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Friday, 12 March 2010

A Russo-India Nuke Pact

Putin Singhs Indian praises.
Ever since the Bush administration opened the nuclear door to NPT-recalcitrant India and went courting India with pledges of nearly unregulated nuke development, Moscow was horning in on the scene and has now just signed a deal with India for "16 nuclear reactors,."
The long-anticipated nuclear agreement came as Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited India.

He said nuclear co-operation was one of the most important aspects in the partnership between the two countries which have strong trade ties.

Russia's state-owned nuclear company earlier said six of the reactors would be built by 2017.

Russia is already building two reactors in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

"The agreement sees construction of up to 16 nuclear reactors in three locations," Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, accompanying Mr Putin, said.

Russia is competing with French and US firms for contracts to build nuclear power plants in Asia's third-largest economy which is looking to increase its energy supply to sustain rapid economic growth.

The increased competition began after India's landmark civilian nuclear deal with the US in 2005 which ended the isolation India had experienced since it tested an atom bomb in 1974.

Also part of the deal, Russia will "refit" an aircraft carrier and supply 29 fighter aircraft, as India ramps up force projection efforts in territorial waters with an eye to concerns over China's increasing presence in the region, especially


Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Operation Moshtarak: A Domestic Information Operation

"Operation Moshtarak" began in earnest on February 2, 2010, when US Marine officials at Camp Leatherneck described the then little-noted agricultural region of Marja as a "southern Afghan town of 80,000 people."  It was from this point that the urbanisation of Marja began to take hold in the press, which, subsequent to this briefing, inflated Marja into a bustling urban center, where Taliban were sure to be "holed up."  But the "city of Marja" is literally an urban myth.

Admitted by US officials, the real purpose of Moshtarak was "intended largely to impress U.S. public opinion with the effectiveness of the U.S. military in Afghanistan."  The Marja offensive, then, was strictly an exercise in domestic information operations, designed to make Afghanistan appear "winnable" to the American public.  Tens or hundreds of dead "Taliban," most simply Afghans, adds effectiveness to the message.
For weeks, the U.S. public followed the biggest offensive of the Afghanistan War against what it was told was a "city of 80,000 people" as well as the logistical hub of the Taliban in that part of Helmand. That idea was a central element in the overall impression built up in February that Marja was a major strategic objective, more important than other district centres in Helmand.

It turns out, however, that the picture of Marja presented by military officials and obediently reported by major news media is one of the clearest and most dramatic pieces of misinformation of the entire war, apparently aimed at hyping the offensive as a historic turning point in the conflict. <

Sunday, 07 March 2010

Massacre in Kunar: "A Civilian Casualty Incident"

After it was reported that a December night raid by personnel unknown had resulted in the execution of eight Afghan school children, hands bound in some cases, eight weeks since the now admitted atrocity, NATO did "determine it to be a civilian casualty incident."

This determination was the final knot in the thread of the usual Pentagon/NATO PR knitting: first claim smashing success!  A "terrorist cell" had been taken out.  Ha ha!  Weapons!  Concurrently, locals were heard sputtering in the foreign press.  Only the foreign press.  The UN and the Karzai government investigate and find that indeed eight school children had been executed in a night time raid by US personnel.  Not only that, but the hit managed to nail a 12 year old "local shepherd boy," and a guest who was in town overnight in order to have "wheat milled into flour."  Yeah, let's take out those guys.

Throughout, "NATO" claimed otherwise, though, haltingly -- they've seen the Pentagon tread down this bramble path a number of times already.  And now it is their turn, knowing full well what was the truth in the matter.

And now the final knot in the tale of US military assassination of school children has been tied off.  NATO has admitted that -- at the hands of military or mercenary assassins -- eight school children were executed in the dead of a cold Afghan December night.

Which appears to be the end of it.  Yep, we did it.  Let's move on.& [...]More

Thursday, 04 March 2010

Somali Pirates Sieze "Empty" Saudi Oil Tanker

Somali pirates have once again seized a Saudi oil tanker, apparently unconcerned with the direction parameter of the ship's vector:  they seized an empty ship.
Somali pirates have captured a small Saudi tanker and its crew, the EU naval force in the Gulf of Aden says.

