Judge to rule on Charity's wiretap lawsuit

A federal judge suggested that he would try to keep alive a lawsuit that challenges President Bush's domestic wiretapping program, while taking steps not to disclose classified information. U.S. District Judge Garr King said he expected to render his decision next week in a case involving an Oregon-based Islamic charity that the government said had links to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

The foundation closed after the government identified its parent organization as a terrorist group. The organization denied wrongdoing, saying that it collected money for a prayer house and for distributing religious pamphlets to prisoners.

The charity believes it was illegally wiretapped and says a document the government accidentally gave to its lawyers in 2004 bolsters its case.

The government said the document must be kept secret and any further court action involving it would lead to security breaches. The government has asked Judge King to dismiss the charity's lawsuit.

[Excerpt of AP article by Tim Fought


A Canadian Opinion of U.S. Giving

An interesting commentary from the Toronto Star, as written by Anne-Emanuelle Birn:

Americans tend to be self-congratulatory philanthropists.

In spite of the country's stingy foreign aid policy at 0.22 per cent of its gross national income, U.S. overseas development assistance trails that of almost every other industrialized nation, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Americans like to think of themselves as the most generous of peoples. The largesse of the world's top two billionaires (Bill Gates and Warren Buffett) helps Americans feel proud of the country's record, if not through official foreign aid, at least through private donations.


Halliburton and its aid to Iraq

Since Halliburton is such a big part of the "rebuilding" of Iraq, a few notes on the company that Dick Cheney, as a master of understatement, once described as "a unique kind of company." Some highlights from the VP’s reign:

Total value of contracts given to Halliburton for work in the Bush-Cheney "War on Terror" since 2001: More than $15 billion

Amount that Halliburton pays to the Third World laborers it imports into Iraq to do the work in its dining facilities, laundries, etc.: $6 per 12-hour day (that is , Halliburton pays 50 cents an hour)

Increase in Halliburton's profits since Bush-Cheney took office in 2000: 379 percent

Halliburton's campaign contributions in Bush-Cheney election years:
In 2000: $285,252 (96 percent to Republicans)
In 2004: $145,500 (89 percent to Republicans)Plus $365,065 from members of its board of directors (99 percent to Republicans)

And no summary would be complete without a reference to the cost of oil during the Bush administration:
1999 – Oil at $19 a barrel
2006 – Oil at over $70 a barrel

[Thanks to Hightower Lowdown]


Total international aid to Israel unknown

The common figure given for U.S. aid to Israel is $3 billion per year—$1.2 billion in economic aid and $1.8 billion in military aid.

As impressive as this figure is, however, since it represents one-sixth of total U.S. foreign aid, the true figure is even more remarkable. It is difficult, however, to arrive at an exact number.
Much of the money the U.S. gives Israel is buried in the budgets of other government agencies, primarily the Defense Department (DOD).

Unquestionably, Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. aid since World War II.

Last year the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs estimated total aid to Israel through FY 2000 at $91.82 billion.

[Congress Watch]


More on cost of Bush's ongoing war and occupation

Remember that famous statement by the US Deputy Defense Secretary about 3-an-a-half years back? "We're dealing with [Iraq] a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon."- Paul Wolfowitz

And the official White House claim before the invasion of Iraq of what the war and occupation would cost U.S. taxpayers: $50 billion

As of July 2006, the total amount appropriated by Congress for Bush's ongoing war and occupation: Over $295 billion

And if I can direct you to the right side of this blog, you'll see the running cost of the war in Iraq is currently surpassing $310 billion, since current Pentagon spending in Iraq runs at $6 - 8 billion per MONTH

Assuming all troops return home by 2010, the projected "real costs" for the war: More than $1 Trillion (if we includes veterans' pay and medical costs, interest on the billions President Bush has borrowed to pay for his war, etc.)


Iraqi War costing US taxpayers $10 million per hour

The National Priorities Project, a non-partisan, non-profit organization that uses government data to illustrate the impact of federal policies on local communities, has calculated the cost of the Iraq war by congressional district, city, state and even household.

NPP bases its Iraq war calculations on a Congressional Research Service report from June, which totaled the war at $318.5 billion.

"That is $2,844 for every American household or $1,075 for every American.

The money (already spent or allocated) is being spent at a rate $10 million per hour and $244 million per day," according to NPP.

NPP breaks down the cost by state by cross-referencing the amount of federal tax revenues collected there.
  • California, the most populous state, has contributed more than $40 billion of that amount, with the notoriously liberal Bay Area contributing more than $10 billion. Los Angeles has contributed a similar amount. New York contributed $28 billion.
  • Texas, the home state of U.S. President George W. Bush, has been tapped for $26 billion.
  • Lightly populated Wyoming, home of Vice President Dick Cheney, contributed just $546 million.


