of financial crisis yet to come: IMF chief economist AFP (November 22, 2008) - The IMF's chief economist has warned that the global financial crisis is set to worsen and that the situation will not improve until 2010, a report said Saturday. Olivier Blanchard also warned that the institution does not have the funds to solve every economic problem. "The worst is yet to come," Blanchard said in an interview with the Finanz und Wirtschaft newspaper, adding that "a lot of time is needed before the situation becomes normal." He said economic growth would not kick in until 2010 and it will take another year before the global financial situation became normal again.
The International Monetary Fund on Friday promised to help Latvia deal with its economic crisis after it assisted Iceland, Hungary, Ukraine, Serbia and Pakistan. But Blanchard said the IMF was not able to solve all financial issues, in particular problems of liquidity. Withdrawals of capital leading to problems of liquidity "can be so significant that the IMF alone cannot counter them," he said, adding that massive withdrawals of investments from emerging countries could represent "hundreds of billions of dollars. "We do not have this money. We never had it," he said. The IMF had spent a fifth of its 250 billion dollar (200 billion euro) fund in the last two weeks, Blanchard added.
He also urged central banks around the world to cut interest rates, after
the Swiss National Bank made a surprise one percentage point rate cut Thursday.
The central banks "should lower interest rates to as close to zero
as possible," he said.
Powerful earthquake off Sumatra BBC (November 22, 2008) - A powerful earthquake has struck off the Indonesian island of Sumatra, reports say. Indonesia's meteorology agency said the quake had a magnitude of 6.7, while the US Geological Survey put its strength at 6.8. The undersea quake was at a depth of 23km (14.3 miles) and the epicentre was 142km south-west of the city of Bengkulu, the agency said. There have been no reports of any damage or casualties.
The earthquake struck at 2101 local time (1601 GMT) and was followed 10 minutes later by an aftershock with a magnitude of 5.7. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said there was no threat of a widespread tsunami. However, it said there was a "very small possibility of a local tsunami."
Haris Said Hakim, a geological agency official based in Bengkulu, said there was no sense of panic in the city. Last week Indonesia launched a tsunami warning system, although experts say it will not be fully operational until 2010.
Indonesia is prone to seismic activity due to its location on the so-called
Pacific "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanoes and fault lines that
encircle the Pacific Basin. A massive earthquake off Sumatra in December
2004 triggered a tsunami which swept across the Indian Ocean, killing more
than 230,000 people.
Beck A Kook? Carmen Sees The Crisis Glenn Beck
(November 20, 2008) - Glenn got one of the
most satisfying calls of his career on today's program. It was from a woman
who had started listening to the program a few weeks ago. Her first impression
of Glenn warning about what's coming was that he was nuts. But, after doing
her homework she started to see the problems and how they are interconnected---and
this made Glenn proud as could be.
Read the transcript. Audio at link above.
A Plan For Action: Renewed American Leadership And International Cooperation for the 21st Century Brookings Institute (November 20, 2008) - MR. PASCUAL: -- in his personal capacity has given us tremendous support, along with the support of the U.N. Foundation, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Finland and Norway, who have been great supporters throughout, the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and in kind support that we’ve been able to get from the Bertelsmann and Ditchley Foundations, the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, and think tanks and partners in the United States and around the world.
A big thanks to so many members of the diplomatic community who are here today and participating in this session and have provided constant feedback and advice on some of this work.
I need to give great thanks to both the domestic and international advisory group that we have had as part of this project. And you’ll see them on the left hand side of the column, as well as on the Action Plan, on the inside cover that you have of the Action Plan, a tremendously distinguished group of individuals who are some of the best practitioners in the world on foreign policy, international security policy, and global governance, and we are quite honored that they are willing to give their time to advise us on this project. And among those members of the advisory group are the panelists that we have today. And it’s a pleasure to be able to introduce them in the order that they’re going to speak today.
First is Former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, someone who has given tremendous advice directly herself in a book called The Memo to the President, How We Can Restore America’s Reputation and Leadership.
And then Javier Solana, the European Union’s High Representative for Common, Foreign, and Security Policy. Javier is I think a personal incarnation of the world’s most effective institution of global governance, namely himself.
And then Kemal Dervis, who is the Administrator of the U.N. Development Program. Many of you also know him from his role as Minister of Economy and Treasury in Turkey and his long career at the World Bank. And Kemal is also an author of a tremendous book called Better Globalization, Legitimacy, Governance and Reform. I should say he had the wisdom of having that published by the Brookings Institution Press, as well.
