Wednesday, 29 October 2008

blair + carlyle = dough


Tony Blair earns £12m since leaving Downing Street

Tony Blair has become the most expensive public speaker in the world, with his earnings since leaving Downing Street thought to have topped £12 million.

Last Updated: 10:08AM GMT 29 Oct 2008

The former Prime Minister travels around the world on speaking engagements, and can command up to $250,000 (£157,000) for a 90 minute speech. He works exclusively through the blue-chip Washington Speakers Bureau.

Mr Blair has made £4.6 million from his memoirs, around £2 million from his role with investment bank JP Morgan, £500,000 from Zurich Financial Services asw ell as £84,000 of taxpayers money to run a private office and an annual pension of £63,468.

He has earned more money from speeches than Bill Clinton, the former US president, did in his first year after leaving office, The Times reported.

The paper said there is fear at the United Nations that Mr Blair's focus on commercial interests is jeopardising his unpaif role as Middle East envoy.

Such is the demand for Mr Blair, that he has a two-year waiting list for bookings, with clients prepared to pay $250,000 (£157,000) for a typical speech of roughly 90 minutes.

"He is one of the biggest stars in the world. Who else is there?" said Max Markson, the public relations organiser who has taken Mr Clinton, Cherie Blair and Nelson Mandela to Australia.

Mr Blair has become a particular favourite with the Washington-based Carlyle Group. Next month he will address a conference of its European investors in Paris about "geopolitics". He addressed a similar conference for Carlyle in Dubai in February.

Carlyle Group is a leading private equity investor in the military. Its board has been graced by both Presidents Bush and its former European chairman was Sir John Major.

Monday, 27 October 2008

over 25% of uk biggest companies avoid corp tax

Got lots of money? Then don't pay any tax

More than one in four of Britain's biggest companies do not pay any corporation tax, and many are using tax avoidance measures to get round the rules.

That is the shocking conclusion of a House of Commons report published this week.

A host of "tax advisors" have invented ever more imaginative schemes to help large companies slash their bills, the watchdog warns.

These methods include British-based companies transferring their assets to low-tax countries and paying tax there.

The report concludes that the Revenue & Customs (HMRC) tax collectors, who are supposed to act against illegal scams, are under resourced and poorly trained.

The government says it is determined to claw back its lost money. It is a pity then that in recent years it has cut thousands of HMRC jobs.

© Copyright Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original and leave this notice in place.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

us used nuke during iran irak war


Rafsanjani: US nuked Iraq in 1991

Fri, 24 Oct 2008 23:04:07 GMT

A senior Iranian cleric has urged an inquiry into a report that the US dropped a small nuclear bomb on an area near the Iraq-Iran border.

Speaking at the Friday prayers sermon, former Iranian president and currently Chairman of the Assembly of Experts, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said, "The bomb blast killed many people and spread cancer and other diseases in the area but no news items have been published about it."

Rafsanjani noted that the footage of the attack, which allegedly took place in a region between Iraq's Basra and Iran's border in 1991, was broadcast by an Italian television channel earlier this month.

He said that even though the report has not been officially confirmed, it was expected to receive widespread media coverage but it was censored in the media.

"If it the report turns out to be true, then the US should be asked why it has resorted to such a crime to punish the then-bankrupt Iraqi government," Fars news agency quoted Rafsanjani as saying.

The coalition forces from 34 countries led by the US launched the Persian Gulf War (2 Aug 1990-28 Feb 1991) to return Kuwait to the control of the Emir of Kuwait.

The nuclear bombing Rafsanjani was referring to was based on a claim by US war veteran Jim Brown who said that the US dropped a five-kilotonne nuclear bomb on 27 February 1991, the last day of the first Iraq-US War. Brown made the accusation during an interview included in a 30-minute current affairs report broadcast by Italian state news channel RaiNews24 on October 9.

RaiNews24 says it has conducted an independent inquiry and discovered that "a seismic event took place on that day equal to a five-kilotonne blast", citing as its source the online archives of the International Seismological Center, a non-profit UK-based organisation, as confirmation of its research according to Adnkronos International (AKI).

The documentary included an interview with an Iraqi doctor, Jawad al-Ali, who told RaiNews24 that before the beginning of the first Gulf War in 1989 there were 32 cases of tumours, while in 2002 the number had risen to 600 in the Basra area as reported by AKI on 8 October.

Al-Ali also told RaiNews24 that tumours that used to affect older citizens had started to impact younger children. He then showed alleged photos of the tumours in the documentary.

7 Ottobre 2008


by Maurizio Torrealta con la collaborazione di Alessandro Rampietti

In the investigative report an American veteran who participated in "Desert Storm" accuses the Us Administration of having used a small nuclear penetration bomb with an energy of 5 kilotons between the Iraqi town of Basra and the border with Iran.

Jim BrownConsulting the "Seismological International Center on line data archive" we found that in the area indicated by the veteran, a seismic event with a power of 5 kilotons was registered the last day of the conflict.

This hint requires a lot of verifications and at RAINEWS24 we want to carry them out involving journalists from other countries, seismological centers that have registered the event, to whom we ask more data about seismic waves and last but not least international organizations that have the task to monitor nuclear activities.

Also in our website:
- Notes on Jim Brown
- The text of our report in Italian and in English
- The video (in Italian and in English)
- Data on the health situation in Basra [The file contains some photoes, crude and realistic, produced by Dr. Jawad al Ali, oncologist of the Basra's hospital] (PowerPoint file - 1,33 MB)
- Data on seismic events in the area registered in February 1991 as reported on the ISC website.
- The 4.2 magnitude datum that we have found during Desert Storm operations
- Comparison table between kilotons and the Richter scale [file doc]
- Seismical data traced in NORSAR seismic monitoring network during March 1, 2 and 3 in 2002 in Afghanistan.
- The text of the 2 letters from the American Defense Department

moscow: us in another breach of international law

Russia criticizes U.S. sanctions against arms exporter

22:04 | 24/ 10/ 2008

MOSCOW, October 24 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's foreign minister said on Friday that the sanctions imposed by the United States on Russia's state-run arms exporter contravene international law, and will harm ties with Washington.

The economic sanctions against Rosoboronexport were imposed under the U.S. Non-Proliferation Act on Iran, North Korea and Syria.

"The United States introduced these sanctions without any basis in international law. We will take this into account in our relations with the United States," Sergei Lavrov told a news conference.

Sanctions were also imposed on the same grounds against Venezuela, China, North and South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan, and Syria, as well as Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards.

Washington says the sanctions target firms that sell items that could "make a material contribution to the development of weapons of mass destruction or cruise or ballistic missile systems."

Lavrov insisted that the sanctions would not force Russia to make concessions on Iran's nuclear program.

"If some people in Washington think that this will make Russia more amenable to U.S. approaches with regard to the Iranian nuclear problem, they are mistaken," he said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in an official statement on Friday that the sanctions against Rosoboronexport were "an unfriendly act" that would harm discussions on the Iranian nuclear issue.

"We consider this recurrence of American unilateral sanctions against a Russian organization to be an unfriendly act, which will have a negative impact on our dialogue with Washington, including in the context of discussions of the Iran Six international mediators on the resolution of the Iranian nuclear problem," the statement said.

The ministry also said: "It is high time for the United States to make up its mind on whether it is ready to continue cooperation within the Iran Six, working on the basis of coordinated approaches."

The Iran Six international mediators are Russia, the U.S., China, France, Great Britain, and Germany.

The sanctions against Rosoboronexport are valid for two years, and bar any U.S. aid, contracts or arms sales to the blacklisted entities. The order was signed on October 16, and came into effect on Thursday.

A Rosoboronexport representative on Friday called the sanctions a "manifestation of unethical competition."

"We view the imposition of sanctions with regard to the sole Russian facilitator of arms sales as a manifestation of unethical competition," Vyacheslav Davydenko told reporters.

The company said in an official statement that it links the U.S. sanctions to the rise in Russian arms exports.

"The United States is deliberately trying to use administrative resources to hold Russia back in the implementation of foreign trade and foreign policy activities, in particular in the sphere of military-technical cooperation with foreign states," Rosoboronexport said.

The company noted that the U.S. State Department announced the sanctions almost immediately after the publication of results showing Russian arms exports grew 23% in the first nine months of 2008. The company said this "did not suit the United States, frustrating its plans."

In July and December 2006, the United States also imposed sanctions on Rosoboronexport for allegedly passing on equipment to Iran that could be used to develop weapons of mass destruction.

Friday, 24 October 2008

markets could close for weeks says nyu economist

Roubini Says `Panic' May Force Market Shutdown

By Alexis Xydias and Camilla Hall

Oct. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Hundreds of hedge funds will fail and policy makers may need to shut financial markets for a week or more as the crisis forces investors to dump assets, New York University Professor Nouriel Roubini said.

``We've reached a situation of sheer panic,'' Roubini, who predicted the financial crisis in 2006, told a conference of hedge-fund managers in London today. ``There will be massive dumping of assets'' and ``hundreds of hedge funds are going to go bust,'' he said.

