Reading between the lines, and thinking outside the box . . .
Benedict XVI says that even without considering religious dimensions, not all forms of humanism are the same. The Pope affirmed this today when he received in audience bishops from the Slovenian episcopal conference who have just completed their 5-yearly visit. In his address to them, he considered the changes the country has seen over the last 5 years. These changes "are not of an ecclesiastical nature but they nonetheless concern the Church because they touch people's lives, and in particular the question of values in Europe."
"Not all forms of humanism are the same," he added, "nor are they equivalent in moral terms. I am not referring here to religious aspects, but limit myself to ethical and social questions. The various visions of man that can be adopted have consequences for civil coexistence. If, for example, man is conceived -- following a widespread modern tendency -- in individualistic terms, how can we justify efforts for the construction of a more just and united community?"
The theme of this year's World Communications Day - "The Media: At the Crossroads between Self-Promotion and Service. Searching for the Truth in order to Share it with Others" - sheds light on the important role of the media in the life of individuals and society. Truly, there is no area of human experience, especially given the vast phenomenon of globalization, in which the media have not become an integral part of interpersonal relations and of social, economic, political and religious development.
Benedict XVI is an extraordinary communicator, says a former Vatican spokesman, and his message is just what people want to hear. He described Benedict XVI's pontificate as a "great pastoral care of the intelligence."
"He has a great conceptual richness, such a wealth of content in his way of explaining things, that he is clarifying for an entire generation, for an entire age of humanity, many basic concepts, concepts that people no longer understood, such as, for example, when he speaks of human love or human dignity, etc. He is doing this in an extraordinary way, addressing himself directly to the intelligence of people, and I think the reaction that is being seen in many environments around the world is simply to say: 'This is what we want to hear, what is current in this moment, what this cultural moment needs.'"
Catholic Church officials in Poland have given their blessing to a new exorcism center. While the topic's been taboo in neighboring Germany, it looks like the center might get quite a few visitors from across the border.
Italy has plunged deeper into political crisis after centre-left leader Romano Prodi narrowly lost a vote of confidence in the country's senate and resigned, with his chief political opponent, Silvio Berlusconi, pressing for early elections, which polls suggest he could easily win.
(Also: President in crisis talks)
Kosovo is ready to declare independence in coming days, the breakaway Serb province's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said on Thursday without giving a more precise timetable after talks in Brussels. "There are some procedures we need to respect and some consultations we needed to respect ... It is an issue of days."
Palestinian Authority President Abbas did not help Prime Minister Olmert's chances of surviving next week's publication of the Winograd Report when he told Kadima MKs who visited him in Ramallah Thursday that Jerusalem was on the table in diplomatic talks. "Everything is on the table and nothing is excluded. Jerusalem, borders, settlements, refugees water, everything."
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have flooded across the border into Egypt since militants smashed down the border wall early on Wednesday. Israel is reacting with remarkable calm -- despite the added security risk.
An Iranian senior cleric calls on the international community to put an end to the atrocities committed by Israel against Palestinians. "What are world leaders doing today? They have only suggested a Security Council meeting, which did not result in a resolution against the Zionist regime's atrocities. Do they think that such a move is sufficient?"
Relations between Israel and Turkey have become very tense in the last 2 days, after Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan claimed that no Israelis have been killed by Qassam missiles, while every Israel Defense Forces attack in the Gaza Strip kills dozens of Palestinians.
"The Palestinian territories are like an open-air prison, they are under siege from Israel. The people of Gaza are facing a humanitarian tragedy. We cannot accept a practice that amounts to punishing nearly 2 million innocent people due to some rocket attacks. ... When we ask Israel how many Israeli citizens died as a result of these rocket attacks, we do not get an answer."
A senior Lebanese police officer and 10 other people were killed this morning when a powerful car bomb exploded in an east Beirut suburb.
