Weapons Manufacture Modern Successor to the Slave Trade

Five rich countries manufacture the vast majority of the world's weapons. In 2005, Russia, the United States, France, Germany and the UK accounted for an estimated 82 per cent of the global arms market.

And it's big business: the amount rich countries spend on fighting HIV/Aids every year represents just 18 days' global spending on arms.

The world could eradicate poverty in a few generations were only a fraction of the expenditure on the war business to be spent on peace.

An average of $22bn is spent on arms by countries in Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa every year, according to estimates for the US Congress. This sum would have enabled those countries to put every child in school and to reduce child mortality by two-thirds by 2015, fulfilling two of the Millennium Development Goals.

---Desmond Tutu, writing in "The Independent"


America Remains the Top Military Spender

The world’s top 10 military spenders and the approximate amounts each currently budgets for its military establishment are:



Military budget


United States (FY 2008 budget)

$623 bn


China (2004)

$65 bn



$50 bn


France (2005)

$45 bn


United Kingdom

$42.8 bn


Japan (2007)



Germany (2003)

$35.1 bn


Italy (2003)

$28.2 bn


South Korea (2003)

$21.1 bn


India (2005 est.)

$19 bn

World total military expenditures (2004 est)


World total (minus the US)


It is virtually impossible to overstate the profligacy of what our government spends on the military. The Department of Defense’s planned expenditures for the fiscal year 2008 are larger than all other nations’ military budgets combined.

The supplementary budget to pay for the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, not part of the official defense budget, is itself larger than the combined military budgets of Russia and China.

[Excerpt of an article by Chalmers Johnson, Le Monde]

Military Keynesianism maintains permanent war economy

The ideology of Military Keynesianism is the determination to maintain a permanent war economy and to treat military output as an ordinary economic product, even though it makes no contribution to either production or consumption.

During the late 1940s, the U.S. was haunted by economic anxieties. The Great Depression of the 1930s had been overcome only by the war production boom of the second World War.

National Security Council Report 68 (NSC-68) asserted: "One of the most significant lessons of our World War II experience was that the American economy, when it operates at a level approaching full efficiency, can provide enormous resources for purposes other than civilian consumption while simultaneously providing a high standard of living."

With this understanding, U.S. strategists began to build up a massive munitions industry, both to counter the military might of the Soviet Union (which they consistently overstated) and also to maintain full employment, as well as ward off a possible return of the depression. This led to what President Eisenhower warned against in his farewell address of 6 February 1961: "The conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience" -- the military-industrial complex.

The U.S. remains to this day the World's top military spender.

[Excerpt of an article by Chalmers Johnson, Le Monde]


Latest Iraq audit exposes significant U.S. taxpayer waste

Millions of dollars of lucrative Iraq reconstruction contracts were never finished because of excessive delays, poor performance or other factors, including failed projects that are being falsely described by the U.S. government as complete, federal investigators say.

The audit released Sunday by Stuart Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, provides the latest snapshot of an uneven reconstruction effort that has cost U.S. taxpayers more than $100 billion.

In addition, the audit said many reconstruction projects were being described as complete or otherwise successful when they were not. In one case, the U.S. Agency for International Development contracted with Bechtel Corp. in 2004 to construct a $50 million children's hospital in Basra, only to "essentially terminate" the project in 2006 because of months long delays. A U.S. database of Iraq reconstruction contracts shows the project as complete "when in fact the hospital was only 35 percent complete when work was stopped," said investigators in describing the practice of "descoping" as frequent.

Last year, congressional investigators said as much as $10 billion — or one in six dollars — charged by U.S. contractors for Iraq reconstruction were questionable or unsupported.



Global Famine: the FED’s role

If the Fed chief decides to lower rates again at the end of April, he could be condemning millions of people to an agonizing death by starvation.

There is no shortage of food; it's just the prices that are food unaffordable.

Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke's "weak dollar" policy has ignited a wave of speculation in commodities which is pushing prices into the stratosphere. Foreign central banks and investors presently hold $6 trillion in dollars and dollar-backed assets, so when the dollar starts to slide, the pain radiates through entire economies.