Group of Seven policy makers have stopped short of market suspensions to stem the crisis after the U.S. pledged on Oct. 14 to invest about $125 billion in nine banks and the Federal Reserve led a global coordinated move to cut interest rates on Oct. 8. Emmanuel Roman, co-chief executive officer at GLG Partners Inc., said today that as many as 30 percent of hedge funds will close.

``Systemic risk has become bigger and bigger,'' Roubini said at the Hedge 2008 conference. ``We're seeing the beginning of a run on a big chunk of the hedge funds,'' and ``don't be surprised if policy makers need to close down markets for a week or two in coming days,'' he said.

Roubini predicted in July 2006 that the U.S. would enter an economic recession. In February this year, he forecast a ``catastrophic'' financial meltdown that central bankers would fail to prevent, leading to the bankruptcy of large banks exposed to mortgages and a ``sharp drop'' in equities.

Bear, Lehman

The comments preceded the collapse of Bear Stearns & Cos. and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. as well as the government seizure of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, a benchmark for American equities, has lost 37 percent this year, including its biggest daily drop in more than twenty years on Oct. 15.

The Dow average rose 2.5 percent to 8728.73 as of 10:55 a.m. today in New York.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi roiled international markets on Oct. 10, first saying world leaders were discussing shutting down global financial exchanges, and then saying he didn't mean it.

``In a fairly Darwinian manner, many hedge funds will simply disappear,'' Roman said, speaking at the same event as Roubini.

The hedge fund industry is stumbling through its worst year in two decades and posted its biggest monthly drop for a decade in September. Hedge funds are mostly private pools of capital whose managers participate substantially in the profits from their speculation on whether the price of assets will rise or fall.

`Very Ugly'

``Things are getting very ugly also in the emerging markets,'' Roubini said. ``The usual saying is when the U.S. sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold. Unfortunately, this time around the U.S. is not just sneezing, it has a severe case of chronic and persistent pneumonia. It's becoming a mess in emerging markets.''

Developing nations' borrowing costs jumped to the highest in six years today as Belarus joined Hungary, Ukraine and Pakistan in seeking a bailout from the International Monetary Fund to help weather frozen money markets and a slump in commodities. Argentina risks defaulting for the second time this decade.

``There are about a dozen emerging markets that are now in severe financial trouble,'' Roubini said. ``Even a small country can have a systemic effect on the global economy,'' he added. ``There is not going to be enough IMF money to support them.''

Roubini, a former senior adviser to the U.S. Treasury Department, earlier this month said that the world's biggest economy will suffer its worst recession in 40 years.

``This is the worst financial crisis in the U.S., Europe and now emerging markets that we've seen in a long time,'' Roubini said. ``Things will get much worse before they get better. I fear the worst is ahead of us.''

To contact the reporters for this story: Alexis Xydias in London at; Camilla Hall in London at

Last Updated: October 23, 2008 10:59 EDT

the us financial system viewed from riyadh

Death of the American Empire

America is self-destructing & bringing the rest of the world down with it

October 23, 2008

I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. (Thomas Jefferson, US President; 1743 - 1826)

America is dying. It is self-destructing and bringing the rest of the world down with it.

Often referred to as a sub-prime mortgage collapse, this obfuscates the real reason. By associating tangible useless failed mortgages, at least something 'real' can be blamed for the carnage. The problem is, this is myth. The magnitude of this fiscal collapse happened because it was all based on hot air.

The banking industry renamed insurance betting guarantees as 'credit default swaps' and risky gambling wagers were called 'derivatives'. Financial managers and banking executives were selling the ultimate con to the entire world, akin to the snake-oil salesmen from the 18th century but this time in suits and ties. And by October 2008 it was a quadrillion-dollar (that's $1,000 trillion) industry that few could understand.

Propped up by false hope, America is now falling like a house of cards.

It all began in the early part of the 20th century. In 1907 J.P. Morgan, a private New York banker, published a rumour that a competing unnamed large bank was about to fail. It was a false charge but customers nonetheless raced to their banks to withdraw their money, in case it was their bank. As they pulled out their funds the banks lost their cash deposits and were forced to call in their loans. People now therefore had to pay back their mortgages to fill the banks with income, going bankrupt in the process. The 1907 panic resulted in a crash that prompted the creation of the Federal Reserve, a private banking cartel with the veneer of an independent government organisation. Effectively, it was a coup by elite bankers in order to control the industry.

When signed into law in 1913, the Federal Reserve would loan and supply the nation's money, but with interest. The more money it was able to print, the more 'income' for itself it generated. By its very nature the Federal Reserve would forever keep producing debt to stay alive. It was able to print America's monetary supply at will, regulating its value. To control valuation however, inflation had to be kept in check.

The Federal Reserve then doubled America's money supply within five years, and in 1920 it called in a mass percentage of loans. Over five thousand banks collapsed overnight. One year later the Federal Reserve again increased the money supply by 62%, but in 1929 it again called the loans back in, en masse. This time, the crash of 1929 caused over sixteen thousand banks to fail and an 89% plunge on the stock market. The private and well-protected banks within the Federal Reserve system were able to snap up the failed banks at pennies on the dollar.

The nation fell into the Great Depression and in April 1933 President Roosevelt issued an executive order that confiscated all gold bullion from the public. Those who refused to turn in their gold would be imprisoned for ten years, and by the end of the year the gold standard was abolished. What had been redeemable for gold became paper 'legal tender', and gold could no longer be exchanged for cash as it had once been.

Later, in 1971, President Nixon removed the dollar from the gold standard altogether, therefore no longer trading at the internationally fixed price of $35. The US dollar was now worth whatever the US decided it was worth because it was 'as good as gold'. It had no standard of measure, and became the universal currency. Treasury bills (short-term notes) and bonds (long-term notes) replaced gold as value, promissory notes of the US government and paid for by the taxpayer. Additionally, because gold was exempt from currency reporting requirements it could not be traced, unlike the fiduciary (i.e. that based upon trust) monetary systems of the West. That was not in America's best interest.

After the Great Depression private banks remained afraid to make home loans, so Roosevelt created Fannie Mae. A state supported mortgage bank, it provided federal funding to finance home mortgages for affordable housing. In 1968 President Johnson privatised Fannie Mae, and in 1970, Freddie Mac was created to compete with Fannie Mae. Both of them bought mortgages from banks and other lenders, and sold them onto new investors.

The post World War II boom had created an America flush with cash and assets. As a military industrial complex, war exponentially profited the US and, unlike any empire in history, it shot to superpower status. But it failed to remember that, historically, whenever empires rose they fell in direct proportion.

Americans could afford all the modern conveniences, exporting its manufactured goods all over the world. After the Vietnam War, the US went into an economic decline. But people were loath to give up their elevated standard of living despite the loss of jobs, and production was increasingly sent overseas. A sense of delusion and entitlement kept Americans on the treadmill of consumer consumption.

In 1987 the US stock market plunged by 22% in one day because of high-risk futures trading, called derivatives, and in 1989 the Savings & Loan crisis resulted in President George H.W. Bush using $142 billion in taxpayer funds to rescue half of the S&L's. To do so, Freddie Mac was given the task of giving sub-prime (below prime-rate) mortgages to low-income families. In 2000, the "irrational exuberance" of the dot-com bubble burst, and 50% of high-tech firms went bankrupt wiping $5 trillion from their over-inflated market values.

After this crisis, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan kept interest rates so low they were less than the rate of inflation. Anyone saving his or her income actually lost money, and the savings rate soon fell into negative territory.

During the 1990s, advertisers went into overdrive, marketing an ever more luxurious lifestyle, all made available with cheap easy credit. Second mortgages became commonplace, and home equity loans were used to pay credit card bills. The more Americans bought, the more they fell into debt. But as long as they had a house their false sense of security remained: their home was their equity, it would always go up in value, and they could always remortgage at lower rates if needed. The financial industry also believed that housing prices would forever climb, but should they ever fall the central bank would cut interest rates so that prices would jump back up. It was, everyone believed, a win-win situation.

Greenspan's rock-bottom interest rates let anyone afford a home. Minimum wage service workers with aspirations to buy a half million-dollar house were able to secure 100% loans, the mortgage lenders fully aware that they would not be able to keep up the payments.

So many people received these sub-prime loans that the investment houses and lenders came up with a new scheme: bundle these virtually worthless home loans and sell them as solid US investments to unsuspecting countries who would not know the difference. American lives of excess and consumer spending never suffered, and were being propped up by foreign nations none the wiser.

It has always been the case that a bank would lend out more than it actually had, because interest payments generated its income. The more the bank loaned, the more interest it collected even with no money in the vault. It was a lucrative industry of giving away money it never had in the first place. Mortgage banks and investment houses even borrowed money on international money markets to fund these 100% plus sub-prime mortgages, and began lending more than ten times their underlying assets.

After 9/11, George Bush told the nation to spend, and during a time of war, that's what the nation did. It borrowed at unprecedented levels so as to not only pay for its war on terror in the Middle East (calculated to cost $4 trillion) but also pay for tax cuts at the very time it should have increased taxes. Bush removed the reserve requirements in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, from 10% to 2.5%. They were free to not only lend even more at bargain basement interest rates, they only needed a fraction of reserves. Soon banks lent thirty times asset value. It was, as one economist put it, an 'orgy of excess'.