The tanker, travelling from Japan to Jeddah, was empty when pirates hijacked the vessel and took its crew captive.
Meanwhile, Somali pirates are turning their gaze inward and have begun hijacking UN WFP aid vehicles.More

Brazil Spurns Iran Sanctions

Brazil rebuff for Iran sanctions drive

Brazil delivered a wounding blow to Washington’s hopes of international consensus for sanctions on Iran on Wednesday when its president declared his opposition to such measures hours before meeting Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state.

In an indication of Brazil’s growing self-confidence on the international stage – and its effort to chart a path independent of Washington – Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva stated his backing for Iran’s nuclear programme, as long as it remained purely peaceful.

In an indication of Brazil’s growing self-confidence on the international stage – and its effort to chart a path independent of Washington – Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva stated his backing for Iran’s nuclear programme, as long as it remained purely peaceful.
Amusingly, SoS Clinton complained that Iran was "running to Brazil, Turkey and China 'telling different things to different people to avoid international sanctions'."

Indeed, Iran may be doing this, which is certainly upsetting to the foreign policy establishment.  After all, this is a departure from acceptable US foreign policy vectors that usually involve the threat of, if not actual war, spying on UN allies, covert destabilization operations, and international aid bribery to effect UN sanctions and resolutions.

China Throttles Mil Spending

One might expect that Chinese public accounting of its military budget occurs behind a veil not unlike that seen in the US, where any number of "defense" activities are scattered throughout the budget, ducking and weaving public scrutiny -- and one giant lump sum -- over how much the military-security-surveillance complex actually costs.  Nonetheless, and though China's military budget pales, by an order of magnitude, next to the American budget-busting DoD/DoE/DHS budgets, China has announced a draw-down on military spending increases.

Still, imagine living in country with this dynamic in play:
China’s huge economic stimulus program and other efforts to address unemployment and welfare had eaten into monies that in a normal year would go toward the nation’s rapid military buildup.
Imagine… .

Now, it is said that this spending ramp-down being caused by the financial crisis is speculation.  Which mean we might also speculate that this move by China signals a recognition that -- unbeknownst by its sightless maw --  the Pentagon war machine is about to come to shaking, shuddering halt at some point in the not-to-distant future.  Just speculating …

Tuesday, 02 March 2010

Haiti: Heart of Hydrocarbon Darkness

Click on image for a larger version
The Bush family manged to whisk Jean Bertrand Aristide from Haiti, twice, the first time apparently just because he was a lefty.  The second time, however, has revealed more discerning focus.  After Aristide was elected again in 2000, Fanmi Lavalas produced a White Book, Investir Dans L'Humain, detailing Haiti's natural resources; kinds, locations, reserves, etc., and Aristide's plan for exploiting Haiti's plentiful resources for the benefit of the Haitian people.

Well, you can imagine the commotion in Washington!  Egads! All this oil "we" have been sitting on in Haiti is under threat by, of all things! Haitians!

It was shortly after the coup -- Wi-kiki-i-kiki-i-kik-i-pedia* -- laughingly describes Bertrand's orchestrated ouster as merely something in which "former soldiers participated" -- that a US-backed study commenced, a comprehensive geological survey of the Caribbean basin, particularly in the region surrounding the Greater Antilles.  It thus appears that there is a reason beneath the reason beneath the "reason."

Aristide, of course, had dispatched the shackles of [...]More

Sino-Egypt Push on SEZ

Great. Now the Chinese can have commercial slave labour camps in Egypt, probably filled with Indians, Indonesians, Malaysians, and Pakistanis.
Egypt courts China for Suez economic zone

One of China’s premier investment zones is expected soon to replicate its successful development model near the southern approaches to the Suez canal, according to Egypt’s investment minister.

The Egyptian government is negotiating with the Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area, which it is courting to help build the Suez Economic Zone. Under Egyptian law, TEDA could take up to a 49 per cent stake in the $1.5bn (€1.1bn, £1bn) project.

“SEZone is going to be the first of its kind linked to a big investor,” Mahmoud Mohieldin told the Financial Times in an interview. “The final negotiations will hopefully be taking place very soon.”

