Sunday, September 30, 2007

Peak oil conspiracies

"...For all the irritation that the peak oil conspiracy theorists may cause those in the peak oil movement, I do not believe the vast majority of these conspiracy theorists will ever leave behind their passivity and actually do something. But unfortunately, they add to the dead weight of inertia that keeps many others from taking the peak oil threat seriously..."

The Merchant of Death: Basil Zaharoff

" is certain that he remains the most considerable figure in that feverish world of the munitions makers that has had so much advertisement since the Great War. Only a few names take first rank among this dubious company — old Alfred Krupp, the cannon king of Essen, the Schneiders of Creusot, Thomas Vickers, the English gun maker of Sheffield, Skoda, du Pont de Nemours, the American powder king, Colt and Winchester and Remington and Maxim. They were all, as Messrs. Englebrecht and Hanighen have called them, "Merchants of Death." But the mightiest "merchant" among them, the man who played the largest role in the "merchandising" of munitions, the greatest market maker, was Basil Zaharoff.

It was his melancholy good fortune to come upon the scene when the world went in for arms on an unprecedented scale and it was he who, more than any other man, developed the international market for arms. He did not invent it, to be sure. Old Alfred Krupp had played off Turkish orders against his native Prussia when Zaharoff was a mere fireman in Tatavla. And long before either of them — centuries before — old Andries Bicker, Burgomaster of Amsterdam, had built and supplied and provisioned and even financed a complete navy for Spain when the Spanish king was waging war upon Holland. He then explained to the outraged Dutch that if Holland had not armed the Spanish enemy, the Danes would have done it and reaped the profit.

But Zaharoff played a leading, if not the leading, role in that strange world comedy of the arms makers leading the double life of chauvinists and internationalists. They gave us the spectacle of Boers mowing down English regiments with Vickers' pom-poms, Prussian surgeons picking out of Prussian wounded Austrian shrapnel fired by Krupp's cannon, French poilus massacred by shot poured out of guns made in Le Creusot, English Tommies killed by weapons produced by Armstrong and Vickers, and American ships sent to the bottom by U-boats built on models supplied by American submarine builders. Zaharoff was the master of what one biographer has called the "principle of incitement,"under which war scares were managed, enemies created for nations,airplanes sold to one nation and antiaircraft guns to her neighbors, submarines to one and destroyers to another. He did what the cigarette people did, what the liquor industry, the beauty industry did — created a demand for his merchandise. The armament industry became a game of international politics, the arms salesman a diplomatic provocateur, the munitions magnates of all nations partners in cartels, combines, consolidations; exchanging plans, secrets, patents. He was the greatest of all the salesmen of death, and, as one commentator has observed, if you would see his monument, look about you at the military graveyards of Europe..."


"...One of the biographers wrote that gravestones of millions killed in the war should serve a memorial to Zaharoff and their last agony moans should serve the epitaph. On some calculations, Basil Zaharoff’s proceeds from the war divided by the number of killed soldiers equaled six dollars worth of revenue per each death..."

Also appeared in Tintin's adventure 'The Broken Ear':


Gay marriages -- an old affair

Civil unions between male couples existed around 600 years ago in medieval Europe, a historian now says.

Historical evidence, including legal documents and gravesites, can be interpreted as supporting the prevalence of homosexual relationships hundreds of years ago, said Allan Tulchin of Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania.

If accurate, the results indicate socially sanctioned same-sex unions are nothing new, nor were they taboo in the past.

“Western family structures have been much more varied than many people today seem to realize," Tulchin writes in the September issue of the Journal of Modern History. "And Western legal systems have in the past made provisions for a variety of household structures.”

For example, he found legal contracts from late medieval France that referred to the term "affrèrement," roughly translated as brotherment. Similar contracts existed elsewhere in Mediterranean Europe, Tulchin said.

full article ]

Saturday, September 29, 2007

"Chinese buy into conspiracy theory"

 The Battle of Waterloo. The deaths of six US presidents. The rise of Adolf Hitler. The deflation of the Japanese bubble economy, the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis and even environmental destruction in the developing world.

In a new Chinese best-seller, Currency Wars , these disparate events spanning two centuries have a single root cause: the control of money issuance through history by the Rothschild banking dynasty.

Even today, claims author Song Hongbing, the US Federal Reserve remains a puppet of private banks, which also ultimately owe their allegiance to the ubiquitous Rothschilds.

Such an over-arching conspiracy theory might matter as little as the many fetid tracts that can still be found in the west about the “gnomes of Zurich” and Wall Street’s manipulation of global finance.

But in China, which is in the midst of a lengthy debate about opening its financial system under US pressure, the book has become a surprise hit and is being read at senior levels of government and business...

Grace Pilgrimage

About 150 international peaceworkers, many of them based in the Peace
Research Center Tamera, Portugal, including Israelis and Palestinians, will
undertake a peace pilgrimage through Israel and Palestine from October 12 to
November 9, 2007 ... They will walk by foot, from Eilat through the Arava
desert, to Massada, by the Dead Sea and from there through Bethlehem to

The objective of the pilgrimage is to connect with the land and its healing
sources, to end separation and form community, and to find a concrete vision
for a Global Peace Research Village (PRV) in the Middle East. The PRV is
intended as a world model in social design, ecology and technology, which
shall be established within the next years.

Strong Euro Lures Drug Traffickers to Ship to EU Market

An interesting conspiracy theory from the grand dame of the genre

DEADLY DIVERSION: On Opium Trafficking, the CIA & the Challenger Disaster
The Challenger disaster took its time gestating - took me years to piece it together, in fact. I know perfectly well that my word on this will be doubted by anyone unfamiliar with the facts - it's my unfortunate lot in life to report these things - and that's why I suggest chasing down my sources and reading anything relevant available on the Net. My story assumes some knowledge of Mae Brussell's work on Challenger, especially regarding the timing of the explosion. Brussell's main points: There was thick layer of ice on the shuttle's launcher that morning - yet NASA claimed over the course of several days to be waiting for the temperature to rise. This is not an incidental detail. (The American prole brain is conditioned to explain essential facts away, but this one is comprehensible only in the wider context of intention in which it is consistent, not an unexplained contradiction.) I've posted this before, but like many stories I write, the significance of it is lost in a sea of Orwellian historical revision - not mine, the military-industrial media machine's. The Challenger blew up at roughly the same moment that a witness swore in to testify on federally-sanctioned heroin smuggling and money laundering - at that very moment NASA launch conditions were ideal for mass murder, as engineers from Thiokol testified openly, and prolonged flight that morning was impossible. The engineers stated that they knew the O-rings would give, that the Challenger would explode, and signed a group statement in advance that they would assume no responsibility for the decision to launch. That came from above. It is on record, not to be ignored but understood. They knew the cannon was loaded. This is not another "incidental" anomaly ... The reporters attending the drug testimony scurried out of the room when the shuttle exploded - the press never ran the story. How "coincidental." ... Let us reconstruct the Challenger disaster and the drug testimony as they occurred - this set of facts explains the lingering anomalies, which, as I say, are not so incidental - given the bloodshed that ensued, not to mention widespread heroin addiction...

Worldpress: Bohemian Radar Blues

"... A civic group opposed to the radar is making headway among the populace. Briefly, the antiradar lobby argues that there is no difference between radars and rockets, in the sense that they both can be stationed on the same site. Furthermore, such a system may also be used for both defensive and offensive purposes. They also see the radar as a unilateral tool used by and controlled from the Pentagon with the Czech military simply carrying out orders from their commanders in Washington. Another argument that reverberates with the Czechs is that it's a system that could be a prime target in the event of hostilities with or a surprise attack from Iran, North Korea or, perhaps most likely of all, Russia. ..."

Bush Attorney General Nominee Will Recuse Himself From Giuliani Issues

Judge Michael B. Mukasey, if confirmed by the Senate as attorney general, will recuse himself from any matters involving his close friend Rudolph W. Giuliani, the White House said last night, suggesting he would do so with the ongoing criminal investigation of Bernard B. Kerik.

Mr. Kerik, the New York City police commissioner during part of Mr. Giuliani's mayoral term, was a leading figure in Mr. Giuliani's consulting firm and a friend of his. He has been under investigation by federal prosecutors in New York for over a year.

Any possible criminal charges against Mr. Kerik could have political implications for Mr. Giuliani, who is the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.

[ Link ]

TobaccoWiki launched

TobaccoWiki is an effort "to mine the millions of pages of previously-secret, internal tobacco industry documents now posted on the Internet."

TobaccoWiki is a project of the Center for Media and Democracy in Madison, Wisconsin and the American Legacy Foundation.  The TobaccoWiki portal page can be assessed at or


Satellites confirm reports of Myanmar violence

"... Satellite images confirm reports earlier this year of burned villages, forced relocations and other human rights abuses in Myanmar, scientists said on Friday.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science said the high-resolution photographs taken by commercial satellites document a growing military presence at 25 sites across eastern Myanmar, matching eyewitness reports.

"We found evidence of 18 villages that essentially disappeared," AAAS researcher Lars Bromley said in an interview. ..."

9/11 faux pas

Horrible Design Mistakes You Can't Really Prevent

We all know what happened in New York City on September 11, 2001. Online financial web site covered the events and one of their headlines was "World Trade Center Demolished In Apparent Terrorist Airstrike." The problem was there was another story listed below the headline that stated, "Heaven Can Wait for the Nasdaq's Fallen Angels."

No one intentionally placed these headlines on the same page and this type of mistake is hard to catch. Learn from others.

