Dollar A Day Films Series - Host a Screening!

Understanding the connection between global development and U.S. political choices is now more relevant than ever as we make decisions on the eve of the 2008 U.S. presidential election.

In October, communities around the nation will be screening films from the Dollar A Day film series released by globaldevelopmentmatters.org to raise awareness about global poverty, and encourage you to start a conversation in your community, by visiting their site where you can download discussion guides and print invitations.

Watch a trailer here:

Many groups have decided to host the screening on or around October 15th in honor of Blog Action Day, which is centered on global poverty this year.


Financial Factoids to help us understand the Financial Fiasco

More than three million U.S. manufacturing jobs have been lost while Bush was in the White House. Jobs that have been moved offshore do not come back.

By replacing $20 an hour U.S. labor with $1 an hour Chinese labor, the profits of U.S. offshore corporations have boomed, thus driving up share prices and “performance” bonuses for corporate CEOs. [Favoring the rich over the poor. Or "Middle class" as described by John McCain, an annual income less than $5 million!]

[Concerning the poor decisions made by Wall Street institutions] The US Treasury does not have $700 billion on hand with which to buy the troubled assets from troubled institutions, meaning The Treasury will have to borrow the $700 billion from abroad. This crisis comes at the worst possible time. Gratuitous wars and military spending in pursuit of US world hegemony have inflated the federal budget deficit.

These large deficits are financed by foreigners, and foreign unease has resulted in a decline in the US dollar’s value compared to other tradable currencies, precious metals, and oil.

If the US Treasury’s assumption of bailout responsibilities becomes excessive, the US dollar will lose its reserve currency role. The minute that occurs, foreign financing of America’s twin deficits will cease, as will the bailout. The US government would have to turn to the printing of paper money as did Weimar Germany.

[Excerpts from an article by Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration]


U.S. Soldiers Tell of Detainee Abuse in Iraq

Torture and other abuses against detainees in U.S. custody in Iraq were authorized and routine, even after the 2004 Abu Ghraib scandal, according to new accounts from soldiers in a Human Rights Watch report released today.

In the 53-page report, “No Blood, No Foul: Soldiers’ Accounts of Detainee Abuse in Iraq,” soldiers describe how detainees were routinely subjected to severe beatings, painful stress positions, severe sleep deprivation, and exposure to extreme cold and hot temperatures. The accounts come from interviews conducted by Human Rights Watch, supplemented by memoranda and sworn statements contained in declassified documents.

“Soldiers were told that the Geneva Conventions did not apply, and that interrogators could use abusive techniques to get detainees to talk,” said John Sifton, the author of the report and the senior researcher on terrorism and counterterrorism at Human Rights Watch. “These accounts rebut U.S. government claims that torture and abuse in Iraq was unauthorized and exceptional – on the contrary, it was condoned and commonly used.”

The Human Rights Watch report comes at a time when Bush administration officials and congressional leaders are hotly debating the applicability of the Geneva Conventions to detainee treatment.

[Human Rights Watch]


The New World War

In Latin America, the Bush administration is fomenting incipient military coups in Venezuela, Bolivia, and possibly Paraguay, democracies whose governments have opposed Washington's historic rapacious intervention in its "backyard". Washington's "Plan Colombia" is the model for a mostly unreported assault on Mexico. This is the Merida Initiative, which will allow the United States to fund "the war on drugs and organized crime" in Mexico – a cover, as in Colombia, for militarizing its closest neighbor and ensuring its "business stability".

Britain is tied to all these adventures – a British "School of the Americas" is to be built in Wales, where British soldiers will train killers from all corners of the American empire in the name of "global security".

Russia is being encircled by US and NATO bases and missiles in violation of a pledge by the United States not to expand NATO "one inch to the east". The result, writes Stephen Cohen, professor of Russian Studies at New York University, "is a US-built reverse iron curtain [and] a US denial that Russia has any legitimate national interests outside its own territory, even in ethnically akin former republics such as Ukraine, Belarus and Georgia. [There is even] a presumption that Russia does not have fully sovereignty within its own borders, as expressed by constant US interventions in Moscow's internal affairs since 1992 . . . the United States is attempting to acquire the nuclear responsibility it could not achieve during the Soviet era."

[Excerpt of an article by John Pilger, New Statesman]


Forced Socialism to overtake America?

Wall Street [tried to] put a gun to the head of the politicians and said, Give us the money--right now--or take the blame for whatever follows. The audacity of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's bailout proposal is reflected in what it refuses to say: no explanations of how the bailout will work, no demands on the bankers in exchange for the public's money. The Treasury's opaque, three-page summary of plan includes this chilling statement:

"Section 8. Review. Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency."

