Thursday, January 31, 2008

Battles over nurse staffing ratios spread across nation.

This is from Labor Notes. This sounds as if it is a real problem. I have heard some stories of Canadian nurses moving to the U.S. but then returning because of working conditions. Having mandatory ratios would improve working conditions and attract more nurses to help the shortage.

Battles Over Nurse Staffing Ratios Spread Across NationMischa GausLabor NotesFebruary 2008Faced with insufficient staffing, nurses in a number of states are pushingfor legislation that would specify the number of patients each nurse cansafely care for. Photo: Jim West.After a patient quietly died in registerednurse Danielle Magaña's hospital hallway, she decided she'd had enough.Although an autopsy later said the woman had died of natural causes, Magañasaid the incident was waiting to happen at her chronically short-staffedhospital, San Antonio's Baptist Medical Center.Intensive-care nurses like her were assigned up to five patients per shift,including two in the hallways who weren't hooked into monitoring equipmentthat warns when a patient's vital signs slip away. Magaña still questionswhether the woman could have been rescued if the nurses on her floor weren'tcarrying such heavy patient loads.Hospital management, she said, "do not give us the right to say, you need tocall in another nurse."So Magaña became one of the 40,000 Texas registered nurses the NationalNurses Organizing Committee (NNOC) estimates have left the hospital bedside,largely they argue because hospitals cut staff in the 1990s and quickenedthe pace of nursing work to intolerable levels. In a national study releasedin September, 42 percent of newly licensed RNs said they would like to leavebedside nursing.ENTRY POINT Magaña is at the forefront of a push to write into law thenumber of patients to which each nurse can safely attend. Active in Texas,Ohio, Maine, Illinois, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Arizona-and soon to bein Kentucky and Nevada-the drive operates on many levels, pulling nursesinto the political process, spreading the gospel that understaffed hospitalsare unsafe, and channeling overworked nurses' outrage into hospital-basedorganizing committees.The ratio law is an entry point to shopfloor agitation for nurses, who payabout $50 a month in dues to join NNOC as an associate member. These membersmake up the foundation of NNOC's non-majority unions, which start asadvocacy committees that raise staffing issues with management as soon as ameaningful number of nurses-generally around 10-join at a hospital.The push for ratios in the states exists sometimes uncomfortably alongsidethe Service Employees' promotion of a national law to establish staffingratios. NNOC organizers complain SEIU didn't back their landmark Californiaratio law, and at times undermine their efforts by seeking alliances withhospital chains. SEIU didn't respond to requests for comment.TROJAN HORSES One of the newest battlegrounds is Ohio, where nurses expecttheir ratio law to be introduced in February. Hospital trade groups in thestate have attempted to head off the ratio movement by introducing competinglegislation-a move copied from health care industry lobbies in Illinois.Their proposals oblige hospitals to publicly release staffing plans.Ed Bruno, NNOC's national organizing coordinator, calls that an industry figleaf because it doesn't mandate specific numbers of patients per nurse. Thedebate boils down to whether public disclosure of staffing conditions willsway hospitals to regulate themselves, said Sean Clarke, a nursing professorat the University of Pennsylvania.Unwilling to cede control over employment policy, the hospital industryargues ratios are a blunt, inflexible regulation. Terry Gallagher is an RNwho's worked for 11 years as a travel nurse at more than 16 hospitals innortheast Ohio. He said current staffing practices fail to account for thecomplex, constantly shifting demands placed on nurses-and that "flexibility"is code for forcing nurses to work on foreign terrain."A hospital can float a nurse into critical or emergency situations withabsolutely no experience or expertise," he said. "It is unconscionable and Ihave witnessed it."He began to refuse work in some hospitals after chancy encounters stackedup. Once he found himself sitting on a patient, trying to apply enoughpressure to stop his bleeding as he waited to wheel him into the operatingroom."I had to make choices as to who I had time to intervene with," Gallaghersaid. "This was not a battlefield."SAFETY IN NUMBERS California's early experience with ratios sets the bar forother state campaigns. After a decade of pressure, the California NursesAssociation won mandatory minimum staffing levels in 1999, only to later seeGovernor Arnold Schwarzenegger repay his hospital industry supporters bydelaying and attacking the law.As journalist Suzanne Gordon details in her upcoming book on ratios, Safetyin Numbers, the nurses fought back with studies, lawsuits, and highlyvisible protests, successfully defending the ratios, which limit each nurseto two patients in intensive care. Other California ratios vary, and thosein specialty units were lowered in January from five to four patients to anurse.Ratios became a fact of life. Jan Rodolfo, an oncology nurse at Alta BatesSummit Medical Center in Oakland, California, said they allow nurses toeducate patients and their families about their course of care, and reducemedication snafus and response times during emergencies.They also became a topic of constant scrutiny. Researchers began to confirmthat ratios improved patient care along with nurses' job satisfaction andwork conditions, all of which brought 52,000 more nurses into the workforceby 2006 than California had anticipated, an unexpected boon in an industryfacing a massive nurse shortage.Clarke said the associations between quality of patient care and staffinglevels only stand to reason."You can't put 50 students in a classroom and expect the teacher to performwell," he said.Winning a state law is hard enough-Massachusetts nurses have been trying for11 years-but it isn't sufficient.MORE THAN LAW "Even if you have a great law, if you don't have organizationyou can't enforce it," said Meredith Schafer, an NNOC organizer in Texas.California nurses warmed to that lesson quickly. Their law shifted thebalance of power in hospitals, Rodolfo said, and hospital-by-hospitalcommittees allowed nurses to identify and respond to management'scost-shifting tactics after they were required to increase RNs to meet theratios.Managers often force nurses to pick up a colleague's patients during mealsand breaks, a tactic they employ because there's no financial penalty ifhospitals fail to meet the ratios."They play the numbers game," said Genel Morgan, an intensive-care nurse atMills Peninsula hospital in San Mateo, California.But missing a meal or break is punishable by an hour each in penalty pay,which led nurses to coordinate the filing of hundreds of individualcomplaints. At one hospital, Alta Bates Summit, the campaign produced $1.9million in penalty pay last year-a pressure tactic nurses say is necessaryto convince hospitals not to cut corners on staffing."Patients don't always call before they stop breathing," Rodolfo said.RIGHT TO BETTER WORK Only 15 percent of nurses nationally belong to unions,Bruno said. That opens wide opportunities to turn nurses' dissatisfaction atthe bedside into motivation to change industry standards throughorganization.A powerful example to draw from is the nurses in Australia's Victoria state,who won staffing ratios in 2000 and defended them against a conservativegovernment's backlash through vigorous (and illegal) job actions. Byconstantly educating nurses and linking improvements in care to ratios,"they became like antibiotics," Gordon told Labor Notes. "Who would opposeit?"Most surprising to U.S. nurses is the fact that Victoria is an open-shopstate, despite which almost three-quarters of public sector nurses belong tothe union.In Texas, where nurses have rallied for two years for ratios, making inroadsis slow work. Nurses are taught to think their professional status willdecline if they ally with blue-collar institutions like unions. DanielleMagaña fills a notebook with the misunderstandings nurses have-that unionsare illegal, for instance-and has counted 35. She got a reminder of hospitalconditions when she gave birth in July."As a patient, you remember what it's like on the other side," she said,shuddering.http://labornotes.org/node/1510

Arroyo: Philippines may not sign ASEAN Charter .

This is from the Daily Tribune. I don't really fathom Arroyo's reluctance to ratify the ASEAN charter until Burma's human rights situation improves. If Burma signs the charter this will surely provide just that much more ammunition to critics to put pressure on Burma. If the Philippines refuses to sign the charter that hardly hurts Burma!

Rights chief shrugs off GMA threat, urges gov’t to ratify Asean Charter
02/01/2008
The country’s top human rights official yesterday criticized a threat made by President Arroyo that the Philippines will not ratify the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (Asean) landmark Charter due to poor human rights conditions in junta-ruled Myanmar.
Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairman Purificacion Quisumbing said she finds it ironic that the Philippines has been at the forefront of the negotiations for the Asean Charter only to backtrack from ratifying the document.
“Let us have a common push for the Philippines to ratify this. I’m just not sure whether putting a condition or whether we
will ratify or not is a good idea,” Quisumbing said during the 4th Consultative Meeting of human rights commissions of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand in Manila.
“Some leaders have already made statements, they want the release of Aung San Suu Kyi before we even ratify. For us, you should ratify first then you make a stand. Anyway, there are different strategies but we hope that the Philippine government will ratify this as soon as possible,” she added.
The Charter, which was signed during the Asean Summit in Singapore in December last year, cannot be enforced if one country fails to ratify it. The document aims to transform the 40-year-old regional bloc into a rules-based legal entity and committing them to promote human rights and democratic ideals.
“We sent representatives from the Department of Foreign Affairs (to negotiate for it). We sent (former President) Fidel Ramos to the Eminent Person Group and Ambassador Rosario Manalo to draft the Charter. We worked hard for this and then we will say that we will not ratify it,” Quisumbing noted.
Mrs. Arroyo earlier warned that the Philippine Congress may not ratify the Charter unless Myanmar restores democracy and frees opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
“The expectation of the Philippines is that if Myanmar signs the Charter, it is committed to returning to the path of democracy and releasing Aung San Suu Kyi,” Mrs. Arroyo said in December in Singapore.
“Until the Philippine Congress sees that happen, it would have extreme difficulty in ratifying the Charter.”
At their 4th consultative meeting in Manila, which was concluded yesterday, human rights officials from Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philipines have proposed the establishment of an Asean Human Rights Commission in the Charter.
During the meeting, they discussed a proposed Terms of Reference (ToR) for the regional human rights body that will monitor human rights conditions in the 10-member Asean countries, but balked on the idea of imposing sanctions on violators like Myanmar.
Quisumbing said it is up to the Asean, which makes decisions by consensus and has a policy of non-interference, to adopt their proposal or incorporate it in future draft ToR of the Charter.
“It will be for the (Asean) governments to decide. It’s not for us to interfere but we will keep an eye on this,” she added. “Our commitment is that we will continue to monitor and observe and at the appropriate time, intervention. We will give inputs.”
She said she is not too optimistic that the charter will be implemented as soon as possible, but said she hopes that it will not take “another 40 years” for it to be enforced.
“The question is, will we wait for 40 years for this Terms of Reference? There is no deadline, but if we keep it alive, we will be able to get such a body. But the way I see it, it’s step by step,” Quisumbing said.
In the 10-member Asean, only the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand have established human rights commission.
Michaela P. del Callar

Panitch: U.S. Econonic Crisis in Perspective.

