“This site is dedicated to preying on peoples vanity, ignorance, or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse.”

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Dick Durbin - One No-Good Son of a Bitch!

Everyone of the people rising to stand  in front of the US Senate hearing are illegal. They are breaking US Law. Here is what Durbin, a US Senator said, as he congratulated them:

"When I look around this room, I see America's future, our doctors, our teachers, our nurses, our engineers, our scientists, our soldiers, our congressmen, our senators, and maybe our president"


A President? The Democratic Party has sunk to an all new low. His words are fighting words


Have We Committed $4 Trillion to The 'War on terror' and What Has Been Accomplished?



"Osama bin Laden and his henchmen probably spent the pittance of just $500,000 on organising the September 2001 attacks, which killed 3,000 people and directly cost the US economy an estimated $50bn to $100bn. In 2003, President George W Bush proclaimed that the Iraq war would cost $50bn to $60bn. Governments that go to war invariably underestimate the cost – but rarely on such an epic scale."


'War on terror' set to surpass cost of Second World War
By Rupert Cornwell in Washington
Thursday, 30 June 2011
Independent

The total cost to America of its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus the related military operations in Pakistan, is set to exceed $4 trillion – more than three times the sum so far authorised by Congress in the decade since the 9/11 attacks.

This staggering sum emerges from a new study by academics at the Ivy-league Brown University that reveals the $1.3 trillion officially appropriated on Capitol Hill is the tip of a spending iceberg. If other Pentagon outlays, interest payments on money borrowed to finance the wars, and the $400bn estimated to have been spent on the domestic "war on terror", the total cost is already somewhere between $2.3 and $2.7 trillion.

And even though the wars are now winding down, add in future military spending and above all the cost of looking after veterans, disabled and otherwise and the total bill will be somewhere between $3.7 trillion and $4.4 trillion.

The report by Brown's Watson Institute for International Studies is not the first time such astronomical figures have been cited; a 2008 study co-authored by the Harvard economist Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz, a former Nobel economics laureate, reckoned the wars would end up costing over $3 trillion. The difference is that America's financial position has worsened considerably in the meantime, with a brutal recession and a federal budget deficit running at some $1.5 trillion annually, while healthcare and social security spending is set to soar as the population ages and the baby boomer generation enters retirement.

Unlike most of America's previous conflicts moreover, Iraq and Afghanistan have been financed almost entirely by borrowed money that sooner or later must be repaid.

The human misery is commensurate. The report concludes that in all, between 225,000 and 258,000 people have died as a result of the wars. Of that total, US soldiers killed on the battlefield represent a small fraction, some 6,100. The civilian death toll in Iraq is put at 125,000 (rather less than some other estimates) and at up to 14,000 in Afghanistan. For Pakistan, no reliable calculation can be made.

Even these figures however only scratch the surface of the suffering, in terms of people injured and maimed, or those who have died from malnutrition or lack of treatment. "When the fighting stops, the indirect dying continues," Neta Crawford, a co-director of the Brown study, said. Not least, the wars may have created some 7.8 million refugees, roughly equal to the population of Scotland and Wales.

What America achieved by such outlays is also more than questionable. Two brutal regimes, those of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, have been overturned while al-Qa'ida, the terrorist group that carried out 9/11, by all accounts has been largely destroyed - but in neither Iraq nor Afghanistan is democracy exactly flourishing, while the biggest winner from the Iraq war has been America's arch-foe Iran.

Osama bin Laden and his henchmen probably spent the pittance of just $500,000 on organising the September 2001 attacks, which killed 3,000 people and directly cost the US economy an estimated $50bn to $100bn. In 2003, President George W Bush proclaimed that the Iraq war would cost $50bn to $60bn. Governments that go to war invariably underestimate the cost – but rarely on such an epic scale.

If the Brown study is correct, the wars that flowed from 9/11 will not only have been the longest in US history. At $4 trillion and counting, their combined cost is approaching that of the Second World War, put at some $4.1 trillion in today's prices by the Congressional Budget Office.

Obama is "Kind of a Dick" - Mark Halperin on Morning Joe Scarborough Show

Have We Committed $4 Trillion to The 'War on terror' and What Has Been Accomplished?



"Osama bin Laden and his henchmen probably spent the pittance of just $500,000 on organising the September 2001 attacks, which killed 3,000 people and directly cost the US economy an estimated $50bn to $100bn. In 2003, President George W Bush proclaimed that the Iraq war would cost $50bn to $60bn. Governments that go to war invariably underestimate the cost – but rarely on such an epic scale."


'War on terror' set to surpass cost of Second World War
By Rupert Cornwell in Washington
Thursday, 30 June 2011
Independent

The total cost to America of its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus the related military operations in Pakistan, is set to exceed $4 trillion – more than three times the sum so far authorised by Congress in the decade since the 9/11 attacks.

This staggering sum emerges from a new study by academics at the Ivy-league Brown University that reveals the $1.3 trillion officially appropriated on Capitol Hill is the tip of a spending iceberg. If other Pentagon outlays, interest payments on money borrowed to finance the wars, and the $400bn estimated to have been spent on the domestic "war on terror", the total cost is already somewhere between $2.3 and $2.7 trillion.

And even though the wars are now winding down, add in future military spending and above all the cost of looking after veterans, disabled and otherwise and the total bill will be somewhere between $3.7 trillion and $4.4 trillion.

The report by Brown's Watson Institute for International Studies is not the first time such astronomical figures have been cited; a 2008 study co-authored by the Harvard economist Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz, a former Nobel economics laureate, reckoned the wars would end up costing over $3 trillion. The difference is that America's financial position has worsened considerably in the meantime, with a brutal recession and a federal budget deficit running at some $1.5 trillion annually, while healthcare and social security spending is set to soar as the population ages and the baby boomer generation enters retirement.

Unlike most of America's previous conflicts moreover, Iraq and Afghanistan have been financed almost entirely by borrowed money that sooner or later must be repaid.

The human misery is commensurate. The report concludes that in all, between 225,000 and 258,000 people have died as a result of the wars. Of that total, US soldiers killed on the battlefield represent a small fraction, some 6,100. The civilian death toll in Iraq is put at 125,000 (rather less than some other estimates) and at up to 14,000 in Afghanistan. For Pakistan, no reliable calculation can be made.

Even these figures however only scratch the surface of the suffering, in terms of people injured and maimed, or those who have died from malnutrition or lack of treatment. "When the fighting stops, the indirect dying continues," Neta Crawford, a co-director of the Brown study, said. Not least, the wars may have created some 7.8 million refugees, roughly equal to the population of Scotland and Wales.

What America achieved by such outlays is also more than questionable. Two brutal regimes, those of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, have been overturned while al-Qa'ida, the terrorist group that carried out 9/11, by all accounts has been largely destroyed - but in neither Iraq nor Afghanistan is democracy exactly flourishing, while the biggest winner from the Iraq war has been America's arch-foe Iran.

Osama bin Laden and his henchmen probably spent the pittance of just $500,000 on organising the September 2001 attacks, which killed 3,000 people and directly cost the US economy an estimated $50bn to $100bn. In 2003, President George W Bush proclaimed that the Iraq war would cost $50bn to $60bn. Governments that go to war invariably underestimate the cost – but rarely on such an epic scale.