And oil depletion, biofuel production, over-population, and giant agribusinesses adds to the problem. But the catalyst is the Fed's monetary policies; that's the domino that puts the others in motion.

Otto Spengler in his recent article in Asia Times, "The global food crisis is a monetary phenomenon, an unintended consequence of America's attempt to inflate its way out of a market failure. …Washington's economic misery now threatens to become a geopolitical catastrophe....The link between the declining parity of the US unit and the rising price of commodities, including oil as well as rice and other wares, is indisputable."

A field worker in Haiti who earns $2 a day, and spends all of that to feed his family, has to earn twice that amount or eat half as much. That's not a choice a parent wants to make.

[Excerpt of an article by Mike Whitney, ICH]


Ambassador: Claims about Syria are 'Iraq déjà vu'

The head of the UN nuclear monitoring agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, criticised the US for withholding intelligence information about a so-called nuclear reactor in Syria. ElBaradei likewise hit out at Israel for bombing the site before inspectors could investigate.

Last September 6, Israel bombed a Syrian building at Dair el Zor. Little was said in public, by either Israel or Syria, but later the Israelis started claiming that the Syrians were building a nuclear reactor.

Joseph Cirincione, director of nuclear policy at the Center for American Progress, told the BBC that "This appears to be the work of a small group of officials leaking cherry-picked, unvetted 'intelligence' to key reporters in order to promote a preexisting political agenda." Cirincione added ominously "If this sounds like the run-up to the war with Iraq, then it should."

Syria's ambassador to the United States, Imad Moustapha, said photos the United States provided to him Thursday don't prove anything.He argued that they weren't taken in Syria and that there was no proof they came from Syria. "I had to ask myself, is this Hollywood or Foggy Bottom?" he said, calling it "Iraq déjà vu."

Is this meant to promote a war with Syria and/or nearby Iran, or torpedo negotiations between the US and North Korea (the latter supposedly involved with Syria)?

Meanwhile, the U.S.’s top military officer Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed that the Pentagon is planning for "potential military courses of action" against Iran, criticizing what he called the Tehran government's "increasingly lethal and malign influence" in Iraq.

[Includes excerpts of articles by CNN, AP, and John W. Farley, Counterpunch]


The Silent Tsunami of Hunger

The head of the World Food Program, Josette Sheeran, said a "silent tsunami" threatened to plunge more than 100 million people on every continent into hunger.

As the global food-price crisis worsens, the World Food Program has begun cutting the provision of school meals to some of the world's poorest children,.

"This is the new face of hunger; the millions of people who were not in the urgent hunger category six months ago but now are," she said, adding the cutbacks reflected "heartbreaking decisions" and were the biggest challenges of the program in 45 years.

[Excerpt of an article by Jeremy Lovell, SMH]


Truth as a Casualty of War

Robert Fisk has a well-earned reputation as one of the most honest and hard hitting foreign correspondents in the British media. When I met Fisk, I wanted to know, does journalism, by sanitizing or justifying war, also have a role in perpetuating it?

First of all, there's the inability of many journalists from the United States to actually tell the truth about the Israel-Palestine situation--hence, occupied territories are called disputed territories, the wall is called the security barrier, a colony or settlement is called a neighborhood or an outpost.

[Likewise] the true extent of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan has been masked by the massive use of mercenaries--hidden from the troop figures. Fisk is one of very few journalists to call them by their name, as opposed to the "contractor" euphemism: "When they say two 'contractors' have been murdered, the idea that they are going around in an armored humvee loaded with weapons doesn't come into the brain pod immediately does it?"

Then you have this business where television will not show what we see, for reasons of so-called "bad taste". I remember once being on the phone to a TV editor in London when Jazeera were asked to feed some tape of children killed and wounded by British shell fire in Basra, and the guy started saying, "there's no point feeding us this, we can't show this". The first excuse was, "people will be having their tea, so we can't put it on".

I was in Iraq in 1991, when the British and Americans had been bombing one of the highways. There were women and children dead and in bits, and all these dogs came out of the desert and started eating them. If you saw what I saw you would never ever think of supporting war of any kind against anyone again.

But of course, the politicians--our leaders--are very happy that these pictures are not shown, because they make war more attractive, less painful.