Leo Panitch is a well known--at least in Canada--academic leftist. I didn't realize that Schwarzenegger had cut back on a lot of public expenditures in California. One would think that such expenditures would be a good stimulus. I guess if it were military expenditure it would be OK.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~(((( T h e B u l l e t ))))~~~~~~~~~~~~~~A Socialist Project e-bulletin .... No. 80 .... January 31, 2008_________________________________________________
Putting the U.S. Economic Crisis in Perspective
Leo Panitch
It is time to take stock. The centrality of the American economy to the capitalist world – which now literally does encompass the whole world – has spread the financial crisis that began in the U.S. housing market around the globe. And the economic recession which that financial crisis has triggered in the U.S. now threatens to spread globally as well.
Capitalism has had an incredible run – politically and culturally as well as economically – since the stagflation crisis of the 1970s. The resolution of that crisis required, as economists put it at the time, 'reducing expectations' of the kind nurtured by the trade union militancy and welfare state gains of the 1960s. This was accomplished via the defeats suffered by trade unionism and the welfare state since the 1980s at the hands of what might properly be called capitalist militancy. This was accompanied by dramatic technological change, massive industrial restructuring, labour market flexibility and the over – all discipline provided by 'competitiveness.'
It was also accompanied, of course, by massive economic inequality. But this did not mean capitalism was no longer able to integrate the bulk of the population. On the contrary, this was now achieved through the private pension funds that mobilized workers savings, on the one hand, and through the mortgage and credit markets that loaned them the money to sustain high levels of consumer spending on the other. At the centre of this were the private banking institutions which, after their collapse in the Great Depression, had been nurtured back to health in the postwar decades and then unleashed the explosion of global financial innovation that has defined our era.
The question begged by the current crisis is whether capitalism's capacity to integrate the mass of people through their incorporation in financial markets has run out of steam. That the fault line should have appeared in 'sub-prime' mortgage loans to African-Americans is hardly surprising – this has always been the Achilles heel of working class incorporation into the American capitalist dream. But an economic earthquake will actually only result if there is a devaluation of working class assets in general through a collapse of housing prices and the stock and bonds in which their retirement savings are invested.
We are by no means there yet. The role being played to prevent just this by the Federal Reserve, very much acting as the world central bank in light of the global implications of a U.S. recession, should once and for all dispel the illusion that capitalist markets thrive without state intervention. It was through the types of policies that promoted free capital movements, international property rights and labour market flexibility that the era of free trade and globalization was unleashed. And this era has been kept going as long as it has by the repeated coordinated interventions undertaken by central banks and finance ministries to contain the periodic crises to which such a volatile system of global finance inevitably gives rise. The Fed has repeatedly poured liquidity into its financial system at the first sign of trouble. Yet the capacity of the system to go on integrating ordinary Americans though the expansion of investor and credit markets in this way may have reached its limit. This is indeed suggested by the Bush administration's sudden (non-military) Keynesian turn with its recently announced $150 billion fiscal stimulus. The announcement at the same time of massive public expenditure cutbacks by the Schwarzenegger administration in California is a reminder, however, that fiscal stimulus at the federal level may be undone at the state level.
This is especially likely to be the case with municipal government cutbacks, given their massive dependence on property taxes. The recent evidence that the financial institutions that specialize in selling risk insurance on municipal bonds are enveloped in the credit crisis further compounds the problem. This indeed brings to mind the extent to which it was municipal governments that were on the front lines of the Great Depression. The kind of fiscal stimulus that is needed to boost the economy now probably entails public infrastructure spending, but the type of state intervention that brought us financial globalization is not well suited to this, as the collapsed levies of New Orleans and the collapsed bridges of Minneapolis prove.
To see this go unmentioned in the Democratic primary debate this week may be hardly surprising given the absence of even a trade union campaign around this, but it bespeaks an impoverishment of American politics that in fact goes all the way back to the New Deal. The issue of economic democracy that had been placed on the political agenda alongside the New Deal's public infrastructure projects was set aside for the remainder of the century after the FDR's administration's self-described 'grand truce with capital' in the late 1930s.
There should be no illusion that a recession, or even a depression, will necessarily bring the issue of economic democracy back onto the U.S. political agenda. It would require a transformation of American politics to do so – and that too would have global implications.
Leo Panitch is Canada Research Chair in Comparative Political Economy at York University.

Afghan who dared to read about human rights sentenced to death

This is from the Independent. This is the free and democratic Afghanistan that NATO and the US are fighting for. Earlier, a Christian convert from Islam had to flee to Italy to avoid a death sentence. A female legislator was kicked out the
legislature for criticizing her colleagues. The US house and Senate would be emptied in no time if that rule were followed in the US.

Sentenced to death: Afghan who dared to read about women's rights


By Kim SenguptaThursday, 31 January 2008
A young man, a student of journalism, is sentenced to death by an Islamic court for downloading a report from the internet. The sentence is then upheld by the country's rulers. This is Afghanistan – not in Taliban times but six years after "liberation" and under the democratic rule of the West's ally Hamid Karzai.
The fate of Sayed Pervez Kambaksh has led to domestic and international protests, and deepening concern about erosion of civil liberties in Afghanistan. He was accused of blasphemy after he downloaded a report from a Farsi website which stated that Muslim fundamentalists who claimed the Koran justified the oppression of women had misrepresented the views of the prophet Mohamed.
Mr Kambaksh, 23, distributed the tract to fellow students and teachers at Balkh University with the aim, he said, of provoking a debate on the matter. But a complaint was made against him and he was arrested, tried by religious judges without – say his friends and family – being allowed legal representation and sentenced to death.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Philippines: Living in Paradise

This is from the Daily Tribune. This editorial seems to be cheerleading for Joseph Estrada the deposed and now pardoned former premier. The Catholic Bishops have actually in the past often opposed the Arroyo administration. Perhaps they are changing now and have made peace with the administration. The Papacy has always been after the Philippine Catholic Church to tone down its political advocacy. If the Church trends too far right it may find that it loses priests to the more radical opposition as has happened in the past.

Living in paradise?
EDITORIAL

01/30/2008
Catholic bishops appear to have totally lost their moral moorings as they virtually exculpated Gloria Arroyo and her government from blame on the rampant corruption and instead put the blame on the Filipino people for the moral decay in society.
They also placed the blame on the media for the “darkness” that we live with today, saying Filipinos are “a people almost without hope,” seeing darkness everywhere, adding the many problems we have today are “simply rumors, fears, suspicions, imagined wrongs” and as these rumors, imagined wrongs, suspicions and fears are reported in the newspapers, the people believe these imaginary problems to be true and factual. All these were stated in the bishops’ pastoral statement issued Monday.
This is truly an amazing pastoral statement from the bishops who claim to be the country’s moral guides.
Simply rumors, suspicions and imagined wrongs in this government and society, they say? Were the “Hello Garci” conversations caught on tape detailing the cheating operations of the presidential polls of 2004 which even included abductions of election officers who were not willing to engage in cheating, an imagined problem and a rumor?
Is the grossly overpriced ZTE-National Broadband Network project an imagined wrong, despite the testimonies of witnesses and documents presented as evidence?
Is the P3-billion fertilizer funds scam simply based on rumors and suspicions? And who planned this diversion of funds, going into the campaign kitty of Gloria in 2004? The Filipino people? Who benefited from this scam? Certainly not the Filipino people. So why should the blame of corruption be placed on the people? Because we have become apathetic and see these as perks of the powerful and influential? But aren’t the bishops leading the way in apathy and passiveness in addressing clearly moral issues by telling the flock to support the immoral?
They have so stated that impeachment is meaningless in the search for the truth. They are found to have accepted monetary and project bribes from Gloria and her Malacañang, not to mention their accepting without any qualms, donations stemming from jueteng, drugs, prostitution money, while calling the same “donations” as plunder when it comes to one whom they plotted to oust from his legitimate presidency.
Now they say it is not within their power to call for the resignation of the corrupt in government. They do not denounce the violence inflicted by Gloria’s police and military on the people who march in the streets for redress of grievances. Now they say they see the good in the Arroyo government and that it is we, the people, who must be first to change ourselves, and insinuate that we must unite behind the Gloria government, to rid ourselves of the “imaginary” problems besetting the nation, as these problems are merely rumors and suspicions.
The bishops were practically short of saying Filipinos today don’t realize that they live in Adam and Eve’s paradise and that they must shed off the darkness they imagine they live in for Paradise’s fall not to occur.
But obviously, the amoral bishops, by passing on the blame of moral decay and corruption on the people were “laying the predicate,” so to speak, to justify their pastoral stand on “critical collaboration” with the Gloria government that they clearly insinuated was not “all bad.”
As the bishops put it in their pastoral statement: “despite the prevailing darkness, we see everything is not thoroughly evil. There is good everywhere, even in those we often criticize, and it is our task to critically collaborate with them even as we critically oppose the not too good.”
This position is no different from the early position taken by the bishops during the Marcos years, where they chose a stand of critical collaboration with the Marcos government, after their priests, one of whom was Jesuit priest Integan who was into armed struggle with now National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, along with others engaged in guerrilla warfare against Marcos, were raided and arrested and where deals were made between Marcos and the church.
Certain bishops and priests were also earlier charged with rebellion for the Nov. 29 Manila Peninsula incident, but were released. Now it is critical collaboration again.
Yet the same bishops now say we should see the “glimmers of light shrining through” instead of focusing only on the “dark side of our national situation,” by changing ourselves.
They may as well have stated that they support Gloria Arroyo and her government, and have the people embrace the evils in government.
Bishops have become irrelevant. They cannot claim to be moral guardians guides when they are themselves being deliberately amoral.

