"“We have lent a huge amount of money to the U.S. Of course we are concerned about the safety of our assets. To be honest, I am definitely a little worried.” "

Chinese premier Wen Jiabao 12th March 2009

""We have a financial system that is run by private shareholders, managed by private institutions, and we'd like to do our best to preserve that system."

Timothy Geithner US Secretary of the Treasury, previously President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.1/3/2009

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Searching times ahead. GD3 worries some folks

Google Desktop is a wonderful tool, it enables me to find that piece I wrote about jam making at some time in the last three years ... that letter about my holiday insurance etc., etc., Now a new feature in Google Desktop 3 (GD3) launched on Wednesday allows the user to search for documents across multiple computers, poses privacy risks and should not be used, a consumer digital rights nonprofit and a security company, The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), are warning.

This has precipitated a lot of concern about privacy and is well addressed by an article at c-net "When Google is not your friend" The principal cause for worry by users of search engines in the US is that search engines are not fully shielded by the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act--concocted back in the era of CompuServe and bulletin board systems--their users don't enjoy the same level of privacy.

Declan McCullagh delves into what the major search engines do in storing your data and how it may be made available either by sub poaena (a demand from a court to provide the stated evidence) which may be made via the State or by an attorney applying to the court. An earlier article by him explains how it is already being used in court.

Any user of search engines, especially users of Desktop would be well advised to consider the consequences of using the major search engines.... remember how often you see in a news story of some court case the exposure of some e-mail that the sender / recipient would rather not have seen the light of day.

More information at Z Net

Recent blogs on same topic here

Khuzestan is Coalition's target (?)

There are 30 provinces in Iran. In the SW bordering Iraq and the Persian Gulf is Khuzestan. Its capital is Ahvaz and covers an area of 63,238 sq. km. (25% the size of the UK) Other major cities include Behbahan, Abadan, Andimeshk, Khorramshahr, Bandar Imam, Dezful, Shushtar, Omidiyeh, Izeh, Baq-e-Malek, Mah Shahr, Dasht-e-Azadegan, Ramhormoz, Shadegan, Susa, Masjed Soleiman, Minoo Island and Hoveizeh.

Site of much of the strife in the Iran / Iraq war there are some 4 million people, of which approximately two thirds are in urban centres and the remainder in rural areas.

Geographically Khuzestan can be divided into 2 regions, i.e. the plains in the South and West irrigated by the 850 Km long Karun and Karkeh and Jarahi rivers.The mountainous regions are situated to the north and east of the province, and are considered to be a part of southern regions of the Zagros mountain ranges.

Domination of Khuzestan was Saddam Hussein's primary strategic objective when he launched the Iran-Iraq war, which forced thousands of Iranians to flee the province, for it is this province which contains most of the oil and all of the exporting ports. Control would squeeze the country dry of revenue and would help set up internal intra-Arab strife - the Zionist long term objective of divide and conquer.

The city of Khorramshahr was almost completely destroyed as a result of Saddam's scorched earth policy. Fortunately, Iranian forces were able to prevent the Iraqis from attempting to spread the execution of this policy to other major urban centres.

The Iranian Embassy Siege of 1980 was a terrorist siege of the Iranian Embassy in London initiated by an Arab separatist group. Initially it emerged the terrorists wanted autonomy for Khuzestan; later they demanded the release of 91 of their comrades held in Iranian jails. The group which claimed responsibility for the siege- the Arab Popular Movement in Arabistan- gave a number of press conferences in the following months, referring to what it described as "the racist rule of Khomeini". It threatened further international action as part of its campaign to gain self- rule for Khuzestan. But its links with Baghdad served to undermine its argument that it was a purely Iranian opposition group; there were allegations that it was backed by Iraq. Their leader ("Salim" - Awn Ali Mohammed) along with four other members of the group were killed and the fifth member, Fowzi Badavi Nejad, was sentenced to life imprisonment.

It is assumed that any incursion / military action against Iran by the US / Coalition would be generally against the whole of the country. It is however likely that there have been persistent raids by specialist forces in the region preparatory to taking Khuzestan, it's oil ports, and it's stranglehold over the Straits of Hormuz, plus liason with anti Government forces.

This would be sold as a necessary action to prevent further SCIRI meddling in Iraqi affairs, and as a "low level" response to the supposed nuclear threat from Iran ... which everyone knows is a lot of bollocks.

Global Research have a fascinating breakdown of possible actions against Iran by Michael Keefer... some of it probably fanciful in tying in Turkey's entry to the EU with complianc in allowing use of air ports / space for such an assault.

"Since December 2005, however, there have been much firmer indications both that the planned attack will go ahead in late March 2006, and also that the Cheney-Bush administration intends it to involve the use of nuclear weapons." says Keefer.

If that is true the Mad Beekeepers of Bush's gang really will have lost their collective marbles and prepared us all for Armageddon. .... much heralded by Scott Ritter who gave the start date to Apocolypse June 2005.

John Pilger has an article this week in the New Statesman in which he echoes a lot of the Keefer article. Both of these stress the looming oil bourse that Iran has threatened in which oil would be traded in Euros and not the fiat oil-dollar. There is little evidence that this will ever happen ... it takes two to tango. Buyers have to use Euros to buy for which they have to sacrifice dollars ... where is the % for them ? Sellers are receiving $60-$70 on the spot when 4 years ago they were unhappy to take $15-20 ?

Of course the Iranians want to tweak Uncle Sam's nose, pull his beard , spit in his face... but precipitate nuclear war ?

It will be interesting to see if Mr Blair tags along, or if he consults the House of Commons before deciding to throw in the UK military effort.

War Criminals hard at work robbing the taxpayer ...CBS 60 Minutes tells the tale Sunday

CBS 60 minutes for those lucky enough to live in the land of the free this Sunday, Feb. 12, at 7 p.m. ET/PT,60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft investigates the billions spent on reconstruction-related work, particularly money paid to a contractor, Custer Battles, now being sued for fraud.(Heading pic is from the www.custerbattles.com website ...)

Stuart Bowen, special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, claims $8.8 billion is unaccounted for by failures of the CPA. (see previous posts).

The former No. 2 man at the CPA transportation ministry, Frank Willis, agrees. "I would describe (the accounting system) as nonexistent." Without a financial infrastructure, checks and money transfers were not possible, so the Coalition kept billions in cash to pay for its multitude of projects. "Fresh, new, crisp, unspent, just-printed $100 bills. It was the Wild West," says Willis.

Billions have gone missing and Custer Battles, a company quickly formed after the war to get reconstruction contracts, goes on trial next week, accused in a whistleblower suit by an ex-employee of bilking the U.S. government out of $50 million.

"(Custer Battles) wanted to open fraudulent companies overseas and inflate their invoices to the U.S. government," says Robert Isakson. He says he refused to go along with the scheme and "two weeks later, apparently I heard they began exactly the fraud they described to me," he tells Kroft in the 60 Minutes program.

Willis remembers Custer Battles, which was formed by former Army Rangers Scott Custer and Mike Battles, ex- bull rider who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2002 as a Rhode Island Republican, was a former CIA case worker and claimed White House connections.

"They came in with a can-do attitude, whether they could or not," he says. "They were not experienced. They didn’t know what they were doing."

They nevertheless got contracts and their work quickly drew complaints.

"They failed miserably," says Col. Richard Ballard the inspector general for the Army in Iraq at the timeof a $16.8 million contract Custer Battles got to secure the Baghdad Airport, he says the company failed to provide the X-ray equipment required by the contract.See the contract hereat the Taxpayers against Fraud website.

"These were multi-million-dollar devices for which they received a considerable cash advance so that they could procure them, and then they never procured this equipment," says Ballard.

On a bomb-sniffing dog and trainer Custer Battles did procure, Col. Ballard says, "I think it was a guy and his pet, to be honest with you," he tells Kroft. The colonel noted that the dog "would refuse to sniff the vehicles."

In a memo obtained by 60 Minutes, the airport’s director of security wrote to the CPA: "Custer Battles has shown themselves to be unresponsive, uncooperative, incompetent, deceitful, manipulative and war profiteers. Other than that, they are swell fellows."

The CPA didn't remove Custer Battles and continued to give them contracts. One of those contracts involved procuring trucks for moving cash around the country — some of which were inoperative and had to be delivered via tow truck.

"I don't really know (how they got away with it)," says British Col. Philip Wilkinson, to whom the trucks were delivered. "The assumption that we had was that they had to have high political top cover ..."

Custer and Battles are now under federal investigation and declined to be interviewed. But in taped depositions, they disavowed any knowledge of fraudulent invoices outlined in the lawsuit.

See an April 2005 AP report filed by Deborah Hastings for more detailed information including how Pete Baldwin was in charge of the project to move money became a whistelblower as well. He complained – first to his Custer Battles bosses, then to the military, and finally to Pentagon investigators and the FBI.

This is a tale of greed, venality, incompetence, dishonesty that boggles the mind.

Go to the Custer Battles website there is a wonderful piece of puffery in their copies of Press releases (which all make fascinating reading) from the WSJ. Read it here and wonder.

You couldn't make this fucking tale up...

What the Geek buys himself for Valentine's

The ultimate Geek tool. The USB port is removeable for passing through airports security. 4 essential tools no geek should be without, USB flash drive, LED light, Swiss Army knife, ballpoint pen … but no bottle opener. USD69

Dubya as a stand up comedian

I was much taken by the Great Leader’s decision to unburden himself over the removal of the threat to the Liberty Building / Library Building / Bank Building in LA.