[Excerpt of an article by Dan Glazebrook,PalestineChronicle]


U.S. national debt: $30,000 per American

Like a ticking time bomb, the U.S. national debt is an explosion waiting to happen. It's expanding by about $1.4 billion a day — or nearly $1 million a minute. It means almost $30,000 in debt for each man, woman, child and infant in the United States.

The national debt — the total accumulation of annual budget deficits — which stands at a mind-numbing $9.13 trillion — up from $5.7 trillion when President Bush took office in January 2001. It will top $10 trillion sometime right before or right after he leaves in January 2009.

That's $10,000,000,000,000.00, or one digit more than an odometer-style "national debt clock" near New York's Times Square can handle. (When the privately owned automated clock was activated in 1989, the national debt was $2.7 trillion.)

Of this debt, Japan [holds] $586 billion, followed by China ($400 billion) and Britain ($244 billion). Saudi Arabia and other oil-exporting countries account for $123 billion, according to the Treasury.

[The Associated Press]


The Interest on the U.S. National Debt

The government is fast straining resources needed to meet interest payments on the national debt, which stands at a mind-numbing $9.13 trillion. And like homeowners who took out adjustable-rate mortgages, the government faces the prospect of seeing this debt — now at relatively low interest rates — rolling over to higher rates, multiplying the financial pain.

It only gets worse. Over the next 25 years, the number of Americans aged 65 and up is expected to almost double. The work population will shrink and more and more baby boomers will be drawing Social Security and Medicare benefits, putting new demands on the government's resources.

These guaranteed retirement and health benefit programs now make up the largest component of federal spending. Defense is next. (The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could cost $2.4 trillion over the next decade.)

And moving up fast in third place is interest on the national debt, which totaled $430 billion last year.

[The Associated Press]


Six million people die unnecessarily every year

We make a living by what we get, Churchill said, but we make a life by what we give. And to save a life?

We Americans like to see ourselves as a generous people, but the rest of the world sees us differently. Among advanced countries, the U.S. ranks last in foreign aid development giving as a percentage of national income.

The distinctive generosity of Americans is more private than public, countless gifts of time and money—but 98% of that money stays here at home, in part because donors could never be sure whether their money would actually land where it was needed and be used well once it got there.

You can't stop an earthquake; but you can stop malaria, if you just spend the money to do it. And malaria kills more than 80,000 every month. Five dollars buys a mosquito net to guard a sleeping child.

Or maybe instead of buying Aunt Margaret a sweater, buy a goat in her name from Heifer International to give a hungry family milk every day.

[Excerpt of a TIME article by Nancy Gibbs]


Military aid packages instead of economic aid packages

[What exactly does it mean] when the Americans announced a "military aid package" of 60 billion dollars for their allies in the Middle East.

To put all this in perspective, after the G8 summit the wealthy nations of the world said they'd give $25 billion to help the poor in Africa.

The resulting balloons, celebrations, smiley press conferences and declarations of a new start for Africa were about the entire western world donating to an entire impoverished continent less than half of what one country has quietly coughed up in weapons for the Saudis, Egypt and Israel.

[For that matter] How can they spend that much? Has Prada moved into tanks? Maybe they now buy these things at fashion shows, where a commentator gasps: "Ooh, my, my!" as down the catwalk comes this exhilarating design for the very latest satellite-guided armor-penetrating missile "sure to be this summer's big bold hit when it comes to melting Hezbollah."

And $13 billion of this is for Saudi Arabia. Because, after all, if there's one family on this earth in need of financial aid, it's the Saudi royal family.

[Excerpt of an article by Mark Steel, The Independent]

More on U.S. annual aid


Climbing Food Costs and Starvation

Rice so valuable it is transported in armored convoys. Soldiers guarding fields and warehouses. Export bans to keep local populations from starving.

For the first time in decades, the specter of widespread hunger for millions looms as food prices explode. Two words not in common currency in recent years — famine and starvation — are now being raised as distinct possibilities in the poorest, food-importing countries.

A swelling global population, soaring energy prices, the clamoring for meat from the rising Asian middle class, competition from biofuels and hot money pouring into the commodity markets are all factors that make this crisis unique and potentially calamitous. Unlike past food crises, solved largely by throwing aid at hungry stomachs and boosting agricultural productivity, this one won't go away quickly, experts say. Prices are soaring and stand every chance of staying high.