Spritz your way to happiness

This is from the Daily Tribune (Manila) Perhaps this is a chance for some enterprising U.S. entrepreneur to market this in the U.S. Americans could remain smiley while losing their homes..


Spritz your way to happiness
By Maripet L. Poso, Staff Writer
01/30/2008
Throw out those Zoloft and Prozac; there’s a new antidepressant in town!
And you don’t need a doctor’s prescription for this one; you don’t even need to worry about side effects as the only proven aftermath is smelling nice and feeling good. And here’s the catch! Product can be consumed without any moderation whatsoever and at any time you want!
We’re talking about smiley perfume, a happiness-triggering slash the very first antidepressant perfume that’s become a cult scent in some parts of Europe and is starting to invade the Philippines.
“When we launched smiley in 2005, it was such an instant hit,” said Juan Cuadrado, area manager of Arthes, the French company behind Smiley, during the launch recently at Rustan’s Essenses, Makati. “The smiley concept defies the whole perfume industry notion down to the packaging,” added Cuadrado.
Designed by ora-ïto, a twentysomething French designer known as the “Prince of Design,” who has been behind many products of well-known brands like Louis Vuitton, Nike, Apple and Levi’s, to name a few, smiley’s packaging is hip, unisex, unique and blatantly nonconformist. It looks like a bottle of medicine so much that it blends beautifully in a medicine cabinet, especially the emergency smiley kit. It carries its signature smiley digital emoticon in (you guessed right) sunny yellow color.
If some fragrances capitalize on seduction, love and power, smiley simply wants to uplift one’s mood, so that everything else follows.
Taking its cue from the concept of the tangible benefits of aromatherapy, “smiley isolated the ingredients recognized for their stimulating capacities and assembled them for the fist time in a perfume.”
At first you get a whiff of the fresh top notes of bergamot, orange and pimento berry. Whether you like the scent or not, it will definitely capture your attention. Right after the the citrusy and somewhat spicy top notes start to fade, you get a hint of the divine pleasures emanating from the cocoa and praline curacao scents, the heart notes of smiley. Responsible for the happy therapy are phenylethylamine and theobromine substances that are found in cocoa. Phenylethylamine is said to help diffuse feelings of giddiness and euphoria, while theobromine has the same effects of stress-decreasing caffeine. Together, they set off a general feeling of happiness that chocolates similary give, without the calories!
Furthermore, bringing intensity to the fragrance would be the base notes. The relaxing hints of patchouli, myrrh and musk ultimately seal the deal with their soothing and calming effects, almost conducive to meditation.
Targetting the young and hip market of 20- to 30-year-olds, smiley’s unisex appeal crosses boundaries, raises skeptics’ brows and defies standards. Ultimately, however, it presents an exciting option to combat one of today’s generation’s number one killer disease, depression.
Maybe it’s not yet time to ditch the pills or another visit to the shrink, but a promise of happiness in every squirt? That’s something worth exploring.
Aside from eau de toilette and eau de parfum, smiley comes in full bath and body care line that includes body deodorant treatment, therapeutic bath (purifying milky pills with health spa side effects), all-in-one washing solution (total solution for body and hair), body rubbing friction (stimulating massage oils) and body gel.
Smiley is available at Rustans Essenses.

U.S. rejects more troops for Afghanistan

The US, along with Canada, Britain, and the Dutch, are trying to put pressure on other NATO members to contribute forces to areas in the south where the Taliban are resurgent. In most countries there is considerable opposition to sending troops period. A recent report in Canada, the Manley Report, would see Canadian troops move out of their combat role in Kandahar if there were not a thousand more troops sent there and also better equipment including helicopters. Our prime minister however is very pro-Bush and could very well say that the US troops already being sent to the south by the US constitute over a thousand troops and certainly the US could provide helicopter support. This is from the Globe and Mail.


U.S. rejects more troops for Afghanistan
The Canadian Press
January 29, 2008 at 3:47 PM EST
Washington — The United States won't be sending more combat troops to Afghanistan despite Canada's demand for NATO reinforcements as a condition for staying in the battle, a U.S. Defence Department spokesman said Tuesday.
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told a briefing that the deployment of 3,200 American marines announced earlier this month is the limit for now.
Just over two-thirds of them, 2,200, are scheduled to arrive in March in the dangerous region in southern Afghanistan.
“That's as much and as deep as we're going at this point,” said Mr. Morrell.
“We've got a number of allies with us there. And hopefully they can see to it to dig deeper and find additional forces to help this effort,” he said.
“Hopefully, we'll make some progress there that will help the Canadians extend their commitment to the mission.”
U.S. Defence Secretary Roberts Gates hasn't talked to Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay since John Manley's commission report on Afghanistan was released last week, said Mr. Morrell.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has endorsed the report's chief recommendation — that Canada stay in Afghanistan for the duration of the war as long as NATO provides a modest increase of 1,000 soldiers for Kandahar.
Canada is also demanding more battlefield helicopters and surveillance aircraft.
About 2,500 Canadian troops are involved in the Afghan mission, most of them operating in Kandahar province.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Naomi Klein: Why the Right Loves a Disaster

A disaster, particularly an economic disaster, should be an opportunity for the left. However, Klein is to a large extent correct, because the left is so weak the right is able to use economic problems to their own advantage. A good example is Bush's use of tax cuts to stimulate the economy. He even describes them in ways that appeal to the masses. The cuts involve putting people's own money back in their pockets. However, he never talks about cutting a few billion off the military budget and putting it back into people's pockets to spend as they see fit. However, since government income will be reduced there will be increased pressure to cut social spending those terrible "entitlements". The military doesnt apparently have entitlements. They are funded following some sort of natural law but not by the Invisible Hand of the Market but the very visible hand of government. The costs of Empire and the War on Terror are not to be questioned.