In other words, no lawsuits allowed by aggrieved investors or American taxpayers. No complaints later from ignorant pols who didn't know what they voted for. Take it or leave it, suckers.

Paulson and Bernanke evoked intimidating pressure for two reasons. The previous efforts to restore investor confidence had all failed as their slapdash interventions worsened the global panic. Besides, the Federal Reserve was running out of money. Nearly three-fifths of the Fed's $800 billion portfolio is now loaded down with junk--the mortgage securities and other rotten assets it took off Wall Street balance sheets. The imperious central bank is fast approaching its own historic disgrace--potentially as discredited as it was after the 1929 crash.

Despite its size, the gargantuan bailout is still designed for the narrow purpose of relieving the major banks and investment houses of their grief. Secrecy and opacity are crucial to achieve Wall Street's purposes. It could allow Paulson to overpay his old pals for near-worthless assets and slyly recapitalize the damaged banks while telling public and politicians the money is to save the system. Not everyone will be saved, of course, but high on the list of endangered nameplates is Goldman Sachs, Paulson's old firm. The high-flying investment house looks doomed by these events. The Fed quickly agreed to convert Goldman and Morgan Stanley into banks. Think of Paulson's solution as Goldman Sachs socialism.

[Excerpt of an article by William Greider, The Nation]


U.S. Funding to Bolivian Opposition "Shrouded in Secrecy"

Who in Bolivia is receiving millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars? That is what many Latin America policy analysts in Washington want to know.

"Washington has decided to keep its ties to Bolivia's opposition shrouded in secrecy," said Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Centre for Economic and Policy Research, an independent think tank. "USAID is not supposed to be a clandestine organisation," said Weisbrot. "But by providing clandestine aid to opposition groups, it gives the impression that the U.S. is contributing to efforts to destabilise the Bolivian government."

President Morales recently declared the U.S. ambassador Philip Goldberg "persona non grata" and asked him to leave his country within 72 hours. Morales accused Goldberg of aiding right-wing Bolivian opposition groups.

The opposition in five out of Bolivia's nine provinces is up in arms against the first-ever indigenous government's attempt to rewrite the country's constitution and bring about economic and social reforms in favor of the majority native population.

[Excerpt of an article by Haider Rizvi, IPS]


$13 Billion in Iraq Aid Wasted Or Stolen

A former Iraqi official, Salam Adhoob, previously a chief investigator for Iraq's Commission on Public Integrity, estimated yesterday that more than $13 billion meant for reconstruction projects in Iraq was wasted or stolen through elaborate fraud schemes.

While many of the projects audited "were not needed -- and many were never built," he said, "this very real fact remains: Billions of American dollars that paid for these projects are now gone."

Adhoob said he reported the abuses to the U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, an agency charged by Congress with helping to root out cases of waste, fraud and abuse.

Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.), who chairs the committee, said that "taxpayers have been bled dry with massive misuse of public dollars. It is all pretty sobering," he added later. "Our country cannot continue to be blind or oblivious to what is happening."

Adhoob, who worked for three years at the Iraqi agency and oversaw 200 investigators and other employees, said he had a "firsthand, up-close look at corruption" and eventually had to flee the country because of death threats.

Investigations by Iraqi oversight agencies also found that some of the money sent to the Defense Ministry was diverted to al-Qaeda in Iraq, Adhoob said, and deposited into banks in Jordan and elsewhere.

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


Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan by Aaron Glantz

Aside from the Iraqi people, nobody knows what the U.S. military is doing in Iraq better than the soldiers themselves. A new book gives readers vivid and detailed accounts of the devastation the U.S. occupation has brought to Iraq, in the soldiers' own words.

"Winter Soldier Iraq and Afghanistan: Eyewitness Accounts of the Occupation," published by Haymarket Books Tuesday, is a gut-wrenching, historic chronicle of what the U.S. military has done to Iraq, as well as its own soldiers.

"I remember one woman walking by," said Jason Washburn, a corporal in the U.S. Marines who served three tours in Iraq. "She was carrying a huge bag, and she looked like she was heading toward us, so we lit her up with the Mark 19, which is an automatic grenade launcher, and when the dust settled, we realised that the bag was full of groceries. She had been trying to bring us food and we blew her to pieces."

"Something else we were encouraged to do, almost with a wink and nudge, was to carry 'drop weapons', or by my third tour, 'drop shovels'. We would carry these weapons or shovels with us because if we accidentally shot a civilian, we could just toss the weapon on the body, and make them look like an insurgent," Washburn said.

[From a review by Dahr Jamail, IPS]

Read more


Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan (Part 2)

Hart Viges, a member of the 82nd Airborne Division of the Army who served one year in Iraq, tells of taking orders over the radio.