It was flagrant overspending during a time of war. At no time in history has a nation gone into conflict without sacrifice, cutbacks, tax increases, and economic conservation.

And there was a growing chance that, just like in 1929, investors would rush to claim their money all at once.

To guarantee, therefore, these high risk mortgages, the same financial houses that sold them then created 'insurance policies' against the sub-prime investments they were selling, marketed as Credit Default Swaps (CDS). But the government must regulate insurance policies, so by calling them CDS they remained totally unregulated. Financial institutions were 'hedging their bets' and selling premiums to protect the junk assets. In other words, the asset that should go up in value could also have a side-bet, just in case, that it might go down. By October 2008, CDS were trading at $62 trillion, more than the stock markets of the whole world combined.

These bets had absolutely no value whatsoever and were not investments. They were just financial instruments called derivatives - high stakes gambling, 'nothing from nothing' - or as Warren Buffet referred to them, 'Weapons of Financial Mass Destruction'. The derivatives trade was 'worth' more than one quadrillion dollars, or larger than the economy of the entire world. (In September 2008 the global Gross Domestic Product was $60 trillion).

Challenged as being illegal in the 1990s, Greenspan legalised the derivatives practise. Soon hedge funds became an entire industry, betting on the derivatives market and gambling as much as they wanted. It was easy because it was money they did not have in the first place. The industry had all the appearances of banks, but the hedge funds, equity funds, and derivatives brokers had no access to government loans in the event of a default. If the owners defaulted, the hedge funds had no money to pay 'from nothing'. Those who had hedged on an asset going up or down would not be able to collect on the winnings or losses.

The market had become the largest industry in the world, and all the financial giants were cashing in: Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Citigroup, and AIG. But homeowners, long maxed out on their credit, were now beginning to default on their mortgages. Not only were they paying for their house but also all the debt amassed over the years for car, credit card and student loans, medical payments and home equity loans. They had borrowed to pay for groceries and skyrocketing health insurance premiums to keep up with their bigger houses and cars; they refinanced the debt they had for lower rates that soon ballooned. The average American owed 25% of their annual income to credit card debts alone.

In 2008, housing prices began to slide precipitously downwards and mortgages were suddenly losing value. Manufacturing orders were down 4.5% by September, inventories began to pile up, unemployment was soaring and average house foreclosures had increased by 121% and up to 200% in California.

The financial giants had to stop trading these mortgage-backed securities, as now their losses would have to be visibly accounted for. Investors began withdrawing their funds. Bear Stearns, heavily specialised in home loan portfolios, was the first to go in March.

Just as they had done in the 20th century, JP Morgan swooped in and picked up Bear Stearns for a pittance. One year prior Bear Stearns shares traded at $159 but JP Morgan was able to buy in and take over at $2 a share. In September, Washington Mutual collapsed, the largest bank failure in history. JP Morgan again came in and paid $1.9 billion for assets valued at $176 billion. It was a fire sale.

Relatively quietly over the summer Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the publicly traded companies responsible for 80% of the home mortgage loans, lost almost 90% of their value for the year. Together they were responsible for half the outstanding loan amounts but were now in debt $80 to every $1 in capital reserves.

To guarantee they would stay alive, the Federal Reserve stepped in and took over Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. On September 7th 2008 they were put into "conservatorship": known as nationalisation to the rest of the world, but Americans have difficulty with the idea of any government run industry that required taxpayer increases.

What the government was really doing was handing out an unlimited line of credit. Done by the Federal Reserve and not US Treasury, it was able to bypass Congressional approval. The Treasury Department then auctioned off Treasury bills to raise money for the Federal Reserve's own use, but nonetheless the taxpayer would be funding the rescue. The bankers had bled tens of billions from the system by hedging and derivative gambling, and triggered the portfolio inter-bank lending freeze, which then seized up and crashed.

The takeover was presented as a government funded bailout of an arbitrary $700 billion, which does nothing to solve the problem. No economists were asked to present their views to Congress, and the loan only perpetuates the myth that the banking system is not really dead.

In reality, the damage will not be $700 billion but closer to $5 trillion, the value of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae's mortgages. It was nothing less than a bailout of the quadrillion dollar derivatives industry which otherwise faced payouts of over a trillion dollars on CDS mortgage-backed securities they had sold. It was necessary, said Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, to save the country from a "housing correction". But, he added, the $700 billion taxpayer funded takeover would not prevent other banks from collapsing, in turn causing a stock market crash.

In other words Paulson was blackmailing Congress in order to lead a coup by the banking elite under the false guise of necessary legislation to stop the dyke from flooding. It merely shifted wealth from one class to another, as it had done almost a century prior. No sooner were the words were out of Paulson's mouth before other financial institutions began imploding, and with them the disintegration of the global financial system - much modelled after the lauded system of American banking.

In September the Federal Reserve, its line of credit assured, then bought the world largest insurance company, AIG, for $85 billion for an 80% stake. AIG was the largest seller of CDS, but now that it was in the position of having to pay out, from collateral it did not have, it was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.

In October the entire country of Iceland went bankrupt, having bought American worthless sub-prime mortgages as investments. European banks began exploding, all wanting to cash in concurrently on their inflated US stocks to pay off the low interest rate debts before rates climbed higher. The year before the signs had been evident, when the largest US mortgage lender Countrywide fell. Soon after, the largest lender in the UK, Northern Rock, went under - London long having copied Wall Street creative financing. Japan and Korea's auto manufacturing nosedived by 37%, global economies contracting. Pakistan is on the edge of collapse too, with real reserves at $3 billion - enough to only buy a month's supply of food and oil and attempting to stall payments to Saudi Arabia for the 100,000 barrels of oil per day it provides to the country. Under President Musharraf, who left office in the nick of time, Pakistan's currency lost 25% of its value, its inflation running at 25%.

Meanwhile energy costs had soared, with oil reaching a peak of almost $150 per barrel in the summer. The costs were immediately passed on to the already spent homeowner, in rising heating and fuel, transport and manufacturing costs. Yet 30% of the cost of a barrel of oil was based upon Wall Street speculators, climbing to 60% as a speculative fear factor during the summer months. As soon as the financial crisis hit, suddenly oil prices slid down, slicing oil costs to $61 from a high of $147 in June and proving that the 60% speculation factor was far more accurate. This sudden decline also revealed OPEC's lack of control over spiralling prices during the past few years, almost squarely laid on the shoulders of Saudi Arabia alone. When OPEC, in September, sought to maintain higher prices by cutting production, it was Saudi Arabia who voted against such a move at the expense of its own revenue.

Europe then decided that no more would it be ruined by the excess of America. 'Olde Europe' may have had enough of being dictated to by the US, who refused to compromise on loans lent to their own broken nations after WWII. On October the 13th, the once divided EU nations unilaterally agreed to an emergency rescue plan totaling $2.3 trillion. It was more than three times greater than the US package for a catastrophe America alone had created.

By mid October, the Dow, NASDAQ and S&P 500 had erased all the gains they made over the previous decade. Greenspan's pyramid scheme of easy money from nothing resulted in a massive overextension of credit, inflated housing prices, and incredible stock valuations, achieved because investors would never withdraw their money all at once. But now it was crashing at break-neck speed and no solution in sight. President Bush said that people ought not to worry at all because "America is the most attractive destination for investors around the globe."

Those who will hurt the most are the very men and women who grew the country after WWII, and saved their pensions for retirement due now. They had built the country during the war production years, making its weapons and arms for global conflict. During the Cold War the USSR was the ever-present enemy and thus the military industrial complex continued to grow. Only when there is a war does America profit.

Russia will not tolerate a new cold war build-up of ballistic missiles. And the Middle East has seen its historical ally turn into its worst nightmare, be it militarily or economically. No longer will these nations continue to support the dollar as the world's currency. The world's economy is no longer America's to control and the US is now indebted to the rest of the world. No more will the US be able to demand its largest Middle Eastern oil supplier open up its banking books so as to be transparent and free from corruption and terrorist connections lest there be consequences - the biggest act of criminal corruption in history has just been perpetrated by the United States.

It was the best con game in town: get paid well for selling vast amounts of risk, fail, and then have governments fix the problem at the expense of the taxpayers who never saw a penny of shared wealth to begin with.

There is no easy solution to this crisis, its effects multiplying like an infectious disease.

Ironically, least affected by the crisis are Islamic banks.

They have largely been immune to the collapse because Islamic banking prohibits the acquisition of wealth via gambling (or alcohol, tobacco, pornography, or stocks in armaments companies), and forbids the buying and selling of a debt as well as usury. Additionally, Shari'ah banking laws forbid investing in any company with debts that exceed thirty percent.

"Islamic banking institutions have not failed per se as they deal in tangible assets and assume the risk" said Dr. Mohammed Ramady, Professor of Economics at King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals. "Although the Islamic banking sector is also part of the global economy, the impact of direct exposure to sub-prime asset investments has been low" he continued. "The liquidity slowdown has especially affected Dubai, with its heavy international borrowing. The most negative effect has been a loss of confidence in the regional stock markets." Instead, said Dr. Ramady, oil surplus Arab nations are "reconsidering overseas investments in financial assets" and speeding up their own domestic projects.