Hizbollah's reconstruction of Lebanon winning loyalty

Hizbollah has trumped both the UN army and the Lebanese government by pouring hundreds of millions of dollars - most of it almost certainly from Iran - into the wreckage of southern Lebanon and Beirut's destroyed southern suburbs. Its massive new reconstruction effort - free of charge to all those Lebanese whose homes were destroyed or damaged in Israel's ferocious five-week assault on the country - has won the loyalty of even the most disaffected members of the Shia community in Lebanon.

Most householders in the south have received - or are receiving - a minimum initial compensation payment of $12,000 (£6,300), either for new furniture or to cover their family's rent while Hizbollah construction gangs rebuild their homes. The money is being paid in cash - almost all in crisp new $100 bills - to up to 15,000 families across Lebanon whose property was blitzed by the Israelis, a bill of $180m which is going to rise far higher when reconstruction and other compensation is paid.

Lebanese government officials - largely distrusted by the local population - have also made notes of compensation costs but all the authorities have done so far is to start the repair of water pipes and power lines.

A frightening side to this long-term promise for believers in the UN ceasefire is that Hizbollah has encouraged its Shia population to rent homes in Khalde, south of Beirut, since it intends to delay its entire city construction project for a year - because of its conviction that the ceasefire will break down and that another Israeli-Hizbollah war will only wreck newly built homes.

[Excerpt of an article by Robert Fisk, The Independent]


International Aid: US aid to Lebanon

Since the fragile Israeli-Lebanese ceasefire began on August 14, delivery of humanitarian aid has been underway for the million people displaced by the war. Many of these people returned home to find rubble.

UNICEF estimates that one-third of the people killed were children. And one-half of the displaced in Lebanon are children.

Meanwhile, recent missile attacks in Gaza have left one million people without electricity and water. Food shortages are just around the corner.

The United States has distributed more than half of its initial $50 million pledge of disaster relief to the Lebanese people. Some "good news" in the midst of so much bad is that 25,000 tons of U.S. wheat will be delivered to Lebanon in coming weeks, and along with additional aid to support humanitarian and reconstruction work in Lebanon, this brings the US contribution to a total of more than $230 million.


Amnesty International accuses Israel of war crimes

Amnesty International on Wednesday accused Israel of war crimes, saying it broke international law by deliberately destroying Lebanon's civilian infrastructure during its recent war with Hezbollah guerrillas.

The human rights group said initial evidence, including the pattern and scope of the Israeli attacks, number of civilian casualties, widespread damage and statements by Israeli officials "indicate that such destruction was deliberate and part of a military strategy, rather than 'collateral damage.'"

Amnesty International, whose delegates monitored the fighting in both Israel and Lebanon, said Israel violated international laws banning direct attacks on civilians and barring indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks.

"The scale of the destruction was just extraordinary," said Amnesty researcher Donatella Rovera, who visited Lebanon during the war and co-authored the report. "There is clear evidence of disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks."


US extends credit line to Israel

The Bush administration has agreed to an Israel demand that a loan guarantee deal be extended by an additional three years, until 2011. Israel has used USD 4.9 billion of a total USD 9 billion.

In 2003, the United States approved a USD 9 billion aid package to Israel in the form of loan guarantees which allow Israel to borrow money on the international market for low interest rates.

Finance Minister Abraham Hirchson praised the Administration for expressing faith in Israel's economy.



UK Terrorist Plot: The timing is political

We should be skeptical about this alleged plot in England, and wary of politicians who seek to benefit.

None of the alleged terrorists had made a bomb. None had bought a plane ticket. Many did not have passports. It could be pretty difficult to convince a jury that these individuals were about to go through with suicide bombings [on international flights], whatever they bragged about on the net.

An an interrogation in Pakistan revealed this amazing plot to blow up multiple planes. Of course, the interrogators of the Pakistani dictator have ways of making people sing like canaries. As I witnessed in Uzbekistan, you can get the most extraordinary information from people desperate to stop or avert torture. What you don't get is the truth.

We also have the extraordinary question of Bush and Blair discussing arrests the weekend before they were made. Why? Both in domestic trouble, they longed for a chance to change the story.

The one thing of which I am certain is that the timing is deeply political. This is more propaganda than plot.

More than 1,000 British Muslims have been arrested under anti-terrorist legislation, but only 12% have been charged. That is harassment on an appalling scale. Of those charged, 80% were acquitted. Most of the few convictions - just over 2% of arrests - are nothing to do with terrorism, but some minor offence the police happened upon while trawling through the lives they have wrecked.