"One time they said to fire on all taxicabs because the enemy was using them for transportation...One of the snipers replied back, 'Excuse me? Did I hear that right? Fire on all taxicabs?' The lieutenant colonel responded, 'You heard me, trooper, fire on all taxicabs.' After that, the town lit up, with all the units firing on cars. This was my first experience with war, and that kind of set the tone for the rest of the deployment."

Vincent Emanuele, a Marine rifleman who spent a year in the al-Qaim area of Iraq near the Syrian border, told of emptying magazines of bullets into the city without identifying targets, running over corpses with Humvees and stopping to take "trophy" photos of bodies. "An act that took place quite often in Iraq was taking pot shots at cars that drove by," he said. "This was not an isolated incident, and it took place for most of our eight-month deployment."

This is an important book for the public of the United States, in particular, because the Winter Soldier testimonies were not covered by any of the larger media outlets, aside from the Washington Post, which ran a single piece on the event that was buried in the Metro section.

The New York Times, CNN, and network news channels ABC, NBC and CBS ignored it completely.

[From a review by Dahr Jamail, IPS]

Read more

Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan (Part 3)

[In the book "Winter Soldier Iraq and Afghanistan: Eyewitness Accounts of the Occupation,"] there is much testimony on the dehumanisation of the Iraqi people as well.

Brian Casler, a corporal in the Marines, spoke to some of this that he witnessed during the invasion of Iraq. "But on these convoys, I saw marines defecate into MRE bags or urinate in bottles and throw them at children on the side of the road," he stated.

Numerous accounts from soldiers include the prevalence of degrading terms for Iraqis, such as "hajis," "towel-heads" and "sand-niggers".

Scott Ewing, who served in Iraq from 2005-2006, admitted on one panel that units intentionally gave candy to Iraqi children for reasons other than "winning hearts and minds".

"There was also another motive," Ewing said, "If the kids were around our vehicles, the bad guys wouldn't attack. We used the kids as human shields."

[From a review by Dahr Jamail, IPS]


Hey U.S., welcome to the Third World!

It's not every day that a superpower makes a bid to transform itself into a Third World nation, and we here at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund want to be among the first to welcome you. As you spiral into a catastrophic financial meltdown, we are delighted to respond to your Treasury Department's request that we undertake a joint stability assessment of your financial sector.

We hope you won't feel embarrassed as we assess the stability of your economy and suggest needed changes. Our experts are committed to intervening in national economies with care and sensitivity.

We thus want to acknowledge the progress you have made in your evolution from economic superpower to economic basket case. Normally, such a process might take 100 years or more. However, you have successfully achieved, in a few short years, many of the key hallmarks of Third World economies.

Admittedly, your transition to Third World status is far from over, and it won't be painless. At first, for instance, you may find it hard to get used to the shantytowns that will replace the exurban sprawl of McMansions that helped fuel the real estate speculation bubble. But in time, such shantytowns will simply become part of the landscape.

Similarly, as unemployment rates continue to rise, you will initially struggle to find a use for the expanding pool of angry, jobless young men. But you will gradually realize that you can recruit them to fight in a ceaseless round of armed conflicts, a solution that has been utilized by many other Third World states before you. Indeed, with your wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, you are off to an excellent start.

[Excerpt of a LA Times article by Rosa Brooks]


John McCain, Phil Gramm and a failure of epic proportions

Ok, so John McCain happened to state that "The fundamentals of our economy are strong," even as Wall Street was tanking. A senior moment?

Not long ago McCain also confessed, "I was chairman of the [Senate] Commerce Committee that oversights every part of the economy." In light of the Wall Street revelations from the last couple weeks, what does that say about his oversight?

And there’s more. Writes Jim Hightower, “Tell me with whom you walk, and I’ll tell you who you are.” By that wisdom, John McCain is Phil Gramm, which is another way of saying he's Wall Street and Corporate America. Not only has McCain filled his campaign staff with big business lobbyists, but he’s also put such corporate-minded characters as Gramm by his side as top policy advisors, walking in step with them.

“You might remember Phil as the right-wing, Texas senator who chaired the senate banking committee. He rammed through a Wall Street deregulation bill that suddenly let powerhouse investment banks move into exotic financial schemes that were balanced precariously atop predatory subprime mortgages. Having been the magical congressional alchemist for this rapacious scheme of turning poor people’s home-ownership dreams into Wall Street gold, Gramm left the senate to go – where else? – to Wall Street! … Disastrous economic failure hasn’t daunted Gramm, who has been McCain’s national campaign co-chair and financial policy guru from the start. Guru Gramm is also pushing McCain to raise America’s retirement age, privatize Social Security, and further deregulate Wall Street. Did I mention that Gramm is in line to be Treasury Secretary if McCain wins?”