Apparently the “evil” Islamosfascist bomber was going to blow off his feet, hobble into the cockpit (if it was still there …. To calculate the blast impact of home made shoe bombs in a pressurised plane on strengthened steel doors is a trifle …er..tricky), over power the pilots etc., etc.,… well you’ve seen the rest on late night TV too often.

The old Hotfoot trick heh ? Reminds me of Hotfoot Harry in the Damon Runyon Stories ( featured in the film Bloodhounds on Broadway).

Do they sincerely expect us to believe this fucking nonsense ?

Fortunately (and perhaps surprisingly because Gannon wasn't about, the White House Press Corps even thought to question "Stumpy's" MO.

Q Scott, I wanted to just ask a follow-up about the LA plot. Is there something missing from this story, a practical application, a few facts? Because if you want to commandeer a plane and fly it into a tower, if you used shoe bombs, wouldn't you blow off the cockpit? Or is there something missing from this story?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know what you're referring to about missing. I mean, I think we provided you a detailed briefing earlier today about the plot. And Fran Townsend, our Homeland Security Advisor, talked about it. So I'm not sure what you're suggesting it.

Think about it, if you're wearing shoe bombs, you either blow off your feet or you blow off the front of the airplane.

There was a briefing for you earlier today. I think that's one way to look at it. There are a lot of ways to look at it, and she explained it earlier today, Alexis, so I would refer you very much back to what she said, what she said earlier today.

The intel pros didn't think much of the way the Great Leader told it either.

Hungary looks to wind energy to meet Kyoto targets

There are currently only 10 wind turbines operating in Hungary but this will change over the next 2 years as Germany’s Voltwerk will build 25 wind turbines in southern Hungary by 2008, and Irish firm, Eurogreen Energy, is also investing HUF 30 billion (EUR 120 million) in building a 300-hectare wind farm near Bakony, of 36 turbines generating 108MW of electricity.

“The power from these turbines will go into the national grid and will provide enough electricity for around 70-80,000 homes,” said Jim Galvin, Eurogreen’s managing director. (30 Irish companies employ 600 local employees in Hungary, with combined annual revenues of more than €62 million.) Eurogreen is a joint venture between 2 firms from Bandon, Co. Cork SWS Properties , and Fleming Construction , one of the Irish Times Top 1000 companies.

Voltwerk describe themselves as an experienced company in the field of renewable energy project development. They calim to have also proven their strength in financial engineering and the distribution of green value funds. They are a subsidiary of the German Conergy Group that specialise in Solar and Photovoltaic systems with offices in Australia, Mexico and the USA. The American office of Conergy has joined the Bill Clinton Global Initiative and Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) in supporting a project to provide solar power in African rural villages.

“By the end of 2004, 600 wind turbines had already received their environmental licences,” said ministry spokeswoman Judit Tóth. “In 2003, 3.5% of our energy requirements came from renewable energy. The target for 2010 is 4.5%.”

Hungary’s other major potential energy source, its thermal waters, look set to remain largely untapped.

“Hungary geothermic potential is more than 150% the average of other countries,” said Tóth. “In spite of this, for technical and economic reasons, there is no possibility of using this source.”

Despite the lack of a large-scale exploitation of the waters, there is at least one company that provides a small-scale solution. Stiebel Eltron sells a unit that can be sunk into the ground beneath a home to take advantage of the high temperatures to provide hot water and heating

All this is modestly good news for Hungary’s drive to meet the Kyoto requirements – a cut of greenhouse gas emission by 6% by 2012 compared to 1985-1987 levels - and for alternative energy sources in the aftermath of the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute, renewable energy experts say that other problems must be solved.

“The main problem with wind energy is the capacity of the network to absorb more energy from renewable sources, which do not produce on a continuous basis,” said József Szlezák, of Szentendre’s Regional Environmental Centre (REC). “The owners of the transmission network, mainly foreign companies, haven’t been obliged to upgrade facilities to make it able to receive the electricity from renewable energy generators.” This is the major problem that has emerged in the UK and is halting the development of remote, land and sea wind farms and has been highlighted by Hugh Sherman in a recent paper …see more.

“What we need from the government is a strategic approach that takes into account problems and shortcomings,” Szlezák says.... which might also be said of the UK with their mis - managed energy policy and endlessly optimistic views about "renewable energy".

According to Szlezák, who runs the CEERES project to promote renewable energy across Central and Eastern Europe, the government will this year attempt to come up with this strategy but as it will cost a lot of money nobody is holding their breath.

Despite this, Szlezák’s REC colleague, Dr Zsuzsanna Iványi, acting head of the Climate Change Programme, said Hungary is on course to meet its very modest Kyoto requirements.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Parallel Universes

The Mirror reported on 21st September 2005 that NASIR Ali, 18, who panicked passengers at Mile End Tube with shouts of "bomb, bomb" and "run for your lives" the day after the attacks, was jailed for eight months at Southwark Crown Court.

Yet marchers on the streets of the capital threatening murder and a new Holocaust remain un-arrested, un-stopped under terrorism legislation, un-harassed, unimpeded on their march (and even given a large and very, very polite Police Guard).

Another funny Danish "cartoon" website

Those interested can go to Danish Drawings of the Prophet Mohammed, apologists for the anti Muslim wing of Danish bloggers and view all the material so far produced. Evidently amongst the 6 Mn population there are some people with strong views about the 200,000 Mulsims in their midst.

Perhaps they should stick to Pornography, they do it so much better, if that is more to your taste go here.

Uzbek courts crackdown on dissent and NGO's

Prominent human rights defender and journalist Saidzhakhon Zainabitdinov , was arbitrarily detained on 21 May 2005 by Uzbek police corces. He attended the trial of 23 local entrepreneurs charged in connection with their alleged involvement with a business organisation by the name of Akramia at the events in Andizjan in May , and acted as a representative for one of the accused men.

Uzbeki authorities accused members and supporters of Akramia of attempting to organise protests with a view to establishing an Islamic state in Uzbekistan.
They linked the movement to the banned Hizb-ut-Tahrir opposition party, which they categorise as a ‘terrorist’ organisation. (Which is also under threat in the UK)

Saidzhakhon Zainabitdinov was allowed to call his family on 29 and 30 May 2005 and confirmed that he had been charged with ‘slander’, and a possible 3 year prison sentence, relating to an open letter about the trial of the 23 entrepreneurs published on the internet.

In July he was further charged with ‘terrorism’, a capital offence, and ‘spreading information with the aim of causing panic’.

An Uzbek court yesterday sentenced him to 7 years in prison on charges of conspiring with "terrorists," defaming the state, and religious extremism for providing information to foreign media regarding last year's violent uprising in Andijan, where as many as 500 protesters were killed by state troops Previous trials against protesters have led to 115 reported convictions, with prison sentences ranging from 12-20 years.

Meanwhile, an Uzbek civil court on Wednesday denied the appeal (following a January 11, 2006, decision from the Uzbek Ministry of Justice claiming that the office was in violation of Uzbek legislation governing nongovernmental organizations' (NGO) operations ) of the US-based human rights group Freedom House challenging a ruling by the Uzbek Ministry of Justice that would force the group to cease activities in Uzbekistan for six months.

Freedom House officials believe the decision was motivated by the government's desire to silence criticism of its human rights record, the group was officially charged with offering free internet access to citizens, sheltering unregistered domestic groups, and violating a classified order. (Uzbek prosecutors had alleged noncompliance with a secret decree issued by the government, which throughout the proceedings remained undisclosed.)

Approximately 200 domestic organizations have been forced to close down or leave the country, as have numerous international NGOs, including IREX, Internews, BBC, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Open Society Institute.

It is not known what the UK Ambassador in Tashkent has done to protest about the suppression of Human Rights in these cases..... but don't expect Mr Straw to be rushing out a statement in support of Human Rights or for Saidzhakhon Zainabitdinov.

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Italians step up war on pot users, dealers

In advance of the April 9th elections the conservative Italian Government led by the fresh faced, youthful and fun lovin' Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has pushed through new legislation putting marijuana use on a par with cocaine and heroine ending any legal distinction between 'soft' and 'hard' drugs, effectively recriminalizing marijuana use in the country.

Ignazio La Russa of the rightwing National Alliance (AN) party, which sponsored the law, said: "We have asserted three great civic principles: first, that drugs are bad for you and the State isn't indifferent; second, that only pushers are punished while young people and communities get more help; and third, that penalties for pushers are harsher" .

Sanctions against marijuana users including mandatory detention at home during the night and temporary suspension of driver's license and passport. Those found to be dealing or trafficking in drugs face 6-20 years in jail along with 260,000 Euros in fines.

Previously possession was subject to a summons and a warning. This is a reversal of a recent trend towards liberalization in other European states; in 2004, for instance, the British government has relaxed the official view on possession and re classified the drug use (Home Office site on changes) making possession a non-arrestable offence in most cases, although technically a conviction could lead to a two-year jail term, down from the previous five.

In 1993 Italians voted to de-criminalise marijuana users in a national referendum and recent statistics show 33% of Italian teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 have smoked pot at least once, while 10-12% have tried cocaine, 11% ecstasy and 7-10% crack and some 10% of adults are said to use pot on a regular basis .