Be skeptical. Be very, very skeptical.

[Excerpt of an article by Craig Murray, The Guardian]


Former Generals on Making America Safer

Twenty-one former generals and high ranking national security officials have called on United States President George W. Bush to reverse course and embrace a new area of negotiation with Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. In a letter, the group told reporters Bush's 'hard line' policies have undermined national security and made America less safe.

Of particular concern for the generals was increased saber rattling between Washington and Tehran over the development of an Iranian nuclear program. "An attack on Iran would have disastrous consequences for security in the region and U.S. forces in Iraq," they argued. "It would inflame hatred and violence in the Middle East and among Muslims everywhere."

In a telephone news conference Thursday morning, the former security officials took particular aim at the Bush Administration's policy of refusing to negotiate with terrorists or with states that support them.

"That seems strange since Ronald Reagan was willing to negotiate with the Soviets even though they were the 'Evil Empire," said retired Lt. General Robert Guard, who served as special assistant to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara during the Vietnam War.

The generals further argued that the Bush Administration's invasion of Iraq is at least partially responsible for Iran's drive to develop a nuclear program. "When you announce an axis of evil of three countries and invade one and then say that Iran should take that as a lesson, it does seem that it may give them an incentive to do precisely what they don't want them to do," Guard said, "develop a nuclear weapon."

[Aaron Glantz]


Aid for Gaza Palestinians held up in Israel

Hundreds of containers full of food for Palestinians in Gaza are still being held up in the Israeli port of Ashdod, caused by the recent conflict in Lebanon that closed the port of Haifa, the United Nations said.

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) reports that nearly 300 containers with emergency food for Gaza are stuck on ships in Ashdod, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.

"That backlog is connected to the fact that a lot of these containers had to be redirected there from Haifa, which had been closed due to the fighting. Currently, some 830,000 people rely on UNRWA's Gaza food distributions."



Gates Foundation encourages pooling data for AIDS cure

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launched its most ambitious bid ever to rev up AIDS vaccine research with grants totaling $287 million for researchers who have novel ideas and are willing to pool their findings.

Creating an effective HIV vaccine has proven especially tough because the AIDS virus, HIV, attacks and nests in the cells that defend the body against diseases.

Like other Gates initiatives, the program aims to make new gains by revamping the way scientists work. Eleven of the 16 grants will set up networks of "some of the best minds from around the world" to tackle problems that have stymied vaccine researchers for two decades, says Nicholas Hellmann, the foundation's interim director of HIV programs.

[Excerpt of an article by Steve Sternberg, USA Today]


Lebanese Decry Lack Of U.S. Humanitarian Aid

International aid is starting to flow into Lebanon as a three-day-old cease-fire takes hold, but U.S. hopes of winning the peace are plagued by logistical hurdles, political tensions and an absence of cash from Western sources that could ultimately undermine the war-ravaged country's rehabilitation.

The World Food Program, the humanitarian-aid arm of the United Nations, has managed to get some of its first convoys into hard-hit south Lebanon. But the group said its delivery efforts could soon grind to a halt for lack of money: It has raised less than half it says it needs to help roughly one million displaced Lebanese. U.S. aid groups have also struggled to raise money.

The lack of public and private American largess has bred bitterness among some Lebanese officials. Lebanon's interior minister, Ahmad Fatfat, said in a recent interview, "Our people are comparing what the Iranians are doing and the Americans are doing for their friends."

Private groups in the U.S., meanwhile, have raised far larger sums for relief efforts in Israel, where a half million people were displaced by rocket barrages -- though the physical damage was far less extensive than in Lebanon. The United Jewish Communities, comprising 155 Jewish federations across the U.S., has raised more than $187 million since July 17. One member group, the UJA-Federation of New York, raised $20 million in an hour on its first day of fund raising, officials from the group said.

[Excerpt of an article by Jay Solomon and Sally Beatty, The Wall Street Journal]


Less than 1000 al-Qaeda in Iraq cost US $6.1 billion a month

Follwing are excerpts of an insightful letter written by decorated War Veteran John P. Murtha, Member of the U.S. Congress]

Dear Mr. President,
[March 2007] will mark the beginning of the 4th year of the war in Iraq. In contrast, U.S. involvement in WWI came to an end after 19 months. Victory in Europe was declared in WWII after 3 years 5 months. In the Korean War, a cease-fire was signed after 3 years and 1 month.

It is estimated that there are only about 750 to 1,000 al-Qaeda in Iraq. I believe the Iraqis will force them out or kill them after U.S. troops are gone. In fact, there is now evidence that Iraqi insurgent groups are increasingly turning against al-Qaeda and other foreign terrorists.

93% of the insurgency is made up of Iraqis.