No question about it: The failure to notice the damage done by irresponsible deregulation was indeed an oversight of epic proportions.


What does "at Tax Payers’ expense" mean to you?

Thank you very much (on behalf of the United States) for the taxes you are now obligated to pay for the loan to AIG (American International Group). Also, thank you for the bailout of Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, as well as future calamities.

To give you some perspective as to your portion of the AIG loan, let’s divide $85 billion by 250 million Americans (disregarding 65 million Americans who will never have the wherewithal to pay anything to the U.S. Government). That comes to $340 per taxable American, or $2,040 for your 6-member family unit. (But given the current situation, such a loan may never, if ever, be paid off, so your 6-member family unit has just been obligated to assume a $4,080 tax obligation to save AIG.)

Now, if we were to include the costs of bailing out Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and including the “off-the-balance sheet” costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (invasions) estimated by Noble economics laureate Joseph Stiglitz at $3-5 trillion (probably should be revised to $4-6 trillion now), … can we agree that the ultimate tax obligation of your family figure is humongous?

Since the U.S. does not have the income to pay for these loans and bailouts, it will have to borrow the funds from the usual suspects – China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, other OPEC countries, etc.

The result has been to create an almost $9.5 trillion National Debt [which] works out to be $38,000 per person. Therefore, for your 6-member family unit, your obligation for the current National Debt is $228,000 (and growing each and every day).

[Excerpt of an article Larry Dorshkind, ICH]

So what’s the real cost to taxpayers for Govt bailouts?

The Federal Reserve has backstopped the purchase of Bear Stearns to the tune of $29 billion. It loaned $85 billion to insurer AIG. It's letting banks borrow up to $150 billion using risky mortgage-backed securities as collateral. And it's letting investment banks, which it doesn't regulate, get short-term loans using the central bank's discount window.

The Treasury, meanwhile, has pledged to backstop Fannie and Freddie up to $200 billion. Lawmakers passed legislation allowing the Federal Housing Administration to insure up to $300 billion in loans for troubled borrowers. They're likely to loan $25 billion to the auto industry.

If you add up how much the Treasury and Fed have pledged or made available for loans so far, it's close to $800 billion. (By comparison, the Savings & Loan crisis of the early 1990s cost taxpayers a net of $124 billion in 1999 dollars.)

So what's the real cost to taxpayers for all these interventions? No one can say for sure, and probably won't be able to for some time.

One piece of context: The price tags on the recent bailouts are not nearly as scary when compared to the unfunded liabilities the government is facing from say, Medicare. [And Medicaid and Social Security.]

[Excerpt of an article by Jeanne Sahadi, CNNMoney.com]


Just Imagine: What If?

What if a candidate pledged to return the Presidency (and America) to the rule of law, to end all illegal wars, including covert ones, to make reparations, to free all illegally held prisoners and pay reparations, to never again invade any country or use illegal weapons against civilians such as depleted uranium, white phosphorous, thermobaric explosives, chemical and bacterial weapons, napalm, lasers, and others?

What if a candidate pledged a genuinely independent Truth Commission to investigate the Administration and to bring its many criminals to justice, starting at the top?

What if a candidate pledged to end corrupt lobbying practices in Washington, to demand better and responsible corporate citizenship, to end an unfair system of taxation and to begin restoring the middle class?

What if a candidate pledged to strike a Commission to finally properly investigate who was responsible for 9/11 and bring them to justice no matter who they are?

What if a candidate pledged to stop wasting trillions on the military and instead began improving American infrastructure, education, health care, the environment and began to address the issue of homelessness? What if instead of bursting bombs, flying bullets, and political meddling the US exported genuine no-strings financial, food and health aid to needy populations around the world, thus for once fomenting respect and gratitude instead of justified hatred and loathing?

[Thoughts from John S. Hatch, a Vancouver writer and film-maker]


U.S. War in Afghanistan continues into Pakistan

The US has been in a bizarre state of semi-war against its ‘ally’ Pakistan for months, launching covert ground and air raids into its territory.

Pakistan, first under the US-backed dictator Pervez Musharraf, and now the new, US-backed president, Asif Zardari, has been put in the impossible position of waging a small war at the behest of Washington against its own pro-Taliban Pashtun tribesmen in the frontier zones known as FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) that is bitterly opposed by most Pakistanis and regarded by many as treasonous.

[Meanwhile] Pakistan is almost bankrupt, with less than eight weeks of hard currency reserves to pay for vital imports of food and fuel. Half of Pakistan’s 165 million people live on less than $2 daily.