And then Tom Pickering, Former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs. And Tom really is sort of the icon of the American Foreign Service, having been an Ambassador in more places than anyone can imagine and carrying that knowledge around with him on a constant basis.
And finally Strobe Talbott, the President of the Brookings Institution, my boss, former Deputy Secretary of State, and author of another tremendous book called The Great Experiment, the Story of Ancient Empire, Modern States, and the Quest for a Global Nation. And he also happens to be my friend and has given us tremendous advice throughout this process, and all of them have just been amazing colleagues.
We are going to have a short presentation of some of the key themes in the Action Plan to create that as a foundation for the discussion. We’ll then have the part that you really want, which is a discussion with our panelists, and have a session to interact among themselves, and then a Q and A session for the audience. It’ll be I think a fairly full two hour program, but one that will be I think extremely interesting for everybody.
This project was a joint venture among Stanford and Brookings and NYU, in part because of its complexity and the nature of the goal that we set. We begin by looking at what kinds of recommendations are necessary to create and international order in the institutions that are going to bring about prosperity and security for the world over the next 50 years...
...MS. ALBRIGHT: I’d kind of like to step back a little bit, because in listening, and also in some of my meetings over the weekend, it is clear to me that venue shopping is one of the problems here. And the question is, which of these various organizations really are the right ones?
And some of you know this, but I’ll repeat it; when I first became Secretary, I kept looking for various European Ministers and they were always in some meeting with some kind of alphabet that I didn’t know. So I asked the Intelligence and Research part of the State Department to create a chart for me of the European Organizations, and it looked like some kind of astrological or astronomical chart, and everything was on top of everything else, and I nicknamed it the Euro Mess.
The bottom line is that we can’t keep creating organizations on top of others in terms of who does what with whom. And I think this is the real challenge in terms of which of the ones that really will work, and where do you have the right players, and not so much, if I may be so bold as to say, I like this organization because I dominate it, and I don’t want to be in that one because there are too many people in it, and I do think that that is one of the challenges that we have.
The other part goes back to something, Carlos, that you were talking about. As a professor I say this, the fight between sovereignty and international action is not dead, and when you say responsible sovereignty, different people – countries will take it a different way.
I think that President Bashir thinks he’s practicing responsible sovereignty. And so the question is, how these two concepts deal with what are very real crises that are out there. So venue shopping and the struggle between sovereignty and international multi-lateral action, I think no matter how great the good will is towards President Obama, and it’s stunning, I think it’s going to continue to be an issue of how we prioritize and deal with it...
...[Regarding global governance] MR. SOLANA: I think we have discussed one of the most fascinating topics of the times. I think the European Union has something to say about this, because a group of countries that have already, in a voluntary manner, chose to live together and to share sovereignty. It’s probably the only example and going as far as taking to the connectivity – currency, which is a very, very fundamental decision.
But I think we cannot understand that without talking at the same time about legitimacy. Legitimacy is absolutely fundamental, you want to govern a complicated structure, and that remains, the legitimacy remains at the level where proximity – exist. I don’t want to enter more into that – but it’s very, very crucial, it comes from legitimacy. Now, we may agree on many, many things even within the European Union that have to do, but you may sometimes need the legitimacy – very clear, the national – to do it. And that is a reality will be very difficult to overcome.
Now, you can put into the global – into federal entity as much things
as you want to transfer from the – will be always – to run into legitimacy,
it will be very difficult. The problems are global, the solutions are global,
the resources and the legitimacy still is global. more...
There are many people who hold that the center of power for the kingdom of the man of sin as prophesied in scripture will various entities other than Europe. I believe Solana's statement above highlights one of the reasons I believe Europe is the revived Roman Empire and the fourth kingdom prophesied by Daniel and John. In a world that is going global, Europe is the example of how to cede sovereignty to a unified body, including the consolidation of currency into one.
Bush Hands Over Reins of U.S. Economy to EU Newsmax (November 19, 2008) - The results of the G-20 economic summit amount to nothing less than the seamless integration of the United States into the European economy. In one month of legislation and one diplomatic meeting, the United States has unilaterally abdicated all the gains for the concept of free markets won by the Reagan administration and surrendered, in total, to the Western European model of socialism, stagnation, and excessive government regulation. Sovereignty is out the window. Without a vote, we are suddenly members of the European Union. Given the dismal record of those nations at creating jobs and sustaining growth, merging with the Europeans is like a partnership with death.
