Archive for January, 2008


January 31, 2008


Credit card company: No more buying guns
Foundation says ban impacts weapons for citizens, military, law enforcement

Posted: January 31, 2008
1:00 a.m. Eastern

By Bob Unruh
© 2008

A major credit card company has issued a letter to a gun dealer canceling his payment processing services because of corporate concerns firearms were being sold to consumers in other states, in “a non face-to-face environment.” Now the move has raised the ire of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

“Your anti-gun corporate policy is based on ignorance of the law applicable to the sale of firearms,” the NSSF wrote in response to the action taken by First Data Corp., which operates Citi Merchant Services.

“It is perfectly legal, in fact commonplace, for a federal firearms licensee in one state to sell a firearm to a non-licensee (consumer) from another state,” the foundation continued. “What you fail to appreciate is that the firearm is not shipped in interstate commerce directly to the consumer. Rather, as required by federal law, the firearm is shipped by the selling licensee to another federal firearms licensee in the state of residence of the consumer … The consumer acquires the firearm from that licensed dealer in a face-to-face transaction….”

The issue arose when Citi Merchant Services, in a letter signed by June Rivera-Mantilla in the “Periodic Review” department, informed CDNN Sports In. of Abilene, Texas, that the company’s bankcard processing services were cancelled, and that the banking company was withholding $75,000 as a reserve for “potential chargebacks” and it would be held for six months or longer.

Officials with CDNN declined to discuss the situation with WND, citing the “litigation” that was ongoing over the dispute. But they confirmed that the letter documenting the actions by Citi Merchant Services was accurate.

And a statement from CDNN President Charlie Crawford was posted on the NSSF site. “We were contacted recently by First Data/Citi Merchant Services by a June Rivera-Mantilla stating that we were terminated and funds were being seized for selling firearms in a non-face-to-face transaction. Although perfectly legal, we were also informed that no transactions would be processed in the future, even for non-firearms. I find this very frightening.”

“We discussed with Mr. [Charlie] Crawford said termination due to the sale of firearms in a non face-to-face environment,” the letter said. “Keep in mind that a violation of the Gun Control Act occurs when a gun offered online is sold to an individual in another State; the act prohibits selling a handgun to a resident of another state. Shipping across state lines is also banned, yet guns for sale online reach people across the country. We at Citi Merchant Service are unable to monitor or track adherence to these Gun Control laws,” the letter said.

NSSF officials posted the information on their website, prompting a request from Citi Merchant Services to take the information down.

“The posting is inaccurate,” an e-mail, signed only First Data Corp., told the foundation. “Further, while we generally do not comment on individual merchant customers, we would like to briefly address the 12/26 letter posted on your web site. Regretfully, that letter did a less than satisfactory job of expressing applicable policies.”

The e-mail said Citi Merchant Services and First Data “do process firearms transactions. Our policy restrictions address only the sale of firearms in a non face-to-face environment.” Those happen when a cardholder is “not present in front of a merchant and includes mail order and online purchases.”

“It is our policy not to service merchants that make non face-to-face sales in a number of industries, including firearms,” the e-mail said.

The foundation declined to change its information.

“Regrettably, your e-mail serves to confirm the anti-gun corporate policy of First Data and Citi Merchant Services and that the article in our publication ‘Bullet Points,’ and subsequent posting to our Website, was based on a correct and accurate understanding of that policy…,” the group said.

“Furthermore, the policy of First Data and Citi Merchant Services interferes with the receiving and shipping of inventory from and to federally licensed firearms retailers, distributors and manufacturers. This inventory supplies not only law-abiding Americans, but military and law enforcement agencies as well,” the foundation said.

In a statement to WND, Cara Taylor, communications director for Citi, continued to maintain that the NSSF postings were inaccurate.

“First Data processes more card transactions for gun sales in a face to face environment than any other credit card processor,” her statement said. “We do not have a position in the debate about gun control policy. Our credit policies center around certain transactions that occur in a non face-to-face environment and involve third parties to which First Data has no contractual relationship, and therefore pose business concerns about the risk of certain types of transactions.”

Ryan Horsley, a spokesman for Red’s Trading Post in Twin Falls, Idaho, which has its own battle running over gun sales restrictions, said it appears to be another channel through which anti-gun interests can apply pressure to gun retailers.

He told WND he’s experienced difficulties with several other card companies “that have taken that bias.”

He said he’s even heard of personal accounts at billing industry giant PayPal being cancelled because a single transaction involving a gun.

As WND has reported, Horsley’s company is in a court fight now with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives over paperwork errors that largely involved insignificant issues, such as a missing poster or a purchaser failing to provide a county of residence to accompany and street and city address.

Inspectors for the BATFE have been visiting his business regularly in search of records mistakes, he said.

WND also reported earlier how the store appears to be caught up in a new campaign for gun control, focusing on the elimination of retail outlets through technical rules infractions.

His battle is pending in federal court.

Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America told WND that as recently as 15 or 20 years ago, there were 250,000 licensed gun dealers in the United States. The federal government confirms there are only about 108,000 now.

It was in 2000 when a series of WorldNetDaily reports exposed Citibank’s practice of denying banking services to firearms business, and the global financial giant reversed its “longstanding” policy.

A spokesman at that time said firearms businesses would be reviewed just like other businesses in determining whether account services would be provided. The reversal came after a situation in which a Las Vegas branch of Citibank closed a three-day-old checking account opened by the Nevada Pistol Academy, a local shooting club. At that time, local area branch managers told the academy’s director, Chris Lorenzo, in a letter, “Due to Citibank not maintaining accounts for businesses that deal in weapons,” the account would have to be closed.

Report: Military not ready for US attack

US Military Not Adequately Prepared for Homeland Attack, Report Says

AP News

Jan 31, 2008 11:02 EST

The U.S. military isn’t ready for a catastrophic attack on the country, and National Guard forces don’t have the equipment or training they need for the job, according to a report.

Even fewer Army National Guard units are combat-ready today than were nearly a year ago when the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves determined that 88 percent of the units were not prepared for the fight, the panel says in a new report released Thursday.

The independent commission is charged by Congress to recommend changes in law and policy concerning the Guard and Reserves.

The commission’s 400-page report concludes that the nation “does not have sufficient trained, ready forces available” to respond to a chemical, biological or nuclear weapons incident, “an appalling gap that places the nation and its citizens at greater risk.”

“Right now we don’t have the forces we need, we don’t have them trained, we don’t have the equipment,” commission Chairman Arnold Punaro said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Even though there is a lot going on in this area, we need to do a lot more. … There’s a lot of things in the pipeline, but in the world we live in — you’re either ready or you’re not.”

In response, Air Force Gen. Gene Renuart, chief of U.S. Northern command, said the Pentagon is putting together a specialized military team that would be designed to respond to such catastrophic events.

“The capability for the Defense Department to respond to a chemical, biological event exists now,” Renuart told the AP. “It, today, is not as robust as we would like because of the demand on the forces that we’ve placed across the country. … I can do it today. It would be harder on the (military) services, but I could respond.”

Over the next year, Renuart said, specific active duty, Guard and Reserve units will be trained, equipped and assigned to a three-tiered response force totaling about 4,000 troops. There would be a few hundred first responders, who would be followed by a second wave of about 1,200 troops that would include medical and logistics forces.

The third wave, with the remainder of that initial 4,000 troops, would include aircraft units, engineers, and other support forces, depending on the type of incident.

Punaro, a retired Marine Corps major general, had sharp criticism for Northern Command, saying that commanders there have made little progress developing detailed response plans for attacks against the homeland.

“NorthCom has got to get religion in this area,” said Punaro. He said the military needs to avoid “pickup game” type responses, such as the much-criticized federal reaction to Hurricane Katrina, and put in place the kind of detailed plans that exist for virtually any international crisis.

He also underscored the commission’s main finding: the Pentagon must move toward making the National Guard and Reserves an integral part of the U.S. military.

The panel, in its No. 1 recommendation, said the Defense Department must use the nation’s citizen soldiers to create an operational force that would be fully trained, equipped and ready to defend the nation, respond to crises and supplement the active duty troops in combat.

Pointing to the continued strain on the military, as it fights wars on two fronts, the panel said the U.S. has “no reasonable alternative” other than to continue to rely heavily on the reserves to supplement the active duty forces both at home and abroad.