[ Link ]

England's bohemian 'Bright Young People'

"... If Driberg's tongue stayed firmly in his cheek, it was because all the hoaxers were personal friends. The house in Buckingham Street was owned by Bryan Guinness, a scion of the great brewing dynasty, and his wife Diana, formerly Mitford. "Bruno Hat" was impersonated by Diana's brother Tom. The paintings had been knocked up in an afternoon by Brian Howard - one of those eternally promising young men of the inter-war era who left nothing behind them but their legend - assisted by the surrealist painter John Banting. "A. R. de T." was the 25-year-old Evelyn Waugh. Together they formed the advance guard of a youth movement that, in the previous four years, had taken up permanent residence in every newspaper gossip column in England: the Bright Young People.

This sextet aside, who were the Bright Young People? Perhaps the best definition was pronounced by Waugh, whose Vile Bodies (1930) is a satirical projection of many of the real events in which they took part. Looking back on his hot youth from the debatable lands of the early 1960s, Waugh declared that "there was between the wars a society, cosmopolitan, sympathetic to the arts, well-mannered, above all ornamental even in rather bizarre ways, which for want of a better description the newspapers called 'High Bohemia'". Characterised in the public imagination by its exuberant parties and riotous practical joking - impersonation parties, circus parties, mock weddings and elaborately staged "Stunts" - it consisted of a number of intermingled social groups.

These included ex-public schoolboys from Oxford such as Robert Byron, Anthony Powell, Henry Green and John Betjeman, who would go on to make names for themselves as writers; rackety young society women such as the morphine addict Brenda Dean Paul and Elizabeth Ponsonby, whose father, the Labour leader of the House of Lords, died of drink on the eve of the blitz; but also a hard-core bohemian fringe, including such maverick scene-swellers as the painter Edward Burra and the photographer Barbara Ker-Seymer. Their milieu was a few square miles of central London, ranging from the Gargoyle Club in Dean Street and the celebrated Cavendish Hotel ("Shepheard's Hotel" in Vile Bodies) to private addresses such as the sleazy flat in Maddox Street shared by the Earl of Cranbrook's son Eddie Gathorne-Hardy and Brian Howard, where fungus grew on the disintegrating staircase and Betjeman remembered John Banting "throwing knives when in the mood". ...",,2179320,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=10

South America: Your enemy is our friend

The Guardian
September 29, 2007
"...Red carpets, brass bands, bear hugs and a hero's welcome: there is at least one part of the Americas that loves Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

South America this week greeted the Iranian president as a brother and benefactor, defrosting him after his icy reception in New York. The leaders of Bolivia and Venezuela embraced Mr Ahmadinejad and blessed Iran's nuclear programme, underlining how much influence Washington has lost over a region it once considered its backyard.

The Iranian president signed a series of energy and trade deals during brief stopovers which extended Tehran's foothold in South America. In contrast to the insults heaped on him in New York, the visitor was feted as a strategic ally in the struggle against gringo imperialism. Cuba and Nicaragua echoed the rhetoric..."

[ full article ]

News Roundup: The Nation

Northern Ireland, South Africa in Secret Iran Peace Talks

There is no doubt that American and British authorities knew about and approved the meeting, though they were excluded from attending. Instead, the meeting was facilitated and funded by the Finnish Crisis Management Initiative [CMI] and the McCormack Graduate School at the University of Massachusetts.

At this point, virtually no American media outlets have reported the meeting, despite the importance of the parties in attendance.

Irish political consultant Quentin Oliver, who directed the successful referendum on the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, summed up the significance in a South Africa Star report: "The Iraqis saw the dynamics from us. Apartheid removed. Troubles accomodated. Baghdad next. They did it, not us. We only helped."

[ full article ]


Is Jena America?

"Jena is America," says Alan Bean, speaking of the Louisiana town where six black students are looking at decades in jail for a schoolyard brawl while white kids are facing nothing for hanging up nooses. Jena is America in the sense that the unequal justice there is not unique. There are "Jena Sixes" behind bars in every state. But it isn't America in the sense that the country as a whole has had no trouble at all ignoring Jena.
John Dean: From Nixon to Bush to Giuliani

John Dean knows something about White House abuse of power. He wrote a bestseller in 2004 on the Bush White House called "Worse Than Watergate." In a recent interview I asked him what he thinks of that title now. Now, he replied, a book comparing Bush and Nixon would have to be called "Much, Much Worse."

"Look at the so-called Watergate abuses of power," he said. "Nobody died. Nobody was tortured. Millions of Americans were not subject to electronic surveillance of their communications. We're playing now in a whole different league."

And how does Bush compare with the Republicans seeking to succeed him? "If a Rudy Giuliani were to be elected," Dean said, "he would go even farther than Cheney and Bush in their worst moments."

[ full article ]


Google: The Market-Driven Life

"... Last week, Google's stock hit an all-time high, on the strength of reports that the company will earn more this year than the $10.6 billion it earned in 2006. But while Google has almost overnight become a trusted source of information for the technologically attuned, few have thought to question the extent to which its success poses threats to both our privacy and our aspirations for the positive potential of the Internet.

Google's dramatic growth is a reflection of its role as the most powerful player in the world of interactive marketing. Ninety-nine percent of Google's annual revenues (according to its 10K filing with the SEC) comes from selling targeted advertising on its search engine, which is driven by a massive consumer data collection system. ..."

[ full article ]

Privacy advocates criticize White House ID theft plan

"... CDT and other groups are calling for national reforms to replace what they see as an outmoded federal regulatory regime. Currently, the Privacy Act of 1974 places limits on the exposure and management of records in government databases. And some companies that handle personal data, such as credit-reporting firms, are subject to various consumer-protection statutes, including safeguards for data-quality and confidentiality.

But Sohn said existing laws miss new security and privacy threats posed by the "revolution in data technology, in terms of the ability to gather, store and manipulate large quantities of data."

Reform advocates say consumer protections should not only keep people informed when data-security is breached, but also afford greater control over personal records before and after violations occur.

Groups like CDT say federal laws should explicitly guarantee consumers’ right to know what data is gathered about them, and the power to "freeze" credit reports to preempt fraud and misuse. As a preventative measure, they say, companies should be required to implement policies for securely storing and using data, backed with potential civil penalties for non-compliant firms.

Fundamentally, critics argue that the most effective way to combat identity theft is to minimize the amount of data available for stealing.

Some of the groups’ proposed reforms would nationalize consumer-protections already in place on the state level. They would also expand disclosure and transparency in the relatively unregulated "data-broker" industry – companies that cull and sell consumer information for marketing and other purposes.

Fundamentally, privacy and consumer groups say the most effective way to combat identity theft is to minimize the amount of data available for stealing. Groups such as the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), for example, support strict limits on the use of social-security numbers as an identifier.

EPIC Executive Director Marc Rotenberg said fraud could also be deterred through laws that "make [companies] liable when harm results from the misuse of the data they collect." Forcing information-hording institutions to foot the cost of potential mishaps, he said, would be a built-in security check, as they would "internalize the real cost of collecting and using personal information." ..."

[ full article ]

Tomgram: Karen Greenberg, Guantanamo Forever

As the presidential election season heats up, Republican candidates have opted for "Guantanamo-forever" policy positions. Retiring Republican Senator Chuck Hagel recently complained that the notorious detention facility -- once the proud public face of the President's attempt to move incarceration and mistreatment offshore and beyond the reach of American courts -- has bizarrely enough become "a Republican litmus test." At the same time, at Guantanamo itself, anger and factionalism are on the rise, not among prisoners but warders, while the attempt to set up what Wall Street Journal reporter Jess Bravin calls "a free-standing court system to try alleged foreign terrorists" founders for the nine hundredth time. More than five years after being inaugurated, the prison complex has so far adjudicated exactly one case to the point of conviction -- a simple plea bargain (essentially negotiated between President Bush and Australian Prime Minister John Howard) that transferred small-fry Taliban follower David Hicks back to Australia where he is to be freed at the end of this year.

In the meantime, the Pentagon official overseeing Guantanamo's nonexistent terrorism trials and the chief prosecutor of those trials are, reports Bravin, at each other's throats. Wrote Col. Morris Davis, the prosecutor, to the Wall Street Journal: "If someone above me tries to intimidate me in determining who we will charge, what we will charge, what evidence we will try to introduce, and how we will conduct a prosecution then I will resign." He's also lodged a formal complaint against Gen. Thomas Hartmann, legal adviser to the administrator running the trial system, "refused to file any additional charges against Guantanamo inmates until the dispute is resolved," and sent a separate complaint to the Pentagon inspector general. Time-consuming investigations are slated to follow.

And so it goes in George Bush's offshore Bermuda Triangle of Injustice where infamy, fiasco, mismanagement, and incompetence have been stirred into a fatal brew, discrediting a country -- ours -- that has proven, as Karen Greenberg, the Executive Director of the Center on Law and Security at New York University (whose last Tomdispatch piece was "Gitmo Decorum") makes clear, incapable of asking basic questions about this administration's detention policy. Tom

Relax, Mitt

Guantanamo's Not Closing
By Karen J. Greenberg

"Some people have said, we ought to close Guantanamo. My view is, we ought to double Guantanamo." -- Mitt Romney, Republican presidential debate, May 15, 2007

Take a breath, Mitt. Whatever you may think, your bravado statements about doubling the size of Guantanamo -- part of your bid to lead the American people faster and farther into the Global War on Terror -- are by no means completely off-the-wall. True, President Bush and Secretary of Defense Gates have both stated that closing Guantanamo might be the best way out of the legal limbo we've been in ever since that facility opened five and half years ago as the crown jewel of the administration's offshore network of secret prisons. But forget what they say. Check out what they're doing. The closing of Guantanamo -- and a winding down of the administration's detention and interrogation policies -- may be farther away than most of us think. As elsewhere in this administration's record, casual talk of refashioning a failed policy masks an inflexible commitment to "staying the course." ...


