Wednesday, June 30, 2010

UN calls for scraping dollar

Source: Press TV

A UN report released on Tuesday calls for abandoning the US dollar as the main global reserve currency to achieve greater stability in the world financial system.

"The dollar has proved not to be a stable store of value, which is a requisite for a stable reserve currency," said the World Economic and Social Survey 2010.

The use of the dollar for international trade came under increasing scrutiny when the US economy fell into recession.

The report said a new global reserve system should be created, which "must not be based on a single currency or even multiple national currencies." Instead, the report advocates using assistance from the International Monetary Fund to create a standardized international system for liquidity transfer.

The report added that developing countries have been hit hard by the US dollar's loss of value in recent years.

"Motivated in part by needs for self-insurance against volatility in commodity markets and capital flows, many developing countries accumulated vast amounts of such (US dollar) reserves during the 2000s," it said.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, who previously chaired a UN expert commission that considered ways of overhauling the global financial system, has advocated the creation of a new reserve currency system.

Russia and China have also supported the idea.

No envoy before Israel apology: Turkey

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Israel must apologize for its siege of Gaza and compensate its residents.

Source: Press TV§ionid=351020204

Turkey says the strain in its diplomatic ties with Israel will not heal unless it formally apologizes for the killing of Turkish nationals aboard a Gaza aid convoy.

Nine Turkish citizens, including a Turkish-American teenager, were killed in the May 31 attack by Israeli navy commandos on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla while the civilian aid convoy was in international waters.

The move drew strong condemnation from the international community and prompted several countries to summon Israeli ambassadors while an enraged Turkey recalled its envoy from Tel Aviv.

Ankara will not appoint a new ambassador to Israel unless the Israeli regime formally apologizes for the death of the Turkish citizens, The New York Times quoted a senior official in Turkey's Foreign Ministry as saying on Tuesday.

The Turkish government is also demanding compensation for the relatives of the Flotilla attack victims and an independent commission to investigate Israel's use of violence against the fleet which tried to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

In an interview to American television on Monday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Israel must apologize for its blockade of the Gaza Strip as well as compensate the people of Gaza as a precondition for Ankara to mediate possible peace talks between Israel and Syria in the future.

US wants Saudi Arabia to help ME peace

Source: Press TV

Saudi King Abdullah has held talks with US President Barack Obama as Washington is urging the Mideast powerhouse to take bold action to secure the Palestinian homeland.

Obama, who hosted the king in the White House's Oval Office on Tuesday, said the two leaders also discussed Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"We discussed the Middle East peace process and the importance of moving forward in a significant and bold way in securing a Palestinian homeland," AFP quoted Obama as saying.

The call comes amid Washington's effort to mediate peace negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israeli regime.

The US-sponsored talks are, however, likely to fail given Tel Aviv's refusal to halt settlement activities in the flashpoint city of al-Quds (Jerusalem), topped with its lethal attack on a Gaza aid convoy on May 31.

In a later statement about the meeting, the White House said Obama and Abdullah also agreed on the need to renew talks between Israel and Syria, and also Lebanon, respectively.

The White House said the two leaders also emphasized the need for a "secure and prosperous" Yemen, and an "inclusive" Iraqi government.

The 86-year-old Abdullah's visit to Washington was his third meeting with Obama as US president.

Relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States have flourished in recent years despite Washington's criticism of the human rights situation in the Arab kingdom and reports by its state department accusing Saudi authorities of "strictly limiting" freedom of speech and media.

Budget cuts to reduce police numbers

Source: Press TV

The president of the Association of Chief Police Officers warns that cuts to the Home Office budget threaten to largely reduce the number of police.

At the ACPO annual conference, Sir Hugh Orde warned against the budget cuts, where tens of thousands of police jobs are expected to be lost.

In regard to the cuts, Sir Hugh said, “The harsh reality is that, depending on the severity of the cuts ahead, it would be misleading in the extreme if we were to suggest that the size of the service is sustainable. Quite simply it is not," reported the Telegraph.

Home Office spending is expected to be reduced by one third, which is equivalent to losing 47,500 posts in the police budget. Prime Minister David Cameron earlier refused to make any public statements on whether frontline police services would be cut, although he did not deny it.

Theresa May, the Home Office Secretary, believes, however that, "Front-line availability should increase even as budgets contract."

She also revealed that she will be immediately scrapping the Policing Pledge introduced last year by the Labour government, which holds police accountable to the public through performance targets and minimum standards, and at the same time would press for locally-elected police commissioners, as stated by the BBC.

The Home Office currently employs over 143,000 full-time officers. According to the police minister, Nick Herbet, police overtime has been costing the forces £500 million a year. Their pay and conditions will be reviewed in England and Wales.

'Economic tsunami looming for West'

Source: Press TV§ionid=3510213

A distinguished economist has warned that the world is in for a third economic depression, arguing spending cutbacks are coming at the worst possible time for the economy.

"Neither the Long Depression of the 19th century nor the Great Depression of the 20th was an era of nonstop decline - on the contrary, both included periods when the economy grew. But these episodes of improvement were never enough to undo the damage from the initial slump, and were followed by relapses," economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote in a piece published on the American daily's website on June 27.

"We are now, I fear, in the early stages of a third depression. It will probably look more like the Long Depression than the much more severe Great Depression. But the cost - to the world economy and, above all, to the millions of lives blighted by the absence of jobs - will nonetheless be immense," added Krugman.

Disappointed by the G-20's commitment of deficit reduction, Krugman underlined "this third depression will be primarily a failure of policy."

"Around the world - most recently at last weekend's deeply discouraging G-20 meeting - governments are obsessing about inflation when the real threat is deflation, preaching the need for belt-tightening when the real problem is inadequate spending," he stated.

Krugman has discussed the necessity of continuing stimulus spending at a time when the global economic recovery is weak.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

British trade union boycotts Israel

Source: Press TV

A motion has been clinched in Britain calling for a complete boycott of Israel and for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador to the country.

One of Britain's largest unions voted at its annual conference in Bournemouth last week for thoroughly boycotting Israel, saying that Israeli regime lied over the Gaza flotilla incident.

The largest British public sector union with around 1.4 million members, UNISON, discussed the emergency motion on the third day of its annual conference and unanimously approved it to take effect immediately.

The union said Israel was "brazenly lying over the flotilla incident, as it attempted to define it as an attempted lynch mob of its troops by passengers on the boats".

The approved motion notes that: "this is a further sign that Israel does not respond to words of condemnation, only action will have any effect".

Now, the union will support a full boycott of Israel including economic, cultural and sporting: it has joined the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign and will suspend ties with Histadrut.

UNISON, in addition to above mentioned measures, is also calling for Britain to expel the Israeli ambassador.

“Conference reaffirms the support for an economic, cultural and sporting boycott of Israel and call on Unison to join the scores of unions around the world who have endorsed the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. Further to that as an immediate sanction for the illegal attack on the flotilla, we call on the government to expel the Israeli ambassador,” the motion states.

The union had already banned an organization that promotes Israeli-Palestinian trade union cooperation from having a stall at its conference.

Iran slams Canada human rights abuse

Source: Press TV

Iran has strongly condemned the Canadian police for arresting hundreds of protesters during the recent G20 summit in Toronto, describing the move as an inhuman act.

"The use of various violent tools and ways to counter a peaceful rally is by no means justified. The move by the Canadian government is a blatant breach of basic rights of citizens to freedom of expression," Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said on Tuesday.

The spokesperson also warned against the "new and dangerous" approach adopted by Canada toward the civil rights of its citizens, expressing Iran's profound concern over a lack of life security and a possible violation of rights of those arrested in that country during the last few days.