The war in Iraq is fueling terrorism, not eliminating it. A vast majority of the Iraqi people now view American troops as occupiers, not liberators. Over 80% of Iraqis want U.S. forces to leave Iraq and 47% think it is justified to attack Americans.

The longer our military stays in Iraq, the more unwelcome we will be. We will be increasingly entangled in an open-ended nation building mission, one that our military can not accomplish amidst a civil war. Our troops will continue to be the targets of Iraqis who see them as interfering occupiers.

A recent pubic opinion poll, conducted jointly with Zogby International and taken in Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, found that 81% said the war in Iraq had brought less peace to the Middle East. A majority of the respondents said they view the United States as the biggest threat to their nations.

The average monthly costs [for the American taxpayer for this war in Iraq is] growing significantly since the beginning of the war. In 2003 the average monthly war cost was $4.4 billion; by 2005 the average monthly cost had reached $6.1 billion.

[Excerpts of a letter to President Bush from JOHN P. MURTHA, Member of Congress]


Hasso Plattner and corporate giving in Germany

The billionaire founder of SAP, Hasso Plattner, is a rare species in Germany. Taking a cue from his software buddies in Palo Alto, California, where he lives part time, he's put his money where his mouth is, 230 million, in fact. That's what he ponied up in 1999 to create an elite engineering institute for the University of Potsdam, complete with a nearby business incubator. Today the Hasso Plattner Institute is renowned for its first-rate IT designers and has already spun off some promising start-ups. "I didn't want to have to ask myself one day, 'Why didn't you do anything?' " he says.

By doing his bit, Plattner has become the poster boy for one of Germany's most heartening trends. This may all seem unspectacular compared with the United States and other countries. But that's the point: in Germany, it's traditionally been up to the state to care for society's needs. Government bureaucracy thus permeates public life. German foundations have been marginalized over the years. Organizations such as churches or charities, which elsewhere would be independent, have become virtual extensions of the government, almost completely financed by taxes.

Flexibility, creativity and entrepreneurship are not exclusively American talents, Plattner preaches. They can be German, too.

[Newsweek excerpt]


New U.S. Policy and Aid to Cuba

A new U.S. policy intended to boost pressure on the communist government of Cuba is making life more difficult for some U.S. humanitarian groups. And some of these organizations worry that the move, which came before the recent disclosure about Fidel Castro's health problems, could presage a further tightening by the Bush administration.

American aid groups are required to have a license from the U.S. government to supply aid to Cuba, which has been under U.S. embargo since 1963. The island's communist rulers, for their part, ban aid from groups that receive funding from the U.S. government.

Last month, the U.S. said that American aid groups could no longer distribute certain types of assistance through the Cuban Council of Churches, a national association of mainly Protestant churches in Cuba. Though medical supplies and food are exempt from the ban, officials at Church World Service, a group of 35 denominations, say they are concerned that distribution of items such as diapers, school supplies and personal hygiene goods could be blocked. And the Rev. John McCullough, Church World Service's executive director, says his group fears that the flow of all types of aid could be constrained if it has to find another Cuban partner to work with. He criticized the new rules as a threat to religious freedom.

The State Department, which recommended the rules change, says it doesn't discriminate against any "independent" religious organization; it says the Cuban Council of Churches is "controlled and administered" by the Cuban government.

[Excerpt of an article by Sally Beatty, The Wall Street Journal]


Today’s Terrorist, Tomorrow’s Statesman

Admittedly, we [that is, the U.S. powers-that-be] sometimes reacted rather badly if the locals do not vote the way we thought they should. ... Many Americans (I hope) are greatly disturbed by the fact that we now are in the process of establishing a policy that there is such a thing as a bad election. If we don't like the winners, or some of them, then we do not recognize the legitimacy of democracy.

The Palestinians freely choose the bad Hamas; we cut off aid to them and send more missiles and such to their enemies.

Hezbollah freely wins a few seats in the little parliament of Lebanon, and we back the Israeli contention that they should all be killed, or at least thrown in jail forever -- as if Lebanon does not deserve the fragile democracy it has.

I am not arguing that Hamas and Hezbollah are good people, but then I come from a country where the colonial occupying power, the English in their red coats, declared my ancestors were "terrorists." They used that word because our men didn't wear uniforms, and they fired from behind trees.

The British, you may remember, used that same word, "terrorist," not without reason, to describe two of the future prime ministers of Israel, Menachim Begin and Yitzhak Shamir.