Jane Goodall sounds alarm on race for biofuel

"... Primate scientist Jane Goodall said on Wednesday the race to grow crops for vehicle fuels is damaging rain forests in Asia, Africa and South America and adding to the emissions blamed for global warming.

"We're cutting down forests now to grow sugarcane and palm oil for biofuels and our forests are being hacked into by so many interests that it makes them more and more important to save now," Goodall said on the sidelines of the Clinton Global Initiative, former US President Bill Clinton's annual philanthropic meeting.

As new oil supplies become harder to find, many countries such as Brazil and Indonesia are racing to grow domestic sources of vehicle fuels, such as ethanol from sugarcane and biodiesel from palm nuts.

The United Nations' climate program considers the fuels to be low in carbon because growing the crops takes in heat-trapping gas carbon dioxide.

But critics say demand for the fuels has led companies to cut down and burn forests in order to grow the crops, adding to heat-trapping emissions and leading to erosion and stress on ecosystems..."


Burma: Another carnage with an unknown death toll

"... According to one version the army often moves in three trucks because there is one platoon to shoot, one to pick up the bodies and one to clear up afterwards.

One witness said that the government has dug a pit in the centre of a football field near the Shwedagon Pagoda and surrounded it with a bamboo fence. Its purpose, up to this point, is unknown.

In another indication that the true death toll may be far higher than the confirmed figures suggest, a source from the National League for Democracy, citing hospital contacts, said 30 bodies had been brought to the hospital on Wednesday.

Most counts put fatalities on that day at around five. Hospital workers are too terrified to speak about the subject..."

Alternative politics: Individualist Anarchism

Individualist Anarchist Resources

Asia Times: Shades of a new Cold War

A massive wrench thrown in Putin's works

By M K Bhadrakumar

It almost seemed since the month of May that in the battles of the Caspian energy war, Russian President Vladimir Putin was destined to glide serenely from victory to victory until next March when he leaves office in the Kremlin.

But a backlash was bound to happen. Putin's standing as the ace player in the Great Game of our times had surely become an eyesore for Western capitals.

You could tell it from the stillness in the air, as the autumn began stealthily approaching the Central Asian steppes, that something was afoot. Are we heading for a season of unraveling, with the West bracing, no matter what it takes, for a marathon jawing that would somehow punctuate the claustrophobic intensity of the Kremlin's string of success stories in May-June - and create an alternative?

In focus is Turkmenistan, the energy-rich gas powerhouse of Central Asia. These have been manic weeks in Ashgabat. The melodrama is acute. But then the inscrutable space between victory and the chimera of victory has always been very narrow in Central Asia.

September 1 was the cutoff date that the Kremlin penciled in for the signing of agreements relating to the Russian-Kazakh-Turkmen gas deal that Putin had wrapped up during his sensational Central Asia summit on May 12. But September is drawing to a close, and not only have the agreements not been signed, the main protagonist, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimukhamedov, is unavailable in Ashgabat. He has proceeded on an extended visit to the United States, accompanied by bigwigs in the Turkmen oil and gas industry. It suddenly dawns that in one big throw of the dice, the US and the European Union are desperately playing themselves back into the game, which Moscow thought it had all but secured.

The empire strikes back
On May 12, at the tripartite Central Asia summit in the city of Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan, Putin, Berdimukhamedov and Kazakh President Nurusultan Nazarbayev announced their intent to upgrade and expand gas-transportation pipelines from Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan along the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea, directly to Russia. Simultaneously, it was announced that the Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan-Kazakhstan-Russia pipeline of the Soviet era would also be modernized.

The intention was to overhaul the Soviet-era pipeline system known as Central Asia-Center, ensuring it would have a capacity of 90 billion to 100 billion cubic meters (bcm) at the Russian border by 2010 so that it could handle the production of the vast Turkmen and Uzbek gas fields. Moscow wanted the relevant inter-government agreements to be signed by September 1 so that the corporate agreements could be concluded by the end of the year, and consortiums could be formed by early 2008. Moscow expected actual construction to commence by the middle of next year.

The entire project is predicated on the belief that Russia will have almost exclusive access to Turkmenistan's vast gas reserves and will hold a near-monopoly on Turkmen gas exports.

Watchers of the Great Game concluded that Putin had dealt a death blow to all Western plans to bring Turkmen gas to the European market bypassing Russian territory, which has been the leitmotif of the United States' Central Asia policy over the past 15 years.

On the one hand, the Russian stratagem to get exclusive hold over Turkmen gas meant that the proposed trans-Caspian pipeline project and Nabucco pipeline project, and the existing Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline and Odessa-Brody-Poland pipeline - westward energy routes to Europe supported by the US - were all doomed. On the other hand, Moscow was poised to tighten its control of the transit and use of Central Asian oil and gas, apart from drawing the region's bulk of future outputs to transit routes under Russian control.

Without doubt, in their totality, the May 12 agreements meant that Moscow inflicted a strategic defeat on the United States' Central Asia policy. To reinforce the success, Putin visited Austria on May 23-24 and signed various agreements under which the Russian gas company Gazprom would enlarge its market share in Austria and gain direct access to the retail trade, and Russia would use Austria as a transit corridor for European markets in Italy, France, Hungary, Germany, Slovenia and Croatia. With this, the Nabucco pipeline project's future, in particular, looked extremely gloomy.

Everything seemed to work in Moscow's favor when on June 23 a memorandum was signed in Rome between Gazprom and Italy's ENI on a 900-kilometer pipeline project across the Black Sea from Russia to Bulgaria with an annual capacity of about 30bcm. The undersea pipeline, on reaching Bulgaria, would have two options for the Bulgaria-Italy route. A southwestern option would be through Greece and the Adriatic seabed in the Otranto Strait to southern Italy, while a northwestern route would run from Bulgaria via Romania, Hungary and Slovenia (and possibly Austria) to northern Italy. Bulgaria and Greece promptly announced their intention to join the project, known as the South Stream project. The Wall Street Journal aptly described it as a "pipeline into the heart of Europe".

The upstream source for the South Stream project would be largely Central Asian and Siberian gas. Russia's game plan was obvious: maximize its control of the export routes for Central Asian gas. Russia signaled that it was outstripping the US both in regard of the upstream race for Central Asian gas as well as in the race for control of transit and downstream activity.

Alarm bells began ringing in Washington. On May 30, Vice President Dick Cheney's deputy assistant for national security affairs, Joseph Wood, rushed to Baku, Azerbaijan. He had a single message: Washington intended to meet the Russian challenge head-on and would persist with the policy of opening direct access to Central Asian oil and gas through Azerbaijan and Georgia, bypassing Russian territory and Russian pipelines. He stressed the US would push ahead with the Nabucco and Turkey-Greece-Italy gas transport projects. He told the Azerbaijani leadership that it should take the initiative to sort out Azerbaijan's bilateral disputes with Turkmenistan so that the latter could be drawn into the proposed gas projects.

Simultaneously, on June 1, Steven Mann, US principal deputy assistant secretary of state, held talks with Berdimukhamedov in Ashgabat. Mann strongly pitched for the trans-Caspian gas pipeline project (Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan to Georgia to Turkey to Europe). He conveyed Washington's keen interest that Turkmenistan should sell its gas to the European market directly, without the Russian intermediary.

Other senior US officials began fanning out to the Caspian region carrying similar messages that it would be far more advantageous for the Central Asian gas- and oil-producing countries to deal with European buyers directly. Thus US assistant secretary of state Richard Boucher visited Kazakhstan and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza visited Azerbaijan in the first week of June. Washington also began pressuring the European Union to display a sense of urgency in forestalling the looming Russian monopoly over Central Asia's gas exports.

Washington's primary intent was to sow seeds of doubt in the Turkmen mind regarding the wisdom of putting all its eggs in the Russian basket. On June 21, Washington upped the ante when Admiral William Fallon, commander of the US Central Command, arrived in Ashgabat and was received by Berdimukhamedov. Fallon carried a brief on energy cooperation. The consultation was evidently productive. On June 27, when Evan Feigenbaum, US deputy assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, arrived in Ashgabat with a delegation of American oil majors, he heard good news. "The president [Berdimukhamedov] stated publicly, very clearly, that Turkmenistan remains interested in the trans-Caspian pipeline," Feigenbaum later told the media.

He said his message to the Turkmen leader was, "American policy on energy has been very clear for a very long time. Monopoly tends to work to the disadvantage of producers ... The point is, what is good for the United States is good for the global energy supply and global energy security. That has been the basis of our conversation with Turkmenistan and other producers in this part of the world."

Ten days after Feigenbaum's discussions, Matthew Bryza, deputy assistant secretary of state, arrived in Ashgabat. On the eve of the visit, Bryza said in Washington on July 10, "There is a large - huge - supply of natural gas in the far-western reaches of Turkmenistan, which, if the market decides, will make its way to Europe via Azerbaijan ... And I'll leave for Turkmenistan tomorrow to see if we can help Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan build on the momentum they've already created in their relations."

A wrench in the wheel

Moscow certainly took note of these strange goings on - a stream of senior US diplomats attired in pinstripe suits with top executives of oil majors with suspiciously heavy-looking attache cases in tow, trooping out of Ashgabat hotel rooms almost every week. If there was any doubt about what they were up to, that became clear in late July when US-based energy company Chevron announced its intention to open an office in Ashgabat and participate in the development of Caspian energy resources.

On July 3, at a public ceremony in Ashgabat marking his 50th birthday, Berdimukhamedov said Turkmenistan maintained its "neutral status" and had "equal relationships" with all. He added, "Without joining any kind of political alliances, we will carry on with our efforts to build new gas pipelines to carry our gas to China, and to Pakistan and India via Afghanistan, and to Europe via the Caspian Sea. This means that we will have equal and mutually beneficial relations with Russia and the United States, with European countries, and with our neighbors as well." (Emphasis added.)