Why The Right Loves a DisasterBy Naomi Klein28/01/08 "Los Angeles Times" --- - Moody’s, the credit-rating agency, claims the key to solving the United States’ economic woes is slashing spending on Social Security. The National Assn. of Manufacturers says the fix is for the federal government to adopt the organization’s wish-list of new tax cuts. For Investor’s Business Daily, it is oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, “perhaps the most important stimulus of all.”But of all the cynical scrambles to package pro-business cash grabs as “economic stimulus,” the prize has to go to Lawrence B. Lindsey, formerly President Bush’s assistant for economic policy and his advisor during the 2001 recession. Lindsey’s plan is to solve a crisis set off by bad lending by extending lots more questionable credit. “One of the easiest things to do would be to allow manufacturers and retailers” — notably Wal-Mart — “to open their own financial institutions, through which they could borrow and lend money,” he wrote recently in the Wall Street Journal.Never mind that that an increasing number of Americans are defaulting on their credit card payments, raiding their 401(k) accounts and losing their homes. If Lindsey had his way, Wal-Mart, rather than lose sales, could just loan out money to keep its customers shopping, effectively turning the big-box chain into an old-style company store to which Americans can owe their souls.If this kind of crisis opportunism feels familiar, it’s because it is. Over the last four years, I have been researching a little-explored area of economic history: the way that crises have paved the way for the march of the right-wing economic revolution across the globe. A crisis hits, panic spreads and the ideologues fill the breach, rapidly reengineering societies in the interests of large corporate players. It’s a maneuver I call “disaster capitalism.”Sometimes the enabling national disasters have been physical blows to countries: wars, terrorist attacks, natural disasters. More often they have been economic crises: debt spirals, hyperinflation, currency shocks, recessions.More than a decade ago, economist Dani Rodrik, then at Columbia University, studied the circumstances in which governments adopted free-trade policies. His findings were striking: “No significant case of trade reform in a developing country in the 1980s took place outside the context of a serious economic crisis.” The 1990s proved him right in dramatic fashion. In Russia, an economic meltdown set the stage for fire-sale privatizations. Next, the Asian crisis in 1997-98 cracked open the “Asian tigers” to a frenzy of foreign takeovers, a process the New York Times dubbed “the world’s biggest going-out-of-business sale.”To be sure, desperate countries will generally do what it takes to get a bailout. An atmosphere of panic also frees the hands of politicians to quickly push through radical changes that would otherwise be too unpopular, such as privatization of essential services, weakening of worker protections and free-trade deals. In a crisis, debate and democratic process can be handily dismissed as unaffordable luxuries.Do the free-market policies packaged as emergency cures actually fix the crises at hand? For the ideologues involved, that has mattered little. What matters is that, as a political tactic, disaster capitalism works. It was the late free-market economist Milton Friedman, writing in the preface to the 1982 reissue of his manifesto, “Capitalism and Freedom,” who articulated the strategy most succinctly. “Only a crisis — actual or perceived — produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.”A decade later, John Williamson, a key advisor to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank (and who coined the phrase “the Washington consensus”), went even further. He asked a conference of top-level policymakers “whether it could conceivably make sense to think of deliberately provoking a crisis so as to remove the political logjam to reform.”Again and again, the Bush administration has seized on crises to break logjams blocking the more radical pieces of its economic agenda. First, a recession provided the excuse for sweeping tax cuts. Next, the “war on terror” ushered in an era of unprecedented military and homeland security privatization. After Hurricane Katrina, the administration handed out tax holidays, rolled back labor standards, closed public housing projects and helped turn New Orleans into a laboratory for charter schools — all in the name of disaster “reconstruction.”Given this track record, Washington lobbyists had every reason to believe that the current recession fears would provoke a new round of corporate gift-giving. Yet it seems that the public is getting wise to the tactics of disaster capitalism. Sure, the proposed $150-billion economic stimulus package is little more than a dressed-up tax cut, including a new batch of “incentives” to business. But the Democrats nixed the more ambitious GOP attempt to leverage the crisis to lock in the Bush tax cuts and go after Social Security. For the time being, it seems that a crisis created by a dogged refusal to regulate markets will not be “fixed” by giving Wall Street more public money with which to gamble.Yet while managing (barely) to hold the line, the House Democrats appear to have given up on extending unemployment benefits and increasing funding for food stamps and Medicaid as part of the stimulus package. More important, they are failing utterly to use the crisis to propose alternative solutions to a status quo marked by serial crises, whether environmental, social or economic.The problem is not a lack of ideas “alive and available” — to borrow Friedman’s phrase. There are plenty available, from single-payer healthcare to legislating a living wage. Hundreds of thousands of jobs can be created by rebuilding the ailing public infrastructure and making it more friendly to public transit and renewable energy. Need start-up funds? Close the loophole that lets billionaire hedge fund managers pay 15% capital gains instead of 35% income tax, and adopt a long-proposed tax on international currency trading. The bonus? A less volatile, crisis-prone market.The way we respond to crises is always highly political, a lesson progressives appear to have forgotten. There’s a historical irony to that: Crises have ushered in some of America’s great progressive policies. Most notably, after the dramatic market failure of 1929, the left was ready and waiting with its ideas — full employment, huge public works, mass union drives. The Social Security system that Moody’s is so eager to dismantle was a direct response to the Depression.Every crisis is an opportunity; someone will exploit it. The question we face is this: Will the current turmoil become an excuse to transfer yet more public wealth into private hands, to wipe out the last vestiges of the welfare state, all in the name of economic growth? Or will this latest failure of unfettered markets be the catalyst that is needed to revive a spirit of public interest, to get serious about the pressing crises of our time, from gaping inequality to global warming to failing infrastructure?The disaster capitalists have held the reins for three decades. The time has come, once again, for disaster populism.Naomi Klein is the author of many books, including her most recent, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, which will be published in September.Visit Naomi’s website at www.naomiklein.org , or to learn more about her new book, visit www.shockdoctrine.com .

Philippines exports weaker because of high dollar, energy prices

This is from the Inquirer. With inputs being very high priced Philippine exports are bound to be less competitive. With the dollar weaker, prices of Philippine products in U.S. markets will be higher. However, other currencies are also much higher so this may partly compensate. At least Philippine consumers will enjoy lower prices for products imported from the U.S.

2008 exports seen weaker on US concerns, high energy prices
Thomson FinancialFirst Posted 17:26:00 01/29/2008
MANILA, Philippines -- Merchandise exports growth this year is likely to be weaker on a further slowdown in the US economy, high energy prices and the continued strengthening of the peso, an industry leader said Tuesday.
"Exports contributed very little to national economic growth last year, and we are seeing very little growth, if any for 2008," Sergio Ortiz-Luis, president of the Philippine Exporters Confederation or Philexport said at an energy summit here.
In the first 11 months of last year, exports rose just 4.8 percent from a year before. The reduced target for the whole year is 8.0 percent.
Electronics exports, which accounted for 61.3 percent of total export earnings in November, fell to $2.42 billion from $2.54 billion a year earlier.
The Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines or SEIPI said it is also bracing for a difficult year.
"We are anticipating demand to be weak in the first half of the year. We are just hoping that growth will, at best, be flat and won't get any worse or be negative," said SEIPI executive director Ernesto Santiago.
With exports last year weighed down by "a triple whammy of high electric rates, historic oil prices and a strong peso, nine percent of the country's exporters closed shop last year," said Luis of Philexport.
"While a recession in the US will be a drag on exports in the short-term, it is the high cost of power, triggered by a surge in crude oil prices, that has drastically eroded the viability of the exports sector," said Luis.
Electricity expenses make up about 15 percent of production costs of export manufacturing enterprises in the Philippines.
World oil prices were slightly higher Tuesday in Asian trade, hovering near $90 in a market focused on the fate of the US economy.
Luis said the Philippines has one of the highest electricity rates in Asia, next only to Japan.
The country's two biggest groups of exporters have been urging the Philippine government to take more concrete steps to make electricity prices more competitive.
"We hope that the government can seriously consider the exporter's plight. There is a need to address the issues of electric power quality and security, in addition to developing and tapping alternative or renewable energy sources," said Luis.
($1 = P40.69)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Yemen's Deals with Jihadists Unsettle the U.S.

This article gives a rare insight into U.S. and Al Qaeda operations in Yemen. Yemen is a hotbed of jihadism. Ironically as with many other jihadists they are in effect a left over from the fight against the Soviets and also socialists in Yemen itself. The local accomodation with radical Islamists sounds as if it actually worked after a fashion although a new breed of young jihadists regards the radicals who participate as traitors.