If the Brown study is correct, the wars that flowed from 9/11 will not only have been the longest in US history. At $4 trillion and counting, their combined cost is approaching that of the Second World War, put at some $4.1 trillion in today's prices by the Congressional Budget Office.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

We Simply Cannot Help the Afghanis from This.




Kabul attack: Nato kills Taliban squad members who launched suicide assault

Kabul Police said 10 Afghan civilians, mostly hotel workers, have died in the attack


Nato helicopters fired on and killed members of a Taliban squad who attacked a landmark Kabul hotel on Tuesday night where senior Afghan officials were staying.

At least six Taliban, some of them suicide bombers, were involved in the assault on the Inter-Continental, which began when militants in civilian clothes burst into the hotel while many guests were in the dining room and others were attending at least two receptions, including a wedding party.

The Nato rocket fire appeared to have brought an end to the fighting, which lasted for more than four hours. Kabul Police Chief General Mohammad Ayub Salangi said 10 Afghan civilians, mostly hotel workers, had died in the attack.

From miles across the city, residents could see the blacked-out hotel on a hilltop on the western outskirts of Kabul illuminated by red tracer bullets and explosions.

Afghan police and commandos flocked to the hotel to engage the attackers with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades soon after the attack began at about 9.30pm.

According to the authorities, at least two attackers were shot dead and four blew themselves up, a tactic that has been used several times before on fortified buildings, including hotels, in the capital.

The Taliban's spokesman was quick to claim credit for the assault, claiming he had been in contact with one of the attackers inside the hotel.

The spokesman told Associated Press: "One of our fighters called on a mobile phone and said: 'We have gotten on to all the hotel floors and the attack is going according to the plan. We have killed and wounded 50 foreign and local enemies. We are in the corridors of the hotel now taking guests out of their rooms – mostly foreigners. We broke down the doors and took them out one by one."'

His claim was denied by senior Kabul police officer Mohammad Zahir, who said the militants had been isolated on a "small section of the roof" and had not been able to go around the hotel, room to room. He said an unknown number of insurgents were firing from positions outside the hotel and that about five officers, including Zahir himself, had been wounded.

The insurgents were armed with machine guns, anti-aircraft weapons, rocket-propelled grenades and hand grenades, according to Samoonyar Mohammad Zaman, a security officer for the interior ministry, who said there were 60 to 70 guests at the hotel.

Another Afghan official said a group of senior provincial officials had been staying at the hotel at the time.

Bette Dam, a Dutch journalist at the scene, reported on Twitter that he had seen at least four rocket-propelled grenades being launched from the hotel into the nearby house belonging to Mohammad Qasim Fahim, one of the country's vice-presidents.

Afghanistan's interior minister, General Besmellah Khan, was reported to be present and was overseeing operations along with the city's police chief and an Afghan army commando unit.

Jawid, a guest at the hotel, told AP he jumped out of a one-storey window to escape the shooting.

"I was running with my family," he said. "There was shooting. The restaurant was full with guests."

The 1960s hotel, which has at least 200 rooms and is no longer formally part of the Intercontinental chain, is not the magnet to western travellers it once was, many of whom now stay in more recently built hotels. But it is popular with well-heeled Afghans and leading political figures, and it hosts a number of important conferences each year.

The last major attack on a similar hotel used by foreigners was in January 2008, when several Taliban gunmen killed six people in a commando-style attack on the nearby Serena hotel, which has been hit in several random rocket attacks since then.

However, the latest attack on such a well-defended hotel, which is impossible to approach without going through at least two security checkpoints, is embarrassing to the Afghan government as it prepares to take responsibility for security in Kabul province as part of much vaunted "transition" strategy.

The attack came the night before the start of a conference about the gradual transition of civil and military responsibility from foreign forces to Afghans, although an Afghan government official told reporters that the hotel was not one of the venues to be used by the conference or its delegates.

Afghan authorities have already been nominally in charge of Kabul for some time.

Attacks in the Afghan capital have been relatively rare, although violence has increased since the 2 May killing of Osama bin Laden in a US raid in Pakistan and since the start of the Taliban's annual spring offensive.

On 18 June, insurgents wearing Afghan army uniforms stormed a police station near the presidential palace and opened fire on officers, killing nine.

Earlier on Tuesday, officials from the US, Pakistan and Afghanistan met in Kabul to discuss prospects for making peace with the Taliban.

"The fact that we are discussing reconciliation in great detail is success and progress, but challenges remain and we are reminded of that on an almost daily basis by violence," Jawed Ludin, Afghanistan's deputy foreign minister, said at a news conference.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Michele Bachmann is Simply Smarter than Dopey Barack Obama

If the Liberal Press wants to see the Constant Flubber Extraordinaire it need look no further than Barack Obama, but they won't. Obama is too special to be fairly examined. Questioning Obama's smarts would be, well, a little racist? The same cannot be said about Michelle Bachmann, who is the target de jour of the left wing media. Some Michelle's are open to ridicule, others get a special pass because they are so special... How do I know that? Because I just saw the Morning Moron, pig-eyed, no lips, Joe Scarborough, failing to be funny but never missing an opportunity to be stupid, this time about Michelle Bachmann.

____________________________


  • President Obama’s lack of experience with royalty was on full display today in England as he mistakenly began a toast to the Queen of England at the wrong time, resulting in “God Save the Queen” blaring over his words and no one getting to drink what was in their cups. Awkward. “And now I propose a toast to the Queen,” President Obama began in London today, but only got as far as “To the vitality of the special relationship” before “God Save the Queen” cut him off. He kept reading the toast, however, and finally raised his glass to her. No one drank out of their glasses afterwards, however. The Queen herself looked over at him with a hint of contempt (confusion?) in her face, while the other members of the royal family stood stoically around them.


  • President Obama flubbed his remarks to troops at Fort Drum Thursday when he told the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division about the time he awarded the first Medal of Honor to someone not receiving it posthumously. The medal, he said, went to Jared Monti. The only issue is that Jared Monti died in service in Afghanistan, and did in fact receive the medal posthumously.





  • St. Paul--Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has been criticized in recent weeks for her unintentional revisions of history, but on Monday President Obama revealed he could use a refresher course in American history as well. In an interview Monday with reporter Brad Watson of WFAA-TV of Dallas, Obama seemed to confuse the state’s current political history with its Democrat past. “Texas has always been a pretty Republican state,” Obama said, when asked why the President was so unpopular in Texas. In fact, since the Civil War and until 1980, the Lone Star state swung toward the Democratic candidate in 23 of 27 presidential elections.





  • WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama sees his secretary of defense just about every day, but he still flubbed Robert Gates' name on Thursday. Gates was in the crowd for Obama's national security speech. Pointing him out, the president said "William Gates" was on hand. Perhaps Obama was thinking of Bill Gates, the Microsoft billionaire. The defense chief, who goes by Bob, was also misidentified at a Pentagon ceremony on Tuesday. Then, he was introduced as Ronald Gates.