Peter Hazell, a British agriculture economist and a former World Bank principal economist, says millions may go hungry simply because food is becoming unaffordable in some parts of the world.

[Excerpt of an article by Eric Reguly, Globe and Mail]


Hunger Byproduct of Rising Ethanol Production

Jacques Diouf, director-general of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, said the cereal-import bill for the poorest countries is expected to rise 56 per cent this year, on top of the 37 per cent recorded last year.

"There is certainly a risk of [people] dying of starvation" unless urgent action is taken, he said.

Rising ethanol demand is one of the main reasons why Wall Street securities firm Goldman Sachs predicts high food prices for a long time. "We believe the recent rise in agriculture prices is not a transient spike, but rather represents the beginning of a structural increase in prices, much as has occurred in the energy and metals markets," Jeffrey Currie, Goldman's chief commodities analyst, said in a research note last month.

Dr. Peter Hazell, a former World Bank principal economist, said that filling an SUV tank once with ethanol consumes more maize than the typical African eats in a year.

[Excerpt of an article by Eric Reguly, Globe and Mail]


It's Not War, It’s Occupation

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ended some years ago. In Iraq, the war ended with the fall of Saddam Hussein's government; in Afghanistan, with the fall of the Taliban government. What's been happening since is occupation, and resistance to occupation.

As for al-Qaeda, it has been virtually wiped out in Iraq – not by us, but by Sunni tribesmen who turned against it because of its murderous fanaticism. McCain keeps confusing al-Qaeda with Shia and trying to link it to Iran, but al-Qaeda is a fundamentalist Sunni group way outside the mainstream of Islam. Most of its members are Saudis or Egyptians.

Our presence in Iraq is the only thing that made al-Qaeda viable. Our occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan are the principal selling points in al-Qaeda propaganda. We have no interests, strategic or otherwise, in either country. The last thing al-Qaeda wants is for us to withdraw, which is why it should be the first thing we do.

Some Nobel laureates estimate the war will end up costing us $3 trillion. Well, plain and simple, we can't afford it. If we don't change direction in this country, we're going to end up impoverished and bankrupt, and you know what? Iraq and Afghanistan will still be the messes they are today.

[Excerpt of an article by Charley Reese, veteran journalist, writing in antiwar.com]


"Success" in Iraq

Sabah Jawad, the secretary of the London-based Iraqi Democrats Against War, appearing on “Middle East Today” a political discussion program, dismissed reports of progress in Iraq.

"I will tell you of the successes in Iraq," he said, "One million killed by the US occupation, five million dispersed people internally and externally. More than a million widows, five million orphans, 150,000 people arrested in centers run by the United States in Iraq, and there is a catalogue of catastrophes inflicted on the people of Iraq by this war. And the sooner they withdraw," he added, "the better for all of us."

Former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel also took issue with the upbeat assessment. "I really don't understand how [they can] say there's progress," he said. "But what is worse is the outright lies presented to the American people that Iran is responsible for what is going on."

Adds Senator Gravel, "You have [American] army officers, captains, majors, colonels, who will tell you there is no evidence at all about anything coming over the Iranian border into Iraq. But then you get Petraeus and other generals making these statements."

Gravel wondered how they could make statements that the mortars used on the heavily fortified Green Zone are coming from Iran, for example. "These are outright lies," he said.

[Excerpt of an article by Chris Gelken, Oh My News]

Bush 'Divorced From Reality'

Statements by President George W. Bush and General Petraeus about how "astonishingly normal things have become in Baghdad" have gotten media attention of late.

The recent surge in violence, especially in Sadr City, would not immediately support these views, with correspondents on the scene saying that for the first time they are quite openly seeing snipers on the roofs of buildings and more disturbances on the streets.

In the past few days we have seen some 17 American soldiers killed.

Former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel dismissed suggestions that the surge or Petraeus' expertise was responsible for the pre-Basra reduction in the insurgency across Iraq. Gravel said the reduction [in the insurgency] had been bought with US taxpayer money and that the relative calm would end as quickly as the money did.