Mehmanparast advised the Canadian government to observe the rights of the detainees and to give assurances that the judicial process will take its natural course.

The remarks come as protests against the summit have resulted in more than 600 arrests. Seventy others were also detained after police raided the University of Toronto's downtown campus.

'Attacking Iran, incredibly destabilizing'

Source: Press TV

Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen warns that any military action against Iran would be "incredibly destabilizing" to the region.

The US and Israel understand that the use of force against Iran would be "incredibly destabilizing," Mullen said addressing the Aspen Security Forum on Monday.

The top US military official, however, renewed allegations that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons under the guise of peaceful nuclear work and said that that there is "no reason to trust" Iran.

According to Mullen, who had previously threatened Tehran with military options, Iran's access to nuclear weapons would be "incredibly dangerous" for the Islamic Republic.

The top US commander also expressed skepticism that the exertion of sanctions would be an effective tool to make Iran relinquish its nuclear activities.

Mullen's statements came in the wake of the estimations of CIA Director Leon Panetta who said on Sunday that he "thinks" Iran was in possession of enough low-enriched uranium to produce two atomic weapons within two years.

In an interview with ABC's "This Week", Panetta stressed that there was "some debate" as to whether Iran would be interested in making a nuclear weapon, but that the hypothetical step would take the country at least two years.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) passed a fourth round of sanctions on Iran as punishing measures against the country's nuclear program. The UN sanctions were followed by a series of unilateral sanctions approved by the US Congress on Iran's energy and banking sectors.

The UNSC resolution was approved despite the opposition of 118 member states of the Non-Aligned Movement, which backed Iran's right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

The United States along with its Western allies have been accusing Iran of seeking military objectives in its nuclear program. Iran, a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty rejects the allegations, arguing that all its nuclear program and activities are under the full supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Russia slams extra restrictions on Iran

Source: Press TV§ionid=351020101

Russia complains to the UN Security Council about the violation of UN terms after Germany prevented the delivery of items for a nuclear power plant in Iran.

Russia had previously voiced its objection to Germany's seizure of technology for Iran's Bushehr power plant and the questioning of several men connected with the deal, UN diplomats told Reuters on Monday.

In a meeting of a UNSC committee on Iran sanctions, Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said that Moscow was furious about the moves by "third states" to prevent the delivery of certain items to Iran. He did not clearly mention Germany.

Churkin criticized such restrictions, which go beyond four rounds of UN sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, as "unacceptable" and "not in line" with council resolutions.

"Strict compliance with Security Council resolutions ... requires the need for member states to refrain from the use of additional limitation constraints ... especially ones of an extra-territorial nature," he said.

Germany had inspected shipments of equipment bound for the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran. German customs agents seized the cargo on the grounds that EU law prohibits any Iran-bound nuclear-related equipment from being shipped across its territory.

Diplomats say the European Union's own directives on implementing UN measures against Iran go further than the UN sanctions and do not exempt the Bushehr plant.

"It may be allowed under Security Council resolutions, but it's not allowed under EU rules," a European diplomat told Reuters. "Perhaps Russia wasn't aware of it."

Germany's UN mission had no immediate comment.

Western corporations launched the construction of the Bushehr power plant in the 1970s but abandoned their commitments and pulled out of the project following the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.

Iran signed a deal with Russia in 1992 to finalize the construction of the nuclear power plant. Moscow has since postponed the launch of the Bushehr plant, which was initially planned to be completed in 1999.

US arrests alleged Russian spies

Source: Al Jazeera

US authorities have arrested 10 people for allegedly serving for years as deep cover secret agents of Russia's SVR intelligence agency, with the goal of penetrating US government policymaking circles.

According to court papers unsealed on Monday, the FBI intercepted a message from SVR headquarters in Moscow to two of the defendants, describing their main mission as "to search and develop ties in policymaking circles in US".

They were to "become sufficiently 'Americanised' such that they could gather information about the United States for Russia and can successfully recruit sources who are in, or are able to infiltrate, United States policymaking circles", according to criminal complaints filed in US federal court.

They were not assigned to collect classified, secret information, a justice department official said, but were allegedly tasked to learn about a broad swath of topics including nuclear weapons, US arms control positions, positions on Iran, White House rumours, CIA leadership turnover, the last presidential election, congress and political parties.

After a secret investigation over several years - that used extensive surveillance of communications and wiretaps, including putting listening devices into the homes of the accused - the justice department announced the arrests on Monday.

Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, said his country is awaiting an explanation from the US over the arreats.

"The subject was not explained to us. I hope they will explain," Russia's Interfax news agency quoted Lavrov as saying on Tuesday.

There was no clue in initial court papers about how successful the so-called agents had been but they were alleged to have been long-term, deep cover spies, some living as couples.

Deep cover agents take civilian jobs with no visible connection to a foreign government, rather than operating from government jobs inside embassies and military missions.

Charged with conspiracy

Each of the 10 suspects arrested on Sunday was charged with conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison on conviction.

Federal law prohibits individuals from acting as agents of foreign governments within the US without notifying the attorney-general.

Nine of the defendants were also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum 20 years in prison on conviction.

Also charged was an 11th defendant, who allegedly delivered money to the defendants, though he is at large.

According to the court papers, the defendants had been operating in the US for years, with alleged activities ranging from as far back as 2000 to just Saturday, when undercover FBI agents met two of the accused individuals.

Neave Barker, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Moscow, said serious questions were being asked in Russia over the arrests.

"There are arguments that there are lobbyists operating in Washington DC who act on behalf of foreign countries, so proving espionage for these individuals will be very difficult indeed," he said.

"The argument has also been made that nations friendly to the US, who have had individuals charged with spying in the country, have been sent home without fuss."

The timing of the arrests was notable given the emphasis that Barack Obama, the US president, and his Russian counterpart Dmitri Medvedev have placed on "resetting" US-Russia relations.

The two met just last week at the White House after Medvedev visited California's Silicon Valley, and both leaders attended the G8 and G20 meetings over the weekend in Canada.

FBI agents said in court papers that the defendants communicated with alleged Russian agents using mobile wireless transmissions between laptops computers while they were close to each other.

The court papers cited numerous examples of communications intercepted in the FBI probe that spelled out what they were allegedly trying to do.

Intelligence on Obama's foreign policy positions, particularly as they related to Russia, appeared to have been one of the top priorities for the defendants, according to the court filings.

In 2009, for example, two of the accused, Richard and Cynthia Murphy, were asked by Moscow to provide information about the US negotiating position on the START arms reduction treaty as well as Afghanistan and the approach Washington would take in dealing with Iran's suspect nuclear programme, ahead of Obama's trip to Russia that summer.

They were also asked to send background on US officials who would be travelling with Obama or involved in foreign policy, and to get their views and learn their "arguments, provisions, means of persuasion to 'lure' [Russia] into co-operation in US interests", according to the court documents.

The papers also described one defendant's contact with a prominent New York-based financier who was active in politics and another's conversations with an unidentified man who worked "on issues of strategic planning related to nuclear weapon development" at a US government research facility.
2010 Jun 30

Putin slams Russian 'spy' arrests

Obama, left, recently said US-Russia ties had been 'reset' after meeting Medvedev [AFP]

Source: Al Jazeera

Russia has reacted angrily to US claims that it has broken up a Russian spy ring operating in the country, saying that American police were "out of control," and that the accusations were "baseless and improper".

Moscow has admitted that the suspects are Russian citizens, but Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, was heavily critical of the arrests in comments directed at Bill Clinton, the former US president, who is on a visit to Russia.