The attraction for the Chinese is partly the large number of preferential trade agreements that Egypt has with Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

The extractive nature of Chinese state companies’ involvement in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, where they seek natural resources in return for infrastructure investments, has courted controversy. Critics fear that China is more concerned with fuelling its own fast-growing economy than fostering development in the region.

Chinese companies have also proven adept at seizing market share for everything from cheap consumer goods to telecom equipment in Africa.

Monday, 01 March 2010

Bunning Hummer

[Update below]

Republican senator Jim Bunning (R-ToughShit) has a vision for the country.  Its grandiosity eludes me, but surely it is in there somewhere.  Either that, or this sort of thing just makes his testes tingle.
Senator's action furloughs workers, halts highway work

WASHINGTON -- The Department of Transportation said Monday that Republican Sen. Jim Bunning's blockage of legislation designed to keep a host of federal programs operating forced the agency to furlough nearly 2,000 employees without pay, temporarily shut down highway reimbursements to states worth hundreds of millions of dollars and stalled multi-million dollar construction projects across the country.

"As American families are struggling in tough economic times, I am keenly disappointed that political games are putting a stop to important construction projects around the country," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. "This means that construction workers will be sent home from job sites because federal inspectors must be furloughed.

"Federal projects shut down by the furlough include more than $24 million in Idaho's Nez Perce National Forest and $86 million for bridge replacements in the Washington, D.C., area.

According to the National Employment Law Project, … some 1.2 million unemployed workers, including 14,000 in Kentucky, would lose federal jobless benefits this month if Congress doesn't extend them. The U.S. Labor Department figures about one-third will lose benefits in the first two weeks of the month.

Letting the highway program lapse could mean an estimated 90,000


Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Yes, Virginia, The Economist does suck

The Economist magazine is the erudite flagship of contemporary conservative free market news and thought.  Think of it as the conservative intelligentsia's Fox News; same shit, less brash.   Which is about all one needs to know about the conservative intelligentsia: as detached from any sober reckoning of the world as their squalling dittohead brethren.

What The Economist really is, is a bag full of ignorant, vaguely Randian wind, spouting all the usual globalization platitudes; unregulated markets! uncontrolled capital flows! woo hoo!  can't beat 'em!  Remarkably, for a magazine seen as a vanguard of world economic policy news and information, their parallax view of US politics is equally skewed to the already discredited perspective of the Republican party.

As Yglasias points out,
their coverage of US politics remains remarkably bad—a mix of center-right ideological commitments and sloppiness.
Too kind, really.

The Economist appears both exceedingly ignorant of the stated objective of the Republican party, willingly victimized by the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, and even complains that Obama failed to do things he actually did.  That's the trifecta on the GOP track.  Rounding out the Economist's political sensibilities, they still haven't figured out that Hugo Chavez isn't actually a "dictator," though it surely is a blindness borne of Economist disdain for Chavez' rudely socialist policies.

But the Economist's badness extends to so much more, and all well within the bounds of their putative realm of expertise.  They are as dumb to the Congo as any corporate media tool.  They're as tilted toward exploitation of [...]More

Monday, 22 February 2010

The House of Saud and News Corp., together at last.

The munificent forces of Saudi oil money and an Australian's media monstrosity are coming together to deliver Fox News to the land of glee.  Indeed, the Saudi Prince and the Aussie will see to it that News Corp. bring to America, "America’s most successful, and conservative, television network."  Amen to that!

It seems the "notorious" Prince Alwaleed bin Talal (that crazy Saudi who had the temerity to say that US foreign policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict might have something to do with Muslim anger directed toward those United States) has purchased a considerable number of shares in Rupert Murdoch's media empire, enough to make the Prince the fourth largest shareholder of News Corp.  The fawning on Fox News has begun.  Critiques, even statements of fact, vis-á-vis Saudi Arabia and/or agents thereof are scrubbed from the News Corp. record.  Really, what's to worry about "commercial" media?