Monday, June 27, 2011

TSA SCUM - Update 4

95 Year old cancer-stricken Grandmother, in a wheelchair, patted down by the TSA VOPOS and then forced to remove her diaper.



The TSA released a statement Sunday defending its agents' actions at the Northwest Florida Regional Airport and answered in true Orwellian fashion:

"While every person and item must be screened before entering the secure boarding area, TSA works with passengers to resolve security alarms in a respectful and sensitive manner," the federal agency said. "We have reviewed the circumstances involving this screening and determined that our officers acted professionally and according to proper procedure."







Sunday, June 26, 2011

Los Angeles Celebrates Mexican Soccer Victory Over US

How is that diversity thing working for you? How do you like paying for all those anchor babies? How will you like it when the next ten million Mexicans arrive with their demands?



Pandora's Cluster

Saturday, June 25, 2011

What does it take to send a fool to blow himself up in a hospital?

A deadly car bomb has hit a hospital in Afghanistan's eastern Logar province, with women, children and elderly among the casualties.
The provincial health director told the BBC that 27 people had died and 53 were hurt, adding the toll could have been higher as many people took away the bodies of relatives.
The facility was destroyed and people were buried under rubble.




Michelle's Family Vacation in Africa

Actually this is a very simple and pleasant welcoming ceremony in Botswana. It reminded me of one of the greatest movie scenes ever in the classic film, Zulu. Enjoy both on full screen.



Friday, June 24, 2011

James Whitey Bolger



GUEST POST "Mike360 on HubPages
I write all kinds of crap and don't care if any of you like it or not."


Why do we glorify thugs and killers?

Time and time again I see shows on television that show violent criminals in a positive light. Most recently I have seen documentaries depicting gang violence as exciting and admirable on the History Channel, (though I quite often see comparable material on several other cable stations as well).

As I'm watching these documentaries, I notice that the camera angles and lighting during the interviews are made to make the interviewee seem powerful and intimidating. The narrator's tone and and language further present the perpetrator as someone who should inspire awe. The narrator's gravely intonations describe how johnny the gangster is "hard core and knows how to outwit local law enforcement. He is among the most dangerous and respected of his organization and he has the scars to prove it."

This kind of shit is part of the problem! Now obviously you and I would not be inspired to become gangsters or drug dealers or serial killers by watching cable tv, but remember this: half of young kids have a below average IQ and/or are highly impressionable especially when it comes to televised images of power. These kids are apt to see this and honestly think, "Wow. Now that guy gets taken seriously. I want to be respected and feared like that and get interviewed on tv while some guy with a raspy voice tells everyone I'm a badass."

I know for a fact that many kids think this way because I have worked in a juvenile detention center and have worked with kids on probation for gang violence. There are tons of kids whose parents are way fucked up and never teach them the most basic things in life. Therefore, they learn everything from there peers, television, and now, the Internet. Glorification of violence and crime in mass media and our society has got to stop.

Take for instance the phrase, "Sexual Predator." How is the word Predator usually used? What sorts of images does it conjure up in people's minds when they hear just the word Predator? It sounds like something badass like a lion or tiger or eagle or shark. There's no way in hell that rapists and pedophiles should be lumped in with respectable animals that we see on National Geographic. They should be called "Sexual Scavengers" or "Sexual Bottom Feeders" or "Sexual Cockroaches." Even those words are too good for them, much less "Predator."

Then there's serial killers and mass murders described as "cold-blooded killers." Well, yes, they probably are cold blooded in a sense, but the way that the phrase is voiced by the narrator implies that this is a good trait to have if you're going to be doing some killing. Just listen to how they say it next time. It sounds like they're trying to sell us insecticide. "Use Raid Wasp Remover! It's a COLD-BLOODED KILLER!"

Glorification of violence and crime is detrimental to our communities and neighborhoods. Criminals do not deserve one ounce of admiration for their depraved and heinous acts. At best, they should be mocked and ridiculed for being a cancer to society.

Our kids need to be shown that respect is given to those who earn it rightfully, not those who snatch it illegitimately and shamefully. Hollywood style glorification should be saved for people who deserve it like those who promote peace, compassion, and wisdom.

We are all part of society, and we are responsible for it's condition.

Mike360

Thursday, June 23, 2011

NATO leadership is supporting a rebellion that includes Islamic terrorists...al-Qaeda-affiliated Libyan Islamic Fighting Group is the “main pillar of the Libyan armed insurrection.”

A new report from two French think tanks concludes that jihadists have played a predominant role in the eastern-Libyan rebellion against the rule of Moammar Qaddafi, and that “true democrats” represent only a minority in the rebellion. The report, furthermore, calls into question the justifications given for Western military intervention in Libya, arguing that they are largely based on media exaggerations and “outright disinformation.”

The sponsors of the report are the Paris-based International Center for Research and Study on Terrorism and Aide to Victims of Terrorism (CIRET-AVT) and the French Center for Research on Intelligence (CF2R). The organizations sent a six-member expert mission to Libya to evaluate the situation and consult with representatives on both sides of the conflict. From March 31 to April 6, the mission visited the Libyan capital of Tripoli and the region of Tripolitania; from April 19 to April 25, it visited the rebel capital of Benghazi and the surrounding Cyrenaica region in eastern Libya.

The report identifies four factions among the members of the eastern Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC). Apart from a minority of “true democrats,” the other three factions comprise partisans of a restoration of the monarchy that was overthrown by Qaddafi in 1969, Islamic extremists seeking the establishment of an Islamic state, and former fixtures of the Qaddafi regime who defected to the rebels for opportunistic or other reasons.

There is a clear overlap between the Islamists and the monarchists, inasmuch as the deposed King Idris I was himself the head of the Senussi brotherhood, which the authors describe as “an anti-Western Muslim sect that practices an austere and conservative form of Islam.” The monarchists are thus, more precisely, “monarchists-fundamentalists.”

The most prominent of the defectors, the president of the NTC, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, is likewise described by the authors as a “traditionalist” who is “supported by the Islamists.” The authors point out that Jalil played an important role in the “Bulgarian nurses affair,” so called for five Bulgarian nurses who, along with a Palestinian doctor, were charged with deliberately infecting hundreds of children with AIDS in a hospital in Benghazi. As chair of the Appeals Court in Tripoli, Jalil twice upheld the death penalty for the nurses. In 2007, the nurses and the Palestinian doctor were released by the Libyan government following negotiations in which French president Nicolas Sarkozy's then wife, Cecilia, played a highly publicized role.

The report describes members of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Libyan Islamic Fighting Group as the “main pillar of the armed insurrection.” “Thus the military coalition under NATO leadership is supporting a rebellion that includes Islamic terrorists,” the authors write. Alluding to the major role played by the Cyrenaica region in supplying recruits for al-Qaeda in Iraq, they add, “No one can deny that the Libyan rebels who are today supported by Washington were only yesterday jihadists killing American GIs in Iraq.”