A major overt US commando raid against a Pashtun village inside Pakistan killed up to 20 civilians last week and brought threats from Pakistan’s chief of staff, Gen. Afshaq Kayani, the 650,000-man armed forces would fight to defend the nation’s territory.

Increased US incursions into FATA will almost certainly arouse most of the Pashtun tribes to resist the attackers and eventually involve units of the regular Pakistani armed forces. Pashtuns, 20 per cent of Pakistan’s population, are heavily represented in the higher ranks of the military and intelligence service, ISI.

[Excerpt of an article by Eric Margolis, veteran American journalist, writing in the Khaleej Times]


America’s war on American-trained extremists in Pakistan

A secret order issued by George Bush giving US special forces carte blanche to mount counter-terrorist operations inside Pakistani territory raises fears that escalating conflict was spreading from Afghanistan to Pakistan and could ignite a region-wide war.

Following the unprecedented executive order, signed by Bush in July, US navy Seals commandos, backed by attack helicopters, launched a ground raid into Pakistan last week which the US claimed killed about two dozen insurgents. Pakistani officials meanwhile condemned the raid as illegal and said most of the dead were civilians.

Meanwhile Peter Chamberlin suggests that it is American-funded "Islamists" who are destabilizing Pakistan to justify American intervention to seize Pakistani nukes before the American-funded "Islamists" can get their hands on them.

All those who are being accused and targeted by America's cross-border raiders are the extremists like Jalaluddin Haqqani, whom we have trained and supported in the past.

The areas being targeted in Bajaur and S. Waziristan are the locations of former CIA training camps and American/Saudi-funded madrassas.

Other raids have targeted Baitullah Mehsud and his men (who are also tied to secret American training programs), who move freely throughout the region promoting the terrorism that will justify American actions, in possession of the most-advanced communication gear and possibly even satellite intelligence.


Global Starvation Ignored by American Policy Elites

A new report from The World Bank admits that three billion one hundred and forty million people live on less that $2.50 a day, and about 44% of these people survive on less than $1.25!

Complete and total wretchedness can be the only description for the circumstances faced by so many, especially those in urban areas. Simple items like phone calls, nutritious food, television, dental care, and inoculations are beyond the possible for billions of people.

Starvation.net logs the increasing impacts of world hunger and starvation. Over 30,000 people a day (85% children under 5) die of malnutrition, curable diseases, and starvation. The numbers of unnecessary deaths has exceeded three hundred million people over the past forty years.

[Excerpt of an article by Peter Phillips, a professor of sociology at Sonoma State University]


Woodward on Secret Killing program in Iraq

The dramatic drop in violence in Iraq is due in large part to a secret program the U.S. military has used to kill terrorists, according to a new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bob Woodward. The program -- which Woodward compares to the World War II era Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb -- must remain secret for now or it would "get people killed," Woodward said on CNN's Larry King Live.

Woodward, associate editor of the Washington Post, wrote that along with the surge and the new covert tactics, two other factors helped reduce the violence.

National security adviser Stephen Hadley, in a written statement reacting to Woodward's book, acknowledged the new strategy. Yet he disputed Woodward's conclusion that the "surge" of 30,000 U.S. troops into Iraq was not the primary reason for the decline in violent attacks.

Woodward told Larry King that while there is a debate over how much credit the new secret operations should get for the drop in violence, he concluded it "accounts for a good portion." The top secret operations, he said, will "some day in history ... be described to people's amazement."



UN appeals for 108 million dollars for relief in Haiti

UN appeals for 108 million dollars for relief in Haiti

The United Nations appealed on Wednesday for 108 million U.S. dollars to provide humanitarian relief to the victims of a series of tropical storms which struck Haiti in recent weeks.

According to needs assessments, up to 800,000 people, or nearly 10 percent of the country's population, are in dire need of assistance.

A series of tropical storms battered Haiti in the last three weeks, killing at least 328 people, wounding 136 and leaving 37 others missing, according to government figures.


After hurricanes, Cuba rejects U.S. “aid with strings”

UNICEF expressed concern today over the 2.5 million Cubans who have been evacuated from their homes, and the scores of children who have been left without schools, their communities and hospitals without electricity and hundreds of roads washed away. Two powerful hurricanes - Gustav and Ike - pummeled the island of Cuba in the last nine days with high winds and torrential rains that left a broad path of destruction.

The Cuban government has for a second time rejected the U.S. offer of post hurricane aid with strings attached, saying the country will overcome the situation. The U.S. said they were ready to send aid to Cuba — but only on the condition that it is accompanied by experts to evaluate the damage.

In a statement released on Thursday, the Cuban Foreign Ministry said the country had plenty of experts for evaluation work.