Eight years ago, in May 2000, Saudi Islamic banker His Highness Dr. Nayef bin Fawaaz ibn Sha'alan publicly gave a series of economic lectures in Gulf states. At the time his research showed that Arab investments in the US, to the tune of $1.5 trillion, were effectively being held hostage and he recommended they be pulled out and reinvested in the tangibles of the Arab and Islamic markets. "Not in stocks however because the stock market could be manipulated remotely, as we have seen in the last couple of years in the Arab market where trillions of dollars evaporated" he said.

He warned then that it was a certainty that the US economic system was on the verge of collapse because of its cumulative debts, ever-increasing deficit and the interest on that debt. "When the debts and deficits come due, they just issue new Treasury bonds to cover the old bonds due, with their interest and the new deficit too." The cycle cannot be stopped or the debt cancelled because the US would no longer be able to borrow. The consequence of relieving this cycle would be a total collapse of their economic system as opposed to the partial, albeit massive, crash of 2008.

"Islamic banking", said Dr. Al-Sha'alan, "always protects the individuals' wealth while putting a cap on selfishness and greed. It has the best of capitalism - filtering out its negatives - and the best of socialism - filtering out its negatives too." Both systems inevitably had to fail. Additionally, Europe and Japan did not need to be held accountable and indebted to America anymore for protection against the Soviets.

"The essential difference between the Islamic economic system and the capitalist system", he continued "is that in Islam wealth belongs to God - the individual being only its manager. It is a means, not a goal. In capitalism, it is the reverse: money belongs to the individual, and is a goal in and of itself. In America especially, money is worshipped like God."

In sum, the crash of the entire global economic system is a result of America's fiscal arrogance based upon one set of rules for itself and another for the rest of the world. Its increased creative financing deluded its people into a false sense of security, and now looks like the failure of capitalism altogether.

The whole exercise in democracy by force against Arab Muslim nations has almost bankrupted the US. The Cold War is over and the US has nothing to offer: no exports, no production, few natural resources, and no service sector economy.

The very markets that resisted US economic policies the most, having curbed foreign direct investments into America, are those who will fare best and come out ahead.

But not before having paid a very high price.

Tanya Cariina Hsu is a political researcher and analyst focusing on Saudi Arabian and US relations. One of the contributors to recent written testimony on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the US Congressional Senate Judiciary Committee on behalf of FOCA (Friends of Charities Association) in its Hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., her analysis has been published and critically acclaimed throughout the US, Europe and the Middle East.

The first to break the barrier against public discussion of the Israeli influence upon US foreign policy decision making, in Capitol Hill's "A Clean Break" Symposium in Washington D.C. in 2004, as the Institute for Research: Middle East Policy (IRmep) Director of Development and Senior Research Analyst, Ms. Hsu remains an International Fellow with the Institute.

Born in London, she re-located to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 2005 and is currently completing a book on US policy towards Saudi Arabia.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

chinese shadows


And now the Manchurian microchip

Robert Eringer

October 18, 2008 7:13 AM

The geniuses at Homeland Security who brought you hare-brained procedures at airports (which inconvenience travelers without snagging terrorists) have decreed that October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. This means The Investigator -- at the risk of compromising national insecurities -- would be remiss not to make you aware of the hottest topic in U.S. counterintelligence circles: rogue microchips. This threat emanates from China (PRC) -- and it is hugely significant.

The myth: Chinese intelligence services have concealed a microchip in every computer everywhere, programmed to "call home" if and when activated.

The reality: It may actually be true.

All computers on the market today -- be they Dell, Toshiba, Sony, Apple or especially IBM -- are assembled with components manufactured inside the PRC. Each component produced by the Chinese, according to a reliable source within the intelligence community, is secretly equipped with a hidden microchip that can be activated any time by China's military intelligence services, the PLA.

"It is there, deep inside your computer, if they decide to call it up," the security chief of a multinational corporation told The Investigator. "It is capable of providing Chinese intelligence with everything stored on your system -- on everyone's system -- from e-mail to documents. I call it Call Home Technology. It doesn't mean to say they're sucking data from everyone's computer today, it means the Chinese think ahead -- and they now have the potential to do it when it suits their purposes."

Discussed theoretically in high-tech security circles as "Trojan Horse on a Chip" or "The Manchurian Chip," Call Home Technology came to light after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) launched a security program in December 2007 called Trust in Integrated Circuits. DARPA awarded almost $25 million in contracts to six companies and university research labs to test foreign-made microchips for hardware Trojans, back doors and kill switches -- techie-speak for bugs and gremlins -- with a view toward microchip verification.

Raytheon, a defense contractor, was granted almost half of these funds for hardware and software testing.

Its findings, which are classified, have apparently sent shockwaves through the counterintelligence community.

"It is the hottest topic concerning the FBI and the Pentagon," a retired intelligence official told The Investigator. "They don't know quite what to do about it. The Chinese have even been able to hack into the computer system that handles our Intercontinental Ballistic Missile system."

Another senior intelligence source told The Investigator, "Our military is aware of this and has had to take some protective measures. The problem includes defective chips that don't reach military specs -- as well as probable Trojans."

A little context: In 2005 the Lenovo Group in China paid $1.75 billion for IBM's PC unit, even though that unit had lost $965 million the previous four years. Three congressmen, including the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, tried to block this sale because of national security concerns, to no avail. (The PRC embassy in Washington, D.C., maintains a large lobbying presence to influence congressmen and their staffs through direct contact.)

In June 2007, a Pentagon computer network utilized by the U.S. defense secretary's office was hacked into -- and traced directly back to the Chinese PLA.

A report presented to Congress late last year characterized PRC espionage as "the single greatest risk to the security of American technologies." Almost simultaneously, Jonathan Evans, director-general of MI5, Britain's domestic security and counterintelligence service, sent a confidential letter to CEOs and security chiefs at 300 UK companies to warn that they were under attack by "Chinese state organizations" whose purpose, said Mr. Evans, was to defeat their computer security systems and steal confidential commercial information.

The Chinese had specifically targeted Rolls-Royce and Shell Oil.

The key to unlocking computer secrets through rogue microchips is uncovering (or stealing) source codes, without which such microchips would be useless. This is why Chinese espionage is so heavily focused upon the U.S. computer industry.

Four main computer operating systems exist. Two of them, Unix and Linux, utilize open-source codes. Apple's operating system is Unix-based.

Which leaves only Microsoft as the source code worth cracking. But in early 2004, Microsoft announced that its security had been breached and that its source code was "lost or stolen."

"As technology evolves, each new program has a new source code," a computer forensics expert told The Investigator. "So the Chinese would need ongoing access to new Microsoft source codes for maintaining their ability to activate any microchips they may have installed, along with the expertise to utilize new hardware technology."

No surprise then that the FBI expends much of its counterintelligence resources these days on Chinese high-tech espionage within the United States. Timothy Bereznay, while still serving as assistant director of the FBI's Counterintelligence Division, told USA Today, "Foreign collectors don't wait until something is classified -- they're targeting it at the research and development stage." Mr. Bereznay now heads Raytheon's Intelligence and Information Systems division.

The PRC's intelligence services use tourists, exchange students and trade show attendees to gather strategic data, mostly from open sources. They have also created over 3,500 front companies in the United States -- including several based in Palo Alto to focus on computer technology.

Back in 2005, when the Chinese espionage problem was thought to be focused on military technology, then-FBI counterintelligence operations chief Dave Szady said, "I think the problem is huge, and it's something we're just getting our arms around." Little did he know just how huge, as it currently applies to computer network security.

The FBI is reported to have arrested more than 25 Chinese nationals and Chinese-Americans on suspicion of conspiracy to commit espionage between 2004 and 2006. The Investigator endeavored to update this figure, but was told by FBI spokesman William Carter, "We do not track cases by ethnicity."

Excuse us for asking. We may be losing secrets, but at least the dignity of our political correctness remains intact.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

boratland's press reports on "newspeak" condi

Condoleezza Rice says Bush made the Middle-East a better place

Kazakhstan News.Net

Monday 20th October, 2008

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said she believes the Middle East is a better place for the policies of President George Bush.

Speaking to the BBC, Ms Rice insisted that a US-inspired "freedom agenda" had taken hold in the Middle East.

She told her interviewer she was especially proud of the situation in the Palestinian territories, and said: "I don't think that you have had an administration that has more actively been seeking a Palestinian state. The Palestinians now have a peace process that is the most serious one in many many years."

Ms Rice also said Iraq had become a "good Arab friend" of America which, she said, far from being destroyed, had been fully integrated into the Arab world.

Elsewhere, Syrian forces were out of Lebanon and women had the vote in Kuwait, she noted.

She said the US would need to remain wary of Iran, but would still need to be prepared to negotiate on Iran’s nuclear push.