"Back at your home, the police went out of control and are throwing people in jail," Putin said.

"We don't understand the reasons which prompted the US department of justice to make a public statement in the spirit of Cold War-era spy stories.

"I hope that all the positive gains that have been achieved in our relationship will not be damaged by the recent event."

'Baseless and unfounded'

Ten suspected spies were arrested in Boston, New York, New Jersey and Virginia on Sunday and accused of recruiting political sources and gathering information for the Russian government.

An 11th man was arrested in Cyprus on Tuesday, after immigration officers discovered his name on a stop list, police said.

Christopher Robert Metsos, who was bailed as he awaits an extradition hearing, was identified as a Canadian national but was holding a US passport, police said.

Russia's foreign ministry has described the allegations, which include charges of conspiracy to act as an agent for a foreign government and money laundering, as unfounded.

"Such actions are baseless and improper," a statement from the ministry said.
The US state department has tried to play down fears that the arrests could jeopardise relations with Moscow, which have improved in recent months.

"We're moving towards a more trusting relationship. We're beyond the Cold War," Philip Gordon, a state department official said.

"I think our relations absolutely demonstrate that. But as I say, I don't think anyone was hugely shocked to know that some vestiges of old attempts to use intelligence are still there.

"We have from the start focused on the reason for the reset in the relations and the common interest, and I think we will continue to do so."

'Signal to Moscow'

The timing of the operation has stunned observers, coming a week a successful visit to the US by Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, during which he was described by President Obama as a "solid and reliable partner".

The two met and had talks at the White House after Medvedev had visited California's Silicon Valley, and both leaders attended the G8 and G20 meetings over the weekend in Canada.

Alexander Nekrassov, a former Kremlin advisor, told Al Jazeera that the case would likely have shocked the Russian government.

"I think Moscow was stunned because after such a glorious visit, something like this comes. I suspect that some people couldn't believe what was happening," he said.

"We can assume that this is a signal to Moscow that the American government is not really happy with certain policies and certain issues that have been discussed."

According to court papers unsealed on Monday, the defendants had been operating in the US for years, with alleged activities ranging from as far back as 2000 to just Saturday, when undercover FBI agents met two of the accused individuals.

They were not assigned to collect classified, secret information, a justice department official said, but were allegedly tasked to learn about a broad swath of topics including nuclear weapons, US arms control positions, positions on Iran, White House rumors, CIA leadership turnover, the last presidential election, congress and political parties.

Intelligence on Obama's foreign policy positions, particularly as they related to Russia, appeared to have been one of the top priorities for the defendants, according to the court filings.

'Deep cover agents'

There was no clue in initial court papers about how successful the so-called agents had been, but they were alleged to have been long-term, deep cover spies, some living as couples.

Deep cover agents take civilian jobs with no visible connection to a foreign government, rather than operating from government jobs inside embassies and military missions.

Al Jazeera's Cath Turner traveled to the suburb of Yonkers where two of the suspects were seized.

"It's we might expect to find middle class American suburb, very leafy, nice houses and friendly neighbours," she said.

"The general pattern that seems to be happening is that neighbors don't suspect a thing, and people are completely stunned that this could be happening in their neighbourhood."

Vicky Pelaez, one of the alleged spies arrested in Yonkers, was a columnist with El Diario-La Prensa, a Spanish-language newspaper in New York, and had won acclaim as a television reporter in her native Peru.

She had written commentaries that were critical of American foreign policy.
Juan Lazaro, her husband and another arrestee, had been a professor who criticised US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq while supporting Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president and US foreign policy opponent.

FBI agents said in court papers that the defendants communicated with alleged Russian agents using mobile wireless transmissions between laptops computers while they were close to each other.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The roots of Israeli exceptionalism

Aggression immersed in victimhood is a striking reality of the Israeli discourse [GETTY]

By: Mohamed El-Moctar El-Shinqiti
Source: Al Jazeera

An American academic once told me: "Many people in the Islamic world think America does not believe in human rights, but they are wrong; America believes in human rights indeed, the problem is the American definition of human."

In other words: the American definition of 'human' is not a universal one. This is not purely an American characteristic; every culture faces the challenge of broadening its cultural limits and universalizing its moral norms.

But among all human cultures and ideologies, the Israeli case is unique in its double standard.

Criminality wrapped in self-righteousness and aggression immersed in victimhood are a few striking characteristics of the Israeli reality and discourse.

The Israeli personality

The duality of "Israel's insistent emphasis upon its isolation and uniqueness, its claim to be both victim and hero," as Tony Judt wrote in Haaretz a few years ago, reflects the fragility and self-centeredness of the Israeli personality. This is not, unfortunately, exclusive to Israel's political elite, but rather it extends to their Zionist supporters worldwide, including those, such as novelist Elie Wiesel and philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, who portray themselves in humanistic and aesthetic images.

I was profoundly moved by the graphic description of the atrocities committed during the Holocaust in Elie Wiesel's Night, which depicts his and his father's experience of a terrifying process that violates human life and degrades human dignity.

But I was struck by the tone of self-righteousness and self-justification in Wiesel's fictional Dawn, particularly when he writes: "The commandment thou shalt not kill was given from the summit of one of the mountains here in Palestine, and we were the only ones to obey it. But that all over ... in the days and weeks and months to come, you will have only one purpose: to kill those who have made us killers."

When the Jewish South African judge, Richard Goldstone, exposed Israeli war crimes in Gaza, Wiesel called that "a crime against the Jewish people". But this is simply an immoral use of past atrocities as a moral justification for present brutalities and oppression.

Moreover, one cannot but entertain two questions here: Firstly, what kind of moral claim does Wiesel, who was born of a Romanian father and a Hungarian mother, have over the divine call at Mount Sinai in the heart of a Middle Eastern desert? And secondly, by which moral or legal norm are the Palestinians of today responsible for the wrongdoings of the Germans of yesterday?

Self-serving myths

The worst of this hypocritical language, however, can be found in Bernard-Henri Lévy's article about Israel's aggression against the Gaza Freedom Flotilla published in Haaretz on June 8, 2010.

Lévy presents himself in self-glorifying terms as being "someone who takes pride in having helped to conceive, with others, this kind of symbolic action ‏(the boat for Vietnam; the march for the survival of Cambodia in 1979)...".

But when it comes to Gaza's plight, Lévy simply dismisses the tragedy by denying the existence of the Israeli blockade and attacking easy targets, such as "the fascislamist government of Ismail Haniya" and "the Islamist gang who took power by force three years ago".

Thus, he shamelessly dismisses the grand effort of the multiethnic, multinational and religiously diverse group of humanistic leaders and activists on the Freedom Flotilla.

Moreover, Lévy lacks the objectivity to address the fascizionist - to borrow from his own terminology - gangs who aggressively invaded Palestinian land over six decades ago, and uprooted a whole population forcing them into the new Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps - Gaza and the West Bank.

Indeed, for those who put their selfish desires above the moral principles of justice and compassion, their self-serving myths are better in their eyes than the ugly truth.

Jewish humanistic intellectuals, such as Professor Tony Judt and musician Gilad Atzmon deplore Israel's self-indulgence and lack of maturity. Judt writes: "Israel still comports itself like an adolescent: consumed by a brittle confidence in its own uniqueness; certain that no one 'understands' it and everyone is 'against' it; full of wounded self-esteem, quick to take offence and quick to give it ... that it can do as it wishes, that its actions carry no consequences, and that it is immortal."