January 28, 2008
Yemen’s Deals With Jihadists Unsettle the U.S.
By ROBERT F. WORTH
SANA, Yemen — When the Yemeni authorities released a convicted terrorist of Al Qaeda named Jamal al-Badawi from prison last October, American officials were furious. Mr. Badawi helped plan the attack on the American destroyer Cole in 2000, in which 17 American sailors were killed.
But the Yemenis saw things differently. Mr. Badawi had agreed to help track down five other members of Al Qaeda who had escaped from prison, and was more useful to the government on the street than off, said a high-level Yemeni government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Mr. Badawi had also pledged his loyalty to Yemen’s president before being released, the official said.
The dispute over Mr. Badawi — whom the Yemenis quickly returned to prison after being threatened with a loss of aid — underscored a much broader disagreement over how to fight terrorism in Yemen, a particularly valuable recruiting ground and refuge for Islamist militants in the past two decades.
Yemeni officials say they have had considerable success co-opting jihadists like Mr. Badawi, often by releasing them from prison and helping them with money, schooling or jobs. They are required to sign a pledge not to carry out any attacks on Yemeni soil, often backed by guarantees from their tribe or family members. Many have taken part in an Islamic re-education effort led by religious scholars, now being copied on a wider scale in Saudi Arabia.
A number of these former jihadists have become government informants, helping to capture a new generation of younger, more dangerous Qaeda militants — some of them veterans of the war in Iraq — who refuse to recognize the Yemeni government. Others have become mediators, helping persuade escaped prisoners to surrender.
But American counterterrorism officials and even some Yemenis say the Yemeni government, more than others in the region, is in effect striking a deal that helps stop attacks here while leaving jihadists largely free to plan them elsewhere. They also say the Yemeni government caters too much to radical Islamist figures to improve its political standing, nourishing a culture that could ultimately breed more violence.
“Yemen is like a bus station — we stop some terrorists, and we send others on to fight elsewhere,” said Murad Abdul Wahed Zafir, a political analyst at the National Democratic Institute in Sana. “We appease our partners in the West, but we are not really helping.”
Uneasy Alliance With Jihadists
All parties agree that the situation is urgent. With a young, poor, and fast-growing population of 22 million, Yemen is rapidly approaching an economic and political crisis that could result in its becoming a failed state. The government is fighting a persistent insurgency in the north, oil supplies are dwindling, and the water table in the capital is expected (according to a World Bank estimate) to run out in two years. Like Afghanistan, Yemen has a weak government with strong tribes and mountainous terrain, and a vast weapons supply.
The Yemeni government argues that its approach is in keeping with their deeply conservative society, where Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein remain popular figures. Although a new American-trained commando unit has regularly captured and killed terrorists, officials say they must also show restraint with prisoners: taking a harder line or acceding to American demands to extradite people like Mr. Badawi (as the United States has asked) could provoke a violent backlash.
“The strategy is fighting terrorism, but we need space to use our own tactics, and our friends must understand us,” said Rashad Muhammad al-Alimi, Yemen’s interior minister.
Yemen’s uneasy partnership with jihadists dates back to the late 1980s, when it welcomed tens of thousands of returning Arab veterans of the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. While other Arab countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, struggled with the question of how to accommodate those jihadists, Yemen was actively open to sheltering them, said Gregory Johnsen, a security analyst at the terrorism research group Jamestown Foundation. At the time, President Ali Abdullah Saleh saw the returning fighters as a useful military and ideological weapon against the restive socialists of southern Yemen.
When a brief civil war broke out in 1994, President Saleh sent thousands of jihadists into battle against the south. He also forged important ties with Yemeni Islamist clerical and political figures like Sheik Abdul Majid al-Zindani, a former mentor of Mr. bin Laden who has a broad popular following and has since been listed as a “specially designated global terrorist” by the United States and the United Nations.
Those ties persist today, despite American complaints. Some American officials say the influence of Islamists, and entrenched government corruption, may have made possible the spectacular escape of 23 Qaeda figures, including Mr. Badawi, from a well-guarded prison in the capital in February 2006. Yemeni officials blamed poor oversight for the escape, in which the prisoners are said to have tunneled their way to the bathroom of a neighboring mosque.
Finding a Balance After 2001
After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Saleh flew to Washington and pledged full cooperation with American antiterrorism efforts. At home in Yemen, thousands of former “Afghan Arabs” were rounded up and imprisoned.
But Mr. Saleh was still sensitive to Islamic extremists, who remained a crucial domestic constituency. When the Pentagon leaked word of Yemeni collaboration in an American missile strike in 2002 that killed the suspected leader of Al Qaeda in Yemen, Mr. Saleh was furious.
That same year, Mr. Saleh hit on an idea that he hoped would satisfy both his American and Islamist partners: “al hiwar al fikri,” or intellectual dialogue. This was an effort to inculcate the idea that Islam, properly understood, does not condone terrorism. Sessions began with hundreds of former jihadists who remained in prison without charges.
“It came from the idea that terror depends on ideology, and that thought should be confronted with thought,” said Hamoud al Hetar, the cleric and judge who led the program.
A cleric would sit for several hours with three to seven prisoners, mostly outside the prison, and discuss Islamic law and ethics, Judge Hetar said during an interview at his home in Sana.
At first, the Saudis and others derided the idea as too soft. At the same time, many Yemeni religious scholars refused to participate out of fear that they would be assassinated by militants, Judge Hetar said. Gradually the program gained acceptance, and Saudi Arabia soon adopted its own version, including therapy and a more comprehensive reintegration program.
Some critics have dismissed the dialogue program, which lapsed in 2005 after terror attacks dropped off, as a sham in which inmates feigned conversion to get out of prison. But Nasser al-Bahri, a former driver for Mr. bin Laden who spent four years with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, said it was more like a raw bargain: exempt Yemen from your jihad and you will be left alone.
“It changed their behavior, not their thoughts,” said Mr. Bahri, a cheerful, talkative 33-year-old who once went by the nom de guerre Abu Jandal. “Judge Hetar cannot cancel jihad. It is in the roots of our religion.”
Sitting on the floor of a bare living room in his Sana apartment, Mr. Bahri said the government helped him buy a taxi and pay for business school after his release in 2003. Although he says he still supports Al Qaeda’s global goals, he also urges other Islamists to avoid any violence in Yemen.
Ali Saleh, another former jihadist who went through Judge Hetar’s program while in prison, now serves as a mediator between the government and Islamists. He helped negotiate the surrender of several of the 23 men who escaped from prison in Sana in early 2006. In exchange, the government agreed to make concessions, including releasing the men after their surrender, he said.
“The government understands, in Yemen you must compromise to reach a solution,” Mr. Saleh said. “The Americans would like to put us all in jail. But if you do this, 10 men will become 20, 20 will become 100, and then — we will be an army.”
A More Violent Generation
Some former jihadists also work as informants for the government and have helped foil a number of attacks, Yemeni officials said.
There appears to be a limit, however, to the government’s ability to co-opt Islamists. A new, more violent generation of militants has emerged in Yemen, according to Yemeni officials and older members of the jihadist community.
Some of these younger men have fought in Iraq, and they refuse all dialogue, seeing Yemen’s government as illegitimate. They appear to have been responsible for the suicide bombing in Marib Province last July in which eight Spanish tourists were killed, and two other suicide attacks on oil installations in 2006. Recently, there have been warnings of more attacks in Yemen on Islamist Web sites.
“They opened a door we hoped would be closed forever,” Mr. Bahri said.
The younger men also see older figures like Mr. Bahri, despite his association with Mr. bin Laden, as traitors. Mr. Bahri said Yemeni security men had showed him a “death list” of 30 names written by members of this younger generation, with his name at the top.
Last summer, two Internet statements claiming to be from Al Qaeda in Yemen lamented that “some of the people abandoned their principles and turned to the government.” The statement accurately describes the mediating committee on which Ali Saleh serves, and goes on to say, “Those deserters became the government’s hands; some of them turned into their spies,” according to a translation provided by the SITE Institute.
Mr. Bahri said he has tried to reason with members of the younger generation of militants, but they refuse all dialogue. He and Mr. Saleh, the mediator, now carry a weapon at all times, and fear for their safety, Mr. Bahri said.
In addition to the threat of these younger militants, there is the broader question of whether Mr. Bahri and his friends are involved in terrorism outside of Yemen. Mr. Bahri still supports the goals of Al Qaeda, and he speaks admiringly of Yemenis who fought in Iraq.
Yemeni officials say they have stepped up efforts to prevent Yemeni men from traveling for jihad. But Mr. Bahri says he knows 10 or 15 men who fought in Iraq, including two who went through Judge Hetar’s program.
Asked what he did to advance the cause of Al Qaeda outside of Yemen, Mr. Bahri smiled, and said answering the question could be dangerous — but that not answering it could also expose him to risks, from a different group of people. After a pause, he said he merely prayed for Al Qaeda’s success.
Another veteran of the Afghan jihad, Ali Muhammad al-Kurdi, said in open court during the course of an unrelated terrorism trial in 2005 that he had trained two Yemeni men to fight in Iraq. He was never prosecuted for the claim, because it is not against Yemeni law.
“They went to Iraq and fought, and they were killed there,” said Mr. Kurdi, a soft-spoken 33-year-old, smiling at the thought, as he sat for an interview in a cafe in Old Sana.

Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra needs new instruments

This is from the Daily Tribune. Perhaps the Philharmonic could receive money from the infamous fertilizer fund. Many urban politician received money from the agricultural fund so why not use it to grow the renowned symphony orchestra?

Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra: Continuously regenerating
By Maripet L. Poso, Staff Writer
SHE SAYS
Dinah S. Ventura
01/28/2008
An old trombone with its slide fastened by electrical tape is a sad sight even for non-musicians. It signifies deterioration, not just of the instrument itself, but of the music industry to which it belongs. And this is exactly what the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO), the country’s leading orchestra and one of the Asia Pacific Region’s top musical ensembles, wants to keep from happening.
A recent survey on the condition of the PPO’s musical instruments revealed ratings that ranged from 0-3, with 0 being the lowest and 5, the highest. Considering the ideal national orchestra instrument ratings of 4-5, the PPO musicians must be really good at what they do, performing world-class concerts with musical instruments that are either inferior or worse, obsolete.
“Many of the instruments need to be replaced and repaired. As we all know, the quality of music produced is not only due to the talents of the musicians. No matter how good the musicians are, if the musical instruments are not in good condition, they can’t produce good music,” said Nestor Jardin, president of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), during a recent press conference held at the Instituto Cervantes.
To raise the much-needed funds for the replacement and repair of these instruments, the PPO with the help of Zara, the Spanish brand known for its stylish designs; Bvlgari, one of the global players in the luxury market, and ING Bank Manila, a foreign universal bank and a full branch of the ING Group, and through the initiation of Ms. Zenaida R. Tantoco, a member of the CCP Board of Trustees, is coming up with a benefit concert called La Musica Española on Jan. 29, at 8 p.m., at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theatre).
To make the concert more special, the PPO will perform under the baton of Maestro Bernardo Adam Ferrero, a renowned composer and orchestra director from Valencia, Spain. Accompanied by his son, Ruben Adam, who will also be a guest violinist of the PPO, and his wife Amparo, Maestro Adam Ferrero will be coming to the country for the very first time as a guest conductor of the PPO.
With the instrument campaign estimated at P28 million and the proposed repair and maintenance program at P1 million annually, La Musica Española concert is intended to help raise funds, as the PPO had been doing continuously for the past years, to maintain its musical prowess in order to carry on its mission to promote Filipino culture in the national and the international scenes.
“We are lucky to have angels like Nedy who are helping us source the fund,” added Jardin.
Some of the fundraising events that Tantoco has initiated include a benefit concert in 2003 by jazz legend David Benoit, the Alexander Charriol exhibit/painting Sale in 2004, the Vienna Boys Choir Concert also in 2004, the Lacoste 12.12 Auction in 2005, and a generous donation by the San Francisco-Manila Sister City Committee led by Dennis Normandy made in 2006.
With all these efforts, a new tuba, a French horn, a bass trombone and three trumpets have been purchased and some repairs have been done in the past years. Apparently, however, these are not enough.
“I badly need a new, good and decent bow. My bow has lost its flexibility. I have a hard time with all the meticulous bow strokes,” said cellist Renato Lucas, the PPO’s principal cellist, who is regarded as one of the best cellists in the Asia-Pacific region.
“It is difficult to play an instrument with rotten parts that are glued by epoxy, very old keys that are so sharp they are like knives and deformed holes causing dissonant tones. It’s very hard to play,” lamented bassonist Adolfo Mendoza.
“The Yamaha trombone we are using today is absolutely in bad condition and overused. We need to have the best professional trombones to improve our sound,” Cornelio Ramos, principal trombone player, added.
Granted they have the gift and the calling, if their instruments are not at up to standards, their musical talents can only do so much.
With support from Stores Specialists Inc., Philippine Tatler, Instituto Cervantes, Embajada España Manila, Generalitat Valenciana of Spain and The Peninsula Manila, La Musica Española is slated on Jan. 29, 2008, 8 p.m. at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theatre). Tickets are available at P2,000; P1,500; P500 and P300 at Ticketworld (Tel. No. 891-9999) and CCP Box Office (Tel. Nos. 832-3704 or 832-1125 loc 1409).