Ms Rice said: "What we don't want to do is to give Iran cover to continue improving its nuclear programs that could lead to a nuclear weapon."

helvetia crucis


Intervista a Balthasar Glättli

La minaccia del terrorismo è un pretesto per limitare le libertà

di Silvia Cattori*

La Confederazione, al pari di altri Paesi europei, non ha mai subito alcun attentato di matrice islamica. Eppure tutti si allineano alle direttive degli Stati Uniti ed enfatizzano una presunta minaccia terroristica per entrare in guerra e autorizzare i servizi segreti a sorvegliare più intensamente e in maniera sistematica i propri cittadini. Balthasar Glättli, 36 anni, parlamentare di Zurigo, racconta in quest’intervista come ha scoperto di essere sorvegliato e schedato dai servizi segreti e invita ogni concittadino a verificare di non esserlo.

Dopo lo scandalo delle schedature, che nel 1989 aveva rivelato come 900.000 tra singoli cittadini e organizzazioni fossero sorvegliati dalla polizia federale e da quelle cantonali, si profila una scandalo analogo.

Benché la legge non consenta alcuna sorveglianza sulle attività politiche, gli svizzeri ogni tanto scoprono che il tal giornalista o il tal parlamentare compare sugli schedari dei servizi segreti. E scoprono pure che in queste investigazioni illegali sono coinvolte società private.

A sette anni dagli attentati del 2001, la guerra dichiarata dagli Stati Uniti al terrorismo continua ad avere anche in Svizzera conseguenze disastrose sui diritti fondamentali dei cittadini.

La schedatura generalizzata dei cittadini si estende ormai a tutti i Paesi sedicenti democratici. Basta opporsi alla guerra contro i musulmani scatenata dall’asse Tel Aviv-Washington per essere sospettati dai servizi segreti di connivenza con il terrorismo e vedere la propria vita privata sconvolta da pedimenti e da intercettazioni della posta elettronica e delle telefonate.

Noi pensiamo che tutti coloro che non hanno niente da rimproverarsi e che si vedono umiliati da questi controlli devono denunciarlo pubblicamente, affinché questo immonda struttura poliziesca crolli.

Balthasar Glättli, 36 anni, parlamentare di Zurigo, racconta in quest’intervista come ha scoperto di essere sorvegliato e schedato dai servizi segreti e invita ogni concittadino a verificare di non esserlo.

17 ottobre 2008

Berne (Suisse)

Silvia Cattori : Come ha scoperto di essere sorvegliato dai servizi segreti ? [1]

Balthasar Glättli : A fine marzo 2008, insieme ad altre associazioni e persone che lavorano nei nostri uffici [2], abbiamo controllato se i nostri nomi figuravano nella bancadati del Servizio d’Analisi e Prevenzione, perché avevamo avuto il sospetto di essere schedati. Così abbiamo inviato una richiesta al signor Thür, che è “L’incaricato federale alla protezione dei dati e alla trasparenza”.

Il 17 luglio 2008 ci è stato risposto che la mia associazione non c’era nell’elenco degli schedati, ma io personalmente sì [3], e c’ero sin dal 2005, quando avevo chiesto al municipio di Zurigo l’autorizzazione a manifestare a sostegno del popolo palestinese. Tengo a precisare che la manifestazione si svolse senza incidenti.

Silvia Cattori : E manifestare per la Palestina è un motivo sufficiente per essere schedati dalla polizia ?

Balthasar Glättli : La legge federale istitutiva delle Misure a tutela della sicurezza interna (Mesures visant au maintien de la sûreté intérieure, LMSI), del luglio 1998, dice chiaramente che nessuno può essere sottoposto a sorveglianza né schedato a causa del proprio impegno politico [4]. Salvo che in un caso: quando l’esercizio dei diritti politici dissimula azioni estremiste o terroriste.

Silvia Cattori : Se ho ben capito è la sua attività di difesa dei diritti dei palestinesi che è all’origine della sua sorveglianza e della sua schedatura.

Balthasar Glättli : Sì, è l’unica ipotesi che posso fare, sulla base delle poche informazioni in mio possesso. La legge non mi consente di dare un’occhiata alla scheda poliziesca che mi riguarda: ho ricevuto solo un estratto dal citato signor Thür, cui ho accennato, che si limita a confermare che sono sorvegliato e schedato.

Silvia Cattori : Ma questa schedatura rivela che la polizia perseguita i cittadini per delitto di opinione ! Non è una grande novità per la Svizzera?

Balthasar Glättli : Lo è. Secondo l’organizzazione Diritti Fondamentali [5] io sono il primo svizzero a beneficiare di una tale trattamento.

Silvia Cattori : Per verificare se si è sorvegliati basta inoltrare una domanda?

Balthasar Glättli : Sì, basta inviarla all’Incaricato Federale. Si noti che questo funzionario non ha il potere di consultare la bancadati delle schedature, può solo verificare, a richiesta di un cittadino, se il nome di questo cittadino vi figura e, se è il caso, può leggere la scheda e scoprire quando e in quali circostanze la polizia ha iniziato a sorvegliare questa persona.

Ma l’Incaricato Federale deve rispondere a questa persona con una lettera standard che si limita a dire che il Servizio d’Analisi e Prevenzione ha agito in conformità alla legge, nulla più.

Se l’Incaricato scopre che la polizia non ha raccolto le informazioni nel rispetto della legge, deve chiedere all’Ufficio Federale di correggerle.

Soltanto nel caso in cui l’interessato si è visto rifiutare, a causa di questa schedatura, un posto nell’amministrazione federale [6], l’Incaricato può, a titolo eccezionale, dargli un estratto della scheda.

Benché questa eccezione non sia il mio caso, l’Incaricato mi ha inviato comunque l’estratto e quindi ho potuto avere conferma di essere schedato da oltre tre anni.

Silvia Cattori : È perché l’Incaricato si è trovato dinanzi alla schedatura di un uomo politico che ha scelto di dirle più del dovuto? Per rendere le schedature politiche di dominio pubblico?

Balthasar Glättli : L’Incaricato Federale è indipendente sia dalla politica sia dalla pubblica amministrazione. Dunque penso che il signor Thür abbia deciso di assumersi le proprie responsabilità di avvocato del popolo e non della pubblica amministrazione. Del resto il suo ruolo è proprio questo.

Silvia Cattori : L’articolo di legge che permete di spiare persone sospettate della «preparazione o esecuzione di atti rilevanti di terrorismo» non si presta a questo genere di abusi ?

Balthasar Glättli : Il rischio di abusi esiste, alimentato dal modo di agire della sicurezza interna. Tali abusi possono essere ridotti rispettando tre condizioni: 1) consentire a tutti di controllare il contenuto della propria scheda; 2) conferire adeguati competenze e poteri alla Commissione parlamentare di controllo; 3) dotare l’Incaricato Federale di poteri e di personale di controllo. Sono tre esigenze espresso già quando scoppiò il primo scandalo delle schedature, ma che sono state ignorate.

Silvia Cattori : Dal momento che altri politici, oltre a lei, sono stati posti sotto sorveglianza [7], significa che la Svizzera è entrata in un sistema di controllo poliziesco peggiore di quello che aveva conosciuto tra il 1960 e il 1990 ? Questo peggioramento non lascia supporre disfunzioni democratiche a diversi livelli?

Balthasar Glättli : Sì. Lo scandalo delle schedature del 1990 ha rivelato l’esistenza di una vera e propria polizia politica, non soltanto a livello federale, ma anche a livello cantonale, come a Zurigo, per esempio, dove ci fu un’inchiesta sull’attività della polizia politica comunale. In seguito una Commissione di Gestione (CdG) locale fu incarica di controllare l’attività della polizia federale e i dati da questa raccolti.

Silvia Cattori : È vero che la polizia ha scehdato 110.000 sospetti ?

Balthasar Glättli : La cifra non è ufficiale, ma credo che potrebbe rivelarsi superiore.

Silvia Cattori : Che cosa conta di fare adesso ?

Balthasar Glättli : Voglio vedere tutto il contenuto della mia scheda ed esigerò dall’Ufficio Federale la cancellazione di tutto ciò che è stato indebitamente raccolto sul mio conto.

È una vicenda incredibile: mi hanno messo sotto sorveglianza; dunque mi sospettano di avere legami con il terrorismo, mentre non sono che un semplice militante, un iscritto al partito ecologico Verde, che svolge azione politica alla luce del sole. Il mio caso dimostra che la polizia federale sta passando il limite, che questa polizia non accetta di deguarsi alle regole chiaramente stabilite dalla legge.

Silvia Cattori : Pensa di incoraggiare tutti coloro la cui opinione o la cui attività è suscettibile di interessare la polizia, a conoscere la loro situazione in tema di schedature ? Ci sono forze politiche, associazioni con le quale pensate di agire per esigere dalle autorità che pongano un termini a queste attività illegali?

Balthasar Glättli : Sì, la nostra associazione intende divulgare questa faccenda delle schedature per spingere i cittadini a informarsi se sono sorvegliati o se sono oggetto di schedature abusive. È imperativo che il maggior numero di persone possibile chieda all’Incaricato Federale, il signor Thür, di verificare se sono schedate.

Siamo ovviamente consapevoli che oggi, con gli archivi elettronici, è più difficile verificare come stanno le cose rispetto al precedente scandalo delle schedature. Per questo esigeremo dal Consiglio Federale che adotti tutte le precauzioni affinché la polizia politica non possa modificare il contenuto delle schede.