Even if Moscow kept up an air of confidence about Berdimukhamedov, a degree of uneasiness was inevitably creeping in. This became apparent when in an interview with the Russian media on July 6, Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov hit out that the string of Russian successes in the Caspian energy war was "getting on Washington's nerves". He continued, "The US has been lobbying the idea of an East-West energy corridor for a long time. Its aim is to arrange the transportation of hydrocarbons from the Caspian region bypassing the territories of Russia and Iran."

He warned the "notorious trans-Caspian gas pipeline" would run into obstacles, since the status of the Caspian Sea was yet to be determined, and second, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan were involved in disputes over the ownership of a number of fields. "In addition, the special nature of the Caspian should be taken into consideration. Here the risks are very high due to the closed nature of the water system, the geology of the sea bed and the presence of strong underwater currents," Denisov pointed out.

Indeed, Denisov has a point. Moscow is betting on how Washington will be able to cross such formidable hurdles. Russia and Iran are literally in a position to throw a wrench in the wheel if they sense that Washington is getting close to the realization of the trans-Caspian project. Both Moscow and Tehran will be keenly watching Berdimukhamedov's discussions in the US during his current visit. It couldn't have escaped their attention that highly influential US oil majors from Texas, which carry much clout within the George W Bush administration at the highest levels, are sponsoring the visit of the Turkmen delegation to the US. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who once served on the board of directors of Chevron, is scheduled to meet with Berdimukhamedov.

The wild Iranian card

Iran fully shares Russia's antipathy toward US "poaching" in the Caspian region. This was in full display when Berdimukhamedov visited Tehran on June 15-16. Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad cautioned his Turkmen counterpart, "Certain powers are in their own interests turning the issue of the Caspian Sea into a challenge among regional countries ... certain bullying powers are after the oil and energy resources of the Caspian Sea, but the environment and security of the sea has a major impact on the life of the littoral states."

Ahmadinejad made it clear that Iran will strongly oppose the US presence in the Caspian region. The Iranian position is that the establishment of sustainable security within the Caspian region must be the prerogative of the littoral states (Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Iran) and no US involvement will be allowed. Russia sees eye-to-eye with the Iranian position.

However, Tehran also has its own agenda in the energy sphere, separate from Russia's, in opposing the US-sponsored trans-Caspian gas pipeline project. Tehran has consistently canvassed for increased exports of Turkmen gas, oil and petrochemical products through Iran. Given Turkmen-Azeri tensions, Ashgabat also traditionally feels more comfortable about exporting its gas via Iran rather than routing it through Azerbaijan.

The mutual interest of Tehran and Ashgabat to route gas via Iran to the Western market found its expression when the energy ministers of Turkey and Iran signed a memorandum in Ankara on July 13 on gas deliveries from Turkmenistan and Iran via Turkey to Europe. The idea didn't quite come out of the blue, but it was nonetheless startling in its freshness. To be sure, the proposal was a direct snub to Russia. It in essence aimed at helping to revive the Nabucco gas pipeline project.

It would open up Iran's gas reserves for Western markets, thereby reducing Europe's dependence on Russian supplies. The proposal involved 20bcm of gas reaching Turkey annually from Iran and 10bcm from Turkmenistan via Iran. The entire volume (30bcm) would be added to the Azerbaijani gas already reaching the Nabucco pipeline heading to Europe, which would assure the project's viability. The Iranians threw in a big carrot for Turkey, offering to the Turkish Petroleum Corp the right to develop the South Pars blocks 22, 23 and 24 without any tendering and on a buy-back arrangement.

At one stroke, the Turkish-Iranian proposal strove to undercut Putin's gains through May-June in establishing monopoly on Turkmen gas. It underscored how Europe could exploit Iran's ambitions as an energy exporter if only the Iran nuclear issue didn't get in the way. In fact, but for the standoff with Iran, the Turkish initiative fitted admirably well with Washington's own energy strategy toward the Caspian.

Not surprisingly, Washington put its foot down on the Turkish initiative. But the jury is still out. Most certainly, Washington will have been quietly pleased that Turkey's memorandum of understanding with Iran is at the very least likely to reinforce misgivings in the Turkmen mind about committing itself to the Russian-Kazakh-Turkmen inter-governmental agreement handing over to Moscow virtual monopoly in the export of Turkmen gas.

The sequence of dramatic developments has shown that rivalries over the Caspian energy reserves are getting a great deal more rough and ruthless. All means are fair if the end is in sight - as in love or war. It will be interesting to watch how Washington reacts to the Turkish-Iranian tango, as time unfolds. Will it remain adamant that Europe should have no truck with Iranian gas? Or will it coyly step aside and let Iran compete with Russia in the European gas market?

Ashgabat's China option
Meanwhile, Ashgabat began some maneuverings of its own. It did its homework and concluded it could bargain better with Moscow if it had a European option (with US backing, of course) and, furthermore, that it could do better still bargaining with Moscow and the Europeans by developing a "China option". At any rate, Berdimukhamedov arrived in Beijing on a two-day visit on July 17 at President Hu Jintao's invitation.

Before leaving for Beijing, he said his visit marked "not only a new page in the chronicles of Turkmen-Chinese cooperation, but also a milestone in the implementation of Turkmenistan's foreign-policy strategy". He intended to build on an agreement his predecessor Saparmurat Niayzov had signed during his visit to Beijing in April 2006 envisaging the construction of a Turkmenistan-China gas pipeline project capable of delivering 30bcm of Turkmen gas annually for a 30-year period commencing in 2009.

The joint communique issued after Berdimukhamedov's visit to Beijing said Beijing regarded China-Turkmen relations as an "important component" of China's foreign policy, while Ashgabat viewed relations with China as "one of the priority directions" of its foreign policy.

But Turkmenistan's dealings with China haven't gone down well in Western capitals. They fear that the West collectively will be the loser if Ashgabat chooses to send its surplus gas to China instead of to Europe via the Nabucco pipeline. Indeed, China's breakthrough in Turkmenistan has been impressive.

During Berdimukhamedov's visit to Beijing in July, China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) signed a production-sharing agreement for exploring and developing gas fields on the right bank of Amu Darya River in eastern Turkmenistan with known reserves of 1.7 trillion cubic meters of gas. This was in addition to the CNPC's previously existing US$1.5 billion contract for gas-field exploration in southeastern Turkmenistan during the 2007-10 period.

But Beijing has reason to be nervous. In the ultimate analysis, will Ashgabat deliver what it promises, or use the China option as a bargaining chip vis-a-vis the Europeans? The Turkmen deal matters a lot to Beijing. The proposed Turkmenistan-China gas pipeline is expected to run to China's Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region and link up with the 6,500km pipeline under construction (to be completed by 2010) connecting Xinjiang to Guangzhou. Even though Berdimukhamedov assured his Chinese hosts in Beijing that the "Turkmen side will do everything it can to implement the agreements ... [and] Turkmenistan has enough surplus gas for export in various directions", doubts persist in the Chinese mind.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao gave vent to Beijing's anxieties when he told the visiting Turkmen president of the need to "implement bilateral agreements, [and] work closely on the gas project". The joint communique also made a pointed reference to "the need to strictly abide by, and conscientiously implement" Chinese-Turkmen energy cooperation agreements.

Shades of a new cold war
If the Turkmen-Chinese energy deals go through, the West stands to lose heavily. There simply might not be sufficient surplus gas left for export to Europe. In comparison, Russia is better placed to absorb the entry of the Chinese competitor on the Turkmen gas scene. As for Tehran, its overriding priority is that the "Great Satan" (US) is kept away from Turkmen energy reserves at any cost. Iran welcomes China's presence in Central Asia. Besides, a Turkmenistan-China gas pipeline system could easily be connected to Iran at a future date, giving Tehran direct access to the Chinese energy market.

These cross-currents have found expression in recent weeks. In the middle of August, on the eve of the annual summit meeting of the Shanghai Corporation Organization (SCO) in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, the US Trade and Development Agency offered a financial grant to Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan for conducting feasibility studies to build trans-Caspian undersea pipelines. The timing was perfect. Washington wanted to restrain Turkmenistan from drawing too close to the SCO, as that would be a great leap forward in the realization of an Asian energy grid.

Also, Washington finally succeeded in getting the EU to get its act together for a coordinated energy policy toward Central Asia and Russia. On September 14-15, a conference was held in Budapest where the EU resoundingly affirmed its intention to press ahead with the Nabucco project. Andris Piebalgs, the EU's energy commissioner, described Nabucco as an "embodiment of the existence of a common European energy policy". The EU appointed the former foreign minister of the Netherlands, Jozias van Aartsen, coordinator for the Nabucco project.

The conference clarified the contours of the 3,300-kilometer Nabucco, which will now originate in eastern Turkey and run through Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary to Austria, with a capacity of 30-35bcm annually. European banks, especially the European Investment Bank and the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, will fund the project, estimated to cost 5 billion euros (US$7.1 billion).

Parallel to US diplomatic efforts in Ashgabat, the EU has also begun working on the Turkmen leadership. There is a new sense of urgency in Brussels as the EU seems to have concluded that any effort to break dependence on Russian supplies will have to begin with Ashgabat.

Immediately after the Budapest conference, Austrian Economics Minister Martin Bartenstein visited Ashgabat. (Austria has a pivotal role in the Nabucco project.) Berdimukhamedov told Bartenstein that Turkmenistan has "multiple vectors in its energy policy and in creating alternative energy export routes, including in the southern direction through the Caspian Sea, it is prepared to deliver natural gas to European countries". In other words, he put on record Ashgabat's keenness to export its gas directly to the European market without the Russian intermediary.