There are an estimated 300,000-320,000 heroin addicts in Italy, more than 20,000 of whom are in jail. In 2001, 150,300 Italians were treated for drug addiction. Drug Treatment specialists claim the main drug problem facing Italy is an 80% rise in cocaine use in the past 10 years .

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Does this offend anyone officer ?

Iraqi reconstruction ... Hot tubs and Cadillacs in Trenton New Jersey

Flogging the Simian, ( which is I think synonymous with Bashing the Bisop) has an excellent Roumanian based site he appears to be an expat US journalist with several languages at his command and writes a wise, witty and razor sharp blog.

I am grateful to him for more information from Roumanian newspapers about Robert Stein and the Roumanian / US snake oil salesman Mr Bloom who ripped off the Coalition Provisional Authority and thereby the hapless US tax payer.

The Bucharest Daily News has a little bit more information on who Bloom is:
Bloom is known for his close ties with Romanian authorities over the last 15 years. Since 1990, he has been involved as a consultant on several privatization and financing projects for the Romanian government. He is also an associate of the former Romanian Bank for Development president Bogdan Baltazar in the consultancy group "Baltazar, Bloom & Parvulescu."

Romanian newspaper Gindul has more (translation by the Simian) in an article from November 2005:

Wednesday, a court in Washington, DC issued charges against Bloom of conspiracy, fraud, attempt to money launder and the transport of stolen goods, connected to his actions to obtain contractions worth 3.5 million dollars in Iraq for 3 of his companies. The American [Bloom], a long-time resident of Romania, was recently arrested in America and is in federal custody. The case is especially delicate for the American authorities because some of his bribes were to an official of the Defense Department and one was to a financial inspector of the CPA [Stein]. One of the two accomplices of Bloom's could cooperate with prosecutors in the case.

According to the New York Times, Bloom bid on many offers for contracts issued by the CPA, all of them through his companies or through shell companies and his accomplices inside the CPA were the ones who decided to award the contracts. In exchange for his efforts, CPA officials and even their wives received money (transferred from banks in Romania, Kuwait, the Netherlands and Switzerland) or jewelry. In other occasions, he bribed them with real estate in North Carolina or automobiles. The Iraqis themselves had no say in any of these dirty deals. Although Bloom's companies won the contracts to rebuild a public library, a police academy and other buildings in Al Hillah and Karbala, an American Department of Justice report shows that he had done no work as of this summer [2005].(…and his being in chokey won’t help the work along we can assume)

Romanian Government Was Advised By Bloom

The briber Philip Herbert Bloom was a consultant to the Romanian government in many privatization cases starting in 1993-1994. One of his companies, Global Business Group, participated in the privatization of Astra Vagoane Arad and the Phoenix of Baia Mare as well as mediating financing for TAROM [Romanian state-owned airlines] when the airline bought 5 Boeing 737-300 aircraft.

Aligned with Bogdan Baltazar, the former president of BRD [Romanian state-owned bank], (Biog here )
Bloom was a stockholder in the consultancy firm "Baltazar, Bloom and Pirvulescu". Baltazar yesterday admitted to Mediafax that his business partner had been arrested in the United States but stated that his [Baltazar's] firm had "no connection whatsoever with Bloom's activities in Iraq". What is interesting is that the company Global Business Group, which describes itself as a "consultancy firm for investments and privatization in Romania" is similarly named to Global Business Group Logistics, which Baltazar admitted did business in Iraq.

Until he is found guilty in a court, Baltazar considers Bloom innocent. "I don't believe he did anything illegal in Iraq. What I think is that he angered some people because his business deals were successful, and the big American firms over there did not want any competition from an outsider" said Baltazar.

Bowen is reported as saying there are 57 other similiar cases heres one of them associated with Stein and Bloom.
A Corp Watch story 15th December 2005 claims that Debrah Harrison who worked in Trenton, New Jersey's water department served as a reservist in Iraq in 2003 and 2004, assigned to Coalition Provisional Authority office in Hillah that awarded reconstruction contracts. Arrested at the same time were second Army Reserve lieutenant colonel, Michael Brian Wheeler of Amherst Junction, Wis., and a former occupation official, Robert J. Stein Jr., 50, of Fayetteville, N.C., .

Harrison allegedly stole $80,000 to $100,000 from the CPA to add a deck and hot tub to her home in New Jersey, according to the complaint.

In 2004, she acquired a Cadillac Escalade, (which goes with the hot tub I guess) worth $50,000 to $60,000, after money was wired from accounts controlled or used by Bloom directly to a dealership, the complaint said.

Stuart Bowen, Poacher turned Gamekeeper ?

On Tuesday July 6th 2005 the Right Hand Thief posted some information from the WSJ about their front page Col. 1 story "Former Bush Aide Turns Tough Critic as Iraq Inspector" (front page, column one). It's a profile of Stuart Bowen, the special Inspector General for Iraq reconstruction.

So who is Stuart Bowen asks RHT? It appears he's a Texas lawyer who "parlayed a job on George W. Bush's first gubernatorial campaign into senior posts in Austin and Washington." spending "35 days in Florida during the 2000 recount". He reward was working for Bush's transition team, and then then joining 'Abu' Gonzales as associate counsel for the White House. Subsequently he became a lobbyist for a big construction company angling for Iraq contracts. Basically, the guy has been a loyal Bushie confidant for over a decade.

Then RHT reports ,during the fall of 2003 something strange happened. Congress called for an Inspector General to audit the CPA in Iraq, and see how US tax dollars were being spent. It belatedly occurred to some esteemed representatives that "the largest U.S. reconstruction effort since World War II" could use a modicum of oversight.

Public Law 108-106, the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense and for the Reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan, 2004, appropriated $18 billion for the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund (IRRF). To oversee the handling and treatment of these funds by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), this law also established the Inspector General of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA-IG) to provide for the independent and objective conduct and supervision of audits and investigations relating to the CPA's programs and operations.(www.sigir.mil website of his office)

Most Democrats were highly sceptical when Stuart Bowen was appointed to fill this new position, though, questioning whether he was truly independent (given his close ties to Bush). However, those skeptics changed their tune dramatically when Bowen began issuing reports ;

…that concluded that the American occupation authority failed to keep track of nearly $9 billion that it transferred to Iraqi government ministries, which lacked financial controls and internal safeguards to prevent abuse. One Iraqi ministry cited in the audit inflated its payroll to receive extra funds, claiming to employ 8,206 guards when it actually employed barely 600.

A third of the $10 billion in contracts signed in fiscal 2003 were awarded without competition.

A contractor charged the U.S. $3.3 million for phantom employees assigned to an oil-pipeline contract.

Iraqi construction firms allegedly paid U.S. soldiers to help steal construction equipment from the interim government.

At least a third[!!] of the government-owned vehicles and equipment that Halliburton was paid to manage were believed lost. [!!]

However, don’t expect for all that, and his first collar reported here this week of a CPA (ex felon) that he’s going to be nominated for a Congressional Gold Medal (by the way did Tony Blair ever get to receive his ?). Sounds to me that Mr Bowen is doing a grand job.AS is RHT. Go take a look.


An expanded £10,000 revamp to their CCTV network (initially installed 4 years ago) now covers a large part of the school Cardinal Langley RC High School, Middleton, Manchester, UK.

Thanks to cameras in the boys and girls toilets headteacher, Colin Mason the caretaker and members of the senior management team can keep an eye on the washrooms at all times.

Not, it appears, to keep a watch on potential priestly paedophiles but reduce the vandalism, graffiti and “inappropriate” (?) use of the toilets .. and the chance of a crafty drag on a fag.

The report doesn’t say if the teachers toilets are under such surveillance.

Pic courtesy, the payers of BBC TV Licence of the LA Public Toilet that the cops caught pop singer (?) George Michael committing a "solitary lewd act" .... Kids be warned no mucky mags , no fags, the beak is watching.

Translators Note : In the UK a fag is a street expression for a cigarette. The beak is one of many, many slang expressions for the Headmaster.

Iraq reconstruction, corruption,waste,inefficiency .. it's official now

Engineering News-Record ENR.Com a McGraw Hill Magazine reports the meeting of the US Senate Foreign Relations committee which provides a stunning indictment of the way US taxpayers money has been wasted and how unsatisfactory the attempts at reconstruction have been. The article is "INTERNATIONAL Security Woes Slow Rebuilding Iraqi Infrastructure, IG Says 2/8/2006 By Bruce Buckley" and can be found here

Special Inspector General Stuart W. Bowen, Jr for Iraq Reconstruction testified to the Senate Foreign Relations committee Feb. 8 subsequent to the court case in which the depth and breadth of venality and corruption was detailed in the charges brought against CPA staffer Robert Stein and his US/Roumanian business friend Harold Bloom.
The committee were so delighted they issued a Press Release.

Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Susan Collins, R-Me., and Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Friday expressed concern about allegations of large kickbacks paid to American officials for the award of contracts in Iraq. The Senators praised the Special Inspector General overseeing Iraq reconstruction for uncovering the alleged corruption.

Collins said: "These allegations of fraudulent use of taxpayer dollars are serious and troubling."

Joe Lieberman said:

“The facts alleged by the Department of Justice paint a disturbing picture of corruption among some officials of the Coalition Provisional Authority."

“serious and troubling” , “disturbing picture” … well I might say it’s a fucking scandal. Especially when you read more about what Bowen told the Committee.