Using reserves as a permanent, ready force, the commission argued, is a much more cost effective way to supplement the military since they are about 70 percent cheaper than active duty troops.

Asked how much it would cost to implement the panel’s recommendations, Punaro said it will take billions to fully equip the Guard. The commission is going to ask the Congressional Budget Office to do a cost analysis, he said.

In perhaps its most controversial recommendation, the panel again said that the nation’s governors should be given the authority to direct active-duty troops responding to an emergency in their states. That recommendation, when it first surfaced last year, was rebuffed by the military and quickly rejected by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

“I believe we’re going to wear him down,” said Punaro.

Renuart, however, said he believes it is unlikely that Gates will reverse himself. Renuart said he’s talked to a number of state leaders on the matter, and most don’t want full command of active duty troops — to include their care, feeding, discipline and logistics demands. Instead, he said, governors want to know that in a crisis, their needs will be met.


January 30, 2008

Super Tuesday: ‘It’s the economy, stupid’

Primary states lost 1.5 million manufacturing jobs under Bush

Posted: January 30, 2008
1:00 a.m. Eastern

By Jerome R. Corsi

© 2008

Group says more than 900,000 U.S. jobs have gone to China

The 24 states holding primaries in next week’s Super Tuesday have lost 1,568,600 manufacturing jobs in the seven years since President Bush took office, according to statistics provided WND by the Alliance for American Manufacturing, or AAM.

“In the Super Tuesday states, “It’s the economy, stupid,’ is what voting is going to be all about,” Kerri Houston, senior analyst at AAM, told WND.

“It’s also about ‘It’s the defense, stupid,” Houston said, “given how many U.S. defense suppliers have now been outsourced overseas.”

“The Department of Defense now has graveyards full of broken-down equipment, including tanks, airplanes and missile launchers that are out of action for lack of a part,” she continued.

“Republicans who have opposed unions for decades don’t want to talk about outsourcing as a problem, because they are afraid the unions would come back if the jobs came back, and the Republicans are happy to see Democrats denied campaign contributions that would be coming out of union dues,” Houston emphasized.

“But when the military can’t find steel, tires or metal parts, and military procurement demands the Department of Defense look for a U.S. manufacturer, we’re out of luck,” she said. “The part the military needs may today only be made in China.”

According to AAM data, the 24 Super Tuesday states have lost 914,400 jobs across all sectors to China alone while Bush has been in office.

“Jobs and the economy will be the top issues that drive voters to the polls on Super Tuesday,” said AAM director Scott Paul. “The manufacturing jobs lost under the Bush administration were good-paying jobs that can’t really be replaced by lower-paying service sector jobs.

“The presidential candidates would be wise to directly address these issues,” Paul advised, “and let the voters know what they will do to strengthen American manufacturing, challenge China’s unfair trade practices and reform our broken trade policy.”

In the Super Tuesday states, Montana and West Virginia are involved in the Republican primaries only, and Idaho, Arizona and Kansas are Democratic primary states only.

The 19 states with both Republican and Democratic primaries on Super Tuesday are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah.

“The whole idea of the Bush tax refund being an economic stimulus is going to be received with skepticism in the Super Tuesday states,” Houston cautioned.

“The U.S. Treasury has to borrow from China the money to use in paying out the tax refund,” she noted.

“Then what are people going to do – use their refund check to buy goods that are made in China?” she asked. “Unfortunately, the Bush administration is not going to mail back the jobs lost to outsourcing along with the refund checks, whenever they finally arrive.”


Will we see an earthquake?

Winograd report’s effect depends on response of Israeli public, politicians

Sima Kadmon
Published: 01.30.08, 14:18 / Israel Opinion

It will not be an exaggeration to assume that some people could not sleep last night.

Bereaved parents who have been waiting for long months to find out what shattered their world; Reserve soldiers who for a long time now have been trying to understand why the political leadership disappointed them; Government ministers who are all responsible for the decision-making process; The former IDF chief of staff, the former defense minister, and most of all the prime minister, whose entire term in office almost has been in the shadow of that war.

How did he sleep at night, our prime minister? What went through his head during those long hours, with strong winds pounding against the windows of his home? Does his stomach turn with concern? Does his heart pound? What does he feel in those hours, the last hours before the publication of the final report on the events of the summer of 2006, which left so much anger and confusion in their wake around here? And sadness. Plenty of sadness.

When the Winograd Commission members present their conclusions regarding the Second Lebanon War to the public this evening, another chapter in this unfinished war will end. Yet it is doubtful whether Justice Winograd’s conclusions would put an end to it. A thorough and intense investigation that took a year and a half and pertains to the decision-making processes that accompanied this controversial war would not put an end to the army’s self-reflection mode or to the disquiet and agitation experienced by the political establishment.

Nobody, with the exception of the five Winograd Commission members, knows what the full report to be presented to the public today contains. What we do know is that as opposed to the interim report, this one will offer a system-wide view and address the conduct of the military and of the political leadership, rather than the conduct of one person or another.

Prepare for disappointment

In other words: commission members will not be placing a knife or a loaded gun on the desk of any of the main characters. What they will do is place a gun at the hands of the Israeli public. We will not see heads roll in the commission’s summary today. The commission has left this task to the public arena.

Will we see an earthquake as some people predict? It is doubtful whether such shock can be prompted yet again following the interim report. And following the High Court’s intervention, we can assume that the final report will be more moderate than the previous one, and that the wording will be cautious in all matters pertaining to specific figures.

If someone hopes for an earthquake, he may be disappointed.
And if an earthquake indeed materializes, it is not the commission members who will cause it, and not the report they will present to the public this evening. What could cause such earthquake is the interpretation given to the report by the politicians: Those who would be glad to replace the current government, and those who fear such change.

“OBAMA” – PRO ARAB ?????

January 29, 2008



Obama aide wants talks with terrorists
Foreign adviser’s ‘anti-Israel policies,’ sympathy for Hamas, raise concerns

Posted: January 29, 2008
1:00 a.m. Eastern

By Aaron Klein
© 2008

Robert Malley
JERUSALEM – While officials here largely maintain a policy against interfering in U.S. election politics, some Israeli security officials quietly expressed “concern” about an adviser to Sen. Barack Obama who has advocated negotiations with Hamas and providing international assistance to the terrorist group.

The officials noted Robert Malley, a principal Obama foreign policy adviser, has penned numerous opinion articles, many of them co-written with a former adviser to the late Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, petitioning for dialogue with Hamas and blasting Israel for numerous policies he says harm the Palestinian cause.

Malley also previously penned a well-circulated New York Times piece largely blaming Israel for the collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations at Camp David in 2000 when Arafat turned down a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and eastern sections of Jerusalem and instead returned to the Middle East to launch an intifada, or terrorist campaign, against the Jewish state.

Malley’s contentions have been strongly refuted by key participants at Camp David, including President Bill Clinton, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and primary U.S. envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross, all of whom squarely blamed Arafat’s refusal to make peace for the talks’ failure.

“We are noting with concern some of Obama’s picks as advisers, particularly Robert Malley who has expressed sympathy to Hamas and Hezbollah and offered accounts of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that don’t jibe with the facts,” said one security official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The official stated he was not authorized to talk to the media about U.S. politics, noting Israeli officials are instructed to “stay out” of American political affairs.

In February 2006, after Hamas won a majority of seats in the Palestinian parliament and amid a U.S. and Israeli attempt to isolate the Hamas-run Palestinian Authority, Malley wrote an op-ed for the Baltimore Sun advocating international aid to the terror group’s newly formed government.

“The Islamists (Hamas) ran on a campaign of effective government and promised to improve Palestinians’ lives; they cannot do that if the international community turns its back,” wrote Malley in a piece entitled, “Making the Best of Hamas’ Victory.”

Malley contended the election of Hamas expressed Palestinian “anger at years of humiliation and loss of self-respect because of Israeli settlement expansion, Arafat’s imprisonment, Israel’s incursions, Western lecturing and, most recently and tellingly, the threat of an aid cut off in the event of an Islamist success.”

Malley said the U.S. should not “discourage third-party unofficial contacts with [Hamas] in an attempt to moderate it.”

Hamas is responsible for scores of deadly shootings, suicide bombings and rocket attacks aimed at Jewish civilian population centers. The past few weeks alone, Hamas militants took credit for firing more than 200 rockets into Israel.