Atzmon writes: "We are dealing here with a uniquely and seriously disturbed immature nation. We are dealing with a self-loving narcissistic child .... The more the Israelis love themselves and their delusional phantasmic innocence, the more they are frightened that people out there may be as sadistic as they themselves proved to be. This behavioural mode is called projection .... Jews have a very good reason to be frightened. Their national state is a racist genocidal entity."


What is most disappointing, however, is not the Zionist self-righteousness and narcissism; rather it is the Western acceptance and support of this attitude - an attitude that is better understood when placed in a historical context.

The main theoretical basis of the acceptance of Israeli exceptionalism in Western culture is the diversion, mainly within the Protestant branch of Christianity, of the Christian incarnation of God in the person of Jesus to a new incarnation of God in the Jews as a people - the Chosen People.

This tendency started with Martin Luther (1483-1546) who subdued Christianity theologically and morally to the Jewish factor in his small epistle That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew. Luther wrote in that epistle: "When we are inclined to boast of our position, we should remember that we are but Gentiles, while the Jews are of the lineage of Christ. We are aliens and in-laws; they are blood relatives, cousins, and brothers of our Lord."

Through this Luther - who was paradoxically a staunch anti-Semite - inadvertently opened a theological window, that would centuries later allow the 'cult of Israel', as it has been dubbed by the American writer Grace Halsell, to replace Christianity in most Protestant denominations, especially among American Baptists. After all, what they are doing is no more than a literal implementation of Luther's deification of the Jews.

Professor Yvonne Haddad of Georgetown University's Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding calls this heresy 'Holocaustianity'. And within this new heresy lie the roots of the Israeli exceptionalism.

Trivialising the Holocaust

Professor Judt writes that: "What Israel lost by its continuing occupation of Arab lands it gained through its close identification with the recovered memory of Europe's dead Jews." But he knows well that the memory of the dead is the worse moral justification for murdering innocents: "In the eyes of a watching world, the fact that the great-grandmother of an Israeli soldier died in Treblinka is no excuse for his own abusive treatment of a Palestinian woman waiting to cross a checkpoint. 'Remember Auschwitz' is not an acceptable response."

But that is exactly the kind of moral justification we have from the Israelis today.

When an advisor to Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, tried to attack Helen Thomas' remarks in which she said Israelis should "go home ... [to] Poland, Germany ..." all he did is remind her that some of his relatives were killed in Poland and Germany more than half a century ago, as if that is a good reason to starve the Palestinians to death and to kill humanitarian activists in international waters today.

After all, the Israeli politician was just confirming what Thomas said: you belong there; not here.

This is how the Holocaust memory, a memory of a human tragedy by any and every measure, is trivialised by Israeli criminality.

A moral burden

Many political thinkers and politicians have recently realised that Israel is becoming a liability and a strategic burden for the US. It has always been a strategic burden. But the problem is much deeper. Israel is becoming a moral burden on all those who have an ethical conscience, including Jews who value human dignity and social justice.

Even those who spent their lives advancing the Zionist cause are today realising the moral paradox of their life's achievement. Henry Siegman, a German-born American writer who served as the executive director of the American Jewish Congress from 1978 to 1994, wrote in Haaretz on June 11, 2010: "A million and a half civilians have been forced to live in an open-air prison in inhuman conditions for over three years now, but unlike the Hitler years, they are not Jews but Palestinians. Their jailers, incredibly, are survivors of the Holocaust, or their descendants."

All decent human beings must support the oppressed Palestinian against the Israeli oppressor.

The oppressed Arabs of Palestine (Muslims and Christians) are rendering through their suffering a great service to the entire body of humanity, by exposing the most self-centered and supremacist ideology in our world - an ideology that is wrapped today in a bloody sacredness.
Mohamed El-Moctar El-Shinqiti is an author in political history and history of religion. He is a research coordinator at Qatar Foundation.

US criticises China over North Korea

Source: Al Jazeera

The US president has accused China of "wilful blindness" in remaining silent over North Korea's suspected sinking of a South Korean warship in March.

Barack Obama said he hoped that Hu Jintao, his Chinese counterpart, would recognise that North Korea crossed a line in the sinking of the Cheonan warship, which killed 46 South Korean sailors.

The remarks were made on Sunday in Toronto, Canada, where Obama was attending the G20 economic summit.

He said he understood that North Korea and China were neighbours, "there's a difference between restraint and wilful blindness to consistent problems".

Obama held talks with Hu on the sidelines of the summit and said he had been "blunt" with him on the issue of North Korea.

"My hope is that President Hu will recognise as well that this is an example of Pyongyang going over the line," he said.

International investigators concluded last month that North Korea torpedoed the warship near the tense Korean sea border on March 26.

North Korea denied the allegation and has warned any punishment would trigger war.

'A bad habit'

China, which is Pyongyang's main international ally, has so far remained non-committal on the issue, prompting Obama to say that shying away from the harsh facts about North Korea's behaviour was "a bad habit we need to break".

Obama said he wanted the UN Security Council to produce a "crystal-clear acknowledgment" of the North's alleged action, which would require the co-operation of veto-wielding member China.

Separately, Naoto Kan, Japan's new prime minister, said in Toronto that he encouraged Hu to join world leaders in condemning the North's alleged sinking of the Cheonan.

At a meeting of the Group of Eight which preceded the G20 talks, leaders of the industrialised nations condemned Pyongyang for the attack.

The leaders also criticised North Korea over its nuclear programme.

Kan said the G8 condemnation issued over the weekend would "have a major bearing" on discussions at the UN.

South Korea has already referred the ship sinking to the Security Council, which could adopt a resolution condemning the North or issue a less stringent presidential statement.

Obama, who met Lee Myung-Bak, the South Korean president, on the sidelines of the G20 summit, said it was "absolutely critical that the international community rally behind him and send a clear message to North Korea that this kind of behaviour is unacceptable".

Beijing is a close ally of Pyongyang, providing the impoverished nation with an economic lifeline, and has been reluctant to endorse a UN condemnation over the ship sinking, saying it wants to assess the evidence for itself.

China's fears

Al Jazeera's Melissa Chan, reporting from Beijing, said the Chinese were trying to stall on backing any formal criticism of its ally, fearing the potential fallout of streams of North Korean refugees pouring over its border if the North Korean government falls apart.

It was also not clear how much influence Beijing really had over Pyongyang, she said.

North Korea, for its part, said on Monday that it must bolster its nuclear capability to cope with "hostile" US policy.

"The recent disturbing development on the Korean Peninsula underscores the need for [North Korea] to bolster its nuclear deterrent in a newly developed way to cope with the US persistent hostile policy toward [the North] and military threat toward it," the North's foreign ministry said, just hours after Obama's comments.

The statement was carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Canada's Brewing Insurgency

By: Jon Elmer
Source: Al Jazeera

As leaders of the richest nations gather in Toronto for the annual G8 and G20 summits, Canada has mounted an unprecedented security operation that stands to go down as the largest in the country's history.

The local and federal governments have resorted to significant measures: barricading the downtown core behind a massive galvanized perimeter fence, erecting checkpoints with x-rays, uprooting trees that police say could be used by demonstrators, and converting a sound stage into a massive temporary detention facility in preparation for mass arrests of protesters.

But with Canadian soldiers, snipers, commandos and police tactical units representing the sharp end of a security budget that is poised to top $1bn, the most significant threat to business as usual for the summit may turn out to be far-flung rural blockades enacted by Canada's long suffering native communities.

"It's a very dangerous situation," said Douglas Bland, a retired Canadian forces lieutenant-colonel who is now the chair of defence management studies at Queen's University.

In recent years in particular, Canada's indigenous communities have shown the will and potential to grind the country's economic lifelines to a halt through strategically placed blockades on the major highways and rail lines that run through native reserves well outside of Canada's urban landscape.

