Archive for June, 2011


June 30, 2011

On June 27, 2011, Fox News asked if a government spending program with a commitment of money and resources on the scale of NASA’s Apollo moon program, might be one way to rescue the U.S. economy?

Americans hearken back to Apollo as a period of national pride and resolve, and a willingness to spend freely in pursuit of a lofty goal.

Apollo was the origin of many technologies that found their way into the common household. Perhaps chief among them was the integrated circuit. Its development for the space program, led indirectly 20 years later to the proliferation of the home computer, and in part to the tech revolution.

Economist Martin Bailey, the former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors to former President Bill Clinton, now at the liberal Brookings Institution, sees this as a potential genesis of the next technological revolution and economic boom.

Today, government is now expanding broadband coverage, as it did with electrical power in rural America 75 years ago or the interstate highway system decades later. Those huge expenditures, undertaken at the behest of presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower, respectively, put many Americans to work on the projects themselves and then allowed new economic opportunities once completed. But rapid change of technology means many jobs lost in the recession will never come back.

“How are we going to take the 40-year-old unemployed person who’s been out of work for 12 or 18 months, give them skills that they need for a job that does exist?” asks Economist Brad Jenson of Georgetown University.

But some critics, including economist Veronique de Rugy of the conservative Mercatus Center at George Mason University, say not all long-term government spending projects have produced such inspiring results as Apollo.

“I think we have to not lose sight of the fact that the government claims, that it’s investing in our economy, and in our future, all the time. We’re already spending gigantic amount of money on roads. We are spending gigantic amount of money on education, and it doesn’t seem to be paying off at all.”

Some experts see the benefit of a middle road – the public /private partnership.


June 24, 2011

On June 22, 2011, UPI focused on China, armed with $3 trillion in foreign reserves, stepping up its scramble for Africa’s mineral riches, including oil, copper and gold, to fuel its ever-expanding economy.

This has alarmed the United States, with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warning African leaders earlier this month in Lusaka, capital of copper-rich Zambia, of the perils of creeping “new colonialism.”:

We don’t want to see a new colonialism in Africa.

Clinton’s unease about China’s massive expansion into Africa in recent years, and its “no strings” approach, is also causing unease in Europe, from whence Africa’s former colonial masters came.

In a world in which finite resources are dwindling and likely to be the casus belli of future conflicts, China’s widening engagement with Africa is increasingly seen as one of the main dynamics shaping the continent.

Washington is having to safeguard U.S. interests in Africa, which are increasingly threatened by the bullish BRIC group — Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Trade between China and Africa grew from $20 billion in 2001 to more than $120 billion in 2009.

Direct Chinese investment in Africa has soared from under $500 million in 2003 to more than $9 billion in 2009.

Over the last decade, the Chinese, flush with concessional financing channeled through state enterprises and institutions, have plowed billions of dollars into building roads, bridges, railroads, airports, factories, telecommunications networks and power plants across Africa.

Financial Times of London recently observed:

The extremely favorable loan terms that Chinese state banks can offer state companies to help them with their offshore acquisitions have become a sore point for many of the international companies trying to compete for those deals.

State bank financing flows especially to companies — particularly state-owned ‘national champions’ — that are buying overseas companies in the high-tech, energy, mining and environmental protection sectors.

According to the Financial Times, 89 percent of China’s imports from sub-Saharan Africa in 2010 were oil, minerals and other raw materials. The value of these exports has grown at an astonishing pace over the last decade, from $4.2 billion in 2000 to $38 billion in 2009.

Angola and Sudan provide much of the African oil that flows to China. In both countries, state-owned Chinese companies have played a key role in developing their energy sectors since the 1990s.

South Africa, one of Africa’s biggest economies, exports ores and precious metals to China, the world’s biggest importer of commodities like copper and iron ore.

In May, a Chinese consortium, discreetly owned by the Beijing government, became a majority shareholder in Gold One, an Australian miner whose main asset is in South Africa.