Bowen reported that only 49 of 136 projects originally planned in the water sector will be completed under current Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund (IRRF) allocations. He also estimates that only 300 of the 425 projects planned for the electricity sector will be completed.

These shortfalls follow a 2004 IRRF reprogramming that reduced water sector allocations from $4.3 billion to $2.1 billion in order to increase security funding. The electricity sector dropped from $5.6 billion to $4.3 billion during that reprogramming, (That's a total cut of USD$3.5 Bn !) Bowen reported.

He also reported routine reports of kidnappings, murders, attacks, bombings, vandalism and threats continue to pose extraordinary challenges to contractors.

Since reconstruction began in March 2003, 467 death claims for contractors of all nationalities have been submitted under the Defense Base Act, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

The State department claim security costs represent 16 to 22 percent of the overall costs of major infrastructure projects Bowen reported that costs for security of contractors have risen on average more than 25 percent during reconstruction.
Joseph A. Christoff, the Government Accountability Office’s director International Affairs and Trade, echoed Bowen’s comments to the committee.

In his testimony, Christoff notes examples of project cancellations and delays. In March 2005, USAID cancelled two task orders for power generation projects valued at $15 million in order to help fund security issues at another project site. Security concerns also led to the four-month delay of a sewer repair project in 2004.

With 84 percent of the $18.4 billion IRRF funds are obligated under contracts, Bowen recommends that efforts should be focussed on sustaining current projects rather than futile attempts to complete the entire list of proposed projects.

“Corruption is not a pervasive problem on the U.S. side of the reconstruction program,” he says and emphasises security problems. Rather than systemic corruption, audits have focused on inefficiencies and waste in the management of reconstruction contracts, projects and finances, Bowen says. A lack of cost-to-complete estimates and other critical data have hindered efforts to gauge the reconstruction effort, he says.

PS I have now found the whole of the Inspectors report by SIGIR which the Senate received is available on the www.sigir.mil website and is located here PDF Alert! it's 40 pages makes very,very,very interesting reading... I'm glad its not my tax dollars they are (mis)spending.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Cartoons ... No laughing matter

Flemming Rose who authorised the infamous cartoons traveled to Philadelphia in 2004 in order to meet Daniel Pipes (the neo con who’s advocating to keep US Muslims in concentration camps). The translation by Nina of the resultant article The Threat of Islamism by Flemming Rose Jyllands-Posten 29. October 2004 can be read in full at the Bellacio website here

It is evident that the idea for, the execution of, the publication and worldwide dissemination of the cartoons, the augmented palimpsests sedulously peddled by imams, the crowds, the flag and Embassy burnings and the media responses have been carefully and successfully contrived.

The objective ... to demonise the Muslim hordes and solidify the xenophobic response from the White Angle Saxon Protestant masses to support ( or at least not dissent from) action against those who might question US hegemony, military might and cultural imperialism.

Now you know why the revolt in the Parisian bainlieus was calibrated by the numbers of burnt out cars ... a handy, simple calculus of Muslim perfidy easily peddled to a credulous public.

Excellent post at Kurt Nimmo on the Straussian neo-con influences on the above...here

Occupied Cyprus, Bird Flu H5N1 and a deafening silence

The EU announced on Jan 30th that the bird flu variant H5N1 was detected in samples from dead poultry sent to London for testing from dead birds found in Makrasyka, a village in the Turkish controlled and occupied areas of the island of Cyprus. This is 5 kilometres north of the “Green Line” A and 2 miles from the UK Sovereign Base Area at Dhekelia. A heightened security zone with a 10km radius has been established around the village.

Agriculture Minister Timis Efthymiou said that Achna, Avgorou, Xylotymbou, Ormideia and Pyla all fall within this quarantine zone.

Within the zone there is sterilisation of all outgoing traffic, a quarantine of all birds, and a ban on hunting and fishing as well as on the collection of snails or mushrooms. The measures are set to be in place for at least 30 days. The UK forces have been involved in border checks of vehicles with the assistance of Cyprus Government veterinary staff.

Curiously if you Google “H5N1 Cyprus” you will find Reuters Alert reports, Cyprus Mail and a Medical site report this news.

No single Press / TV / media organisation worldwide have reported this advance of the allegedly “lethal” strain from mainland Turkey … although now there is now massive press / TV comment on alleged outbreaks in Nigeria.

Why ? Remember 2 Mn tourists / holidaymakers will soon be arriving in this sunny paradise now enjoying membership of the EU, it of course attracts many ornithologists at this time who want to see the migrating birds that use the island such, as the very rare spur winged plover that arrived last week at Oroklini Salt Marshes ….. if you want to read more about this avian flu incident visit the excellent Cyprus Mail website http://www.cyprus-mail.com and search the news archive by keyword.

Curious ?

Danish Flag sellers make killing

Rotten Judgment in the State of Denmark By Jytte Klausen in Der Spiegel Online is the best background to the origins and motives of the Danish cartoons that have precipitated worldwide reaction from the Muslim in the Street.

Oeuf Bukkake !

Mandelson shows Iran his iron fist..

EU trade chief Peter Mandelson and regular visitor to Bilderberg meetings warned Iran over trade boycotts in response to the publication of “offensive” cartoons in Denmark.

"I would make it clear to the government of Iran that any boycott of Danish goods is a boycott of the European Union as a whole," Mandelson told The Associated Press during a retail conference in Prague. "I hope that the government (of Iran) will think twice."

"Kick one and we all limp", as they say in the leafy purlieus of Brusels.

The EU is Iran's principal trade partner. The 25 EU members had combined exports to Iran worth euro11.8 billion in 2004, while their combined imports were valued at euro9.2 billion,.(Source Eurostat)

Only euro171 million of that trade was with Denmark of which the bulk was machinery and pharmaceutical / medical products.

"I don't believe that a boycott is a legitimate response to public concern," said Mandelson. "I also think that a boycott hurts both sides and damages Iran's interests as much as it would European interests."

He added that the EU was working "to resolve this issue peacefully, quickly and with the minimum disruption to trade."

Any EU sanction available is unclear it has already suspended EU-Iran free trade negotiations because of concerns over Iran's nuclear program. The EU could apply its own economic sanctions, but officials are reported to say that none are currently being considered.

"We can only take action if it is state-sponsored. Chambers of Commerce are not governments," said Mandelson's spokesman Peter Power (see pic above) .

The EU are said to have made has made similar threats of trade and political action against Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern governments either at the WTO or elsewhere, if they are found to be behind boycotts of Danish goods over the cartoon controversy.

Iranian Commerce Minister Masoud Mirkazemi on Monday said that Iran would not allow any new permits for Danish goods. Onon Tuesday he told state-run radio that beginning that day all contracts and negotiations with Danish companies would be suspended.

Iran's Health Ministry said Monday it was canceling previously approved business deals for medical equipment with Danish companies.

Mirkazemi said Iran would not be put off. "The EU can respond any way it wants," he said.

US disembowels, China ramps up ..

In 2003 the The Manufacturing Institute produced the Securing America’s Future:
The Case for a Strong Manufacturing Base they have now published a 2nd follow up report (PDF Alert!) U.S. Manufacturing Innovation at Risk A Study by Joel Popkin and Kathryn Kobe

The authors identify the U.S. share of global trade in manufactures has shrunk, falling from 13 percent in the 1990s to 10 percent in 2004. The U.S. share of global trade in some of the highest value-added export industries such as machinery and equipment is falling. Furthermore, the United States now runs a trade deficit in Advanced Technology Products, goods produced in the industries expected to lead U.S. exports in the 21st century.

Manufacturing continues to pay better than many other industries, and it employs 25 percent of scientists and related technicians and 40% of engineers and engineering technicians — critical skill groups for the R&D process — yet the sector is experiencing a growing shortage of skilled workers.

They identify the challenges to America’s long-standing leadership in R&D and that whilst the United States continues to spend more than any other country on R&D investment, (The United States invested more than $290 billion in R&D in 2003, or 40 percent of all R&D spending in the industrial world; the domestic R&D activities of manufacturers accounting for 42 percent of that total.) U.S. growth in R&D has averaged only about one percent per year in real terms since 2000.

(A National Science Foundation survey identified that in 2003, (2004 figures not yet available) motor vehicle manufacturers spent about 2.4 percent of sales on domestic R&D, down from 3.2 percent in 2000.)

They point out the United States is not keeping up with other countries in insuring a supply of scientific personnel: the portion of doctoral degrees awarded to citizens and permanent residents in the United States in science and engineering is falling, while the combined number of science and engineering graduates in China and India (1 million) now dwarfs those in America (70,000). According to Fortune magazine’s estimates (1), in 2005, the United States graduated 70,000 engineers, compared with 600,000 for China, and 350,000 for India.85 In addition, 20 to 30 percent of the students graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Taiwan, South Korea and Japan received engineering degrees.

In its latest report on R&D (3) , the OECD reports that China is now the third largest R&D performer behind the United States and Japan and has the second largest number of researchers, behind only the United States.

Manufacturing generates a large share of American prosperity. The authors claim that the sector is in danger and identify 4 key problem areas….
1. Manufacturing output has continued to lag that of earlier economic recoveries

2. Manufacturing capacity remains underutilized (see GM / Ford closures etc.,) so investment in new plant and equipment, particularly Greenfield plants, has slowed

3. U.S. share of world trade in manufactured goods generally, and
capital goods in particular, continues to shrink (the United States lost its leadership in world merchandise exports to Germany in 2003 and the German lead widened in 2004 as its exports (in dollar terms) grew eight percentage points faster than those of the United States.)