"The Canadian economy is very vulnerable," said Bland.

"More than 25 per cent of our GDP comes from exports of raw materials, but especially oil, natural gas and electricity to the United States."

"It's undefended and undefendable infrastructure, the pipelines and power lines and so on, and it runs through great spaces of open countryside and they run through aboriginal territories.

"It would take a very small number of people very little time to bring [it] down," said Bland, who is the author of a "barely fictionalised" account of native insurgency in Canada, entitled Uprising.


In 2007, the Mohawk community at Tyendinaga, 200 kilometres east of Toronto, blocked the trans-continental rail line and Canada's largest highway in protest at the government's failure to address land rights and basic issues of survival within First Nations - including safe drinking water, which the community lacked.

That episode was a hint of the leverage indigenous peoples in Canada possess, as hundreds of millions of dollars in cargo was stalled by simple barricades placed across a rural stretch of the Canadian National railway's mainline between Toronto and Montreal.

"The message resounded," said Shawn Brant, a high profile Mohawk activist involved in the 2007 blockades.

"We are not going to live in abject poverty, to have our children die, to have our women abducted, raped and murdered without any investigations. We are not going to live with the basic indignities that occur to us daily. We would bring them to an end."

In 2007, Brant characterised the blocking of the 401 highway and CN main rail line as a "good test run".

"We showed that we would meet the severity of what was happening to us with a reaction and a plan, a strategy that would be equally as severe," Brant said.

Last week, Aboriginal Peoples Television Network broadcast footage of Canadian intelligence agents threatening a native activist ahead of the G8 summit.

"I will tell you straight up," said an agent of the Canadian security and intelligence service to an indigenous activist, "there [are] other forces that are from other countries that will not put up with a blockade in front of their president".

The twin summits, held in Toronto and Huntsville, a rural community that lies 225 kilometres north of Toronto, are separated by a major highway that runs through large swathes of indigenous territory adjacent to the major travel arteries.

A determined blockade could wreak havoc on the summit and cast light on Canada's darkest shame.

Blockades, said Harrison Friesen, a spokesperson for native rights movement Red Power United, would be intended to show the world that "everything is not okay in Canada for native people".


Bland argues that the situation within First Nations in Canada has all the attributes of an insurgency.

"These root causes, these abysmal conditions for some of the aboriginal people are serious."

There are more than 800 outstanding native land claims held against the Canadian government. And in many First Nations communities there is deep crisis, with poverty, unemployment and overcrowding the norm.

According to figures from the Assembly of First Nations, more than 118 First Nations lack safe drinking water and some 5,500 houses do not have sewage systems.

Almost one half of homes on native reserves are in need of "major repairs", compared with 7 per cent of non-native homes.

Natives suffer a violent crime rate that is more than 300 times higher than Canada's non-native population, while natives represent 18.5 per cent of the male prison population and one-quarter of the female population, although natives only constitute 4 per cent of the total population.

In some provinces, the incarceration rates are starker.

In Manitoba, 71 per cent of prisoners are native, although natives represent only 15 per cent of the province's population; in Saskatchewan, the number is even higher, with natives accounting for 80 per cent of prisoners but only 11 per cent of the population.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police recently characterised the prison system as "community colleges for [native] gangs".

These "gangs" are increasingly politicised and some of Canada's leading military planners are warning that a full-blown uprising is gathering.

The groups operate in what the military calls "ungoverned spaces" that are increasingly difficult to police.

They are also sophisticated, operating under the "Robin Hood" principle of robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, say military planners.

When combined with their tangible grievances, "you have the root causes which can be the fuel for an insurgency. It's entirely feasible," said Bland.

Counterinsurgency posture

In 2007, a draft edition of Canada's army counterinsurgency field manual highlighted the Mohawk Warrior Society as a case study insurgency.

But after the excerpt was made public by media reports, Gordon O'Connor, the then defence minister, issued a statement saying that the reference would be removed from the final draft, which was released in 2008.

"The withdrawal of the topic out of the counterinsurgency manual was typical of the reaction by government for fear of upsetting the precarious status quo of relations in the country right now," said Bland.

"It is an example of a trend in Canadian political leadership.

"There is a great reluctance to name, point to, suggest that we have an internal security problem in Canada based in either the aboriginal communities or in what the Royal Canadian Mounted Police call the aboriginal based criminal organisations.

"One of the difficulties of discussing the issue and more seriously acting against it," said Bland, "is that by acting against an individual native protest or activity, you might incite the entire community across the country".

Political leaders "fear baiting what they don't want to happen, so you see them backing off all the time".

Indeed, the threat of blockades by more than 40 First Nations communities this week forced the provincial government in Ontario to back down on a plan to enforce a new harmonised sales tax on native communities, in contravention of longstanding treaty agreements.

The message has been received, said Brant. "We've shown that, unified, we are capable of not just disruption, not just protest, but a willingness to use the economy as a tool in the arsenal to fight."

"The government ran its infrastructure through our land because no one else wanted it to run through theirs," said Brant.

"Now it serves as an incredibly power[ful] tool of influence that allows us now as a society to engage government in a dialogue, a relationship based on us having power."

In 2007, Chief Terrance Nelson of Manitoba's Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation made headlines when he told a television reporter that "there are only two ways of dealing with the white man ... either you pick up the gun or you stand between him and his money".

There is no shortage of examples of either tactic of native resistance in recent Canadian history.

In 1990, an historic armed standoff between Mohawks and the Canadian army near Oka, Quebec lasted more than two months when the provincial government tried to convert a native burial ground into a golf course.

Five years later, in 1995, the Canadian government used helicopters, armoured personnel carriers, improvised explosives and more than 77,000 rounds of ammunition during a three-month standoff over land title at Gustafsen Lake, in British Columbia.

Speaking at a senate hearing in May, Canada's top general in Afghanistan suggested that the country's counterinsurgency war in Kandahar and its "whole of government" strategy has helped prepare Canadian forces and its civilian partners for such eventualities.

"If Canada were having an issue of insurgency," said Brigadier-General Jonathan Vance, "there would be a multi-discipline, multi-department operation with the government managing and directing carefully what its military and police forces would do".

"We experienced a little of that ... with the events at Oka." But now, said Vance, "the government is engaged".

Bland agreed, saying that the counterinsurgency experience fighting the Taliban in Kandahar is "completely relevant to what might happen here, and to what happened at Oka".

That posture, Brant said, is a "grave mistake".

"Since Oka, we've evolved from being reactionary to instances that occur to having a strategy. We've become communities that have embraced the injustices of the past and combined them with the indignities of the present. We have been able to inspire all elements in our communities," said Brant.

"We've created a unity that they don't have the military or policing capabilities to confront."

G8 criticizes North Korea and Iran

Source: Al Jazeera

The leaders of the world's eight richest nations have concluded their summit in Canada with tough words for North Korea and Iran over their nuclear programs.

The G8 focused on recovery from a global economic crisis in their two-day summit in the Canadian town of Huntsville but made note of other thorny issues in their final statement issued on Saturday.

In it, they singled out Israel's blockade on the Gaza Strip, Iran and North Korea for criticism.

The leaders said that the Gaza blockade was "not sustainable" and "must be changed".

The G statement welcomed the ease the blockade, and called for it to be put in place immediately.

The leaders urged the Israelis and Palestinians to create conditions conducive to direct peace talks.

"We urge full and effective implementation of this policy in order to address the needs of Gaza's population for humanitarian and commercial goods, civilian reconstruction and infrastructure, and legitimate economic activity," the final communiqué said.