At the same time, British Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks also visited Ashgabat. (Wicks is the first cabinet minister from Britain to visit Turkmenistan in the past nine years.) His visit followed a high-powered BP delegation, which held discussions in the Turkmen capital. Wicks took up the trans-Caspian pipeline project (Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey route) with Berdimukhamedov. He said this feeder pipeline for Nabucco would be of "special importance" to the EU, which would fund the project.

Wicks told the media later that Moscow is butting into Ashgabat's energy policy. He said, "The right to decide on this matter is Turkmenistan's and Azerbaijan's, and nobody else's. Oil and gas issues are not just energy issues; they are national-security issues for many countries. The EU's cooperation with the countries in the [Caspian] region should be seen through the prism of energy security and national security of all the states involved in these projects."

Most important, Wicks offered to Berdimukhamedov that if Turkmenistan sold its gas directly to the European market, it would be paid at the rate of the prevailing market price rather than the discounted price at which Russia buys Turkmen gas for re-export to Europe.

At the same time, the EU has also shifted gear in curbing Gazprom's expansion into European markets. On September 19, the European Commission (EC) adopted a plan that virtually aims at preventing Gazprom from buying pipeline networks in the EU. While the plan has to travel a long way to become fully fledged legislation, and there are question marks about the efficacy of its implementation, it is clear that the EU is deliberately erecting a new barrier between it and Russia.

This goes beyond a mere energy issue. The Wall Street Journal wrote, "How to handle Russia ... has been one of the bloc's most divisive foreign policy issues in recent years ... [The proposal] reflects an evolution in attitudes that has seen EU countries that once firmly supported Moscow change their tone."

The daily added, "This is partly the result of changes in EU leadership, which has seen close friends of Russia such as former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Italy's Silvio Berlusconi and France's Jacques Chirac replaced. Russia's actions are also responsible for the change ... [Moscow's] willingness to use energy supply as a weapon of foreign policy spooked and angered European leaders."

Clearly, a sort of "trans-Atlantic solidarity" is forming in Brussels on energy dialogue with Russia. This has obvious political and strategic overtones. More and more European countries are accepting Washington's demarche that the West must speak with one voice in relations with Russia.

Brussels is in effect demanding that Moscow choose between controlling transmission networks in Europe and remaining a supplier of energy. But the idea goes beyond that. EC President Jose Manuel Barroso told the media, "We need to place tough conditions on ownerships of assets by non-European companies to make sure we all play by the same rules." In actual terms, Barroso demanded that the Kremlin should give European oil companies the chance to buy assets in Russia if Gazprom wanted to buy in the EU.

But Moscow sees reciprocity in a different way. The Kremlin asserts that state control over Russia's energy reserves is not something unique to Putin's Russia. It says the situation is the same in France or Norway, for example. The influential chairman of the Russian Duma's (parliament's) international affairs committee, Konstantin Kosachev, warned that Russia would retaliate. "We shall have to restrict our foreign partners' access to the corresponding strategic industries of the Russian economy to the same extent we are denied access to certain branches of the west European free-market economies," he said in Moscow on September 19.

He stressed, "Nobody should expect Russia will display endless philanthropy and unremittingly sacrifice its national interests for the sake of preserving an illusion of partnership. This will never happen."

The blasts of the new cold war have begun blowing across the oil and gas fields of the Caspian region. History is repeating itself. It was over control of the fabulous Baku oilfields that a concerted Western military intervention took place at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. The "Baku Commissars" of the Red Army, who resisted, became the stuff of Soviet folklore. And in World War II Adolf Hitler committed his Panzer divisions in a desperate drive to seize control of the Baku fields.

The blasts beginning to blow across the Caspian region threaten to be every bit as unpredictable as the turbulence triggered by the US missile-defense controversy and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's continued expansion into the territories of the former Soviet Union.

Caspian summit in Tehran
Thus as Caspian leaders assemble in Tehran for their summit in about two weeks' time, a huge East-West divide has appeared, which seemed improbable even six months ago. Putin arrives in Tehran on October 16 on his first visit to Iran. At stake are several tense issues.

Putin will want to hear from Berdimukhamedov what is going on in the complicated Turkmen mind. He will look forward to hearing from Berdimukhamedov, fresh from his visit to the US, that Ashgabat is still committed to the May agreements on quadripartite energy cooperation involving Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

Certainly, Putin won't be pleased with a legacy that in the closing months of his presidency, middle-level US diplomats and oil executives might have stumped him in Russia's Central Asian backyard. Moscow will pull out all the stops to prevent this. Admittedly, Moscow has much leverage and Ashgabat will be aware of the perils of brazen independence from Russian influence.

Meanwhile, China too will be closely watching for signs if Berdimukhamedov intends to fulfill the commitments he made in Beijing during his July visit. If Berdimukhamedov decides to opt for the latest Western packages on the trans-Caspian pipeline, Turkmenistan's cooperation with China may suffer. That would raise doubts about the prospects of China receiving 30bcm of Turkmen gas annually for the next 30 years.

As regards Tehran, it will try to persuade Berdimukhamedov that consorting with the US might not prove to be for his own good in the medium and long terms. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, on the contrary, will encourage Berdimukhamedov to continue undeterred and instead move along the track of the trans-Caspian pipeline project.

One thing is certain. Settlement of the Caspian Sea's status will remain postponed, as the present differences among the littoral states preclude the possibility of major trans-Caspian projects of the sort that the EU and the US espouse - and that suits Russia and Iran.

Of overarching importance will be the impact of all this on Russia-Iran relations. The two countries share common concerns over Ashgabat's energy policy in the coming months as well as on Caspian Sea issues. Russian-Iranian convergence of interests on regional issues has once again surged to the forefront. A question remains: How will this geopolitical reality influence Moscow's policy at a time Washington is hoping to isolate Iran?

Of course, if Washington succeeds in effecting Turkmenistan's "defection", that will constitute a severe setback for Russia's regional interests. The Central Asian states, especially Kazakhstan, will draw their own conclusions, which in turn could impact on Commonwealth of Independent States integration.

It may be twilight in the White House in Washington. A highly controversial era may be coming to a close. Bush's friends may be beginning to desert him. Der Spiegel wrote this week, "Sixty corporate CEOs [chief executive officers] who had previously donated primarily to the Bush campaigns - including John Mack of Morgan Stanley, Rupert Murdoch of News Corporation and Terry Semel of Yahoo - are now giving more money to the Democrats ... It is all too apparent that the political energy is seeping out of the West Wing of the White House."

But Der Spiegel's list of the 60 renegade US corporate giants cannot include the oil majors. Cheney and Rice have just about ensured that.

M K Bhadrakumar served as a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service for more than 29 years, with postings including ambassador to Uzbekistan (1995-98) and to Turkey (1998-2001).
[ Link ]

CSMonitor: Aid group stresses link between human rights and development

- - -  Tostan's success, it seems, comes from its novel approach: "When people learn their rights," says Khalidou Sy, Tostan's program director in Senegal, "they begin to demand that those rights be respected." They look for ways to change their lives and community to make that possible.

This approach – to start with human rights, and the rest will follow – has gained the aid group international recognition. In August, it won the $1.5-million Conrad N. Hilton prize, the world's largest humanitarian award. Past winners have included Doctors Without Borders and the International Rescue Committee. Tostan was chosen from among 250 nominees.

"What made Tostan stand out as unique is its incredible ability to help people make decisions for themselves," says Judy Miller, vice president of the Hilton Foundation, which created the prize, "to prepare them with all the information, the skills, and the knowledge, and then train them so that they can actually set their goals and work together and move forward to help everybody in village life."  - - -

[ full article ]

Friday, September 28, 2007

Wired: Do You Write Like a Terrorist?

You might think your anonymous online rants are oh-so-clever.   But they'll give you away, too.  A federally-funded artificial intelligence lab is figuring out how to track people over the Internet, based on how they write.

The University of Arizona's ultra-ambitious "Dark Web" project "aims to systematically collect and analyze all terrorist-generated content on the Web," the National Science Foundation notes.  And that analysis, according to the Arizona Star, includes a program which "identif[ies] and track[s] individual authors by their writing styles." ...

[ full article ]

Chomsky's response to WashPost review of 'Interventions'

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The letter to the Washington Post that follows was written as an experiment, to see just how low the editors would sink in their efforts to block a book containing evidence and analysis that they do not want to reach the public. The letter is a response to a crude and vulgar diatribe, in the form of a review of my collection Interventions. In response, I wrote a point-by-point refutation of each charge, a straightforward matter, as the editors doubtless understand. The letter was sent to the Post immediately, altogether four times, with a request for acknowledgment of receipt. Unpublished, no acknowledgment of receipt. Two weeks after the review appeared, Sept. 16, the Post did publish two letters responding to it. The letters were critical of the review, but acceptable by the standards of the editors, because they left the lies and slanders standing -- the authors could have had no way to refute them without a research project.

I think it is fair to take the editors' silence to demonstrate that they know precisely what they are doing, and are too cowardly even to acknowledge receipt.

- Noam Chomsky

Washington Post

Jonathan Rauch’s review of my Interventions (WP, Sept. 2) brings to mind Orwell’s famous observations on the “indifference to reality” of the nationalist, who “not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but ..has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”

Rauch runs through a series of what he regards as “flights into a separate reality” and “tendentious whimsy.” When exposed, a straightforward matter, his charges may appear to be conscious deceit, but are more charitably understood as a textbook illustration of Orwell’s observations.

Rauch is appalled that I should charge Washington with bombing Serbia in 1999 “not to prevent ethnic cleansing but to impose Washington’s neoliberal economic agenda.” I neither made nor endorsed the statement. Rather, I quoted it – accurately, not in his words. The source is a high official of the Clinton administration directly involved in the Kosovo events, describing how events were perceived at the highest level. See p. 179.