Crucial ally against Al Qaeda in Iraq wants fighters to be part of army and police

This is from the Independent. This shows the danger of the new policy that has dramatically reduced insurgent violence in parts of Iraq. The new allies are former Sunni insurgents. If they are "incorporated" in the army and police, many police and army units may in fact be under control of regional leaders. The majority Shia government fears just such a situation.

'If there is no change in three months, there will be war again'

By Patrick Cockburn in FallujahMonday, 28 January 2008
A crucial Iraqi ally of the United States in its recent successes in the country is threatening to withdraw his support and allow al-Qa'ida to return if his fighters are not incorporated into the Iraqi army and police.
"If there is no change in three months there will be war again," said Abu Marouf, the commander of 13,000 fighters who formerly fought the Americans. He and his men switched sides last year to battle al-Qa'ida and defeated it in its main stronghold in and around Fallujah.
"If the Americans think they can use us to crush al-Qa'ida and then push us to one side, they are mistaken," Abu Marouf told The Independent in an interview in a scantily furnished villa beside an abandoned cemetery near the village of Khandari outside Fallujah. He said that all he and his tribal following had to do was stand aside and al-Qa'ida's fighters would automatically come back. If they did so he might have to ally himself to a resurgent al-Qa'ida in order to "protect myself and my men".
Abu Marouf said he was confident that his forces controlled a swath of territory stretching east from Fallujah into Baghdad and includes what Americans called "the triangle of death" south-west of the capital. Even so his bodyguards, armed with AK-47 assault rifles, nervously watched the abandoned canals and reed beds around his temporary headquarters. Others craned over light machine guns in newly built watch towers. Several anti-Qa'ida tribal leaders have been killed by suicide bombers in recent weeks.
His threat is highly dangerous for the US and Iraqi government, neither of which made any headway in ending the Sunni insurgency against the US occupation for four years until the tribes of Anbar, the province in which Fallujah lies, turned against al-Qa'ida. They formed the Awakening movement, known in Arabic as al-Sahwah, of which Abu Marouf, whose full name is Karim Ismail Hassan al-Zubai, is a leading member.
The Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, warned last week it would be "very dangerous" if the Awakening movement's 80,000 fighters were not absorbed into the army and police. "They are not that well organised and could easily be manipulated by al-Qa'ida," he said.
The Iraqi government fears ceding power to the Awakening movement which it sees as an American-funded Sunni militia, whose leaders are often former military or security officers from Saddam Hussein's regime and are unlikely to show long-term loyalty to the Shia and Kurdish-dominated administration.
Abu Marouf – a thin man aged about 40, with a short beard and wearing a brown suit and lilac tie – says he was "security officer" before the US invasion of 2003. Afterwards he became a resistance fighter and, though he will not say which guerrilla group he belonged to, local sources say he was a commander of the 1920 Revolution Brigades. He is also a member of the powerful Zubai tribe that was at the heart of anti-American resistance in an area which saw the fiercest fighting during the Sunni rebellion against the occupation.
He has a precise memory for dates and figures. He says that he started secretly working against al-Qa'ida at a meeting as long ago as 14 April 2005. He and his men gathered intelligence. Eight months later they started making attacks on al-Qa'ida, which was trying to monopolise power in Sunni areas.
"They cut off people's heads and put them on sticks, as if they were sheep. They cut off my brother's head with a razor. Thirteen of my relatives and 450 members of my tribe were killed by them," he said.
Part of Abu Marouf's force is paid for by the Americans. Ordinary fighters are believed to receive $350 (£175) a month and officers $1,200, but some receive no salary. He makes clear that he wants long-term jobs for himself and his followers and that "they must be long-term jobs". There is more than just money involved here. The Sunni tribal leaders want a share of power in Baghdad which they lost when Saddam Hussein was deposed.
The US calls the Awakening movement groups "Concerned Citizens", as if they were pacific householders heroically restoring law and order. In fact, the US has handed over Sunni areas to the guerrilla groups such as the 1920 Brigades and the Islamic Army who have been blowing up American solders since 2003.
This creates a serious problem for the Iraqi government and for the Americans themselves. Though Abu Marouf wants to join the government security forces, he volunteers that he considers the present Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki "the worst government in the world – his army has got 13 divisions, most of which are recruited from Shia militias controlled by Iran."
It is clear that Abu Marouf sees the Shia religious party takeover of government as something to be resisted.
The city of Fallujah – many of its buildings still in ruins since the US Marines stormed it in November 2004 – is peaceful compared with six months ago. Al-Qa'ida fighters, who once dominated it, have either gone or are keeping a low profile. The Americans have a large military camp on its outskirts. But the defeat of al-Qa'ida is not exactly a victory for the Iraqi government.
In the centre of the city is a much-attacked police station run by Colonel Feisal Ismail Hassan al-Zubai, an authoritative looking man, who is the elder brother of Abu Marouf. A career officer in Saddam Hussein's Special Forces since 1983, who fought in 11 battles against Iran, he was appointed police chief in December 2006. When I asked what he did previously he said: "I was fighting against the Americans." Asked why had he changed sides he replied: "When I compared the Americans to al-Qa'ida and the [Shia] militia, I chose the Americans."
Beside Colonel Feisal is a gold framed picture of himself as a young officer. "That was when I was a lieutenant in the real Iraqi army," he says. Behind him is the old Iraqi flag which the government is trying to replace.
He says: "The worst day of my life was when Saddam Hussein fell in 2003." He chokes himself off from giving an account of the first battle of Fallujah against the Americans in April 2004 in which he appears to have played a role. "The Americans now give me everything I want," he says.
There is no doubt that Abu Marouf and Colonel Feisal are far better people than the savage sectarian bigots of al-Qa'ida whom they have driven away.
But, far from America having won a victory in Iraq, violence has fallen largely because the United States has handed power to the guerrillas who fought it for so long.
If the Iraqi government pretends it has conquered its enemies and refuses to give men like Abu Marouf a share in power then Iraq will soon being facing another war

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Pakistan Rebuffs Secret U.S. Plea for C.I.A. Buildup

This is from the NY Times. Musharraf is no doubt wise to prevent U.S. intelligence from further infiltrating Pakistan. The U.S. already plotted to help Bhutto return although Musharraf it was also hoped to include Musharraf in a deal. However, the U.S. would like to have an even more pliant govt. in power if they can. Some in the administration don't seem to care a hoot for Musharaff's troubles. If Musharraf acted as the U.S. would like he would likely face civil war. Even as it is actions such as unmanned predators firing at buildings and alleged al Qaeda safe houses is provocative since there is always collateral damage.

Pakistan Rebuffs Secret U.S. Plea for C.I.A. Buildup
'President Pervez Musharraf dismissed proposals to allow the United States greater latitude to operate in tribal territories where militants are active, officials said.'

By ERIC SCHMITT and DAVID E. SANGER
Published: January 27, 2008
WASHINGTON — The top two American intelligence officials traveled secretly to Pakistan early this month to press President Pervez Musharraf to allow the Central Intelligence Agency greater latitude to operate in the tribal territories where Al Qaeda, the Taliban and other militant groups are all active, according to several officials who have been briefed on the visit.