Pakistan today successfully test-fired a medium-range, nuclear- capable ballistic missile, an event witnessed by the nation's new army chief, the military said. The Strategic Missile Group launched the Shaheen-1 missile from an undisclosed location at the conclusion of the army's annual field training exercises, a statement said. The missile has a range of 420 miles.
The US will soon have boots on the ground inside Pakistan following a decision by the Pentagon to send Special Forces, ostensibly to train Pakistani troops to meet the terrorist challenge that is threatening to destabilise the country.
Publicly, US officials are repeating ad nauseum that US forces would go to Pakistan only with the approval and at the invitation of the Pakistani government, and their mandate would be strictly to train the Pakistani military in counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operation. But the real motive - hand's on monitoring and control -- is evident from the fact that such training could be imparted any other place, including in the US itself. Most interventions in Third World countries begin with such ventures involving advisors and trainers.
A National Iranian Oil Company official says Iran is selling some of its oil exports to South East Asia in Asian Currency Units (ACU). "Currently, most of the country's oil is being sold in euros and yens; 65% is sold in euros and 15% in yens. Some of our oil to South East Asia is being sold in Asian money called ACU."
Iran feels it has done enough to avert an imminent US attack and is confident its cushion of petrodollars will help it weather the impact of a 3rd round of mild sanctions, Iranian analysts and politicians say.
As confident as this?!...
Saddam Hussein initially didn't think the US would invade Iraq to destroy weapons of mass destruction, so he kept the fact that he had none a secret to prevent an Iranian invasion he believed could happen. "For him, it was critical that he was seen as still the strong, defiant Saddam. He thought that [faking having the weapons] would prevent the Iranians from reinvading Iraq."
The Bush administration had been advertising the "Berlin Sanctions Summit" on Iran as a validation of their long-standing policy of seeking to isolate the Islamic Republic politically and economically. The gulf between the sanctions plotters in Berlin and the nuclear negotiators in Tehran is disconcerting.
While the details of the language agreed upon for a new Security Council resolution remain secret, the US and Great Britain are applauding the results of the Berlin summit largely because it keeps alive the process of Security Council "labeling" of Iran as non-compliant, even as the IAEA and Tehran reach an unprecedented level of cooperation.
The new Security Council resolution on Iran creates a scenario where one can make the case for or against action against Tehran, dependent solely on the interpretation of the document's "intent." The intent of the US remains clear, using the growing number of Security Council resolutions passed under Chapter VII of the UN Charter as de facto evidence of the threat posed by Iran as well as the growing inability of the international community to effectively deal with these threats.
By continuing to label Iran's nuclear program as representing a threat to international peace and security worthy of Chapter VII attention, the Security Council helps sustain the fiction being promoted by the Bush administration of a dangerous nation which needs to be confronted at all costs.
But the tragic genius of the "sanctions trap" is that, once initiated, it is virtually impossible to shut off. And with the US military positioning itself operationally and logistically for action sometime this spring, and the level of rhetoric by President Bush and his advisors on Iran being hyped up to near fever pitch, the last thing the international community should be doing is facilitating conflict by helping sustain the logic of Iran as a threat.
While battered, neoconservatives have not yet been forced from the field. And while their hopes that President Bush would "take out" Iran's nuclear program before leaving office appear to have diminished substantially, their hawkish voice is still heard loud and clear. "The neoconservatives are battle-hardened fighters who have created a permanent base for themselves. They will not disappear."
A number of central truths about neoconservatism are generally ignored or avoided in mainstream discussion of what is a "mindset" rather than an "ideology." First, neoconservatism "is in a decisive respect a Jewish phenomenon." Moreover, neoconservatives, both Jew and gentile, are bound by a "shared commitment to the largest, most important Jewish cause: the survival of Israel."
Just can't get rid of him/"them"...
Paul Wolfowitz, an architect of the Iraq war who was forced to resign from the World Bank because of an ethics scandal, will chair a US advisory panel on arms control, the State Department said. The former deputy secretary of defense and advocate of the US-led invasion of Iraq will head the State Department's International Security Advisory Board, which gives the department independent advice on arms control, disarmament, international security and other matters.
