31 October 2006

News October 06

01 October 2006:

Still catching up on the news:

America's economic mismanagement:
Reflecting a big increase in oil prices, the Commerce Dept reports that the current account
deficit rose to $218.4 billion in the April-June quarter, an increase of 2.4 percent over the deficit
in the first three months of the year.
The current account is the broadest measure of foreign trade and the deficit represents the
amount the United States must borrow from foreigners to cover the shortfall between exports
and imports.
The deficits through the first six months of this year put the country on track for a fifth
consecutive annual deficit, surpassing last year's mark of $791.5 billion whilst the record high
for a single quarter was a $223.1 billion imbalance in the October-December period last year.

It is also interesting to note that, since GW Bush took office, nearly 3 million manufacturing jobs
have been lost, "outsourcing" they call it. The only sector which seems to be immune from this
is of course the military-industrial-complex, as shown by the unanimous approval, yes 100-0, by
the Senate last week of a further $70 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as part
of a record Pentagon budget.
The bill totals $448 billion, with the Iraq war costing about $8 billion a month and more will be
needed next spring.

Repeating his few well-worn coherent ridiculous phrases, President Bush thanked Congress
"for passing legislation that will provide our men and women in uniform with the necessary
resources to protect our country and win the war on terror. As our troops risk their lives to
fight terrorism, this bill will ensure they are prepared to defeat today's enemies and address
tomorrows threats. I look forward to signing this bill into law".

And the Pentagon looks forward to spending it:
The House-Senate compromise bill provides $378 billion for core Pentagon programs, about a
5 percent increase, though slightly less than President Bush asked for. The $70 billion for Iraq
and Afghanistan is a down payment on war costs the White House has estimated will hit $110
billion for the budget year beginning October 1.

Congress has now approved $507 billion for Iraq, Afghanistan and heightened security at
overseas military bases since the 11 Sept. 2001 attacks. According to figures released by
the Congressional Research Service, the war in Iraq has cost $379 billion and the conflict
in Afghanistan now totals $97 billion.
Please read those figures again and try to imagine what they represent.
The sheer magnitude of the insanity of Bush's 'War OF Terror' is here for all to see!

Though the Iraq war remains unpopular with voters, even Democratic opponents of the war
voted for the bill, among them Edward Kennedy, who said: "America is in deep trouble in Iraq,
the continuing violence and death is ominous, militias are growing in strength and continue to
operate outside the law, death squads are rampant".

The rising cost of the Iraq conflict is partly driven by the need to repair and replace military
equipment worn out in the harsh, dusty conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan, or equipment
destroyed in battle. Almost $23 billion was approved for Army, Marine Corps and National
Guard equipment such as helicopters, armoured vehicles, radios and night-vision equipment.

The core bill contains $86 billion for personnel costs, enough to support 482,000 Army soldiers
and 175,000 Marines and would provide for a 2.2 percent pay increase for the military, as Bush
requested in his February budget.
The bill provides $120 billion for operations and maintenance costs, just less than the Pentagon
request. And $81 billion goes for procurement of new weapons, with $76 billion dedicated to
research and development costs.

Just imagine what these obscene sums of money could have done and could do around the
world to promote inter-faith dialogue, alleviate poverty, eradicate diseases etc etc, or America
could spend it all at home, as I understand it about 15%, or around 45 million (!), of Americans
live below the poverty line, there is no general Federal social security system etc, so there are
enough urgent projects and worthy causes.


Chirac urges no sanctions on Iran:
French President Jacques Chirac has said referring Iran to the UN Security Council is not the
best way to resolve the "crisis" over its nuclear programme.

The US is pressing for sanctions against Iran, but some European countries are hesitant to do
so, preferring to offer Iran incentives to halt enrichment. Iran denies US accusations that it is
trying to build nuclear weapons and has ignored all calls to suspend its enrichment programme.

Maybe encouraged by the influence of French international diplomacy during the recent crisis
in Lebanon, Chirac appears keen to continue to offer the world French leadership on Iran as
well, another country with which France has long historical ties.

Chirac said he believed that there was still potential for useful dialogue between Iran and the
six nations currently involved in the Iran nuclear issue - the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia
and China.
"I am not pessimistic, I think that Iran is a great nation and that we can find solutions through
dialogue. We must, on the one hand, together, Iran and the six countries, meet and set an
agenda for negotiations then start negotiations, then, during these negotiations I suggest that
the six renounce seizing the UN Security Council and Iran renounces uranium enrichment".
He said he had never noticed that sanctions had been effective, although he was not ruling
out using them if necessary.

This is the first time that a European leader has made clear that Iran's suspension of uranium
enrichment is not a precondition for opening talks, but could come during the negotiations and
as such it is of great significance.

Iran has ruled out accepting any preconditions for talks and dismissed calls to suspend uranium
enrichment, ignoring a 31 August UN Security Council deadline to do so.

Meanwhile the head of the UN's nuclear agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA), has called for Iran and the six world powers to begin talks as soon as possible.
Speaking at the opening of the IAEA's annual conference in Vienna, Mohamed ElBaradei said
talks could "address the international community's concerns about the peaceful nature of Iran's
nuclear programme, while on the other hand addressing Iran's economic, political and security
concerns" and said he remained hopeful that such talks would create the conditions to "engage
in a long overdue negotiation that aims to achieve a comprehensive settlement".

Is it possible that a rare appearance of European sanity might prevail over the ubiquitous
American arrogance and brutality? The world would be a much better place for it!!

As for the nuclear programme, the Islamic Republic of Iran, as an IAEA member and NPT
signatory, has an inalienable right to pursue and use the technology - so what is the problem?

Incidentally, how can it be that the nuclear programme, including weapons, of another Islamic
Republic, one which has not signed the NPT and one which by any definition is less democratic
than Iran, is not causing America sleepless nights - namely Pakistan?
The answer is obvious: America's "problems" with Iran have nothing whatsoever to do with
nuclear matters but with the PNAC neo-Con Zionist agenda for the Greater Middle East Initiative,
that hideous colonialist agenda which recently, al-hamdu-lillah, ran into an obstacle in south
Lebanon called Hizbollah.

American foreign policy remains, in about equal measure, untenable, indefensible, ludicrous,

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