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I SAW THE MOON

April 24, 2011 1 comment

By Gaither Stewart

(Rome) Last Saturday night I saw the Supermoon. The same March 19 night that Operation “Odyssey Dawn” was launched against the Libya of Muammar Gadaffi, the earth’s star in all its glory passed its nearest point to planet Earth as it does every 19 years. This time it was a full moon. It hovered over my house. At midnight the yellow Supermoon illuminated my front yard almost as a winter sun does at midday. That same night the same moon shone also over Tripoli, 600 miles the south, illuminating all of Libya as it did my front yard.

Under that moon, French Rafale jets attacked Libya. The impatient, arrogant and presumptuous French President Sarkozy showed off his new Rafale aircraft to the Arab world where France apparently hopes to sell loads of the new fighter plane. Tactically, Sarkozy simply jumped the gun in order to get there first. To put the French stamp on the operation and to claim a slice of the post-Gadaffi Libyan pie. The Rafales attacked before Italy had time to accomplish its role of knocking out Libyan radar guiding Gadaffi’s anti-aircraft. To astonished Libyan gunners, the Rafales must have looked like a sitting duck up there against that moon.

If you are in Europe today, you would not suspect that the US Africa Command under General Carter Ham might be in charge of Operation Odyssey Dawn. Except for the rain of 158 US missiles over Libya, in Europe the US is barely mentioned as a participant. Here, it is depicted as a European operation, with US backup. In fact on March 21, three days after the start of the air strikes, European media spoke of US withdrawal from the operation. But history shows that is pure fantasy. American withdrawal from a war seems highly unlikely. And to boot a war against that good old enemy Muammar Gadaffi is highly doubtful.

However America’s position may be, it was the military anomaly of the French jumping the gun that set the stage for the dissension already dividing the ranks of the European nations supposedly adhering to the UN Resolution to establish a no fly zone over Libya and to protect Libyan civilians. Three days into the operation against Gadaffi and the Coalition of Volunteer Nations is already split. No one seems to be in command. Italy and France are at each other’s throats. Italy threatens to withdraw its airbases and go it alone if overall command is not put in the hands of NATO, preferably operating in the Naples headquarters with Italian support. NATO has said it is willing to assume command. But France wants the leadership for itself.

Not only the Italo-French controversy over who is in command, but also the question of what to do with Gadaffi, when and if he is deposed, perplexes Europe: exile abroad, or exile somewhere in Libya, or trial in The Hague for crimes against humanity, or (unspoken but intimated: his assassination). Hard to forget is that only several months ago Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi received his friend Muammar in Rome with full honors and kissed the dictator’s hand in public. Accompanied by his female bodyguard, his Amazonian Guard, Gadaffi set up his tents in a Rome park, where his horses and camels grazed while he was feted left and right. Also, though less ostentatious, Sarkozy recently received Gadaffi as a chief of state in the Elysée Palace in Paris.

Major European concerns are Libyan oil, trade and other economic considerations after the eventual deposition of Muammar Gadaffi. Meanwhile, Gadaffi’s threats to flood Europe with one million immigrants worry especially Italy and France. And Gadaffi’s “long war” threat hangs heavy over Europe and the North African Renaissance. Those who at first spoke of a Blitzkrieg, a lightning war, over in a few hours or days, are today scratching their heads in consternation. The question is, how to attack Gadaffi’s tanks and troops hidden in villages and small towns, waiting, waiting, waiting. The long war indeed seems more likely.

The ugly reality that dictators no less ferocious and corrupt than Gadaffi reign over other Middle East countries is a distasteful subject largely shrugged off: ‘After all we can’t discipline the whole world.’ Or, as someone asked, who can imagine bombing Saudi Arabia? Especially Italy is cautious in Libya both because of its own atrocious colonial record of cruelty there last century and because Libya is a major trading partner. Also, Prime Minister Berlusconi now feels sorry for his friend Muammar, who however accuses Italy of betrayal.

Also France has a bad colonial record in North Africa as a whole. Ironically, French-speaking Tunisian immigrants are pouring into the reception center on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa with a population of 5000 and only 165 miles east of Tunisia. Today there also 5000 immigrants, a majority of whom want to move on to France. Xenophobic voices in Italy and France call for a naval blockade around Tunisia and Libya to halt the flow: another act of war despite the UN definition of “humanitarian intervention” for the operation in Libya that every European knows is already war.

Europe is divided. Germany refused to participate in Odyssey Dawn from the start. Other nations followed the German lead. Turkey opposes the intervention, tout court. Russia likewise condemns it. Norway first sent its aircraft then withdrew them to wait and see who will be in command. Other participating nations demand NATO overall command. No country except France likes the so-called Coalition of Volunteer Nations because France wants to go it alone in order to reap the greatest benefits.