[For the record: In the late 1930’s, Yitzhak Shamir joined the Irgun”freedom fighter” organization and then in 1940, followed Avraham Stern into Lohamei Herut Yisrael, after which he was imprisoned by the British authorities. In 1943, he escaped from detention camp and became one of the Lehi's principal leaders, serving as principal director of operations until 1946, when he was detained again by the British and exiled to a British­-run prison camp. He later joined Menachem Begin's Herut movement, which evolved into the Likud Party. In 1973, Yitzhak Shamir was elected to the Knesset.

[As for background of Menachim Begin’s terrorist activities, he set about planning a Jewish uprising against the British authorities around 1944, which continued until late 1947. Begin ordered many of the Irgun's operations, including the destruction of the central British administrative offices in the King David Hotel. Begin disbanded the Irgun following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 .]

Many statesmen begin as "terrorists". You have to deal with the world as you find it; that if you believe peace is better than war, and that democracy does not always produce the leaders he or I would choose, you still have to make a choice: Either you believe in democracy or you don't. That's the best we can do, and then move on from there.

[Excerpt of an opinion page by Richard Reeves, Yahoo News]


Did Israel react to an unprovoked attack by Hezbollah?

Israel’s assault on Lebanon was premeditated – their two soldiers being captured simply provided the excuse.

Since Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000, there have been hundreds of violations of the "blue line" between the two countries. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil) reports that Israeli aircraft crossed the line "on an almost daily basis" between 2001 and 2003, and "persistently" until 2006.

[The reason the two Israeli soldiers were captured is] Hizbullah was seeking to exchange them for the 15 prisoners of war taken by the Israelis during the occupation of Lebanon and (in breach of article 118 of the third Geneva convention) never released.

On July 12, Hizbullah fired the first shots. But that act of aggression was simply one instance in a long sequence of small incursions and attacks over the past six years by both sides. So why was the Israeli response so different from all that preceded it? The answer is that it was not a reaction to the events of that day. The assault had been planned for months.

The New Statesman's editor, John Kampfner, says he was told by more than one official source that the US government knew in advance of Israel's intention to take military action in Lebanon. The Bush administration told the British government.

[Excerpt of an article by George Monbiot, The Guardian]


Why doesn’t someone stop the violence?

The US cannot stop the violence in the Mideast? Come on! The country which has the greatest potential leverage over Israel is the country with the greatest power to broker peace. Israel’s foreign policy and military strategy is dependent on the approval of the United States.

Though Israel ranks very high on the global development index – above Greece, Singapore, Portugal and Brunei – it is also the world’s largest recipient of US aid.

Israel does not depend economically on this assistance. Its gross domestic product amounts to $155 billion, and its military budget to $9.5 billion. It manufactures many of its own weapons and buys components from all over the world – including the United Kingdom.

However, most of the money given by the US Foreign Military Financing program – as is common with all US aid disbursements – is spent in the United States. Israel uses it to obtain F15 and F16 jets, Apache, Cobra and Blackhawk helicopters, AGM, AIM and Patriot missiles, M-16 rifles, M-204 grenade launchers and M-2 machine guns. As the Prestwick scandal revealed, laser-guided bombs, even now, are being sent to Israel from the United States.

Many of these weapons have been used to kill Palestinian civilians and are being used in Lebanon today.

Why doesn’t someone stop the violence? –It’s too profitable to the military industrial complex.

[Includes an excerpt from an article by George Monbiot, The Guardian]


A plea to end the Lebanon tragedy NOW

An excerpt of a plea written by Fouad Siniora, Prime Minister of Lebanon:

A military solution to Israel's savage war on Lebanon and the Lebanese people is both morally unacceptable and totally unrealistic.

We in Lebanon call upon the international community and citizens everywhere to support my country's sovereignty and end this folly now.

We also insist that Israel be made to respect international humanitarian law, including the provisions of the Geneva Conventions, which it has repeatedly and willfully violated.

On July 25, at the international conference for Lebanon in Rome, I proposed a comprehensive seven-point plan to end the war. It was well received by the conference ... and the 56 member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, included an immediate, unconditional and comprehensive cease-fire and called for:
· The release of Lebanese and Israeli prisoners and detainees through the International Committee of the Red Cross. · The withdrawal of the Israeli army behind the "blue line."
· A commitment from the U.N. Security Council to place the Shebaa Farms and Kfar Shouba Hills areas under U.N. jurisdiction until border delineation and Lebanese sovereignty over them are fully settled. Further, Israel must surrender all maps of remaining land mines in southern Lebanon to the United Nations.
· Extension of the Lebanese government's authority over its territory through its legitimate armed forces, with no weapons or authority other than that of the Lebanese state, as stipulated in the Taif accord. We have indicated that the Lebanese armed forces are ready and able to deploy in southern Lebanon, alongside the U.N. forces there, the moment Israel pulls back to the international border.
· The supplementing of the U.N. international force operating in southern Lebanon and its enhancement in numbers, equipment, mandate and scope of operation, as needed, to undertake urgent humanitarian and relief work and guarantee stability and security in the south so that those who fled their homes can return.
. Action by the United Nations on the necessary measures to once again put into effect the 1949 armistice agreement signed by Lebanon and Israel and to ensure adherence to its provisions, as well as to explore possible amendments to or development of those provisions as necessary.
· The commitment of the international community to support Lebanon on all levels, including relief, reconstruction and development needs.