"Do you know how much money Petraeus has been handing out to Sunni warlords?" he asked. "To suppress the violence. Do you really have any idea?"

Continuing the war under the illusion that progress is being made, Gravel said, is indicative of how out of touch Bush really is.

[Excerpt of an article by Chris Gelken, Oh My News]


When Tech Innovation Has a Social Mission

Steve Wozniak built the original Apple I to share with his friends at the Homebrew Computer Club, but it was his business partner Steve Jobs who had the insight that there might be a market for such a contraption. Indeed, for decades, Silicon Valley has been defined by the tension between the technologist’s urge to share information and the industrialist’s incentive to profit.

Now a new style of “hybrid” technology organization is emerging that is trying to define a path between the nonprofit world and traditional for-profit ventures.

They’re often referred to as “social enterprises” because they pursue social missions instead of profits. But unlike most nonprofit groups, these organizations generate a sustainable source of revenue and do not rely on philanthropy. Earnings are retained and reinvested rather than being distributed to shareholders.

[Excerpt of an article by John Markoff, The New York Times]


Public Dissent Against the War

Last week's New York Times/CBS News poll indicated that 81 percent believe the country is headed in the wrong direction - key concerns being the war and the economy.

Still the war machine inexorably grinds on.

Amid this political atmosphere, dockworkers of the International Long Shore and Warehouse Union have decided to stop work for eight hours in all U.S. West Coast ports on May 1, International Workers' Day, to call for an end to the war.

It appears that long shore workers may be calling on immigrant workers and others to join them.

Meanwhile, members of Iraq Veterans Against War (IVAW) seized the National Archives Building in Washington DC, and called for Dick Cheney and President Bush to be charged with war crimes. IVAW read aloud the terms of a Citizens Arrest Warrant.


Regrets over toppling Saddam

Ibrahim Khalil, who five years ago took part in the iconic toppling of a giant statue of Saddam Hussein in central Baghdad, says he now regrets taking part in the hugely symbolic event.

"If history can take me back, I will kiss the statue of Saddam Hussein which I helped pull down," Khalil told reporters on the fifth anniversary of the statue's toppling.

"All my friends who were with me that day feel the same as me," Khalil told reporters in Firdoos Square, which was virtually deserted amid a vehicle ban in the capital imposed by the government to prevent insurgent attack.

Five years on, Khalil says the jubilation has long since vanished and that the situation in the country has vastly deteriorated. Iraqi forces are still battling bloodshed that has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions of others. The International Committee of the Red Cross says the plight of millions of Iraqis who still have little or no access to clean water, sanitation or health care is the "most critical in the world". The economy, the main concern of Iraqis after security, is also a wreck.

"Now I realise that the day Baghdad fell was in fact a black day. Saddam's days were better," said Khalil, who along with his brother runs a car repair shop.

"I ask Bush: 'Where are your promises of making Iraq a better country?'



"6 more months" Iraq Stallment Plan

When the "surge" began a year ago, the Bush administration and John McCain told America things would get better by September.

In September, they said we'd know more by spring.

And this week, General Petraeus is on Capitol Hill asking for—you guessed it—6 more months.

They don't have a plan for getting us out of Iraq. So they're trying to sell endless war on an stallment plan.

View this short video exposing the "6 month" gambit.

Support the Troops -- Bring them Home!

Each and every day, it is becoming more evident that the Bush Administration is wasting billions of taxpayers' dollars on an endless, civil war that cannot be won.

On average, $275 million is spent every day on the war in Iraq—that is an average of $4,100 for every household in the United States over the course of the war. And those costs are continuing to rise with no end in sight.

Today I signed a petition urging Congress to start bringing our troops home. Take a minute and do likewise.


What Do We Stand For?

How can a moral conscience be reconciled with our continuing to tolerate a government which has invaded two countries on the basis of lies and deception, destroyed their civilian infrastructures, and murdered hundreds of thousands of men, women and children?

Recently, the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity issued a report that documents the fact that Bush administration officials made 935 false statements about Iraq to the American people in order to deceive them into going along with Bush's invasion.