Hamas’ official charter calls for the murder of Jews and destruction of Israel.

Hamas maintained a national unity government with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas until the Palestinian leader dissolved the agreement and deposed the Hamas prime minister last year.

In an op-ed in the Washington Post two weeks ago coauthored by Arafat adviser Hussein Agha, Malley – using could be perceived as anti-Israel language – urged Israel’s negotiating partner Abbas to reunite with Hamas.

“A renewed national compact and the return of Hamas to the political fold would upset Israel’s strategy of perpetuating Palestinian geographic and political division,” wrote Malley.

He further petitioned Israel to hold talks with Hamas.

“An arrangement between Israel and Hamas could advance both sides’ interests,” wrote Malley.

In numerous other op-eds, Malley advocates a policy of engagement with Hamas.

After the breakdown of the Camp David talks, Malley wrote a lengthy New York Times piece that mostly blamed Israel and the U.S. for the breakdown of the negotiations.

Malley was a special assistant to Clinton for Arab-Israeli affairs and was a member of the U.S. peace team during the Camp David negotiations. He currently serves as director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at the International Crisis Group, which is partially funded by billionaire and Obama campaign contributor George Soros, who also serves on the board of the Crisis Group.

Ed Lasky, a contributor to the American Thinker blog, calls Malley a “[Palestinian] propagandist” who, he charged, bends “the truth to serve an agenda that is marked by anti-Israel bias. … Malley’s writings strike me as being akin to propaganda.”

Lasky points out Malley’s father, Simon Malley, was a personal friend of Arafat and wrote in support of numerous struggles against Western countries. Simon Malley founded Afrique Asie, a French magazine that was known for its advocacy for “liberation” struggles throughout the world, including the Palestinian cause.

Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, called Simon Malley a “sympathizer” of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which, headed by Arafat, carried out numerous terror attacks.

“[Robert] Malley has seemingly followed in his father’s footsteps: He represents the next generation of anti-Israel activism,” wrote Lasky.

Obama spiritual adviser also anti-Israel?

Obama the past few days has taken note of his growing negative image within the pro-Israel and Jewish activist community, reaching out yesterday to a coalition of Jewish and Israeli newspapers.

Obama told Israel’s Haaretz daily there is a “constant virulent campaign” being waged against him, aimed particularly at weakening support among Democrat voters within the Jewish community.

Obama said “false” e-mail campaigns calling him Muslim and accusing him of not pledging allegiance to the U.S. have been especially visible in the Jewish community.

The presidential hopeful urged Haaretz and U.S. Jewish newspapers to use their “megaphone” so people can hear “from the horse’s mouth” that anti-Israel accusations against him are “unfounded.”

Mass e-mail distributions have pointed out Obama’s spiritual adviser, Jeremiah Wright Jr. of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, recently presented Nation of Islam founder Louis Farrakhan with a “Lifetime Achievement” award. Farrakhan has expressed consistent anti-Israel views.

Wright, who reportedly married Obama and baptized his daughters, has called for divestment from Israel and refers to Israel as a “racist” state.”

Obama called Wright’s heralding of Farrahkan a “mistake” but has not spoken out against Wright’s views regarding Israel.

Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick noted in a column last week, “Obama has taken no steps to moderate his church’s anti-Israel invective. Obama’s affiliation with Wright aligns with his choice of financial backers and foreign policy advisers. To varying degrees, all of them exhibit hostility towards Israel and support for appeasing jihadists.”


San Francisco Chronicle
Obama takes big risk on driver’s license issue

Carolyn Lochhead, Chronicle Washington Bureau

Monday, January 28, 2008

(01-28) 04:00 PST Washington — Sen. Barack Obama easily won the African American vote in South Carolina, but to woo California Latinos, where he is running 3-to-1 behind rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, he is taking a giant risk: spotlighting his support for the red-hot issue of granting driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.

It’s a huge issue for Latinos, who want them. It’s also a huge issue for the general electorate, which most vehemently does not. Obama’s stand could come back to haunt him not only in a general election, but with other voters in California, where driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants helped undo former Gov. Gray Davis.

Clinton stumbled into that minefield in a debate last fall and quickly backed off. First she suggested a New York proposal for driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants might be reasonable. Then she denied endorsing the idea, and later came out against them.

Asked directly about the issue now, her California campaign spokesman said Clinton “believes the solution is to pass comprehensive immigration reform.”

“Barack Obama has not backed down” on driver’s licenses for undocumented people, said Federico Peña, a former Clinton administration Cabinet member and Denver mayor now supporting Obama. “I think when the Latino community hears Barack’s position on such an important and controversial issue, they’ll understand that his heart and his intellect is with Latino community.”

Obama’s intention is to draw distinctions between himself and Clinton on what are otherwise indistinguishable positions on immigration. Both have adopted the standard Democratic approach of favoring tougher enforcement along with earned legalization.

The Illinois senator is differentiating himself in three key areas: driver’s licenses, a promise to take up immigration reform his first year in office, and his background as the son of an immigrant (his father was Kenyan) and a community organizer in Chicago.

Obama made the promise to Latino leaders to take up immigration reform in his first year after Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., chairman of the Democratic caucus, said his party might not raise the divisive issue again until the next president’s second term, assuming a Democrat wins.

Latino leaders felt betrayed. For them, an immigration overhaul is a top priority in light of state and local crackdowns on illegal immigrants and federal raids in workplaces across the country.

Clinton has not made such a promise, saying only that she would make her best efforts.

“Those issues are huge,” said Obama supporter and state Sen. Gilbert Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, vice chairman of the California Latino Legislative Caucus.

Democratic pollsters Stan Greenberg and James Carville issued a direct warning on the driver’s license issue in an analysis last month designed to guide Democrats through the treacherous immigration quagmire.

“The findings about driver’s licenses are particularly notable,” they said. Two-thirds of surveyed voters oppose them, the pollsters found, and the safety argument fails to dent the widespread conviction that granting a driver’s license rewards illegal behavior.

But it will definitely work with Latinos, said John Trasviña, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “Clinton and (Sen. John) Edwards have said no driver’s licenses for unauthorized immigrants,” Trasviña said. “Sen. Obama has said you get a driver’s license if you know how to drive. And that message I think will resonate in the Latino community as we get closer to California.”

The latest California Field Poll shows Clinton leads among Latinos 59 percent to 19 percent. That’s bigger than the margin that handed her Nevada just over a week ago and about how well former President Bill Clinton did with Latinos in California when he won the state in 1992 and 1996, said poll director Mark DiCamillo.

One in 3 Californians is Latino, and although they make up just 14 percent of the electorate, they are 1 in 5 Democratic primary voters, according to the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.

“That’s a very sizable group and a leading indicator in terms of younger and new voters,” president Mark Baldassare said. “That’s just the demographics of our state. They’re a really crucial group.”

Clinton’s biggest asset is “El Presidente.”

Thanks to Bill Clinton’s presidency, during which he lavished attention on California, and her own eight years as first lady, Hillary Clinton enjoys enormous name recognition among Latinos.

She has also done her spadework. Clinton picked up early endorsements from leading Latinos such as Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez and fabled farmworker organizer Dolores Huerta.

Clinton opened her new East Lost Angeles campaign office Saturday with three Latina members of Congress: Hilda Solis, Grace Napolitano and Lucille Roybal-Allard.

Obama has lined up several lesser-known officials, including Assemblyman Joe Coto, D-San Jose, chair of the Latino Legislative Caucus, as well as Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Cerritos, who split from her sister, Rep. Loretta Sanchez, a Clinton backer from Garden Grove.

While Clinton has the backing of the United Farm Workers, Obama has picked up the endorsement of Unite Here, a heavily immigrant service workers union.

Both camps discount speculation of simmering racial hostility that might make some Latinos reluctant to vote for a black man.

“The familiarity with President Clinton has given her a very, very big lead from the beginning,” said Maria Elena Durazo, secretary-treasurer for the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor who is campaigning for Obama.

If there were racial animosity, “obviously we would have to address that very directly,” Durazo said. But mostly the response Durazo gets when she asks Latinos about Obama is, “Who is he? I don’t know who he is,” whereas with Clinton, the answer comes back, “We know Presidente Bill Clinton.”

Maria Echaveste, a UC Berkeley law lecturer advising the Clinton campaign, agreed. “Everyone is so quick to jump on” the racial angle, she said. “But, frankly, I think the explanation is a much greater number of people know her and love Bill Clinton.”