È altresì imperativo che tutte queste informazioni raccolte illegalmente siano sottratte al Servizio d’Analisi e di Prevenzione e consegnate agli archivi federali. Ciò per assicurare che questo servizio di polizia non vi abbia più accesso e non possa in alcun caso cancellare le tracce di tutta questa attività illegale. Secondo la legge, i dati e i dossieri divenuti inutili o destinati a essere distrutti devono essere depositati negli archivi della Confederazione [8], in modo che la polizia non li possa modificare.

Chiediamo inoltre che tutte le schede siano esaminate e che, dopo un certo tempo, possano diventare accessibili non soltanto a coloro che fanno ricerche scientifiche ma anche agli stessi schedati.

Silvia Cattori : Che cosa si aspetta dalle autorità locali e federali ?

Balthasar Glättli : [...] Spero che le nostre iniziative conducano a un cambiamento di politica da parte di Berna. Per il momento, per quanto posso giudicare dalle dichiarazioni di Urs von Daeniken, capo della Divisione principale del Servizio d’Analisi e di Prevenzione, le cose non sembrano andare nel verso giusto. A un giornalista del Sonntag Blick che gli chiedeva perché mi avesse posto sotto sorveglianza e schedato soltanto per aver chiesto l’autorizzazione a una manifestazione pacifica, ha risposto: «Abbiamo avuto le nostre buone ragioni per schedarlo». La stampa locale ha ripreso le dichiarazioni di Daeniken (che le ha in sostanza confermate), secondo cui il problema non sono le schedature ma i limitati mezzi di controllo di cui dispone la polizia per «proteggere gli svizzeri dal terrorismo». [...]

Silvia Cattori
giornalista svizzera.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

glimpse our future: empty supermarkets in iceland!

Icelandic Shoppers Splurge as Currency Woes Reduce Food Imports

By Chad Thomas

Oct. 13 (Bloomberg) -- After a four-year spending spree, Icelanders are flooding the supermarkets one last time, stocking up on food as the collapse of the banking system threatens to cut the island off from imports.

``We have had crazy days for a week now,'' said Johannes Smari Oluffsson, manager of the Bonus discount grocery store in Reykjavik's main shopping center. ``Sales have doubled.''

Bonus, a nationwide chain, has stock at its warehouse for about two weeks. After that, the shelves will start emptying unless it can get access to foreign currency, the 22-year-old manager said, standing in a walk-in fridge filled with meat products, among the few goods on sale produced locally.

Iceland's foreign currency market has seized up after the three largest banks collapsed and the government abandoned an attempt to peg the exchange rate. Many banks won't trade the krona and suppliers from abroad are demanding payment in advance. The government has asked banks to prioritize foreign currency transactions for essentials such as food, drugs and oil.

The crisis is already hitting clothing retailers. A short walk from Bonus in the capital's Kringlan shopping center, Ragnhildur Anna Jonsdottir, 38, owner of the Next Plc clothing store, said she can't get any foreign currency to pay for incoming shipments and, even if she could, the exchange rate would be prohibitively high.

``We aren't getting new shipments in, as we normally do once a week,'' Jonsdottir said. ``This is the third week that we haven't had any shipments.''


Iceland's 320,000 inhabitants have enjoyed four years of economic growth in excess of 4 percent as banks and businesses expanded abroad, buying up companies from brokerages to West Ham United soccer club. Now, the three biggest banks, Kaupthing Bank hf, Landsbanki Island hf and Glitnir Bank hf have collapsed under the weight of about $61 billion in debts, 12 times the size of the economy, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The central bank, or Sedlabanki, ditched its attempt to peg the krona to a basket of currencies on Oct. 9, after just two days, citing ``insufficient support'' in the market. Nordea Bank AB, the biggest Scandinavian lender, said the same day that the krona hadn't been traded on the spot market, while the last quoted price was 340 per euro, compared with 122 a month ago.

``There is absolutely no currency in the country today to import,'' said Andres Magnusson, chief executive officer of the Icelandic Federation of Trade and Services in Reykjavik. ``The only way we can solve this problem is to get the IMF into the country.''

Imports Dependency

The International Monetary Fund sent a delegation to the island last week. Prime Minister Geir Haarde said on Oct. 9 his country may ask it for money after failing to get ``the response that we felt that we should be able to get'' from European governments and central banks. The state will also start talks with Russia over a possible 4 billion-euro ($5.5 billion) loan.

Iceland's rugged, treeless terrain, a barren stretch of volcanic rock, geysers and moss, means the country imports most food, other than meat, fish and dairy products.

Magnusson said last week that one of Iceland's largest supermarket chains was unable to get any foreign currency to make purchases abroad and another retailer's electronic payment didn't go through. Iceland will begin to see shortages of ``regular goods'' by the end of the week if nothing changes, he said.

``We are struggling to make the economy survive from hour to hour,'' Magnusson said. ``There is an enormous amount of capital that wants to get out of the country.''

Sedlabanki told lenders on Oct. 10 that residents who want foreign currency should first prove they need the money for traveling by providing documentation for their trip.

Essential Goods

Wholesalers are demanding that importers pay before any goods are shipped, said Knutur Signarsson, head of the Reykjavik-based Federation of Icelandic Trade. Under normal circumstances, wholesalers abroad would extend credit for 30 to 90 days, he said.

``Many of them ask us to pay cash before they send the goods to Iceland,'' Signarsson said. ``Because of the situation, Iceland has become a country that no one trusts any longer.''

Bogi Thor Siguroddsson, owner of Johan Roenning, an import and retail business which has about 7 billion krona ($71 million) in annual sales, says he's instructed his purchasing managers to only import the core goods, including light bulbs, lamps and electrical cables, they need to serve their customers.

``It's enough to have the credit crisis,'' he said. ``Then you have the currency crash. Unfortunately, we have shown that we can't handle it ourselves.''

Food Inflation

Icelanders, whose per capita gross domestic product is the fifth highest in the world, according to the United Nations 2007/2008 Human Development Index, will have to tighten their belts.

Shoppers are paying more for the goods they do get. The cost of fruits and vegetables, nearly all of which are imported, have gone up about 50 percent in recent months, said Steinunn Kristinsdottir, a 33-year-old Reykjavik resident who was leaving the Bonus store with her cart full.

``This situation really has been a bit troubling for people,'' she said. ``They don't know what's going to happen.''

To contact the reporter on this story: Chad Thomas in Reykjavik, Iceland, via the Helsinki newsroom at

next: 516 trillion $ derivative bubble to explode


Derivatives the new 'ticking bomb'

Buffett and Gross warn: $516 trillion bubble is a disaster waiting to happen

By Paul B. Farrell, MarketWatch

7:31 p.m. EDT March 10, 2008

"Charlie and I believe Berkshire should be a fortress of financial strength" wrote Warren Buffett. That was five years before the subprime-credit meltdown.

"We try to be alert to any sort of mega-catastrophe risk, and that posture may make us unduly appreciative about the burgeoning quantities of long-term derivatives contracts and the massive amount of uncollateralized receivables that are growing alongside. In our view, however, derivatives are financial weapons of mass destruction, carrying dangers that, while now latent, are potentially lethal."

That warning was in Buffett's 2002 letter to Berkshire shareholders. He saw a future that many others chose to ignore. The Iraq war build-up was at a fever-pitch. The imagery of WMDs and a mushroom cloud fresh in his mind.

Also fresh on Buffett's mind: His acquisition of General Re four years earlier, about the time the Long-Term Capital Management hedge fund almost killed the global monetary system. How? This is crucial: LTCM nearly killed the system with a relatively small $5 billion trading loss. Peanuts compared with the hundreds of billions of dollars of subprime-credit write-offs now making Wall Street's big shots look like amateurs.
Buffett tried to sell off Gen Re's derivatives group. No buyers. Unwinding it was costly, but led to his warning that derivatives are a "financial weapon of mass destruction." That was 2002.
Derivatives bubble explodes five times bigger in five years
Wall Street didn't listen to Buffett. Derivatives grew into a massive bubble, from about $100 trillion to $516 trillion by 2007. The new derivatives bubble was fueled by five key economic and political trends:
Sarbanes-Oxley increased corporate disclosures and government oversight
Federal Reserve's cheap money policies created the subprime-housing boom
War budgets burdened the U.S. Treasury and future entitlements programs
Trade deficits with China and others destroyed the value of the U.S. dollar

Oil and commodity rich nations demanding equity payments rather than debt
In short, despite Buffett's clear warnings, a massive new derivatives bubble is driving the domestic and global economies, a bubble that continues growing today parallel with the subprime-credit meltdown triggering a bear-recession.

Data on the five-fold growth of derivatives to $516 trillion in five years comes from the most recent survey by the Bank of International Settlements, the world's clearinghouse for central banks in Basel, Switzerland. The BIS is like the cashier's window at a racetrack or casino, where you'd place a bet or cash in chips, except on a massive scale: BIS is where the U.S. settles trade imbalances with Saudi Arabia for all that oil we guzzle and gives China IOUs for the tainted drugs and lead-based toys we buy.