China’s latest interest is African coal. Wuhan Iron and Steel is investing heavily in Mozambique’s Tete fields.


June 23, 2011

The Weekly Standard on June 21, 2011, reported on an address by Senator Joe Lieberman at a Hudson Institute event, in which he urged both political parties not to “retreat from the world.”

Senator Lieberman said:

We do not live in a ‘post-American world. We live in a world in which American leadership and American power are more important than ever. The American people intuitively understand that. The fact is we live in a world in which our own security, freedom, and prosperity at home are inseparable from the security, freedom, and prosperity of people in distant lands.

A policy of a limited American defense, said the senator “must not and cannot balance our budget by retreating from the world.”

We will not grow our economy by embracing protectionism. We will not close the deficit by gutting the defense budget. The path to restoring fiscal responsibility and economic growth at home is not through strategic irresponsibility abroad. It is through disciplined and bipartisan leadership at home and abroad.

Beginning with Herman Kahn, the great futurist who breathed life into this extraordinary institute, Hudson has been strengthened and sustained by the leadership of Wally Stern, Herb London, and Allan Tessler, with whom I am proud to stand tonight, and by my good friend, Ken Weinstein, whose intellect and purpose have so enlivened and enriched the Hudson Institute as they, incidentally, have the Georgetown synagogue in Washington where we both regularly meet to pray and “kibitz.”

At this time when we most need to be strong and steadfast, we increasingly hear voices of fear and insecurity who are calling for America to turn inward.

This is not the first time this has happened and it won’t be the last, but it always ends up hurting our country and our people. In the 1930s, it was the isolationism of the “America Firsters” on the political right that denied the threat posed by Nazi Germany, insisted that Hitler was Europe’s problem, and thereby helped bring about a world war.

In the 1970s, it was the American left that shouted, “Come Home, America”— insisting that the threat to freedom and peace was not from Soviet communism but from our own “irrational fear” of communism, and thereby inviting Soviet aggression

The best interests of our country require not only the policies of American internationalism and the strength of America’s moral example, but also the exercise of American power—including, when necessary, the determined use of America’s military might against our enemies.

This is the muscular internationalist view that links Democratic Presidents like John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton with Republican Presidents like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

This shared view grows out of a shared non-partisan commitment to America’s founding cause—which has animated our national purpose since America began. One of our nation’s great poets, Walt Whitman, wrote that in America, “Past and present and future are not disjoined but joined” and for this reason, as Whitman put it, “The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem.”

That great cause will not be advanced nor our destiny achieved if our leaders today yield to the short-term political appeal of a neo-isolationism. That will only weaken our security, limit our freedom, and diminish our prosperity.

One cause that I promise to fight for is the need to strengthen and deepen a bipartisan center of internationalism in this country on key national security and economic issues. Although this will require the understanding, leadership, and support of both Republicans and Democrats, the fact is, the real divide when it comes to foreign policy is not between Democrats and Republicans.

It is between those who understand that our national interests require us to remain involved in the world and those who would rely on big oceans and hollow hopes to protect us. It is a divide between those who believe America cannot afford to be a world leader any more, and those who understand that America cannot afford NOT to be a leader in the world.


June 21, 2011

On June 20, 2011, Asharq al-Awsat, the London-based pan-Arab daily, as told by The Weekly Standard reported on the role of “Syrian embassies abroad in sabotaging and subverting any movement or activity aiming at expressing solidarity with the Syrian people, and at taking a stand condemning the regime’s repressive actions.”

In Berlin, the Syrian embassy kept one Syrian opposition figure, Burhan Ghalyoun, from participating in a conference of Arab intellectuals. According to Lebanese novelist Elias Khoury, the organizers of the event received direct threats from Syrian diplomatic officials as well as Palestinian figures allied with the Assad regime.

This appears to be part of a larger Syrian campaign against opposition figures around the world.