Huerta, a longtime Latina activist and co-founder of the United Farm Workers union, scoffed at Obama’s credentials with Latinos. Clinton worked in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas as a young woman, she said, while Obama was missing in action during two major activist events in Chicago, once when Elvira Arellano sought church sanctuary to avoid deportation, and another time when two Latino men were falsely accused of murder.

“He’s now trying to build a relationship, but it’s just not there,” Huerta said. In Nevada, casino workers dubbed themselves “Hilarios,” she said, meaning Hillary supporters. “This came from the people.”

With Obama, she said, “A lot of them would say, ‘Señor como se llama?’ They didn’t know Obama’s name.”

Latinos also trust Clinton, Huerta said. “Support for her is not just support; it’s enthusiastic support. In fact, I haven’t seen anything like this since the Bobby Kennedy campaign back in ’68.”

Obama has begun airing campaign ads on Spanish-language TV and his supporters are working hard to promote Obama’s activist Chicago roots, which Peña declared forged “a personal connection with Latinos that no other candidate has had.”

Added Durazo, “He’s the son of an immigrant, he’s the son of a single mother who sacrificed a lot to make sure he got his education. All of those issues resonate with a hotel housekeeper, a construction worker, a day laborer. … I have great hope that we’re going to break through that gap in a big way.”

E-mail Carolyn Lochhead at



Arafat’s new PM behind

Munich Olympics attack?

Terror mastermind says ‘moderate’ leader praised by Bush financed 1972 rampage killing 11 Israelis

Posted: April 29, 2003
1:00 a.m. Eastern

By Steve K. Walz
© 2003

President Yasser Arafat’s newly appointed Palestinian Authority prime minister does not have the pristine past touted by his supporters, charges an Israeli civil rights group.

Mahmoud Abbas,
known as Abu Mazen, provided financing for the terrorist attack that killed 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany, says Israeli attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, director of the Shurat Hadin – Israel Law Center.

Abu Mazen

In a letter to President George W. Bush and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Darshan-Leitner called for an investigation into Abu Mazen’s role in the Sept. 5, 1972, attack, carried out by Arafat’s central Palestinian Liberation Organization faction Fatah.

The terrorist group, operating under the name “Black September,” sent a squad of armed Palestinians to attack dormitories housing the Israeli Olympic team. The gunmen murdered a coach and a member of the weightlifting team, then took nine other Israelis hostage. The Palestinians demanded they be transported to the Munich airport where a rescue attempt by German police failed, and all nine hostages were murdered.

Last week, President Bush praised Abu Mazen as “a man dedicated to peace,”
indicating he would invite him to the White House for talks after his cabinet was installed. The Palestinian parliament meets today to confirm the new prime minister as head of a cabinet created under international pressure to curb Arafat’s powers as president.

Shurat Hadin claims it has contacts within the Palestinian Authority itself who point out the hypocrisy of Abu Mazen’s insistence he has never been involved in terrorism.

The Israeli group also notes the mastermind of the Munich attack, Mohammed Daoud Oudeh, or Abu Daoud, claims Abu Mazen provided the funds to carry out the Black September attack.

Member of Black September in 1972 Munich Olympics attack

Daoud made that charge in his 1999 French language memoir, “Palestine: From Jerusalem to Munich,” and again in an interview last August with Don Yaeger of Sports Illustrated magazine.

Abu Daoud said he was angered by the dozens of Palestinian terrorists allowed to return to the Palestinian territories as a result of the Oslo process while he remained persona non grata to Israel and the United States. Abu Mazen, Daoud complained, is now considered “respectable” even though he also was involved in the Munich attack.

Abu Mazen, part of the Palestinian hierarchy for nearly four decades, has served as PLO executive committee chairman.

In his book Abu Daoud states:

“After Oslo in 1993, Abu Mazen went to the White House Rose Garden for a photo op with Arafat, President Bill Clinton and Israel’s Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres.

“Do you think that … would have been possible if the Israelis had known that Abu Mazen was the financier of our operation? I doubt it.”

In the Sports Illustrated interview, he added: “Today, the Bush Administration seeks a Palestinian negotiating partner ‘uncompromised by terror,’ yet last year Abu Mazen met in Washington with Secretary of State Colin Powell.”

Daoud also was interviewed about the Munich massacre for a film called “One Day in September,” produced by John Battsek and Arthur Cohn for Sony Pictures Classics. Director Kevin Macdonald said Abu Daoud admitted Black September was merely the cover name adopted by Fatah members when they wanted to carry out terrorist attacks.

The PLO operative recalled how Arafat and Abu Mazen both wished him luck and kissed him when he set about organizing the Munich attack.

The Shurat Hadin letter to President Bush said:

“Under your leadership the United States has declared that it will no longer conduct diplomacy with those tainted by terrorist pasts. It appears that the new Palestinian leader to which the United States and Israel are now pinning all their hopes, was also involved in murderous attacks perpetrated by the PLO’s Black September. Abu Mazen’s alleged role in the brutal killing of the Israeli athletes and American citizen David Berger must also preclude his involvement in the negotiations between Israel and their Arab neighbors.”

Abu Mazen also has been criticized for a 1983 book in which he suggested the figure of 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust was “peddled” by the Jews. In “The Other Side: The Secret Relationship between Nazism and the Zionist Movement,” he said the Zionists collaborated with the Nazis to murder Jews in a plot to gain sympathy for creation of the state of Israel.

Nevertheless, as one of the PLO architects of the Oslo Accords, Abu Mazen is regarded by Europe and the United States as the best hope to lead the Palestinians to renewed negotiations, known as the “road map” to peace.

His supporters also point to statements he has made against the Palestinian armed struggle, or Intifada, as evidence of his moderate credentials. However, analysts, such as the Middle East Media Research Institute contend his position has been primarily pragmatic, based on strategic reasons.

Steve K. Walz is an American journalist who moved to Israel from New York just prior to Sept. 11, 2001. He is currently a member of the Foreign Press Association and hosts a weekly newsmagazine program in English on Israeli radio.


January 28, 2008

Olmert must go

PM lost moral authority to lead Israel in light of war conduct, attitude to Winograd report

Uzi Dayan
Published: 01.28.08, 16:25 / Israel Opinion

The struggle for implementation of the Second Lebanon War lessons entered its decisive phase, and requires answers for questions that have been raised in the fierce and important public debate. Below are comments on the main issues:

Personal accountability – Something that Olmert is unwilling to accept. In my experience, taking responsibility for one’s actions is the basis and pre-condition for worthy leadership. This doesn’t mean that every failure must lead to resignation. Yet a prime minister who ignores the conclusions of the Winograd Commission’s interim report – a commission which he appointed himself yet declared that he would not resign whatever the conclusions – loses the moral right to lead and send people to war. Without personal accountability, justice shall not be done and the lessons of the last war shall not be implemented.

Ehud Barak – What do they want from him? He was not the defense minister during the war. That’s true. Yet after the publication of the Winograd Commission’s interim report he said: “Prime Minister Ehud Olmert should draw personal conclusions and resign, as did Dan Halutz and Amir Peretz…if he does not do so until the publication of the full report, we will be forced to end our partnership with Olmert and work to establish a new government in the current Knesset, or alternately, set a date for elections.” Barak is not being asked to resign, but rather, to display leadership and deliver on his promise. I expect elected officials such as Barak, Livni and Mofaz to prove now that they are the solution, rather than part of the problem.

Full disclosure – Is the struggle to topple Olmert political or not? Of course it’s political! The demand to send a prime minister home is not a real estate issue, but rather, a political one, and a decision on this issue is impossible and improper anywhere else but in the political arena. Yet this is a moral struggle that cuts across parties and ideologies. The reservists and regular troops who died in the war were not asked which party they voted for when they were called up, and now we see politicians who are fighting for their seats lashing out at company commanders, trying to stir arguments among reserve soldiers, and label the struggle as “political” – yet we shall not shy away from a political effort, the opposite is true: This is the only way for us to change Israeli politics.

The people’s wish – What does the public want? Most of the public (more than 70%) says that should the Winograd Commission rule that Olmert failed, he will have to resign. The Winograd Commission already ruled this in its interim report, which will be a part of the full report. Yet Olmert disregards the public, most of which thinks he should be going home. The moment the public would wake up and join the struggle, its elected representatives will end their petty political calculations and send the prime minister home.