Ship's sinking deplored

The leaders of the US, Canada, France, Germany, Britain, Italy, Japan and Russia issued their statement as they wrapped up meetings at a resort in Muskoka in the province of Ontario.

They strongly condemned the sinking of a South Korean navy ship blamed on North Korea.

"We deplore the attack on March 26 that caused the sinking of the Republic of Korea's naval vessel, the Cheonan, resulting in tragic loss of 46 lives," the G8 final communiqué said.

"Such an incident is a challenge to peace and security in the region and beyond.

"We condemn, in this context, the attack which led to the sinking of the Cheonan. We demand that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea refrain from committing any attacks or threatening hostilities against the Republic of Korea," the communiqué said.

The eight leaders expressed grave concerns for the nuclear ambitions of North Korea as well as Iran.

The G8 demanded North Korea "abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear and ballistic missile programs, as well as proliferation activities, in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner".

The communiqué called for Iran to hold a "transparent dialogue" over its controversial nuclear enrichment program.

"We are profoundly concerned by Iran's continued lack of transparency regarding its nuclear activities and its stated intention to continue and expand enriching uranium.

"Our goal is to persuade Iran's leaders to engage in a transparent dialogue about its nuclear activities and to meet Iran's international obligations," the leaders said.

The leaders also noted efforts by Turkey and Brazil to broker a deal with Iran over its nuclear program.

Afghanistan appeal

On Afghanistan, the G8 leaders said that Afghan government forces must make progress towards assuming more responsibility for the security of the country "within five years".

They also called on the Afghan government to "combat corruption, address illicit drug production and trafficking, improve human rights, improve provision of basic services and governance and make concrete progress to reinforce the formal justice system".

The leaders also praised the Russia that is intended to reduce nuclear weapons.

"We call upon all other states, in particular those possessing nuclear weapons, to join these disarmament efforts, in order to promote international stability and undiminished security for all," they said.

They addressed one more issue that they said undermined stability in Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa: maritime piracy and growing links between criminal and "terrorist" networks.

The talks were held as protesters, who have become a hallmark of the global meetings, clashed with police in riot gear in downtown Toronto.

Police arrested at least 180 protesters on Saturday outside the G20 summit. In addition to at least 32 arrests made on Friday.

A small group of demonstrators broke away from a peaceful gathering and broke windows of several businesses, including a bank and a Starbucks, and set at least two police cars on fire.

Toronto police admit they struggled to contain the violence. No major injures have been reported.

G20 meeting

G8 leaders will now meet delegates from emerging economies including India, China and Brazil in a broader G20 summit in Toronto.

The G8 leaders also addressed the economic challenges facing the world, warning that the recovery was still fragile and that the economic crisis had compromised Millennium Development Goals set by the UN.

"The crisis has jeopardized advancement toward meeting some of the 2015 targets. Renewed mutual commitments are required," their communiqué said, warning that "both developed and developing countries must do more".

The Millennium Development Goals were agreed by UN member states as a list of human development targets due to be met by 2015, reducing poverty and hunger, boosting women and children's rights and improving education.

The statement came a day after the G8 pledged $5bn in aid over five years to reduce deaths among mothers and newborn children in Africa. That amount is nowhere near the ambitious promise from five years ago to double aid by up to $50 billion by 2010.

The G8 summit now morphs into a larger G20 meeting that will include leaders from the emerging economies.

Contentious issues

Discussions at the G20 summit are expected to be dominated by contentious economic issues, particularly over whether to cut or spend their way to economic recovery.

Al Jazeera's Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from Toronto, said that economic divisions would dominate the meeting.

"What we can expect from this larger grouping is whether they can get past their divisions. When it comes to global finances we are seeing a big split, particularly between the US and Europe," he said.

The US supports continued economic stimulus spending to galvanize the recovery, but European countries are facing a sovereign debt crisis that is squeezing national budgets and prompting governments to make severe cuts in spending.

G8 says Gaza blockade not sustainable

Source: Press TV

The Group of Eight nations say Israel must lift the blockade of the Gaza Strip and allow aid through to its impoverished Palestinian population.

"We urge all parties to work together to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1860 and to ensure the flow of humanitarian and commercial goods and persons, to and from Gaza," the final communique said late Saturday.

At the end of the G8 summit in Canada, the leaders of the world's major industrialized nations said that the blockade of the Gaza Strip is "not sustainable" in the current form and must be changed.

"We urge full and effective implementation of this policy in order to address the needs of Gaza's population for humanitarian and commercial goods, civilian reconstruction and infrastructure, and legitimate economic activity," the statement said.

It added that they also "deeply regret the loss of life" in last month's Israeli attack on the aid ship that tried to breach the blockade of Gaza. The flotilla of six ships was carrying nearly 700 activists of 42 different nationalities as well as some 10,000 tons of relief supplies to the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli military attacked the Freedom Flotilla in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea on May 31, killing nine Turkish citizens on board the M.V. Mavi Marmara and injuring about 50 other people who were part of the team on the six-ship convoy.

Over 1.5 million Palestinians are living under a relentless Israeli siege that has now entered its fourth year.

Meanwhile, Palestinians girls in the Gaza City on Saturday night lit candles to protest against the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip.

US delivers new F-16s to Pakistan

Source: Press TV§ionid=351020401

The US has delivered the first batch of eighteen F-16 Fighting Falcon jet fighters, branded new, to Pakistan as the two countries strengthen their military ties.

According to the US Department of Defense, three F-16s were scheduled to arrive in Pakistan on Saturday. Fifteen more will be delivered later in 2010 and 2011.

"This is the most visible part of a strong and growing relationship between the two air forces that will benefit us both near-term and long-term," the department's website quoted as saying Air Force Maj. Todd Robbins, a senior official coordinating military ties between Washington and Islamabad.

Pakistan is paying $1.4 billion for the new aircraft, in addition to $1.3 billion in upgrades to its existing F-16 fleet.

Delivery of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan was troubled in 1990 when the White House imposed sanctions on the country for its pursuit of nuclear arms. The sanctions failed to stop Islamabad.

Washington was previously opposed to the deal, citing high tensions between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan in the volatile South Asian region.

The US says the aircraft will give the Pakistani Air Force an advantage against militancy. The new fighter is reportedly able to target precisely in all weather conditions, day and night.

The developments come at a time when the Pakistani military says it has launched a series of operations against Pakistani militants.

Pakistan's lawless tribal belt on the Afghan border remains a safe haven for militants, who have fled the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

Pakistan has suffered a wave of violence since the former military ruler Pervez Musharraf joined the US-led war on terror following the 9/11 attacks.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

US terrorist claims reach citizens

White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan
Source: Press TV

A senior US official says dozens of Americans have joined what he called "terrorist groups" and said they are posing a threat to the United States and its interests abroad.

Deputy White House national security adviser for homeland security and counterterrorism John Brennan made the comment during an interview with the Washington Times newspaper on Thursday.

"There are, in my mind, dozens of US persons who are in different parts of the world, and they are very concerning to us," said the senior homeland security consultant to US President Barack Obama.

He did not, however, disclose further information about his "list of American terrorists."

"They are concerning to us, not just because of the passport they hold, but because they understand our operational environment here, they bring with them certain skills, whether it be language skills or familiarity with potential targets, and they are very worrisome, and we are determined to take away their ability to assist with terrorist attacks," added the US official.

Brennan also said US intelligence and law enforcement agencies have been tracking down US citizens who, he claimed, posed security threats.

He made the comments in response to how the US president could authorize the use of lethal force against Americans who have allegedly joined al-Qaeda or other hard-line groups.

Missile attacks using drones in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen have been part of procedures adopted by the US administration for that end.