Italian leftwing media are perplexed. All agree Gadaffi should go. Most agree that Libya is a different story from Egypt and Tunisia. Many also doubt claims of a spontaneous uprising of Libyan people, poorly armed and disorganized. Many suspect the usual hidden roles of foreign powers and that the Libyan crisis was created artificially, something like Iraq and Kosovo. Yet, on the evening of March 21, at the end of the third day of the “conflict” (use of the word “war” is largely frowned on in Italy since Italian President Napolitano declared this was NOT a war but a humanitarian intervention, a view which many consider naïve) a major leftwing TV talk show introduced a big group of  North Africans and Arab-speaking journalists to depict the Libyan insurrection as a truly popular uprising against a dictator. An Italian Arab-speaking female journalist with long experience in the Arab world and who resides in Egypt declared with great passion: “After decades and decades of cruel oppression, people everywhere inevitably reach the point where they rise up and say “No! No more. We will take no more. The dictator must go”.

How China should rule the world

March 23, 2011 4 comments

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/9ba6d850-54c2-11e0-b1ed-00144feab49a.html#axzz1HNvmWUOA
FT: How China should rule the world
China surely recognises that the accumulation of huge official claims on “safe” foreign liabilities must be matched by a corresponding supply. Unfortunately, the demand is now met via destabilising fiscal and external deficits in the US. China could help itself by accelerating liberalisation of capital outflows and increasing exchange rate flexibility.

Furthermore, China needs to develop a strategy for reform of the global monetary system that fits with its interests in managing the interface between its domestic development and global stability. One desirable move would be towards co-ordination of exchange rate management with other export-oriented emerging economies. It is also in China’s interests to secure a pragmatic accommodation with its partners in the discussions within the Group of 20 leading economies. This should focus on indicators of disequilibrium, methods of adjustment and liquidity provision for countries in difficulties.

As for finance, China’s objectives must be: first, to create a domestic system capable of supporting its own economic development; second, to help promote a global system that supports a tolerably stable world economy; and, third, to protect the former from the excesses of the latter. In achieving this difficult reconciliation China’s policies should be guided by the understanding that, in the long run, its financial system will be the hub of global finance. Yet the transition to full integration will be not only lengthy but also complex and fraught, with full integration of banking particularly dangerous.

Finally, let us look at access to resources. For the first time in its long history, China is dependent on access to imports of industrial raw materials. It is already the world’s largest importer of most raw materials. For China, policy in this area is of potentially the highest importance. Its immediate interest is to gain access to the world’s resources on favourable terms. It has decided, quite reasonably, to use its cheap capital and labour to secure this end. That is not only in China’s own interests but in those of other consumers. Since resources have global prices, any increase in supply is to the benefit of all consumers.

Nevertheless, it would be helpful if a consensus could be reached on the terms of investment and trade in natural resources. One aim should be to ensure that commodity-exporting countries – particularly poor ones, with limited capacity for governance – benefit from foreign investment and exports of natural resources. China will be a central player in securing such agreements. Above all, the world needs to agree that the underlying principle must remain those of free trade in open world markets. Prices need to be set in global competition, with, of course, the possibility of long-term contracts.

As China grows, its impact on the world expands exponentially. It must reconcile the imperatives of its rapid development with the need to take full account of its impact on the world. It will have to develop its own agenda, one that secures its linked objectives of rapid development at home and stability abroad. It will not be easy. China has no alternative.

submitted by dan fey

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Categories: Business/Markets, World

Deadly tsunami slams into Japan, races across Pacific


Japan has been rocked by the largest earthquake in its history and smashed by a deadly tsunami, with the death toll rising by the hour.

A 30-foot tsunami has slammed into the eastern coast of Japan following one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded, causing destruction and damage of mammoth proportions across the country.

The 8.9-magnitude earthquake struck at a depth of just 10 kilometres, even shallower than the 6.7-magnitude earthquake that caused staggering destruction in the Haitian capital, Port-Au-Prince in 2010.

Across half the world, tsunami warnings have been issued. Almost every country with a coast on the Pacific Ocean has signalled a tsunami alert and hundreds of thousands of people living in coastal areas are being advised to seek higher ground.

Since the quake struck, Japan, along with nearby countries, has been struck by as many as 50 aftershocks, many reaching or exceeding 6-magnitude, leading Japanese authorities to issue further tsunami warnings.

The scale of destruction is extreme. The tsunami swept several miles inshore, swallowing everything in its path. Horrific images on Japanese television showed the wall of broiling water devouring bridges, roads, farms, houses and vehicles, churning into a broth of deadly debris.

According to initial reports, over 1,000 have already been confirmed killed. Authorities have announced 200 to 300 bodies were found in the north-eastern coastal city of Sendai, with a further 349 people missing. The death toll for the nation is likely to be much higher given the scale of the disaster.