4. Lack of job growth has discouraged new workers from entering the industry, which has serious implications for maintaining a skilled workforce at all levels
U.S. leadership in R&D is being challenged.

This could also be said to apply to the Euro area and has been recently discussed in an IMF Paper (2). European investment has also been weak. After declining five percent in real terms between 2001 and 2003, euro area nonresidential fixed investment grew only 2% in 2004.

Furthermore The United States has become more dependent on foreign nations to supply many important raw materials, now importing more than 50 percent of 42 mineral commodities, all of which are important for manufacturing and strategic military uses.31 The reliance on imports of important commodities such as aluminum, copper and cement has nearly doubled since 1996. Most prominent, given its potential economic impact, is the U.S. dependence on imported oil, 65 percent of which was imported as of mid 2005.

Amongst many other proposals the authors identify one major educational objective ..

Along with increasing efforts to improve K-12 education, a special emphasis should be placed on improving the quality and rigor of math and science offerings at all levels. The problem-solving and critical-thinking skills those subjects teach will be vital for the U.S. workforce to compete in a global economy.

For “US workforce” in the above statement substitute any country’s name you wish.

It is of interest that the Chairman of California based National Semi Conductor in speaking this week at DesignCon in Santa Clara, Calif. Tuesday said …

“The big question is whether the United States will participate and lead that boom or whether it will cede that role to emerging nations that recognize the opportunity and are investing in technology and research.
“Exactly what do we have to do to screw this thing up?” he asked.”

And went on to say …
.. the United States is falling behind in deploying new technology such as broadband. And the K-12 schools are not filling the pipeline with students who want to study math and science at the university level.

Finally he posed the question that many in the West , in academia, research and manufacturing should ponder ..
“It’s a very bright future,” Halla said. “I have never seen a more optimal time for the technology industry. But where? In the United States? In China? In Russia?”

There is no better example of the way the wind is blowing than the Feb 2004 IPO of SMIC, the mainland Chinese silicon foundry headed by former Texas Instruments executive Richard Chang, which raised $1.8 billion in an initial public offering (IPO more than Google raised !) that was 15 times over-subscribed. It spent some of that money on buying their Tienjin Fab plant from Motorola. Yesterday their Chairman announcing their latest Quarterly results said “During the fourth quarter, we commenced commercial production for nine new customers, two of whom are among the top fabless companies in the world. We also taped out nineteen new products, of which over half are products for Mainland China customers. Our Mainland China customers continue to represent an important area of growth. More than 8% of our revenues in December 2005 was generated from Mainland Chinese fabless companies. The new products we manufactured for those companies include the first 3G baseband chips on 0.13 micron process for the TD-SCDMA, WCDMA, and CDMA2000 standards, a digital satellite receiver chip for set-top boxes, and an HDTV video processor chip.”

1.“America Isn’t Ready,” by Geoffrey Colvin, Fortune, July 25, 2005, p. 72.

2.“Why Is Productivity Growth in the Euro Area So Sluggish?” by Marcello M. Esevao, International Monetary Fund Working Paper WP/04/200, International Monetary Fund, October 2004.

3. Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard 2005, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, October 2005.

(One reason for China’s R&D record is apparent in Chinese manufacturers’ responses to a recent survey by IndustryWeek. When asked to identify the focus of their marketing strategy, the second most frequent response was innovation, preceded only by high quality, itself enhanced by innovation. U.S. manufacturers, when asked the same question, put innovation much further down the list at number seven). “Manufacturers Like Us,” IndustryWeek, November 1, 2004.)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Danish Freedom of Speech site launched ....

Freedom of Speech is a Danish site which describes itself thus :

Open discussion site and information source aggregation regarding freedom of speech as it applies to the current situation after the Danish newspaper Jyllandsposten has published caricatures of the Islamic prophet Mohammed

A curiosity and one may wonder who is behind it .....

UPDATE 8th Feb ... the site now offers a fetching range of T shirts, stickers, etc.,

Afghan bombs kill 12 wound 11 in Kandahar

The BBC report that at least 12 people, mostly policemen, were killed in a powerful bomb explosion in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar.

Eleven others are said to have been injured in the blast which took place outside the police headquarters.

A policeman told a news agency that the bomb may have been "attached" to a motorcycle parked outside the building.

Recent bombs

2 February: Three killed by attacker in south-eastern city of Khost
16 January 2006: Two attacks in Kandahar province kill 24 people
15 January 2006: Canadian diplomat and 2 Afghan bystanders killed in Kandahar
5 January 2006: 10 killed in Tirin Kowt, Uruzgan
November 2005: 3 civilians killed in Kandahar
September 2005: 12 killed outside Afghan army base in Kabul
May 2005: 3 killed in Kabul internet cafe
June 2005: 20 killed in Kandahar mosque

Omar Khayam AKA Skinner wears bulky jacket like bomber and isn't murdered by Police thugs

Omar Khayam 22, was sentenced to 6 years in prison in 2002 for possessing crack cocaine and heroin with intent to supply.

He was released on parole in the care of ( a now presumably very nervous) probation officer last June.

To fellow prisoners at Springhill Prison, Bucks he was known as “Skinner” according to a report in the Mirror today …” He was part of a large crew in Bedford. His street name is Skinner and there are a lot of drug users in the town who know him through these connections.” According to Khayam's prison Boswell he was radicalised in prison and said he was going to use the money from dealing for Islamic causes....yeah...yeah.

Curious how Bedford / Luton / Aylesbury keeps cropping up when Islam militancy, “suicide” bombers , drug crime Al Muhajiroun keeps cropping up.

Anyway young Omar is not without contacts and appeared outside his home yesterday in Bedford accompanied by the chairman of his local mosque and his local MP. He claimed to the attending Press / TV scrum he had not intended to cause offence to the victims of the July 7 London bombings or their relatives but added that his protest remained valid because of the hurt caused to Muslims by the publication of the Danish cartoo ns. Those familiar with the dress code , mobile telephony techniques and hair/facial hair styles of the Asian drug community may have identified a few clues from the “can you see me mother” crowd immediately behind him.

Evidently especially despatched Plods from crack crime busters at the met found nothing and returned without contacting the profoundly humble paroled street actor / clown, and now presumably ex-drug dealer.

For previous postings on the Luton connection here see
including Muktar Saed Ibrahim, also known as Muktar Mohammed Saed, 27, who was named by police in connection with the attempted attack on the No 26 bus in Hackney, East London, last Thursday.

In 1996 he was jailed for a series of street robberies (he was then 18), including one in Melbourn Street, Luton in May 1995 (Melbourn is a village outside Royston), and may also have been involved in incidents in Stevenage, Letchworth and Welwyn Garden City.

The local paper the Mercury learnt that the alleged would-be bomber was part of a gang who appeared at Luton Crown Court in February 1996 and pleaded guilty to several charges.

It is believed that when Ibrahim appeared in court with two of his accomplices he had already received a three-year prison sentence from a court in north London for similar offences.

At Luton, he pleaded guilty to a charge of attempted robbery, one charge of robbery and another count of handling stolen goods.

Saed is now detained at HM Pleasure whilst Plod tries to find a case to present in court in September - despite the bomb he planted not causing any damage and the non removal of local residents from the area of the bus with a powerfully destructive bomb in it.

No wonder Plod has a puzzled look.

Recent blogs on same topic here

PS for Plod. Remember those "suicide bombers" on 7/7 might have caught a train at Luton and left all those mouth watering "bombs" which made such a graphic icon for the worldwide press in the boot of their hire car ?

Monday, February 06, 2006

Yeltsin bows out disgracefully

Boris Yeltsin (for once nearly sober) with his glamorous young wife Naina Yeltsin and his aide Shevchenko welcomed 300 guests in the Malachite Reception-Room of the Kremlin on February 1st . From the Malachite Hall, they moved on the Alexandrovsky hall, where champagne and juice were served, and further to Adreevsky Hall to listen to a pop concert at which the then not so sober ex Premier danced (see pic).

Apart from Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who had actually insisted on the Kremlin celebration, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, the Event lured former president of the United States Bill Clinton, former chancellor of Germany Helmut Kohl, former president of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma, former president of Kyrgyzstan Askar Akaev. The celebration was not ignored by the business elite of Russia with Vagit Alekperov, Roman Abramovich, Oleg Deripaska easily spotted among the guests. The sport community was represented by Shamil Tarpishchev, Evgeny Kafelnikov, Marat Safin. Russia’s famous stage director Galina Volchek, violoncellist Mstislav Rostropovich, literature expert Marietta Chudakova, actor Oleg Basilashvili stood for the art, not to mention the pop stars involved in the concert.

“Thank you… thank you that there are people in this hall, who love me or hate me at least,” Yeltsin said. There were many, many in the hall who should have thanked him for the way he allowed them to loot the riches of Russia.

Iraq. War Criminals at work.

The Washington District Court was treated to the squalid money grabbing, uncontrolled excesses of the Iraqi CPA (led , remember by the ex MD of war criminal Henry Kissinger’s International Consultancy business) last week. A tale of incompetence, venality, lack of controls and sheer greed.