But in the unannounced meetings on Jan. 9 with the two American officials — Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, and Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the C.I.A. director — Mr. Musharraf rebuffed proposals to expand any American combat presence in Pakistan, either through unilateral covert C.I.A. missions or by joint operations with Pakistani security forces.
Instead, Pakistan and the United States are discussing a series of other joint efforts, including increasing the number and scope of missions by armed Predator surveillance aircraft over the tribal areas, and identifying ways that the United States can speed information about people suspected of being militants to Pakistani security forces, officials said.
American and Pakistani officials have questioned each other in recent months about the quality and time lines of information that the United States has given to Pakistan to use in focusing on those extremists. American officials have complained that the Pakistanis are not seriously pursuing Al Qaeda in the region.
The Jan. 9 meetings, the first visit with Mr. Musharraf by senior administration officials since the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, also included the new army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and the director of Pakistan’s leading military intelligence agency, Lt. Gen. Nadeem Taj. American officials said the visit was prompted by an increasing sense of urgency at the highest levels of the United States government that Al Qaeda and the Taliban are intensifying efforts to destabilize the Pakistani government.
The C.I.A. has fired missiles from Predator aircraft in the tribal areas several times, with varying degrees of success. Intelligence officials said they believed that in January 2006 an airstrike narrowly missed killing Ayman al-Zawahri, the second-ranking Qaeda leader, who had attended a dinner in Damadola, a Pakistani village.
Pakistani authorities, in interviews, say they have more than 100,000 troops operating in the region, including a sizable force conducting what they said was a major offensive in South Waziristan. But in the White House, the Pentagon and the C.I.A., frustrations remain high, and there is concern that Mr. Musharraf’s political problems will distract him from what the administration regards as its last chance to take aggressive action.
Despite the insistence of administration officials that the United States and Pakistan have a common goal in fighting Al Qaeda, Mr. Musharraf has made clear in public proclamations that it is far from his first priority. At the Davos World Economic Forum in Switzerland last week, Mr. Musharraf said several times that the 100,000 Pakistani troops that he said were now along the border were hunting for Taliban extremists and “miscreants,” but he also said there was no particular effort being put into the search for Qaeda fighters.
In Washington, however, the Bush administration has said that fighting terrorists, chiefly Al Qaeda, is the primary purpose of the $10 billion in American aid that has been sent to Pakistan, mostly for reimbursements for the cost of patrolling the tribal areas. President Bush has often praised Mr. Musharraf for fighting terrorism, pointing out that Al Qaeda has tried to kill the Pakistani leader. But White House officials were silent when Mr. Musharraf said this week that his efforts were focused on the Taliban, and that the main problem the United States faced was in Afghanistan, not Pakistan.
Accounts of the discussions between Mr. Musharraf and the intelligence officials were provided by American and Pakistani officials over the past two weeks after The New York Times inquired about the secret trip. While officials confirmed some details of the discussion, much remains unknown about the continuing dialogue between Islamabad and Washington.
The trip by Mr. McConnell and General Hayden, a 14,000-mile over-and-back visit for one day of discussions, occurred just five days after senior administration officials debated new strategies for dealing with Pakistan. No decisions were made at that meeting of the National Security Council, which gathered all of Mr. Bush’s top national security officials but not the president.
In the ensuing three weeks, however, the debate appeared to be intensifying, as senior American officials said they believed that American forces — whether as combat troops or trainers — could enhance the efforts of Pakistan’s military in the mountainous and lawless Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
“The purpose of the mission,” a senior official said, “was to convince Musharraf that time is ticking away,” and that the increased attacks on Pakistan would ultimately undermine his effort to stay in office.
Other officials said that recent intelligence analysis indicated that Al Qaeda was now operating in the tribal areas with an impunity similar to the freedom that it had in Afghanistan before the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
The C.I.A. operatives in Afghanistan and the covert Special Operations forces there have made little secret of their desire to move into the tribal areas with or without Mr. Musharraf’s explicit approval. In the administration, there has been discussion of whether Mr. Bush should give orders to allow them more latitude. Mr. Musharraf has explicitly rejected that, and within days after Mr. McConnell and General Hayden’s departure, he told a Singapore newspaper that any unilateral action by the United States would be regarded as an invasion. In Davos, he dismissed the idea that Americans could be effective in the tribal areas.
On Thursday, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said the United States was willing to send combat troops to Pakistan to conduct joint operations against Al Qaeda and other militants if the Pakistani government asked for American help. Mr. Gates said that Pakistan had not requested American assistance, and that any American troops sent to Pakistan would likely be assigned solely to train Pakistani forces. The top American commander in the region, Adm. William J. Fallon, visited Pakistan last Tuesday to discuss counterterrorism issues with senior Pakistani officials, including General Kayani.
American and Pakistani spokesmen confirmed that the meetings between Mr. Musharraf and American intelligence officials took place, but they declined to offer any details. Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Mahmud Ali Durrani, said in an interview that the meetings were about “improving coordination, discussing the war on terror, and filling the gaps between intelligence and operations,” but he declined to provide details.
Last Tuesday, the State Department’s counterterrorism chief, Lt. Gen. Dell L. Dailey, echoed some of those concerns, telling reporters that there were gaps in what the United States knew about the threat in the tribal areas. “We don’t have enough information about what’s going on there,” said General Dailey, who retired from the Army with extensive experience in military Special Operations. “Not on Al Qaeda. Not on foreign fighters. Not on the Taliban.”
In dealing with the American requests, Mr. Musharraf is conducting a delicate balancing act. American officials contend that now, more than ever, he recognizes the need to step up the battle against extremists who are seeking to topple his government. But he also believes that if American forces are discovered operating in Pakistan, the backlash will be more than he can control, especially because the Taliban and Al Qaeda are trying to cast him as a pawn of Washington. One result appears to be a compromise: Mr. Musharraf is willing, they say, to accept training, equipment, and technical help, but has insisted that no Americans get involved in ground operations.
Pakistani officials insist they are taking the militant threat seriously and have completed major operations in the Swat Valley to drive out extremists. In the past few days, about 1,000 Pakistan Army troops and Frontier Corps paramilitary forces have also begun a three-pronged attack against the South Waziristan stronghold of Baitullah Mehsud, a militant leader with links to Al Qaeda who is the main suspect in the assassination of Ms. Bhutto.
Ismail Khan contributed reporting from Peshawar, Pakistan.

Discontent grows in Iraq over new national flag

This is from wiredispatch. New flags seem to always cause trouble. Once earlier a new national flag was introduced that was rejected by almost everyone. However, the Kurds refuse to fly the old flag because they associate it with Saddam. Even though this flag is very much like the old one it deletes the three stars associated with the Baath party representing freedom, unity, and socialism. The deletion makes good sense to me since Iraq is neither free, unified, nor socialist.

Discontent grows in Iraq over new national flag
Dean YatesReuters North American News Service
Jan 26, 2008 04:21 EST
BAGHDAD, Jan 26 (Reuters) - The Iraqi parliament's move to adopt a new, temporary national flag has provoked an outcry, with one major province refusing to fly it and ordinary Iraqis attaching the old flag to their cars in a silent protest.
Iraqis have flooded chat rooms on the Internet with criticism of this week's decision, which had long been demanded by the Kurdish minority who say the Saddam Hussein-era banner was a reminder of his brutality.
Many Iraqi Arabs disagree. They see the old flag as having little to do with Saddam, a Sunni Arab, but as one under which countless soldiers died fighting for in various wars.
"It's shameful. Thousands of Iraqis lost their lives so this flag could fly ... Changing the flag ignores their sacrifice," said one Iraqi in a comment posted on an Arab chat room.
In fact, the new flag is very similar to the old one.
It is still red, white and black, but three green stars in the centre representing unity, freedom and socialism, the motto of Saddam's now outlawed Baath party, have been removed.
The phrase Allahu Akbar (God is Greatest), added in green Arabic script on Saddam's orders during the 1991 Gulf War, remains, but no longer in his handwriting.
The provincial council in western Anbar province and leaders of a council of tribal sheikhs that have allied with U.S. forces in the vast region have decided not to fly the new flag, the U.S.-backed al-Hurra television station reported on Saturday.
Officials from Anbar's provincial council could not be reached for comment, but officials in Falluja, one of the key cities in the province and once a Sunni Arab insurgent stronghold, expressed hostility to the new flag.
"This is a disaster ... I am using the old flag in my office and at home," the mayor of Falluja, Saad Rasheed, told Reuters, adding he would fly the new one only if the Anbar provincial council decided to do so.
A long-running debate over whether to change the flag had been given urgency by a planned pan-Arab meeting of politicians in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan on March 10. Kurdish officials had refused to fly the old flag, which is banned in Kurdistan.
The new flag will last for only one year, while debate will continue on what the final banner should look like.
SYMBOLICALLY IMPORTANT
Some MPs have said Tuesday's parliamentary vote was symbolically important, changing a flag first flown after a coup by the Baath party in 1963. Saddam formally took power in 1979.
Sheikh Efan al-Issawi, a tribal leader in Falluja, said U.S. soldiers had asked him if he would fly the new flag.
"I told them we will use the old Iraqi flag because it represents the unity of Iraq. We do not believe it represents a certain ruler," he said, referring to Saddam.
Kurds associate the old flag with Saddam's genocidal Anfal campaign against them in the late 1980s in which tens of thousands of people were bombed, shot and gassed.
Many Iraqis have objected to the Kurds forcing the change. In Baghdad, some motorists have fixed the old flag to their car antennas.
"They (the Kurds) say Saddam made it, but he did not. We refuse to change the flag because it represents us all," said Amir Saadoun, a resident of Baghdad. (Additional reporting by Ahmed Rasheed, Aws Qusay and Waleed Ibrahim; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Is China de-coupled from the US economy?

These are two articles on the Chinese economy and the effect of a US downturn on its economic growth. Even pessimistic projections place Chinese economic growth at over 9 per cent this year, certainly not much like a recession. Up until now China was worried about growing too quickly. With its environmental problems a slow-down is probably positive and it may be helpful in terms of domestic consumption versus export. The first article is from the Wall Stree Journal.