Muslim Charities Say Fear Is Damming Flow of Cash

In a Detroit warehouse, boxes of diapers, water-purification tablets, lentils, rice, powdered milk and cooking oil are stacked almost to the ceiling, destined for Lebanon. More packages, mostly from individual donors across the country, arrive every day.

But nobody -- not even the charity that is collecting them -- is very happy about it.

"Obviously, it makes more sense for us to get financial contributions. Obviously, this is the most inefficient way to do humanitarian aid," said Mohammed Alomari, a spokesman for the charity, Life for Relief and Development in Southfield, Mich.

Charities prefer that people send money rather than food, medicine or other goods, because in-kind donations force the charities to pay for shipping, delay the arrival of the aid, and saddle relief workers with the task of sorting and distributing items that may not be needed.

The problem, according to relief groups, is that many people who are inclined to write checks for emergency aid and reconstruction in Lebanon are afraid of ending up in some government database of suspected supporters of terrorism.

Arab American leaders say this is one of the unintended consequences of the U.S. government's crackdown on charities run by Muslims. Though aimed at cutting off illicit funding for terrorist groups, the crackdown has complicated legitimate humanitarian relief efforts in Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank.

[Excerpt of article by Alan Cooperman, The Washington Post]


Water, the real reason for Lebanese invasion

Officially, Israel's ground invasion of Lebanon is an “act of self-defense” against Hezbollah's threat, aimed at creating a security buffer zone until the arrival of a "multinational force with an enforcement capability". But increasingly, as the initial goal of a narrow strip of only a few kilometers has now been extended to the Litani River deep in Lebanon, the real motives behind Israel's invasion are becoming crystal-clear.

This is a war to annex a major chunk of Lebanese territory without necessarily saying so, under the pretext of security buffer and deterrence against future attacks on Israel.

Already, since the Six Day War, Israel has annexed the Sheba Farms, considered part of the Syrian Golan Heights. Now the Israeli army is sweeping the area south of the Litani River as a temporary occupation.

[If successful] this would put Israel in control of the Litani River, thus fulfilling Israel's founding fathers' dream, stretching back to Chaim Weizmann, head of the World Zionist Organization, who in 1919 declared the river "essential to the future of the Jewish national home".

Access to the Litani would translate into an annual increase of water supply by 800 million cubic meters. (This in turn might allow Israel to bargain with Syria over the Golan Heights, source of a full one-third of Israel's fresh water.)

[Excerpt of article by Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD]


U.S. Missile Aid to Isreal, for use in Lebanon

Last month, a stopover at Prestwick of U.S. flights carrying missiles to Israel sparked intense criticism in Britain.

President George W. Bush apologized for the flights' stopping without declaring the cargo they were carrying to Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Tony Blair's office has said.

About 70 protesters, including members of Scotland's Lebanese community, chanted anti-war slogans outside the airport's entrance last week to coincide with the expected arrival of two more weapons flights to Israel.

Instead, two cargo flights bound for Israel landed for refueling at RAF Mildenhall, a U.S. operated base 65 miles (105 kilometers) north of London.

[Associated Press]


Aid workers face death, disease and discomfort every day

He watched from the relative "safety" of the compound, his face painted by the glow of the red and orange flames. Liberian rebels, just 15- and 16-year-old boys really, were setting fire to the pumps at a gas station across the street.

For American Richard Haselwood and other staff of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) working in war-torn Liberia, this was a little more than just another day at the office, but not by much.

It was the same for Julie Steiger, who worked for the International Red Cross in Chechnya. Looking forward to a break from the daily fighting and misery of the Chechen conflict, Julie and a few other IRC staff were stopped at a roadblock. Ten Russian soldiers surrounded them, weapons pointed, locked and loaded.

These kinds of experiences are just the cost of doing business for young American expatriate aid workers like Haselwood and Steiger. They are individuals willing to endure the dangers of armed conflict and environments hostile in ways too numerous to count, including exposure to malaria, bullets and bombs, land mines, isolation and long separations from family and loved ones. “Some people might not value the work we're doing here," says Haselwood with a shrug, "but that's OK. I never see those people. I'm here with people who are grateful.”