Cuba’s Foreign Ministry reiterated its request to Washington to lift the embargo preventing U.S. companies from offering Cuba private commercial credits to buy food. The U.S. imposed sanctions on Cuba in 1962, seeking to deprive it of foreign exchange and hasten the end of Communism.

[AP, Xinhua]


Multi-polar stand off in the Caucasus

Dick Cheney's week-long trip to the Caucasus was organized with two objectives in mind; to isolate Russia from its allies in Europe and speed up NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine. He has failed on both counts. No one in Europe wants a confrontation with Russia or another decades-long year nuclear standoff.

Cheney's Caucasus gambit was a last ditch effort for the oil and natural gas of the resource-rich Caspian Basin. The trip really had nothing to do with resolving differences between Tbilisi and Moscow. His real goal was to secure a larger share of the region's dwindling oil supplies before he leaves office.

However, Vladimir Putin has spent the last eight years building partnerships and creating an expansive energy network that provides vast amounts of oil and natural gas to European homes and industries. Europe depends on Russia now and wants to maintain friendly relations.

It is understandable that Cheney would be upset over Moscow's success in securing crucial hydrocarbons and pipeline corridors via the free market while the US has languished in Iraq and Afghanistan with nothing to show for its efforts except one million dead Iraqis, 4 million refugees, and a legacy of disgrace.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev drew a line in the sand, posing a direct challenge to the America's continued dominance in global security, reiterating the Putin Doctrine as it was originally stated in Munich: "The world must be multi-polar. Single polarity is unacceptable. Russia cannot accept a world order, in which any decisions will be made by a sole nation, even such a serious one as the United States.”

In short, a resurgent Russia--flush with the wealth derived from its vast oil and natural gas supplies--has become a stumbling block for US regional aspirations.

[Excerpt of an article by Mike Whitney]


The Truth About the War in Afghanistan

Following is an insightful excerpt of an article by Eric Margolis, veteran journalist and war correspondent:

The United States is no longer "fighting terrorism" in Afghanistan, as Bush, Obama and McCain insist.

The 2001 U.S. invasion was a legitimate operation against al-Qaeda, a group that properly fit the role of a "terrorist organization." But, contrary to the White House's wildly inflated claims that Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda was a worldwide conspiracy, it never numbered more than 300 hard core members. Bin Laden and his jihadis long ago scattered into all corners of Pakistan and elsewhere. Only a handful remain in Afghanistan.

Today, 80,000 U.S. and NATO troops are waging war against the Taliban. Having accompanied the mujahidin fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan during the 1980's, witnessed the birth of Taliban, and penned a book about the Afghan struggle, I can attest that Taliban is not a terrorist organization as the U.S. and its allies wrongly claim.

Taliban are Pashtun tribes of southern Afghanistan, who make up half that nation's population. The Taliban took up arms to battle the Afghan Communists, stop the wide-scale rape of Afghan women, and halt banditry and the drug trade. Both Pakistan and the U.S. secretly aided Taliban.

By 1996, Taliban took Kabul, driving out the Northern Alliance, the old rump of the Afghan Communist Party and its Russian-backed Tajik and Uzbek tribal supporters. Taliban, most of whom were mountaineers, then imposed a draconian medievalist culture that followed traditional Pashtun tribal customs and Islamic law.


U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan "pipeline protection troops"

U.S. energy giants Chevron and Unocal negotiated gas and oil pipeline deals with Afghanistan’s Taliban. In 2001, Washington gave $40 million in aid to Taliban --until four months before 9/11. The U.S. only turned against Taliban when it gave a major pipeline deal to an Argentine consortium rather than an American one.

The Taliban leadership had nothing to do with 9/11, a plot that, according to European prosecutors, was hatched in Germany and Spain, not Afghanistan. Nor did it have anything to do with subsequent attacks ascribed to al-Qaeda.

Osama bin Laden was a national hero of the anti-Soviet struggle, wounded six times in battle. Taliban's collective leadership, in keeping with the Pashtun code of hospitality and honor, refused U.S. demands to hand over bin Laden until Washington issued a proper extradition request with evidence of bin Laden's guilt and promised him a fair trial. Washington refused to go through legal channels and, instead, invaded Afghanistan.

Fast forward to 2008. Today, U.S. and NATO forces are not fighting "terrorists" in Afghanistan but a loose alliance of Pashtun warrior tribes whose resistance to foreign occupation is legendary. They are descendants of the same Pashtun mountain warriors who battled Alexander the Great, the Mongols, the British Empire and the Soviet Union. All these invaders were eventually defeated.