According to a Turkish report Syrian intelligence has teamed with Iran to track Syrian dissidents and stage “joint operations targeting the Anti-Assad movement outside of the country.”

Syrian subterfuge has also struck in the U.S. Two weeks ago, as Politico reported, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee dropped the German-born Syrian composer and pianist Malek Jandali from its program when he refused to reconsider his choice of songs. There was speculation that the song he intended to sing, “I am my homeland,” “might have troubled the Syrian government.”


June 21, 2011

A Tunis criminal court on June 20, 2011, convicted Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia’s deposed president, of embezzling state funds, and sentenced him to 35 years in prison, as reported by Wall Street Journal on June 21 the first conviction of a North African ruler since the start of the Arab Spring revolution that has swept the Middle East.

Leila Trabelsi, Mr. Ben Ali’s wife, was convicted on the same count and received an equal sentence, said lawyers the court appointed to represent the couple, who reside in Saudi Arabia and weren’t present.

The former president also was fined 41 million Tunisian dinars ($29.6 million), equivalent to money seized at one of his residences weeks after Mr. Ben Ali left the country in January, and formed the basis of the embezzlement charge. In addition, he was ordered to pay 50 million dinars in damages to the Tunisian people.

The evidence that was brought against Mr. Ben Ali during the trial also included weapons and narcotics found at another of Mr. Ben Ali’s mansions in Tunisia.
Judge Touhami Hafian adjourned the trial on the arms-possession and drug-trafficking charges, which Mr. Ben Ali has denied, to give lawyers more time to read through court documents. A verdict in that case is due on June 30.

Tunisia’s judicial authorities have said they would level more charges against Mr. Ben Ali in coming weeks and months.

The expeditious trial and conviction of Mr. Ben Ali could help Tunisia’s interim government recover some of the assets the former president allegedly owned overseas.

Mr. Ben Ali is also the target of a probe in France. Last week, Paris prosecutors said they had launched an investigation into alleged money laundering by the former president and would examine whether Mr. Ben Ali owned assets in France acquired with state funds.


June 20, 2011

Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia’s former tyrant, goes on trial on June 20, 2011, on charges of abusing state funds and drug trafficking as reported by Wall Street Journal on June 20.

Over his 23 years in power, Mr. Ben Ali—who is being tried in absentia—and his relatives amassed a fortune in banks, telecommunications firms, real-estate companies and other businesses, giving them control over as much as one-third of Tunisia’s $44 billion economy, according to anticorruption group Transparency International.

The Ben Ali clan—known as “The Family” here—squeezed out some business rivals by exerting political pressure to win lucrative state contracts.

At the time he was deposed in January, Mr. Ben Ali was having a $250 million Airbus long-haul aircraft fitted out in France as an official state plane with lavish interiors, according to Tunisian government officials.

Tunisia’s former president is the first deposed leader to face trial in the wake of the Arab uprisings, but others are likely to follow. Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is due to stand trial in August on charges of murder and corruption.

The evidence that will be brought against Mr. Ben Ali during the trial includes stashes of cash, weapons and narcotics found at two of his mansions in Tunisia, according to officials at Tunisia’s justice ministry. In addition to abuse of state funds and drug trafficking, the former president will also face charges of illegal arms possession and illegal possession of precious artifacts, the officials said.

Mr. Ben Ali’s trial will be presided over by judges from Tunis’s criminal courts and could take several months. Mr. Ben Ali, who remains in Saudi Arabia, won’t be present for the trial.

Tunisia’s Justice Ministry says it has sought Mr. Ben Ali’s extradition but hasn’t yet received a response.

Officials from the Justice Ministry said Mr. Ben Ali will also face a future military trial for high treason, torture and murder, which can carry the death penalty in Tunisia, for having ordered police to shoot on protesters during the country’s recent uprisings. No date has been set for the military-court proceedings, and charges haven’t formally been brought.

Mr. Ben Ali is also the target of a probe in France. Last week, Paris prosecutors said they had launched an investigation into alleged money laundering by the former president and would examine whether Mr. Ben Ali owned assets in France acquired with state funds.