Does the past year and a half have no meaning? It has a meaning, which further worsens the mistrust in the prime minister who personally failed in the war. He failed in taking decisions on the national level when he negligently embarked on the war without understanding its essence. We can also see failures in utilizing the IDF: The failure to call up reserve forces on time and the failed and indecisive utilization of ground forces. The Israeli home front was abandoned when a state of emergency was not declared fully or on time, and a minister responsible for the state of the home front was not appointed. The moral decline also came into play during that period. Olmert appointed his “good friend” as a finance minister, and in order to do that he appointed an inexperienced and uninformed defense minister

Winograd – and what comes next? Whatever the political establishment decides. The Israeli Knesset and government is where the results of the struggle will be decided, and this is how it should be in a law-abiding democratic state. Yet Mr. Ehud Olmert personally failed as prime minister during the Second Lebanon War. He is unable to fix what he ruined and he continues to morally corrupt Israel. Therefore, he must immediately resign upon the publication of the Winograd Report. If he fails to do so, government and Knesset members must fulfill their national duty and fire him.


January 27, 2008

Southern Vermont

Brattleboro to vote on arresting Bush, Cheney

January 26, 2008

By Susan Smallheer Herald Staff

BRATTLEBORO — Brattleboro residents will vote at town meeting on whether President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney should be indicted and arrested for war crimes, perjury or obstruction of justice if they ever step foot in Vermont.

The Brattleboro Select Board voted 3-2 Friday to put the controversial item on the Town Meeting Day warning.

According to Town Clerk Annette Cappy, organizers of the Bush-Cheney issue gathered enough signatures, and it was up to the Select Board whether Brattleboro voters would consider the issue in March.

Cappy said residents will get to vote on the matter by paper balloting March 4.

Kurt Daims, 54, of Brattleboro, the organizer of the petition drive, said Friday the debate to get the issue on the ballot was a good one. Opposition to the vote focused on whether the town had any power to endorse the matter.

“It is an advisory thing,” said Daims, a retired prototype machinist and stay-at-home dad of three daughters.

So far, Vermont is the only state Bush hasn’t visited since he became president in 2001.

Daims said the most grievous crime committed by Bush and Cheney was perjury — lying to Congress and U.S. citizens about the basis of a war in Iraq.

He said the latest count showed a total of 600,000 people have died in the war.

Daims also said he believed Bush and Cheney were also guilty of espionage for spying on American people and obstruction of justice, for the politically generated firings of U.S. attorneys.

Voting to put the matter on the town ballot were Chairwoman Audrey Garfield and board members Richard Garrant and Dora Boubalis.

Voting against the idea were board members Richard DeGray and Stephen Steidle.

Daims said the names submitted to the town clerk’s office were the second wave of signatures the petition drive had to collect, because he had to rewrite the wording of the petition.

He said he gathered nearly 500 signatures in about three weeks, and he said most people he encountered were eager to sign it. He started the petition drive about three months ago.

“Everybody I talked to wanted Bush to go,” he said, noting that even members of the local police department supported the drive.

“This is exactly what the charter envisioned as a citizen initiative,” Daims said. “People want to express themselves and they want to say how they feel.”

He said the idea is spreading: Activists in Louisville, Ky., are spearheading a similar drive, and he said activists were also working in Montague, Mass., a Berkshires town.

The article asked the town attorney to “draft indictments against President Bush and Vice President Cheney for crimes against our Constitution and publish said indictments for consideration by other authorities.”

The article goes on to say the indictments would be the “law of the town of Brattleboro that the Brattleboro police … arrest and detain George Bush and Richard Cheney in Brattleboro, if they are not duly impeached …”

Daims said people in Brattleboro were willing to “think outside the box” and consider the issue.

Daims had no compunction in comparing Bush and Cheney with one of the most notorious people in history.

“If Hitler were still alive and walked through Brattleboro, I think the local police would arrest him for war crimes,” Daims said.

Contact Susan Smallheer at


January 26, 2008

Gazans Breach Egyptian Border Again

SARAH EL DEEB | January 25, 2008 06:58 PM EST | AP

RAFAH, Gaza Strip — Hamas-backed militants driving bulldozers knocked down more fortifications Friday along the Gaza-Egypt border _ a brazen challenge to Egyptian riot police, who abandoned their positions after attempting to reseal the frontier using human chains, dogs and water cannons.

Militants in black clothing, some of them masked, stood atop a bulldozer as it knocked down concrete slabs under the watchful eyes of Hamas security officials, who turned a blind eye and were later seen patrolling on the Egyptian side of the border.

Thousands of Palestinians flooded into Egypt, pushing through several openings as Egyptian troops retreated to their bases on the other side of the border. Palestinians positioned cranes next to the border and lifted crates of supplies into Gaza, including camels and cows.

Hamas, after blasting open the border wall earlier in the week, offered further proof Friday that it simply cannot be ignored _ driving home in no uncertain terms that a high price will be paid by anyone who seeks to shape Gaza’s border arrangements without the militants’ consent.

The day’s events also underscored a great dilemma faced by Egypt: if it acts forcefully against the Gazans, it could anger its own people, who are sympathetic to the Palestinians’ plight. But if it does nothing, it risks infiltration by Islamic militants.

Earlier Friday, Hamas gunmen fanned out along the Gaza side of the border, attempting to create order. For the first time since the border wall was torn down in a series of blasts on Wednesday, Gaza’s Hamas rulers deployed their most elite forces to contain the rowdy crowd.

Hamas is clearly seeking to flex its muscles ahead of a potential new border agreement with Egypt that the militants hope will help end a 2-year-old blockade imposed by Israel and the West.

The group called for a three-way meeting among Hamas, Egypt and the Fatah movement of President Mahmoud Abbas to try to come up with a new border arrangement for Gaza.

“If the leadership in Ramallah refuses this call, we will not stand idle until the siege overruns life in Gaza,” Hamas said in a statement.

The border breach provided a significant popularity boost to Hamas, which can claim it successfully broke through the closure that has deprived the coastal strip of normal trade and commerce.

“Hamas did this and when Egypt found resistance, it let up,” said a joyous Reem Sahloul, 28, of Khan Younis. “Hamas proved stronger than the (Egyptian) army.”

Egyptian forces shot in the air, fired water cannons and _ in a particularly forceful display _ deployed dogs to hinder the flow of Gazans into Egypt. Dogs are considered impure by observant Muslims.

As bulldozers ripped down the wall and Gazans jumped over, soldiers ran with their dogs to chase the infiltrators. Hamas militants then opened fire on the dogs, killing three of them.

An Egyptian soldier was slightly wounded in the leg, likely from gunshots fired by Hamas militants on the Gazan side, an Egyptian officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to talk to the media. Five policemen were also injured by stones hurled by Gazans.

Egyptian ambulances rushed into a patch of land separating Egypt from Gaza to pick up the injured, with Hamas militants clearing the area of people so they could arrive and do their job.

Egypt has rejected any suggestion of assuming responsibility for the crowded, impoverished territory _ a hot issue in light of comments this week by Israeli officials who said the border breach could relieve the Jewish state of its burdens in Gaza.

Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from the territory in 2005, but it still controls access into and out of Gaza, in addition to its airspace and harbors. Israel also provides the fuel needed to run Gaza’s only power plant _ the withholding of which is currently causing severe power outages.

In an interview published Friday, President Hosni Mubarak decried the situation in Gaza as “unacceptable” and called on Israel to “lift its siege” and “solve the problem.”

“They should get things back to normal according to previous agreements and understandings,” Mubarak told the weekly Al-Osboa.

He also invited rival Palestinian factions to Cairo for talks, but did not mention a date. Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha told the Al-Jazeera TV that Hamas’ supreme leader, Khaled Mashaal, was ready to accept the invitation. But Abbas’ representative in Egypt, Nabil Shaath, said Fatah had made no decision.

Sami Abu Zuhri, another Hamas spokesman, said Palestinians had to keep the barrier open “until the crossings are reopened.”

“The gaps shouldn’t be closed because they provide urgent assistance to the Palestinians,” he said.

Both Egypt and Israel restricted the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza after Hamas won parliament elections in 2006, and further tightened the closure after Hamas seized control of the area by force last June.

Gazans took full advantage of the open border to stock up on desperately needed supplies and renew links to the other side.