This fellow, Trento, seems to be a bit a right wing numb-head, but his question of this arrangement is entirely well directed.  He also has the tell-tale signs of the right wing paranoiac:
The Australian entrepreneur has reportedly also given the prince the unfiltered ability to broadcast Saudi-produced materials directly into America on Murdoch’s satellite. Here’s how that part of the deal will evidently work: Prince Al-Waleed’s Rotana Audio Visual Company, which operates TV channels in the Middle East, has signed a deal with DirecTV, the TV-satellite firm controlled by News Corp. As a result, it would seem Rotana will be able to beam its programs into

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Dutch Coalition Government Folds on Afghan Mission

66% of the Dutch population thinks that Labour is correct to hold position on withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The Dutch government collapsed in the early hours of Saturday morning over Labour's insistence that the Netherlands pull out of Afghanistan this year.

After two days of intensive talks and a bitter parliamentary debate,it had become increasingly clear the gulf between prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende and deputy prime minister Wouter Bos was too great tobridge.

Labour leader Bos stated earlier this week that he wanted a decisionon Nato's request to the Netherlands to stay in Afghanistan at Friday's cabinet meeting. And that decision would have to be a no, he said repeatedly.

Balkenende said he wanted to keep all options open and was sticking to the March 1 deadline.

'I have to conclude that there is no fruitful path to allow this cabinet to continue,' Balkenende said in a short statement.

The Labour party's comments had placed a 'political mortgage' on the cabinet, he said.

Efforts to restore trust between the parties had failed, he said.'Given the challenges facing the Netherlands, what is needed is strength, not the easy way out.'

The prime minister will now offer his government's resignation to the queen, who is skiing in Lech, Austria.


Friday, 19 February 2010

A Coup in Niger

As is often claimed by participants, the latest military coup in Africa is meant to "make Niger an example of democracy and good governance".  Really, what else are they for?  Military coups offer the straightest path toward good governance.
A coup has taken place in Niger and the president has been captured after a gun battle in the capital, Niamey.

Ina televised announcement, a spokesman for the plotters said Niger'sconstitution had been suspended and all state institutions dissolved.

The junta imposed a curfew and closed the country's borders.

PresidentMamadou Tandja, in power for more than a decade in the uranium-richnation, is believed to be in captivity at a military barracks.

Reports say government ministers are also being held.

Watch where this goes, with Niger sitting on the world's second largest uranium mine, while China works to bring a $5bn oil contract online.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

The link between financial and fiscal crisis

Michael Hudson nails the Wall Street problem.  And the Obama administration is not offering a solution.  The entire debacle amounts to a scaling back, to the nineteenth century, of all social democratic progress legislated in the 20th century.  Wall Street wishes to turn the United States into just another Balkan country, or even Greece.  Goldman Sachs will even help hide all that accumulating debt, profit from the hiding, and then profit from the inevitable fall.  Wall Street is not America's friend. In fact, it rarely has been.
What is remarkably left out of account is that today’s financial crisis, centered on public debts, is largely a fiscal crisis in character. It is caused by replacing progressive taxation with regressive taxes, and above all by untaxing finance and real estate. Take the case of California, where tears are being shed over the dismantling of the once elite University of California system. Since American independence, education has been financed by the property tax. But Proposition 13 has “freed” property from taxation – so that its rental value can be borrowed against and turned into interest payments to banks. California’s real estate costs are just as high with its property taxes frozen, but the rising rental value of land has been paid to the banks – forcing the state to slash its fiscal budget or else raise taxes on labor and consumers.

The link between financial and fiscal crisis – and hence the need for a symbiotic fiscal-financial reform – is just as clear in Europe. The Greek government has pre-sold its tax revenues from roads and other infrastructure to Wall Street, leaving less future revenue to

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Venezuela's New Found Objects: Dozens of 'Drug Planes'

Authorities have discovered 28 airplanes in central Venezuela that were presumably being used by drug traffickers.

A security official from central Guarico state says the planes were found inside a hangar on the outskirts of El Sombrero. The town is located in a rural area about 143 miles (230 kilometers) from Caracas.

Hedy Ramirez told the state-run ABN news agency on Sunday that federal police and National Guard troops have taken control of the hangar and impounded the planes while investigations proceed.

The planes are mostly small aircraft typically used by drug runners.

Venezuela is a major hub for traffickers smuggling Colombian cocaine to the United States and Europe.

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