In fact, in some circles, international aid workers are smugly derided as bleeding hearts or dismissed as misfits who can't get "real jobs." The reality is, international aid agencies are highly selective in who they hire as expatriate staff. It's too costly to bring on people who don't have the language abilities or skill sets to make aggressive contributions to overseas relief and development.

[Posted by Kevin Sites, Yahoo News]

Hezbollah wins the battle simply by surviving

Following is an excerpt of an interview with Milt Bearden about the shifting developments in Israel 's battle with Hezbollah. In a career spanning three decades, Milt Bearden headed the CIA's Soviet and Eastern Europe Division, and served as station chief in places like Pakistan and Sudan. He also ran the CIA's covert war in Afghanistan from 1986-1989.

Hezbollah has begun to look a bit like an overmatched boxer who has stood up to 15 rounds of pounding and made it to the closing bell without being knocked out — like the movie character Rocky. "They've got a lot of very smart people. These are not a bunch of wild-eyed fanatics," he says.

"The concept of dismantling or eliminating Hezbollah is fatally flawed from the very start. Hezbollah is an organic part of that 40 percent of the Lebanese population that is Shia."

Hezbollah is the current darling of everybody in the Middle East, and even the Sunni-Shia thing is put aside from that, mainly because of what they've accomplished by not being destroyed.

And if you step back and look at a larger piece of the Middle East [from the Shia Iranian point of view]:
They've got a Shia south of Iraq.
They've got the Shia that could emerge as the dominant force in Lebanon.
They've got the Americans bogged down forever doing the Shias' heavy lifting in the Sunni areas of Iraq. (Kurdistan is independent already in [northern Iraq].)
And we've got ourselves a narco-state war in Afghanistan that goes on without end.

[Excerpt of an interview conducted by Hot Zone Senior Producer Robert Padavick]


International Aid delivery can be dangerous

Fifteen local aid staff working on post-tsunami rebuilding have been found executed in northeast Sri Lanka after heavy fighting, the main umbrella body for aid agencies in the country said on Sunday.

The Consortium for Humanitarian Agencies (CHA) said that one of the relief teams that reached the battered town of Mutur had found the corpses in an aid agency office.

"They found them in the office on the ground, lying face down -- executed," said CHA chief Jeevan Thiagarajah.

He said it was not clear who had killed them. Mutur town has seen days of fighting between the government and Tamil Tiger rebels.



So who created Hezbollah?

Here's an ironic scenario: At the same time US-backed Israel fights its war against Hezbollah, the United States is propping up an Iraqi government that helped create Hezbollah.

Some of the earliest suicide bombings commonly attributed to Hezbollah, such as the 1983 attacks on the US embassy and marine barracks in Beirut, were believed by American intelligence sources at the time to have been orchestrated by the Iraqi Dawa party.

Flash forward to 2006. Dawa's current leadership includes none other than the new Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, feted recently in Washington DC and London as the great hope for the future of the Middle East.

As the old saying goes, today's terrorist is tomorrow's statesman--at least when it suits us.

[The Nation]


Jewish Humanitarian Support of Israel

Did you know that the US supplies Israel with what works out to $13.7 million of foreign aid per DAY? And that 30% of the TOTAL amount of the US foreign aid budget is earmarked for Israel?

Additionally, the US also gives special privileges to Americans who donate to Israel. The ability of Americans to make what amounts to tax deductible contributions to a foreign government (Israel) does not exist for any other country.

Related to the latter, here’s an excerpt of an article from The Washington Post:
An umbrella organization of North American Jewish charities said Wednesday that it will seek to raise a minimum of $300 million in emergency humanitarian funds for Israel this year, one of the largest short-term goals in its history.

Experts on Jewish philanthropy predicted that the campaign would receive broad support, following a well-established pattern of giving by U.S. Jews in times of crisis for the Jewish state.

The fund drive drew immediate criticism from at least one prominent rabbi who called on American Jews to raise money for the reconstruction of Lebanon, not just Israel.

Howard Rieger, president and chief executive of United Jewish Communities, formerly known as the United Jewish Appeal, said the $300 million figure is "a floor, not a ceiling," and the amount raised probably "will grow beyond that."

Isreali Culpability

We hear unctuous statements about how Israel takes pains to avoid civilian casualties. But Israel's words and deeds contradict her propaganda.

As the war began, Ehud Olmert accused Lebanon, which had condemned Hezbollah for the killing and capture of the Israeli soldiers, of an "act of war." "Everyone in southern Lebanon is a terrorist and is connected to Hezbollah," roared Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon.

In Qana, 57 of Haim Ramon's "terrorists," 37 of them children, were massacred with precision-guided bombs.

Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz publicly threatened "to turn back the clock in Lebanon by 20 years."

No sooner had Hezbollah taken the two Israeli soldiers hostage than Israel unleashed an air war -- on Lebanon. The Beirut airport was bombed, its fuel storage tanks set ablaze. The coast was blockaded. Power plants, gas stations, lighthouses, bridges, roads, trucks and buses were all hit with air strikes.

Within 48 hours, it was apparent Israel was exploiting Hezbollah's attack to execute a preconceived military plan to destroy Lebanon. It was the moral equivalent of a municipal police going berserk, shooting, killing and ravaging an African-American community, because Black Panthers had ambushed and killed cops.

If Israel is not in violation of the principle of proportionality, by which Christians are to judge the conduct of a just war, what can that term mean?

[Note: Latest figures are 900 civilian dead in Lebanon, 19 in Israel, a ratio nearing 50-1. Hezbollah is firing unguided rockets, while Israel is using precision-guided munitions.]

Thousands of Lebanese civilians are injured. Perhaps 800,000 are homeless.

Yet, whatever one thinks of the morality of what Israel is doing, the stupidity is paralyzing. Instead of maintaining the moral and political high ground it had -- when even Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan were condemning Hezbollah -- Israel launched an air war on an innocent people. Now, 87 percent of Lebanese back Hezbollah, and the entire Arab and Islamic world, Shia and Sunni alike, is rallying behind them.

[From an article by Pat Buchanan, writing in Yahoo News]


Two Bills, One Mission: Fight AIDS

Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft Corp. and the world's richest man, gives away billions through his family foundation to underwrite health programs from childhood vaccines in Africa to AIDS prevention in Indian truck stops.

Bill Clinton is shorter on spending power, but the former president is rich with powerful friends and skilled in the art of negotiation, enabling him to broker deals for AIDS-drug discounts and persuade governments to do more for patients.

Though the two men have rubbed shoulders for years at elite gatherings around the world, it has only been in recent months that the two began joining forces. Mr. Gates has funded a “small” grant ($750,000) to the Clinton Foundation to explore the best ways to roll out expanded access to drugs for HIV/AIDS.

Recently Mr. Clinton spoke at Mr. Gates's Microsoft Government Leadership Forum in Capetown, South Africa, and the two travel with Mr. Gates's wife, Melinda, to Maseru, Lesotho, to visit sites including the Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS Initiative Clinic.

And Messrs. Gates and Clinton make their highest-profile joint appearance yet when they share the podium at the XVI International Conference on AIDS in Toronto, addressing thousands of scientists, activists and media on how to fight the threat of HIV. Behind the budding partnership of opposites is a potential synergy between two leading figures in the new breed of philanthropists.

[Excerpt of an article by Marilyn Chase, The Wall Street Journal]


Ex-Cisco Executive Backs Cancer Push

A few years after his mother died of ovarian cancer in 2001, a Silicon Valley millionaire named Don Listwin decided it was time for a radical new assault on cancer.

The problem, as the former Cisco Systems Inc. executive saw it, wasn't a lack of money, since the U.S. already spends roughly $10 billion a year on cancer research. Instead, Mr. Listwin began to think that the most promising way to beat cancer -- using technology to detect early tumor cells before they spread -- was languishing from neglect.

Two years ago, he established the Canary Foundation to begin an industrial-style attack on the thorny problem of early cancer detection.

Echoing the work of titans such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, millionaires like Mr. Listwin, 47 years old, are adding to a growing movement among wealthy entrepreneurs to give away their money while they're still relatively young. [ie "spending down") Many are focusing on medical causes that arise from their personal experience.

[Excerpt of an article by David P. Hamilton The Wall Street Journal]


New wave of philanthropy spending it down

An American billionaire in his mid-seventies has decided to give away his fortune during his lifetime. He wants to team up with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to curb infectious diseases in the Third World.

His name isn't Warren Buffett.

"If we give it away now, we're going to do a good job with it, instead of leaving it to future generations of foundation folks," says Herbert M. Sandler, 74 years old. He and his wife, Marion, intend to donate the $2 billion they expect from the sale of the California savings and loan Golden West Financial Corp. before "we shuffle off this mortal coil."

The Sandlers' plan exemplifies the changing pattern of U.S. philanthropy -- and the Gates organization's increasing influence over it.

The charitable titans of today are unlike many of the old-school business bluebloods who sought to immortalize their names by setting up foundations that parceled out small gifts forever.

Instead, some of America's wealthiest moguls-turned-philanthropists favor spending money faster, while retaining a high degree of control and demanding more accountability from the programs they fund.

[Excerpt of an article by John Hechinger and Daniel Golden, The Wall Street Journal]