Weapon inspectors told the Bush administration that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, as Scott Ritter has reminded us over and over. As the leaked Downing Street memo confirms, the head of British intelligence told the British cabinet that the Bush administration had already decided to invade Iraq and was making up the intelligence to justify the invasion.

After years of lying to Americans and the rest of the world that Guantanamo prison contained 774 of "the world's most dangerous terrorists," [only] six of its victims [are being brought] to trial. The vast majority of the 774 detainees have been quietly released.

The U.S. government stole years of life from hundreds of ordinary people who had the misfortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and were captured by warlords and
sold [for $25,000 rewards each] as "terrorists."

The killing and occupation continue even though we now know that the invasions were based on lies and fabricated "evidence." The entire world knows this. Yet, Americans continue to act as if the gratuitous invasions, the gratuitous killing and the gratuitous destruction are justified. There is no end of it in sight.

[Excerpt of an article by Paul Craig Roberts]


Iraq “a national tragedy, an economic catastrophe, a regional disaster”

Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter, wrote in The Washington Post:

If the American people had been asked more than five years ago whether Bush's obsession with the removal of Saddam Hussein was worth 4,000 American lives, 40,000 wounded Americans and several trillion dollars -- not to mention the less precisely measurable damage to the United States' world-wide credibility, legitimacy and moral standing -- the answer almost certainly would have been an unequivocal "no."

Nor do the costs of this fiasco end there. The war has inflamed anti-American passions in the Middle East and South Asia, while fragmenting Iraqi society and increasing the influence of Iran.

In brief, the war has become a national tragedy, an economic catastrophe, a regional disaster and a global boomerang for the United States. Ending it is thus in the highest national interest.

We started this war rashly, but we must end our involvement responsibly. And end it we must. The alternative is a fear-driven policy paralysis that perpetuates the war -- to America's historic detriment.


US Congressmen profit from the War in Iraq

Members of the U.S.Congress have as much as $196 million collectively invested in companies doing business with the Defense Department, earning millions since the start of the Iraq war, according to a new study by a nonpartisan research group.

The review of lawmakers' 2006 financial disclosure statements, by the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics, suggests that members' holdings could pose a conflict of interest as they decide the fate of Iraq war spending.

The study found that more Republicans than Democrats hold stock in defense companies, but that the Democrats who are invested had significantly more money at stake.

Overall, 151 members hold investments worth $78.7 - $195.5 million in companies that receive defense contracts that are worth at least $5 million.. These investments earned them anywhere between $15.8 - $62 million between 2004 and 2006, the center concludes.



Martin Luther King, Jr

On April 4, 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a sermon at Riverside Church in New York City. By this time he had become a staunch critic of overall U.S. foreign policy, which he deemed militaristic. In this speech, King called the United States "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."

King said, “I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of sonship and brotherhood, and because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned especially for his suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them.

“This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation's self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.”


GAO Blasts Pentagon $295 Billion Weapons' Budget Overrun

Government auditors issued a scathing review yesterday of dozens of the Pentagon's biggest weapons systems, saying ships, aircraft and satellites are billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule.

The Government Accountability Office found that 95 major systems have exceeded their original budgets by a total of $295 billion, bringing their total cost to $1.6 trillion, and are delivered almost two years late on average. In addition, none of the systems that the GAO looked at had met all of the standards for best management practices during their development stages.

Auditors said the Defense Department showed few signs of improvement since the GAO began issuing its annual assessments of selected weapons systems six years ago. "It's not getting any better by any means," said Michael Sullivan, director of the GAO's acquisition and sourcing team. "It's taking longer and costing more."

The Pentagon has doubled the amount it has committed to new systems, from $790 billion in 2000 to $1.6 trillion last year, according to the 205-page GAO report. Total acquisition costs in 2007 for major defense programs increased 26 percent from first estimates.

[Excerpt of an article by Dana Hedgpeth, The Washington Post]


It is More Blessed and Happy to Give than Receive

Money can buy happiness, but only if you spend it on someone else, researchers report.

The Bible counsels that it's better to give than to receive. Science agrees. People who made gifts to others or to charities reported they were happier than folks who didn't share, according to a report in the journal Science.

A team at the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School found from their experiments that Americans were measurably happier when they spent money on others--even if they thought spending the money on themselves would make them happier.