To grasp how significant this five-fold bubble increase is, let's put that $516 trillion in the context of some other domestic and international monetary data:

U.S. annual gross domestic product is about $15 trillion

U.S. money supply is also about $15 trillion

Current proposed U.S. federal budget is $3 trillion

U.S. government's maximum legal debt is $9 trillion

U.S. mutual fund companies manage about $12 trillion

World's GDPs for all nations is approximately $50 trillion

Unfunded Social Security and Medicare benefits $50 trillion to $65 trillion

Total value of the world's real estate is estimated at about $75 trillion

Total value of world's stock and bond markets is more than $100 trillion

BIS valuation of world's derivatives back in 2002 was about $100 trillion

BIS 2007 valuation of the world's derivatives is now a whopping $516 trillion

Moreover, the folks at BIS tell me their estimate of $516 trillion only includes "transactions in which a major private dealer (bank) is involved on at least one side of the transaction," but doesn't include private deals between two "non-reporting entities." They did, however, add that their reporting central banks estimate that the coverage of the survey is around 95% on average.
Also, keep in mind that while the $516 trillion "notional" value (maximum in case of a meltdown) of the deals is a good measure of the market's size, the 2007 BIS study notes that the $11 trillion "gross market values provides a more accurate measure of the scale of financial risk transfer taking place in derivatives markets."
Bubbles, domino effects and the 'bad 2%'
However, while that may be true as far as the parties to an individual deal, there are broader risks to the world's economies. Remember back in 1998 when LTCM's little $5 billion loss nearly brought down the world's banking system. That "domino effect" is now repeating many times over, straining the world's monetary, economic and political system as the subprime housing mess metastasizes, taking the U.S. stock market and the world economy down with it.
This cascading "domino effect" was brilliantly described in "The $300 Trillion Time Bomb: If Buffett can't figure out derivatives, can anybody?" published early last year in Portfolio magazine, a couple months before the subprime meltdown. Columnist Jesse Eisinger's $300 trillion figure came from an earlier study of the derivatives market as it was growing from $100 trillion to $516 trillion over five years. Eisinger concluded:
"There's nothing intrinsically scary about derivatives, except when the bad 2% blow up." Unfortunately, that "bad 2%" did blow up a few months afterwards, even as Bernanke and Paulson were assuring America that the subprime mess was "contained."
Bottom line: Little things leverage a heck of a big wallop. It only takes a little spark from a "bad 2% deal" to ignite this $516 trillion weapon of mass destruction. Think of this entire unregulated derivatives market like an unsecured, unpredictable nuclear bomb in a Pakistan stockpile. It's only a matter of time.
World's newest and biggest 'black market'
The fact is, derivatives have become the world's biggest "black market," exceeding the illicit traffic in stuff like arms, drugs, alcohol, gambling, cigarettes, stolen art and pirated movies. Why? Because like all black markets, derivatives are a perfect way of getting rich while avoiding taxes and government regulations. And in today's slowdown, plus a volatile global market, Wall Street knows derivatives remain a lucrative business.
Recently Pimco's bond fund king Bill Gross said "What we are witnessing is essentially the breakdown of our modern-day banking system, a complex of leveraged lending so hard to understand that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke required a face-to-face refresher course from hedge fund managers in mid-August." In short, not only Warren Buffett, but Bond King Bill Gross, our Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, the Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and the rest of America's leaders can't "figure out" the world's $516 trillion derivatives.
Why? Gross says we are creating a new "shadow banking system." Derivatives are now not just risk management tools. As Gross and others see it, the real problem is that derivatives are now a new way of creating money outside the normal central bank liquidity rules. How? Because they're private contracts between two companies or institutions.
BIS is primarily a records-keeper, a toothless tiger that merely collects data giving a legitimacy and false sense of security to this chaotic "shadow banking system" that has become the world's biggest "black market."
That's crucial, folks. Why? Because central banks require reserves like stock brokers require margins, something backing up the transaction. Derivatives don't. They're not "real money." They're paper promises closer to "Monopoly" money than real U.S. dollars.
And it takes place outside normal business channels, out there in the "free market." That's the wonderful world of derivatives, and it's creating a massive bubble that could soon implode.
Comments? Yes, we want to hear your thoughts. Tell us what you think about derivatives: as "financial weapons of mass destruction;" as a "shadow banking system;" as a "black market;" as the next big bubble dangerously exposing us to that unpredictable "bad 2%."

Monday, 13 October 2008

taliban leader was paki officer

The Sunday Times

October 12, 2008

Taliban leader killed by SAS was Pakistan officer

Christina Lamb in Kabul

British officials covered up evidence that a Taliban commander killed by special forces in Helmand last year was in fact a Pakistani military officer, according to highly placed Afghan officials.

The commander, targeted in a compound in the Sangin valley, was one of six killed in the past year by SAS and SBS forces. When the British soldiers entered the compound they discovered a Pakistani military ID on the body.

It was the first physical evidence of covert Pakistani military operations against British forces in Afghanistan even though Islamabad insists it is a close ally in the war against terror.

Britain’s refusal to make the incident public led to a row with the Afghan president Hamid Karzai, who has long accused London of viewing Afghanistan through the eyes of Pakistani military intelligence, which is widely believed to have been helping the Taliban.

“He feels he has been telling everyone about Pakistan for the past six years and here was the evidence, yet London refused to release it, because they care more about their relations with Islamabad than Kabul,” said a source close to the president. “He knows Britain is worried about inflaming its large Pakistani population, but that is no excuse.”

So furious was Karzai that he threatened to expel British diplomats. When some months later he was informed by the governor of Helmand that British officials were secretly negotiating with the Taliban, he expelled two men and accused Britain of wanting to set up a training camp for former Taliban fighters.

Karzai will visit London next month for talks with Gordon Brown in an attempt to repair the strained relations between the two countries.

“He is very sad about the breakdown of relations with Britain,” said the source. “He loves British culture and poetry, had a British education [at a school in India], likes tea in the afternoon and thinks Gordon Brown is a very decent man, not a cheat.”

British officials in Kabul refused to comment on the allegation that they had covered up the discovery of a Pakistani soldier. They insisted Karzai’s government had been informed of the negotiations with the Taliban, adding that “the camp was just a place for them to be reintegrated, learn about hygiene and things”.

During the war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s, officers from Pakistani military intelligence regularly accompanied Afghan mujaheddin inside Afghanistan and directed operations.

The Afghan claims of Pakistani involvement in Helmand were backed by a senior United Nations official who said he had been told by his superiors to keep quiet after Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN apparently threatened to stop contributing forces to peacekeeping missions. Pakistan is the UN’s biggest supplier of peacekeeping troops.

The coalition’s refusal to confront Pakistan changed after the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul last July, when 41 people were killed. According to both British and US intelligence, phone intercepts led directly back to an Afghan cell of Pakistan’s military intelligence.

The past month has seen US forces carry out bombings and a ground raid on Pakistani territory. Claims of Pakistan’s involvement were rejected by Asif Durrani, the country’s chargé d’affaires in Kabul. “Afghanistan wants to blame someone else for its problems and Pakistan is just the whipping boy,” he said.

However, repeated accusations from Karzai about Pakistan’s active support for the Taliban have been backed by a senior US marine officer.

Lieutenant-Colonel Chris Nash, who commanded an embedded training team in eastern Afghanistan from June 2007 to March this year, told the Army Times that Pakistani forces flew repeated helicopter missions into Afghanistan to resupply a Taliban base camp during a fierce battle in June last year. Nash said: “We were on the receiving end of Pakistani military D-30 [a howitzer]. On numerous occasions Afghan border police checkpoints and observation posts were attacked by Pakistani military forces.”

Comments by Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith in The Sunday Times last week that a decisive military victory against the Taliban was not possible and negotiations should be opened have received widespread backing.

General Jean-Louis Georgelin, France’s military chief, said: “There is no military solution to the Afghan crisis and I totally share this feeling.”

Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, who initially dismissed the brigadier’s comments as “defeatist”, said on Friday that the US was now prepared to back talks with the Taliban.

The deadly toll

— 120 British soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since 2002

— At least 4,200 Afghans, including 1,450 civilians, have died this year alone

— Total cost of British operations in the Afghan war from 2001 to 2008 has been £3.2 billion

cuba libre...


L’infamie des bons

par Santiago Alba Rico*

L’écrivain espagnol Santiago Alba Rico a lu le dernier ouvrage de notre collaborateur Salim Lamrani, Double Morale. Cuba, l’Union européenne et les droits de l’homme. Comme dans le scénario de « l’arroseur arrosé », l’auteur applique aux États membres de l’UE les critères que Bruxelles utilise pour condamner La Havane. Le résultat est édifiant : selon les normes occidentales, Cuba est bien plus respectueux des droits de l’homme que les pays européens !

12 octobre 2008

Madrid (España)

Ce qu’on ne pardonne pas à la Cuba révolutionnaire depuis le début, ce qu’on lui reproche est d’avoir dû se défendre sans répit. Depuis 1959, en effet, Cuba a dû se défendre d’invasions, de blocus, d’attentats terroristes et d’ingérences déstabilisatrices ; et elle a également dû se défendre contre une propagande farouche, aussi agressive qu’insistante, dont la puissance illumine sans l’ombre d’un doute la grande ignominie de la petite île. Un pays autant attaqué doit forcément être mauvais ; un pays tant défendu ne peut être qu’indéfendable. On ne peut même plus savoir pourquoi on attaque et pourquoi on défend un pays aussi attaqué et défendu.