Although Japan has experienced powerful earthquakes in the past, it has never endured an 8.9-magnitude one and experts have agreed the situation is unprecedented for the Japanese government, which remained on high alert Friday night.

A nuclear power plant just 170 kilometres outside the capital, Tokyo, was shutdown in the hours after the quake when its cooling system failed, causing the nuclear core to over-heat. No radiation leak has been reported, but thousands of residents living near the reactor have been ordered to evacuate. At the time of writing the plant’s core had still not begun to cool, despite an all-out shutdown.

At least two other nuclear plants reported problems in the aftermath of the quake, though the Japanese government has not released further details.

The national public transport system, world famous for its efficiency and time-keeping, has been brought to its knees, in Tokyo and wider northern Japan, all train services have been suspended, while major roads and highways have been either destroyed or closed due to damage.

The level of disruption and chaos is immense. Tokyo Airport has been shut down stranding tens of thousands of passengers,

Authorities in countries across the Pacific are bracing for similar damage as the tsunami races out across the world’s largest ocean.

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Categories: Environment, World

Icebreakers stuck in frozen sea

January 2, 2011 Leave a comment

Sunday 2nd January, 2011

Two icebreakers have become stuck in the Okhotsk Sea in Russia's Far East.

Big News Network.com     Sunday 2nd January, 2011

Two icebreakers have become stuck in the Okhotsk Sea in Russia’s Far East.

The ships had been sent to rescue people caught onboard three ships which had also become stuck in ice.

As the icebreakers were en route to the other ships, the drifting ice hemmed them in.

The large vessels are in an area of ice about 12 inches thick.

Russian transport authorities have said the people onboard the ships, one of which carries 348 people, are not in danger as they have enough food.

It is believed about 600 people are currently aboard boats stuck in Russian ice in the Okhotsk Sea.

The temperature in the area is -22C and forecasts suggest it will fall even lower.

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Categories: Top Stories, World

Palast Arrested Busted by BP in Azerbaijan

December 21, 2010 Leave a comment

by Greg Palast
Monday, December 20, 2010


BP’s Azeri police arresting Palast for filming BP oil rig – Baku, Azerbaijan, December 2010

“Here in Azerbaijan we believe in human rights. PLEASE GIVE US YOUR FILM.”

Oh, no, no, not good.

The enforcers here come in three colors:  the military police still wearing their old Russian puke-green uniforms, the MSN (the dictator’s secret police) in windbreakers without ID, and BP’s own corporate police force in black tunics, sashes and full hats who look like toy soldiers from the Nutcracker ballet. They weren’t dancing.

I showed all three flavors of police our press credentials in both English and Azeri, neither of which could be read by the officers. (The dictator had suddenly changed the Azeri alphabet, making most of the nation illiterate overnight.)

The dictator made everyone call him, “Baba,” Grandpa.

I told the dumbest-looking one, “Look here: This paper says your so-called President is a weasel’s rectum,” which our ‘fixer’ translated as, “This letter from Foreign Ministry is authorization to make a documentary for the British Television.”

We’d been surreptitiously filming BP’s cancer-making machine, the giant pipeline terminal near Baku, the capital, that sends the Azeri’s Caspian Sea oil eastward to light Europe’s Christmas trees.

Now, it looked like I’d be spending Christmas in Baba’s dungeon licking rats for breakfast. My clown-show antics bought the crew the precious minutes needed to switch the film in the camera to blanks.  Our cameraman told a BP cop, with mime: “Hadn’t begun filming yet, Old Bean.”

We would now. I clicked on my hidden micro-cam.


BP’s Azeri police badge depicting oil drilling rig

A black SUV arrived on the remote desert track and unloaded its impressive cargo, a colonel sprinkled with medals from the recent war Azerbaijan lost to Armenia. The colonel said, “British Petroleum drives this country,” and as a “British” journalist, he thought I’d be as proud of that fact as he is.

“I know,” I said. “Believe me, I know.”

There is an awful lot of evidence that BP and Britain’s MI6 had their hands in Baba’s 1993 coup d’état which overthrew the nation’s elected president. Within months of taking power, Baba signed “The Contract of the Century” giving BP monopoly control of Azerbaijan’s Caspian reserves.”

Baba headed the KGB when this Islamic land was an occupied “republic” of the Soviet Union, the good old days of relative peace, freedom and prosperity.

I was here in the desert to investigate a tip-off I’d had that BP had a near-disaster at its Caspian offshore rig that was extraordinarily similar to the Deepwater Horizon blow-out. But BP covered it up.

What I didn’t know was that WikiLeaks was about to release a State Department memo which referred to a small piece of this BP game. Rather than go to Azerbaijan to check the facts, the Wiki newspapers called BP in London for comment.