The United Nations has condemned the practice, saying it may violate international humanitarian law.

The American Civil Liberties Union warned that the current program to kill suspected terrorists in foreign countries would create a precedent for other countries to follow.

G8 aid pledge 'cautious'

Source: Al Jazeera

Rich countries have shied away from making bold aid pledges at the G8 summit, mindful of their own tight budgets and past broken promises.

They pledged $5bn in aid over five years to reduce deaths among mothers and their newborns in Africa, at the summit in Toronto on Friday.

The amount is nowhere near the ambitious promise from five years ago to double aid by up to $50 billion by 2010.

The donors delivered only two-thirds, an estimated $18bn, of the money they agreed on at a 2005 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland.

Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister, said that he was confident the G8 would meet the more modest goal, promising to contribute $1.1bn to the total pledged.

"Because of the tight budgetary situations we are seeing in many countries ... my observation is that leaders have actually been very very cautious in terms of the pledges that have been made," Harper said.

Unfulfilled pledges

G8 and development officials said the G8 summit in Huntsville, north of Toronto, would omit any reference to the unfulfilled Gleneagles pledges when it issues its final communique on Saturday.

While the group collectively broke its aid promises, the US, Britain and Canada delivered what they promised in Gleneagles.

Italy delivered none of its funding, while Germany, France and Japan gave less than promised, said ONE, an anti-poverty group that tracks the aid.

During Friday's meeting, US and British leaders pressed other rich nations to deliver on their aid promises.

"I think it is frustrating that world leaders sign up to things and then don't deliver them and we have to make sure that happens," David Cameron, the British prime minister, said.

The White House said in a statement that Barack Obama, the US president, was urging transparency and accountability in the G8.

"The president believes that the credibility of the G8 rests on the willingness of its members to honour their commitments by reporting transparently on progress and identifying areas where additional effort is required," the statement said.

Larger summit

The World Bank has warned that progress made so far in developing countries could be set back if aid levels declined further, pushing more people into poverty.

The G8 meeting in the lakeside community provides a contrast to the hectic urban pace of Toronto, where other contentious economic issues await the larger Group of 20 summit on Saturday and Sunday.

Timothy Geithner, the US treasury secretary, said that each nation at the summit needs to find the right policy mix to reduce government budgets and support growth.

Much of the discussions are expected focus on those policies needed to reduce budgets and aid global growth.

The Europeans want to focus on austerity measures to cut the deficits, while the US is looking to maintain stimulus spending to encourage growth.

"That's the delicate balance that we need to try to strike this weekend," Jim Flaherty, Canada's finance minister, said.

Bank tax issues

The issue of a bank tax is also up for debate, with Britain, France, Germany and the US all publicly encouraging other G20 nations to accept the tax.

However, Canada, Russia, China, India and Australia have shown opposition to the move.

The banking industry is widely blamed for stoking the global recession via provision of unsustainable loans and questionable trading practises.

Sameer Dossani, the former campaign director of Amnesty International, told Al Jazeera that the tax, at the level as proposed by Germany and France, is probably not big enough to make a difference.

"But some version of that could be big enough to limit the amount of financial transactions that we see," Dossani said.

"Right now we have 90 per cent of global economic transactions in this shadow economy, which should serve people and not the other way around. We need a bigger tax to do that."

He also said that tax havens were an issue as many major corporations were exporting much of their profits without paying taxes.

"Corporations need to pay taxes in the countries where they are making their profits."

Consensus also needs to be reached on new rules governing the amount of capital that banks must hold, and ensuring that national financial regulatory reforms do not clash on the global stage.

Poor countries

Although the G8 cannot avoid talking about its own economic troubles, the richest nations carved out time to discuss problems facing poor countries.

Leaders from Haiti, Jamaica and African nations Senegal, Algeria, Ethiopia, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt were invited to the meeting.

The goal for mother-and-child health is a particular concern, with the World Bank reporting "fragile and uneven" progress in reducing maternal deaths, a major burden for countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

An estimated 350,000 mothers and 8.8 million children under the age of 5 die each year due to preventable diseases and limited or no access to healthcare, development groups say.

Japan said it would offer up to $500 million in more aid over five years to prevent mothers and newborns from dying.

Development groups expressed disappointment at the outcome.

"Yet again the G8 are making pledges good enough for a photo call but insufficient to meet the needs of the millions of people living in poverty worldwide," Henry Malumo, ActionAid's Africa spokesman, said.

Demonstrations are expected in Toronto on a variety of causes including the environment and global poverty, with many activists opposing gatherings of the rich and powerful.

G20: Battles within and outside

By: Chris Arsenault and Rhodri Davies

Source: Al Jazeera

As world leaders gather in Canada for the G8 and G20 meetings, they are divided on what is to be done about the global economy, with debates over banking reform and stimulus spending taking centre stage.

On stimulus spending, initially everyone wanted to borrow to make sure the great recession did not become another great depression.

Today, Europe wants to cut, while America and China want to spend.

Jan Randolph, head of Sovereign Risk Country Intelligence at Global Insight, said the US worries that leading economies will "collectively withdraw these supports too soon there could be an economic relapse, just like what happened in the 1930s that extended the great depression."

When to spend and how much? These are not new debates.

Politicians in the great depression of the 1930s and the stag-flation period in the 1970s fought elections on these very questions.

Academics and economists have been arguing about this stuff, without pause, since the depression.

But today’s G8 show-down reverses a general trend in economic history.

Typically, the US preached rugged individualism and power for private business over government spending.

Europe is known for embracing the welfare state.

But this new recession is a game changer.

Friedman vs Keynes

At its core, the transatlantic divide on stimulus spending looks like a battle between Milton Friedman and John Maynard Keynes, with the US and Europe reversing their traditional roles.

Friedman, an American economist based at the University of Chicago, believed that governments should not interfere in financial markets.

His views have come to define the policies advocated by much of the American right, although massive public spending on the military does not seem contradictory to this crowd.

Keynes, an Englishman based at Cambridge University, argued that governments should borrow money to finance growth in times of economic contraction.

In the great depression, Keynes' views became policy, with governments, particularly Roosevelt's America and Hitler's Germany, making massive investments in infrastructure, and later in war, to kick start their economies.

Keynes may have won the first battle. But in debates over stimulus spending this time around, he may lose the final war in favour of Friedman's public austerity and market orientated shock-therapy.

That is because governments today seem more likely to respond to bond traders than the people who elect them.

Voters generally support social services and state spending for job creation, while the markets favour austerity.

And, there is a spectre haunting Europe: the spectre of an angry bond market forcing a Greek style meltdown in sovereign debt.

The US is not so fearful of incurring wrath from the electronic hoard of bond traders because the US dollar still acts as the world's reserve currency.

If a country wants to buy oil or other commodities, they usually make the transactions in US dollars.

This, in part, allows the US government to borrow at low interest rates.

Policy makers in London, Paris and Berlin fear that international bond traders will not be so kind to Europe.

That is why Germany, the continent's biggest economy, has committed to budget cuts of $98bn over the next four years, and the French government also wants to pursue conservative fiscal measures to reduce existing debts.

The UK announced significant spending reductions this week, including a planned $16bn reduction in the national welfare bill and a rise in goods tax by 2.5 per cent.

Roles reversed

The transatlantic divide continues when it comes to bank taxes.

But on this issue, the roles are reversed, with Europe taking a position associated with state intervention and the US opposing it.

Germany and France have expressed support for some kind of a banking tax, although the exact details are unclear.

The US, despite its touted financial reform package negotiated on Friday, does not want serious new taxes on the financial sector.