OnlineJanuary 24, 2008China Turns Its Attention To Maintaining MomentumBy ANDREW BATSONJanuary 24, 2008BEIJING -- Even as China reported today a second year of annual growthabove 11%, the prospect of a U.S.-led global economic slowdown lookedlikely to force a shift in priorities: from curbing the boom tosustaining momentum.The government wants to generate 10 million urban jobs this year.Delivering that is likely to mean a sharper focus on the domesticeconomy, after a period when trade has been a big growth driver.China's export engine started to slow near the end of the year, andthe wider effects of that are already being felt. Economic growthpeaked at 11.9% in the second quarter, then eased to 11.5% in thethird. In the fourth quarter, the economy grew 11.2%, China's NationalBureau of Statistics said today in Beijing. For all of 2007, grossdomestic product expanded 11.4%, the bureau said.Some exporters, seeing orders from the U.S. fall off, are planning totrim staff, which could feed into a broader impact on households andconsumer spending. That is happening even as inflation in Chinaremains high, and as drops in stock markets and property prices alsothreaten to erode savings."The economic and financial conditions at home and abroad will be morecomplicated in 2008, and China is facing tougher challenges insustainable economic and financial development," Jiang Dingzhi, vicechairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, said this week.Top leaders are now still focused on combating inflation that reachednearly 5% in 2007. They have resorted to freezes in prices ofelectricity and fuels, and price controls on some foods. Thatinflation's persistence limits the government's ability to lift theeconomy through measures like interest-rate cuts.That could change quickly if inflation moderates and the U.S. andEurope continue to take a turn for the worse. "I think the governmenthas already started to pay attention to the possibility of a U.S.recession," says Zuo Xiaolei, chief economist for China GalaxySecurities in Beijing. Though even the most pessimistic forecasts callfor China's growth to ease to 9% or so this year, that would be asharp relative slowdown. "They should stimulate domestic consumptionto compensate for the loss of external demand," she says.Indeed, Chinese authorities have a track record of respondingaggressively to external economic slowdowns. In 1998, during the Asianfinancial crisis, a huge influx of government cash helped keep theeconomy growing by nearly 8%. Yet such efforts to boost the economyalso carry the risk that China could end up in a damaging downturnwhen the boost runs out.A boom in construction of housing, infrastructure and new factorieshas been the major driving force of China's expansion in recent years.Such investment has been so fast that many officials worry that moreis being built than is really needed. To avoid excess capacity, thegovernment has repeatedly moved to curb investment and warned thatfuture growth will have to be less reliant on such spending. But thoseconcerns may fall by the wayside if the leadership decides moreinfrastructure projects are needed to offset weaker exports."If the major economies do retrench fairly heavily, then maintaining adegree of growth that is consistent with social stability will requirea boost in construction and investment," says Glenn Maguire, Asiaeconomist for Societe Generale. A concrete increase in jobs could welloutweigh the more abstract worry of excess capacity or wastedinvestment. So, he says, "We may see a temporary pause in this desirefor more balanced growth."There is plenty of such spending under way. China's Ministry ofRailways earlier this month announced a major step-up in constructionof new railroads this year, with official plans calling for spendingabout $41 billion to lay 7,820 kilometers of new track. And withChina's cities growing by 18 million people a year, according toUnited Nations estimates, it wouldn't be difficult to speed upconstruction of housing and public works. About 10 major cities,including Beijing but also places like Chengdu, Wuhan and Guangzhou,are now building or expanding subway systems -- but there are severalothers whose plans are still waiting for approval.Similarly, most analysts expect fewer of the tax and regulatorychanges that were pushed through last year to limit exports of someproducts, mostly raw materials or those whose manufacture generateshigh pollution. Such measures were a response to the problems of thewide trade surplus, which had brought political friction with the U.S.and Europe, and flooded banks with cash they were ill-equipped todeploy properly.Yet as the U.S. economy has weakened, official talk of curbing thetrade surplus has subsided. Export growth slowed from about 29% in thefirst half of 2007 to around 22% in the second half, and thegovernment is once again concerned about aiding exporters. "Companies'exports are facing new pressure ... the task of stabilizing exports isvery heavy," Minister of Commerce Chen Deming said in a speech lastweek.A mild global slowdown could actually ease some of China's recenteconomic problems: domestic food prices that are being pushed up inpart by tight global agricultural markets, and a banking systemflooded with cash from an ever-expanding trade surplus. Governmentthink tanks are forecasting only a modest slowdown in economic growththis year, in the range of 10% to 11%, which is considered desirablegiven the strains that growth in excess of 11% has brought.But a big shock to the export sector that leads to an increase inunemployment would be a different matter."Although the current slowdown in export growth helps alleviate thetrade surplus and external imbalances, our nation still faces greatemployment pressures," argues Fan Caiyue, an economist for theNational Development and Reform Commission, in an article this week."We still need to maintain a certain amount of export growth, so ifexports substantially decline, it is not beneficial to maintainingstable and fast growth in our nation's economy."To reduce China's vulnerability to trade fluctuations and investmentcycles, the government over the past couple of years also has beentrying to encourage its consumers to spend more and save less. Yetwhile public-works projects can start up quickly, changing spendinghabits can take longer, and there hasn't yet been a big acceleration.After accounting for the effects of inflation, retail sales were up12.8% last year through November, little changed from the 12.7% pacein 2006.This year, officials are continuing to roll out policies designed toput more money in consumers' pockets, like higher minimum wages, andthey are continuing to expand new health-care and social-securityprograms to reduce the burden of those costs.

Here is the second article from the Economist:

An independent streakJan 24th 2008 HONG KONG>From The Economist print editionINVESTORS were until recently big fans of the "decoupling" theory, thenotion that Asian economies can shrug off an American recession. This week'splunge in share prices, at one point taking the MSCI Emerging Asia Indexdown 25% from its October high, suggests they have changed their minds. Butthe fact that their stockmarkets are still coupled does not mean that theireconomies will follow America over a cliff.Decoupling was always a misnomer if it implied that an American recessionwould have no impact in the East. Exports and hence profits would certainlybe squeezed; some fear Japan may even be tipping back into recession.Instead, the real argument in the rest of Asia was that it would suffer lessthan in previous American downturns.As well as hitting exports, America's troubles could also affect emergingAsia through financial channels. Its exposure to the subprime mess isthought to be smaller than that of American or European banks. Even so,Chinese bank shares tumbled this week on reports that they would have tomake bigger write-downs on their holdings of American subprime securities.And if shares slide further as global investors flee from risky assets, thiscould dampen business and consumer confidence in the region.Some Asian economies are more vulnerable than others. Singapore, Hong Kongand Malaysia are the most exposed, with exports to America equivalent to 20%or more of their GDPs, compared with only 8% in China and 2% in India. Thereare already some ominous signs. Singapore's exports to America are down by11% over the past year, whereas Malaysia's fell by 16%. Exports to otheremerging economies and to the European Union surged, so total exports stillgrew by 6% in both economies. But that was much slower than at the start of2007, and the worry now is that demand from Europe has started to flag.The growth in China's exports to America slowed to only 1% (in yuan terms)in the year to December from over 20% in late 2006. So far the impact on GDPhas been modest. Figures published on January 24th showed that China's GDPgrew by a sizzling 11.2% in the year to the fourth quarter, down from 11.5%in the previous three months. Most economists expect growth to slow to astill-healthy 9-10% this year, but there are growing concerns that newgovernment limits on bank lending risk choking the economy.China's economy would probably still expand by around 8-9% even if exportgrowth dried up. During the 2001 American recession China's GDP growthbarely slowed. In contrast, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Malaysiasuffered full-blown recessions, with growth rates falling by more than tenpercentage points from peak to trough. America's slump is likely to bedeeper than in 2001 and Asia is now more integrated into the global economythan it used to be. Doomsters conclude, therefore, that these economiescould be hit even harder this time.The main reasons to be more optimistic are that domestic demand (consumerspending and investment) is likely to remain stronger and that governmentshave more flexibility to offset America's malaise. Last year, despite aslowdown in America's imports, most Asian economies grew faster as domesticdemand sped up everywhere except Thailand. Robert Prior-Wandesforde, aneconomist at HSBC, says that those who argue that Asia cannot decouple fromAmerica are ignoring the fact that they already have. Take Malaysia: itsexports to America plunged, yet its GDP growth quickened from 5.7% at theend of 2006 to 6.7% in the third quarter of last year.Contrary to the popular view that Asia's meltdown during the 2001 recessionwas entirely due to a slump in exports, Peter Redward, at Barclays Capital,argues that a fall in investment played a bigger role. Too much debt andexcess capacity weighed down firms, particularly in the electronicsindustry, which was at the heart of the American recession. Today firms arein much better shape. Capacity utilisation is high across the region;outside China, investment as a share of GDP is historically low; companybalance-sheets are stronger and real interest rates are low. Firms aretherefore less likely to slash investment than in 2001.Slowing exports will affect domestic spending. But macroeconomicfundamentals are much healthier in East Asia these days. Largeforeign-exchange reserves make countries less vulnerable to shocks. Budgetsare in surplus or close to balance, providing more scope for fiscal stimulusto support growth.For all these reasons, even if Asia's exports clearly have not decoupledfrom America, its economies will be less hurt by a recession there than inthe past. Standard Chartered forecasts that emerging Asia will grow by anaverage of 6.4% in 2008, down from 7.8% in 2007. In 2001 growth dropped bythree percentage points, to 4.2%. Financial markets were slow to realisethat growth and hence profits in some countries in emerging Asia will bedented by an American downturn. But now they risk exaggerating the potentialdamage.

Terrorist sympathizer appointed by Bush as ambassador to Nicrargua

This is from paulitics blog. Of course the terrorists were the Contras. Together with Negroponte another Bush favorite Callahan supported and facilitated the Contra counter-revolution. The nauseating story of CIA involvement is detailed at this site among others. Among the terrorist acts of the CIA was the mining of Nicaraguan harbours:
" The World Court declared the American mining illegal but the U.S. government chose to flout the law and continued the mining. The government of Saudi Arabia secretly arranged with the CIA to fund the Contras at the rate of $1 million a month. This money was laundered via a bank account in the Cayman Islands (under the name of Lt. Colonel Oliver North) to a Swiss Bank account, and thence to the Contras. "
Daniel Ortega was the leader of the Sandanistas and is now again president of Nicaragua. It is surely a gross insult to send Callahan. However, I guess you can say that he knows the ropes. Anyway, Ortega is now corrupted and probably quite able to adjust to the situation. Only Nicaraguans will suffer.



U.S. president George W. Bush has just appointed Robert Callahan as the United State’s Ambassador to Nicaragua. Callahan was John Negroponte’s (the former Ambassador to Honduras) right hand man, spokesman and speachwriter while the two were co-ordinating the operations of the Contras in Nicaragua during the 1980s.