The idea of nuclear non-proliferation through pre-emptive nuclear genocide is now the established doctrine of the Bush Regime. Within a few weeks, it could be the official policy of the NATO pact, as well. And Russia, which in defiance of most expectations may soon be a more prosperous nation than the Bushified US, has openly embraced the lethal logic of nuclear pre-emption as well.
NATO has the safeties off and is prepared to go nuclear against "rogue states," a category that, in practice, refers to countries that don't bend to Washington's will like Iran. Accordingly, Russia has the nuclear safeties off and is prepared to throw down in order to defend the "territorial integrity" of its allies a category that might include Iran. So the odds of a nuclear exchange in the not-distant future are growing shorter.
Vice President Dick Cheney received a sustained standing ovation from fellow conservatives on Wednesday, prompting the often-criticized vice president to joke about himself. "A welcome like that, it's almost enough to make me want to run for office again," Cheney said, drawing laughter. "Almost, almost."
[WAR: So why isn't Cheney running? Because he knows that there isn't going to be elections, so why waste time and money running?...]
Personally, I believe the single most important thing Congress could do to prevent a depression and restore the pillars of our legal-economic system is to get to the source of all White House legal obstruction -- by starting impeachment hearings for Dick Cheney.
Bush's disastrous policies in all 3 areas -- economic regulation, foreign/military policy and government waste -- have driven the US economy to the verge of another Great Depression. Just as Karl Rove was "The Architect" of Bush's political strategy, Dick Cheney was -- and remains -- "The Architect" of Bush's economic and military policies. So as long as Dick Cheney controls these policies, absolutely nothing will change.
As the stock market gyrates, and Federal Reserve Board meets by videoconference to inject emergency funds into the system, Chalmers Johnson's warning that the US empire is not sustainable that "this is the way empires end" resonates rather ominously. He argues that military expenditures are a drain on the productive capacity of the economy, and that the mistaken idea of what he calls "military Keynesianism" will eventually be our economic undoing.
The US economy, he avers, has become increasingly dominated by what President Eisenhower dubbed the "military-industrial complex." Rampant militarism has diverted vital resources away from productive use and lines of research, and given other countries Japan and the EU the technological edge. This trend has also hollowed out our economic base, caused a debilitating decay in the physical infrastructure, and led to a growing debt that is an economic time-bomb that seems to be exploding now.
In a cave-in that was as swift as it was total, the congressional Democratic leadership reached agreement with the White House Thursday on an economic stimulus plan that is limited to tax cuts. Even some of Pelosi's fellow House Democratic leaders were taken aback by this abrupt abandonment of traditional social safety net programs, particularly unemployment compensation.
While billed as an effort to stimulate the US economy and stave off a recession, the package is both pathetically small and far too slow to have any significant impact. The $150 billion total is less than the financial losses incurred in a 1% drop in the New York Stock Exchange. It is a fraction of the losses in the subprime mortgage market alone, to say nothing of the wider financial carnage of the past 6 months.
(Also: Free money for everybody!)
(Also: Economists: Useful, but flawed)
The US is sliding towards a dangerous 1930s-style "liquidity trap" that cannot easily be stopped by drastic cuts in interest rates, Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz has warned.
"The biggest fear is that long-term bond rates won't come down in line with short-term rates. We'll have the reverse of what we've seen in recent years, and that is what is frightening the markets. The mechanism of monetary policy is ineffective in these circumstances. I'm not saying it won't work at all: it will help the banking system but the credit squeeze is going to go on because nobody trusts anybody else. The Fed is pushing on a string."
A serious conflict at the European Central Bank has broken into the open after Spain's finance minister revealed that a number of board members are pushing for an immediate rate cut in light of the emergency action by the US Federal Reserve week. A former EU monetary commissioner, and now Spain's deputy premier, confirmed persistent reports that there had been a tug-of-war at the ECB headquarters, belying the façade of unity.