Robert Stein held a senior position in the Iraq Coalition Provisional Authority, which administered Iraq after American and allied forces invaded in 2003. He was in charge of overseeing money for the rebuilding of shattered infrastructure in south-central Iraq in 2003 and 2004, he was also a convicted felon.

A convicted felon inexplicably put in charge of $82 million in contracts, he pleaded guilty last Thursday to charges included conspiracy, bribery, money laundering, unlawful possession of machine guns and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

In a Washington court, he has admitted to stealing more than $2m and taking bribes in return for contracts. The former U.S. Defense Department official who arranged to bilk millions in Iraqi reconstruction money said a U.S./ Romanian businessman Philip H. Bloom, who won construction contracts in 2003 and 2004 after allegedly he and Stein rigged the bids,told Washington District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly was how the con started,

According to the New York Times, 2 senior Army Officials (said to be
Lt. Col. Debra Harrison and Lt. Col. Michael Wheeler), have also been arrested in the investigation and more arrests are forthcoming. Up to 7 more reservist officers are said to be implicated.

Stein has admitted in court to conspiring to give out contracts worth $8m to a certain company in return for bribes and also to receiving gifts and sexual favours from women at his luxury Baghdad villa. "He essentially funnelled contracts to his cronies and received bribes," said Stuart W. Bowen, Jr., the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

E-mails cited in court records indicate that some unnamed U.S. officials even demanded specific cars: a white SUV and an electric blue sports car.
And what about the projects that were supposed to be built or refurbished in Iraq? A series of audits found major problems.

"There were millions of dollars in grants and contracts that simply went for no work at all." Bowen says cash was sloppily handled.

"The management of cash in Hilla was haphazard at best. We found that it was kept in footlockers of the trailers that people that lived there," he says. "There was a safe that wasn't locked in the bathroom of the office."

Some of the work that was done was shoddy, according to one audit. For example, a recently repaired elevator at Hilla General Hospital collapsed, killing three Iraqis.

"The reconstruction efforts during the CPA, in the South Central Region, around Hilla, failed," says Bowen. "It failed because we had a person of significant responsibility, the person in charge of that money, the controller, simply committed repeated criminal wrongdoing."

Stein admitted to stealing $2m from reconstruction funds some of it was, he admitted, smuggled onto aircraft and flown back to the United States in suitcases. As part of a plea bargain he has offered restitution of some funds.

A report from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction on how the authority went about its business is expected in the coming weeks. Watch this space.
Don’t worry Dubya says we are winning the war. On terrorism that is … the one on crime is taking just a bit longer.

Recent blogs on same topic here

Israeli elections .. now the gloves are off

Now that Arik is as good as dead, 5 years to the day since he became PM, the gloves are off in Israel. Kadima joined in the mudslinging today , with a new negative campaign mocking Likud chairman and ex Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

After Likud and Labor started attacking Kadima, the party released new stickers with the slogans "Bibi is the same Bibi" and "Strong against Hamas: Khaled Mashaal is exploding in laughter." Referencing the abortive and embarrassing assassination attempt in Jordan of the Hamas leader when Bibi was PM. It also negates the Likud sticker "Strong against Hamas: Only the Likud/Netanyahu."

The strategy is to ridicule Netanyahu's failures as PM. When journos asked why they didn’t go after Labor chairman Amir Peretz, a Kadima official responded by saying, "There’s no need, Peretz does the work for us every time he opens his mouth."
Likud officials responded by accusing Kadima of panicking because the Likud is gaining in the polls. They said the negative campaign was proof that Kadima's fall was imminent.

The symbolic 120th slot on the Kadima list will be given to Israel Prize winning molecular biologist Michael Sela, a former president of the Weizmann Institute. Sela, 82, has written more than 800 articles and books.

The list will include candidates that had been considered for the top 50 but were not chosen, along with many top Kadima supporters and mayors in symbolic slots. Sharon will not be on the list because he never signed a form issuing his candidacy, and is not in any state to sign one soon, and because party officials decided that it would be “inappropriate”. It seems it’s only in the US you can elect dead officials.

Euro slips against the dollar

The euro dipped briefly below key technical support at $1.1965 today, increasing chances the U.S. Federal Reserve could raise interest rates into mid 2006 are said to have weighed heavily on traders.

The euro initially slipped against the dollar to a fresh one-month low, trading at $1.1963, down around 0.5 percent from Friday, before finally recovering to 1.1972.

Before 9/11 the dollar was trading roughly at parity with the Euro and has declined by 20 % since. This current strength is counter intuitive as the US trade gap widens every month as the costs for their oil / natural gas purchases soar, without any immediate or future prospects of declining.

Of course as US industry and commerce disembowel the US employment market and outsource for cheap labour they make great returns and associated profits (see Chevron, Valero etc.,)so investment in the US makes sense to the markets and keeps the dollar high.

Incapacity Benefit, / Unum Provident UK / UK Gubment Part 2

On July 2nd 2004 Wales’ then First Minister, Rhodri Morgan AM, and the then UK Minister of State in the Department of Works and Pensions, Malcolm Wicks MP, helped applaud the opening of the UnumProvident Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research £1.6million centre at Cardiff University , based in the School of Psychology and sponsored by income protection provider and insurer UnumProvident UK.

Mr Morgan said it was appropriate that the Centre would be based in "an absolutely top-notch psychology school."

Mr Wicks told the launch (before no doubt a hearty lunch) : "It brings together a rigorous approach to research and evidence in a leading academic school in Europe - a refreshing linkage between classical medical studies, medical sciences and wider health-related research, and a partnership between industry and the University.

"The centre will be the first in the UK to develop specific lines of research into the psychosocial factors related to disability, vocational rehabilitation, and the ill-health behaviours which impact on work and employment."

The launch focused the concerns about the sharp rise in the number of people with mental health problems and unexplained health complaints leading to a serious problem of incapacity for work in the UK … and attendant costs to the taxpayer in Incapacity Benefits.

On any working day in the UK, 6 million people report absence from work due to sickness. Whilst unemployment has fallen and the demand for employees has risen, the number of people claiming incapacity benefit remains stubbornly high and rising whilst the age of claimants drops.

Dr Peter Dewis, Customer Care Director at UnumProvident, said: "The Centre’s research will lead to a better understanding of what makes people incapacitated and how to prevent and better support disabling incapacity to help people return to work after illness. This will bring benefits to employers, insurers and to society as a whole; but more importantly, it will benefit the individual who is healthier and happier when actively involved in work."

Dr Dewis added: "It is a modern-day paradox that in spite of an accelerating rate of medical innovation and discovery, more and more people of working age are being certified as incapable of work, often with complaints which cannot be understood in the same way as more identifiable diseases. The new Centre will be looking at the doctor/patient relationship and how this affects an individual’s reaction to their illness. Studies to be conducted at the Centre in Cardiff will focus on why people respond differently to the same illness, rendering some unable to work while others continue."

The new Centre is the first in the UK to develop specific lines of research into psychosocial factors related to disability, vocational rehabilitation and the determinants of ill-health impacting upon work capacity.

Professor Peter Halligan from the School of Psychology at Cardiff University, the brains behind the partnership with UnumProvident UK, said very prophetically : "Within the next five years, the work will hopefully facilitate a significant re-orientation in current medical practise in the UK, whereby ‘enablement’ rather than disability will be the positive focus and goal for those involved in managing disability and those affected by unexplained symptoms."

Professor Mansel Aylward CB, recently appointed Chair in Psychosocial and Disability Research at Cardiff, will head the Centre when he takes up the position as the Centre’s Director later in the year.

Professor Aylward pointed out: "The Government believes that everyone who can work should be given the opportunity to do so. The overwhelming majority of people newly claiming incapacity benefits expect to get back to work: in reality less than a quarter will be back at work after 12 months on benefit. The nature of the health conditions affecting these people are very largely "common health problems." Given the right level of support and intervention the majority of these health conditions are manageable and should not preclude a return to work."

Most of this is taken from the University Press release and probably was missed by the busy Press in those long hot summer months.

Of course.. few of those who may have read of this less than academic bombshell would have been aware of the significance for Incapacity Claimants … or of the role and objectives of Unum Provident UK, subsidiary of Chatanooga , Tennessee based US insurer Unum Provident, the leading provider of group insurance schemes for incapacity to US industry and commerce … with an interesting record in claims payments, multiple million dollar fines from State insurance overseers and a current SEC insider share dealing enquiry.

"Within the next five years, the work will hopefully facilitate a significant re-orientation in current medical practise in the UK, whereby ‘enablement’ rather than disability will be the positive focus and goal for those involved in managing disability and those affected by unexplained symptoms."

Remember those words from Professor Hennigan well. … it would of course be unwise, imprudent even, to say that an insurer with US$20Bn annual Gross income was making a small down payment on academic research that may help in reducing claims on their policies and to help the Government also with the same goals.

Professor Hennigan is a rare academic … one who can forecast five years hence the results of his academic efforts.

Professor Mansel Aylward CB Director of the Unum Provident Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research in the School of Psychology, Cardiff University, is also a rare academic. On the 9th September 2005 the Centre was proud to announce their Director had been appointed to the new Honours committees. He will serve on the health committee for a three-year term. In addition to his University role, Professor Aylward is Chair of the Wales Centre for Health. The Honours committees advise the Cabinet Secretary on candidates for the Prime Minister’s list of recommendations to the Queen…. The sort of guy who can forecast which worthy medical researchers might … say within the next 5 years, receive the grace and favours of HMQ…. Especially if they help lop a few Billions off the IB bill.