The influx included a gaggle of Palestinian women in finely embroidered dresses and fresh makeup, heading to relatives’ weddings in Egypt they said had been hastily moved up to allow Gazan family members to attend.

Yousef Mohammed, 17, of Gaza, said he waited until Friday to make the trip because he was trying to get together enough money to shop in Egypt. “They don’t want us to go in,” he said, pointing at the riot police.

By mid-afternoon, Egyptians eased up on the attempts to restrict the cross-border movement. Hundreds of riot police suddenly left a border crossing at Rafah, to march back into the Egyptian side of the divided town, and Gazans again streamed by the hundreds through the regular crossing.

Egyptian Amira Ali, 39, carrying her toddler son and holding a 6-year-old son by the hand, said she wanted to visit her mother-in-law in Gaza. “Of course, I’m afraid (of being trapped in Gaza), but will try to go for a while so my mother-in-law can see the kids,” she said.


Associated Press reporter Omar Sinan in Rafah, Egypt, contributed to this report.

WHO CREATED “GAZASTAN ?? (my question to you)


January 24, 2008


Egypt allows weapons to rush into Gaza

Gunmen blast border wall, 350,000 Palestinians flood Arab neighbor

Posted: January 23, 2008
10:56 a.m. Eastern

By Aaron Klein
© 2008

TEL AVIV – Egyptian security forces did not interfere as massive quantities of weapons were transported across the Egyptian border into the Gaza Strip when masked gunmen today blew dozens of holes in the wall delineating the frontier, according to Palestinian militant sources at the scene speaking to WND.

“Very good things came in (to Gaza),” said a senior leader of the Popular Resistance Committees, a Gaza-based, Hamas-allied terrorist group. The leader spoke on condition his name be withheld

“Egyptian security men at the border were very passive – they wanted this to happen; they didn’t prevent anything from coming in or going out,” said the terrorist, who was speaking from the Gaza side of the border.

Some 350,000 Palestinians reportedly poured out of Gaza and into Egypt today after masked men detonated 17 bombs, destroying some two-thirds of a wall separating the Gaza Strip from Egypt.

Hamas did not take direct responsibility for the blasts, but Hamas sources speaking to WND said their group, together with the Popular Resistance Committees, coordinated the assault.

Witnesses at the scene said Hamas police officers were directing swarms of Palestinians through two sections of the knocked-down border and that Egyptian guards did not interfere as the Palestinians made their way into the Sinai desert.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced today he had ordered his troops to allow Palestinians to cross into Egypt from Gaza because they were “starving” from an Israeli “siege” placed on Gaza.

“I told them to let them come in and eat and buy food and then return them later as long as they were not carrying weapons,” said Mubarak.

According to terrorist sources, large quantities of weapons were openly transported from Egypt into the Gaza Strip, and many Palestinians, including known militants, crossed back and forth between the borders a handful of times unimpeded by Egyptian guards.

Response to rocket attacks

The crisis began last week when Palestinian terrorists fired over 200 rockets from the Gaza Strip aimed at nearby Jewish communities. Rockets have been regularly flying from the territory since Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, but last week’s increased bombardment marked an escalation that prompted widespread calls here for the Israeli government to carry out a large-scale anti-rocket operation and ground assault in Gaza.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s government instead decided to cut back fuel supplies and shipment trucks entering Gaza from the Israeli border in an effort to pressure Gaza’s Hamas leadership. But Israeli officials say they continue to transfer sufficient aid and materials to the Palestinians to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe and allow Gaza’s power plants to run.

Still, on Sunday, Hamas unilaterally decided to shut down Gaza’s only electrical plant, which supplies power to about 20 percent of Gaza, including over 400,000 people in Gaza City.

Hamas claimed it did not have enough fuel to run the plant due to Israeli cutbacks, a contention strongly contested by Israel.

Shlomo Dror, a spokesman for Israel’s Defense Ministry, said Gaza has enough fuel to run its power plants and accused Palestinian officials of trying to create the impression of a crisis that did not exist.

Dror pointed out that while Israel cut back some fuel shipments, which he said would mostly affect drivers, the Jewish state continues to supply Gaza directly with two-thirds of its electricity.

The power stations that supply most of Gaza’s electricity are located in the Israeli city of Ashkelon, into which Palestinian terrorists have been launching rockets at a furious rate the past few days.

“It is crazy the Palestinians are firing rockets at the stations that fuel Gaza,” commented Olmert earlier this week.

Israel yesterday allowed some supplies to enter Gaza but announced a partial blockade until Palestinian rocket attacks slow down. Security sources said enough materials were trucked in to avert any humanitarian crisis, in spite of Palestinian claims the people in Gaza are starving.

Israeli officials strongly disputed widespread media reports this week stating Palestinians in Gaza were in a major crisis.

One BBC report, for example, claimed due to the Israeli blockage, Palestinians ran out of burial shrouds and have resorted to draping their dead in old flags. But neither Israel nor any humanitarian agency, including the United Nations, has ever shipped burial shrouds to Gaza, meaning the Israeli blockage could not have created any shortage.

The White House yesterday defended Israel’s partial siege in Gaza.

Israel is in the “untenable position” of having to react to Palestinian rockets, State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos told reporters in Washington. “Obviously they’ve said that they’re going to take humanitarian considerations into account,” he said. “We hold them to that. I understand that they will.”


January 23, 2008

Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 January 2008, 13:51 GMT
E-mail this to a friend Printable version

Warning about US economic slump

By Tim Weber
Business editor, BBC News website, in Davos

Delegates walking through the snow in Davos
The global economy is going through some unsettled times
The US economy is set for a long recession, a panel of economists at the World Economic Forum has warned.

The US mortgage crisis will spread to consumer and company loans, and push up defaults sharply, warned New York University economist Nouriel Roubini.

A year ago, Mr Roubini had been one of the few economists to predict correctly a slump in the US housing market and subsequent crunch in credit markets.

China and Europe will be hit, though India less so, the panel forecast.

This time round the US suffers a protracted pneumonia, and we can only guess what happens in the rest of the world
New York University economist Nouriel Roubini

Discussion about global economic turmoil is the hottest topic at this year’s World Economic Forum, and this session was packed, with many participants turned away at the doors of the large conference room.

‘Severe recession’

After five years of strong global economic growth, it was now only a question how hard the landing of the US economy would be, said Mr Roubini, chairman of Roubini Global Economics.

Foreclosures are spreading to areas like Los Angeles, depressing prices
Housing worries are hitting US economic growth

He predicted a “severe recession” that could last for a whole 12 months.

The US Federal Reserve would probably keep cutting rates, and that in turn might “make the recession a bit more shallow”, but it would not stop the downturn.

Mr Roubini was backed up by Stephen Roach, chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, and a well-known “bear” or economic pessimist.

He said both the Federal Reserve and the US government were trying to solve the current crisis by “reaching back into the same playbook that created the mess in the first place”.

Instead of tackling asset bubbles like inflated housing and stock markets head-on, they waited until the bubble had burst and then cleaned up afterwards.

“That’s a dangerous way of running the economy,” said Mr Roach.

The global fallout

All panellists agreed that there would be no global recession.

But there is an old economic saying: “When the US sneezes, the world catches a cold,” and the panellists were divided about whether it still holds true.

Mr Roubini was the most pessimistic.

“This time round the US suffers a protracted pneumonia, and we can only guess what happens in the rest of the world.”

He predicted a bursting of housing bubbles in the UK, Ireland, and Spain.


The US Fed cannot stop a massive recession and the rest of the world will follow

Tom Potts
Send us your comments
In Eastern Europe, meanwhile, many people had taken out mortgages denominated in euros, not their own country’s currency.

If those currencies started falling, “many homeowners will go belly-up,” said Mr Roubini.

Mr Roach said Europe’s economy was simply not dynamic enough to get “a dispensation from the global economic slowdown”.

The region would be “lucky when it gets 2-3% [annual] growth”.

Ferenc Gyurcsany, prime minister of Hungary, disagreed.

He EU growth rates would be hit, but not by much more than 0.8%.

China and India to the rescue?

But what about the emerging giants of the world economy, China and India?

A popular topic of debate here at the World Economic Forum is whether the fast-growing Asian economies are now “decoupled” from the US Economy.