"Regardless of how much income each person made, those who spent money on others reported greater happiness, while those who spent more on themselves did not," they said in a statement. "These findings suggest that very minor alterations in spending allocations--as little as $5--may be enough to produce real gains in happiness on a given day."

It could also hold a key as to why people are less happier even though U.S. is a rich society. "Indeed, although real incomes have surged dramatically in recent decades, happiness levels have remained largely flat within developed countries," they wrote.


Use your head and heart when giving

There’s a trend in philanthropy to treat the act of giving as an “investment decision”.

What gets lost in all of this focus on evaluation and numbers is the grace and joy of philanthropy. Philanthropy reconnects us with others and reminds us of our shared humanity.

Two years ago, I visited a local homeless shelter and I asked the director, a Unitarian minister, how he measured effectiveness. I expected him to say something about the number of people he had helped find jobs, or the number of breakfast sandwiches it handed out, etc. Instead, he replied simply: “Last year one of our [homeless] regulars died. We paid for his coffin and his burial. And 10 people, who he’d gotten to know here, showed up for his funeral.” He paused. “Does that answer your question?”

That sobering encounter made me think hard. The fact that the non-profit provided a place where a homeless person made friends who cared enough to go to his funeral – something that would not fit into anyone’s investment metrics – speaks volumes about how this non-profit made an impact on this person’s quality of life.

Recent research on philanthropy points to the fact that it is a highly emotional and social behavior. The work of Deborah Small, a professor of marketing at Wharton business school, shows that presenting potential donors with metrics suppresses donations because it lowers empathy. It is empathy, her research says, that triggers giving.

That’s not to say that effectiveness does not matter and we should look only to our hearts. It matters a great deal, but the human dimension is just as important. Many non-profits are trying to make a difference in people’s lives. And that’s hard to do.

This is the gift of philanthropy. It will awaken you to the joys, sorrows and above all, the hopes of life and our world.

[Excerpt of an article by Perla Ni, The Financial Times]


The US Declaration of War on Iran

On March 20, 2008 the US officially declared war on Iran. A unit within the US Treasury Department, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), issued an advisory to the world's financial institutions under the title: "Guidance to Financial Institutions on the Continuing Money Laundering Threat Involving Illicit Iranian Activity."

The US, speaking through FinCEN, is now telling all banks around the world "to take into account the risk arising from the deficiencies in Iran's AML/CFT [anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism] regime”. This provides the rationale FinCEN will now use to deliver the ultimate death blow to Iran's ability to participate in the international banking system.

By managing to get inserted the names of two state-owned banks in the most recent UN Security Council resolution on Iran, the US can now portray the cream of Iran's financial establishment (Bank Melli and Bank Saderat, Iran's two largest banks) as directly integrated into alleged regime involvement in a secret nuclear weaponization program and acts of terrorism.

The US, again through FinCEN, has declared two acts of war: one against Iran's banks and one against any financial institution anywhere in the world that tries to do business with an Iranian bank.

Over the past two years Treasury officials have been crisscrossing the globe to make it abundantly clear in meetings (described by Treasury as opportunities to "share information") with banking and government officials in the world's key financial centers that dealing with Iran is risky business. [Treasury] frequently claims that major European and Asia banks, once they hear the US pitch, freely decided to cooperate with anti-Iran banking sanctions for reasons of "good corporate citizenship" and a "desire to protect their institutions' reputations."

China and Japan "the top two recipients of exports from Iran, together accounting for more than one-quarter of Iran's exports in 2006," according to an analysis of International Monetary Fund (IMF) trading statistics contained in a December 2007 US Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. Airtight global banking sanctions imposed on Iran would presumably make the financial administration of this trade next to impossible.
Will China bend to US sanctions wishes? Early signs suggest the answer is yes.

During a daily press meeting with reporters on March 19, the State Department's spokesperson … questioned rhetorically the wisdom of doing business with Iranian "financial institutions that are under UN sanctions or could become under sanctions if it's found that they are assisting or aiding or abetting Iran's nuclear program in any way." A clearer expression of US desires is hardly possible.

[Excerpt of an article by John McGlynn, ICH]