Interested to know more about Unem Provident UK ? Go to their website here

Can't work or won't work. Part 1 of the IB story in the UK

Incapacity Benefit (IB) claimants scare the UK Government shitless.

With the help of hard pressed GP’s ,long term jobless were stripped for political reasons from the "unemployment" figures in the late 80’s and throughout the 90’s – but their numbers have soared and age / sex / illness profile have changed dramatically.

Currently there are 2.7 million IB claimants, largely unchanged since 1995 up from approx 1 Mn in 1980

Last year, 170,000 people aged under 25 were on on IB, higher than the 140,000 who enrolled on the New Deal for Young People last year.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show that there are 1.2 million people under 25 who are neither working, studying full time or training.

IB claimants with mental problems such as stress have risen alarmingly. Department for Work and Pensions figures show 1,073,000 IB claimants (39% of the total) with mental health reasons in 2005 up 51% from 709,000 in 1997.

Of all claimants last year 83 per cent of IB claimants have been on the benefit for at least a year; and 48 per cent have been on IB for longer than 5 years.

Work and Pensions Secretary John Hutton admitted last week the claimant who has been on the benefit for more than two years is “more likely to die or retire than to find a new job”,Data from 2001 (the latest comparable year) shows that the United Kingdom has the highest rate of inactivity because of illness or disability for men age 25-49 of any OECD country except Poland (which includes Slovakia, Greece, Czech Republic and Hungary), and in the top five for inactivity rates amongst women aged 25-49.

There are also dramatic regional variations in over 1.9 million people are on IB in England, representing 3.8 per cent of the total population, and in Scotland and Wales, the figure is 5.7 and 6.4 per cent respectively.

In Wales, 185,000 people claim IB, from a population of 2.9 million. In London the proportion of the population on IB is 3.7 per cent; in the South East, = 2.5 % compared with 6.2 % in the North East.

There is a huge incentive to stay on IB after six months, the value of the IB payment increases from £57.65 to £68.20 a week. After a year, the payment increases to £76.45 per week. This compares with the Jobseekers’ Allowance, the principal unemployment benefit, of £56.20 per week for those over 25, and just £44.50 a week for those under 25.

On top of this, the long-term IB claimants income may be boosted by £92.85 in Housing Benefit and £13.92 in Council Tax Benefit, giving a package of £179 even before Disability Living Allowance, ( £30 to£99 a week)

could begin. Remember , a 35-hour week on the minimum wage yields will Gross £177 a week. It is not surprising therefore that 83 per cent of IB claimants are on the benefit for over a year.

Result ? Massive costs, IB costs the Treasury t £7 billion a year add other sickness benefits and the totals leaps to say the same as the Council Tax raises.

To this you can add the increasing NHS expenditure on the number of people who need long-term treatment for chronic conditions. Ministers are aware that if people stay on Incapacity Benefit, their health tends to deteriorate and they start to cost the NHS more money.

After working himself in the recently appointed Work and Pensions secretary John Hutton, now proposes in a Green paper to replace the current incapacity benefit system with an 'Employment and Support Allowance', to be paid to people for undertaking work-related activity. The obligatory and unsnappy name change covers several proposed initiatives to cut IB claimants by 1 million over a ten year time frame.

Plans include rolling out a £360 Mn 'Pathways to Work' programme across the UK by 2008 - introducing mandatory work-focused interviews, working with employers to develop work-taster programmes for single parents and to extend flexible working arrangements for older workers.

All very laudable, desirable even, but no employers want to recruit people who have been claiming incapacity benefit for a long time, according to research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

Just 3% of 750 companies questioned by the CIPD said they actively targeted incapacity benefit claimants as part of their recruitment strategy, and one third deliberately excluded such people.

Most employers said they would be more prone to absence and 45% said they would be less reliable. "Such low expectations may or may not be unfair," said John Philpott, chief economist at the CIPD. "But either way, they pose a problem for the government."

Remember that the CIPD recently, also produced a report that showed 30,000 jobs have been transferred overseas each year over the past 5 years. It found that over 1 in 5 organisations they surveyed have offshored one or more business activities in the past 5 years or are considering doing so. The most likely business activities to be offshored are :-
· Manufacturing and production (43%)
· IT support (24%)
· Call centres / customer services (22%)

There is of course no reason why these trends for outsourcing will not continue or even accelerate.

Even the TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, agreed and is quoted as saying "The reforms should recognise that employer prejudice is a key obstacle in the way of many claimants moving back to work."

The government aims to use the reforms to raise national employment to 80% from 75% and help 300,000 lone parents into work.

CBI deputy director-general John Cridland cautions against dismissing the employers as flinty hearted … "With skills shortages in many parts of the economy, employers strongly support the government's goal of helping more people back into work." He then added the expected rider that if the Government wanted their assistance it had to be paid for.

"The government must support companies in reskilling those who have been out of work for some time, and by contributing to the consequential costs of special equipment, transport or mentoring."

GP’s, who contributed to the problem by removing the whingers with persistent back pains from their waiting rooms are said to be being given a key role in getting people off incapacity benefit, with employment advisers to work alongside them and advise sicknote claimants of job opportunities.

GPs “could “be offered financial incentives to reduce the number of sicknotes they issue. Hutton said he hoped to pilot the idea in a number of cities across the country over the next year.... I bet the meedcial proession can hardly wait for such interference to their busy lives.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the GP committee at the British Medical Association (BMA), wanted further clarification on how the proposals would work…. Which is a Doctor tells me is medical language for , “Great ideas John but SHOW US THE MONEY”.
"If these people [employment advisers] are able to offer helpful and sensitive advice to patients, they may prove a positive addition to the services available in a GP practice," he said. "They will only be effective if they are supportive in helping patients to return to work rather than acting as an enforcement arm of the Department for Work and Pensions with the sole purpose of getting people off benefit."

The Green Paper's proposals on older workers also support forthcoming age discrimination legislation, due to come into force in October 2006.

The plans include aligning employment support for long-term unemployed people aged between 50 to 59 with people in their 30s and 40s and improving back-to-work initiatives for jobseekers who are over the age of 50 and their partners. One consequence of this is that participation in New Deal 25+ will become mandatory for those aged 50-59 who are registered as long-term unemployed (i.e. unemployed for 22 months or more). Presently participation is voluntary for this age group.

The Third Age Employment Network, which supports older people in the job market, said the reforms are a vital part of the response to demographic change and increased life expectancy.

Chief executive, Patrick Grattan, said: "We can no longer use incapacity benefit as a surrogate form of early retirement."

A 12 week consultation period on the Green Paper has begun, responses must be in by 21st April 2006. (Visit www.welfarereform@dwp.gsi.gov.uk for a template consultation document or phone :020 7712 2492)

Ms Merkel in Munich slams Iran's nuclear ambitions

Speaking at the Munich security conference ( Under the theme of "Restoring the Trans-Atlantic Relationship," on the future role of the NATO ), the biggest annual gathering of some 250 defence ministers, military commanders and defence industry leaders. Ms. Angela Merkel, (guarded by 4,000 Police) Germany’s new chancellor called for a new debate of Nato’s central strategic concept by 2009 to define new tasks and limits to its capacity. Angela Merkel, upset over Tehran's declared denial of the Holocaust and calls for Israel to be destroyed, made a personal attack on (like her, democratically elected) Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.

She was applauded by her European and North American audience when saying , 'A president who questions Israel's very existence cannot expect Germany to show even the slightest tolerance.'

There were almost no representatives from the Middle East or Islamic countries among the 300 people at the meeting. A single Iranian delegate, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, defended his country's position, but was rebuked by Ms. Merkel who dismissed his intervention for failing to address the Holocaust.

'We have learned our lesson from history,' she said speaking in the City whose name is redolent of the British appeasement so strongly identified with Chamberlain’s historic flight to the City and a fatal and final meeting with Hitler. "Looking back to German history in the early 1930s, when National Socialism was on the rise, there were many outside Germany who said, 'It's only rhetoric -- don't get excited.There were times when people could have reacted differently and, in my view, Germany is obliged to do something at the early stages.

"We want to -- we must -- prevent Iran from developing its nuclear program."

Ms. Merkel and others also used the conference to try and defuse growing rage in the Islamic world over the publication of caricatures depicting the Prophet Mohammed in several European newspapers.

'I can understand that religious feelings of Muslims have been injured and violated,' she said, adding: 'But it is unacceptable to see this as a legitimization for violence.'

On Thursday Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Nato’s secretary-general,(see pic) like any ambitious European bureaucrat laid out his agenda for broader (ie bigger size = bigger budgets)and more intense political consultations on issues ranging from the Balkans and Afghanistan to Africa and the Middle East, … he added as an apparent afterthought the joint policy on energy security, not one imagines, normally top of the NATO agenda. He also called for closer links with other like-minded nations such as Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea, while warning that “NATO is not a global policeman, but we have increasingly global partnerships”.

"In a time of global threats, our alliance relies on the support of other states more than ever," he is quoted in the Bavarian weekly Bayernkurier, which is published by the German state's ruling Christian Social Union.

"Japan and South Korea can also make important contributions to NATO operations in future," he said. "They have shown clear interest in closer cooperation with NATO. I see building ties with these countries as a major security investment."