"An important debate is going on within the ECB over whether or not to cut interest rates." While he did not elaborate, it appears that a bloc of governors from southern Europe and probably Ireland are deeply at odds with the hawkish anti-inflation stance of the German Bundesbank.
Italian bonds are under heavy pressure as the Prodi coalition disintegrates, increasing the risk of a eurosceptic government. Until now the German orthodoxy has largely passed unchallenged but the crisis has brought tensions to a head. Even the Austrian and Luxembourg governors - often described as the "attack dogs" of the Bundesbank bloc - have changed their tune, highlighting the growing risks of an economic downturn.
The world's financial institutions will have to write down a further $300bn (£152bn) of US sub-prime losses before the crisis is over, according to a study by a consulting firm. "We expect a stormy 2008. While governments, central banks and regulators scramble to address the aftermath of the sub-prime fallout, several other crises are mounting."
The Wall Street Journal has agreed to publish a full-page ad in which the Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee charges the US government surreptitiously utilizes gold reserves to engage in international swaps and other market manipulations.
"Anybody Seen Our Gold?" is the title of the ad, which alleges US gold reserves held at depositories such as Fort Knox and West Point may have been seriously depleted. GATA asserts US gold reserves are being shipped overseas to settle complex transactions utilized by the Federal Reserve and the US Treasury to suppress the price of the precious metal.
"Gold's recent rise toward $900 per ounce shows that the price suppression scheme is faltering. When it is widely understood how central banks have been suppressing gold, its price may rise to $3,000 or $5,000 an ounce or more."
(Also: Is the Fed monetarist?)
(Also: Who will take on the banks?)
(Also: Globaloney predators)
A 31-year-old equity futures trader was blamed for inflicting $7.2 billion in losses on France's 2nd-largest bank, Societe Generale. French government officials rushed to issue declarations dismissing the significance of the massive trading fraud and insisting that the underlying economic and financial system remains sound.
Both the bank's claims and the French government's denial that the massive fraud had any broader significance were met with open skepticism in financial circles. Suspicion has been heightened by Societe Generale's concealment of the massive trading fraud for 5 days and its failure to criminally charge Kerviel after interrogating him about his transactions.
Elie Cohen, a right-wing economics professor who has played a major role in the French government's Economic Analysis Council, told the daily Le Figaro that it's "rather hard to swallow that one could hide such losses for an entire year." He suggested that SocGen has decided to "blame it all on some poor sucker" to pass off losses which "had accumulated" during the subprime crisis. He went on to say, "The feeling in the market trading rooms is that a single individual could not have done all that. Societe Generale presumably piled everything on a fraud story to get beyond several bad market transactions."
The massive trading scandalif that is indeed what it wasis entirely bound up with the rampant speculation, parasitism and outright fraud that predominates in every sector of the financial markets and which has come to a head with the subprime mortgage meltdown in the US.
(Also: SG scandal broadens in scope)
Loss of bees = less food that costs more...
Of the 2.4 million bee colonies in the United States, the almond crop in California alone requires more than half of them, according to federal farm officials. According the USDA, about $15 billion in crops are pollinated by honeybees. Amid this need, what's called CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) has resulted in a loss of 50-90% of beehives in the US. The stakes are high, but a year after colony collapse appeared, there are still more questions than answers.
E-mail format for military: YAHOO! WARriors
* "Here I have to reveal a trade secret, which punctures the mystique of intelligence analysis. Generally speaking, 80% of the information one needs to form judgments on key intelligence targets or issues is available in open media. Truth be told, everyone with a high-school education can do it."
* "In his usual form, former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter told a packed crowd to stop whining about corporate media and become their own intelligence operatives. We the people have the same resources and tools that intelligence networks rely heavily on; it's called 'Google.' As our own intelligence operatives we can't allow CNN, FOX, NBC, and ABC to edit and cherry pick information, but ask questions and find the answers ourselves."