Another bit of “tendentious whimsy” is the statement that “North Korea’s counterfeiting racket may actually be a CIA operation.” I neither made nor endorsed the statement, but cited it, accurately, from the respected Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Rauch finds equally appalling the fact that “In Chomsky’s universe, the 2001 U.S. attack on Afghanistan was undertaken with the expectation that it might drive several million people over the edge of starvation.” The statement is precisely accurate. That is why aid agencies bitterly condemned the bombing, joined by leading Afghan opponents of the Taliban, including US favorites. It is also why many months after the bombing ended, Harvard’s leading specialist on Afghanistan, Samina Ahmed, wrote in the Harvard journal International Security that “millions of Afghans are at grave risk of starvation.” That and more is in the book under review, but in these op-eds I did not provide full details that would be familiar to readers of the mainstream press, for example, the increase in estimate of those at the edge of starvation by 50%, to 7.5 million, when the bombing was announced and initiated. If Rauch is indeed unfamiliar with the mainstream press, he can find precise references in books of mine cited here.

Particularly amazing in Rauch’s universe is the idea, in his words, that “President Bush – the first and only U.S. president to declare formal American support for a Palestinian state – is the obstacle to a two-state solution that Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran are all prepared to accept (I am not making that up).” The tiny particle of truth here is that Bush announced his “vision” of a Palestinian state – somewhere, some day, a pale reflection of the long-standing international consensus on a two-state settlement. Bush did indeed innovate: he is the first president to officially endorse Israeli annexation of the major illegal settlements in the West Bank, a long step backwards from Clinton’s “parameters,” and a death blow to any hope for a viable Palestinian state, as minimal familiarity with the region demonstrates.

In contrast, Iran’s “supreme leader” Ayatollah Khamenei formally announced that Iran “shares a common view with Arab countries on ... the issue of Palestine,” meaning that Iran accepts the Arab League position: full normalization of relations in terms of the international consensus. “Khamenei has said Iran would agree to whatever the Palestinians decide,” the prominent Iran scholar Ervand Abrahamian observes. If Rauch reads the journal in which he writes, he knows that Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniye called for “statehood for the West Bank and Gaza...” (Washington Post, July 11, 2006) There are innumerable other examples, perhaps most important among them the statement of the most militant Hamas leader Khalid Mish’al, in exile in Damascus, calling for “the establishment of a truly sovereign and independent Palestinian state on the territories occupied by Israel in June 1967” (Guardian, Feb. 23, 2007). Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has repeatedly stated that as a Lebanese organization, Hezbollah will not disrupt anything agreed to by the Palestinians.

Much as it may distress the nationalist, on this matter the positions of Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah are more moderate – that is, closer to the long-standing international consensus – than those of the US and Israel.

In Rauch’s universe, Washington “tolerates a sovereign, more or less democratic Iraq whose Shiite government is friendly toward Iran.” No comment should be necessary for readers of the daily press.

That exhausts Rauch’s charges. Orwell triumphs again.

It is perhaps not surprising that Rauch’s furious exertions did not unearth even a misplaced comma. As he knows, the op-eds passed through New York Times fact checking. There might be a lesson there for the journal in which he is a senior writer.

Noam Chomsky


Excerpt: The Golden Verses of Pythagoras

Of diverse beings thou shalt sound the essence;
And thou shalt know the principle and end of All.
If Heaven wills it, thou shalt know that Nature,
Alike in everything, is the same in every place:
So that, as to thy true rights enlightened,
Thine heart shall no more feed on vain desires.
Thou shalt see that the evils which devour men
Are of their choice the fruit; that these unfortunates
Seek afar the goodness whose source within they bear.
For few know happiness: playthings of the passions,
Hither, thither tossed by adverse waves,
Upon a shoreless sea, they blinded roll,
Unable to resist or to the tempest yield.

      - - -

God! Thou couldst save them by opening their eyes.
But no: ‘tis for the humans of a race divine
To discern Error and to see the Truth.
Nature serves them. Thou who fathomed it,
O wise and happy man, rest in its haven.
But observe my laws, abstaining from the things
Which thy soul must fear, distinguishing them well;
Letting intelligence o’er thy body reign,
So that, ascending into radiant Ether,
Midst the Immortals, thou shalt be thyself a God.

The Legend of Star Boy - the Christ legend of the Blackfeet

[... "When Poïa became a young man, he loved a maiden of his own tribe. She was very beautiful and the daughter of a leading chief. Many of the young men wanted to marry her, but she refused them all. Poïa sent this maiden a present, with the message that he wanted to marry her, but she was proud and disdained his love. She scornfully told him, she would not accept him as her lover, until he would remove the scar from his face. Scarface was deeply grieved by the reply. He consulted with an old medicine woman, his only friend. She revealed to him, that the scar had been placed on his face by the Sun God, and that only the Sun himself could remove it. Poïa resolved to go to the home of the Sun God. The medicine woman made moccasins for him and gave him a supply of pemmican.

"Poïa journeyed alone across the plains and through the mountains, enduring many hardships and great dangers. Finally he came to the Big Water (Pacific Ocean). For three days and three nights he lay upon the shore, fasting and praying to the Sun God. On the evening of the fourth day, he beheld a bright trail leading across the water. He travelled this path until he grew near the home of the Sun, when he hid himself and waited. In the morning, the great Sun Chief came from his lodge, ready for his daily journey. He did not recognise Poïa. Angered at beholding a creature from the earth, he said to the Moon, his wife, 'I will kill him, for he comes from a good-for-nothing-race,' but she interceded and saved his life. Morning Star, their only son, a young man with a handsome face and beautifully dressed, came forth from the lodge. He brought with him dried sweet grass, which he burned as incense. He first placed Poïa in the sacred smoke, and then led him into the presence of his father and mother, the Sun and the Moon. Poïa related the story of his long journey, because of his rejection by the girl he loved. Morning Star then saw how sad and worn he looked. He felt sorry for him and promised to help him.

"Poïa lived in the lodge of the Sun and Moon with Morning Star. Once, when they were hunting together, Poïa killed seven enormous birds, which had threatened the life of Morning Star. He presented four of the dead birds to the Sun and three to the Moon. The Sun rejoiced, when he knew that the dangerous birds were killed, and the Moon felt so grateful, that she besought her husband to repay him. On the intercession of Morning Star, the Sun God consented to remove the scar. He also appointed Poïa as his messenger to the Blackfeet, promising, if they would give a festival (Sun-dance) in his honour, once every year, he would restore their sick to health. He taught Poïa the secrets of the Sun-dance, and instructed him in the prayers and songs to be used. He gave him two raven feathers to wear as a sign that he came from the Sun, and a robe of soft-tanned elk-skin, with the warning that it must be worn only by a virtuous woman. She can then give the Sun-dance and the sick will recover. Morning Star gave him a magic flute and a wonderful song, with which he would be able to charm the heart of the girl he loved.

"Poïa returned to the earth and the Blackfeet camp by the Wolf Trail (Milky Way), the short path to the earth. When he had fully instructed his people concerning the Sun-dance, the Sun God took him back to the sky with the girl he loved. When Poïa returned to the home of the Sun, the Sun God made him bright and beautiful, just like his father, Morning Star. 1 In those days Morning Star and his son could be seen together in the east. Because Poïa appears first in the sky, the Blackfeet often mistake him for his father, and he is therefore sometimes called Poks-o-piks-o-aks, Mistake Morning Star.

"I remember," continued Brings-down-the-Sun, "when I was a young man, seeing these two bright stars rising, one after the other, before the Sun. Then, if we were going on a war, or hunting expedition, my father would awake me, saying, 'My son, I see Morning Star and Young Morning Star in the sky above the prairie. Day will soon break and it is time we were started.' For many years these stars have travelled apart. I have also seen them together in the evening sky. They went down after the sun. This summer, Morning Star and Poïa are again travelling together. I see them in the eastern sky, rising together over the prairie before dawn. Poïa comes up first. His father, Morning Star, rises soon afterwards, and then his grandfather, the Sun.

"Morning Star was given to us as a sign to herald the coming of the Sun. When he appears above the horizon, we know a new day is about to dawn. Many medicine men have dreamed of the Sun, and of the Moon, but I have never yet heard of one so powerful as to dream of Morning Star, because he shows himself in the sky for such a short time. ...]

Excerpt from 'The Old North Trail'

The Nation: Protecting the Wiretappers

Bowing to White House pressure, Congress passed the 2007 Protect America Act in August, eviscerating any meaningful checks and balances on a sweeping range of governmental surveillance. Now that it has protected telecommunications giants from all future liabilities, the Administration is demanding they be granted amnesty from legal liability for past complicity in spying on ordinary Americans.

The professed reasons for protecting commmunications giants from liability in secret wiretapping are no less disingenuous now than they were when these rightfully defeated provisions were first proposed after 9/11. Rather than promoting security, the push for telecom amnesty furthers the larger ideological ambitions of the Bush Administration: expanding government power while choking off accountability for the way that power is used.

Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell and his allies offer four main arguments in support of the amnesty proposals, each more vacuous than the next.

First, McConnell argues that lawsuits could "bankrupt" the companies. If McConnell is to be believed, we must choose between our civil liberties and our cell phones...

[ full article ]

The Octopus in the Cathedral of Salt

When the trumpet sounded,
everything was prepared on earth,
and Jehovah divided the world
among Coca-Cola Inc., Anaconda,
Ford Motors, and other corporations:
The United Fruit Company Inc.
reserved for itself the juiciest piece,
the central coast of my own land,
the sweet waist of America.
—Pablo Neruda, “The United Fruit Co.”