The real objective of the ongoing U.S. occupation of Afghanistan became recently evident. The U.S.-installed Karzai regime in Kabul finally signed a long-discussed pipeline deal that will bring energy south from the new gas and oil Klondike of the Caspian Basin through Afghanistan to Pakistan's coast and India. As the perceptive writer Kevin Phillips notes, U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan -- and Iraq -- have become "pipeline protection troops."

[Excerpt of an article by Eric Margolis, veteran journalist and war correspondent]


Video backs Afghan claims of carnage by US troops

As the doctor walks between rows of bodies, people lift funeral shrouds to reveal the faces of children and babies, some with severe head injuries. The grainy eight-minute footage is the most compelling evidence to emerge of what may be the biggest loss of civilian life during the Afghanistan war.

These are the images that have forced the Pentagon into a rare U-turn. Until yesterday the US military had insisted that only seven civilians were killed in Nawabad on the night of August 21. Villagers and the UN insist that 92 were killed, including as many as 60 children.

Locals say that the US and Afghan troops who came into the village, with US air support, used excessive force. Residential compounds were leveled by US attack helicopters, armed drones and a cannon-armed C130 Spectre gunship.

The villagers’ accounts have been supported by separate investigations conducted by the UN, by Afghanistan’s leading human rights organization and by an Afghan government delegation. Last night the Pentagon announced that it was reopening the investigation in the light of “emerging evidence”.

A Human Rights Watch report due to be published is highly critical of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan for the number of civilians killed in airstrikes. It gives warning that repeated instances of Western forces killing Afghan civilians have led to a collapse in popular support for the international presence.

[The Times]


Reduction of Poverty in China and India

South Asia has the most poor people (595 million), of which 455 million live in India. The poverty rate, however, has fallen from 60% to 40%.

China has been the country most successful in reducing poverty, with the numbers falling by more than 600 million, from 835 million in 1981 to 207 million in 2005.

The biggest part of that drop in the poverty rate in China is over the past 15 years, when China opened up to Western investment and its coastal regions boomed.

Meanwhile, the number of poor people in Africa doubled between 1981 and 2005 from 200 million to 380 million, and the depth of poverty is greater as well, with the average poor person living on just 70 cents per day.



New Pakistani Prime Minister "Mr. 10 Percent"

The widower of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has won the election to be the country's next president, Pakistani media reported Saturday.

Four years ago, Asif Ali Zardari was languishing in prison, derided throughout Pakistan as "Mr. 10 Percent" because of the numerous corruption allegations against him. He spent 11 years in prison after state prosecutors filed graft and embezzlement charges dating back to the 1990s when Bhutto was prime minister. The perception sticks.

"He is the most corrupt man — 'Mr. 10 Percent,' " says engineer Raheel Rehman, 27, using a nickname that stems from accusations Zardari took a cut from government contracts while his wife was in office.

"It's not as bad as it looks — it's much worse," politician Imran Khan says. "Here we were hoping for a transition to democracy. Now we'll have an even more incompetent dictatorship."

Judging by his words, Zardari "definitely wants to be Washington's man" on terror issues, says Christine Fair, a South Asia analyst for the RAND Corp., a think tank based in California. She said Zardari's tough talk "sounds suspiciously like" former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf, who the White House considered a key ally until he resigned last month as Zardari's party prepared an impeachment case against him.


How the U.S. Garrisons the Planet

At the height of the Roman Empire, the Romans had an estimated 37 major military bases scattered around their dominions. At the height of the British Empire, the British had 36 of them worldwide.

Depending on just who you listen to and how you count, the U.S. has hundreds of bases. According to Pentagon records, in fact, there are 761 active U.S. military "sites" abroad. [including 58 bases in Iraq]

The fact is: We garrison the planet north to south, east to west, and even on the seven seas, thanks to our various fleets and our massive aircraft carriers which, with 5,000-6,000 personnel aboard -- that is, the population of an American town -- are functionally floating bases.

And here's the other half of that simple truth: We don't care to know about it. We, the American people, aided and abetted by our politicians, the Pentagon, and the mainstream media, are knee-deep in base denial.

[Excerpt of an article by Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch]


Rich Countries mustering to seize Food

Middle Eastern countries, led by Saudi Arabia, are securing their future food supplies by trying to buy land in poorer nations.

The Financial Times reports that Saudi Arabia wants to set up a series of farms abroad, each of which could exceed 100,000 hectares. Their produce would not be traded: it would be shipped directly to the owners. Through "secretive bilateral agreements", the paper reports, "the investors hope to be able to bypass any potential trade restriction that the host country might impose during a crisis".