The full composition of the NTC has not been made public. But, according to the authors, one avowed al-Qaeda recruiter, Abdul-Hakim al-Hasadi, is himself a member of the NTC. (On al-Hasadi, see my March 25 report here.) Al-Hasadi is described by the authors as the “leader of the Libyan rebels.” Although Western media reports commonly say that he is in charge of the defense of his home town of Darnah in eastern Libya, the CIRET-CF2R report suggests that in mid-April, al-Hasadi left Cyrenaica by boat in order to participate in the battle of Misrata. He is supposed to have taken arms and 25 “well-trained fighters” with him. Misrata is in western Libya, a mere 135 miles from Tripoli.

Regarding the effects of western military intervention in support of the rebels, the authors conclude:

Western intervention is in the process of creating more problems than it resolves. It is one thing to force Qaddafi to leave. It is another thing to spread chaos and destruction in Libya to this end and to prepare the ground for fundamentalist Islam. The current moves risk destabilizing all of North Africa, the Sahel, and the Middle East and favoring the emergence of a new regional base for radical Islam and terrorism.

What follows are some further translated highlights from the CIRET-CF2R report. The full report is available in French here.

On the Battle of Misrata:

Little by little, the city is starting to appear like a Libyan version of Sarajevo in the eyes of the “free” world. The rebels from Benghazi hope that a humanitarian crisis in Misrata will convince the Western coalition to deploy ground troops in order to save the population.

. . . During the course of April, the NGO Human Rights Watch published casualty figures concerning Misrata that reveal that, contrary to the claims made in the international media, Qaddafi loyalist forces have not massacred the residents of the town. During two months of hostilities, only 257 persons — including combatants — were killed. Among the 949 wounded, only 22 — or fewer than 3 percent — were women. If regime forces had deliberately targeted civilians, women would have represented around half of the victims.

It is thus now obvious that Western leaders — first and foremost, President Obama — have grossly exaggerated the humanitarian risk in order to justify their military action in Libya.

The real interest of Misrata lies elsewhere. . . . The control of this port, at only 220 kilometers from Tripoli, would make it an ideal base for launching a land offensive against Qaddafi.

On Benghazi and the Cyrenaica Region:

Benghazi is well-known as a hot-bed of religious extremism. The Cyrenaica region has a long Islamist tradition going back to the Senussi brotherhood. Religious fundamentalism is much more evident here than in the western part of the country. Women are completely veiled from head to foot. They cannot drive and their social life is reduced to a minimum. Bearded men predominate. They often have the black mark of piety on their foreheads [the “zebibah,” which is formed by repeated prostration during Muslim prayers].

It is a little-known fact that Benghazi has become over the last 15 years the epicenter of African migration to Europe. This traffic in human beings has been transformed into a veritable industry, generating billions of dollars. Parallel mafia structures have developed in the city, where the traffic is firmly implanted and employs thousands of people, while corrupting police and civil servants. It was only a year ago that the Libyan government, with the help of Italy, managed to bring this cancer under control.

Following the disappearance of its main source of revenue and the arrest of a number of its bosses, the local mafia took the lead in financing and supporting the Libyan rebellion. Numerous gangs and members of the city's criminal underworld are known to have conducted punitive expeditions against African migrant workers in Benghazi and the surrounding area. Since the start of the rebellion, several hundred migrant workers — Sudanese, Somalis, Ethiopians, and Eritreans — have been robbed and murdered by rebel militias. This fact is carefully hidden by the international media.

On African “Mercenaries” and Tuaregs:

One of the greatest successes [of Qaddafi's African policy] is his “alliance” with the Tuaregs [a traditionally nomadic population spread over the region of the Sahara], whom he actively financed and supported when their movement was repressed in Mali in the 1990s.

. . . In 2005, Qaddafi accorded an unlimited residency permit to all Nigerian and Malian Tuaregs on Libyan territory. Then, in 2006, he called on all the tribes of the Sahara region, including Tuareg tribes, to form a common entity to oppose terrorism and drug trafficking . . .

This is why hundreds of combatants came from Niger and Mali to help Qaddafi [after the outbreak of the rebellion]. In their view, they were indebted to Gaddafi and had an obligation to do so. . . .

Many things have been written about the “mercenaries” serving in the Libyan security forces, but few of them are accurate. . . .

In recent years, foreigners have . . . been recruited [into the Libyan army]. The phenomenon is entirely comparable to the phenomenon that one observes on all levels of Libyan economic life. There is a very large population of foreign workers in search of employment in the country. The majority of the recruits originally come from Mali, Chad, Niger, Congo, and Sudan. . . .

The information from rebel sources on supposed foreign intrusions [i.e. mercenaries] is vague and should be treated with caution. . . .

On the other hand, it is a proven fact — and the mission was able to confirm this itself — that Tuaregs from Niger came to Tripoli to offer their support to Qaddafi. They did so spontaneously and out of a sense of debt.

. . . It seems that Libyans of foreign origin and genuine volunteers coming from foreign countries are being deliberately confused [in the reports on “mercenaries”]. Whatever the actual number [of foreign fighters], they form only a small part of the Libyan forces.

On the role of the international media:

Up until the end of February, the situation in western Libyan cities was extremely tense and there were clashes — more so than in the east. But the situation was the subject of exaggeration and outright disinformation in the media. For example, a report that Libyan aircraft bombed Tripoli is completely inaccurate: No Libyan bomb fell on the capital, even though bloody clashes seem to have taken place in certain neighborhoods. . . .

The consequences of this disinformation are clear. The U.N. resolution [mandating intervention] was approved on the basis of such media reports. No investigative commission was sent to the country. It is no exaggeration to say that sensationalist reporting by al-Jazeera influenced the U.N.

On the insurrection in Benghazi:

As soon as the protests started, Islamists and criminals immediately took advantage of the situation in order to attack high-security prisons outside Benghazi where their comrades were being held. Following the liberation of their leaders, the rebellion attacked police stations and public buildings. The residents of the city woke up to see the corpses of policemen hanging from bridges.

Numerous atrocities were likewise committed against African workers, who have all been treated as “mercenaries.” African workers were expelled, murdered, imprisoned, and tortured.

On the insurrection in Zawiya (a town in western Libya):

During the three weeks [that the town was controlled by the rebels], all public buildings were pillaged and set on fire. . . . Everywhere, there was destruction and pillaging (of arms, money, archives). There was no trace of combat, which confirms the testimony of the police [who claim to have received orders not to intervene]. . . .

There were also atrocities committed (women who were raped, and some police officers who were killed), as well as civilian victims during these three weeks. . . . The victims were killed in the manner of the Algerian GIA [Armed Islamic Group]: throats cut, eyes gauged out, arms and legs cut off, sometimes the bodies were burned . . .
AINA

Can Government End Anything Anymore?

Freedoms perhaps but not much else.

We start wars we can't seem to finish. We create agencies that grow beyond the reasons and boundaries of their original inception. Food stamps which started as a supplement to surplus food now are distributed to 40,000,000 people. Social Security is a growing and gargantuan redistribution system disguised as a pension plan.

We can't seem to end military occupation anywhere. We are still in Kosovo, Europe, where mission creep expanded to policing smugglers and human traffickers. It is no wonder Obama doesn't know how to end a war.