On peut juger, en tout cas, de l’illégitimité de cette défense par la légitimité de l’offensive. On peut juger de la bassesse des défenseurs par la grandeur des attaquants. Qui attaque Cuba ? Des gouvernements très puissants qui parlent au nom de la démocratie et des droits de l’homme ; des gouvernements très puissants qui parlent au nom de la démocratie et des droits de l’homme et qui envahissent ou soutiennent l’invasion de nations souveraines ; des gouvernements qui parlent au nom de la démocratie et des droits de l’homme et qui tuent pour sauver des banques et des entreprises pétrolières ; des gouvernements qui parlent au nom de la démocratie et des droits de l’homme et qui ordonnent – ou y consentent – les séquestrations de la CIA, les camps de torture, les prisons secrètes, le contrôle des téléphones et des communications, la suspension de l’habeas corpus, le racisme exterminateur des lois migratoires et un
bon nombre de dictatures collaborationnistes ; des gouvernements très puissants qui parlent publiquement de démocratie et de droits de l’homme et qui bafouent la démocratie et les droits de l’homme, et qui le font non pas parce qu’ils sont hypocrites ou rusés, mais parce qu’ils savent qu’il est autant utile de les violer que de les invoquer. Pourquoi peuvent-ils parler publiquement de démocratie et de droits de l’homme ? Précisément parce qu’ils peuvent les bafouer et les violer publiquement sans trop d’opposition. Pourquoi croit-on à ce qu’ils disent et non à ce qu’ils font ? Parce que leurs moyens pour se faire entendre sont aussi puissants que leurs moyens pour violer, tuer et détruire. Cuba ne pourra jamais avoir raison face à une irrationalité aussi irrésistible ; Cuba ne pourra jamais être juste face à une injustice aussi criminelle.

Salim Lamrani, enseignant et journaliste spécialiste de Cuba, a très bien compris qu’une partie de la stratégie de sape de la révolution cubaine passe par le fait de l’obliger à se défendre sans cesse, afin que tous ses principes paraissent rhétoriques, ses vérités vides de sens, ses chiffres gonflés, ses acquis douteux. Face à cette autolégitimation de l’attaquant – basée sur sa propre capacité à attaquer –, face à laquelle toute défense se retrouve délégitimée, il s’agit moins d’insister sur la légitimité de la révolution que de questionner radicalement la légitimité de ses détracteurs. C’est ce que fait Salim Lamrani dans Double Morale. Cuba, l’Union européenne et les droits de l’homme. Avec un calme très efficace, sans rhétorique, en ayant toujours recours à des rapports officiels au-delà de tout soupçon, il ose faire face aux gouvernements européens les plus belligérants contre Cuba sur leur
propre terrain, là où ils se croient le plus intouchables ou d’où ils prétendent imposer leur doctrine au reste du monde. Abordant la question la plus difficile, la plus sensible et également la plus manipulée, l’ouvrage court et convaincant de Lamrani accumule tant d’accusations contre l’UE (et, bien sûr, contre les États-Unis) qu’apparaît naturellement aux yeux du lecteur tout ce que la propagande nous cache par le biais d’artifices et de violences symboliques, à savoir, les véritables raisons de l’offensive anti-cubaine et, indissociable de celles-ci, la supériorité positive et manifeste de Cuba – et pas seulement de manière comparative – dans la défense des droits de l’homme.

Mais les comparaisons sont vraiment édifiantes et je ne peux pas résister à l’envie de citer un passage du livre de Lamrani qui, précisément sous ce titre (« une comparaison édifiante »), exprime parfaitement aussi bien l’illégitimité morale et démocratique de l’Union européenne que le talent de l’auteur pour ordonner des vérités de façon à ce qu’elles puissent être perceptibles. Pour un compte rendu, la citation est longue ; pour un résumé judiciaire, elle est trop courte :

« Contrairement aux rapports concernant les pays de l’Union européenne, Amnesty International n’a rapporté, pour ce qui concerne Cuba,
Aucun cas d’assassinat politique contrairement au Royaume-Uni.
Aucun cas de torture ou traitement inhumain contrairement à la Belgique, à Chypre, à l’Estonie, à la France, à la Grèce, à l’Italie, à la Lettonie, à Malte, à la République tchèque et au Royaume-Uni.
Aucun cas d’utilisation de preuves obtenues sous la torture contrairement à l’Allemagne et à Chypre.
Aucun cas de disparition contrairement à l’Estonie.
Aucun cas d’enlèvement de personnes par les autorités contrairement à l’Italie.
Aucun cas de violation du droit à la vie contrairement à la Suède.
Aucun cas d’impunité suite à un crime commis par des agents de l’Etat contrairement à l’Autriche, l’Espagne, la France, la Grèce, l’Irlande, l’Italie, le Portugal, la République tchèque et au Royaume-Uni.
Aucun cas de trafic d’êtres humains contrairement à la Grèce et à la Lituanie.
Aucun cas de violence contre les mineurs commises par des agents de l’État, contrairement à l’Estonie, la République tchèque et la Slovaquie.
Aucun cas de violence systématique contre les femmes contrairement à la plupart des pays européens.
Aucun cas de violence contre les minorités contrairement à l’Allemagne, à l’Estonie, à la France, la Grèce, la République tchèque, le Royaume-Uni et à la Slovaquie.
Aucun cas d’enfants privés d’accès à l’éducation en raison de leur origine ethnique contrairement à la Grèce, la Hongrie, la République tchèque, la Slovaquie, la Lettonie, et la Slovénie.
Aucun cas d’enfants internés en raison de leur origine ethnique contrairement à la République tchèque et à la Slovaquie.
Aucun cas de stérilisation forcée de femmes issues de minorités contrairement à la République tchèque et à la Slovaquie.
Aucun cas de citoyens déchus de leur nationalité contrairement à la Grèce et à la Slovénie.
Aucun cas d’utilisation de lits-cages pour enfermer les handicapés mentaux contrairement à la République tchèque.
Aucun cas de répression de manifestants contrairement à Chypre et à Malte.
Aucun cas de familles expulsées de leur logement contrairement à la Hongrie.
Aucun cas de violences sur les handicapés contrairement à l’Irlande.
Aucun cas de mineurs incarcérés contrairement à l’Espagne, l’Estonie et l’Irlande.
Aucun cas de malades mentaux mis en prison contrairement à l’Autriche, à l’Irlande et à l’Italie.
Aucun cas de suicide en prison contrairement à l’Italie.
Aucun cas d’automutilation en prison contrairement à l’Italie.
Aucun cas de manque d’attention médicale contrairement à l’Estonie, l’Italie, et au Royaume-Uni.
Aucun cas de violences policières contrairement à la plupart des pays européens.
Aucun cas de suspension des garanties constitutionnelles contrairement à la France.
Aucun cas de traite d’êtres humains contrairement à la Grèce.
Aucun cas d’incitation à la haine raciale et à la discrimination par les autorités contrairement à la Hongrie et à la Lettonie.
Aucun cas d’expulsion de demandeurs d’asile contrairement à l’Allemagne, l’Autriche, la Belgique, Chypre, la France et à la Grèce ».

Avec un véritable bon sens, Salim Lamrani brandit contre l’UE une source qu’elle-même reconnaît et utilise, mais le nombre de violations des droits de l’homme commises dans les pays européens et non commises à Cuba augmenterait sans aucun doute si l’on acceptait les dénonciations d’organismes moins officiellement « indépendants ». Pour les défenseurs des droits de l’homme, il est clair, en tout cas, non seulement que la propagande occidentale contre Cuba est dénuée de fondement mais qu’elle inverse littéralement (conformément à une projection freudienne consciente et intéressée) le partage des rôles : la vérité est que pendant que le gouvernement de l’île caribéenne oriente toute sa politique vers la protection des droits de l’homme, les gouvernements européens (suivant celui des États-Unis) montrent clairement que les temps – si l’on veut protéger le capitalisme – ne sont pas aux scrupules juridiques ni
aux simagrées humanistes. C’est pour cela qu’a servi et que sert encore la propagande contre Cuba ; si elle aide à la faire tomber, très bien ; sinon, au moins on arrive à camoufler un peu l’infamie croissante de ceux qui l’attaquent. Après avoir lu le livre de Salim Lamrani, les atrocités commises par ceux qui les racontent m’inquiètent beaucoup plus que les bêtises que l’on raconte sur Cuba ; et l’ingénuité avec laquelle on avale ce que nous racontent nos journalistes et nos gouvernements sur eux-mêmes m’inquiètent beaucoup plus que l’ingénuité avec laquelle on gobe les bobards qu’ils nous racontent sur Cuba. Après avoir lu le livre de Salim Lamrani, je suis surtout inquiet de l’horreur de tout ce que les anti-cubains de l’Union européenne sont en train de faire aux Européens, et du silence avec lequel nous le supportons sans une plainte. Sur ce point également les Cubains ont beaucoup à nous apprendre :
parce qu’au moins eux se défendent.

Santiago Alba Rico
Écrivain et enseignant de philosophie.