Not so, argued Yu Yongding, director of the Institute of World Economics and Politics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

China’s economy was growing rapidly, he said, but that was because every year it needed to create 24 million jobs just to keep up – and last year it had reached only the 10 million mark.

China’s reliance on “external demand is enormous,” he said.

India’s commerce minister Kamal Nath was more optimistic. East Asia, he said, was not as dependent on the US economy anymore, not least because South-South trade was soaring.

India’s economy itself, he said, was much more driven by domestic demand than foreign investment.

Who will buy?

Morgan Stanley’s Stephen Roach, however, begged to differ.

He was very optimistic about Indian and Chinese consumers, he said, but only in the long-term.

US consumers bought goods and services worth $9.5 trillion every year, a demand that was currently running at 5% above historical levels.

The Chinese consumer market, in contrast, amounted to just $1 trillion, and India’s to a mere $500bn. That was not large enough to take up the slack left by the US downturn.

Africa worries about food

And there were worries that Africa would be hit badly by the global economic turmoil.

The reforms and better economic governance of the past decade had been rewarded with strong growth during the past few years, said Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a managing director of the World Bank.

But she said there was uncertainty whether Africa’s economies were robust enough to cope with a sharp downturn, especially if it resulted in China cutting back on importing raw materials.

Her biggest worry, though, was the recent rise in food prices.

Yes, it would help farmers in Africa and other developing nations.

But there were even more people in urban areas who would find it difficult to cope.

Mr Nath added that there were 25 million people in India who for the first time were able to afford not one but two meals a day. How would they be affected by a doubling of the price of wheat and other commodities?

With the trend for biofuels driving up demand, the panellists wondered whether the market could provide an answer.

Since the “green revolution” of the 1970s, agricultural productivity has been at a standstill in recent years, and as Stephen Roach pointed out, demand for food was “not optional”.

Next year, predicted Ms Okonjo-Iweala, the Davos participants would hear much more about the devastating impact of the rising cost of food.


January 22, 2008

A Government With No Brains and No Balls

By Mladen Andrijasevic January 22, 2008

On June the 22, 1941, the day Nazi Germany attacked the USSR, Winston Churchill said this in his broadcast to the British people: “We shall bomb Germany by day as well as by night, in ever-increasing measure, casting upon them month by month a heavier discharge of bombs and making the German people taste and gulp each month a sharper dose of the miseries they have showered upon mankind.”

How do Israeli leaders react to the 1500 rockets that have been showering Sderot since disengagement, especially the 220 the last weekend? Here is a quote from the Jerusalem Post: “Five Israeli tanker trucks parked at the Nahal Oz crossing on the Gaza border pumped 700,000 liters of fuel to the other side, enough to provide electricity to Gaza City for two days. ” Result: Palestinian terrorists in Gaza fired five Kassam rockets at the western Negev on Tuesday morning.

Have we all taken leave of our senses? Can the government once and for all make a point, show some resolve and make Hamas taste a dose of the miseries they have showered upon us? How does this government intend to achieve anything when it turns like a weather vane to every word of the “international community’, the same community that remained silent while Sderot was bombed.

The farce with Abbas continues. The day after Israel was bombarded with 90 Kassams in two days, Abbas threatened to resign because of Israel’s “escalation”. No reaction by anybody. We go on listening to Abbas’s Orwellian comments and say nothing. The question is not only that the rockets keep falling and the US and Israel keep living in fantasy of a moderate Palestinian leader. It is that we have utter nonsense thrown at us and say nothing. It is demeaning. Is there no dignity left in this population? What kind of civilization have we become to accept this? The UN Security Council is due to meet this afternoon on Gaza. What should be done?

Stop. This is not business as usual. World opinion matters, but it should be taken seriously and influenced from the top. Its usual reactions must be preempted. The Prime Minister should summon all the foreign diplomats and hold a press conference and make a declaration before the UN starts its absurd meeting with predictable results. The declaration should include a simple statement of fact. That Israel has been showered with rockets and that if the Kassam continue all electricity to Gaza will be cut. If Palestinians prefer electricity to darkness, they have to just stop the rockets.

If any of the Security Council permanent five have a better proposal how to stop it they should apply it to their own territory next time it is the target of rockets. Or hold their next meeting in Sderot.


January 21, 2008

North-American Monetary Integration: Here Comes the Amero

by Andrew G. Marshall

Global Research, January 20, 2008

Many have now heard rumblings of the “amero”, a proposed North American currency to replace the Canadian loonie, dollar and peso. However, most of the mentions of this concept, when discussed in the mainstream media tend to focus on suggesting that talk of an “amero”, and in effect, the accompanying North American Union, is nothing but a conspiracy theory created by deluded xenophobes afraid of immigration and globalization. The Boston Globe recently wrote such a story, titled, “The Amero Conspiracy”, which stated, “The SPP [Security and Prosperity Partnership] does exist, and its tri-national task forces continue to meet, but its members consider it a way for the United States, Canada, and Mexico to collaborate on issues such as customs, environmental and safety regulations, narcotics smuggling, and terrorism. The amero, on the other hand, appears to be purely theoretical.”1

However, despite being conveyed as “purely theoretical”, a recent article in the national Canadian newspaper, the Financial Post, referred to the amero, not as a theoretical idea or conspiracy theory, but as a potential reality. The article entitled, Fix the Loonie, lays out the process to be undertaken before the adoption of a continental currency known as the Amero.

The article was written as a response to a previous article written in defense of Canada’s flexible exchange rate system, to which it states, “David Laidler’s recent defence of Canada’s flexible exchange rate system misses completely the point made by Nobel Prize winning economist Robert Mundell in his famous article on optimum currency areas. Mundell’s article has been widely credited with providing the intellectual base for the European Monetary Union and merits attention.”2 The article continued elaborating on the previous point made by Mundell, stating, “If flexible exchange rates are best for Canada on the grounds presented by Laidler, why would flexible rates not be best also for Alberta, Ontario or New Brunswick?” It continued, “Milton Friedman’s response to Mundell was that he would not advocate flexible rates for every possible region.”

The article contends that Canada is currently suffering from what the author refers to as the ‘Dutch Disease’, “which is named after the problems that developed in the 1960s when the Netherlands sold natural gas that had been discovered on its coast. The increases in Dutch exports of resources, like those of Canada in recent years, resulted in a strong appreciation of exchange rates, which was reinforced by interest rate policies of central banks and currency speculators.” It further states that, “The disease manifests itself through the loss of domestic manufacturers’ ability to compete abroad and with imports.” The author then contends that, “The disease manifests itself through the loss of domestic manufacturers’ ability to compete abroad and with imports,” and that, “The Bank of Canada can keep interest rates low to discourage capital inflows and thus exchange rate increases, but at the cost of fuelling inflationary pressures.”

The author then states that there is only one true cure for Canada’s ‘Dutch Disease’, “inoculation of the system by fixing the exchange rate at a level that allows manufacturers to be competitive, perhaps at the rate the Bank of Canada research identifies as the long-run equilibrium, around US90¢.” The author goes on to explain the reasoning behind this by giving the example that, “The Netherlands and Austria in the years before the introduction of the euro successfully operated such a system and enjoyed near perfectly stable exchange rates against the German currency. The essential ingredient in this success was the official commitment of the central banks of these two countries to maintain the same interest rate as that of the German central bank.”

So if Canada were to do the same in relation to the US dollar, then Canadian interest rates would be subject to the rates set by the US Federal Reserve, with our Bank of Canada lock in step. The author goes on to say, “An analogous commitment by the Bank of Canada with respect to U.S. interest rates may not be credible, tested by speculators and therefore ultimately doomed to failure.” Then the article continues, and makes a startling announcement:

“However, there is a solution to this lack of credibility. In Europe, it came through the creation of the euro and formal end of the ability of national central banks to set interest rates. The analogous creation of the amero is not possible without the unlikely co-operation of the United States.

This leaves the credibility issue to be solved by the unilateral adoption of a currency board, which would ensure that international payments imbalances automatically lead to changes in Canada’s money supply and interest rates until the imbalances are ended, all without any actions by the Bank of Canada or influence by politicians.

It would be desirable to create simultaneously the currency board and a New Canadian Dollar valued at par with the U.S. dollar. With longer-run competitiveness assured at US90¢ to the U.S. dollar. [Emphasis added].”