Perhaps he should consult his supporters on Wall Street who have considerable expertise in ending businesses and industries and closing operations down promptly. Of course, the bankers and financial guys insist it is all about compensation. Do we need to award $10,000,000 bonuses to generals and government department heads to incentivize ending anything?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

How's T? I had a dream about her last night. - MeLoDy

“The whole story of the global economy is that there’s too much supply of everything and insufficient global demand”

That is a Problem


HONG KONG (MarketWatch) — China’s era of rapid economic growth is drawing to a close, with a great moderation now inevitable, according to economist and author Richard Duncan.

“I don’t think [China] will be able to achieve their current rates of growth in the next five years,” Duncan told MarketWatch in a telephone interview from Bangkok.

Among reasons for the changes, he said, Beijing won’t be able crank up credit growth further without inflicting self-damage, nor is its export-led growth model viable as the taps tighten on worldwide easy money.

Duncan believes it’s only government life-support in the form of deficit spending that’s kept the global economy from falling into a depression since the 2008 credit crisis, and if the slowdown spreads as he expects, China won’t have an easy time shielding its economy from a slump in consumer demand.

“The whole story of the global economy is that there’s too much supply of everything and insufficient global demand,” said Duncan.

China managed to avoid a recession thanks largely to rapid credit growth, as its state-controlled banks expanded their loan books by 60% over a 24-month period.

Meanwhile, millions of Chinese factory workers who were laid off during the crisis were eventually hired back as global trade slowly normalized.

Duncan isn’t so sure that China can look to rapid credit growth this time if there’s a another serious slowdown, or that global trade will recover without a protectionist backlash, as economies such as the U.S. and Europe suffer high unemployment.

China “will be singled out by the U.S. and forced to stop growing its trade surplus ... and that will be the death blow to China’s era of rapid economic growth,” Duncan said.

Huge trade surpluses with the U.S. were among factors in China’s bubble-like economic growth over the past decade, Duncan said.


Banks

According to Duncan, China’s banking system is just beginning to grapple with the aftereffects of its previous round of easy credit.

“It’s like guy who drank a gallon of Red Bull,” he said, describing a post-credit-binge hangover now settling over the economy. “It [China] has the choice of letting the credit wear off and being extremely sick, or drinking two gallons.”

Much of the credit pumped into the economy was channeled into building empty skyscrapers or other non-productive assets now getting “heavier and heavier” in terms of problem loans within the banking system, Duncan said.

In fact, the toxic-loan problems could just be emerging. Reuters reported last month that the central government would take responsibility for $463 billion of loans extended to local-government financing vehicles for infrastructure projects.

If true, Societe Generale says the bailout would amount to 1.5 times the size the U.S government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) plan to rescue banks in 2008, if adjusted for the smaller size of China’s economy.

“It is more than likely that China has one-and-a-half times the 2008 crisis ahead of it,” said SocGen strategist Dylan Grice.

Meanwhile, recent gains in wages won’t translate into higher domestic demand as some economists had hoped, said Duncan, who believes the higher salaries are part of an overall inflationary trend triggered by the surge in bank lending, and are set to fall back as the stimulus wears off.

“I don’t really see anything that makes me optimistic,” Duncan said.

He said that factory wages could fall dramatically as they did when nearly 20 million migrant workers were laid off as production lines shuttered during the crisis.

QE2 withdrawal

There’s no question the U.S. economy will slow once the Federal Reserve winds down its daily bond-buying program on June 30, Duncan said.

Asset prices will come under further pressure, with equity and commodities poised for more declines, eventually taking bond prices down too, as liquidity conditions tighten, he said.

Gold prices should outperform other assets classes, helped by currency debasement worries as it becomes clearer that more quantitative easing is needed, Duncan said.

As a result, he believes the Fed may be unveil a third round of quantitative easing, likely in the fourth quarter, in an effort to turn the coming slowdown into more of soft patch.

In his 2009 book “The Corruption of Capitalism,” Duncan forecast the U.S. would run large annual deficits in an effort to prop up its economy in the wake of the housing bubble, much as Japan has done since its credit bubble popped in the late 1980s.

Some economists think China too may see to drink that second gallon of Red Bull to keep its economy from suffering.

China’s central bank will expand credit by 8 trillion yuan to 8.5 trillion yuan ($1.23 trillion to $1.31 trillion) this year, up from its earlier loan-growth target of 7 trillion yuan to 7.5 trillion yuan, according to Standard Chartered forecasts released last week.

The credit will help boost growth to around 9% to 10% next year, the bank said.

“The worse the news out of the U.S. is, the quicker and more meaningful the loosening will be,” wrote Standard Chartered’s Economist Stephen Green in Shanghai in a note.

Chris Oliver is MarketWatch's Asia bureau chief, based in Hong Kong.

Monday, June 20, 2011

We Really Need Someone Named Fareed Zakaria Advising Us to Scrap the Constitution

Zakaria was born in Mumbai (then Bombay), Maharashtra, India, to a Konkani Muslim family. His father, Rafiq Zakaria, was a politician associated with the Indian National Congress and an Islamic scholar. His mother, Fatima Zakaria, was for a time the editor of the Sunday Times of India.
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CNN

Is it time to update the U.S. Constitution?

We all know how Americans revere the constitution, so I was struck by the news that tiny, little Iceland is actually junking its own constitution and starting anew using an unusual - some would say innovative - mechanism.
The nation decided it needed a new constitution and it's soliciting ideas from all of Iceland's 320,000 citizens with the help of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.  This social media method has worked. Ideas have been flowing in. Many have asked for guaranteed, good health care. Others want campaign finance systems that make corporate donations illegal. And some just want the country to makeshark finning illegal.
There is a Constitutional Council. It incorporates some of these ideas, rejects others, but everything is done in plain sight on the web. As one member of the Constitutional Council said, the document is basically being drafted on the Internet. 
Now, why do they need a new constitution anyway? Well, after Iceland was crippled in recent years by the economic crisis, they all wanted a fresh start. And, anyway, they felt the document was old and outdated, drafted all the way back in 1944.
Now, you might be tempted to say that Iceland doesn't have any reasons to be proud of its political traditions in the manner that the United States does. Well, think again.
Iceland is home to the world's oldest parliament still in existence, the Althing, set up in 930 A.D. The rocky ledge on which they gathered represents the beginnings of representative government in the world. So Iceland has reasons to cherish its history, and yet it was willing to revise it.
By contrast, any talk of revising or revisiting the American constitution is, of course, seen as heresy. The United States constitution was, as you know, drafted in a cramped room in Philadelphia in 1787 with shades drawn over the windows. It was signed by 39 people.
America at the time consisted of 13 states. Congress had 26 senators and 65 representatives. The entire population was about one percent of today's number - four million people.
America was an agricultural society, with no industry - not even cotton gins. The flush toilet had just been invented.
These were the circumstances under which this document was written.
And let me be very clear here, the U.S. constitution is an extraordinary work, one of the greatest expressions of liberty and law in human history.
One amazing testament to it is the mere fact that it has survived as the law of the land for 222 years.
But our constitution has been revised 27 times.  Some of these revisions have been enormous and important, such as the abolition of slavery. Then there are areas that have evolved. For example, the power of the judiciary, especially the Supreme Court, is barely mentioned in the document. This grew as a fact over history.
But there are surely some issues that still need to be debated and fixed.
The electoral college, for example, is highly undemocratic, allowing for the possibility that someone could get elected as president even if he or she had a smaller share of the total national vote than his opponent.
The structure of the Senate is even more undemocratic, with Wisconsin's six million inhabitants getting the same representation in the Senate as California's 36 million people. That's not exactly one man, one vote.
And we are surely the only modern nation that could be paralyzed as we were in 2000 over an election dispute because we lack a simple national electoral system.
So we could use the ideas of social media that were actually invented in this country to suggest a set of amendments to modernize the constitution for the 21st Century.
Such a plan is not unheard of in American history.
After all, the delegates in Philadelphia in 1787 initially meant not to create the Constitution as we now know it, but instead to revise the existing document, the Articles of Confederation. But the delegates saw a disconnect between the document that currently governed them and the needs of the nation, so their solution was to start anew.
I'm just suggesting we talk about a few revisions.
Anyway, what do you think? Should we do this? And if we were to revise the U.S. Constitution, what would be the three amendments you would put in?