Stamp out Poverty, a coalition of trade unions and development organisations in the UK, is pushing for a global transaction tax or what they call a "Robin Hood tax".

"Since the Pittsburgh [G20] summit, the whole thing has been opened up from 'shall we tax the banking sector' to 'how should we tax the banking sector'", David Hillman, the group's coordinator, told Al Jazeera.

"The Robin Hood tax campaign favours a transaction tax and it is extremely difficult to avoid because it is automated, for selling bonds, derivatives or foreign exchange. Once you try to tax profits, bankers can move to tax havens," Hillman said.

European leaders have said that a global transaction tax needs to be investigated.

The US and Canada oppose such a policy.

"The banks caused the crises, there should be some pay-back. We need to make sure that there aren't as many jobs lost and [that] are we going to meet our climate change [obligations]," the campaigner said.

Despite all this tax talk, two of the largest US based hedge funds, the Citadel Investment Group and the Blackstone Group, people who have the most to lose from a transaction tax, refused interview requests.

It seems these organisations, whose destabilising, speculative activities are almost universally loathed, want the whole transaction debate to just go away.

That seems unlikely. But a global deal on a new financial tax at the G8 or G20 is even more doubtful.

Anti-globalisation movement

Regardless of what the G8 leaders decide, thousands will gather to protest.

The poorly named "anti-globalisation movement" had its coming out party in Seattle against the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 1999.

The world has changed a lot since then.

Like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, the WTO was seen as an instrument of western economic imperialism, preaching a 'do as we say, not as we do' logic to the global south.

And, while some protesters take credit for undermining the WTO's hegemony, the real threat to the organisation came from changing dynamics in global power.

The WTO's push for increased influence and scope collapsed after negotiations in Doha, Qatar and Cancun, Mexico, but not because of protests.

Rather, divides between the weakening north and a more confident south meant that the status quo was untenable.

The US and Europe preached open markets and an end to protectionism while massively subsidising agricultural products, steel and other politically connected industries.

Delegates from the south, particularly emerging giants India and Brazil, said "no deal".

Despite the growing political clout of emerging economies, much of the anti-globalisation movement sees international affairs in a unipolar framework: arguing that the US and Europe exploit the economies of poorer nations for their own benefit in a neo-colonial fashion.

This exploitation remains true, in some sectors at some times.
But the west's general influence is slipping and new alliances are being built.

In 1999, protesters chanted "another world is possible".

Today, after the relative failure of the WTO, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and China's sustained rise, it seems like another world is here, compared to the one that existed in 1999.

This new world, however, may not be the one that demonstrators wanted to see.

US regulators close 3 more banks

Source: Press TV

The number of US banks shut down so far this year has risen to 86 as regulators close down three more banks in Florida, Georgia and New Mexico.

The newest bank failures in the US are expected to cost the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) a total of about $285 million.

In Florida, FDIC has announced that Peninsula Bank of Englewood has been closed, with $644.3 million in assets. Premier American Bank in Miami will assume the deposits of the failed institution, Reuters reported on Friday.

In Savannah, Georgia, the First National Bank has been shut down. It had about $252.5 million in assets. The Savannah Bank, has agreed to assume its deposits, the FDIC said.

In New Mexico, regulators have closed High Desert State Bank in Albuquerque, which had about $80.3 million in assets. First American Bank, in Artesia, New Mexico has agreed to assume its deposits.

Last year, US regulators closed down 140 banks compared with 25 in 2008 and three in 2007. FDIC expects this year's bank failures to exceed last year's tally.

The FDIC said this week that it expects bank failures to cost its insurance fund $60 billion from 2010 through 2014.

Even as an economic recovery buoys profits for big US banks, smaller banks continue to struggle with bad commercial real estate loans.

US foresees Tajikistan military presence

Source: Press TV

The United States is planning to build a military facility in the Central Asian Republic of Tajikistan in order to train local troops, a US diplomat has announced.

Speaking in the Tajik capital Dushanbe on Friday, the US ambassador to the country, Ken Gross, told reporters that his government is seeking to fund the construction of a $10 million training center in Tajikistan in a bid to help train Tajik soldiers.

"The plan... is almost $10 million to build this national training center for the Tajik armed forces," said the US envoy, AFP quoted him as saying.

"If requested, we might have people come in to help in training missions," he added, suggesting the involvement of American military personnel on Tajik soil.

The new facility, which is to be called the "Karatag National Training Center," will be located about 45 km from the capital and is scheduled to open in 2011, he said, noting, however, that no related contracts have so far been inked between the two countries.

The US has, in the wake of the collapse of the former Soviet Union, shown significant enthusiasm in finding a foothold in both Central Asia and the Caucasus.

It has built training facilities, financed military programs and established airbases in a number of the former Soviet republics.

The US has established military bases and centers or has run military programs in Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan, however, ended the US military presence in the country by shutting down its military airbase in 2005, following a diplomatic row with Washington over what Uzbek authorities described as America's interference in the central Asian state's internal affairs.

ElBaradei leads anti-torture rally

Source: Al Jazeera

Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has led a protest against alleged abuses by the police in the Egyptian city of Alexandria.

At least 4,000 people greeted ElBaradei, who has become a prominent pro-democracy campaigner, as he arrived to offer condolences to the family of Khaled Mohammed Saeed, an Egyptian youth who human rights groups say was beaten to death by police.

The protest on Friday, which was ElBaradei's second public appearance this month and the first in which his family have joined him, was his biggest rally since he returned to Egypt after leaving the IAEA.

Crowds chanted pro-democracy slogans and waved images of Saeed while ElBaradei, flanked by worshippers, emerged from a mosque after Muslim prayers.

Youths and activists from political and online groups including the Facebook group "ElBaradei for presidency of 2011" joined the protest. Some chanted "Down Down [Egyptian president] Hosni Mubarak" and "Saeed you are a martyr" while rushing to meet ElBaradei.

Rallying point

Egyptian authorities have said Saeed died after choking while on drugs, denying that torture or violence was the cause of his death.

However, numerous witnesses have reportedly given Human Rights Watch (HRW) corroborating descriptions of Saeed being beaten to death, prompting the rights group on Thursday to call on Egypt to prosecute the culprits.

Amr el-Shobky, a political analyst, said: "We know the price Egyptian citizens pay for giving testimony against the interior ministry or the police force. Yet despite that, those who saw what happened spoke of it."

Saeed's death has become a rallying point for government opponents demanding an end to 30 years of emergency law, which they say allows police to abuse citizens with impunity.

"This gathering of people from all walks of life and the anger they expressed against practices of torture is a message to the regime that Egyptians are against such inhumane practices," ElBaradei told Reuters.

"Breaking the barrier of fear is an incremental process that takes time. But with democracy we will have no fear," ElBaradei said.

Pent up frustration

Thousands of riot police spread across the city and surrounded the mosque, forming a tight cordon around the protesters, but only after ElBaradei was allowed to leave the area.

Earlier protests in Cairo, the capital of Egypt, against police brutality have been forcibly broken up by police and dozens of protesters detained.

ElBaradei visited the neighbouring city of Fayoum in June in a signature drive campaign that drew some 3,500 supporters.

The events in part reflect pent up frustration in Egypt after almost three decades of rule by Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, and with an emergency law that gives authorities wide powers to quash dissent.

Mubarak has no designated successor and has not said if he will seek another term in the 2011 presidential election. If he does not, the most common view is that he will hand power to his politician son Gamal, 46.

ElBaradei, a Nobel peace prize winner, has said he may run in the 2011 presidential vote if there were constitutional reforms, but the existing rules make it almost impossible for an independent to get on the ballot.

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