That put BP on high alert and my sources in high danger.


Palast pictured in front of BP offshore oil rig in Baku, Azerbaijan, December 2010

So the Baba-BP police were more than curious about our film which we promised was about nothing more than, “the business boom in Central Asia.” Of course, we didn’t add that the only business booming here is corruption and BP’s oil drilling. (I don’t use the plural here because it is a single industry.)

How the crew and I (and the poor shepherd on a little horse swept up with us) were released is a complex story involving an impromptu banquet with the Secret Police and the poignant recanting of a statement about BP made to us by an environmental activist.

I understood his need to back down. The night before, we dined with a young video blogger who’d just gotten out of prison after the current president (now Baba’s son, Baby Baba), saw the blogger hold a press conference in a donkey suit. The President had no doubt that he was the ass. He was. He is.

Welcome to the Islamic Republic of BP, otherwise known as Azerbaijan. And good-bye.

I’m out of there. Out with the evidence we need about BP and how it lead to the Gulf of Mexico blow-out and an extension of the occupation of Iraq.

It’s a hell of a story, and my holiday gift to myself is that I’m here and ready to tell it.

My best wishes to you and your family.

*****

Won’t you please support this work, the “Arctic to Amazon investigation”?

I need seven more committed folks to make a tax-deductible donation of at least $1000 to cover the remaining work. Donate at least $1,000 and we will, with your approval, list you as a co-producer in the video version of this important film already scheduled for broadcast everywhere but the USA.

And we MUST bring it to America. That will require more help for the US production and print reports.  Don’t have $1,000 or $5000?  All donations to the Palast Investigative Fund are tax-deductible and keep us going.

We had to leave the secret filming equipment in Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital; we were warned by a friendly plainclothesman that they knew I had it and needed to ditch it.

I’ve now taken our crew from the Amazon rainforest to BP’s next drilling target above the Arctic Circle, to Africa and now to Central Asia.  We must now go to the most dangerous locales yet:  deepest darkest Washington DC, and London, home to BP, whose natives are heavily armed with lawyers and PR bullshit.

Please help me drill down to the truth with your tax deductible donation to the Palast Fund.  Donations of $50 or more receive, if you wish, a gift I will sign.  (Make the request today or tomorrow, Dec. 21, and I’ll send it priority within 12 hours.)

Three big European networks have combined to cover our travel costs and some filming; but none have the money to support the deep investigation, the endless hours of research, that provide the hard facts on which the filming must be based.

Special, exceptional thanks go to the Cloud Mountain and Puffin foundations for their faith in our work and to the 2,000 wonderful supporters who have sent us donations.

Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All … and to all, a good night.

Greg Palast, reporting from … somewhere safe.

*****

Greg Palast is an investigative journalist and the author of the New York Times bestsellers Armed Madhouse and The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. His reports can be seen on BBC Newsnight.

Subscribe to Palast’s Newsletter and podcasts.
Follow Palast on Facebook and Twitter.

GregPalast.com

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Categories: US News, World

Julian Assange says US planning to indict him

December 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Big News Network.com     Saturday 18th December, 2010

Julian Assange has spoken to reporters in the UK after his first daily outing in which he must report to police, who are checking on his bail conditions.

Julian Assange has spoken to reporters in the UK after his first daily outing, in which he had to report to police who are checking on his bail conditions.

Mr Assange is on strict bail in the UK as he battles extradition to Sweden on sex offence charges.

He told reporters that there had been many calls by senior political figures in the US for his execution and the kidnapping of WikiLeaks staff.

He said certain political figures in the US had also called for the execution of Bradley Manning, a young soldier who, it has been alleged, was involved in leaking information to WikiLeaks.

Assange has denied any knowledge of Manning, the former US Army intelligence analyst who is now being held in isolation in the US.

The WikiLeaks founder has also denounced the Bank of America after it halted all donations to the WikiLeaks website.

Assange said the Bank of America had said in a statement it would no longer send any transactions by any of its clients to any organisations collecting money on behalf of WikiLeaks.

He said the decision had been made by the bank to deprive WikiLeaks of funds needed to survive and to deprive him personally of money needed to protect him against extradition to the US or to Sweden.

 

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Categories: Tech, World

Russia calls on South Korea to halt military drill

December 17, 2010 Leave a comment

MOSCOW | Fri Dec 17, 2010 7:41am EST

MOSCOW Dec 17 (Reuters) – Russia on Friday called on South Korea to halt plans for a military exercise in the Yellow Sea that it said could escalate tensions with North Korea.

“The Russian Federation… calls on the Republic of Korea to refrain from holding the planned firing of artillery in order to prevent the further escalation of tensions on the Korean peninsula,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. (Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)

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Categories: World