Illegal Immigrants to Blame for Arizona Fire

The Wallow Fire, the largest in Arizona history growing to approximately 511,118 acres, on Sunday has been 51 percent contained.
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Sen. John McCain: Blame illegal immigrants for Wallow fire
The State Column | Staff | Sunday, June 19, 2011


Arizona U.S. Senator John McCain fanned the flames of immigration reform and border security Saturday, saying undocumented immigrants are partly to blame for the growing Wallow fire in Arizona.

“There is substantial evidence that some of these fires have been caused by people who have crossed our border illegally,” Mr. McCain said during a press conference in Springerville on Saturday. “The answer to that part of the problem is to get a secure border.”

Mr. McCain, who has repeatedly called for a comprehensive immigration reform bill, seemed to contradict Arizona Republican governor Jan Brewer, who said the causes and sources of two southern Arizona fires have yet to be determined and that an investigation is under way.

Mr. McCain’s comment come as Ms. Brewer declared a state of emergency, activating the state’s National Guard. On Friday morning, Ms. Brewer conducted an aerial tour of the Horseshoe II and Monument fires,
and received a briefing from incident commanders. The two fires have burned more than 200,000 acres,
including 40 residential homes. Also still burning is the Horseshoe Two fire, which has blackened nearly 200,000 acres and is 65 percent contained.

Ms. Brewer joined Mr. McCain, calling Friday for additional troops to be deployed to the southern border.

“While I’m pleased that President Obama has agreed to temporarily extend the deployment of National Guard along the border, this extension would be more meaningful if it were for a longer period of time and coupled with broader security measures,” Ms. Brewer said in a statement.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Why is Jim Johnson and Barney Frank Not in Jail?

Congress railroaded and imprisoned Jim Traficant for fixing his driveway, but the really connected and protected thieves in and out of Government go on and steal from the US people by the hundreds of billions of dollars. The same thieves get the US involved in wars and foreign entanglements costing further hundreds of billions and young Americans killed and wounded. Jim Johnson and Barney Frank are just the tip of the spear of the Fannie Mae crisis, but the Fannie Mae crisis is just one of many scandals that are ruing the US.

I looked for the exact charges against Traficant and found this video of a recent talk by Traficant. Believe him or deny Traficant but Traficant says some interesting things that have a ring of truth and make you think. There are 13 parts to this but if half of it is true, we have bigger problems than I thought.
______________________________________




OP-ED COLUMNIST
Who Is James Johnson?
By DAVID BROOKS NY TIMES
Published: June 16, 2011


Most political scandals involve people who are not really enmeshed in the Washington establishment — people like Representative Anthony Weiner or Representative William Jefferson. Most scandals involve spectacularly bad behavior — like posting pictures of your private parts on the Web or hiding $90,000 in cash in your freezer.

But the most devastating scandal in recent history involved dozens of the most respected members of the Washington establishment. Their behavior was not out of the ordinary by any means.

For that reason, the Fannie Mae scandal is the most important political scandal since Watergate. It helped sink the American economy. It has cost taxpayers about $153 billion, so far. It indicts patterns of behavior that are considered normal and respectable in Washington.

The Fannie Mae scandal has gotten relatively little media attention because many of the participants are still powerful, admired and well connected. But Gretchen Morgenson, a Times colleague, and the financial analyst Joshua Rosner have rectified that, writing “Reckless Endangerment,” a brave book that exposes the affair in clear and gripping form.

The story centers around James Johnson, a Democratic sage with a raft of prestigious connections. Appointed as chief executive of Fannie Mae in 1991, Johnson started an aggressive effort to expand homeownership.

Back then, Fannie Mae could raise money at low interest rates because the federal government implicitly guaranteed its debt. In 1995, according to the Congressional Budget Office, this implied guarantee netted the agency $7 billion. Instead of using that money to help buyers, Johnson and other executives kept $2.1 billion for themselves and their shareholders. They used it to further the cause — expanding their clout, their salaries and their bonuses. They did the things that every special-interest group does to advance its interests.

Fannie Mae co-opted relevant activist groups, handing out money to Acorn, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and other groups that it might need on its side.

Fannie ginned up Astroturf lobbying campaigns. In 2000, for example, a bill was introduced that threatened Fannie’s special status. The Coalition for Homeownership was formed and letters poured into Congressional offices opposing the bill. Many signatories of the letter had no idea their names had been used.

Fannie lavished campaign contributions on members of Congress. Time and again experts would go before some Congressional committee to warn that Fannie was lowering borrowing standards and posing an enormous risk to taxpayers. Phalanxes of congressmen would be mobilized to bludgeon the experts and kill unfriendly legislation.

Fannie executives ginned up academic studies. They created a foundation that spent tens of millions in advertising. They spent enormous amounts of time and money capturing the regulators who were supposed to police them.

Morgenson and Rosner write with barely suppressed rage, as if great crimes are being committed. But there are no crimes. This is how Washington works. Only two of the characters in this tale come off as egregiously immoral. Johnson made $100 million while supposedly helping the poor. Representative Barney Frank, whose partner at the time worked for Fannie, was arrogantly dismissive when anybody raised doubts about the stability of the whole arrangement.

Most of the people were simply doing what reputable figures do in service to a supposedly good cause. Johnson roped in some of the most respected establishment names: Bill Daley, Tom Donilon, Joseph Stiglitz, Dianne Feinstein, Kit Bond, Franklin Raines, Larry Summers, Robert Zoellick, Ken Starr and so on.

Of course, it all came undone. Underneath, Fannie was a cancer that helped spread risky behavior and low standards across the housing industry. We all know what happened next.

The scandal has sent the message that the leadership class is fundamentally self-dealing. Leaders on the center-right and center-left are always trying to create public-private partnerships to spark socially productive activity. But the biggest public-private partnership to date led to shameless self-enrichment and disastrous results.

It has sent the message that we have hit the moment of demosclerosis. Washington is home to a vertiginous tangle of industry associations, activist groups, think tanks and communications shops. These forces have overwhelmed the government that was originally conceived by the founders.

The final message is that members of the leadership class have done nothing to police themselves. The Wall Street-Industry-Regulator-Lobbyist tangle is even more deeply enmeshed.