Administrators who are freezing assets of more than 100 Ben Ali family members say they are uncovering an economic network so vast that untangling it too quickly could disrupt Tunisia further.

Tunisia’s new interim Prime Minister Béji Caïd Essebsi said:

No crime will be left unpunished. But Tunisians must be patient.

In addition to Mr. Ben Ali’s coming trial, Tunisia’s interim government is now sifting through corruption accusations filed by Tunisians against Mr. Ben Ali and his relatives.


June 19, 2011

United States is investigating possible war crimes charges against Syria according to a report by UPI on June 18, 2011.

An administration official told CNN the United States is “looking into … whether there are grounds here for charges related to war crimes.” The government is collecting information on Syrian security forces and will decide whether to make a referral to the International Criminal Court.

The official also said the American administration is considering putting further economic pressure on the Syrian government and is lobbying U.N. Security Council members to support a resolution on Syria, actions that would “send a strong message.”


June 18, 2011

In an article published by Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet (Stockholm) on June 18, 2011, is reminded that the Grand Mufti Mohammad Amin al-Husseini (around 1895 – 1974) of Jerusalem spent the Second World War among friends in Berlin. From here he broadcasted on radio to the Mideast as part of the Nazi propaganda war. The manuscripts of his broadcasts have now been discovered in archives by historian Jeffrey Herf.

We now know that the mufti copied Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda and exhorted the Muslims to exterminate the Jews. His ideas are still at work in the Muslim Brotherhood, which honored him as a hero.

The Nazis managed to export anti-Semitic theories from Europe to the Arab world. It is possible that Arabs in the Mideast are now reexporting the ideas to Europe. One of the effects may be that anti-Semitic organizations like Hamas are regarded uncritically in Europe.


June 17, 2011

Osama bin Laden’s longtime top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, has assumed command of al Qaeda, and a website associated with the terrorist group is calling on “lone wolf” agents to target and kill 40 prominent Americans at their homes in the U.S The Washington Times reported on June 16,2011.

The list prompted the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to issue an intelligence bulletin to law enforcement agencies nationwide and to notify the U.S. officials, business and political leaders, think tank executives and defense contractors targeted on the “hit list.”

An Egyptian surgeon, al-Zawahri brokered the June 2001 merger of al Qaeda and his own terror group, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which was responsible for the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981.

As the No. 2 leader of al Qaeda, al-Zawahri helped plan the Sept. 11 attacks and was responsible for the terrorist group’s contingency plans after the attacks and for arranging safe haven for the group’s leaders in Pakistan and Iran.

Al Qaeda portrays Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, accused of killing 13 people at Fort Hood in Texas in November 2009, as a hero.

Mary Habeck, a former specialist on political Islam for the National Security Council, says that:

Zawahri has neither the strategic vision nor the organizational and people skills that bin Laden had. He has alienated many people in the jihadist movement, including a large number of Egyptian radicals.

Ms. Habeck is also a professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.


June 16, 2011

China has sent one of it largest patrol ships through the South China Sea amid heightened tension over the disputed waters as reported by BBC News on June 16, 2011.

The Haixun-31 sailed on June 15th and will monitor shipping and “protect maritime security” on its way to Singapore, state media said.

The Philippines and Vietnam recently accused Chinese vessels of aggressive actions in the South China Sea.

Earlier in June Vietnam staged a live-fire exercise in the area which Chinese state media denounced as a military show of force.

The 3,000-tonne Haixun-31 is operated by the Chinese Maritime Safety Administration and will pass near the Paracel and Spratly island groups.

The official Beijing Daily newspaper said the ship – which has a helicopter pad and can stay at sea for up to 40 days – would monitor shipping, carry out surveying, inspect oil wells and “protect maritime security”.

Vietnam, China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia have competing claims to the Spratlys while Beijing and Hanoi are in dispute over the Paracels.