Both Ethiopia and Sudan have offered the oil states hundreds of thousands of hectares. This is easy for the corrupt governments of these countries: in Ethiopia the state claims to own most of the land; in Sudan an envelope passed across the right desk magically transforms other people's property into foreign exchange.

But 5.6 million Sudanese and 10 million Ethiopians are currently in need of food aid. The deals their governments propose can only exacerbate such famines.

There is nothing fair about the deals I have described. Where once they used gunboats and sepoys, the rich nations now use chequebooks and lawyers to seize food from the hungry.

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


Steal a man’s fish, he’ll be hungry tomorrow

Seventy per cent of the protein eaten by the people of Senegal comes from fish. Traditionally cheaper than other animal products, it sustains a population that ranks close to the bottom of the human development index.

One in six of the working population is employed in the fishing industry; about two-thirds of these workers are women. Over the past three decades, their means of subsistence has started to collapse as other nations have plundered Senegal's stocks.

The EU has two big fish problems. One is that, partly as a result of its failure to manage them properly, its own fisheries can no longer meet European demand. The other is that its governments won't confront their fishing lobbies and decommission all the surplus boats.

The EU has tried to solve both problems by sending its fishermen to West Africa. Between 1994 and 2005, the weight of fish taken from the country's waters fell from 95,000 tonnes to 45,000 tonnes. Muscled out by European trawlers, the indigenous fishery is crumpling: the number of boats run by local people has fallen by 48% since 1997.

In a recent report on this pillage, ActionAid shows that fishing families that once ate three times a day are now eating only once or twice.

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


100 million forced into poverty by rising food prices

Oxfam warns that another 100 million people may be forced into poverty by rising food prices, as well as the additional 400 million identified in the new report.

World Bank findings come as the OECD has reported that many rich countries have cut back on their foreign aid budgets, with little sign that the pledge made at the G8 summit at Gleneagles in 2005 to double aid to Africa by 2010 is being met.

The 's new poverty line of $1.25 per day in 2005 is equivalent to its $1 per day poverty line introduced in 1981 after adjustment for inflation. The data has also been revised on the basis of new data on inflation and prices from the 2005 ICP survey of world prices, which showed that the cost of living in developing countries was higher than previously thought. It does not take into account the recent increases in fuel and food prices.

[By Steve Schifferes, BBC]


The Energy Pipeline Guardians: NATO, SCO

US Vice President Dick Cheney begins a trip to Georgia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan, a move that is likely to irritate leaders in Moscow, who have condemned the United States for siding with Georgia in the South Ossetian conflict.

It is not yet clear to what extent will Cheney push to get Georgia and Ukraine into NATO. At recent NATO summits, Washington sought to commit NATO to energy security activities. This means NATO members would risk being drawn into long-term military commitments relating to energy.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was formed in 2001 as a counterweight to NATO’s growing influence in the region, dubbed the anti-NATO alliance by the Russian press. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad whose country holds observer status in the club and holds enormous oil and gas reserves, attended the SCO summit.

Washington has long hoped that the energy-rich Caspian region would help reduce Iran’s role in the global oil market, diversify supplies away from Russia, and provide an alternative to Saudi Arabian oil.

The reliability of Georgia as an energy transit country was dealt a devastating blow following the recent conflict. Oil and gas analyst Konstantin Batunin says, “Georgia might be seen in the eyes of some potential investor as not a reliable partner because it was involved in military action first, and second, several pipelines, which are going through the territory of this little state, were shut down simultaneously. This is a major concern, whether the country is reliable enough to invest in its infrastructure.”

[Excerpt of an article by Kostis Geropoulos, New Europe News]


International relief agencies decry military role in Georgia

Non-governmental relief agencies working in Georgia are furious that President Bush has put the Pentagon in charge of the operation, charging that the "militarization" of the humanitarian operation puts them at risk.

The U.S. military has provided helicopters and heavy-lift cargo planes to support civilian relief efforts in previous humanitarian crises, but in such cases it is often the United Nations or the U.S. Agency for International Development that leads the effort.

But Bush, acting on Aug. 13 as he sought diplomatic footing against Russia's military confrontation with Georgia, declared that he was putting the Defense Department in charge of the humanitarian relief mission.

Sam Worthington, president of InterAction, a coalition in Washington of 178 American relief agencies, said that Bush was sending "an important political message" by injecting U.S. military forces into the Georgian crisis.

But he said having civilian nonprofit organizations involved also sends a message. "We, too, are a face of America overseas and a very positive one, and our work through civilians enables America to show a positive side of how we can help others around the world," he said.

Another senior NGO official - who is not authorized to speak to the media - said it is "unnecessary and inappropriate and poses dangers for our operations down the road" to have to work under the U.S. military.

[Excerpt of an article in the Baltimore Sun]