"...On November 5, 2001, four years after the AUC arrived in Urabá, a mysterious shipment of thousands of AK-47 assault rifles and millions of rounds of ammunition arrived at the Chiquita docks, a lethal cargo that went directly to the AUC commanders. Aside from an Organization of American States (OAS) report that focused on the two Israeli arms dealers who arranged the deal from Guatemala and Panama, there have been few details to emerge about how the weapons were handled on the Colombian side. It is also true that people directly associated with the shipment have had a tendency to disappear. The Mexican captain of the Otterloo, Jesús Iturrios Maciél, sailed with the ship on November 9 to Barranquilla and then vanished. The shipping company that owned the Otterloo closed its offices in Panama a few days after news of the weapons broke in a Colombian newspaper. The information in the OAS report suggests that someone formed the company just to deliver the weapons to the AUC.

In a front-page deal reached with the US government this year, Chiquita pleaded guilty to making millions of dollars in payments to a group on the State Department list of foreign terrorist organizations: the AUC. Lawyers for the company argued that they were forced into making the payments out of fear for the safety of its workers. Chiquita also admitted that they had a similar arrangement with the FARC. The result of the plea deal was a $25 million fine for a business that earned $3.9 billion in revenue in 2006, and there were no charges filed over the weapons shipment. It is not surprising that Chiquita Brands was forced to make protection payments to armed groups operating around their plantations, but that is not the entire story.

In March 2007, Chiquita told CNN that the weapons shipment and the protection payments to the paramilitaries were unrelated. This may well be true—the weapons shipments to the AUC were connected to a dark series of events at the company’s port. The Colombian government cast doubt on the company’s claims of being the victim of extortion by the AUC. Mario Iguarán, the Colombian attorney general, said, “It was a criminal relationship: money and arms for the bloody pacification of Urabá.” ..."

[ full article ]

Bogota Connection 'Informant' Baruch Vega Sues U.S. Government

"...This Bogotá Connection was revealed in a series of government documents uncovered by Narco News, including an internal U.S. Justice Department document known as the Kent memo, which advances detailed allegations of a criminal conspiracy involving corrupt U.S. law enforcers who operated in league with key Colombian narco-traffickers.

Vega was very involved with some of the U.S. law enforcement operations referenced in the Kent memo. Those particular operations played out between 1997 and 2000 and sought to snare narco-traffickers with Colombia’s infamous North Valley Cartel.

Vega claims that corrupt U.S. agents that are part of the Bogotá Connection seriously compromised his role as a government asset and that a number of his informants within Colombia’s narco-trafficking underworld were assassinated as a result.

Vega also contends that he has intimate knowledge of the alleged corruption outlined in the Kent memo.

Justice Department attorney Thomas M. Kent wrote the memo in late 2004 in an effort to draw attention to alleged serious corruption within the U.S. Embassy in Colombia. In the memo, Kent alleges that DEA agents in Bogotá assisted narco-traffickers, engaged in money laundering, and conspired to murder informants..."

[ full article ]

Coleen Rowley: Is Spineless Better Than Evil?

"...Which brings us to the question: IS spineless better than evil? I hate to keep lecturing about this but as an ethics-teacher, and this hopefully being a teachable moment, . . .

Spineless IS better than evil. But spinelessness is characterized by silence and silence is complicity. Inaction is also complicity. The Kitty Genovese stabbing incident exposes how and why bystander apathy works. It is not true apathy but only (temporary) denial of an ugly, unpleasant truth (that a woman's screams could possibly mean someone is being stabbed right below one's window, in one's own alley) and (temporary) confusion as to what to do about it. People are unprepared for such relatively unusual (and horrible) events. And this accounts for both their lack of initial vigilance as well as their inability to react quickly. So in the Kitty Genovese case, thirty eight otherwise good people ignored the sounds of a woman being stabbed but it wasn't because they didn't care. It was primarily because they hadn't practiced for such an event. They hadn't previously carefully considered what to do in such a situation.

Perhaps the most profound lesson of the last century's most horrible event, the Holocaust was: "Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetrator. Above all, thou shalt not be a bystander." The man judged to be smartest of the last century, Albert Einstein, similarly said, "The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing." These quotes certainly don't mean that any one bystander is worse than any particular perpetrator or evil doer. What they mean is that the perpetrators are few in number while the bystanders are many and could easily stop the perpetrators if they only tried. Unfortunately this sad lesson of history seems to be repeating and, Holocaust museum sign nothwithstanding, few remember it..."

[ full article ]

Dark Age Blog: Life in "The New Normal"

"... The new normal represents, in effect (apart from the madness), the transition from the social security state to the national security state. This may appear to be a confidently aggressive posture (with terrible implications for the practice of democracy). But that is all superficial Wizard of Oz gimmickry. The move from a social security to a national security posture is a highly defensive and even reactionary one -- the response of fear and uncertainty and the reaction to a sense of fracture and disintegration -- anything but assured and confident. The Modern Era (or Western Era) feels threatened and even besieged by the emerging Global Era. This is reflected in the West's declining and dominant share of global power over the last decade or two. The new normal in fact looks a lot like the last years of the Roman Empire.

When all the elements making for "life in the new normal" are factored together, the picture that emerges is not one of renewal, rejuvenation, and confidence, but one of decline. The condition of "permanent change" appears to be one of steady erosion and corrosion of an "old normal" of past standards and ideals. The apparent paradigm shift from a social security state to a national security state would seem to be involved in all descriptions of "the new normal" as the new rule.

But what this shift leaves completely out of account is the recently emergent paradigm of "human security" that has arisen in conjunction with globalism itself, and which transcends, by virtue of being more encompassing, older categories of "society" and "nation". If the only valid criteria for any measure of "normal" is, that it must span more than one generation in time and more than one locale in space in order to be considered "real", then only the paradigm of "human security" actually meets that standard of authenticity currently. Just as the Global Era represents the supersession of the Modern Era, so the concept of "human security" represents the supersession of both social and national security categories by virtue of its being more embracing of all notions of security. ..."

William Rivers Pitt: Dan Rather's Magnum Opus


"What emerges here," writer Greg Sargent concludes on the Talking Points Memo blog, "is a striking portrait of a big news org that, fearful of pressure from conservative critics and eager to curry favor with the Bush administration, allegedly dragged its feet to an extraordinary degree in order to avoid revealing the truths it knew about a horrifying scandal of international dimensions. Sobering stuff."

Sobering indeed, and therein lies the threat. The willful collusion between CBS management and the Bush administration, offered by Rather to frame his accusations, illuminate an insidious, grotesque, and altogether deadly alignment of circumstances hiding in plain sight before the entire American populace. An explanation for why the legitimate fears and anxious uncertainties of the people are never soothed or clarified by mainstream news outlets like CBS, but are instead methodically aggravated and intentionally amplified by those outlets, begins to take shape in light of Rather's inside-view revelations.

Underscored here, in no uncertain terms, are the grim realities of modern American journalism, realities that have little to do with the original conception of the institution. While a number of the Founders were not especially enamored with the printed slings and arrows of the journalists of their day, they were united in the belief that a free and honest press was absolutely necessary to the safety and liberty of the country. "The only security of all," wrote Thomas Jefferson in 1823, "is in a free press."

American democracy ceases to function when people blither their votes into ballot boxes on the basis of opinions and ideologies that are swaddled in the beggar-rags of ubiquitous disinformation and bewilderingly muddled cant, but such is now and has long been this nation's common plight. Today's "free press," however, bears little resemblance to the conceived constitutional bulwark cherished by the Founders.

In its place, we now have a tightly-woven confederation of profit-seeking businesses that own virtually every print and broadcast news outlet of significance in the country. There is but scant allegiance to the truth found within these outlets, because their foremost priority when reporting on most issues of national consequence is to protect the interests of those parent companies and their advertisers.


[ full article ]

Fighting Kleptocracy (no comment)

David M. Luna On Strategies To Fight Kleptocracy

David M. Luna
Director for Anti-Crime Programs Division, INL
Washington, DC
September 26, 2007

Strategies To Fight Kleptocracy

The United States seeks to engage and cooperate with committed partners in the global fight against corruption. The strategies outlined in the following article provide an overview of U.S. Government and international efforts to combat corruption, in particular high-level corruption (kleptocracy), international cooperation on the recovery the proceeds of crime, preventive areas to check the misuse of power and public funds, and innovative public-private partnerships to mobilize attention and target corruption at all levels of society.

The Adverse Impact of Corruption to the Global Community

The United States Government places a high priority on combating global corruption and views it as a threat to development and prosperity of all nations. Corruption jeopardizes the integrity of world markets, the stability of political systems, and the security of the international community. It impedes efforts to promote freedom and democracy, stymies economic growth and foreign investment, and saps energies from innovation, competitiveness, and entrepreneurial and technological advancement strategies.

It also facilitates transnational crime and terrorism, and casts shadows of lawlessness that erode public trust and the rule of law.

Corruption robs nations of their future and people of their dreams by misappropriating public investment away from development areas that need it most, such as public sector modernization, infrastructure and social development including quality access to water, sanitation, education, healthcare, and housing.

Earlier this month, the World Bank and United Nations in a press release estimated that the cross-border flow of global illicit proceeds related to corruption, criminal activities, and tax evasion is between $1 trillion and $1.6 trillion per year. This is an enormous loss of economic potential and social development investment.

High-level corruption by senior officials, or kleptocracy, is a grave and corrosive abuse of power and represents the most invidious type of public corruption.

As President George W. Bush underscored in his address to the United Nations General Assembly in September 2007, the U.S. and other nations are transforming the way we fight poverty, curb corruption, and provide aid. The United States is committed to developing strong partnerships, based on shared values that underpin good governance principles, which will encourage honest, responsible government and reward those that govern justly, invest in their people, and foster economic openness and freedom.