In summation, what the author is proposing is to fix the Canadian loonie to the US dollar at US$0.90, create a currency board, which would be an unelected, unaccountable, group of people to handle our monetary policy, creating a route around using the publicly owned Bank of Canada, to ensure the creation of a ‘New Canadian Dollar’, which would be a prelude to the Amero. The author then explains that, “Fluctuations in global demand for natural resources will always result in competition for labour and capital among Canadian manufacturers and producers of resources. But, at least, the firms in these sectors would no longer have to concern themselves with exchange-rate fluctuations and policies of the Bank of Canada.” The article finishes by stating, “There will also always be changes in the U.S. (and Canadian) dollar exchange rate against the euro and other major currencies. But these changes would have minor effects on the Canadian economy because 80% of the country’s trade is with the United States.”

The author of this article is Herbert Grubel, a professor of economics emeritus at Simon Fraser University, who also happens to be a Senior Fellow at the Fraser Institute, one of Canada’s largest and most prominent pro-big business think tanks.3 Other senior fellows at the Fraser Institute include Eugene Beaulieu, who sits on the Academic Advisory Council to the Deputy Minister of International Trade in the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade for the Government of Canada, Martin Collacott, former Canadian Ambassador, Tom Flanagan, ho is known as the “man behind Stephen Harper”, and is a member of what is known as the ‘Calgary School’, which is an unofficial group of like minded thinkers who espouse neo-conservative views, and hold significant influence in the current Conservative government, even referring to Flanagan as the “Godfather of Canada’s conservative movement.”4

Flanagan also used to work for Preston Manning, who is also a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute, a former Member of Parliament, and former leader of the opposition, and other senior fellows include Gordon Gibson, a former Assistant to the Minister of Northern Affairs and later Special Assistant to the Prime Minister, Wilf Gobert, former Director and Vice Chairman of Peters & Co. Limited, “an independent, fully integrated investment firm which has specialized for 35 years in investments in the Canadian oil, natural gas, and oilfield services industries,” Michael Harris, former Conservative Premier of Ontario, Jerry Jordan, former President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Ralph Klein, former Premier of Alberta, Rainer Knopff, a professor and also a member of the ‘Calgary School’, and Brian Tobin, a former Industry Minister.5

The author of the Financial Post article which mentioned the amero, Herbert Grubel, wrote a paper for the Fraser Institute in 1999, entitled, “The Case for the Amero: The Economic and Politics of a North American Monetary Union”, in which he laid out the case for the creation of a regional currency for North America.6 In this paper, Grubel wrote that, “The plan for a North American Monetary Union presented in this study is designed to include Canada, the United States, and Mexcio,” and that, “The North American Central Bank, like the European Central Bank, will have a constitution making it responsible only for the maintenance of price stability and not for full employment.”7

In discussing the issue of sovereignty related to a monetary union, Grubel stated that he thinks that, “sovereignty is not infinitely valuable. The merit of giving up some aspects of sovereignty should be determined by the gains brought by such a sacrifice.”8 He continued in saying, “It is important to note that in practice Canada has given up its economic sovereignty in many areas, the most important of which involve the World Trade Organization (formerly the GATT), the North American Free Trade Agreement,” as well as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.9 Despite admitting to several agreements and organizations of which strip Canadian sovereignty, Grubel suggests that losing sovereignty in these areas is still worth the benefits.

The introduction of the Amero is an integral aspect of the process of creating a North American Union, much like the European Union. This process is being undertaken through the implementation of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP), which was signed by the leaders of the three North American governments in March of 2005. This agreement is orchestrating the bureaucratic “harmonization” among the three North American nations to pave the way for a North American Community, akin to the previous European Community, and ultimately, a North American Union.

The push for this agenda is being driven by the US-based Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the preeminent American think tank, and the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, as well as the Mexican equivalent, Consejo Mexicano de Asuntos Internacionales. In May of 2005, the three groups, as a result of their joining forces in a Task Force, released a report entitled, “Building a North American Community,” in which they state that, “The Task Force offers a detailed and ambitious set of proposals that build on the recommendations adopted by the three governments at the Texas summit of March 2005. The Task Force’s central recommendation is establishment by 2010 of a North American economic and security community, the boundaries of which would be defined by a common external tariff, and an outer security perimeter.”10

Thomas P. D’Aquino was the Canadian Co-Chair of the Task Force report and is also the President and CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, other Canadian members of the Task Force report include Allan Gotleib, former Canadian Ambassador to the United States, Pierre Marc Johnson, former Premier of Quebec, John Manley, former Deputy Prime Minister of Canada, and after 9/11, negotiated the Smart Border Agreement with the US Secretary for Homeland Security Tom Ridge, and Wendy Dobson, former President of the C.D. Howe Institute, another one of Canada’s most prominent think tanks, and former Associate Deputy Minister of Finance in the Government of Canada.11

The C.D. Howe Institute has on its board of directors, individuals from Imperial Oil Canada, a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil, General Electric Canada, BMO Financial Group, TD Bank Financial Group, Nortel Networks, Manulife Financial, Bank of Nova Scotia, Enbridge Gas Distribution, EnCana Corporation, Ford Motor Company of Canada, HSBC Bank of Canada, Astral Media, Merrill Lynch Canada, CIBC World Markets, and N M Rothschild and Sons Canada.12

In 1999, the C.D. Howe Institute published a report entitled, From Fixing to Monetary Union: Options for North American Currency Integration.13 In the paper, it is argued that, “The easiest way to broach the notion of a NAMU [North American Monetary Union] is to view it as the North American equivalent of the European Monetary Union (EMU) and, by extension, the euro.”14 It continued in discussing the issue of sovereignty, stating, “That a NAMU would mean the end of sovereignty in Canadian monetary policy is clear. Most obviously, it would mean abandoning a made-in-Canada inflation rate for a US or NAMU inflation rate.”15

The concept of a North American currency has not only been the object of discussion within powerful big-business think tanks, but has, in fact, been discussed in government positions. In May of 2007, Canada’s then-Governor of the Bank of Canada, David Dodge, said that, “North America could one day embrace a euro-style single currency,” the Globe and Mail reported. Further, the article stated that, “Some proponents have dubbed the single North American currency the ‘amero’,” and further, “Answering questions from the audience after a speech in Chicago, Mr. Dodge said a single currency was ‘possible’.”16

In November of 2007, the Globe and Mail reported that, “Canada should replace its dollar with a North American currency, or peg it to the U.S. greenback, to avoid the exchange rate shifts the loonie has experienced, renowned money manager Stephen Jarislowsky told a parliamentary committee yesterday,” and quoted Jarislowsky as saying, “I think we have to really seriously start thinking of the model of a continental currency just like Europe.”17 The article continued, “Mr. Jarislowsky, a former Canfor Corp. director, said the loonie’s rise to above par with the U.S. dollar is destroying manufacturing and could devastate the forest sector,” and that, “Mr. Jarislowsky said Canada could either aim for a common North American currency or peg the loonie to the U.S. greenback at about 80 cents (U.S.), allowing it to float within a small band.” Jarislowsky, a billionaire often considered to be Canada’s Warren Buffet, is a member of several corporate boards, and is also a member of the board of directors of the C.D. Howe Institute.18

Appearing on Larry King Live recently, former Mexican President and initial signatory to the Security and Prosperity Partnership, Vicente Fox, when asked a question about whether or not it was possible to see a common currency for Latin America, responded by stating, “Long term, very long term. What we propose together, President Bush and myself, it’s ALCA, which is a trade union for all of the Americas. And everything was running fluently until Hugo Chavez came. He decided to isolate himself. He decided to combat the idea and destroy the idea,” to which Larry King interjected, “It’s going to be like the euro dollar, you mean?” and Fox responded, “Well, that would be long, long term. I think the processes to go, first step into is trading agreement. And then further on, a new vision, like we are trying to do with NAFTA.”19

So clearly, there is a move on toward a regional currency for North America, in conjunction with the formation of a North American Union. Monetary sovereignty, and especially the power to create and issue money, is perhaps more central to the idea of a free, democratic and sovereign nation than the right to vote. If we do not have the power over the issuance of money, it does not matter whom we vote for. It’s the Golden Rule: he who has the gold, makes the rules. We, as Canadians, and other peoples of their respective nations should never relinquish this sovereignty over to regional boards, private banks, or other unaccountable individuals. It is our right, not a privilege, and giving up such a right is akin to giving up the right to vote; it is anathema to democracy and a free society.