At the G-20 meeting, Bush agreed to subject the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and our other regulatory agencies to the supervision of a global entity that would critique its regulatory standards and demand changes if it felt they were necessary. Bush agreed to create a College of Supervisors. According to The Washington Post, it would "examine the books of major financial institutions that operate across national borders so regulators could begin to have a more complete picture of banks' operations." Their scrutiny would extend to hedge funds and to various "exotic" financial instruments. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), a European-dominated operation, would conduct "regular vigorous reviews" of American financial institutions and practices. The European-dominated College of Supervisors would also weigh in on issues like executive compensation and investment practices.
There is nothing wrong with the substance of this regulation. Experience is showing it is needed. But it is very wrong to delegate these powers to unelected, international institutions with no political accountability. We have a Securities and Exchange Commission appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, both of whom are elected by the American people. It is with the SEC, the Treasury, and the Federal Reserve that financial accountability must take place.
The European Union achieved this massive subrogation of American sovereignty the way it usually does, by negotiation, gradual bureaucratic encroachment, and without asking the voters if they approve. What's more, Bush appears to have gone down without a fight, saving his debating time for arguing against the protectionism that France's Nicolas Sarkozy was pushing. By giving Bush a seeming victory on a moratorium against protectionism for one year, Sarkozy was able to slip over his massive scheme for taking over the supervision of the U.S. economy.
All kinds of political agendas are advancing under the cover of responding to the global financial crisis. Where Franklin Roosevelt saved capitalism by regulating it, Bush, to say nothing of Obama, has given the government control over our major financial and insurance institutions. And it isn't even our government! The power has now been transferred to the international community, led by the socialists in the European Union.
Will Obama govern from the left? He doesn't have to. George W. Bush has done all the heavy lifting for him. It was under Bush that the government basically took over as the chief stockholder of our financial institutions and under Bush that we ceded our financial controls to the European Union. In doing so, he has done nothing to preserve what differentiates the vibrant American economy from those dying economies in Europe.
Why have 80 percent of the jobs that have been created since 1980 in the industrialized world been created in the United States? How has America managed to retain its leading 24 percent share of global manufacturing even in the face of the Chinese surge? How has the U.S. GDP risen so high that it essentially equals that of the European Union, whose population is 50 percent greater? It has done so by an absence of stifling regulation, a liberation of capital to flow to innovative businesses, low taxes, and by a low level of unionization that has given business the flexibility to grow and prosper.
Europe, stagnated by taxation and regulation, has grown by a pittance
while we have roared ahead. But now Bush — not Obama — Bush has given that
all up and caved in to European socialists. The Bush legacy? European socialism.
Who needs enemies with friends like Bush?
Obama to fund forced abortions Spero News (November 15, 2008)
Supporters of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) are confident that President-elect Barack Obama will reverse the Bush administration’s 2002 decision to stop the $40 million it received in U.S. funding. The policy was instated because of UNFPA’s support for China’s one-child policy, which includes coercive abortion practices.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D – N.Y.) said the funding will be approved by the Democratic majority Congress. Her comments came while speaking Wednesday at a press conference at the National Press Club where the 2008 U.N. report on world population was released. “You know the president will have to do nothing,” said Maloney. “He will just have to let the will of Congress go through. One of the changes is that UNFPA will be funded,” CNSNews.com reports.
The Bush administration in 2002 had stopped funding the organization, citing the Kemp-Kasten Amendment which prohibits funds from being available to organizations or programs determined to be supporting or participating in coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization programs. In July of 2008, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte announced that for the sixth year in a row, the government had determined that “UNFPA provides support for and participates in the management of the Chinese government’s program of coercive abortion and involuntary sterilization.”
Rep. Maloney reported that she discusses UNFPA funding controversies in her book “Rumors of Our Progress are Greatly Exaggerated.” She said the UNFPA was founded “with American leadership” and “was supported strongly by George Bush’s father.”
The new UN report, “Reaching Common Ground: Culture, Gender and Human
Rights,” calls for “cultural sensitivity” to “mitigate and overcome cultural
resistance to couples and individuals using modern contraception.” It claims
to prepare for the empowerment of women with control over their fertility.
Nevertheless, Rep. Maloney claimed the U.S. will no longer “impose our own
ideology” under the UNFPA funding changes. She said Obama “has already said
his administration will change the way we do business in Washington and
that improving the role of women around the world is going to be one of
his prominent priorities. “I am thrilled with this report, and I am really
thrilled at the new direction of our government,” Maloney said, according
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