People may not like Michele Bachmann, but when they finish “Reckless Endangerment” they will understand why there is a market for politicians like her. They’ll realize that if the existing leadership class doesn’t redefine “normal” behavior, some pungent and colorful movement will sweep in and do it for them.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

How to Fix Social Security

  • Number one is to eliminate everyone that never paid into the system. Social Security was a pension scheme for workers. It was never intended as a lifetime welfare program. It was intended to help a worker after he retired, not pay a drug addict a check from the age of twenty-five till the day he overdoses. Other programs can be set up for welfare payments. It should not be the burden of people who had their payrolls taxed for retirement.
  • All savings from payroll and wages should be tax exempt. It makes no sense to discourage capital formation and savings which helps create jobs and tax payments into the system.
  • Eliminate the earning restrictions on retried people. Why discourage payments into the social security system? In fact the opposite should be done. Eliminate federal taxes from those working after retirement age. They would continue to pay into social security but in exchange for them deferring social security payments they would be able to work with a federal tax holiday. What would be wrong with productive workers deferring retirement until the age of 75?
  • Lastly, eliminate the upper cap on taxable income. People work and plan on their net take-home pay. No one plans to increase their income so that they no longer pay social security taxes. People wish to maximize their income for many reasons and do not regard the upper income cap. Eliminating the upper income cap  brings the system into solvency.

Obama Knows Better Than His Lawyers (I am Shocked)



2 Top Lawyers Lost to Obama in Libya War Policy Debate
By CHARLIE SAVAGE
Published: June 17, 2011


WASHINGTON — President Obama rejected the views of top lawyers at the Pentagon and the Justice Department when he decided that he had the legal authority to continue American military participation in the air war in Libya without Congressional authorization, according to officials familiar with internal administration deliberations.

Jeh C. Johnson, the Pentagon general counsel, and Caroline D. Krass, the acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, had told the White House that they believed that the United States military’s activities in the NATO-led air war amounted to “hostilities.” Under the War Powers Resolution, that would have required Mr. Obama to terminate or scale back the mission after May 20.

But Mr. Obama decided instead to adopt the legal analysis of several other senior members of his legal team — including the White House counsel, Robert Bauer, and the State Department legal adviser, Harold H. Koh — who argued that the United States military’s activities fell short of “hostilities.” Under that view, Mr. Obama needed no permission from Congress to continue the mission unchanged.

Presidents have the legal authority to override the legal conclusions of the Office of Legal Counsel and to act in a manner that is contrary to its advice, but it is extraordinarily rare for that to happen. Under normal circumstances, the office’s interpretation of the law is legally binding on the executive branch.

A White House spokesman, Eric Schultz, said there had been “a full airing of views within the administration and a robust process” that led Mr. Obama to his view that the Libya campaign was not covered by a provision of the War Powers Resolution that requires presidents to halt unauthorized hostilities after 60 days.

“It should come as no surprise that there would be some disagreements, even within an administration, regarding the application of a statute that is nearly 40 years old to a unique and evolving conflict,” Mr. Schultz said. “Those disagreements are ordinary and healthy.” More Here at New York Times

Friday, June 17, 2011

Government Overreach: NLRB, Big Unions & Obama Against American Jobs in South Carolina

Boeing has a right to build a factory anywhere it chooses. Boeing needed a new plant to produce more 787 Dreamliners and built a $750 million facility in South Carolina, which is one of 22 right-to-work states. Workers cannot be forced to join a union as a condition of employment.


Acting NLRB General Counsel Lafe Solomon, an Obama appointee, does Obama's bidding and claims that, by building the plant in the Palmetto State, Boeing "retaliated against union workers. Obama's  other recess appointment,  Craig Becker is also another Obama waterboy on the National Labor Relations Board. Becker served as a  a top union lawyer and has argued that workers should not have any right to opt out of union representation. He also counseled a large local union founded as a subsidiary of the corrupt  Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), another favorite of Obama.


No jobs in Washington are being transferred to South Carolina; in fact, Boeing's Washington facility gained 2,000 jobs. That was not good enough for Obama and his NLRB is suing Boeing and trying to stop their production in South Carolina. That is hard to believe even for the shit-bird sitting in The White House. It is stupid politics and the Democrats will come out badly for this autocratic overreach. 


How About Those Chinese Bonds Yielding 8.1% ?


Chinese Bond Markets – An Introduction


  • While foreign investors have flocked to Chinese equities because of performance and correlation considerations, there is relatively less awareness of Chinese bond markets. This paper serves as an introduction to structure, trading venues, investor base and performance of Chinese bond markets for outside investors.
  • After more than a quarter century of development, Chinese bond markets have evolved into a RMB 15 trillion (more than USD 2 trillion) market across a broad variety of credit, maturity and investor profiles.
  • The market has a multi-layered structure, comprised of the national interbank market, the exchange market and bank counters, with the interbank market being the dominant trading venue.
  • Foreign institutional investors can invest in Chinese bonds by seeking regulator approval for QFII quota or access to the interbank market. Product creators and asset managers have hitherto focused on bringing out higher margin equity products. This may change as global investors seek to participate in the growth of Chinese capital markets without volatility of equities.
  • Over the five years ending 2008, the Chinese bonds in aggregate returned 8.1% annually in USD terms as measured by S&P/CITIC Composite Bond Index, a rate higher than those of U.S. and European bonds. RMB appreciation was a key return driver.
  • Correlations of Chinese bonds with U.S. and European bonds have been less than 10%. Correlation with Chinese equities is a low 1.6%.
  • Prospects for future evolution of the market include broadening of corporate bond markets, expansion of derivatives and risk management tools, and possible development of municipal bonds.

"Gorillas in the Mist."..."Kwita Izina"




Rare Rwandan gorillas back from brink

Annual festival names babies of still-rare species Washington Times



KIGALI, RWANDA — In 1988, a small group of almost-extinct mountain gorillas in volcano ranges straddling Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo became movie stars.

Since then, not much has changed about the Rwandan parkland featured in "Gorillas in the Mist." But a lot has changed for the gorillas.

No longer movie stars, mountain gorillas have more than tripled in population to nearly 750, but their species remains one of the rarest on earth.

Tens of thousands of people, including Rwandan President Paul Kagame, plan to celebrate the growing population on Saturday.

Every year, Rwandans hold what feels like a national holiday called "Kwita Izina" - an adaptation of a traditional naming ceremony held especially for gorillas.

This year, 22 baby gorillas will be named - the largest batch since the event began seven years ago.

Planners say this year's ceremony is especially happy because of the unusual births of two sets of twins since last year's naming ceremony. Seven gorillas have given birth to twins since the animals started being monitored in the 1960s, but rarely do the offspring survive.

Rica Rwigamba, head of tourism and conservation at the Rwanda Development Board, said the four twins - three males and one female - appear to be doing fine, and two will be named at Saturday's ceremony. The other two, born May 27, will be named at Kwita Izina 2012.

Ms. Rwigamba said gorillas have served as the mainstay of the country's tourism industry, which caters to high-end, eco-friendly visitors and collected $200 million in 2010.