Corruption is not just an American problem nor a European or an Asian one. It is not a problem that is unique to any one region or country. It is a global challenge.

Political Will: U.S. Efforts to Prevent and Combat Domestic Corruption

No one is above the law: The U.S. takes the issue of fighting corruption seriously as demonstrated by the strong actions of our law enforcement community over the past several years to prosecute public corruption scandals in the United States.

Over the five-year period from 2001 to 2005, the most recent period for which we have data, the Justice Department charged over 5,749 individuals with public corruption offenses nationwide and obtained an 85% conviction rate.

In addition to prosecution, the United States also devotes substantial resources to the prevention and detection of corruption. By focusing attention and resources on programs promoting transparency and accountability, we can make it more difficult for corrupt practices to occur and easier to detect.

Particularly important aspects of prevention include publicly available personal financial reporting by senior federal officials including all elected officials, all judges and all senior political and career appointees. The requirements include substantial financial and fiduciary information for the official and financial information for the official's spouse and dependent children.

Even prior to government service, an individual who is being considered for appointment by the President to a position in the executive branch is asked to file a financial report as a part of an initial screening process. The report is reviewed for purposes of conflicts of interest by the U.S. Office of Government Ethics and the agency in which the individual would serve.

If the review detects potential conflicts, the individual is asked to enter into a written agreement outlining the steps he or she must take to avoid these conflicts. Those steps may include selling certain assets, resigning from outside positions, agreeing to recuse or, possibly entering into a blind trust.

Complementing these prevention programs are significant enforceable procedural systems promoting consistency and transparency: These include general requirements for standardized and public administrative processes and licenses; public legislative processes that follow standardized rules; public judicial proceedings that follow standardized procedures; public budgeting processes and internal financial controls; a large merit-based civil service; and rights for public access to information regarding most government activities. In addition, the activities of the federal government are conducted under the watchful eye of an active and free press.

Similar to the critical role of civil society watchdogs, a free media can be an important tool against corruption by shining the light on criminality and abuses of power.

U.S. Efforts to Internationalize Efforts Against Kleptocracy

In addition to preventing, investigating, and prosecuting corruption at home, we are working to stem corruption around the world. Promoting good governance and fighting corruption are important foreign policy priorities for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

As noted earlier, the United States, through the Group of Eight (G8) and other multilateral fora, is committed to working with dedicated partners to strengthen the political will and resolve to establish transparent and accountable governance, empower citizens to demand efficient use of state resources and the fair use of regulatory and judicial powers, prosecute high-level public corruption, deny safe haven to corrupt officials, those who corrupt them, and their illicitly-acquired assets, and ensure responsible repatriation and use of the ill-gotten funds.

In August 2006, President Bush unveiled the U.S. National Strategy to Internationalize Efforts Against Kleptocracy.

This strategy further elevated the global discussion on the fight against corruption by putting kleptocrats on notice, focusing attention to high-level, large-scale corruption by public officials, increasing the public-private partnership dialogue on accountability on both the demand and supply side of the issue, and ushering new areas for targeting the proceeds of grand corruption through international cooperation to deny safe haven and asset recovery.

In order to implement its strategic objectives to combat kleptocracy, the United States is:

* launching a coalition of committed partners to trace and recover the proceeds of grand corruption;

* vigorously prosecuting foreign corruption offenses and forfeit illicitly acquired assets;

* denying physical safe haven to corrupt individuals;

* strengthening multilateral action against the bribery of kleptocrats;

* facilitating the effective disposition and administration of recovered assets for the benefit of the citizens of countries victimized by grand corruption; and

* targeting enhanced capacity to fight high-level corruption

Another key tool in our strategies to deny safe havens to kleptocrats is Presidential Proclamation 7750, issued on January 12, 2004, that allows the United States to deny or revoke visas to individuals involved in public corruption that has serious adverse effects on specific U.S. interests, including: (1) the international economic activity of U.S. businesses, (2) U.S. foreign assistance goals, (3) the security of the United States against transnational crime and terrorism, or (4) the stability of democratic nations and institutions.

The United States is engaged internationally to protect the financial system from abuse by those who would launder the proceeds of foreign official corruption and to identify, trace, freeze, recover, and repatriate such illicitly acquired assets.

We continue to take and promote measures to press our international partners to deny entry to corrupt foreign officials; increase transparency in budgeting, concession-letting, and procurement; improve governance and accountability; investigate and prosecute their nationals and companies that bribe or promise to bribe foreign public and political party officials; and strengthen anti-bribery and accountability disciplines on export credits and official development assistance.

For example, we are also aggressively investigating those U.S. companies and individuals engaged in bribing and otherwise corrupting foreign government officials. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) makes it a serious federal crime to bribe foreign government officials for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business. Enforcing the FCPA is a major priority for the United States.

The OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and the OECD Working Group on Bribery provide important avenues for the United States to cooperate with counterparts outside the US to combat bribery in international business transactions.

Combating money laundering and the web of corruption related to it is also a top priority as is the corruption-crime nexus.

Today we also find ourselves in a rapidly changing world - we face numerous threats that undermine our common stability and security. In effectively combating corruption, we must also confront related illicit activities such as financial crimes. Kleptocrats, criminals and other illicit actors launder the fruits of their crimes through a variety of ways.

Similarly, weak financial measures and lack of transparency demonstrated by certain kleptocratic regimes may provide an opportunity for terrorists to use vulnerable points in the global financial system to move funds to finance their terrorist activities.

The United States is committed to work with other international partners to identify, interdict, block, and cut off the financial pipelines to all corrupt individuals, criminal organizations, and illicit networks through the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and other diplomatic and enforcement avenues.

Similarly, we support the global initiative launched on September 17, 2007, by the World Bank and the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to help developing countries recover assets stolen by corrupt leaders, ensure that looted assets are returned to the rightful owners, help communities to invest them in effective development programs, and to combat safe havens internationally.

International Cooperation: Strengthening the Implementation of the UN Convention Against Corruption

The UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) also offers a good tool and opportunity to strengthen international cooperation. The Convention is the most ambitious international anti-corruption effort to date.

It includes fundamental principles that are crucial in the fight against corruption. Those principles include requiring or recommending criminalization of certain corrupt behavior, and requiring international cooperation on anti-corruption efforts. It also calls for governance improvements that will help prevent corrupt acts from occurring.

Additionally, the Convention establishes the first ever comprehensive framework for recovery of illicit assets sent or taken abroad by corrupt officials. Many countries saw the problem of corrupt officials acquiring assets illicitly and hiding those assets in foreign safe havens as the core problem that the Convention should address.

Implementation is now underway following a successful first meeting of the Conference of States Parties in the Dead Sea, Jordan in December 2006.

Heading to the second Conference of States Parties to be held in Bali, Indonesia in January 2008, the U.S. looks forward to working with the States Parties in the context of the three working groups created by the Conference: technical assistance, asset recovery and review mechanism working groups.

We believe that each one of these groups is capable of developing a practical, concrete plan for moving the Convention forward that balances the need to respect the sovereignty of States Parties with the need to make the Convention a meaningful and relevant instrument.

U.S. Foreign Assistance and Anticorruption Capacity Building

The U.S. helps other governments to prevent corruption and increase transparency, improve good governance, combat money laundering, and prosecute transnational crime by providing technical assistance and training, and strengthening criminal justice systems and capacities of law enforcement agencies. Such assistance helps to enhance the ability of foreign governments to enhance public administration and to address their own crime challenges before these threats extend across international borders.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) includes anticorruption efforts a central part of its foreign assistance strategy and takes a broad approach to assisting partner countries to strengthen their systems to resist corruption. USAID's anticorruption programs are designed to help reduce opportunities and incentives for corruption; support stronger and more independent judiciaries, legislatures, and oversight bodies; and promote independent media, civil society, and public education.

The State Department's Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) Affairs helps support capacity-building and training for police, investigators, prosecutors, judges, ethics offices, auditors, inspectors general, and other oversight, regulatory and law enforcement systems at the national and local levels of government. INL's International Law Enforcement Academies (ILEAs) around the world also help to provide targeted training on various anticrime areas.

INL also helps to support the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training which provides assistance to strengthen criminal justice institutions in other nations and enhancing the administration of justice abroad and the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP) which provides assistance to police forces in developing countries through the world to strengthen police investigative capacities.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is providing a powerful incentive for governments to adopt tough anticorruption policies and strengthen their anticorruption institutions. In implementing the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), the MCC works to lift people around the world out of poverty through economic growth and incentives for governance reform.

MCC offers grant assistance to developing countries that are willing to implement tough anticorruption reforms. As a result, countries are taking it upon themselves to pass stronger anticorruption laws, strengthen oversight institutions, open up the public policy-making process to greater public scrutiny, and step up corruption-related investigations and prosecutions.


In closing, the United States will continue to increase international cooperation to identify and prevent access by kleptocrats to financial systems; to deny safe haven to corrupt officials; to identify, recover and return proceeds of corruption; and to provide anticorruption assistance for capacity and training to strengthen critical law enforcement and rule of law systems.

We also look forward to continuing our partnership with those who are committed to prosecuting the battle against corruption including the implementation of the UN Convention Against Corruption.

We believe that a strong anticorruption regime is also vital to U.S. strategic partnerships that focus on cooperation on numerous fields including commerce, trade and investment, high-technology, and democracy promotion.

Finally, fighting corruption is an ongoing and deliberate process. Working together through synergies and partnerships, including with international donors, we can create a better future by continuing a united effort against corruption and building communities throughout the world where all individuals can be governed with the highest levels of integrity.

Through a renewed commitment to anticorruption and integrity, people can transform their communities, build enduring foundations for future generations to expose and punish corruption, and leave a legacy for their children anchored on the values of honest governance, openness, just conduct, free media, and the rule of law.

[ Source ]


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