The Süddeutsche Zeitung, says, NATO officials discussed the expansion proposal at a January meeting . The Munich daily says US ambassador to NATO, Victoria Nuland, has issued a proposal to establish a permanent joint panel.

This plan is getting none or very lukewarm support from most NATO members. France has already voiced opposition, according to the paper. The Dutch have finally, if reluctantly agreed (after much public hand wringing) to their participation in the ill conceived and militarily doomed Afghan venture on which UK defence Minister John Reid, has happily thrown the lives of UK soldiers and the notoriously unreliable equipment of the UK army and their (as yet) untested in battle Apache helicopters and ageing Chinooks.

Ms Merkel’s speech, was warmly received by the high-level US delegation to the conference, led by Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary and war criminal, but its substance brought very little response.

Instead, Rumsfeld focused almost all his remarks on the terrorist war declared on the US and all its allies, and declined to engage in any debate on the future of the NATO alliance and its role in the world.

'Old NATO' had been limited to the alliance's geographic limits, said Rumsfeld, 'the new NATO ... recognizes challenges which threaten the world are of a global nature.'

It is no secret that the United States would like to see NATO act outside of its traditional remit, playing a role in combating terror attacks, drug and people trafficking and humanitarian assistance following the example of the 1,000 NATO troops deployed to the earthquake-hit areas of Pakistan last year. They also repeatedly point out that the US spend 3.4% of GNP on Defence and most of the EU / NATO countries struggle to spend 2% at best.

Elsewhere at the conference US Senator John McCain , Republican Party frontrunner in the US Presidential 2008 celebrity/reality show said, 'Every option must remain on the table (sounds familiar). There is only one thing worse than a military showdown and that is a nuclear-armed Iran.' US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld warned that 'the Iranian regime is today the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism. The world does not want - and must work together to prevent - a nuclear Iran.'

Sergey Ivanov ,Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister dismissed even the idea of sanctions on Iran, and doubts their effectiveness. 'I am not sceptical but a bit pessimistic on sanctions,' said Ivanov, Iran's neighbours would probably not heed international sanctions too rigorously he claims.

In further Press discussions, Ivanov said Russia wants Iran's nuclear programme to be resolved under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) alone and had strong concerns about the decision on Saturday by the IAEA to refer Iran to the United Nations Security Council, underlining that the world body would only “consider” the issue, not”decide any concrete actions”.

Furthermore, Ivanov insisted that Iran had the 'legal sovereign right to enjoy the fruits of nuclear energy.' (Just as presumably Israel has ?)

Israel yesterday , via Former Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom approved the decision by the international community to move against Iran, despite discomfort about the resolution's indirect reference to Israel's own alleged nuclear program. This refers to a clause inserted by Egypt …” "A solution to the Iranian issue would contribute to global non-proliferation efforts and to realising the objective of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, including their means of delivery." The US has rebuffed any such efforts repeatedly by Egypt ( who have experienced their own share of terrorist attacks in Cairo and tourist resorts recently) to insert such clauses in IAEA documents. Israel reflexively never admits to possessing, making, nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems for them, even though it is widely agreed that it has almost 200 nuclear warheads.

Silvan Shalom said: "This is a historic decision. Until recent years, the world thought that Iran and terror were Israel's problem.

"After 9/11, and the terror attacks in London, Madrid and Russia, they understood that it's the world's problem."

Evidently there is no agreement or overall strategy yet for a response to further declared Iranian intransigence or if they throw further spanners in the works.
Of course the co-ordinated (?) , unpoliced (?), and co-incidental Muslim demonstrators of Paris in November, and now in London, Egypt, Beirut, Damascus, irritated by (if not sponsored by) repeated European re-printing of the offending Danish (and unfunny) cartoons is a handy tool to ensure public solidarity, to “get tough with the Islamofascists” and chimes with the Zionist stance on democratically elected Hamas to run the Palestinian Government.

The cynical observer in London may wonder at the apparent incapacity (or unwillingness) of the Police to intervene, to disrupt illegally congregating marching hordes of people, calling for murder with successful prosecutions of peace activists for reciting the names of the war dead.

Might this withdrawal of the lethal powers ( viz De Menezes murder , massive stop and searches under the many and varied ant Terrorism statutes available) ) of the “Met” possibly have an effect in stoking up the fires of resistance and resentment of the supporters of the BNP ? Surely not.

No doubt Beefy Clarke’s “Timeline” of the 7/7 “suicide bombers” will uncover the previously unknown , cunningly concealed network of Islamofascist networks with hidden harms to our “democratic” society.

Last time the Secret Services / Police got their “secrets” wrong over WMD and Saddam, this time the dastardly Iranians were so clever the hid their secrets from the denizens of the Purple Palace of Vauxhall Bridge and Horse Guards Parade.

Meanwhile the Met’s “finest” are scrutinising video tapes from their “information gatherers” of the London demonstrations …. and carefully listening to people who claim the protests were “hi jacked” by MI5 funded , Luton and Bedford based Al Muhajaroun.

POSTSCRIPT History re run?

'Old NATO' had been limited to the alliance's geographic limits, said Rumsfeld, 'the new NATO ... recognizes challenges which threaten the world are of a global nature.'

Does he foresee the UN going the way of the League of Nations, resistant to bullying Bolton and a more compliant and more easily bullied NATO alliance more compliant with the aims of the PNAC signatories ?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Postman posted news on Muslim reactions to Danish cartoons in November ... news as and when it happens.

I was interested to see that a posting here in November on the French riots led with a reference to riots in Denmark which received scant attention in the press – related to the cartoons which now have lit the fires of the Muslim world, not to mention Danish Embassies.

It is evident that Muslim resistance in Denmark was vocal and also involved firebombs and other violence and could be seen in context with other continental Muslim reactions and riots etc.,

Nice to think that one is able to pick up the straws in the wind which eventually result in major events.

Muslim Riots Break Out in Denmark As Well
19:26 Nov 06, '05 / 4 Cheshvan 5766

(IsraelNN.com) As Muslim riots spread across France, Denmark is also beginning to see its own Islamic Intifada. In Arhus, Denmark, young Muslims were heard chanting, “This land belongs to us!”

A masked spokesman for the rioters told Danish reporters that Muslims were tired of being oppressed and harassed and warned the police to stay away. "This is our area. We rule this place,” he said.

The riots have increased following a cartoon in Danish paper The Jyllands Post involving Mohammed. Rocks and firebombs have become commonplace in many neighbourhoods and firefighters are afraid to enter them to put out the fires.

Bibi bangs the war drum

Likud chairman and prime minister hopeful Binyamin Netanyahu was joined by senior Likud MKs, Gideon Saar, Yuval Seinitz, Dan Naveh, Limor Livnat, Gilad Erdan, Yisrael Katz, Uzi Landau, and Silvan Shalom as well as 2 non MK Likud candidates, Natan Sharansky and Keren Barak on a tour of the security fence in the settlement of Beit Aryeh.

Speaking from the Ariel Sharon Observation Point overlooking Ben Gurion International Airport at Beit Aryeh, which also overlooks the entire coastal plain, from Ashkelon in the south to Hadera in the north, Netanyahu said,

"We have to distance the fence from the range of missiles to defend Israel. There are those that think we are saying this just for election purposes. It has been my opinion consistently that drivers should be able to go on the roads without the threat of snipers."
"From the Sharon Observation Point a plane can be downed. My government will move the fence backward so that Ben Gurion Airport will not be threatened and our deterrence will be restored,"

Despite recommendations from senior security officials to keep the hills surrounding Beit Aryeh in Israeli territory, a Supreme Court ruling determined that the hills surrounding the settlement would remain on the Palestinian side of the security fence at a distance of some four kilometers.

Netanyahu also took a swipe at the Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government's decision to release funds to the Palestinian Authority, now headed by Hamas. (The Cabinet on Sunday agreed to transfer about NIS 240 million owed to the Palestinians, after delaying the payment last week.

Likud Chairman and prime minister hopeful Binyamin Netanyahu blasted the decision, saying, "We are trying to create international pressure against Hamas - so every shekel we give to a Hamas-led government is unexplainable."
Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer indicated Saturday he would advise the government to transfer the funds.

"I generally prefer to abide by agreements I've signed," Fischer said in an Israel Radio interview. "So that is at least one rationale for transferring the money. There are all kinds of other rationales, but that is my starting point."
Under the 1995 Israel-PA interim agreements, Jerusalem is to transfer to the PA each month the customs and tax revenues it collects at the ports and crossing points on behalf of the PA.

"We are trying to create international pressure against Hamas - so every shekel we give to a Hamas-led government is unexplainable," said Natanyahu.

Former foreign minister Silvan Shalom reiterated Netanyahu's position by saying, "It's depressing that despite terror, the government is acting as if nothing has happened, and in a scandalous decision is giving the Hamas money at a time when the world is stopping the flow of money to the PA. How can we expect the world crack down on Hamas when we're not?"

The IDF and the Shin Bet are said to have come out in favour of transferring the money as well, because of concerns that leaving so many people (and families) without salaries would plunge the Palestinian areas deeper into chaos and anarchy. Both Egypt and the US have also urged Israel to transfer the money, at least during the period of a transitional government inside the PA.

(C) Very Seriously Disorganised Criminals 2002/3/4/5/6/7/8/9 - copy anything you wish