"Mountain gorillas [are] the anchor product that Rwanda is known for," she said in the Rwandan capital, Kigali.

Mountain gorillas in Rwanda are treated like national heroes, accounting for 90 percent of the country's tourism revenue.

Visitors pay $500 to see the gorillas, excluding the price of travel, food and lodging. Gorilla permits often sell out months in advance because any given family of gorillas in Rwanda is allowed a maximum of eight visitors a day.

Still, the gorillas live practically on top of some of the most crowded and poorest areas in the region, leaving the animals constantly vulnerable to encroachment, human diseases and poachers.

"It's still a very, very delicate, small population," said Dr. Mike Cranfield, executive director of the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, an organization that has been providing health care to the gorillas since the mid-1980s. "There is no buffer zone around it."

Known as one of the organization's "gorilla doctors," Dr. Cranfield said the gorilla population is growing rapidly and has increased by 26 percent in the past seven years.

Dr. Cranfield said gorilla safety and population growth remain matters of constant vigilance.

Most of the people who live around Volcanoes National Park, the Rwandan territory where the gorillas roam, live on about $1 a day, he said. The extreme poverty induces a tendency to exploit the forest for short-term gains, such as poaching and illegal animal trafficking, which could destroy the gorilla population.

"If you look at any conservation issue," Dr. Cranfield said, "it seems to be magnified here to an extreme."

Rwanda's government has several programs designed to protect the forest, Ms. Rwigamba said. Former poachers are recruited to work as conservationists, and a revenue-sharing plan guarantees that 5 percent of the money earned from gorilla tourism is sent back to the communities to build schools and fund agriculture and beautification projects.

But Dr. Cranfield said poverty remains a threat to the gorillas, regardless of the behavior of local people. A lack of available health care and limited hygiene make the people and the livestock generally sicker, he said.

Because gorillas share almost 99 percent of their genes with humans, they are highly susceptible to human diseases. Human respiratory diseases are the second-highest cause of death among the mountain gorillas, trumped only by trauma from snares.

Political instability is another constant threat to the gorillas in the tumultuous region, according to the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project's regional veterinary manager, Dr. Jan Ramer. Conflict in Congo makes it difficult to provide the animals with regular care and sometimes forces local people to flee their homes for the forest.

As a result, she said, gorillas can be exposed to diseases as people defecate and cough in the woods.

Dr. Ramer said even gorillas that are accustomed to humans have to be treated with extreme care. Tourists cannot eat, smoke or spit near the animals for health reasons, and doctors retreat behind makeshift blinds after darting the animals to sedate them for medical care.

Like Sigourney Weaver, who portrayed the now-deceased Dian Fossey in "Gorillas in the Mist," doctors approach the animals by making soft gorillalike noises to indicate they come in peace, Dr. Ramer said. Ms. Fossey is credited with spearheading conservation efforts starting in the 1960s that led to the preservation of the gorilla population.

In the movie, Miss Weaver also grunted, lumbered about and munched on leaves like a gorilla to gain the animals' trust. But Dr. Ramer said doctors no longer pretend they are gorillas.

"They know you are not a gorilla," she said of the great apes. "We are just trying to make them feel more comfortable."

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Where Goes Greece and the €?



Europe warned of financial chaos over Greek debt crisis

Greek prime minister fails to form unity government as police battle rioters in Athens and shares tumble over default fears



























Greece's 18-month sovereign debt crisis brought the government to the brink of collapse as public fury over savage austerity measures erupted in pitched battles with riot police on the streets of Athens.

The escalation of the Greek crisis had instant European and global impact, sending world stocks tumbling and exposing European Union paralysis over whether and how to launch a second attempt in a year to save Greece from insolvency.

George Papandreou, the socialist prime minister, announced he would seek a vote of confidence on a new government after offering to resign and broker a new national unity coalition with opposition conservatives.

He admitted failure after intense but fruitless negotiations with the conservative New Democracy party aimed at engineering a consensus behind the massive public spending cuts and wholesale privatisation programme – moves deemed necessary to secure a second bailout from the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

The opposition called for Papandreou's resignation and a renegotiation of the bailout terms with the EU, the European Central Bank, and the IMF as the price for its assent to a national coalition.

Earlier, riot police clashed with tens of thousands of demonstrators protesting in the capital against the radical austerity measures being imposed to try to secure a new bailout expected to amount to around €100bn.

Following the fall of the Irish and Portuguese governments in recent months after driving their countries into bankruptcy, it appeared that the eurozone's worst crisis was claiming another scalp. Despite the heightening sense of urgency, EU governments, the ECB, and the European Commission remained gridlocked over how to respond to the debt emergency, which pushed Greece closer to sovereign default and Europe towards a fresh banking crisis.

The ECB warned that a Greek default could spark "contagion" across Europe, causing Greek banks to implode and inflicting major damage on the big banks in France and Germany.

"It looks like a week of chaos," said a European official in Brussels. An emergency meeting of the 17 eurozone finance ministers on Tuesday failed to bridge the differences over how to construct a second bailout for Greece, senior EU diplomats said. In May last year the EU and the IMF put together a €110bn bailout for Greece, the first in a single currency country. That experiment has failed. Ireland and Portugal have since also needed to be rescued from national insolvency.

"The euro area faces a very challenging situation that comes mostly from the interconnection of the sovereign debt crisis and the situation of the banking sector," the ECB said. "Greece could have a contagion effect," added Vitor Constancio, an ECB vice-president.

Papandreou's offer of a national unity government signalled he was throwing in the towel because of an inability to push through the tens of billions in spending cuts, tax rises, and privatisation progress needed to secure the international bailout.

Europe's peripheral debt crisis has also taken a heavy political toll in the richer creditor countries of the eurozone, with anti-bailout populists making big gains in Finland and the Netherlands. The German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also suffered political setbacks at home while coming in for searing criticism abroad for her handling of the emergency.

The Americans too are exasperated with the failure of the big EU states to resolve the crisis and fear for the impact of a Greek default on the international economy. Greek borrowing costs soared to record levels as investors took fright.

Stock markets suffered; the Dow Jones industrial average in Wall Street was down 180 points, and FTSE 100 was down 60 points.

Berlin, backed by the Dutch, Austrians, and Finns, have been arguing for weeks that there can be no new bailout of Greece without the country's private creditors being forced to suffer losses on their loans. Otherwise, they argue, European taxpayers will be shouldering the costs while the international banks pocket the proceeds.

The ECB, the European Commission and other EU countries led by France argue that this could pave the way to disaster, with the financial markets decreeing the compulsory "haircuts" on private bondholders a Greek default, a "credit event" that could lay waste to the single currency.

"We are against any sort of default with haircuts and any form of private-sector event that could lead to a credit event or a rating event," Constancio said.

There was little sign that the differences had been bridged at Tuesday's emergency meeting of eurozone finance ministers.

They meet again in Luxembourg on Sunday under pressure to strike a deal on a new Greek rescue by 20 June, ahead of an EU summit next Thursday.

But yesterday in Brussels diplomats said it could take weeks, perhaps until mid-July, to reach agreement. Amid a sense that the Greek drama was moving towards a European denouement, all eyes were on a summit between Merkel and the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy.